A river that needs crossing political and tech blogs - On the political side, the is arrogance and ignorance, on the geek side the is naivety and over- complexity

My videos are on these two youtube channals visionontv (2,622,479 views) and undercurrents (21,576,123 views)

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Hamish Campbell
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Date: 11/12/14
Richard Hering
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Date: 11/12/14
Patrick Chalmers
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Date: 03/07/14
Matthew Paul Foster
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Date: 27/12/13
John Sinha
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Barrie Slipper
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marc barto
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Glenn McMahon
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Date: 09/03/13
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Date: 19/02/13

Thinking out loud - looking at aspects of “stupid individualism”

People are very competitive, an unexpected example of this is only doing finished work. That is not going though the very necessary process of public drafting and redrafting which is about bringing in different points of view and creating the new by stirring up the different/past. 

This leads many people to live within their limitations and have little/no way of moving beyond these, they are stuck. They produce finished unmalleable work that is but a shadow of the possibility of creativity that is needed to move change forward.

This is partly to do with inherited life experience and limitations of world-view, but mostly it seems to me to be a psychological issue of insecurity and a weak sense of self. What do I mean by this... when people do not have a vision/hope/passion they fall-back to what they know. Distrust of things outside this grows and sets/solidifys to trap them and the circle is set.

I suppose the way to escape this is by passion/vision/hope – but the last one is probably the most important as the first 2 have a tendency to come from outside so can be controlling and thus limiting. Ones competitiveness has set-in the trap is sprung, what to do?

How we create a better, just, world with the people that are currently in the world rather than some theoretical people or class


It seems to me that after living through two explosions of protest DIY creativity, the CJB/anti roads movement and the climate camp are the examples am thinking about here. The are some lessons to learn. Both of these movements were “affinity group” driven at their core, that is a smallish groups (or interlocking groups) of friends – trust networks. They then built out into much wider community’s and movements.

Both were successful as long as this core – renewed itself – and rapidly fell apart when the core did not. In the case of the climatecamp the was a failed conhuse attempt to continue the organising in a open – bureaucratic - consensuses based way. Were the CJB flowed into the more political focused anti-globalisation movement – which burned out in the violence of summit hoping before becoming bogged down in the hierarchical infighting of the social forum movement.

Some thoughts:

1) the is an instinct for bureaucratic and hierarchical organising which is to strong to resist if the isn't a core healthy affinity group in place. Any successful group is likely to end like this if we take the second point into account.

2) Activist culture and affinity group forming has a strong (possibly necessary) tendency to exclusivity by lifestylism. This will exclude much of the diversity that is necessary for real sustainable changing community – be it in age, class, background, gender etc.

3) This puts a very real limit on the possibility of grassroots alternatives with the real people and cultures we are working with now.

4) the flow and use of the digital process may have a way round this by activity streams, self tagging and profiles – but this would have the cost of universal surveillances and transparent working practices – so would be a brave group of radical people to take this path in the face of possible state and corporate repression.

Where are we? Within its limits affinity group organising is fertile ground, but we need to build things out beyond these limits if we want a more humane society based on this grassroots organising. Current people, cultures and working practices do not do this yet ideas for changing this?

The Activists - FUCKED UP USE of corporate social media

It consistently amazed me how activists walked into the trap of corporate social networking. I can understand NGO groups narrowness of focus, its were the funding is. I can understand traditional media's embracing of Facebook, Twitter and the closed ecosystem of app stores as its a perceived as a “safe” place to run from the crumbling business markets they are part of.

Lets look at each in turn:

Corporate social networking is perfect for the less radical charity's as the company's running theses networks wont to be seen to be social responsible and charity’s are the perfect place to be seen to care with out the risk of upsetting sponsors, advertisers and investors.

The more progressive parts of the traditional media, such as the FT have realised the trap they leapt into when building inside Facebook, Twitter etal. And are now back to prioritising building on the open web using HTML5. The less progressive side are now negotiating from a weak postion with these new powerful gatekeepers.

10 years ago Activist media was a worldwide phenomenon, inventing and leading many of the technology and techniques that are now mainstream. But two things happened, firstly they got bogged down in “activist process” and on the other the “lifestyle of geek” open-source culture. These together slowed innovation to a stop, the functionality and reach of such new networks as Facebook and Twitter rendered this moribund activist media less relevant to new generations of activists such as the climatecamp media team. Leaving space for the NGO focus embracing of corporate social media on one hand and the manipulation of traditional media on the other as the main ongoing successful strategy.

