structural challenges to technological emancipation (1/3)

structural challenges to technological emancipation:
socially necessary discipline

The interplay between discipline and freedom, how the former generates the latter and the latter requires the former has been a critical dilemma since the beginning of civilization. Without going into the rich philosophical literature on the question of freedom, I would like to outline two paradigmatic examples which epitomise the contradiction, one institutional, and one industrial.

No civl society exists without what I call “the hard shell”, the complex of border fortifications and installations and the personnel which monitor, maintain and provide its more reactive and spontaneous functionality. The officers of the State administration on duty at the frontiers are not free, they must adhere strictly to their instructions, and should an “order” be dispensed from somehwere higher in the very rigid hierarchy within which their duty has bearing, they must unquestioningly obey the order and enact its contents.

gottlieb- socially necessary discipline: the hard shell

The discipline structures of absolute control in the military sector of the society function to provide the spaces where civil peace may prevail, the peace which is required for differing opinions to result not in desperate violence but rather in leisurely conversation and accommodating encounters. Today’s prevalent notion of the virtues of the secular civil sphere: freedom of opinion, freedom of expression, etc. are completely beholden to the freedom from immanent mortal threat provided firstly by the “hard shell” at the borders and secondarily by the “radical lattice”: the structure of administrative laws, manifested physically where necessary in the bodies of policemen, and increasingly in mercenary-type security employees who uphold either state-sanctioned or privately decreed regulations on acceptable behaviour. This radical lattice with its regular machinic availability is also the material infrastructure of the civil sphere, the power grid and Internet, the sewage system and the labour provisioning system which maintains these.

gottlieb - socially necessaary discipline : the radical lattice

Computers are perfect instruments to be employed in military and police work because they behave absolutely, invariably according to command protocols. There is no freedom in a computer, if there were any freedom in the computer, it would not work. The implementation of computerization into social, civil sphere as well means that technology more applicable for discipline s being used “freely” the result is a certain militarization of the civil sphere, and uncomfortable overweening transgressions of the state through shared computational protocols into everyday life in the civil sphere. Networked computers truly bring into being a Cyber-social realm where discipline is not only cultural but structural, new forms of freedom will thereby be engendered but ever more informed by computational discipline.

The philosophical problem in understanding our societies as a trade-off between discipline and freedom has troubled humanity since the first civilizations. The society where the excesses of State control can be relaxed will mean that ordinary everyday discipline will have to take up the slack. Cultural forms, traditional religious mores etc. have customarily provided this discipline. The International should in principle do away with the need for borders and the military ”defense department” prerequisites for civil peace, but until the “lutte finale” towards the International has has been victorious, every nascent communistic society of any scale will need a military and face the same problematic trade-off.

Historically there have been some promising results in the experiences of the USSR, East Germany, China and Vietnam, we can see the hints of what a society where the understanding of the trade-off between discipline and freedom has been engaged more maturely. We can see there the problem is not technology but social structure and the only way to improve concepts of social structuring and provide sustainable innovations is to study existing societies carefully. How well the prevalent computational vector of knowledge production will be able serve that kind of study remains to be seen. It is evident however, that the reduction of everyday desperation about the capacity for any participant to engage in social production can provde enormous increatses in in the ingenuity and assiduity of the general intellect, with or without computation.

The absolute discipline in the micro-, nano-mechanical functioning (on the level of the chemical composition of CPU functionality) is what provides the emancipatory potential (freedom from toil)

Marx wanted to elimate work because he wanted to eliminate toil – an alienated labour deprived of its social integrity through capitalist exploitation. Work without exploitation is not work in that sense. But what happens is: Capital manages to extract value also from activities which are not perceived as being work, that are offered up voluntarily as a part of our unspoken social compact. “Everyday Communism” in acts such as picking up deliveries for neighbours on vacation, watching somebody’s bag, or helping someone with advice, are not commonly considered work, and are not usually remunerated, but contribute to the life of the worker, and therefore to her ability to work for Capital As such “everyday communism” is also indirectly exploited through the capitalised worker.

Likewise the deeply embedded work or toil of the reproduction of the capacity to work, “reproductive labour” as Silvia Federicci calls it. Reproductive labour is on the first level domestic labour, the feeding, clothing, and the many ways of caring for the worker’s capacity to produce work to be sold to the capitalist. The wage earned by the worker is thus not only for the hours of work performed directly by that person but also of the network of unpaid contributions to the capacity to work.

