Alt-geek culture is broken - indymedia
An introduction to a "unspoken" problem. Everything is "pointless" in till you do something "that is not", if we keep repeating the pointless stuff were/when is the "that is not" going to happen?
An example of the geek problem can be found in the flowing and fading of radical alt/grassroots media at the peek of the #openweb
The basis of any new media is the technology it is transmitted/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 "traditional" 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 sense) 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 gate keeping venture capital driven (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 network. 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 hosted servers.
The indymedia network was setup in the very avant-gardist open model that was to dominate the internet for a time. Like undercurrents it succeeded 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 (process) pressures.
Indymedia was set up on the open, open, open, open, pseudonymous 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, open meetings)
* Pseudo-anonymous (you didn’t have to provide an e-mail address or a real name to publish)
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 (RM) 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. Even then they were added to a background page so were still public. In this the publishing 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 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 Edward Snowdon leaks highlight this to the wider public view.
- 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 guaranteed.
- 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 – am not saying this is what existed, rather 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 that proved termanaly offputting.
- the failed "security theater" 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.
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 DIY run server.
* Then regional aggregation using RSS (really simple syndication) would make this grassroots media presentable as outreach media.
* A national aggregation site could then have compete directly with the (then) 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 flourishing 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
It should be obvious to people now that even the most paranoid centralised closed internet is only pseudo-anonymous at best. We need to learn how to live with "open" to build the world we want to see. And our geeks fighting for closed are actually a problem for us, just as much as "them".
Where next for grassroots/alt-media?
It's common knowledge that grassroots media is well F**ed and that #failbook and #twitter are the problem not the solution. Where can we go from here? To reboot alt-media (and play a role in rebooting the open web) we need to create an affinity group to cross the geek/political divide that has demolished our once flowing/healthy alt-media networks.
For a moment let's look at broad-brush history, The 20th century alt-media was one of offline social movements, where modern (21st century) alt-media is a product of online social networks - the web. Take a moment to think about our years of failed encryption geek projects on the one hand, and, the constant churning of disappearing media silos on the other. The last 10 years have been a wasteland for both the geek and political.
The original internet/web suceeded because it was a stupidly open design, it had no built-in agenda to the network. Lets compare this ”new” for a moment to the pre-internet, the old wired telephone networks had all the smarts at the exchanges and the phones were dumb, it was a centralised hierarchical network. Where the internet had the smarts at the ends, the computers, and the network itself was dumb – a horizontal network.
This turning on the head of 20th century thinking is important to move out of our current lon- running malaise in alt-media. Am arguing the divide between politicos and geeks is feeding a failed fixation on 20th century thinking in that they both want to build systems (both technical and social) where the smarts are at the centre. In contrast we know that in the 21st century it is more powerful to build “empty” networks that connect the smarts at the edges. The word “empty” here gets a lot of negative responses :) This is the touching of the core problem. Take a moment to re-read and think positive thoughts ;)
An “empty” network is a general-purpose network that connects general purpose computers to general purpose people and community. Yes, the tech we need, like the internet/open web has an agenda but it is not sectarian as #failbook and other #dotcoms are, as are our own much smaller alt-media silos. Instead its “open” and “simple” based on “industrial” standards and open working social ideals. This is obvious, but it needs saying, The “dumb net” is completely ignorant of what the user wants to do – just data in and data out. It's up to the user to decide what the data is. Only “universal languages”, that is data standards, have flow. There is a ridiculous power for change in this obviousness.
It's not hard to re-boot to escape these 10 years of failure, actually it's simple. Though it's not going to happen without a good affinity group who cross the geek/political divide. Message me if you think you have the smarts, skills, tolerance and humility.
Outline of 20 years ups and downs of grassroots activism in the UK
In my expirence the flowering of the indymedia networks followed by the first years of climatecamp were the high points of activist culture. The end of climate camp was the low point of activist culture, after this the drift to NGO and fashion was wide and dissipating.
