Lets look for a moment at “sanity” in grassroots terms
The are a lot of “insane” people in activism and counter-culture, its what makes it exciting, dynamic and affective. However with everything its a question of balance, lets look at how a movement stagnates, fails or growes and blossems.
A short off the top of head list
NGO'ists push limited bureaucratic thinking over everything, they get into bed with anything that can be shaped to their mind set and is fashionably fundable. They take up mind space and squander resources. The vast majority of “institutional” money goes into this.
Encryptionists – service the paranoid fuckists, they have a strong tendencies to reduce usability and create dangerous fantasises of security and anonymity. The are a lot of these as this has been a dominate way of thinking for the last 5-10 years.
Traditional media panderers have there uses for a companion, but soon start to misshape the movement to mainstream agenda’s – hard not to have this outcome.
Horizontal dotcom'sts try to use our movement to jump start their dotcom, fine if its built with the 4 opens, if its not then distraction if failur and disaster if people use it – so bad outcome both ways.
Insecure and nasty lifestyles are endemic and are attracted like fly's to any successful grassroots project and they are feed by the felandering of the Traditional media panderist – this can easily tip into being a movement death spiral.
Hidden careerist are good for movement building as tend to be the competent ones, but start to drift to NGO and media philanders to build their careerer rather than the grassroots movement.
Paranoid fuckwists are the bedroock of most grassroots campines and in small doses help hold things together, get to many of them in places of responsibility and you have out of control infighting.
Dogmatic liberals are lovely people, but a strong force for blocking sustainable alternatives, its imposable to meditate the breakdowns with a few of these at the core of any counter-culture.
Now for a corresponding “good” list of activist “insanity's”
On this subject it helps to be a bit "mad" to stay in grassroot movement for any leaghnth of time
The hand's off NGO's the is a long (hidden) history of healthy NGO/atavism synergy
The user focused KISS per2per'ists are working on the uphill project of (re)booting the open web.
Traditional media outreach'sts are promoting grassroots media and technology by linking it into traditional media narratives to build the world rather than misshape it.
Horizontal dotcom's are working on “open” federated sustainability rather than closed client server “solutions”
Lifestyles are though opening up in the campaigning lifestyle flow and learning to let go and build healthy connected lives.
Open careerist, are bootstrapping the campaign while bootstrapping themselves, they take the open energy like a trosion horse into the belly of the traditional beast. Some one has to do this...
Secure organising crew is everyone job to keep it carm and focus, and help out with the very real “offline” security and communication that activism needs.
Liberal liberals the calm and the balance of “common sense” that’s needed to keep things from going horribly wrong.
Activism is a dynamic and crazy place full of “insane” people doing fantastic things, its a balancing act to hold it all together, to much of the top and not anufe off the bottom and it quickly slides into something few people wont to be involved in – then disappears with little trace.
Citizenfour – hiding behind Oscar
Here is my persional review of a good film to watch (DRAFT)
Its a feel good movie about brave people changing the world, and they are and they do. But its not a movie about the world changing.
The film reinforces my view that strong digital privacy like DRM in music, software and books is “broken” just like the 20th century copyright world. We as a culture need to get over this and move on. Many people knew this already. It's simple logic and lived experience to know that anything digital is open to copying and passing on. Your communication/identity is digital, so it's “open”.
The Snowden leeks, and the film about them, is important for the pre-digital majority who did/do not understand this, the head-in-the-ground worldview. The issue for me is that the film does not actually communicate the nature of open. It's probably why it won the Oscar, in that it allows people's heads not to move, which like many things in the modern world is a dangerous denial of reality we live in.
We need to pull our heads out of the sand and learn to live in the open, because that is where we are and where we will continue to be. Think for a moment: all the state spying, and power, goes out the window, when WE have the “open” knowledge and connections to self-organise. You as an indiviual can only hide from your friends, no matter how you try, and by doing this you're empowering your enemies and disempowering your friends. This film won an Oscar because it lets a whole generation of people keep looking the other way. They don’t have to turn to look at “open”.