The reproduction of the labourer’s capacity to work also depends on agriculture and the distribution of food, provision of clean water, nowadays also electricity, transportation to and from work, shelter and many other assumed resources, which the capitalist who employs the worker need not provide. Much of these requirements for the reproduction of the labourer are supplied by the state, under capitalism as a subsidy to business. Especially on the federal level in a capitalist system, workers are taxed, but receive only benefits which subsidise their employer. Under neo-liberalism, necessities provided by the state at moderate cost are being privatised. This means rather than public spending subsidising reproductive labour, workers pay fees from the wages they receive from capital to other capitalists.

Capital’s unbending requirement to derive maximal profits disciplines the worker. Adam Smith praised the productivity gains of the division of labour, which, industrialised and scientifically managed through Taylorism, lead to pervasive automation in production of socially necessary goods and services. Amazon workers in the “fulfillment” center are part of a machine-human symbiotic labour-unit where the human part is subject to a control regime which is constantly adjusted to maximize productivity. The non-mechanical, intangible quality of the human participant is assumed as part of the wage, as 50 years before on the Ford or Lada assembly line, workers were evaluated on the number of pieces completed per hour, the psychological and emotional work they performed internally which made their physical performance possible and sustainable for day after working day was an intangible, expected ancillary labour on top of the that demanded by the employer.

Automation has always been there to discipline the worker in order to maximize profits. Automation of the workplace and contemporary capitalism are indistinguishable. The perfunctory modernization and industrialization programs in the former Soviet Union, in China and elsewhere in the early and mid-20th century were the application of automised techno-industrial (Taylorist) means borrowed from capitalist enterprise, with all their profit-oriented performance metrics, towards nominally socialist ends. It is not surprising that they failed to produce the ideal society for which they were invoked. Not only the regimented and alienating performance-oriented discipline in the factories but even the understanding of an emancipated society based on mass-production materials in general is fundamentally flawed. On a collective farm, the step from ox and hoe to petroleum-burning tractor is not simply progress, it is the disciplining of materials (in this case metals) into a robotic form made of standardised and replaceable parts, which in turns, disciplines the farmers into being appendages of the apparatus. The massive scale agriculture of the 20th century is a product of standardization-automization and the machines are a product of a way of looking at labour which is utilitarian and abstract from the integrity of the living labourer and its society..

A civilization for which the emancipation of every member is the absolute priority will have to approach automation as a very dangerous concentration, in the way certain herbal or mineral extracts are poisonous in an undiluted state but can heal at lower concentrations. The problem is that we need the entirety of the globalized techno-industrial dispositif to produce the high technologies we invest so much hope in today, and this cannot be moderated. It seems the problem is either all or nothing.

This is where technological disobedience comes in. Technological disobedience, a term coined by Cuban-American artist Ernesto Oroza, calls us to use technological products in ways which were not intended by the manufacturer and also for longer than intended. It aims to curtail the demand for new production of automation by deriving better products based on technologies which are slightly behind the “cutting edge”. These technologies, already magnificent feats of human engineering science and the techno-miracle of collaboration (albeit under capitalist discipline) on a global scale have so much under-utilized potential. It is an obscene waste to simply dispose of these highly sophisticated and capable instruments, but they are not built with repurchasing in mind. Technological disobedience, through generating alternative automatised economies of scale where access to cutting edge instruments is difficult, and by reducing demand for cutting edge industrial products, can contribute to a moderation of the particular prevalent innovation vector in automated capitalism and perhaps open up somewhat the field for other modes of technical innovation which do not serve capital so effectively.

The wider availability of re-purposed electronics can also support an ecosystem of software which can perform excellently on older machines. One of the principle objectives of counterantidisintermediationists is to design robust networked communications functionalities which do away with the need for centralized server architecture. Each participant on the network provides both storage spce and computationality and the application runs distributedly on the ad hoc network which cannot be owned but only shared. Such a network could ideally be used to coordinate communal production and distribution as well as to provide capacities for forms of research and exchange of information and ideas which are less under the pressure to produce exchange value from still prevalent capitalism.