Occupy was a break in activist culture, it was the first mass “internet first” on the ground manifestation that happened disconnected to the past of activism because of the use of #dotcons tools as prime organising space. The old couture has been discredited by the failings of climate camp, the new dotcon tools had been celebrated and used well by Ukuncut etal. Were Ukuncut was a reboot of old climate camp crew, Occupy was a project of the #failbook generation in all its wide reflective madness.
Were are we now? The old left is rebooting with a broken mix of the blairite right and the Stalinist/toxic left both pulling at the radical liberal centre. Alt media content is being rebooted but the network it needs to build, to stop its drift to NGO burn out is missing. The right is ideologically bankrupt and visibly grasping, but stronger than ever.
In activism currently we are full of the biter taste of occupy and NGO worshipping of dotcoms and careerism. The working of the 21st century is potentially different to the workings of the 20th century the are groups, networks and individuals that embody this and a larger group/individuals who fight for the past century working practices.
The “certainties of the 20th century” are grasped in our frail and trembling hands, the first stage of a “network” reboot is to let go of these “certainties” one constructive path to this is to fill in the gaping activist memory hole by looking at what works and what dose not. The lost and flailing progressive alt needs foundations bridging this gap to build on.
The IS NO SHORT TERMISM HERE but the is speed and nimbleness, plenty of fun, creative motivated building to be done. Many of the foundation problems can be built in parallel as a “network” so it can happen faster than most can imagine.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Am currently working on two projects to take steps to medate the issues I ouline here:
Privacy and uk Indymedia
Media - why do names matter
Media made and distributed from the lower part of society, made DIY for, from, too, the grassroots. And at its best outreaching beyond.
Media made from an ideologically different perspective to the mainstream (invisible) ideology. And hopefully, though often not, made in a way that can speak outside this narrow idelogical view.
Project that embodied both grassroots and alt-media pushed on a wave of open web. It was VERY successful in its time before being killed by internal ossification of process and the encriptionsts pointlessness. Might be time for a reboot of this project, but maybe something has to lead the way before this can happen.
Is a term that is sometimes picked up by the NGO's and dogmatic control freaks, it tends to be empty and the trademark is owned by a advertising company.
Describes many projects growing out of the UK direct actions movements of the 1990's to the end of the century. A lot of alt/grassroots media projects grow from this spring of energy.
grassroots and alt media are different things though they often overlap in a good way. Indymeda is a project that embody them both but is ossified and needs a reboot to be relevant agen. Radical media needs a scare warning as the history is not good, DIY culture simmers in many small forms, maybe media could bring it back to the centre to make a difference that’s needed in the world?
love and dispar of alt-grassroots media
To move beyond the current dire/dead end state of alt/grassrots media we need to reboot basic KISS tech that the original open web was based on.
What is alt-media: media that tells story’s about the world we live in and our every day lived lives from a different idealogical perspective to the mainstream media.
What is grassrots media: media from the bottom, made and distributed in a more horizontal way to mainstream media.
To make both of these happen we have to consciously over come a number of blocks on the media production side:
* Liberal media makers who think the mainstream can be “fixed” by individual moral responsibility and hard work.
* The old left and its fixation/pushing of vertical statues, the power games that hold us back have no positive outcome but to rarely build a individual carrear into the mainstream.
* Both of these lead alt/grassrots media to be but a transitory jumping off point for the mainstream, or more normally a run and stumble/falling repation to a normal dead end job or with drowen depression.
Blocks also come from the tech side, some dominant tendency’s:
* Geek/tec culture has a dominating tendency to be a mirror of the old left in its individualistic desire for control, the whole technical fix of encryption as a social solution to state/corporatist control of the open web is a dead end example of this.
* Geeks are are in love with the “new” and they lack a wider social view leading to huge over lapping of tech projects, tech history is lilted with hundreds of tech projects that are badly implemented clones of the fashionable moment after it is well past its use data.
* Geeks do not like to work on the “old” and almost everything that works is “old” thus the pointless churning of the above point. “building on the shoulders of giants” is more like “building on the backs of piggmeys” in most open development.