For the technically curious, on the end credits it give a list of privacy tech that lots of people know are broken. Just takes a “google” search:
* The tor project – is not secure http://www.infosecurity-magazine.com/news/tor-is-not-as-safe-as-you-may-think/
* Tails – uses Tor http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tails_%28operating_system%29
* Debian/linux is nice, and being open source could be more secure, maybe, who actually knows?
* Off-the-record messaging – being p2p security might work, but equally vulnerable to screen/key logging etc.
* GNU privacy guard – being p2p can work https://vimeo.com/56881481
* Truecrypt – failed in a public way, like most open projects nobody knows if its secure or not http://www.enterprisenetworkingplanet.com/netsecur/opinion-truecrypt-the-nsa-and-the-myth-of-open-source-security.html
* Securedrop is you guessed it based on our “friend” Tor
Traditional media loves them because they don’t make traditional media think (no head turning involved). Yes, with P2P encryption you can get a limited privacy, anonymity is more vapours, and actually the film knows this, but it isn’t the message, if it was it wouldn’t be Oscar material.
Grassroots media - Building affinity
In the last few posts I have looked at a failed organising strategy realmedia gathering, outlined a positive way out of this failer, the focused unconfrunce. But for wider understanding I think the content so far is lacking some background, lets look at an old post http://hamishcampbell.com/en/home/-/blogs/the-21st-centery here I outline how we ACTURLY organise alternatives rather than how we pretend/think/do, this is important for a good outcome.
Grassroots as it's very nature is small, we grow from this smallness like grass, savannah and wide plans, we have loots of entwined grass's making up the whole. From this distributed and federated ecosystem we compete with the monolithic traditional corporate media.
The link above highlights the ways we organise, only 3 have rarely good outcomes:
Open affinity group
Opaque affinity group
Invisible affinity group
The top is the best, the bottom for its limitations still works, the top is the hardiest to hold in place, the middle the longest lived, the bottom the easy fast/transitory root to social change.
With this understanding in mind, how are the all important affinity groups formed?
The Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination http://www.labofii.net/ spend most of their time forming such groups
Good squats form them, most successful direct action grows them like weeds.
The can come from workshops like LOII which lead to direct action, or from repeated direct actions. They can come from long term working relationships, affinity springs from people interacting around and in places of action, try to do something together and you will know who you have affinity with.
How would we use this knowledge to kick start the (re)growth of alt-media?
* We don’t organises speaker events with top down platform speakers – this is deadening.
* We don’t organise passive workshops were knowledge is thought one to many.
You seed events, with questions and processes then grow DIY
What we do do is get people to do practical things together were ever possible, most useful outcome happen from chopping vegetables in the kitchen than at a big hall event.
We have go rounds at the beginning, middle and end of every workshop were feasible. This is to bring confidence, but most impotently to allow each other to hear each's voice/sense and sensibility repeatedly over the weekend.
The practical workshops are were the afererty is formed into connections then networks.
Cross fertilisation is needed for grassroots growth this like pixie dust can be liberally sprinkled by thouse who have an art (hart) for it over the weekend.
The weekend will plant seeds, some will grow some will fall on fallow ground, the ones that sprout should be watered with publiserty, conections and funding.
The event should be rinesed and repeted in different areas/diffrent groupings and lifestyes etc.
The whole organic network is then held together by a the 4 open on the web. Do not fall into the trap of failbook at this point.
This is the first time I have seen tredtional media talking about this http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2015/01/26/why-do-managers-hate-agile/
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.
What would an open media network (OMN) look like?
Lets do some grounded/blue sky thinking ;)
The internet has been (unbelievably) successful because its libertarian/anacist open/trust peer to peer network with very light centre and governances. How do we (re)build an grassroots-media to flourish in the 21st century remains of this open web?
What would an open media network (OMN) look like?
Ps. this actually already exists in part in the visionOntv project.
Peer to peer is the long term goal, but the whole internet is now largely based on client server and alt-geeks love control, so let's take a half first step from this spot.
