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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Where is our media?

This is a draft

Climate camp is a good example of the transition from alternative media to social media. At the beginning of the Climate Change Movement Indymedia was declining. At the first two camps there was a healthy Indymedia centre providing internet, sustainable power and computers

There's always a stress between alternative media and outreach to traditional media. They're in competition and to a certain extent they ignored each other at climate camp. But for social change it is very important for the two to go hand-in-hand. The outreach to traditional media should support the production of alternative media and alternative media should feed the best of its production into traditional media to amplify its voice. At climate camp there was only lip service to this happening, in reality the two groups split apart quite soon. Originally the groups were supposed to share the same physical space, but this did not last.

The agenda of traditional media outreach was very much about the shmoozing of traditional journalists.* Whereas alternative media was bogged down in providing real services in a field which to an extent is always dysfunctional. Like oil and water without a conscious emulsifier to hold them together they separated and throughout the life of climate camp the two never really came together. This happened to a certain extent because radical activists, and I use the word “radical” with "" marks, were prejudiced against people who do what is perceived as soft works such as media production. This is part of activist lifestyle. The spikey/floppy debate.

For a time activist/traditional media outreach ploughed separate paths both playing a role. With the growth of blogging and then most importantly social media - Twitter and Facebook. A new group of NGO focused careerists**  championed this initially successful new tool. The traditional media crew ignored social media***, mirroring the attitude of traditional media to social media at those times. The more naive alternative media embraced social media as an effective tool for social change. The realistic alternative media reluctantly embraced it as another form of media outreach, a form of outreach that bypassed the gatekeepers of traditional media.

The growth of social media impacted grassroots alternative media in catastrophic ways. The software NGO careerists**** championed social media and for the naive alternative media people this was the panacea, the future, the one way to gain a voice. Interestingly the traditional media outreach initially saw social media as a threat but they soon with some reluctance embraced it. The few remaining radical alt media people struggled to work wih declining relevance, their tools ageing and disintegrating. With the problems of geek culture they had no way to compete with traditional media or the new social media.

Social media took over activist media. Traditional media still had a role as the traditional media belatedly embraced social media and learnt how to use it.

As I highlighted my other article the problem of geek culture damaged radical alternative media. The failure of traditional media outreach to complement activist media led to radical activist media being sidelined. The growth of individualistic blogging while temporarily bolstering individual voices inevitably led to a decline of of our cultural voice. The final blow the wholesale embracing of social media pushed by the NGO careerists.*****

In all these failures we have come full circle to where we started with a dominant hegemonic gatekeeper media world. If we are to rebuild an open media we have to learn from these mistakes and make sure that we do not continue to repeat them.

Lessons to learn

* Work out how to overcome the limitations of geek culture for activist media. Open is the solution here.

* The politics of media. We need to make sure that there is emulsifier in place between radical grassroots media and traditional media outreach. To achieve this the social movements need to rein in and refocus the traditional media message. Media production IS “spikey” and core to activism.

* Radical grassroots media is always incompatible with NGO careerists.****** We need to build in strong enough foundations so that our architecture cannot be subverted by these privileged people. This is for their good and our good.

Conclusion, the most difficult part of successful radical grassroots media is social, cultural and political. In this it's essential that it is not technologically led. Actually technology is the easiest part of radical media. The tools and standards that we need always already exist. What is missing is the willingness and the common-sense to use what we have.

Alt-geek culture is broken – discuss

An introduction

The basis of any new media is the technology it is mediated by. In the case of newspapers this is the printing press, and for radio and TV it is access to the transmission spectrum. The open internet changed this media which was based on a world of vertical analogue scarcity. As the accessing technology improved, it created a radically horizontal digital media space.

This was intently filled with (naive in a good sensece) alt-media such as the Indymedia project (IMC). In this post I am looking at how this was killed off by internal geek/process dogmatism at the same time as its space was colonised by new/mainstream such as blogging and social media. We are now coming full circle to where we started with closed client/server, algorithm-determined, gatekeeper, for-profit networks dominating media production and consumption. The corporate gatekeeping venture capital drivern (and invisible ideology) algorithm is the new printing press/broadcast spectrum that we started the century with.

What part did radical geeks play in this?

Let's look at the successful global indymedia project, which was based on open publishing and open process through a centralised server. Before this the radical video project undercurrents, while not so open, was again based on a technical hub. They had the only free digital editing suite for production of grassroots video, thus anyone wanting to produces radical content was funnelled though this grassroots gatekeeper. With IMC, it was publishing to their server.

