May 19, 2009
This Monochrom critique of hacker spaces and hacklabs takes these alternative/cooperative spaces to task for straying from their dual power roots, losing their radical politics, and not taking a more antagonistic stance towards the status quo:
The idea of having a revolution (of whatever kind) was domesticated into good clean reformism, and the only revolutions that lay ahead were the technological semi-revolutions of the internet and its social web sprouts.
Without former political agendas hackerspaces turned into small places that did not really make fundamental differences. Comparable to the fall of squat houses becoming legal in status and turning into new bourgeois housing projects where the cool urban bohemians live their lives commuting steadily between art world, underground, IT-business and advertisement agencies.
It also takes them to task for not doing enough to counter white privilege or strive for gender parity:
Plus, we need to reflect and understand that the hackerspaces of today are under the “benevolent” control of a certain group of mostly white and male techno handicraft working nerds. And that they shape a practise of their own which destines most of the hackerspaces of today. (It is hard to understand that there are hackerspaces in certain parts of the US that don’t have a single Afro-American or Latino member.
But we’d like to keep our European smugness to ourselves. We have to look at our oh-so-multicultural hacker scene in Europe and ask ourselves if hackers with a migrant background from Turkey or North-African states are represented in numbers one would expect from their percentage of the population. Or simply count your women representation and see if they make 50% of your members.)
So what do they suggest? To start, they want to see more workshops on political theory and history and what the purposes of these spaces should actually be, in the hopes that radical politics can once again be embraced. They also want to see these hackerspaces make serious efforts to include more marginalized and oppressed people in order to overcome the entrenched white nerd technocracy.
Never before in the history of bourgeois society has everything been as fucked up as it is right now. But what is lacking amongst all the practising going on in hackerspaces is a concise theory of what bourgeois society is like and what should be attacked by us building and running open spaces within that society.
This is just the start, of course. I’d also suggest that efforts be made to develop more radical hacktivist projects, particularly aligned towards ongoing social struggles. What if an Anonymous-style movement went after the Minutemen and nativist anti-immigration groups rather than the Church of Scientology? Hacklabs should also be connecting to these ongoing social movements and offering their technical expertise and support. Imagine if a worker-occupied factory was able to continue production under worker control thanks to the adoption of reprap machines or other open source 3D printers, facilitaed by hacktivists? What if DIY robot hackers assembled fleets of drones to aid in Copwatch programs, using sousveillance to keep abuses of authority in line? Even better, what if these hackerspace users took their politics back to the labs, factories, and offices in which they work, enabling a new movement of radicalized scientists and techies to counter the corporate uses and abuses of their research and intellectual labor?
What are we waiting for?
April 11, 2009
The Singularity Hub has a good overview of RepRap machines — open source and (almost) self-replicating 3D printers:
Imagine having a machine for $500 in your living room that can take your computer based specification for a 3D object and print out a plastic replica of the object in a matter of minutes. Imagine furthermore that all of the specifications for the machine are completely open source, completely shareable and modifiable by anyone in the world, and that there is a worldwide community of volunteers working feverishly to support you and anyone else to troubleshoot and improve the machine. Imagine no longer…this machine, called a Reprap, is reality! Best of all, these machines are ultimately designed to self replicate themselves, bringing us within tantalizing reach of a long envisioned era of self replicating machines.
There’s also news that people working on the Fab@Home 3-D printer project (similar to RepRap, but not self-replicating) have figured out a way to cut the costs for the raw stock they use to 1/50th of the previous cost:
“Normally these supplies cost $30 to $50 a pound. Our materials cost less than a dollar a pound,” said Ganter. He said he wants to distribute the free recipes in order to democratize 3-D printing and expand the range of printable objects.
Once these things get even cheaper and more widespread, we’re going to see people coming up with lots of creative uses. I’m looking forward to seeing some of the anarcho-bike-freak modders build a bicycle almost entirely out of 3D printed parts in the near future.