We need to activate the already existing client/server federated scalable human aggregation content network.
* Based on RSS (98% implemented)
* Based on current CMS's (90% implemented)
* Second tier embed option for legacy sites (80% implemented)
* Constructed with the 4 opens.
1) Content producers are all the current sites – they have to put out a RSS feed of content (98% do all ready)
2) Second level - subject/region/ideology aggregation are run by small groups and individuals. These can be based on current CMS's with RSS aggregation modules (50% implemented)
3) Top site takes feeds from the subject aggregation. Same CMS as second sites.
Producers/subject (1,2) can take embeds for (3) etc. to help to bootstrap the network tech.
Thus the content is published at the bottom and make its way up to wide distribution on the top sites.
Important to realise that NOBODY is in control of the network and it is completely open to setting up nodes at different levels. It is governed by the 4 opens and a light bit of agreed "set-in-stone" process.
In this set-up we have a horizontal media where everyone is in charge of their publishing, and the different communities organically create their own content flow. Some sites will be highly linked and aggregated and some will be ignored, the whole network will organically split into streams and tributaries of data/content flows. These can and will become communities. If one fails it will be replaced organically with another, the best will rise and the worst will fall, they will criss-cross and settle into a multitude of flows.
The whole network will be based on duplicated synchronised meta-data – the source will reside at the publishing site. Davie Winar has done work on how this is achieved (we can implement some caching into the network to deal with scaling issues when needed).
SPAM is dealt with by trust, as each site makes a decision to trust the sites it links to, If you let spam into your network, people will drop YOU. A data roll-back can be implemented for removing SPAM flows that get though this trust network.
The friction (delay/server load) of the RSS object aggregation is actually a feature driving content consumption to close to the bottom. Each server can have traffic light flags for load, add too many feeds and it goes into the red, drop feeds and it goes orange to healthy green. This accelerates the diversity of aggregation sites – if you don’t wont to be an aggregate you just take embeds from a site you trust.
The top sites are easy to create but slower/hard to add value to, this drives the creation of second(2) sites to build out the wider network.
The successful top sites will grow to compete with the failing traditional media. The health of the network will be at the second level sites that feed the top sites. The content will come from the bottom, rejuvenating blogging and community websites. The closed dotcom's such as Facebook and Twitter lock them selves out of content production by not supporting RSS – they become declining dumb pipes for OMN distribution.
As the OMN takes off we can create peer to peer encrypted object flows to move this away from the client server paradigm to make the network more robust against disruption by states and corporations.
The outcome is a distributed data internet of flows. Like the internet itself, it will simply flow round damage/censorship and is open to all.
Hope you found this useful
Rainbow gatherings - where we are
40 years of one of the most active and largest non-organisation's in the world. A modern working example of traditional nomadic life an sustainable example the world can be different.
Its important NOT to get caught up in talk about the big picture of what a Rainbow Gathering is, as its a Rainbow of many colouers, a gathering of the tribes, each brings its own myths, traditions and sadly sometimes "rules". The man (and it uselessly is a man) dressed in “sacred robes” proclaiming this or that is rainbow, should be acknowledged by a sigh, it's human to smile and walk away to get a cup of tea, taking the person next to you as well. That’s the rainbow way they have facilitated a rainbow connection ;)
Rainbow is a traditional society.
This is an important statement, because a rainbow gathering only happens if we come together motivated by the myths of Rainbow and enact the traditions of Rainbow. Its a misguide not to do this otherwise its just another festival, not a Rainbow Gathering.
It is “Babylon” energy to ask “how can we do this better”, instead you should ask “how dose the Rainbow do this”. The is a Rainbow humility here, a touching the earth. The gatherings have good working traditions that cover almost every thing that happens at a Gathering. And they are traditions built and tested though time and experience – they are what makes a Rainbow Gathering.
New “ideas/newways” destroy traditional society’s all around the world. In traditional society good change is slow and organic. This new/improved rainbow “Babylon” energy is surging through the European gatherings the last few years. Its is probably a USA issue as well.
