Author Archives: tedli13

Ted- St Petersburg

The Chto Delat pamphlet was largely fragmented because most of it was written in Russian. The portions that were translated were done so in broken English; however, there would be portions of the pamphlet that were written well enough without some of its meaning being lost in translation. One of these portions was the Chronic of the Action “The  foundation of Saint Petersburg” and Manifesto 003.

This protest movement started on the 300th anniversary celebrating the Russian capital city, Saint Petersburg and all the progress it as made; however, the protestors saw this anniversary as nothing more than a celebration of a stagnation of culture, “largely seen as a tomb, a necropolis of the aristocratic prerevolutionary culture”. This 300th anniversary, while clearly marked the many achievements of the long and many advancements throughout the history of Saint Petersburg, it also highlighted the lack of progress made in the most recent decade, especially the time following the fall of the USSR.

“The excess of the historical feeling
degrades into the antiquarian, uncritical attitude to the past and covertly subverts the present.
It subverts the possibility of the future – of the project, a draft, that would, in a utopian way,
anticipate and affirm the future.”

So instead of a traditional celebration of the city by going to the center and marching in a parade, the protest, “The foundation of Saint Petersburg” instead went away from the city center, away from the anachronistic culture, hoping to escape the old ways and “lay the foundations” of a new city center that incorporates modern innovations and advancements. After they were stopped by armed policemen, they were detained and taken to the police station where they had a four hour “discussion”. It was after this discussion that the protestors deemed the place as the new city center,placing a stone there as a symbol of their motion. Perhaps the discussion that occurred and the complete release of the protestors (given they had to pay fines) was itself a representation of the progress that was made that day in contrast to the days of the USSR when instead of being let go, the protestors would most likely be detained and sent to prison. By being freed with little penalty except fines for illegal marching, the protestors must have had a feeling that there is hope for advancement in the culture of Saint Petersburg.

This aggravation with society and culture that has been taken from the hands of the people is apparent in this piece. However, unlike several other movements of the past that refuse to collaborate with the State and other forms of authority and/or organization, the Manifesto 003 says:

“We have to work on the persistent transformation of the city environment – streets, squares,
houses, sculptures, transportation, journals, collective actions. The city authorities, on their
part, should involve the modern avant-garde artists while planning the city space.”

Currently, they see the city authorities as blind to progresses made by the modern avant-garde artists. This is apparent to them based on the aesthetics of the city itself. Instead of modern buildings being erected, “what is built is nothing but the cowardly imitation”. The writers of the Manifesto 003 strongly believe that the city has much potential to truly advance and become like the Saint Petersburg that was known for its modernity if the authorities and the modern artists work together.

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Post 11- Ted

The first half of this piece speaks to the seven circles that constitutes the problems of modern society and how an artificial environment we are living in alienates us from ourselves and consumes our everyday life. The Invisible Committee largely attributes this total control to the capitalist and consumerist society that fuses the economic with the political.

For example, the second circled titled, “Entertainment is a vital need” starts with  one sentence examples of situations that the news media portray on the headlines with an accusatory and damning tone. On the other hand, the Invisible Committee sees their reaction as laughable. Taking on a key issue discussed in mainstream media, immigration, the Invisible Committee asserts that there is no question about immigration. They believe the media and modern society has played immigration as solely the movement of foreign workers (usually illegal) into a country. But the Invisible Committee notes that immigration is everywhere and everyone immigrates in a sense by posing several rhetorical questions: “Who still grows up where they were born? Who lives where they grew up? Who works where they live…?” They take this as a way of showing that no one really belongs anywhere now. We are all foreigners; we are all immigrants. Because of this we attach ourselves to what we think we know, usually derived from the media and the rules that govern society.

They use the example of a couple to demonstrate the transformation of something that is perceived to be originally pure and simple into a product of the world we live in. In the purest form of a relationship, there is the “romantic high” that ignores the surroundings in order to focus on the two who are in the relationship. However, this period is ephemeral and gives way to the superficiality of the reality of the romance. Today, it has become impossible to ignore the surroundings for we are constantly bombarded with advertisements glorifying romance found in a diamond ring or magazines that laud certain beauty products and looks.