March 19, 2008
As a quick follow-up to Antisocialite’s post about Anonymous vs. Scientology (he tells me part 2 is coming soon), this brief over at Global Guerrillas summarizes Project Chanology in the context of an open source insurgency. Even more interesting, however, is this reply from a member of Anonymous:
Firstly, Anonymous is an example of viral organisation – there is no centralised leadership, and although there are nodes of organisation, these are dynamic – if one goes down or is taken down, others compensate with little damage done to the utility of the network as a whole. Organisation and decisions are made through what I would term “viral consensus” – the facts, questions and opinions are disseminated throughout the network by it’s users, the most successful or popular of these possible courses of action are therefore repeated more often and gain traction – mutations to the idea occur and those that are popular flourish. As such, there are no leaders to attack – whilst there may be some individuals who are more visible (such as Mark Bunker) they are not essential-, no easily-accisble points of failure. Indeed, the only thing that would severely disrupt the insurgency as a whole is internal factional problems – which are near-impossible for an outsider to predict or cause due to the shibboleths John mentions; or a total disruption of the internet as a whole.
Secondly, the initial campaign of DDOS and internet insurgency can be seen as an example of the internet as an enabling force – most members of anonymous are not hackers or computer security experts, but the information available on how to conduct operations such as DDOS attacks etc is readily available on the internet, and can be spread concisely and practically throughout the group itself through other networking tools (IRC, message boards, forums, p2p). However, the interesting thing in particular about the methodology of anonymous is that it is intensely adaptable – when the opinions of Mark Bunker that the illegal aspects of anonymous actions (DDOS etc) were tactically efficient but strategically detrimental entered the viral consciousness, the methodology drastically changed – to real life protests organised over a number of countries, and to information dissemination tactics aimed at the public.
February 15, 2008
I’ve been telling Infomorph that I was going to write something about the planned 2/10 protests for something like three weeks now to the point where the protests have come and gone and I’m only now sitting down to hammer this out. At this point I think my thoughts fall into two separate entries so this is the first focusing on how what Anon has done and how it gives hope to radicals and anarchists of all types, but particularly those of us of a more pro-tech orientation. Read the rest of this entry »
April 19, 2007
I’m a bit late to the party here, but check this out for interesting — if possibly far-fetched — ideas. Over at Carnival of Anarchy, Brad has posted some thoughts about putting an anarchist satellite into orbit:
Imagine a 10cm x 10cm x 10cm aluminum cube with solar panels, a tiny Linux server and a 2.4 Ghz band radio modem. Circling the Earth in orbit, it could be contacted via radio modem from anywhere on Earth that it passes over in order to download its data payload.
Well, we have the Internet, and radio modems aren’t in common usage anyway — so why do this? Simple. It would be more difficult for The Man(tm) to shut down. It could be used as a distribution point of last resort for state-thwarting hacktivism software such as ScatterChat and classic anarchist propaganda.
More importantly, the launch itself would be an unparalleled propaganda achievement in the field of radical politics. It is precisely the large scope of the project that could potentially move mountains of public opinion about the supposed unworkability of anarchism. Here would be a statement about the power of voluntary cooperation. Here would potentially be a way to expose the mischaracterization of anarchists as merely hooligans seeking only mayhem and misery for our fellow human beings as the slander it truly is.
Over at Human Iterations, William Gillis also kicked in with his thoughts:
Better yet, imagine a spattering of these as relay nodes and micro-datahavens. Genocide prevention kits, electronic currencies and censorship breaking software. With $85,000 we could do billions in continuous damage to major governments and begin to circumvent Echelon. Regimes like the PRC would have a fucking hernia. Forget the measily propaganda coup of broadcasting Kropotkin or Rothbard, we can secure a major stepping stone for the EFF folks and finally get the circle-A back as a proactive force in the free speech movement.
I’m not so sure that such an undertaking — which won’t be easily, logistically or financially — is worth it for propaganda purposes alone, especially with the likelihood for sabotage. Though I suppose that even sabotage of the project could be a propaganda victory of sorts, especially if it was something high-profile like testing a sat-killing weapon. Unfortunately, sabotage attempts are much more likely to be black-bag ops or the type of influemtial pressuring that would prevent the project from ever launching. Even if it gets into orbit, I wouldn’t be surprised if the satellite became a test subject for jamming and electronic negation attempts. It’s very likely that the state already has plans for dealing with operations like this — can you imagine the US response to an al-Qaeda or Hezbollah satellite?
Gillis is right — where this project really has a chance to take off is by making alliances with electronic freedom and privacy groups who could promote the project as a way to bypass internet censorship and other blockades of information flow by authoritarian regimes, or maybe even one of those wanna-be-data-haven groups like Sealand. And groups like the EFF might actually have money to sink into a project like this.
You have to admit, the idea is ambitious — and just crazy enough that it might actually work. Some interested folks are already getting together to discuss it. It’ll be interesting to see where it goes.