Future Cinema

Course Site for Future Cinema 1 (and sometimes Future Cinema 2: Applied Theory) at York University, Canada

Presentation on Alex Galloway’s PROTOCOL, ch. 6 “Tactical Media”

This book is about a diagram (the distributed network), a technology (the digital computer) and a management style (protocol). The object of the book is to define how the three work together as an apparatus of control, to police a society of control, and looks at counter-practices that have developed around/within/and against it in the third historical wave of the modern age; a shift from disciplinary societies to control societies. See: Gilles Deleuze “Postscript the Societies of Control” (http://www.n5m.org/n5m2/media/texts/deleuze.htm); the Critical Art Ensemble, Electronic Civil Disobedience and Other Unpopular Ideas (Autonomedia 1996, also available online at CAE website, www.critical-art.net/books/ecd/ecd2.pdf).

Protocol is “the principle of organization native to computers in distributive networks” (3). “At the core of network computing is the concept of the protocol. A computer protocol is a set of recommendations and rules that outline specific technical standards” (6). “Protocols refer specifically to standards governing the implementation of specific technologies” (7). Galloway acknowledges, “Protocol is not a new word. Prior to its usage in computing, protocol referred to any type of correct or proper behavior within a specific system of conventions. It is a concept in the area of social etiquette as well as in the fields of diplomacy and international relations. Etymologically it refers to a fly-leaf glued to the beginning of a document, but in familiar usage the word came to mean any introductory paper summarizing the key points of a diplomatic agreement or treaty” (7).

It is important to cultivate the various uses before examining the chapter… to determine what is the purpose of protocol (to govern and set rules for specific technologies), how and where they operate (encoding, at the level of code), and why—this is most important. Although it is common to think that new rhizomatic and decentralized communication technologies mean the end of centralized power and the disappearance of control as such, the protocol is how technological control exists after decentralization. Protocological control is not confined to the digital realm of existence: it also effects the functioning and movement of bodies in physical space (the administration of bodies) and the active production of vital forms by other vital forms—a la Foucault’s biopolitics and biopower: “the work of the self on the self.” The central question Protocol asks is ‘where has power gone?’

‘Protocol is as protocol does….’—Eugene Thacker introduces the book with a scene from Tron (1982). A film made by Disney as an attempt to ‘reinvent’ itself for a digitalized audience… a new generation of potential consumers. ‘Personal’ computers were becoming ubiquitous; a culture (of geeks) grew to support it. A hacker subculture (large, middle-class) emerged. The world would never be the same….

Thacker says that Galloway’s concept of protocols means to demonstrate the nonmetaphorical quality of networks: that is, network is not a trope, it is code, it is a circuit. It is material. Corporalized. Nevertheless, the book is rife with metaphors and tropes… e.g., ‘the computer virus.’

Chapter 6, “Tactical Media,” begins with a quote from Virilio, from his essay “Infowar”:

“The Internet is like the Titanic. It is an instrument which performs
extraordinarily well but contains its own catastrophe” (174).

For Virilio, the epoch of Infowar is an era in which unspecified civilian ‘enemies’ (i.e., terrorists or cyberterrrorists) are invoked by the state in order to justify increased spending on military weaponry and, in particular, in the form of new information and communications technologies (e.g., the Internet). Thus, for Virilio, in the post-Cold War age, the importance of the military-industrial complex—or what he calls the ‘military-scientific complex’ is not decreasing but increasing. For the weapons of the military-scientific complex are not merely responsible for integral accidents like the 1987 world stock market crash, accidents brought about by the failure of automated program trading, but also for the fact that, ‘in the very near future’ it ‘will no longer be war that is the continuation of politics by other means, it will be the integral accident that is the continuation of politics by other means.’

Also interesting on this topic but not mentioned in this chapter: Neal Stephenson’s In the Beginning was the Command Line (http://www.cryptonomicon.com/beginning.html).

What is Tactical Media
Galloway quoting ‘tactical media gurus’ David Garcia and Geert Lovink (from their “ABC of Tactical Media” http://subsol.c3.hu/subsol_2/contributors2/garcia-lovinktext.html):

Tactical media are what happens when the cheap ‘do it yourself’ media, made possible by the revolution in consumer electronics and expanded forms for distribution (from public access to the internet) are exploited by groups and individuals who feel aggrieved by or excluded from the wider culture…. Tactical media are media of crises, criticism and opposition.