An example of this
At the European gathering in Greece (2013) The gathering was “organised” by a group in darkness, it become the empty home of invisible individuals that make things happen. Were the Rainbow way is in the light of visible circles, transparency and foculisers not organisers.
The gathering happened but for some it had a emptiness, an example of the outcome of this was the poisoning of the water supply for the local village by the kitchen builders – many people could see what was happening but darkness surrounding manifesting the kitchen meant nobody could stop this from happening.
The solution to solve this is not by “improvements” but by remembering/honourer the Rainbow spirit manifested in its myths (care for nature and peoples) and its tradition, don’t build gray water pits/compasing near water supply’s.
How to solve this “new/improved/organising - Babylon” energy is to call a circle for kitchen, magic hat, water etc. the “invisible/shadow” individuals will likely not come into this light. This circle will generate ideas, connections and trust. The shadow/invisible individuals will likely come directly to you (the one who called the circle) as an individual (in the shadow's) – give them feedback and invite them to the next circle. When they come then their role can THEN be passed into the light. The power of circles is lost if not used so a hart song circle on water, wood kitchen etc. Might help to nurture this circle power before trying to fix the shadow workers. And as the gathering is just a big circle the spread of light will brining a grater shine to the whole rainbow.
The myth of care and the tradition of circles and openness sole most problems, have a shiny Rainbow and see you in the kitchen.
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.
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.
Stupid individualism and the possibility of an alternative
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.
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?
Journalists generally don't understand what journalism is
Journalists generally don't understand what journalism is especially amongst the trainee and starting journalists.
For many enthusiastic youngsters it is heroic individualism finding and telling the story and of course this is part of journalism but it's a just a part. What they often miss is that news is a flow as Dave Weiner says news is a river and the stories the journalism produce are the water that fills this river.
Why do I say this? If we think of news as individual items, isolated stories, one-off events then we miss the very power media plays in influencing and shape society. If we think of news as a day in day out flow of information through our society then we realise how powerful it is at shaping us. Just as a River given time will carve its way through the largest mountain, news over the years stories and world-views carves and shapes our societies – and thus creates the very young and enthusiastic fledgling journalist this short blog post is about.
The power in journalism is in shaping and directing the flow of the rivers, as am stressing here the water that fills them is only a part of the story. The fledgling journalist's fixation on the water and ignorance of the impotents of the rivers is part of the failure of contemporary per to per journalism and the strength of traditional media.
In traditional journalism you have the binding of wages and hierarchy to hold the river of news to an agenda. In contemporary journalism in the Internet age we have cooperation and aggregation to build our rivers of news. The challenge we have today is getting young and aspiring journalist to realise this and not to be seduced into the money and hierarchy of traditional media. But rather build their own independent media where they can truly have a voice and create rivers of news which both are sustainable and truthful and shape society in a more open idealistic and sustainable way.
The 5 levels of gentrification
The 5 levels of gentrification
1 – a poor area has a new transport link to mainstream society, interesting/creative people move in for the cheap rents and the real indigenous culture.
2 – the first enterprises open, islands in the indigenous normal, a second wave of interesting people arrive and create a community around these spaces as well as colonising the indigenous business that are shifting to there spending/focus.
3 – the area is at its hight of interesting, being a healthy fusion of the old and the new, the first wave of business become the foundation. This fusion of the old and the new lasts for a while.
4 – a dulling wave of more affluent people start to arrive, new exploitative business open and push the remaining indigences business out by raising rents. The original social enterprise creative business either have to commercialise or close.
5 – the indigenous community can no longer afford to function in there home and start to be pushed out by rent increases and alienation. The conservative affluent start to force the creative areas to quieten and conform to their norms quickly/slowly killing creativity in the area. Property prices rise agen in reaction to this.
Gentrification is complete, the area is now in the mainstream. Rinse and repeat.
For the comady version of this post
The tech manifesto of the OMN
In tech development the are many paths and some of these lead to much more fertile ground to cultivate for the open internet/open society path that the ONM is taking.