This view of the modern world by the Invisible Committee is very similar to the that of Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle. It also frames the world in the ruling class vs. disenfranchised setting similar to that of the Empire. As Glenn Beck mentions in his show, the insurrection is coming from within the society; he calls it the “enemy from within”. This is similar to that of the strategy of fighting from within and using the very channels of the people you are against, as seen in the Empire. However, the key difference is that, in the previous texts, the constant struggle between the two opposite classes is believed to be one that shocks the system rather than to completely overturn it. Instead, the Invisible Committee with this publication frames the second part of this book as a guide to  insurrection and a call to arms. They believe this should be done in communes that mobilize similar to terrorist cells and surmount attacks with the goal to tear down society. As the last sentence of the piece chants, “ALL POWER TO THE COMMUNES”.

Ted-10

The Anti-Capital Projects Blog states that their occupation is simply a reclamation of the school they believe is owned by the community. Their stage is the University of California school systems. The current administration that runs the system has been hiking up tuition and laying off workers. These “cost cuts” then in turn support the investment of school buildings that are not in the best interest of the student body, and without the consultation of its students.

This blatant disregard to student input and the prioritization of permanent edifices (e.g. buildings and renovations) over the students is not unique to the UC school system. At Duke, we face a similar situation with the widely unpopular new housing model switch. With little input from the student government, which represents the student body at large, the administration determined that it would radically change the current housing situation to the new housing model. Though this change at first seemed relatively benign and potentially even beneficial to the student body, as the details of the model came to light, many students and organizations became outraged with the proposed changes. To quell the anger of the student body, Duke attempted to facilitate a conversation between the administration and students. Once again this proved to be a huge disappointment when the opinions and suggestions for improving the model were disregarded.

Both anecdotes showed how the school systems which were once revered as institutions of democratic thought and , have been effectively occupied by the administration that sees students as nothing more than four-year income streams.

To address this situation, the Anti-Capital Projects stage occupations but also take a very radical stance. They “are guided by a simple maxim: omnia sunt communia, everything belongs to everybody, as a famous heretic once said. This is the only property of things which we respect.” This position seems to border collectivist anarchism which in its most radical sense advocates the elimination of individual personal property in favor of community owned property. Perhaps, they do not believe this extends to all forms property and maybe use this belief in terms of already public institutions such as the UC public university system. In that case, their position has much validity: the contributors to the university (students, faculty, staff, etc.) should all have a voice and should not be oppressed by a tyrannical administration.

Moreover, similar to the current occupational movements, their demonstrations and occupations have no demands. They believe demands mean the death of a protest/movement (compromised resolution?). By not making concrete demands, their movement lives in solidarity with all who are oppressed and exploited. However, though the sentiment of the group may be together in solidarity, without making any specific demands or steps to resolve the issue, their impact is largely symbolic and impractical. But I suppose taking a figurative stand against a society of unfettered and unsustainable capitalistic growth, then hoping others who are similarly disenfranchised and disgruntled will take a similar public stand are their real goals. Regardless with little action beyond occupation and little intention to negotiate, the movement makes little real progress: oppressive actions will continue to occur.

Ted- 9

It is particularly refreshing to see internet and information technology in a new light (differing from the mainstream patriarchal view). Normally when we think of the information technology era, we think of men- computer programmers, CEOs, and the likes of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and most recently Mark Zuckerberg. Though these men act as the patriarchal figureheads of their respective companies and contributions to information technology, Plant argues that “Hardware, software, wetware- before their beginnings and beyond their ends, women have been the simulators, assemblers, and programmers of the digital machines…computers have always been, a technology of the female” (Galloway 185). I understand that because “digital machines” (185) were either physically assembled, tested, and programmed by women, Plant’s argument is that women have the most direct connection with these machines. Furthermore, she claims there is a fundamental material connection between the female body and the machine as shown by the VNS Matrix slogan: “The clitoris is a direct line to the matrix” (192). This connection is material in nature that extends from the beginning of the technology to its current state. However, based solely her examples of the few females that worked alongside the many men on such technologies, to call computers as a totally female technology seems extremely exaggerated. Maybe because these are phrases probably said from some manifesto-esque tone, we should not take what she says as completely literal.