Foucault, De Certeau, Vaneigem, Debord, Duchamp, Dada, Deleuze, Hakim Bey, Proudhon, Kropotkin, Kristeva, Virilio provide some of the theoretical framework for tactical media praxis.

Tactical media are the ‘bottom-up struggle of the networks against the power centers’…. Even those that have reinvented themselves as networks. These networks are generally organized horizontally… A popular reference point for tactical mediaticians is Michel de Certeau’s “The Practice of Every Day Life,” in which he analyzed popular culture not as a ‘domain of texts or artifacts but rather as a set of practices or operations performed on textual or text-like structures.’ He shifted the emphasis from representations in their own right to the ‘uses’ of representations. He suggested that we use them tactically, in far more creative and rebellious ways than had previously been imagined. Tactics are procedures that gain validity in relation to the pertinence they lend to time—to the circumstances which the precise instant of an intervention transforms into a favorable situation, to the rapidity of the movements that change the organization of a space, to the relations among successive moments in an action, to the possible intersections of durations and heterogeneous rhythms, etc. (De Certeau, 38). He described the process of consumption as a set of tactics by which the weak make use of the strong. He characterized the ‘rebellious user’ (a term he preferred to consumer) as tactical and the ‘presumptuous producer’ (in which he included authors, educators, curators and revolutionaries) as strategic. ‘Setting up this dichotomy allowed him to produce a vocabulary of tactics rich and complex enough to amount to a distinctive and recognizable aesthetic of poaching, tricking, reading, speaking, strolling, desiring. Maneuvers, polymorphic situations, joyful discoveries, poetic as well as warlike’: tactical media artists are the warrior-poets, or poetic terrorists, of physical or media and virtual landscapes.

Tactical media practices are always becoming, performative, experimental and pragmatic, involved in a continual process of questioning the premises of the channels they work within deterritorializing and reterritorializing the landscape of capital; they are forms of nomadic resistance, creating temporary reversals in the flow of power; they are ‘temporary autonomous zones.’

Temporary Autonomous Zones (TAZ):
TAZ are unmediated interfaces (immediacy and immanence are key). Tactical media depends on nomadic, fleeting actions and open collectivities, Sartre’s idea of the ‘fused group’ (emerging from spontaneous revolt), incomprehensible comprehensibility and desiring, willing anytime-anywhereness. Tactical media is multimedia, it is praxis (theory and action), it is generally short-lived, pranksterish and creative and theoretically informed. Revolutionary time moves very quickly, and very rarely leaves time for reflection. This is its enduring crisis. Yet, “the full potential of non-hierarchic information networking logically leads to the computer as the tool par excellence” (HB, TAZ).

This is one way of looking at tactical media or “digital resistance” (http://www.critical-art.net/books/digital/): tactical media artists, referred to elsewhere as ‘interventionists,’ whom Galloway separates out from the media ecologists… the discoverers of the ‘traces’ of tactical effects, or tactical phenomena within the media. The CAE are interventionists and ecologists by this distinction/definition, but nevermind… Galloway doesn’t want to focus on tactical media as explored by the “CAE, Lovink, and others,” (176)—tactical media as collective cultural action—choosing instead to explore tactical media as “those phenomena that are able to exploit flaws in protocological and proprietary command and control, not to destroy technology, but to sculpt protocol and to make it better suited to people’s real desires.” He quotes Hardt and Negri’s Empire: techno-resistance is at the center… of today’s decentralized networked culture. He focuses first on computer viruses (the biological metaphor, moves to cyberfeminism, thus extending this metaphor to disrupt, erase, or ‘draw lines of flight from’ the Cartesian gender divide, and finishes the chapter with netwar. This is a short chapter… we will take several ‘lines of flight from it’ and return at the end to some examples of digital resistance, interventionism, tactical media—from the pre-digital era through the present.

Computer Viruses
Galloway begins this section by talking about Frederick Cohen’s work in the 1980s as ‘the first sustained examination of computer viruses’ (176). The roots of the modern computer virus go back to 1949, when computer pioneer John von Neumann presented a paper on the “Theory and Organization of Complicated Automata,” in which he postulated that a computer program could reproduce. Bell Labs employees gave life to von Neumann’s theory in the 1950s in a game they called “Core Wars.” In this game, two programmers would unleash software “organisms” and watch as they vied for control of the computer.