We clearly reject:
* Client server relationships.
* Closed security culture.
* Geek only designer aesthetics and vanilla geek culture in general.
* Data ownership and closed licensing.
We vocally support:
* Peer to peer relationships and crossover federated client server infrastructure.
* Open security culture, with appropriate limited closed peer to peer security.
* A balance of geek usability and outreach simplicity – the ability to switch in the same app between the two.
* Geek embracing and mingling other cultures.
* Open data formats and CC licensing.
The OMN is open to any open-source/open-data/open-licence project free software projects. The are a number of a applications we like:
Liferay.com – Completely built in the right way from a standardise based approach, but owned by a controlling agandered profit/survival driven company.
Retroshear – an open source Peer to Peer client, dose pretty much all we need for personal security and communication.
Would it be possible to tide these together into a open globel – peer to peer secure cross over platform based on the retrosher app and the liferay API?
Popcorn time - Torrent streaming, can we use this with archive.org API to host and seed the torrents to provide video distribution and hosting.
OMN - RSS mashup network, for us this would be base on the Liferay platform and the video distributed vier the popcorn time app.
The clever use of HTML5 webapps on smart phones.
FAQ - why use open websites
We need to get activist to actually use alternative net infrastructure.
Q. Its to complex to use this geek software.
A. So was Facebook when it started, almost nobody understood what twitter was for for ages – all new experiences are hard. Its actually ONLY a question of motivation then familiarisation through repartition.
Q. Activist internet site are ugly – if they just look nicer people might actually use them.
A. After bad UI is put to one side (and this can be an issue) the is a direct correlation between full user functionality and bad looking sites – you can make site look nicer by dis-empowering the user or by shaping and controlling there interactions – but freedom always looks messy just look at Facebook its one of the more messy sites out there – it overcomes this issue by good UI and familiarity – people get used to “functionality - ugliness” after they use the software every day.
Q. My activist site has no way for the “user” to be part of the site beyond limited commenting.
A. Yes activist sites are generally in the stone age of hierarchical control freakery, use sites that are web02 not web01 the actually are some projects out their. Complain to admins if the is no peer -to- peer production on an activist site, then actually use the peer production tools they set-up such as wikis and forums.
Q. Why not just use Facebook groups/ fashionable web2 site, every one is on there anyway.
A. This way leads to the death of the open internet/society LINK
Q. Can i trust activist sites with my privacy.
A. On corporate site's that most activist use, such as Facebook you can only hide from your friends not from your enermys. This is generally true for the open web in general and is something we need to understand. If you have a secret take the activist to the garden and whisper it in there ear, do not rely on any fig leafs of corporate privacy settings or promise of activist client server encryption LINK
Wordpress, friend or foe for activism?
In tech the successful part of the corporate internet is building peer-to-peer(ish) web projects. This is after the wholesale failure of the top-down hierarchical internet that went bankrupt in the dotcom boom. facebook and twitter, 4square and instagram, youtube etc are all built on horizontal(ish) peer production. Activism is still in the sterile and narrow dotcom boom of vertical knowledge production and distribution. The perfect tool widely used for this is the wordpress blogging platform. It's a tool for a single voice, for the top to speak to the foot solderers. Beyond its commenting system the is no peer production in a wordpress setup.
The hierarchical corporations are doing peer to peer production, the horizontal activists are doing top-down hierarchical. If the wholesale failure of activism wasn’t important I would laugh at them. Here is an advert from frackoff:
"This spring, Frack Off are sponsoring Wordpress training for a dozen new local anti-fracking groups across the country and are looking for Wordpress trainers who will work for train fare, money for a pasty or two and of course the good feeling of doing something worthwhile for a really good cause. Frack Off need at least three or four tech activists who know their way round Wordpress to deliver the training in various parts of the country.
At the risk of overselling the project, this will be a great opportunity for someone to do a spot of travelling and meet some of the local campaigners and grassroots activists who are giving hell to the frackers and working to get this destructive practice stopped before it gets started in the UK."