The machines, and automation themselves are not the enemy, they simply avail capital of great means to instrumentalise and disenfranchise our living capacity. The vision, imagined by Marx and Engels, anarchists and communists, of general emancipation from desperation and subjugation, requires not more automation but rather a transitional re-purposing of existing automation for the specific computational and productive needs of communist communities, i.e. how to federate communal production, how to efficiently reproduce the infrastructural requirements (water, sewage, health care, elder and child care, etc. ) for a self-emancipating society, and how to do all this in a way that, under constant pressure from prevalent capitalism, maintains its domain of autonomy over the conditions of reproduction.

The machines themselves, computational and otherwise, and the immense miraculous techno-industrial dispositif which reproduces them and their ability to function, operate on fundamentally unfree principles. The globalised logistics chains, the dickensian conditions in tungsten mines, the reliable functioning of the power grid, all requires unquestioning discipline. Who will contribute that discipline under what conditions? What is the trade-off? How can we elaborate the notion of freedom anew in a way that integrates acknowledgment of the ambient social requirement to subjugate ones own freedom for the benefit of all? Technologies re-imagined to serve global emancipation and redistribution of socially necessary discipline are urgently required.

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http://www.supermarkt-berlin.net/en/event/dismalware/

Saturday, monochrom and Telekommunisten are hosting DISMALWARE2 at Supermarkt Berlin, we will be screeing the movie DIE GSTETTENSAGA: THE RISE OF ECHSENFRIEDL, here is a guest post from Bonni Rambatan about the movie

DIE GSTETTENSAGA: THE RISE OF ECHSENFRIEDL
Bonni Rambatan

(Contains movie spoilers.)

If the film is the defining medium of the 20th century, the social media is what defines the 21st century. That much is clear to anyone who pays attention to the way media constructs the lives and desires of contemporary society. If the film, as Slavoj Žižek remarks, teaches us how to desire, the social media, as it were, sets those ways of desiring into stone by determining how we like, how we share, to whom, to which things we are exposed, and so on. All is codified within the realm of technology, that—at least to non-hackers—remain opaque, even invisible. And all, of course, are presented as comfort—a perfect illustration to the Foucauldian “society of control”,
This is where the contemporary romaticism of nerds as agents of change often falls short—and precisely the target of Johannes Grenzfurthner’s latest film, Die Gstettensaga: The Rise of Echsenfriedl. In the film, we follow the adventures of two young nerd protagonists who are hired by the old media mogul, Thurner von Pjölk, to find and interview via live broadcast the reclusive new media mogul, Echsenfriedl—only to find that all is von Pjölk’s scheme of banning television and other forms of new media, because the live interview would turn all viewers into stone (because Echsenfriedl is a basilisk), hence creating mass hysteria of the dangers of new media.

It’s easy to see the Edison-vs-Tesla mythology at play in the von Pjölk-Echsenfriedl relationship constructed throughout the film. Much to the delight of the nerds, Echsenfriedl (obviously the more Tesla of the two) eventually won—but this twist brings a problematic ending. Echsenfriedl becomes the new media mogul, and the nerds overtly rejoice, even starts burning books and other forms of old media. In the narrator’s own words, “today … creative technophilia is not expressed in underground makerspaces, but out on the open streets!” and Echsenfriedl says “I like it when young people do something” and that he trusts “the wisdom of the crowd.”

It brings into question, then: are movements like Occupy Wall Street really “movements” in the traditional revolutionary sense? Is it not, rather, more of an expression of “creative technophilia”? There is nothing wrong with that, of course—as I have said in many of my other writings, hacking and play are the roots of revolution, since they shed light on new possibilities. However, what we should be careful of—and about which the film warns us so cleverly, if tongue-in-cheek—is this all-too-readiness in today’s otherwise potentially revolutionary petit-bourgeoisie to embrace technology and crowd wisdom as a sort of romantic proto-revolution for a more equal future, while it in fact remains firmly planted in the capitalist universe. In the end, it is Echsenfriedl who has the last laugh, while the nerds, as one can easily deduce, are “doing things” and producing “crowd wisdom” which produces yet more data and more market for the new media business.