Were are we now? I was at the party to cover the celebrate of the death of Margaret Thatcher recently in Trafalgar sq. The were hundreds of cameras both video and stills probably as many people filming and documenting as there party goers or police. But almost no radical media made it online, the was a smattering of wonabe mainstream media such as Vice and Demotix. What interested me was running into all the retired activist and the ones that now work for NGO's it struck me that the is no continuity, no new radical media, it had almost completely ended. Few small exception’s to this are ourselves (visionontv) and ONN who are both small fish.

As I sead at the time, we as activist's fucked up in two ways: in wholesale embracing of corporate social media and in the narrowing of activist tec into geek lifestyle. Can we learn from this? Its time to reinvent grassroots bottom up media – its not to late. 

Who do we trust?

Those we see as trustworthy are Liars, cheats and swindlers. The bankers and bureaucrats at the moment. I think we have always had this backwards view of the world, is it a failure of the education system or a failure of our collective imagination - the needing to belong.

The 20th century has been the century of advertising driven consumerism. The 19th that of the racial mission of empire before that we had the certainty of religious dogma. In each we trusted and were constrained and betrayed.

We have a backwards view of the world today, though today we have potential way out of this (historic?) limitation or perhaps its hard-wired?

Lets test this and see:

The internet is a revolution in per-per connections in everything that can be digitised.

* we can make and distribute powerful, truth, filled media, we have the tools in our pockits and the open internet is still in place to carry this.

* we can build universal access to education, again the old gatekeepers are still currently not blocking this.

* we can make our own political institutions up from the grassroots – this will be harder.

With these we have the possibility of shining light and action on the Liars, cheats and swindlers – and by doing that we have a possibility to know who to trust and if we know that we can make this world of ours a more humane place.

Distributed 5 video reports from the Thatcher Demo in Trafalgar Sq

People gather in Trafalgar Sq to celebrate the death of Baroness Thatcher.

We talk to a funeral director touting for business "cheaper to bury her in a northern coal pit".

Memories  of the Thatcher years.



Well nothing changes. The police try for a riot at the Thatcher Demo in Trafalgar Sq?

What is the Open media network 2 (OMN)?

Some more notes:

Not an isolated individual website – many individual websites in a bigger commons. The open internet used to be a such a commons Q. why is this increasingly no longer so and why/what should/can we do about this.

Subject sites linked by affinity sharing activity streams. An open data cauldron OUTSIDE corporate walled gardens. The sites that make up the network are simply ladeals to add ingredients to the soup and pull out tasty content from the common space. We eat. Sharing promoted links to create a human community and a machine network. We end with a functioning visible community outside the walls (but linked into it) of corporate social-media.

How dose it manifest (small practical thoughts)?

For (small) us we need RSS in to work with sites outside our CMS.

- we have to have anufe working sites to start the process

- can use a JavaScript embed from Liferay on other sites in till they implement a native plug-in to do this.

- at the moment wordpress sites can be content creation and display but not core node aggreagters, dropule sites can be core node aggregaters with the right (very) geeky plugins. The are currently no simpale tools for what needs building.

Small practical PROBLEMS

* we do not have a user group to do testing

* Almost complete domination of corporate tools - why build an alternative?

Were are (the very small) we now?

We aren’t doing a project called visionontv we haven’t be doing this for a year or more. We have been trying to build the open media network (OMN). The issue we have is increasingly this is not been what has been happening. Inward Focus is needed.

Looking (some would say stumbling) forwarded:

Next step. The network will be made up of a sidebar giving updates of all parts of the network

* the only way to cross post to other sites is to post to the original site and it will be aggregated.

The new NEWSFLASH will be shared across all sites as will the LINKS site.

Some guidelines for sites (the small we) are building

Original content will be the top bar - logo and site navigation, the [left] central column and the footer.

SO - only the central culume will have updateing site content (rest static or OMN)

EVERY - permanent site we build needs to be like this...

- one off action sites can break this template as they are sub pages off the main site.


While we have live sites, if we leave this till our sites are cold we fail.

ISSUE we face (both small and big we) - People will complain about the design as they don’t understand what it is for. these complaints (and solutions) are not to be headed as they do not understand the project which is to overcome  "stupid individualism" it is a network and networks are process based and always messy.