The indymedia network was setup in the very avant-gardist open model that was to dominate the internet for a time. Like undercurrents it succceeded because of its technical centralisation – the server was the ONLY place citizen journalist content could be published without hard technical knowledge. This monopoly was later lost to the growth of individualistic blogging platforms and later corporate social media. But what I want to argue here is that it died before this due to internal pressures.

Indymedia was set up on the open, open, open, open, pseud-anonymous model.

* Open source (free software)

* Open publishing (post-publishing moderation)

* Open licence content (non commercial re-use)

* Open process (everything was organised on public e-mail lists, meetings)

* Pseudo-anonymous (you didn’t have to provide an e-mail address or a real name)

Let's look as some of the pragmatism that allowed the project to take off:

* The project was initially pragmatic about open source as it used the closed realmedia video streaming codec and servers. But the core project was committed to the free software path where technically possible.

* Open publishing was the basis of the project, things could only be hidden (not removed) because they broke a broad public editorial guideline. Evern then they were added to a background page so were still public. In this the process was naïvely open.

* Open licence stayed with the project to the end.

* Open process was gradually abandoned, a clique formed then fought and split, this was the main reason the project ossified and could not adapt to keep its relevance in the changing world of blogs and social media.

* (Pseudo) anonymity was part of the abandonment of open process and led down many of the technical dead ends that finally killed the relevance of the project to most users.

Lets look at this final one in more depth

Firstly, it's important to realise that any attempt at anonymous publishing in a client server relationship even at its most restrictive and paranoid would only produce pseudo anonymity. ie. you might be able to hide from your mates and your employer but you cannot hide from the “powers that be” if they are interested in subverting your server and its internet connection – the internet is inherently naïvely open, its built that way, this is why it works. The recent Snowdon leaks highlight this to the wider public.

- the integrity of the ISP and hosting was always based on trusting a tiny anonymous minority of geeks

- the physical security of the server could never be fully guarranteed.

- as the project process closed the identity of these core geeks became tenuous/invisible.

In activism just as the man driving the white van repeatedly turned out to be the police/corporate spy, the invisible server admin is the obvious opening for the same role – not saying this is what existed, just trying to highlight how you cannot build a network based on this closed client server infrastructure/culture that IMC became. Given the open nature of the internet, it became dangerous to push IMC as an anonymous project.

There were four fatal blocks:

- the repeated blocks and failure and delay of decentralisation of the servers to the regions.

- the blocks on aggregation, then the closed subculture aggregation that final happened as a parallel project

- the focusing on encrypted web hosting and self-signed certificates put a block on new non-technical users

- the failed security of not login IP address locally on the server as a limited security fig leaf. They could simply be logged on the ISP/open web instead.

The first two were social/cultural blocks.

The last two were technical/social blocks.

These, together with a shrinking of the core group, led to the project becoming irrelevant in the face of the growth of more openly accessible blogging and then social media.

Let's get positive and suggest some ways the IMC project could have flourished and still be a dominant grassroots project:

* The base level of the project should have actively decentralised as the technology matured to make this feasible. Every town needed its own server.

* Then regional aggregation using RSS would make this grassroots media presentable as outreach media.

* A national aggregation site could then have compete directly with declining traditional media outlets.

* Recognising that the IMC project was pseudo-anonymous at best, IMC could have built a parallel encrypted peer-to-peer gateway app/network to feed into this to provide true(ish) anonymity for publishers to this ongoing open media project.

* The decentralisation would have been a force to keep the process open by feeding though new people/energy – this would have naturally balanced the activist clique forming/closing in the centre.

* As blogging became popular and matured these could have been “ethically” aggregated into the network to build a truly federated global open media network such as http://openworlds.info is working to be.

* Social networking could have been added as an organic part of this fluruashing federated network.

If this had happened, it's not too much to say that the internet would have been a different place to where it is now. The IMC project highlights  some of the failures of activist/geek culture. If we are to (re)build the open web we need to learn from this and move on.

(find photo of indymedia sheffield masked up photo)

This is sadly not a metaphor for an open media project

The 21st Century

Lets look at how we acturly organise.