Virus as metaphor—it makes sense; the Net has the same characteristics as the biological phenomenon. Viruses depend on the host cells that they infect to reproduce. When it comes into contact with a host cell, a virus can insert its genetic material into its host, literally taking over the host’s functions. The same goes for computer viruses.

Types of viruses/variants: worms and Trojan horses. Both worms and Trojan horses are forms of ‘malware’: malicious software. Worms are self-replicating (like viruses) but don’t require a host to propagate. Worms use a network to send copies of itself to other nodes (computers on the network) and do so without any user intervention. Worms almost always cause at least some harm to the network, if only by consuming bandwidth, whereas viruses almost always corrupt or devour files on a targeted computer. Trojan horses exercise some undesirable code that is invisible to the user and may perform undisclosed malicious functions allowing unauthorized access to the host machine, giving them the ability to save their files on the user’s computer or even watch the user’s screen and control the computer. On the surface Trojan horses seem harmless, so they can be easily and unwittingly downloaded.

Viruses are typified as: malicious, hostile, harmful, (hi-tech) disease, plague, contagion or contaminants. They are undesirable. They wreak havoc.

Frederick Cohen coined the term “computer virus” in his PhD thesis (1986). He is considered the father of what we know today as computer viruses. Cohen defines a computer virus as: “a program that can ‘infect’ other programs by modifying them to include a, possibly evolved, version of itself” (177).

‘They are thought of as a plague used by terrorists to wreak havoc on the network’ (177)….. who are the authors??? ‘Criminals.’ ‘Terrorists.’ Nevertheless, there has to be a flaw in a proprietary system in order for a virus to propagate. Apples are generally considered immune; Microsoft is vulnerable.

Galloway always keeps the body of operation distinct, but… as Cohen conceded, (computer) viruses are a form of artificial life—like a replicant [see Bladerunner: ‘I want more life…’ at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLOHl8wVnBQ]. There are two main paradigms for computer viruses: the AIDS epidemic and terrorism. When AIDS emerged in the early 1980s the epidemic itself was a mystery—what was its origin? How to stop it, how to ‘cure’ it? With terrorism, the identity of the terrorists may be known, you can locate sites of attack, but the victims are usually anonymous. Galloway goes on to make the distinction between ‘invisible horror’ (AIDS) and ‘irrational horror’ (terrorism). I disagree when he makes the distinction that one has political demands (terrorism) while the other does not (AIDS). But the point is to explore the prominent metaphors for flaws in protocological management and control.

Galloway wonders, if viruses had been discovered a decade later, in the mid-1990s, would the sociocultural meaning be different? His hypothesis (by no means unique) is that the emergence of the computer ‘virus’ coincided with the AIDS epidemic and consequently, the two were conflated. The attention around AIDS culminated in a sex panic, and so it was with computers, which, by the 1980’s had emerged as an ubiquitous presence in people’s homes.

ACT UP was a group that used tactical media and direct action to fight the encroaching sex panic and to rally support for the AIDS crisis—whether by creating an understanding that the disease was not a moral issue, that gays have rights, that hysteria was an ineffective way of fighting the disease and that institutional help was needed in the form of making and distributing pharmaceuticals and building and developing care and support networks and facilities. The height of ACT UP operated in the mid-80s through mid-90s. For more info on ACT UP, see http://www.actupny.org/ (ACT UP was much bigger than ACT UP NY and actually originated on the West Coast). There is also a manual for civil disobedience available for download: http://www.actupny.org/documents/CDdocuments/CDindex.html

According to Galloway, computer viruses appeared in a moment in history where the integrity and security of bodies, both human and technological, was a dominant concern. “Social anxieties surrounding both AIDS and the war on drugs testify to this” (179). Yet, “mystery surrounds the origin for the virus” (179). Virus authors are hackers, terrorists, evildoers, saboteurs, criminal minds. Viruses are international/‘multinational’ crises… so you can see where this is going: Viruses are the scourge of the military-industrial complex. They are crises in national (or international) security. They cost a lot of money to remedy. They can spin out of control through negligence or technical flaws in proprietary software. Computer viruses are seen as weapons of mass destruction for the Information Age. Virus creators are cyberterrorists.