The film doesn’t beat around the bush and pretend to give us a solution to this conondrum, but nor does it have to. What it does is that it forces us to think deeper about this conondrum, and the fact that much of today’s romanticized revolutions often go eerily hand in hand with the development of digital capitalism. Few films today, if any, manage to do such a feat.
Baudrillard mentioned, regarding to pornography, that what is being offered is a seduction of not sex but scientism, of objective close-ups, subsuming the real into the hyperreal. Might not the same be said today of prevailing discourses of digital revolution? What is being offered is a seduction not of true change, but of digitalism, of making the real world work more like the computerized world—a subsumation of the real into the computerized. And while on the one hand this may bring about new possibilities of equality, let us not forget that the decentralization of power it offers is a thin veil of power’s evolution as distributed biopolitical control.

(„Die Gstettensaga“ can be seen at various film festivals, hacker cons and on Pirate Bay.)

Bonni Rambatan is an independent critical theorist and cultural researcher with a main focus in digital culture, psychoanalysis, and Left-wing political theory. He has given talks and published writings in various seminars and anthologies in Europe and Asia. A graduate of English Literature, he now studies Management in Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship at Bandung Institute of Technology, Indonesia. He also actively writes novels and makes films.

Twitter is like Coca-cola

Is “free expression” a right or a product?

If Turkey shut off its market to Coca cola or McDonald’s would there be the same outrage and ridicule we see today? “Wait! Twitter is not Coca-cola!” you cry? Just as Coca cola is not all beverages, Twitter is not the Internet. It is not “free speech” or “free expression”. It is a private company owned by private shareholders, some of the largest players in global finance. What does it mean to complain that people are being deprived of a corporate product worth billions to a handful of global finance investors? Who is generating the contemporary outcry for what purposes?

Is “free expression” a human right or a product of global finance capital? Inversely, is anything which exists outside of global finance capital automatically not free? For all those around the world who believe in the emancipatory potential and the democratic exigency of free expression, and that this can be fostered on the Internet, the technology is there to provide it for everyone. This is a provocative point of Telekommunisten’s Thimbl. Thimbl is a distributed microblogging platform based on Finger, a protocol from the 1970s which is still usable today to provide robust networked messaging around the world. Thimbl is an artwork which proves the point that anyone could implement an alternative distributed global networked messaging system.

The reason a platform like Thimbl is not being used right now to circumvent official Turkish censorship is because it does not have the finance capital investment necessary to be able to provide the extent and ease of services any web-user could use. The web could offer a plethora of federated, distributed, and also publicly- and commonly-owned-and-managed networked messaging platforms, a beautiful, diverse landscape of services whereby users could choose myriad alternative paths to the people they wish to reach or, if desired, broadcast to the whole freedom-loving world.

That monopolistic platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have come to be synonymous with “free-speech” and “free-expression” indicates the conflation of these ideas with “free-trade”. This “freedom of financial expression” is the historical meaning of ‘liberal‘. Resistance to this ‘freedom’ is historically called “conservative”. What we are more likely seeing in Turkey today is a desperate stand of a cabal of (conservative) local oligarchs against a (liberal) insurgent bourgeois with globalist finance capital backing.

Let’s try to disentangle our terms to understand what is really happening so that we can channel our anger to challenge what we truly cannot accept.

emancipation-ists of the world unite!
keep the focus of our indignation
on the right fight
global finance capital
will own our days and nights
until we all can coalesce
our power and insights!

a heavy heaving freedom

This world of high technologies is positively breath-taking, dizzying, ecstatic. The birth of the machine for work was the birth of the machine for pleasure.

The freedom we taste is contingent on a very regimented and domesticated environment. The freedom of the bungee jumper is contingent on the perfectly functioning textiles technology in the bungee cord. If the bungee cord is not manufactured according to stringent disciplinary standards, the freedom of the jump will become its opposite.

From the factory floor to the infinitesimal transistors inside every computer chip reigns an unfree hegemonic regime. Like the soldiers who provide the protective shell within which texts such as this can be ‘freely’ composed and published, the workers assembling computers can have no freedom in their duties. They are entirely subjugated to the demands of their jobs, which are imposed to a large extent by the science of the technology they are assembling.

In other words, we freely use the instruments they produce, and these function reliably because they were assembled exactly according to the rules. There is no place for dissidence on the assembly line. Dissidence would result in malfunctioning technologies.