The whole love affer with the trap of #dotcon's is anuther conected subject. Both sides to this continuing failing are entwined and the solutions over lap:
Humm.. this is the hard part to describe this in a way that makes sense to real people who embed the issues above… KISS ansers coming soon if people show an interest.
Where is our media?
Climate camp is a 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 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 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 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.
Organise 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.
Dangerous thoughts - anonymity on the internet
The last 10 years activist technology and its supporting NGO's have been pushing the encrypted web as secure form of communication. From the Indymedia network "not logging IP's" to Wikileaks "secure whistleblowing" to numerous encrypted chat and social networks. Not to mention all the corporate dotcoms "solutions" jumbling up the space.
This naiveté working had driven alt-tech into oblivion, by complexity and obfuscation. Has this in any way been worth while? I would have liked to right this up but you will have to make do with the notes - This is a good example summing up of the issue (from SN-493-Notes.pdf)
TOR: Not so Anonymous after all
I love affinity group organising
A ruff DRAFT
I love affinity group organising, its a very effective way of getting good stuff done. Lets look at the highs and lows of a few such inspiring groups.
First 2 years climatecamp were affinity group organised (manifested), it worked very well, the was no “democracy”. Process grew and smoothed this in-till the project “ossified” into the naive mess that you see in the film “just do it”, it went down hill when bureaucratic consensuses process brought a highrahcky into existences run by people who had no idea how to do real/horizontal things.
The first few years of London hackspace were afferently group organised (hacked), it was a exceptional frendly and open space, with few fundemental problems. Only later has it started to fall into the arms of “bureaucracy” which some naive people might call democracy. The common space, decision making and creativity are now “ossified” and the trolls are breeding and dispoling the decision making e-mail list.
In both cases the transition came about because of the limitations of affinity group organising – that small close nit groups, while nimbale/very effective move on. The resulting spaces are then filled with less imaginative/creative/lovely people who leave the space open to trolls and blind ego wankers.
Affinity group organising is the best we have for anerkist/libertarian/horizontal ideas about life, but the is no working horizontal process for passing on responsibility to new affinity groups – thus they are annual flowers, they fade and die too soon to be a real alternative to traditional society. What can we do about this?
The same happened to UK indymedia, though that was also different in some ways.
Control freak's (DRAFT)
(Psychology) an obsessive need to be in control of what is happening http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Control_freak This has been an issue with many groups and individuals I have been involved with in activist organising.
It was key to the decline of the http://indymedia.org.uk project and the ossification the climate camp process and static nature of the climate camp website http://climatecamp.org.uk My most destructive experience of this till recently was the organising of the London European Social Forum, and the central role of the SWP and Ken Livingston's office in this. Currently I am involved in the organizing of the http://rebelliousmediaconference.org and I would like to highlight how this process is being damaged by Control Freakery during the on going process.
RMC (Peacenews) process and “pushing the agenda”
During the first meeting I attended a single speaker talked continuously for ¾ of the meeting, constantly expressing the lack of time and the need to move on – this is called “pushing the agenda”.
Taking charge of the minutes – and constantly not reporting the views in the record of people who do not fit into this pushed agenda.
Packing and controlling the agenda of each meeting, then pushing through this agenda, leaving no time or space for differing views.
Then when the inevitable rebellion happens blocking this procedurally in till it becomes irrelevant to the outcome of the project. Nitpicking might be a good way of describing this blocking. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micromanagement is used as weapon to stop productive open organising and to shut down process outside of the “pushed agenda”.
Its hard to put your finger on what is wrong at the start of this process but as you go along it is soon made clear that it is a deep intolerance, a lack of trust and narrowness of vision that verges on stupidity.
As one of the core organisers of the RMC conference highlighted it is very hard to change this behaver, some back ground reading on the problems http://www.ec-online.net/knowledge/articles/control.html
Issues that make this behaver more of a problem:
* Lack of solidarity among the organising group
* Unbalance of knowledge of the core differencet approaches in the RMC this has manifested as lack of understanding of technological change.