Viral media vs. virus: viral activist strategies
Spam is viral. But so is self-promotion for a lot of activist projects. Text mobs (aka ‘smart mobs’) are a very successful form of viral activist strategy, and viruses are an important analogy for radical activist culture: distributed, dispersed, covert, horizontalist. Viruses are seen as ‘weapons of political protest’ (180). Text mobs have been used a number of times in convergences in order to organize actions as spontaneously as possible and avoid being infiltrated and shut down by the police or other authorities. This phenomenon is also referred to as a ‘flash mob,’ a specific form of smart mob, describing a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, do something for a brief period of time, then quickly disperse. For example, during the RNC in 2004, networks of friends and fellow activists would keep each other informed of protest and police activity via txt messages—preferably, never via email. UFPJ and larger activist groups would file for permits and put out calls to action/rallies on their websites, but the more critical stuff was being done via the most discreet and viral means possible. This was also the case with the recent occupations of the New School—both of them. About an hour or so before the actions, txt messages were broadcast via network (of friends) alerting people to the time and place of convergence and protest. Critical Mass (international convention of bicyclists, dating back to 1992, that ‘take over the city from cars’ on the last Friday of every month) are also sometimes compared to smart mobs, due to their self-organizing manner of assembly. Although the metaphor for network is taken very seriously in this community, the mobs are generally steered by ‘dispatchers’ who are responsible for maintaining the contact list and forwarding messages to a group. This is generally not considered a ‘role of power,’ it’s just a necessary task that someone has to do.

Galloway has written elsewhere on cyberfeminism (“A Report on Cyberfeminism” http://switch.sjsu.edu/web/v4n1/alex.html): “Part of the same movement that produced ‘girl power’ e-zines like gURL and the now famous Geekgirl, the nineties cyberfeminist is a unique mixture of activist, cyberpunk, theorist and artist. Historically, cyberfeminism has developed in two directions: the radical politics of Sadie Plant and VNS Matrix on the one hand, and the more mainstream work of the Old Boys Network (OBN is a mostly European consortium of cyberfeminists) and the FACES email community on the other (FACES, surprising enough for cyberspace, is a ‘women only’ email list).” It looks like he drew heavily on this easy for his discussion of cyberfeminism in the chapter on Tactical Media.

Cyberfeminism is a type of tactical media. It may have its beginnings in the 1990s—but didn’t end there (as Galloway says). There is a lot that Galloway leaves out of this section, but it is rich for its allusions. First and foremost: computers are not a ‘decidedly male operation’ (184). He focuses on Sadie Plant and the VNS Matrix, but he doesn’t say much (or anything) about the Old Boys Network, the SubRosa collective, or their historical predecessors, for example, Wages for Housework, a collection of Autonomist radical Italian feminists that inspired the Zapatistas as well as, however unacknowledged, cyberfeminism. I disagree that this exemption is entirely owing to the ‘more mainstream’ work of OBN… maybe for a guy writing on cyberfeminism a collectivity that talks frequently about cunts, and in terms of lines of flight, describes the clitoris as ‘a direct line to the matrix’ is simply a more exciting line to follow. Also ostensibly missing is anarchafeminist Valerie Solanas, author of the antimale, protofeminist “S.C.U.M. [Society for Cutting Up Men] Manifesto” (1967) (http://www.spunk.org/texts/anarcfem/sp001291.txt), although she is probably best known for shooting Andy Warhol. So, Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) is well known as an “Analyst, Metaphysician, and Founder of Scientific Computing.” She was the daughter of the Romantic poet Lord Byron. She worked closely with Charles Babbage, known as the inventor of the “Difference Engine,” an elaborate calculating machine that operated by the method of finite differences and with Lovelace, the “Analytical Engine.” It was suited for “developping [sic] and tabulating any function whatever… the engine [is] the material expression of any indefinite function of any degree of generality and complexity.” This machine is credited as the predecessor of the modern computer. Galloway also mentions (via Sadie Plant) Grace Hopper “the discoverer of the first computer bug”—literally a moth caught inside an early computer machine (185). As Galloway notes, “The computer bug, far from being an unwanted footnote in the history of computing, is in fact a space where some of the most interesting protocological phenomena occur” (186). Is this a metaphor for cyberfeminism?