This represents a failure in every way imaginable, a failure of ideology, a failure of strategic thinking, a failure of leadership. And a failure of social change. Tech activism is currently not going anywhere.
There is nothing inherently wrong with wordpress. It's a fine tool for nice looking top-down single voice web portals. Where the wrongness lies is in the activist media use of it as the "tool" to build an internet site for activist campaigning. It is the wrong tool for this.
Activist peer to peer tools would be wikis http://en.wikipedia.org
Sites that have activity feeds such as http://visionon.tv
Aggregating sites http://globalviews.visionon.tv
Ps. I use the (ish) for corporate peer to peer production as it is ONLY the face of P2P. Underneath it is a solid controlling hierarchy just like it always was.
Balcombe Protection Camp has a working solar power station
While summer lasts we aspire to camp electrics being completely powered by solar power. Currently the kitchen, massage/meeting tent and the media/tech tent are working. We have LED lighting and can power 3 laptops and charge around 30-40 phones each day. Other structures have LED lighting running from fixed battery’s.
Hamish looking tired in the Balcombe tech tent at the end of the day (photo Dik Ng)
Today’s observation is the tech tent has become quite boring last few days – the issue is that it simply works, the are no blown fuses, sparking wires or smocking components. The is just working laptops, phone charging and mostly working internet. This is a good thing of course, but I still have to spend my time in the space to stop people dismantling this working set-up. Here are some example bad energy's that make this necessary:
* I would do this better, rip appart and plug to gather in a way which is likely not better and then leave everything broken and burned out
* I need this now for this very important – screening – music event – personal project – ripaprt and leave key parts missing/broken.
* Pilfering, I wont this component, its an open space, I will take it, lots of adapters and cables go missing every week.
* External saboteurs, its well documented now that most successful radical campaigns have had paid corporate spy’s, agent provocaturs and undercover police/police informers and that these roles often ambiguously overlap.
* Internal Sabotage, I hate you because you told me in public not to do something I wonted to do so, I will make something you are doing fail. Some people think these overlap with the external saboteurs...
This last one is more prevalent than you would imagine and I don’t think many people doing it actually understand that they are.
Back to a positive note, we have a working tech tent, YEHA!!! and a good crew (would like to name them here but have to ask first), Sean Peatfield
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.
How to build an effective protest camp
A look at the parts that make it happen (DRAFT)
Lets look at the groupings first that balance helping/hindering a campaign. These are of course B&W images to highlight issues, on the ground things are always complex with many overlaps.
The “family” - what is most important to them is having a senses of belonging, brining safety, warmth and meaning into there lives which they do not have in the outside world. This is good in as far as it creates a warm and carrying centre to the camp. But it is eqauley bad as it creates a unfriendly shell around parts of the camp “you haven’t been here since the beginning, you cant tell us what to do”, “he is a police spy”, “the newcomers are eating all the food and not doing any work” the tends to be a growing rejection of people who arnet part of the “family”. This leads to a decline in camp/campaigning effectiveness as people who are good at campaigning tend to not be interested in the continues internal sqwobals of this fractures and dysfunctional “family”. The is a increasing tendency to push out new blood and sougheded people from core parts of the camp. The family then repeatedly shrinks and implodes often trying to take “there” camp with it.
The party people – there garate when they organise regular fabulous party’s for the space and campaign. They are much more draining when there party is for them and involves lots of alcohol and late night music while the wider camp are trying to sleep. The mess this creates in the camp and in peoples heads drags the camp energy down.
The hippy’s, “all you need is love” this might be true BUT anyone who has live on a camp will know you need working water, a functioning kitchen, lighting and regulate wood for the fires etc. In camps these things generally/often end up being provided by angry people and at meetings you regaluly her creys of “you need to clear up after yourself” “who is bring the water” “last night some one eat all the XXX and messed the kitchen up” “can we stop playing load music after 11.00”. The hippy answer of a hug and kind words becomes thin after this has been repeated for the 3ed time with no real practical hands on help. You need love AND respect AND equality AND practical work to keep a camp functioning “all you need is love” is hippy crap in this context and if this is out of balances then no amount of “love” will save your camp or larger campaign.