The Proposal - an interactive website which genuinely builds radical media
I'm writing to reflect a bit on the process we currently have for making a website appropriate for the RMC, an interactive website which genuinely builds radical media. This proposal also reflects, to be honest, my great anxiety about it. My position comes from the fact I really care that this conference produces concrete and measurable results in building radical media. My passionate position for proposing an interactive website comes from the following:
1) I have been to an awful lot of conferences where interaction between participants relies on the happenstance of meeting someone in the corridor and exchanging a business card. The first problem with this is the individualistic and random nature of it, which is surely inadequate for those of us that believe in collective ways of working. The second is that it favours existing power structures, where one person's contribution automatically counts for more than another's because of their pre-existing status. Thirdly, it doesn't achieve measurable outcomes.
2) It would be absolutely futile to set up a conference on that basis, where subscribers were unable to organize themselves before, during and after the conference, in a horizontal way. Modern media conferences do not organize themselves in that way. See this important conference in New York: http://contactcon.com/
3) That therefore the current site http://radicalmediaconference.org was to be a pro-tem site which would allow time for the development of a proper interactive site.
4) We have worked very hard to produce an exemplar of a such an interactive site, which is here:http://live.rebelliousmediaconference.org/
This website replicates the functionality and look & feel of the current wordpress site, and adds interactivity
This interactivity is grouped into three simple categories:
1. Ask a Question (Give an Answer / Join a Discussion)
This is for participants to ask questions and give answers to EACH OTHER, not to "organizers" of the conference! The text accompanying this page will make this very obvious (it doesn't yet!). This uses the standard web community called a forum.
"Is anyone willing to subtitle videos? I know French and Portuguese.
Response: I speak Arabic, and have some time to do that, yes.
Response: OK I have set up a wiki page for people to leave their details (linked), and booked a time and space for us to talk about it at the conference (linked)."
2. Get Organized
This uses wiki pages for people to introduce themselves to each other, to organize meetups at the conference, to book an open space, and to work on radical media projects.
3. Radical Media Projects
Links to all radical media projects which sign up. This info is then an automatically-updating resource, easily embeddable on radical media projects' websites.
There will be comprehensive help files for people to be able to organize this themselves.
There are a number of things that need to be sorted out before launch - see here: http://visionon.tv/web/rebelliousmediaconference/wiki/-/wiki/Main/Website These changes are important, and all of them will be achieved before a deadline of 27th August. Please read the link above, and tell us what else should be improved.
5) The timetable for the development of this site has long been established: it would be discussed at the meeting on 17th August with a view to full implementation on 1st September. We remain absolutely committed to the completion of that schedule, which we see as both necessary and practical. The demonstration of this mock-up is to allow discussion and feedback before the 17th August meeting. Subject to its acceptance, the site will be visible as fully functioning by 27th August, ready for review before going live on 1st September.
After going live, the forums will need moderating, the wikis will need a "fairy", and participants will need help and guidance. Richard, Hamish and Marc Barto are committed to this work. I propose that administrators of the site should be all members of the organising group plus visionOntv's Marc Barto, so that he can moderate and offer help, a role he already carries out for visionOntv. Other administrators should only be proposed and consensed. Content on the front page should be drafted, emailed out then posted after "a period of time" for amendments. Maybe we should have "super-admins" of the site - I would propose Mil and Gabriel - who can post immediately to the frontpage, for urgent announcements. Feedback welcome.
There is £200 left out of the original £500 of the RMC website budget. This would be spent on design / css work. Then the matching £200 funding from visionOntv pays for the server costs for 3 months, over the busiest part of the conference, when it is needed. Traffic will carry on beyond that, but not at critical levels, so this will be enough.
7) There is a debate between substitution of the current site against merely adding interactivity to it. I would like to say that, in my opinion, the development of the current site was useful, in that it looked nice, and we only had to copy its content and its functionality. There is no sense in which this work is wasted. The vital point is this: if the current site remains as the portal to information on the RMC, it will be extremely prejudicial to the essential new functionality. If we did this we would lose a massive amount of interactive functionality (comments on blog posts going elsewhere, activity streams not functioning, division of the google juice = less visibility of the conference on the web). To achieve our goal we simply must have a switch-over to the new site on September 1st. I am very interested to hear any comments, and any counter-proposals, and the reasons for them.