Moving on, this inherent bond that links the female body and the computer is the premise of the Cyberfeminist movement. Cyberfeminism is first described as a form of tactical media that adds to the existing tactical media aimed to disrupt the protocol of the internet, computers, and the information technology era. This new dimension “deals with the negative space created within protocol through the injection of mutations, crashes, and viral code” (185). Furthermore, the injections are similar to the methods described in the Hacker Manifesto. The Cyberfeminists believe that the system they are hacking are the ones with the bugs and problems, not the injections themselves; they are just exploiting those preexisting weaknesses. A particularly interesting analogy to this is “What is truly to blame, the water leaking from a bucket, or the hole in the bucket that allows the water to leak?”

Though Cyberfeminism is described as a tactical media used to disrupt the protocol, Plant says, “technology threatens phallic control and is fundamentally a process of emasculation” (189). So since technology is the protocol that diminishes the patriarchy and assuming the goal of Cyberfeminism is to disrupt the patriarchy, why would Cyberfeminism aim to disrupt this protocol? Perhaps this goes back to the idea of the Situationists and the Empire who aimed to disrupt the protocol from within. Using the negative “pure feminine space” (189) described by Plant, the Cyberfeminists use the flaws and weaknesses of the male-dominated mainstream protocol against itself. In other words, the subversion comes from within. Moreover, given the close ties between the history of information technology and women, this can have a systemic effect.

Ted- 8

As I was reading the Do-It-Yourself Geopolitics piece, I couldn’t help but think of the Occupy Wall Street and the other Occupy <insert “oppressive” institution here> protests going around the country in the context of this piece. When I first heard about the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, I wondered what their motives and goals were. After reading several articles from both sides, doing further research on the internet, my question still remains largely unanswered. From what I gathered, this movement’s messages span from the moderate (the government should better regulate big business) to the extreme (capitalism sucks). As criticized by many, though the movement has sprung many smaller demonstrations all over the country, there is a general lack of focus in the groups to make any difference. Besides making it clear that they are against the power system of this country controlled by the “1%” who oppresses the “99%”, no formal political impact has been made as of yet.

On the other hand, I guess, as a product of the influential consumer market, I was compelled to focus on the end product rather than the on-going artistic production. Perhaps I have been focusing on the wrong thing; instead, I should maybe focus on the poetics of the movement. In this, there is a possibility of political impact beyond the formal. The Occupy Wall Street demonstrations are especially similar to the London RTS protests in the 1990s. Both can be described as poetic movements with Zapatismo and Situationist-esque elements. For example, Occupy Wall Street is creating a situation and playing it out like a game, while authorities are trying to find ways to hinder their right to protest, the protesters counter by artfully dodging and resisting suppression. Having no formal leader and no formal demands can be seen as a new artistic way of resisting suppression. Without a single target, the movement is like a hydra: when one “head” gets taken down, two more sprout in its place. Lasn, the brain child of the movement says “this revolution is run by the Internet generation, with egalitarian ways of looking at things, and an inclusive process of getting everyone involved. That’s the magic of it” (Washington Post). Moreover, though it seems pessimistic that our everyday actions are so dependent on and derivative of the capitalist market and consumerism, Negri, in the Empire, believes that this is an opportunity to use the system to protest itself. In other words, with a conscious “reversal of biopower into biopolitics” (Holmes, DIY Geopolitics), we can use the same forces that occupy us for tactical media to subvert. The ability to use the social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to mobilize and disseminate their message is an example of this. Products of consumerism such as Facebook and Twitter that seep deeply into our everyday lives can be used alternatively for tactical media.

Ted- Post 7

Empire presents the features of empires and nation-states who have consolidated power into a single supreme supranation. Its analysis of the different existing theories and how they have actually been applied in the real world particularly expels some of the negative consequences that occur when theory becomes reality.