The me, me , me, narcissistic Christ figger. At every camp the are young men who have father issues and messianic complexes, you can tell them by there holy clothes and obscurantist language. Not surprisingly These guys generally end up abusing young women and having fights with older men. They then drag the camp energy down by building sides to defend these actions.
The you, you, you, Christ figger are the invisible santes of camp life. At balcome the was one guy who cleaned the compost tolits for the whole time, in the morning oftern clearing the shit off the seats from the drunken party people, replacing the toilet role that the hippys dident have time to do while rushing off for important crystal harmonising and herbal tea... in the kitchen the were a group of older women who cleaned and cooked and cared, each morning clearing up the mess of the late night kitchen party crew before breakfast could be made... in both cases these people/groups were frayed and burned out as the camp came to a close.
Napoleon complex. The best that could be said for this issue was at least Napoleon was a good general, at protest camps this competency is rarely balanced with the damage done.
NGO bods. the tendency to be lots of them visiting the camp during big days of action if the are media opportunitys, campers should be a little cynical to take care that the give and take in such situations is balanced.
Empire builders. Have there place if the empire is open and competency based, horizontalism tends to keep reasserting it self as nobody is paid to do this work.
The SWP's. the undead of activism, they always bring the plaque with them so best to dissuade them if at all possible.
Campaigners, are key to the campaign (; but their agenda often conflicts with the more direct action crew focus - this has to be mediated as both startatergys are key to a good outcome.
Grassroots media team – Individualists. God could I talk about this one....
Direct action crews. At protest camps we love the SPIKY and the FLUFFY the problem lies in how to keep the love flowing.
Mainstream media team (corporate cock suckers) have a lot of power and responsibility, they ALWASE fail in the responsibility part so real focus is needed to keep them focused.
And more to come...
John Hoggett Or, Mental Health Patient - someone who has clearly been sectioned recently and sometimes spouts bonkers nonsense but proves to be a star, reliable, not phased by the police (even if they do talk about them in weird, almost non-senseical ways) and always happy to lend a hand with cooking, cleaning etc
- Natalie Lamb The control freaks. Who like to control but not be controlled. They want things done their way only... and when it's not they get very upset. So they find a way to control, and insist on doing it their way without remembering how it felt when they were treated that way. When they have the power, they feel right. Thus perpetuating the cycle.
Fixing protest camp problems (and there back lashes)
Remember everyone is a volunteer, nobody at camps is payed to do the hard work.
At Balcome when I arrived tech was a disaster, all the power was brought in by car by taking 12v battery’s to locales houses brought back by car drained till flat then repeated each day. This both rapidly destroyed the lead acid car battery’s and meant the camp was actually running on fossil fuels.
I like a challenge so set out to fix this, it wasn’t a difficult thing to do, took me half a day to gather and assemble all the pieces, by the evening I was tired but prowed the was a solar power set-up that would permanently charge 2 phones for the length of the camp as long the sun shone. It was relative simple to carry on building this out to make the whole camp work in the same way.
In the morning the sun came up, I got out of bed to plug in some phones and what did I find, my days work had been pulled apart in the night because people “needed” components to play music in the party camp. A frustrating day gathering up the parts agen only to find that the battery had been destroyed in the night by running it flat.
It wasn’t a easy technical problem, it actually was a more complex harder to fix social problem. The was no shortage of competent people at the camp, but they weren’t involved because they had experienced variations of the problem above – that nothing could be built – everything was transitory and broken.
The social solution?
Push the few apsultute loons out of the space, this tends to be emotionally violent, we mediated by giving one loon the equipment he needed to set up his own space. The second one, when challenged, pushed him self out of the space and took his stuff with him. Short and (emotionally) violent in both cases but they did both go away and allow the space to grow and function.