Richard Hering, Hamish Campbell
A brief history of activism
This is a DRAFT
#Occupy has become bureaucratised and continues as e-mail lists and side projects, not very active.
#ukuncut has become institutionalised. Still active - presser protests in conjunction with NGO's
#climatecamp The anarcho' s left and most of the rest got jobs in NGO's a few continue in other campaigns. It has run its course, the influx of liberals had watered it down till its DNA failed. The healthy ones went onto Ukuncut. Fuckup, not conspiracy sadly. A spattering of global projects remain.
(google trends not accurate)
#submedia still banging the radical drum
#Indymedia failed from the opposite resion the activists excluded other groups in till the weren't a healthy mix left. Then the group dwindled by exclusion and inbreeding till its DNA was two narrow to evolve when it needed to change with the growth of personal publishing. It was replaced by blogs then corporate social networks. Still exists.
The are still some active IMC's would be intresting to look at why some are still working?
#undercurrents burned out of funding then failed to re-new with the fund-raising charity side not feeding into the active political production side. The charity/NGO side then shrank and dispersed. Still exists
(google trends not accurate)
#schnews had some lean times but seem to have survived in the radical project Though clearly fading on this graph of web searches
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.
The memory hole from 07/09/2010
The old-mainstream media used to dominate national, international and local news to such an extent that many voices were unheard and any radical story was systemically distorted.
With the onward march of the digitisation project (see more info LINK) the old-mainstream media is crumbling with the failer of its business model and the lack of any large scale replacement model waiting in the wings. This leaves a space which really needs to be filled.
Why radical media matters, this is a question that has been answered then forgotten repeatedly over the last 20 years.
Undercurrents grew out of a frustration with the limitations of mainstream media and made alternative media accessible to a wide ordnance. By nurturing grass-roots voices and empowering them to tell there “unreported” storeys using the powerful medium of video.
Indymedia grew out of the possibility of technology and created the ability for unmediated malty-media communication through a centralised collective process. That spread the idea of first hand reporting by normal people widely around the world.
Then many failed projects provided top-down solutions to this same problem of how to amplify the voices of the unheard. The is a wide and spreading NGO grave yard of failed “media projects”.
The current meteoritic growth of social networks and there maturing into personal life-streaming has provided a corporate controlled client server centralised solution to the same problem. But the issue of control and ownership is largely hidden from the view of million's of users. No such project as they are attempting has yet seceded on the open internet and if they were to succeed they would likely have to break the “key open bit” of the internet.
Lets briefly look at what happens next:
More and more “news” becomes personal and falls into the hands of a few dotcom “social media” companies.
The old media/which used to dominate that survives the “digitisation transition” is increasingly filled with easy and profitable corporate PR rather than the old idea of journalism which it claimed to champion.
The radical alternative is playing very little role currently, this has to change.
What is the problem/solutions?
Good media is hard to make
Distribution networks need to be built and most importantly sustained – media is a flow not isolated individual items, this is (surprisingly) not understood well in the social media age.
Whona-abeys will always take up the openings in media spaces – and there agenda isn’t radical though they will try and wear radical cloths. Its important to not let them set/keep the agenda.
The left/progressive has a strong tendency to be divisive and uncooperative – its important to build this into any project that can be sustained. It always about a diversity of voices not one unified central voice.
Currently the is a “digital hole” in the sustainability this leads to the problem of sustaining media spaces outside the personal or volunteer space. The fading hope of advertising saving the paid media space is unlikely to come true. At its best, Social media sees through Advertising thus rendering it much less affective if it is used to hide/obscure unpleasant truths and to make transparent the empty creation of needs and foles promises that it is based on. It is looking like Advertising is not going to plug the gap in “digital hole”.