Using corporate sites such as meetup etc. is ONLY to be done as secondary to the core network site ie. post summary and exerts linking back to the core site. To not understand this is to walk strait back into the place we are moving out of. WHY they are about building a closed and controlled network owned by the corporate world they are our DIRECT COMPATION to what we are trying to do. "we use and abuse" is our motto, it is important not to get caught in there trap. So use them to push the traffic outside them ONLY.

The RSS-in is needed so that sites that "arnt us" can join the network otherwise we are just another dead portal – our project is about avoiding this – this is a no brainer can we get wider co-operation on this.

In the big picture we aren’t a video portal, “visionontv” is just one part of the network and the network isn’t us – we are just planting seedlings – if others do not plant to (bigger) OUR common project we will fail. Leaving the current metaphorical table covered with half empty and dry mouldy soup boles and and in the end the cauldron will be taken away from us. When I look at radical media I see this. Its not a pretty picture and no amount of NGO thinking and action will fix this – the internet came from micro scale DIY culture not the NGO world – the is no resion that it cant be regenerated by this same culture – time to get on with this.

The activist NGO trap - full on social work

The direction of many groups has been to this - and it is fuelled by a deep denial and lots of fog. But the ends in the same place. A place we we all agree we don’t wont to go.

Of course the statagy of sustainability dose not work as NGO's are not rich anufe to cross subsidise and social action dose not make money (aspesheraly in the digital age).

OUTCOME - The action/production is shut down and the NGO become soft social work which is were the funding is.

With this in mind “micro-capitalisam” and susabilerty are a issue.

My videos - a winter project

Idea for a project for next winter.

I have been making activist films for 20 years well over 100 short radical actavist 3-10 minit news reports on many different campaigns. 

Tell the stories of video activism by my films – list all films then get key people who were in the campaigns (preferably in the video) to tell there motivation for being on the action/each film. Take all this footage to an abondond village on a Spanish island for 3 months next winter and edit it on solar power.

Its relatively simple and don’t have to work with anyone but me to get it done, which makes it easer (:

Is the value in stirring up the past?


looking at the actavist groups I have been involved with. Its interesting to try and record your view of what happened and why it happened. Though as most people will have internalised a different view to yours  this can be painful for thoughs who lived through this history. This rises the question of is this a useful thing to do? 

"those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it"  George Santayana

The is deferentially a problem of circler behaver in media activism and wider issues:


* Problem of liberal views of activist history 

* Problem of activist memory hole - our web resources are transient and the backups disappear. The mentality of activists tend to be “we invented this – this is new – we are the first”

* Academics will work with authoritative sources – this is inherently biased

* ...

Undercurrents and the birth of “video activism”


With the birth of the camcorder a small organisation called undercurrets helped to shape the idea of “citizen journalism” well before it became a buzz word in the mainstream. How did it do this?

* distribution - it found a cheap universal technology the VHS video cassette.

* production - it had the only video editing sweat available for grassroots video making.

* mindset - A fertile crossover of mainstream and grassroots at the core of its DNA. it had an idea of quality which in hand with its radical horizontalisam of the ant-road movement it growth out of created a unique view of the world that you just didn’t see in traditional media.

* right place at right time - it came out of a movement and travelled within that movement – when that movement dispersed it to lost its way for a time.

Undercurrents is still running and supporting radical media though as the crew age's it has softened it's core subject matter.

Good activist media

Lets get positive for a moment What has worked in Alt/radical media?

DRAFT – looking at two contrasting successful activist media strategys.

When indymedia started in 2000 in the UK undercurrents the radical news organisation I was working for had played a role in its founding running a ALPHA build of the server code that the IMC sites were built on in 1999 at the reclaim the streets party in the city of London. A number of the undercurrents crew were involved in the group that setup in the UK IMC site and had its first outing at mayday 2001?

I used the site to upload images and videos on the day. I intaly had my doubts that such a radical experiment in OPEN publishing could work – so was a supporter and user of the IMC project before I became more fully involved – going so far as to found a regional IMC in Oxford. Soon after setting up in London the IMC project exploded around the world leading to the setting up of over 30-40 global sites and numerous IMC projects such as video, radio and print newspapers. Before blogs (and social media) the self publishing idea was a huge global success, oftern rivaling tredtional media on the audiance of the events it covered.

Climatecamp media team were a very nice bunch of people who successfully shaped and shifted traditional media coverage of climate issues in the UK (and around the world) . Rather than spend energy building there own media they focused on playing the traditional media and were very skilled at doing it – most have since gorn onto full time work doing the same for prominent NGO's.

So we have two differing but equal successful strategy for radical media, activists can and do do real affective radical media.

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