Garssroots alternative streams (and mainstream river with more complexity) can be split into a number of streams

* The horizontals

* The verticals

In the horizontals the organising is actually pretty opaque – lets look at the tributary’s

Organic consensus – this is rare and generally fleeting, a working example is the rainbow gathering, generally as the project settles into place organic consensus is replace with one of the bellow organising strategys. The organic nature comes form shared myths and traditions.

Bureaucratic consensus – common but this tends to be only a surface layer obscuring the actual working practices which would be one of the others. It leads to ossification, see late climate camp process as an example of this. A current project is looking likely the “edge fund”.

Opaque affinity group – the is a group of people who are doing it but you don’t know how or how to take on a role. A lot of alternative are actually run like this, middle/late climatecamp is an example.

Invisible affinity group – the thing just appears as if by magic – lovely as far as it takes you. Given time this will burn out and morph into one of the other forms. Early Climatecamp is a good example of this as is early Indymedia

Open affinity group – the is hope in this hard to sustain one an example would be the tech group at Balcoby anty fracking camp. These are hard/tiring to keep open “naturally” falling into a different strategy.

Then the verticals are more in the open

Democratic centralism (SWP etc) top down and corrupt, good for the nasty crew at the centre that can last a long time by draining new blood from the alternative. Big noise and little effect.

Bureaucratic democracy (NUJ) good as far as it goes but endless meetings and heavy use of cross subsidy to sustain the sluggish process, problematically reactionary dues to glacial adaptation to changes around it.

Career Hierarchy – most trade unions and the labour party, conservative and sluggish, can be captured by functioning opaque/invisible affinity groups and then used for their own ends – an example the new labour project.

Generally the way things are on the river surface bears little relation to the undercurrents bellow the surface. Almost all organising that achieves social change is by opaque or invisible affinity groups. The more permanent static alt infrastructure is Democratic centralism or Bureaucratic democracy. The parts that merge into the mainstream river are career Hierarchy.

We live in turbulent times, enjoy your ride on the choppy river.

Art, money and socierty - some notes

Went to a workshop at spacestudios on digital money and the arts. Here are my notes of the things I thought about/covered.

Forms of money

* LETS – works for liberals (the Brixton pound is a current example, at the meeting)

* Digital – works for the Geeks then Capital (bitcoin and its clones)

* Gift – works for the community (London boaters and the Rainbow Gathering are examples I give)

* £££ - works for the state and thus capital (what we have)

* Flatter – works for a practical digital utopia (other examples?)

The key point to get across is Don’t - repeat - use existing projects.

- Everybody has to re-create thus you have hundreds of implementations of the same limited fashionable idea and non of them are federate to each other, thus value is lost in the mess. Rinse repeat and move on. Both sad and bad.

The issue of arrogance - who is pushing out who, space is value.

Colonisation of alternatives – capital markets need to expand or die so the things we value are being consumed – gentrification is ripe and spreading is tentacles into every space.

The world used to be regulated

The fall of the soviet union and ripped up money confetti in the parks – the replacement of the old with new temporary currency – old money changing to new – you have to change the money to change society.

Artist reshaping the world, what is art what is tart. The “chattering classes” are they vampire or do they have value – articulates of exclusivity? Curating the conversation – the outcome?

Were douse value come from?

Example - The rainbow gathering – gift – global – everywhere – nomadic

Are you focused on community or on capital - making for self or community, abstract or use – within the art space or outside it – the use space.

Alienated from the establishment – the gate keepers

Attention is currency if we decentralise the current, hierarchy will crumble to an extent. Bravely independent – federated is a solution.

Have to fight against the colonisation of alternatives – capital markets need to expand or die so the things we value are being consumed – gentrification is ripe.

 

 

Where are we - an example of what works

An example of what works.

At Balcome the anti-fracking camp last summer we built a “visible affinity group” to do the power and tech for the camp. This was successful in providing working off grid energy for the camp of more than 200 people for 2 months.

However it wasn’t with out problems and did fail to build on this success when the time came to reproduce this open working model at the next camps over the winter.

How we made it work, a time line:

* Clear the space of the dysfunction by imposing open working practice's.

* This opens the space for functional working which has been excluded by the dysfunctional pushy minority.

* Open working practices nurtures talent and energy the space growers and blossoms, good shit happens.

* A tiny minority of seriously dysfunctional individuals will actively try and destroy this flowering, some emotional violence will inshuew in process of excluding them.

* The wider camp will become used to a working tech space and normality will settle back into place, at its best this is rinsed and repeated for each part of the camp.