This is what we need to do:
So we have to make something that is hard – easy
we have to build a diversity of sustainable media networks not many failed single sultutions.
we have to keep them open even when the will be strong voices for the one true way, the one authoritative voice dressed as consensus process.
we have to replace advertising as the financial model of in-depth journalism.
And standing in our way actually is very little, the old-mainstream is currently in a rout, the new/whonabeys have little real attractive to offer. And the openness and the tools we need are already close at hand. What are you waiting for “just do it” is the conclusion of how activist organise get to it (:
How do we work LINK to just do it
Thoughts on alt-organising from 2007
Alt-grouping and sustainability
This isn’t a statement of truth more a way to help look at a recurring problem, and to help active participants to mediate the problem to a better outcome.
It is to do with the sort of people who get involved at each stage of an alt-project's development. This is of course a generalization as people do fall into more than one grouping and shift between groupings during the project. Written from 10 years of direct practical experiences of the many different alt-groups that share the same dynamics.
First to look at the terms used:
Getting things done people
Are more interested in things happening than the process, though their process, as far as it goes, tends to be good otherwise they wouldn’t “get things done”.
Are the unsung heroes who do much of the work but receive little recognition. They are the “sustaining” core of any alt/project.
I am using the term in the positive sense to mean those who create and can work in structures. They solidify the project and thus sustain it, but when caught up with the “theorists” (who they are attracted to) and the “life stylist” groupings, they can institutionalize the dysfunctions as much as the original function.
Are a troubled “category” in alt-projects. The “consensus decision making process” tends to marginalize them as nobody has a “larger say” than anybody else. So their input, whether good or bad, tends to be submerged into “lifestyles”. Theorists who have come through any of the first 3 categories should defiantly be listened to with positive (but critical) ear. However this rarely happens as, as with the sort of “critical input” you are reading now, they have a tendency to come across as unfriendly to the majority of the project at stage 7 (the gathering) when these voices are most needed.
Grow out of the “hangers on” and are drawn to any open successful alt-project. At their best they “metamorphose” into one of the other categories and sustain the project. A sustainable alt-project has a clear and open way of facilitating this transformation. (or on the other side/more regularly is a functional closed project which also helps to keep the lifestyle drain to a minimum)
Project time line
1) “Getting it done” sort of people with inner drive start a project.
2) Soon mixed with “working people” and the few “bureaucrats”.
3) “Getting it done” people start to specialize into parallel projects. The weight of the project starts to fall onto the “working people” and increasingly the “bureaucrats”. We start to see “theorists” coming out of the first 3 categories and coming in from outside. “Hangers on” start to gather and a pronounced “lifestyle” side to the project begins to emerge.
4) The “getting it done” people start to burn out or move completely onto other projects. The “bureaucrats” start to be central to sustaining the project supported by the “working people’. The “lifestylists” start to form into groups around the “theorists”, and the "working people" are drawn into these groups.
5) The project is at its height but also starting to decay. Hopefully it can stay at this plateau for a period. The core project is the bureaucrats supported by the “working people” who are not fully caught up in “lifestyle” groupings. The lifestyle groups hopefully give as much energy as they take, but they are starting to exclude new “working” and “getting it done” people until the project starts to become dysfunctional.
6) The few remaining “getting it done” people with the longstanding “bureaucrats” and “working people” start to react against the decay, which sparks a debate amongst the “theorists” and “lifestylists” which generally paralyses any affective action to rejuvenate the project. The “bureaucrats” and “getting it done” people, alongside the majority of groups, call for a gathering to attempt to rejuvenate the project.
7) The gathering suffers from “the tyranny of structurelessness”, leading to a renewal of good will, but the consensus of the gathering exclude the “getting it done” and long term “bureaucrats” as they feel they cannot impose their view on the group. The consensus is created by the “life stylists” and “theorists” who have no or little experience of “getting things done”. Thus generally achieves little and refuse to even see the root causes of the project decay.
This process repeats itself with more or less success for a time depending on the particular nature of the project. For only practical action will keep the “bureaucrats”, “working people” and the now distant “getting it done people” engaged.