“The territory of cyberfeminism is large,” says Faith Wilding, writing with the CAE on cyberfeminism in a essay titled “Notes on the Political Condition of Cyberfeminism” (http://www.obn.org/reading_room/writings/html/notes.html):

Cyberfeminism is a promising new wave of (post)feminist thinking and practice. Through the work of numerous Netactive women, there is now a distinct cyberfeminist Netpresence that is fresh, brash, smart, and iconoclastic of many of the tenets of classical feminism. At the same time, cyberfeminism has only taken its first steps in contesting technologically complex territories. To complicate matters further, these new territories have been overcoded to a mythic degree as a male domain. Consequently, cyberfeminist incursion into various technoworlds (CD-ROM production, Web works, lists and news groups, artificial intelligence, etc.) has been largely nomadic, spontaneous, and anarchic. On the one hand, these qualities have allowed maximum freedom for diverse manifestations, experiments, and the beginnings of various written and artistic genres. On the other, networks and organizations seem somewhat lacking, and the theoretical issues of gender regarding the techno-social are immature relative to their development in spaces of greater gender equity won through struggle. Given such conditions, some feminist strategies and tactics will repeat themselves as women attempt to establish a foothold in a territory traditionally denied to them. This repetition should not be considered with the usual yawn of boredom whenever the familiar appears, as cyberspace is a crucial point of gender struggle that is desperately in need of gender diversification (and diversity in general).

The VNS Matrix’s “Cyberfeminist Manifesto for the 21st Century” appeared in 1991, after Donna Haraway’s “Cyborg Manifesto” (1985). Why is this seminal piece of writing, clearly a prelude to cyberfeminism and its manifestoes, not mentioned by Galloway? At a glance, the VNS Matrix’s manifesto’s text looks like it was excerpted from Solanas’s S.C.U.M. Manifesto: http://www.obn.org/reading_room/manifestos/html/cyberfeminist.html. It is copied/pasted below in its original form:

Forget Freud, forget Foucault. “Cyberfeminism does not indicate the necessary ‘return of the repressed’ in the male psyche of history, but a feed-back loop in a space-time named post-human” (OBN, Cyberfeminism: Next Protocols, 15). “Cyberfeminism is not simply an evolution of historical feminism…. Cyberfeminism is a simulation…. Cyberfeminism indicates an operation….Cyberfeminism is not a teleology…. Cyberfeminism is a monster” (OBN, NP).

Also interestingly missing in this genealogy is N. Katherine Hayles (author of How We Became Posthuman and My Mother Was a Computer). For Galloway, the two best entry points into contemporary cyberfeminist theory are Sadie Plant (technology is fundamentally female) and Sandy Stone (virtual communities produce things like bodies, communities and spaces), e.g., Second Life. Cyberfeminism exists to mutate and transform questions of body and identity (188). “Cyberfeminism by its very nature necessitates a participatory practice in which many lines of flight coexist” (187). Since the first Cyberfeminist International met Documenta X in Kassel (it was organized by the OBN), two books on cyberfeminism and its collectivities have been published (within moments of each other, by the same publisher, owing to a split in the collectivities): Domain Errors! Cyberfeminist Practices by SubRosa (Faith Wilding was one of the editors) and Cyberfeminism: Next Protocols by the OBN. This was the first document they produced together (at Documenta X):

100 anti-theses (http://www.obn.org/reading_room/content.html)