Similarly, and this is not a metaphor, the chemical reactions inside the computer CPU are slave-like. They have no freedom. Any freedom there is error and sophisticatedly filtered out of sight out of mind . The weaknesses in the production chain produce substandard apparatuses, these are sold at a discount or trashed immediately. We all depend on the slave-like behaviour of the electrons in our circuits submitting to the laws of physics and chemistry.

Such ‘scientific’ laws are entirely abstract. By this I mean that they employ only chemicals which have been abstracted from their ordinary heterogenous suspensions in the atmosphere and in the plants, bodies and earth. These chemicals which behave so reliably must be abstracted from their accustomed habitat, purified and concentrated to the extreme. Often this means that they become deadly poisonous and horrifically polluting, but they behave! They behave marvelously to the beat of the electric current, the tribal drum of the electronic age. The electrons course around like infinitesimal remote controlled ants (or drones) through the circuits delivering charges. Hegemonischer gibt’s nicht!

The ‘creative’ ‘freedom’ we enjoy with computers, manipulating highly abstracted and disciplined images and sounds and texts on our devices, is predicated on unfree practices. This unfreedom is central and compulsory, inexorable to ‘free expression’.

We need, as Evgeny Morozov recently emphasizes, a much deeper analysis of the tricky and morally fraught relationship between techno-industrial unfreedom and social rights. And we need to acknowledge, honestly, scientifically, fundamentally, our continuing beholdenness to traditions of slavery-like unfreeness in the production chains of modernity.

Finally, we need to acknowledge, or at least earnestly envisage that, were programs, strategies and practices to become prevalent which could sustain other less-hegemonic conditions of production, such forms of productions will likely not be able to supply us with the same technological devices, and same techno-scientific vectors we are persistently informed are the unique guarantee of our survival as a species.

We will increasingly need to rely on much more involving and troubling things, possibly somewhat less convenient but potentially even more breath-takingly fulfilling and redeeming. We will need to rely more on eachother.

We can ground the ‘freedom’, especially that which is expressed in the unconditional enjoyment of automated services today, by countenancing the individual and social human legacies inscribed in the materials of the technologies.

Join the NUMBERS community!

OVERTHROW THE ROOT SERVERS. NAMES FOR EVERYONE! : NUMBERS STATION @transmediale

The right to a name is a fundamental right. Without a name you do not exist on the network. NAMES CAN NOT REMAIN CONTROLLED BY A RUTHLESS COMMERCIAL OLIGARCHY. END THE NAME TAX. THE INTERNET NAMING OLIGARCHY HAS NO RIGHT TO EXTORT NAME HOLDERS

When a name is lost, communities and individuals can cease to exist. FEAR OF LOSING NAMES ACTS AS A DISCOURAGEMENT TO GETTING NAMES AT ALL.

The people, not having their own names, use names granted by the CONSCIOUSNESS INDUSTRY, granted only to gain access to the words and images that the people see and share, and to know which people share with each other, these names are granted for the sole reason of TURNING THE PEOPLE INTO AUDIENCE COMMODITY.

THE NAMING OVERLORDS USE THEIR POWER TO REMOVE THEIR ADVERSARIES FROM THE NETWORK MY TAKING AWAY THEIR NAMES. This is a very insidious form of censorship, a theft not only of voice, but of identity.

END THE DOMAIN NAME SYSTEM! OVERTHROW THE ROOT SERVERS. NAMES FOR EVERYONE!

The NUMBERS COMMUNITY is a clandestine network, disciplined and diligent, dedicated and ready to act. The NUMBERS STATION broadcasts day and night. NUMBERS AGENTS listen and decode the cryptographically encoded messages and act in the name of NAMES FOR ALL.

The NUMBERS COMMUNITY works to overthrow the name system and end their dominance over names on the network.

Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls:
Who steals my purse steals trash; 'tis something, nothing;
'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed.

JOIN THE NUMBERS COMMUNITY.

--> http://telekommunisten.net/numbers-station

SEE ALSO:

http://telekommunisten.net/2014/01/30/addressability-is-power-numbers-station-at-transmediale/

http://telekommunisten.net/2014/01/31/the-server-is-the-master-numbers-station-transmediale/

THE SERVER IS THE MASTER: NUMBERS STATION @transmediale


THE SERVER IS THE MASTER. THE WEB IS A TRAP. YOUR BLOOD IS BEING SUCKED DRY BY THE CONSCIOUSNESS INDUSTRY!