The second issue was less challenging but probably created more resentment, this was that the equipment and space was held in “common” for the camp and everyone could use it as THEY thought fit. This was at the root of the destruction of battery’s and regular burning out of equipment – the was a big box full of broken stuff, each day expensive replacements were ordered and the day after it arrived most of it was in the broken box – camp spending on tech was completely out of control because of this.
To fix this we had to shift the control of the equipment from the “common” to the smaller growing tech team. How do do this was simple, sitting in the tech tent all day asking people what they wonted stuff for. This was a gentle and helpful thing to do BUT behind the sean it was building up a pile of resentment from the “crew” who were used to using and bracking tech equipment freely and it being replaced at camp expense.
After this successful transition the tech space became boring, it worked, phones were charged, laptops powered, media and legal work done, peopule could check there facebook. The wasn’t much to do but sit in there to make shore the “loon” energy did not come back to dominate.
Though it did came back to bite later.
Attempted Putsch at Balcombe
The camp has to move after the drilling stops every one agrees with this, I do, the only useful question/decision is when and were to next. What am documenting here is one groups decision and action that happen this weekend at the camp. Read this with a smile (or you might cry) Its been interesting to be in the middle of a attempted Putsch at #balcombe anti-fracking site.
I have been oncamp for more than 3 weeks, On Friday in the morning I got up early to go off site to get the main battery bank charged otherwise the camp would have no power for the next 3-4 days. After I got back the camp was quirt I got some tea mosed around said hi to the people I met, everything was working fine on the temporary power in the tech tent. By the late afternoon it was time for a sester in my tent, on waking I found a strange decision had been made. The same thing happened to a number of people for example Marina Pepper was doing legal support for the court case and was constantly phoning up people at the camp, this decision making was not mentioned, Prajna was off site doing arrest support he was not informed etc.
A decision was made to close the camp down in front of the fracking site and move all the infrastructure and tents 5-10-15 miles away (the location was not revealed) This visible wrong agenda was pushed though a exhausting 8 hour meeting by majority vote of the people left in the meeting after 8 hours.
* You can never get a good decision after an 8 hour meeting!
* That we would be evicted on Monday – actually the court process starts on Monday and as many experienced people pointed out this will be a long process with many delays. It should be possible to stay till the drill is removed in 2 weeks and then leave as we wont to not forced by a court process.
* The main argument was if the whole camp left before the court case they could turn up at court and say “what camp” and the injunction would not happen. This is a fantasy in that we would have had to evict the half of the camp that refuses to go to meetings and would reject this imposing of a nonsense agender by a meeting they ignore. Even if this could be done this would not have stopped the injunction as they would have argued that the camp would have just returned so they would need the injunction to stop this happening.
* Then the was the very understandable argument for the mental health and physical health of the core camp crew here since the beginning – the call to support the “family”. This is the only valid argument, but when looked at it is thin and self inflicted. The camp has collectively allowed a tiny minority of people to continuously hold stressful roles for month's with out rest, this could have been mediated by the offered respite in locales homes or sharing roles with the large number of competent people at the site. The separate camp is going ahead anyway with out the camp moving for people who need time out this is a good thing and solves this issue if people take the time out they need.
The next day the was a very violent/bad tempered meeting where it was repeatedly coherently argued that the day before decision was damaging and wrong headed. Each point was refuted – the answer was imposed that we should STILL DO IT AS IT WAS DECIDED this wasted the whole morning till a tea break helped to clear the air. During the tea break the people arguing strongly for the camp to be taken down actually started to take down structures. This angry energy faded as the majority of people ignored them and didn’t take part in this.
The afternoon meeting was much calmer, apart form a part were the original decision was tried to be re-imposed by violent argument by a minority. The issue now (Sunday morning) is that online the original decision/agenda rolls on and locals with cars are turning up to take things, and owners of structures are reclaiming them still thinking the eviction is happening on Monday.
This ill timed and wrongly argued ripping apart of the camp might make it hard to move forward on a tactical agreement to leave when the time comes. This is the problem we have created and now face.