For example, there are two, seemingly opposing, European theories on the sovereign state: the Hobbesian and the Lockean. The Hobbesian consolidates power into a new monarchical suprapower backed by supreme military power. On the other hand, the Lockean is more decentralized and liberal that allows the centralized powers to shift based on the participating nation-states. In other words, Hobbesian focuses on global security and military power while Lockean focuses on “global constitutionalism” and a “global civil society” (Empire 25). The modern supranation, the United Nations, has effectively combined both these seemingly opposing theories, shown by its protocols and practices.

Though there are many different styles of governments in the world, the UN must choose or design a form of government. The now unilateral power of United States and capitalist nations reign supreme in the international community. Thus the UN shifts accommodate to capitalist and democratic form of government, while others must conform to these policies or be crushed. This is apparent in the United State’s push for unregulated global markets, which has the economic pressure backed by the large multinational corporations, UN legal pressure backed by capitalist nations who lobby, and finally the military power to police its interests. Essentially, this is the combination of both the Hobbesian and Lockean forms of Supranational power.

In an Empire, there is now only policing. Policing implies that there is no wars, just wars are now seen as acts of intervention that break up conflicts. Similar to if two people got into a fight, the police would break it up. Ideally, this perpetual peace is seen as a good thing to preserve the interest of the nation-states equally and not let conflicts become larger in scale. But put into practice, this presents a problem because the power of the nations comprising the UN is not equally dispersed, and, many times, conflicts that are policed are subjective. Then, because of some nations having more pull than others (e.g. the United States), they are able to push their agenda and possibly engage in what is officially called “acts of intervention” but can also have further personal reasons to act. The Gulf War is an example of this.

Ted- Post 6

When the Zapatistas first declared war one minute after midnight on the day the NAFTA treaty went into effect, they fought against the government in the traditional sense- conflicts that were fought with guns and troops. This form of rebellion quickly fell to the superior forces of the army of the Mexican government. Forced into the jungle and constantly under the pressure of low-intensity warfare put on by the occupying national army, the Zapatistas turned to a new strategies and a new battlefield. Adding upon his original declaration of war, he continued to call for others who have suffered from corporate imperialism around the world to join the fight against this. Subcomandante Marcos calls this the Fourth World War, an information war. In his paper, “The Fourth World War Has Begun”, he posits that the war against neo-liberalism has moved from the direction of traditional wars (fought in direct confrontations against the government) to “pockets of resistance” (Marcos 271) who aim to disrupt the government and to inform and rally the everyday people through indirect channels like the media and the internet.

One of these pockets of resistance that heeded this call to arms is the Electronics Disturbance Theater (EDT). First, because their acts of protests are aimed to disturb the system and not to destroy, alter, or do anything illegal, they call themselves hacktivists, not criminal hackers. Also, because EDT are so open about what they do and how they do it (they use their real names, give away their code, etc.), their transparent actions heavily contrast those of governments, and corporations who keep many secrets about their intentions, actions, and strategies. One of their most notable contributions to hacktivism is the FloodNet applet.  The FloodNet is an instrument that anyone with a connection to the internet can use on their personal computer. Once installed, it will continuously spam its target server. In theory, if enough people do this at once, it can slow down the website and potentially even crash it. Some call the FloodNet a virtual sit-in because  like a physical sit-in that occupies a building and/or restricts foot traffic, FloodNet clogs up the traffic of the website and slows down its operation.

I find this tactic to be have a lot of potential, especially as technology grows. First, running this app takes a toll on the user’s personal browsing. Given the time period the FloodNet app was created, in the 1990s, the internet speed of most personal computers in a household were already slow. By running this FloodNet app, the users would considerably slow down their internet connection. They would either have to deal with incredibly slow loading when doing personal browsing and/or do them at separate times. First, The EDT alleviated this problem by declaring days when a coordinated attack would happen. This meant that FloodNet would not always have to be on, and would only be used in special occasions. This non-constant aspect of FloodNet is what makes it more of a tactic than a strategy. Though its disrupting effect on the server is ephemeral, the activists are making a symbolic gesture that are getting attention and rallying support. Moreover, since the internet speed has grown exponentially since then, this is no longer be a problem for most users. In fact, because EDT made its code open-source, more powerful programs can be made to utilize this new increase in broadband.