THE WEB SERVER DOES NOT SERVE YOU. IT ENTRAPS YOU. As the web has been transmogrified by capitalist enclosure into a social tar baby, a honey pot for attracting communities and families into apparent sharing. Intercepting what could otherwise be direct communication and interjecting its systems of surveillance and control.

THE END TO END PRINCIPLE WAS WHAT GAVE US HOPE THE INTERNET COULD BE A PLATFORM FOR FREEDOM. A platform that would not only transform the way we communicate, but WOULD TRANSFORM SOCIETY ITSELF. Information would route around censorship. Speech would be free and no voice could be silenced. Privacy and anonymity would be inviolable.

THE WEB SERVER PUT AN END TO THE END TO END PRINCIPLE. The web server stands in between browsers, vetting, verifying, measuring, monetizing. CONTROLLING USER INTERACTION AND DATA.

THE WEB SERVER IS THE MASTER.

DOWN WITH THE WEB. WE DEMAND DIRECT, UNMEDIATED, COMMUNICATIONS FOR ALL USERS! WebRTC is too little, too late. We must act now! We must be relentless in our resolve.

The NUMBERS COMMUNITY is a clandestine network, disciplined and diligent, dedicated and ready to act. The NUMBERS STATION broadcasts day and night. NUMBERS AGENTS listen and decode the cryptographically encoded messages and act in the name of UNMEDIATED COMMUNICATION FOR ALL.

The NUMBERS COMMUNITY works to overthrow the web servers, those lords and operators of the web. WE WILL OVERTHROW THE CONSCIOUSNESS INDUSTRY. WE WILL NOT LET THEM TRAP THE PEOPLE AND MAKE THEM INTO THEIR AUDIENCE COMMODITY.

“Will you log into my platform?” said the Spider to the Fly,
'Tis the prettiest little platform that ever you did spy;
The way into my platform is up a winding stair,
And I've a many curious things to shew when you are there.”

“Oh no, no,” said the little Fly, “to ask me is in vain,
For who goes up your winding stair
-can ne'er come down again.”

JOIN THE NUMBERS COMMUNITY.
--> http://telekommunisten.net/numbers-station

SEE ALSO:
http://telekommunisten.net/2014/01/30/addressability-is-power-numbers-station-at-transmediale/

ADDRESSABILITY IS POWER: NUMBERS STATION at @transmediale

THESE ARE INCREASINGLY RADICAL TIMES. WHISTLEBLOWERS AND LEAKS. HACKERS AND RIOTERS. PUNDITS AND PROTESTERS. ALL CALL FOR SOMETHING TO BE DONE.

"The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways—the point however is to change it"?

Now is the time to do it. Now is the time for the NUMBERS COMMUNITY.

On the network, ADDRESSABILITY IS POWER.

The IPV4 Regime keeps addressability under the control of the privileged. IPV4 scarcity is distorting the network, rather than the symmetry of universal addressibility, address translation warps and degrades the topology of our platforms. Deforms freedom. Censorship and surveillance develop in the choke points of asymmetric networks. The CONSCIOUSNESS INDUSTRY manoeuvres to control the choke points, the gateways, the means of addressibility and impose their rule over the network, reducing all participants to AUDIENCE COMMODITIES.

The NUMBERS COMMUNITY is a clandestine network, disciplined and diligent, dedicated and ready to act. The NUMBERS STATION broadcasts day and night. NUMBERS AGENTS listen and decode the cryptographically encoded messages and act in the name of ADDRESSABILITY FOR ALL.

The NUMBERS COMMUNITY works to overcome the IPV4 system of privilege, of divisions between those that can be addressed and those who can not. IPV4 is a feudal and obsolete system of control.

The NUMBERS COMMUNITY militates for the immediate adoption of IPV6 and the delegation of address space for all.