1. cyberfeminism is not a fragrance
2. cyberfeminism is not a fashion statement
3. sajbrfeminizm nije usamljen
4. cyberfeminism is not ideology, but browser
5. cyberfeminism nije aseksualan
6. cyberfeminism is not boring
7. cyberfeminismus ist kein gruenes haekeldeckchen
8. cyberfeminismus ist kein leerer kuehlschrank
9. cyberfeminismus ist keine theorie
10. cyberfeminismus ist keine praxis
11. cyberfeminism is not a tradition
12. cyberfeminism is not an institution
13. cyberfeminism is not using words without any knowledge of numbers
14. cyberfeminism is not complete
15. cyberfeminism is not error 101
16. cyberfeminismus ist kein fehler
17. cyberfeminismus ist keine kunst
18. cyberfeminism is not an ism
19. cyberfeminism is not anti male
20. sajbrfeminizm nige nesto sto znam da je
21. cyberfeminism is not a structure
22. cyberfeminismo no es una frontera
23. cyberfeminism nije poslusan
24. cyberfeminism nije apolitican
25. cyberfeminisme is niet concreet
26. cyberfeminism is not separatism
27. cyberfeminism is not a tradition
28. cyberfeminism is not maternalistic
29. cyberfeminisme is niet iets buitenlands
30. cyberfeminism is not without connectivity
31. cyberfeminismus ist nicht mehr wegzudenken
32. cyberfeminismus ist kein oxymoron
33. cyberfeminism is not on sale
34. cyberfeminism is not for sale
35. cyberfeminismus ist nicht gut
36. cyberfeminismus ist nicht schlecht
37. cyberfeminismus ist nicht modern
38. cyberfeminismus ist nicht post modern
39. cyberfeminism is not natural
40. cyberfeminism is not essentialist
41. cyberfeminism is not abject
42. cyberfeminism is not an avatar
43. cyberfeminism is not an alter ego
44. cyberfeminismus ist nicht truegerisch
45. cyberfeminismus ist nicht billig
46. cyberfeminismus ist nicht willig
47. cyberfeminisme n’est pas jaloux
48. cyberfeminism is not exclusive
49. cyberfeminism is not solid
50. cyberfeminism is not genetic
51. cyberfeminismus ist keine entschuldigung
52. cyberfeminism is not prosthetic
53. cyberfeminismo no tiene cojones
54. cyberfeminisme n’est pas triste
55. cyberfeminisme n’est pas une pipe
56. cyberfeminism is not a motherboard
57. cyberfeminism is not a fake
58. cyberfeminism nije ogranicen
59. cyberfeminism nije nekonfliktan
60. cyberfeminism nije make up
61. cyberfeminism nije zatvoren prozor
62. cyberfeminism is not a lack
63. cyberfeminism is not a wound
64. cyberfeminism is not a trauma
65. cyberfeminismo no es una banana
66. cyberfeminism is not a sure shot
67. cyberfeminism is not an easy mark
68. cyberfeminism is not a single woman
69. cyberfeminism is not romantic
70. cyberfeminism is not classic
71. cyberfeminism is not a media hoax
72. cyberfeminism is not neutral
73. cyberfeminism is not lacanian
74. cyberfeminism is not nettime
75. cyberfeminism is not a picnic
76. cyberfeminism is not a cold fish
77. cyberfeminism is not cyberepilation
78. cyberfeminism is not a horror movie
79. cyberfeminism is not science fiction
80. cyberfeminism is not artificial intelligence
81. cyberfeminism is not a empty space
82. cyberfeminism is not immobile
83. cyberfeminism is not about boring toys for boring boys
84. cyberfeminismist keine verlegenheits sache
85. cyberfeminism is not a one way street
86. cyberfeminism is not supporting quantum mechanics
87. cyberfeminism is not caffeine free
88. cyberfeminism is not a non-smoking area
89. cyberfeminism is not daltonistic
90. cyberfeminism is not nice
91. cyberfeminismo no es callado
92. cyberfeminism is not lady like
93. cyberfeminismus ist nicht arrogant
94. cyberfeminismus ist keine nudelsauce
95. cyberfeminism is not mythical
96. cyberfeminism is not from outer space
97. cyberfeminismo no es Rock&Roll
98. cyberfeminism is not dogmatic
99. cyberfeminism is not stable
100. cyberfeminism does not have only one language

…Sometimes it’s easier to see what something is by seeing what it is not. Like a lot of other radical practices, cyberfeminism is based on horizontality and distributed control. Though the VNS/Plant contingency makes a point of distinguishing cyberfeminism from the historical feminist movement, it does look a lot like a technophilic Wages for Housework. [See Dalla Costa’s The Work of Love: Unpaid Housework, Poverty and Sexual Violence at the Dawn of the 21st Century. This classic ‘manifesta’ of radical Italian feminism in the 1970s helped define the autonomist-inspired ‘wages for housework’ movement, and identified the capitalist complicity of both the traditional nuclear family as well as the liberation of the woman as wage-earner.]