* People will start to forget the open processes as artificial, constant vigilances is needed here to keep openness relevant and in place.

* As the camp is packed down a open meeting will bring this amnesia to the surface as everyone has an equal voice and the focus (affinity) that created the flowering will be trampled under the widening of the groups members.

In the horizontal alt the are only two successful working practices, most organising happens by “invisible affinity groups” climate camp and RTS are examples of this. Rarely “open affinity groups” are also successful, examples would be early Indymedia and this tech at Blacome.

Were are we

Its important to understand the perspective/world view am coming from to understand what am saying about the state of the alternative. Anarchist/socialist/libertarian/liberal leaning on the start and tapering off the end... am reacting against Hierarchical/conservative/authoritarian. This is a classic enlightenment divide so we should all be well aware of living it – even though few actively think about this lived experience. The views in this series of posts need to be read with this in mind.

The options for an alternative to our current world view/experience/mindset is narrow and limited, largely it is a collection of failed traditions, unexamined and repeated by each amnesiac generation. The normal world, I will call it the “traditional” world for that is what it actually is is so dominant and global that any alternative is but shadows, the “occupy moment” is a obvious example. How did we come to this?

A very broad outline is needed before we go on, the 19th century was Capitalism, the 20th Liberalism, and the 21st century is Anarchy. Each ideology is a short form for the strongest thread running thought the dynamic parts of the global economy/culture. That is 19th was industrial production, then social democracy/welfareism and now digital libertarianism’s of the internet.

In the 1980's Thatcher and Reagan were the avant-gardist of demolishing idealogical alternatives, they were part of a movement that spread all around the world entrenching a right-wing ideology “the is no alternative” and “the end of history” this has been ingested and become part of all our structures/buroceseys/instations and a core part of everyone who grew up over this time and the generation after. This right project pushed the end of the 21st century back into the beginning of the 19th century at the same time that the “digitisation project” was sweeping in the 21st century of Anerkey. We now live in a hybrid time of 19th century ideology, crumbling 20th century social institutions and the future of the economy running on shackey 21st century arackic just in time/horizontal working of the dotcoms.

Thus at the start of the 21st century much is broken and little working today has “value”. Together with the last 2 century’s environmental legacy of climate change puts us as humanity in a shaky position. The ingested legacy of Ragen and Thatcher puts us as individuals in a shaky state to shape a path for humane survival.

A quick side note, this actually is not an environmental issue at all as in the planetary environment will look after it self as it has for millennium, speshers extinction on a large scale is the norm not an exception in planetary terms. The problem we face is a human one, saving the environment is a side issue, in a few thousand years with out us the environment will stabilise and diversify agen to replace the catastrophe that we are building with our destructive muddled thinking. The issue is can we save the things we value, the shifting environment being the thing we build this value wiithin.

Ok am going to leave this here half finished... and carry on in a scatty but overarching repetitive way in further posts :)

To look at what works in the alt and what doen't work - and the are some bit that do work to cheer you up :)

My Media

I live in a functioning contemporary P2P media world. For a few weeks I have tried going back to the traditional media. Its an eye opener to (re)realise how narrow and right wing the progressive traditional media is. I live in a world of RSS aggregation for my “newspaper”, podcasts for my “radio” and torrents for my “TV” and “Cinema”. With a unhealthy dose of #failbook for organising the social world.



Its winter time so am spending more time in cafés working and charging laptops, in this space am picking up traditional paper news. On the boat I had some internet downtime so plugged back into radio 4 and every so often look for interesting Tv on iplayer etc. What I find when going to traditional media is a narrowing of my world view, its a dumbed down world on paper/radio and TV. Its actually worst than this as its a strongly propagandist in it choice of voices. I find that the “liberal” traditional media is a slow steady drip feed of poison that dulls the wide possibility’s of social and environmental change that is transparently needed and possible.

I advocate wholesale that people leave this world view for their mental health and the health of the wider human/natural world, the liberal traditional media is making you ill (at ease).



But I hear cries “were is this mythical alternative” and in a limited sense you would be right to ask this. BUT it would be a circular discussion, the alternative has existed for the last 20 years – the issue is chicken and egg you have to use it for it to exist.

Most of the real existing alternative is based on a “stupidly simple” technology created by the practical tech visionary Dave Winer. The format is RSS its the based of my news reading (feedly) and my radio (beyondpod) I have been working (and failing) to make it the bases of my TV and cinema for the last 10 years (visionOntv).