And the great owners, who must lose their IP addresses in an upheaval, the great owners with access to history, with eyes to read history and to know the great fact: when property accumulates in too few hands it is taken away. And that companion fact: when a majority of the people are without addressability they will take by force what they need. And the little screaming fact that sounds through all history: repression works only to strengthen and knit the repressed

JOIN THE NUMBERS COMMUNITY.
--> http://telekommunisten.net/numbers-station

check your preferences for “a hellhole dystopia”

Julian Assange, in his skyped-in address at the 30th Chaos Communication Congress a few days ago used the phrase “a hellhole dystopia” to refer to the current security state, and also to the situation he finds himself in at the dawn of 2014. Julian exhorted the system administrators of the world to discover their class status, to rise as a class against the unjust system which threatens to comprehensively oppress us all. He uses apocalyptic language: it is now or else. Perhaps it is true, and he would know, the Internet is (and not only becoming) a massive surveillance machine. But that is what it always has incipiently been.

Sysadmins need to know who their real enemy is, and it is not merely “the state”, it is those who cause the state to abuse the Internet against the interests of its users. The class identity and class struggle Julian calls for among the sysadmins will not be catalysed merely through the fear of losing liberties and rights, it will only be catalysed in the acknowledgement that its real, active and fundamental enemy is capitalism. Whereas, in the old days, the mastery of information was mostly local, through local informants, spies etc. now, the spying is taking place globally on a preemptive and provisional basis. It used to be important for the powerful to know their enemies, now it is important to know everyone, because everybody has the potential to be an enemy, an enemy of capitalism.

Beneath the apparent political implications of this spying, what Annie Machon and others have described as the chilling effect of instilling generalized self-censorship, the financial principles of the web are at play. Personal data is the key to the ongoing investment bubble shell game which is driving the so-called digital economy today. The web could be almost anything we would like it to be, but its contemporary manifestation is conditioned by capitalist exigencies. The financialisation of personal data is absolutely central to how the web services most of us rely on every day for our social and economic lives is produced.

Many people seem not to fully realize that commercial web services need information about users in order to provide the services they do. The less they need to ask users for permission to get this information, the more seamless and satisfying the services are to use. Therefore users click the “agree” boxes and move on with their lives, augmented by the latest wonderful web-linked functionality, shrugging off the fact that they have summarily allowed (unknown and known) private companies access to their private data. The fact that webservices systemically need to work in concert to provide the expected conveniences means that, very soon the users’ data is shuttled and replicated myriad times across the web.

Sharing personal data is intrinsic to a wired lifestyle. There is no other way around it. Companies might be pressured into taking certain technical steps to limit access to private data they themselves acquire from users, but that will simply make the provision of the services users are conditioned to rely on less efficient. The more user data is interoperable across various platforms, the more amazing new intuitive webservices can be developed, making possible ever newer forms of sociability. That, under prevailing conditions of capitalism, this new sociability is always capitalised, should come as no surprise.

The world is a “dystopian hellhole” because users are mountaintop utopians. The cloud is privately-owned industrial server farms located on real privately-owned plots of land. The web is increasingly private property, and has become that way because users are willing to put up
with the unfairness of private ownership in exchange for certain services they have been convinced they need. They need these services for the financialization of their own lives, for their mere survival in an economy where life and productive work (for private interests) is indistinguishable. So we need to discuss to what extent the private-sphere sacrifices demanded of web users are actually avoidable under capitalism. To eschew one’s own (data-) interoperability is ostensibly to compromise one’s value on the life-labour market, compromising one’s own economic auspices under capitalism.

Users seem to prefer the unfairness of private ownership over the unfairness of commonly elaborated policy. Capitalism’s automatic indifference is seen as preferable to human limitation and potential failure. In other words, machines never disappoint, and users prefer dissatisfaction to disappointment. It should then come as no surprise that the world is becoming increasingly inhuman. The messy and inadequate systems of governance, with all the checks and balances we have laboured over for generations are being superseded by the call to convenience and interoperability. The inexorable drive of capitalism produces a scenario where (self-)exclusion can be fatal. No wonder that we wake up every morning ready to even more consummately surrender our most intimate information to web services.

“Hellhole dystopia” is simply a way of describing the eternal present, its inexorable and excruciating complexity, its enormous and intractable social exigencies and challenges. It is the counterface of a heavenly utopianism which is metaphysical, quasi-religious Messianism. Julian Assange is a living breathing, blogging, vlogging stigmata. He is being sacrificed for all of us to continue going about our insecure and compromised hellhole existences. But, as far as emancipating the Internet-using public, the ‘truth’ he struggles for has long been available. Users are being exploited, used, for profit, not their own. Users are financialized life-work beings whose mere existence, in data and otherwise is integral to the production of value for investors.