What is interesting about cyberfeminism in tactical media: like other feminisms, it puts the body firmly at the center of its discourse, analysis and activism. Body as ‘desiring machine’ operating in a bodyless matrix known as the network. What is the status of the body in virtual communities? Virtual communities give people opportunities to author virtual selves, to create, produce, reproduce new bodies and new social relations. As Stone has asserted: virtual spaces are inhabited by bodies with “complex erotic components” (191). Bodies and identities dominate the rhetoric around cyberfeminism: how does the female relate to technology (and positions of power) and vice versa? Cyberfeminist provide the frontline guerrilla tactics and interventions into techno-theory and practice (praxis), inserting women into what has been a largely male history of technology—which is why it’s interesting to be discussing a male’s history of cyberfeminism—the next next frontier of the feminist battle. It is cybermilitancy and a real-life social struggle: “how to inject change into protocol so that it aligns more closely with one’s real desires about social life and how it ought to be better lived” (196). What/who is put in and what/who is left out???


Netwar—like cyberwar—describes a new spectrum of conflict that is emerging in the wake of the information revolution. Netwar includes conflicts waged, on the one hand, by terrorists, criminals, gangs, and ethnic extremists; and by civil-society activists (such as cyber activists or WTO protestors) on the other. What distinguishes netwar is the networked organizational structure of its practitioners—with many groups actually being leaderless—and their quickness in coming together in swarming attacks. To confront this new type of conflict, it is crucial for governments, military, and law enforcement to begin networking themselves.

Arquilla and Ronfeldt coined the term netwar. The discussion that emerges is about conflicting structures, diagrams and the struggles that arise to cure and play with or exploit and threaten them. These structures are rhizomatic and cellular. Decentralization and dispersion are meant to prohibit and/or prevent total destruction. This was a post-WWII tactic; and as Galloway notes, networking pioneer Paul Baran credits the Internet’s invention to the fear/threat of nuclear attack. Dispersion was supposed to offset the vulnerability of military-industrial information and control centers. The Internet is mutable and very large with small, autonomous enclaves built in: it is the architecture of survival. It is also the architecture of resistance and its movements, multiplicity characterized by leaderless movement, a collection of affinity groups (cells) that operate by consensus, flexibly, surreptitiously. Just as Galloway describes Al Qaeda, these groups are “cellular, networked, modular and nimble” (201); tactical media groups are typically organized in the same way. Hierarchy used to be organized from top to bottom and centralized, but now it is also networked. The powers that be and the powers that rally to subvert them are all elusive networks. Terrorist, anti-terror, activist… are all playing chess in the same distributed field. Maybe when Galloway was writing this book in 2004 there was still a dialectic of centralized and decentralized opposing forces, but the hierarchy-network conflict no longer exists… the “current global crisis… between centralized, hierarchical powers and distributed, horizontal networks” (204) is a thing of the past, however recent. Any media activist will tell you, these autonomous zones we build—in virtual public space—are by nature and design temporary, and there must always be new lines of flight, shifts of thought, exit strategies, tactical liberatory impulses and effects. What we have been dealing with is a paradigm shift: any activist will also tell you, it is only a matter of time before a new paradigm for resistance (DIY geopolitics) becomes one used for control. So what are dissenting movements to do? New anti-systemic modes of exodus need to be constantly imagined. Stasis is apoptosis (programmed cell death). Network-based struggles shape-shift into hypertrophy, “pushing technology… further than it is meant to go” (206). This is the goal of tactical media.

A genealogy of Tactical Media (media activism) collectivities—multum in parvo [much in little]
The Futurists, Dada, the Surrealists, COBRA, the Lettristes, the Situationists, the Provo, the Motherfuckers, the Yippies, Radio Alice, Telestreet, ACT UP, Gran Fury, General Idea, the CAE, Inventory, Reclaim the Streets, the Yes Men, The Institute for Applied Autonomy (I.A.A.), Bureau of Inverse Technology, the Surveillance Camera Players, Jodi.org, the Center for Tactical Magic, the Guerrilla Girls, REPOHistory, Paper Tiger TV, Direct Action Network, People’s Global Action, Bureau D’Etudes, are only a few examples.

Wed, April 29 2009 » Futurecinema_2009, assignments