You too can shift to/build your own contemporary per2per media world and reclaim your mental health and power to shape your life and the community/world you live in. The traditional media is a slow steady poison, its well past the time to brake free, its not as hard as you think.

Importing goods from China

 

Am thinking about seting up an import and installation business for small wind turbines from China to put onto boats and power protest camps. At the moment the majority of small scale power generation is from fossil fuels, this is both unpleasant and needless. Solar power in the summer being very viable, this leaves 3-4 month of the year with limited power - thus diversifying into solar/wind set-ups.

To buy small wind turbines in the UK the expense is to high so am trying importing them directly from China - the minimum order when shipping is taken into account is 3 so have sent over $1K to a pretty random paypal account to buy them.

For some background on how to go about importing http://importcrashcourse.com/pay-importing-china/

To get an idea if a company is relabel its good to do as much searching as possible - from the pretty random paypal gmail account they sent me I found out this information https://whoisology.com/archive_6/chinaalps.com that they actually own 4 company’s and are the registry email of the Domain of the company I am buying the goods from. This is a good start.

Then the is the issue of VAT/duty to be paid http://www.dutycalculator.com/

Update: the goods arrived and seem to be of good quality, the issue of installing a tower is the subject of my next post.

Stupid individualism and the possibility of an alternative

DRAFT

Stupid individualism and the visionOntv templates.

Our templates for video journalism are designed to radically simplify and empower normal people to make coherent video news pieces using the tools they largely already have. They are successful at this if people fallow the template's – it says this at the end of most of them.

The issue that creates failure is a standard one for the possibility of an alternative, I call it this “stupid individualism”.

The disparity of wealth on the surface and poverty of the underlying human condition (some would call this “spirit”) is striking to many thinking and feeling people. Our shared western society is based on a hegemonic faoles senses of individualism, were the reality is largely faceless conformity thinly vaneared by lifestyle fashion. This is the bases of consumer capitalism our “wealth” is built on. The statues que atomises any possibility of building an alternative and shows up in as a block in most attempts to build one.

Our templates boil down more than 30 years of experience of awarded wining fast turn around video journalism to a A4 cartoon sheet. The instructions are clear and complete, if you fallow these, after a few attempts you will likely have mastered the bases of audio visual story telling and from this point of mastery opens a whole world of creativity and real genuine individualism.

Very few actually get this far and we know this because we have trained thousands of citizen journalist over hundreds of workshops at both undercurrents and visionOntv. Why? I would put fowered my old friend/foe “stupid individualism” as the prime explanation (though would admit the are technical challenges as well).

The impotence of the template is more in what it doesn’t say, the is much more information in the omissions, this is how it fits on a A4 with pictures. It distils what does work and explains this.

People do not fallow the template, often they do not even pick it up and read it, they then go onto do what THEY think is video making, they do all the bits that the template purposely omits and very few of the bits in it, the result is almost always a dis empowering mess. This is the same thing with all groups we work with.

We live in an individualist society, were we are all “empowered individuals”. The problem is evident in that this is our empowerment is an illusion, we are all dis empowered individules with egos let lose on dispoling mode. We think we are empowered because everything around us that works is on bureaucratic auto pilot, we don’t actually have to create anything original and lack the base skills to so when the rare option comes round. Our templates are such a rear opportunity, if you can take your mind out of dispoleing mode and fallow the instructions – the first step and a rare hopeful sign for us as trainers is a budeing CJ actually checking the steps on the paper template as they go though the filming.

This “stupide individualisam” is a block on many parts of building an alternative.

 

Some background

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commodity_fetishism

 

The poverty of the alternative

Was looking at this site/project http://occupydemocracy.org.uk here is a reaction:

The tools we use for activism are dominated by top down vertical thinking - the horizontal tools are left at the bottom of the tool box when we reach for a digital front for our grassroots campaigning. Our organising mirrors this right-wing reality – most activism is organized by invisible/opaque affinity groups. The words (wind) are often hippy peace and love or dusty revolution - the reality is far blunter, just open your eyes and look, the isn't much of an alternative. This obvious realization is surprising as we actually have the most open and radical time to move in/ to create real alternatives. The tool box for horizontalism is overflowing with tools, the organizing process are a bit more complex.

To answer briefly two replays to this, for those who say “we just need to love each other”

For those who think dialogue alone will solve this issue

Q. What works and what dose not work?

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