Under prevailing conditions of capitalism, the user is compelled to be ‘transparent’ to the entities delivering vital services, be these informational, medical, financial or other. This, today, is “transparency international”, any inhibition of user transparency creates “inconvenience”. It may be interesting to remember that convenience comes from the word “convene” which means meeting. Convenience in the digital age means that users convene their behaviour to inter-operate more smoothly with automated services. It is convenience which drives users to open themselves up to mass-surveillance. So, for most users, desperately precarious, privacy is not a question of ‘preferences’.

Workshop at 4pm Today, Hall 13. #SeidenStrasse, #30c3, @telekommunisten, #OCTO++

Telekommunisten Workshop at 4pm Today, Dec 28th at 30c3

Join us for an open discussion about Tekommunisten, Octo, SeidenStrasse, etc.

http://is.gd/telekommunisten30c3

Recordings from Day 1 Presentation, with *m, Frank, Jeff Mann and Diani Barreto

http://is.gd/seidenstrassemp430c31
http://is.gd/seidenstrassemp430c32T
The event is in Hall 13, all welcome.

https://events.ccc.de/congress/2013/wiki/Session:Telekommunisten_-_workshop_on_techniques_for_social_outcomes

https://events.ccc.de/congress/2013/wiki/Room:Hall_13

While “enjoying” the High Media Theater

…a corollary to Dmytri’s post today

Public pressure to demand legislative reforms is the conventionally condoned response to government overreach in democratic countries. Governments are thus naturally always positioned against the accumulation of such pressure. Throughout history they have honed various means to carefully channel and disrupt the coalescence of public outrage. A superb tactic in that regard is the stigmatist scenario.

A person or group is produced to represent some aspect of the contemporary unjust state. This person catalyses public interest and discussion. The public will invest in the story and fate of the person, investing the urgency of their general dissatisfaction with the political condition into emotional association with the stigmatist’s predicament.

The stigmatist will rise and fall, and rise and fall again, and up and down the public emotion will echo and roll.   These tides of emotion are the forceful emanations of an ocean of disillusioned passions.  This ocean connects us all.   The moral compulsion to empathise with the stigmatist is abused by the information organs of the state to dissuade us from articulating and asserting our communal interests.  The real-life actors playing themselves in contemporary high-media theater  are used to produce an enthralling narrative which tragically reconfirms the rule of law.

The Rule of Law, a set of governmental bureaucratic protocols has functioned, in many individual cases, to protect people from injustice and persecution. But the real stability generated by the Rule of Law is the maintenance of real material dominance over the economy by a class who also employ the government.   Here we see another form of high media theater, high-legal drama, an extremely popular genre from american television where the contortions of stigmata twisted on the semantic rack  of constitutional writ make for exquisite socio-technical agonism.

Did we ever need the rack to ensure liberty or justice?    The people look forlornly to the government to repair itself, forgetting that once repaired ,the government will proceed, as before, to act appropriately against their interests.

The news-screens flash the latest glamourous glimpses of the stigmatist trapped in a garish and infuriating form of high media theater.  The disillusion scatters like shrapnel through twitter feeds and comment threads.  Public outcry and pressure are valuable, but in addition to the semantics of dissidence, the emotions  produced therein can be appreciated more generally to convey the people’s deep-seated disillusion with the notion that the government can ever work in their interest.

Stiigamatists,  and the rack on which they are laid out, are not necessary to improve the general human condition.  To counteract high-media theater, we may need a materialist theater of economic or social fictions, which, as it transfixes, also functions to remind and resonate the common needs of the people against the polarizing and individualizing tactics of government administration.

It is important, in addition to caring for the stigmatist, to appropriate and divert the energies catalysed in the high media theater built around them towards cultivating cultural forms which genuinely, methodically, and carefully produce other ways of community, other means of social collaboration and sharing which can take over the stabilizing functions of the state.   As Dmytri implied in his post, the aim is  not to reform governments, but to work towards making them  unnecessary.