One of the parallel projects started by the “getting it done” people then draws the “working people” and “bureaucrats” that haven’t burned out into a new cycle. The burn-outs return to mainstream organizing/life.
This has been an attempt to give people a glimpse into the churning activist world, and help them make informed decisions on how sustainable to get involved – I hope it helps in small ways.
Canadian - Alternative Media Centres at Summits
I keep finding my self as a bullet ridden corpse
Why is this a recurring theme? well I have a prophetic frame of mind, spending weeks/months/years reading up and researching subjects that interest me, talking to key people and coming to very definitive (and often correct) conclusions. The problems lie in communicating and acting on these conclusions, and the issue of bridging the gap between me and my fellow-travellers.
Often this leads to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shooting_the_messenger thus the title of this short post.
Were do I come from politicly?
Thinking were we come from... mainstream bohiminasm, hippy drop-out culture, Greenham, CND, vagabond, labour party, student, squatting culture, protest camp culture, DIY community group organising, undercurrents, internet utopian's, Anti-GM direct action, coupuratewatch, risingtide, indymedia, summit hoping, anti-war direct action, mainstream alt-tv, rescuing/ running a community centre, European social forum/SWP, visionontv, climatecamp, Rebelus Media Confunce, occupation movement...
Why indymedia has the "site is untrusted message"
Have you always wondered why IMC sites have the horrendous go away this site is dangerous message in most web browsers. Its because of this:
----- START Explanation from ****, **** -----
Security is a two-way street. When I go to a web site I have to prove to the web site that it's really me before the web site gives me access to anything private or restricted (such as access to my email). The most common way that is done is via a login in which I provide a username and a password. Because I supply the correct password, the server knows it really is me, because I'm the only one who knows my password.
But how do I know that the server I'm going to really is the server I want to go to? Just because I type https://docs.indymedia.org/ into my browser, doesn't mean that the server really is the Indymedia server that I think it is. Any number of things can happen via the Internet between my computer and the server I'm connecting to that might fool my computer into thinking I'm connecting to docs.indymedia.org when in fact I'm connecting to someone else's server specifically setup to look like the Indymedia server. If that were to happen, I might type in my username and password on this stranger's server that is acting like docs.indymedia.org, essentially handing over my identity to a stranger.
The purpose of security certificates is to ensure that the site I'm connecting to really is the one run by Indymedia.
Unfortunately, the technology for setting up this system is fundamentally flawed. It works like this:
* most major browsers, even free/open source ones like Firefox, are pre-configured to trust a pre-defined set of for-profit corporations to verify the identity of all web sites on the Internet.
* web site maintainers are expected to pay $75 or so to these corporations in exchange for a digital certificate verifying that we are who we say we are.
* once this digital certificate is installed on the web server, browsers will access the secure web site without any errors.
If you don't pay $75 for the certificate, then most people will get a security error. There's a word for a setup like this. It's called a "racket."
Rather than play this racket, Indymedia uses cacert.org to sign it's security certificates. cacert is a nonprofit organization that signs certificates for free. cacert is not pre-installed on most browsers, however, you can install it by following the directions here: http://wiki.cacert.org/BrowserClients If you install the cacert certificate, your browser will automatically trust all indymedia web sites that have been signed by cacert, so you will no longer get any error messages when you access them. However, in addition, your browser will trust *all* web sites signed by cacert (which could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how cautious you are).
----- END Explanation -----
So, this addresses the "problem" that many of us experienced for many years. Its actually a nice opportunity for political education!
However, my understanding is that since last summer, even this explanation won't completely address the problem with the global site... I consulted with a few people offlist before responding to this because I didn't want to add to the confusion. It appears that our security certificate for the global server has explicitly been revoked – see: https://lists.indymedia.org/pipermail/imc-tech/2011-June/0602-g4.html It appears that this may have taken place in conjunction with the conflicts in the UK group. So, even if you import the cacert certificate to your browser (following the instructions below), you may still get a problem connecting to the site. I'm not sure if this means that we can never again have a viable certificate through cacert or whether we have to purchase one from the racket that **** refers to?
Hope this is helpful, ****