Wednesday, January 28, 2009

"social software" or "blogito ergo sum"

The problem (fairly self-evident, I think) posed by the title of this post derives from my reading of Geert Lovink's Zero Comments: blogging and critical internet culture (2008). I think that is further complicated by blogs with an explicit intention to inform from a particular political perspective, as in the case of blogging (and more general amarchist/radical left coverage and discussion) relating to the Greek riots and occupations, and the ongoing situation in Greece. And it plays into the relation between mainstream media and independent sourcing or amplification that the past two posts imply - in that it makes manifest the question of whether we are amplifying aspects of our own perspectives or identities (reinforcing our already-assimilated views and feelings about the world, twisting the myriad informational inputs in our lives in our own way, building selves out of the exercise) or building aspects of our perspectives into collective identifications through the productive work of presenting information (along with our own comments, contributing to dialogue and the formation of groups which we value for various reasons)...or, however abstractly, contributing (selflessly?) to some sort of Habermasian or liberal-idealist 'public sphere' (in which the best negotiations of our individual and group allegiances could positively generate a mutually acceptable synthesis).

The line of questioning strikes me as marking a particularly tricky axis-point for anarchist political thought. What is on going on here? What are we doing? Politics? What politics? And it's one that hits up some of the big polemics of the last (published-western-theoretical 'anarchist') fifteen years (think of Murray Bookchin wailing on 'lifestyle anarchism,' or of his more vitriolic critics).

Taking up Lovink directly (in response to a self-posited nihilism/anti-nihilism problem in blog-culture):

"How many of the postings, we can ask with [Cornel] West, are Socratic questioning? [...] How to overcome meaninglessness without falling back into centralized meaning structures [...]?" (30)

First of all, I'm not convinced that this is necessarily the problem at all for anarchist/radical-leftists who diagnose the more obvious excesses and injustices of capitalism and state-centrism, 'domination' and 'oppression' in its more manifest and material/coercive forms. But I think many people (non-anarchist) see these manifestations clear as day & fail to draw the same conclusions for action. People (many, at least) get it. Many people don't see everyday injustice as quite so thought-provoking or imperative as others. Thus, I think, this is a question with profoundly 'anarchist' insinuations (despite Lovink's later, seemingly dismissive juxtaposition of "the nightmares of twentieth century Marxism or the anti-power model of Western anarchists (198)." How do we do social criticism with a hammer and come out with something worth having on the other side? How do we contest the meanings that have been sculpted into legitimating features of the everyday order of things at the same time that we fight the cynicism that sees them as transparent lies?

I think that Lovink's charactrization of (Western) anarchism there is troubling for a number of reasons (I'll elucidate, I promise), and I will also hop right on the path I've set for myself in terms of the (blogged, linked, discussed, debated) context of the Greek riots, etc. - but that will have to wait 'til next time (soon, soon). Next up: ethics, as I see them in the context of such a project, then some substantive (but always already theoretical) musings on the subject at hand.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Feel-good anarchism in Greece and the independent amplification of Agence France-Presse

OK. I think I should try to unpack my last post a bit; specifically, my speculative closing line "So much for independent media...?" was a bit flip, and I don't mean to sound like a hyper-critical type. I've heard plenty, and nothing's 'pure' or unproblematically authentic, least of all processes of representation at a distance.

Nonetheless, it is interesting that this item if popping up (e.g. being 'amplified') on a number of 'anarchist' blogs (saw it tis morning on as well), but often w/o attribution. I only traced the source through my recollection of where I first saw it, and the greeceriots blog linked to the AFP articles a 'original source' (unless you follow this, you don't see an attribution).

Obviously, it seems like a good story - anarchists taking the direct initiative to support someone caught between struggle and the state. One interpretation would have it that amplifiying a 'straight' news story could build credibility with those disinclined to tryust 'indy/DIY' sources. But then it makes no sense to de-emphasize or omit the attribution. Another would suggest that you take good news wherever you can get it.

Some immediate questions, then, concern potential/intended audiences...and the relationship between mainstream media and independent information forums such as radically-inclined blogs. If AFP has bad things to say about anarchists, they're castigated (dupes for state propaganda, right?); if they have good things to say, they are reproduced and circulated (but, it would appear, without attribution). This just struck me as an interesting problem...

on greece lately

the following is making its way around the blogosphere, a clear example of clawing back the high ground from mass-media reports that often privilege accounts of anarchist 'violence.' It's a kind of 'feel good' story about Greek anarchist collecting money to rebuild the torched newsstand of a Thessoloniki senior:

It was posted on about 1 week ago on citing an original source that turns out to be Agence France-Presse (linkable on CanWest's much for independent media?

quote of the day

"Blogs have changed the world in various ways; the point, however, is to interpret them."
- Geert Lovink, Zero Comments: blogging and critical internet culture (2008: 1)

Monday, January 26, 2009

loci and the question(s) at hand

OK, with prospectuses (pl?) in hand, we can safely say that I have a tighter topic, and a locus (loci, really) for my project. I'm casting a wide net at this early stage, in order to grant myself a number of contingency plans (so I can actually talk about whatever seems interesting). My research topic for the project revolves around the representation and reception in anarchist/radical-left online forums of the recent examples of direct confrontation between anarchist/radical left elements and state authorities in Greece - and how this informs broader discussions about the possibilities for direct action in anarchist(-sympathizing) circles. Thanks to Dr. Forte & Owen for comments/discussion that contributed to this particular development!

I'm looking at not just a single site or pre-determined cluster of sites, but am interested in the various approaches, ideas, permutations that might occur along/among the networked pathways that connect around this issue. However, since I need somewhere to focus my energies, I've selected three blogs that offer some dense & dedicated coverage:

These are sites explicitly concerned with informing people and spreading ideas, so (as per our discussion of ethics tonite) I feel little compunction at naming them here - check 'em out!

These (casting a wide net) are some tentative research questions:

1. How are the events connected to the recent Greek riots and occupations represented and received in the context of anarchist and other radical-left online forums, particularly the three blogs listed above?
a) how do these blogs and other similar forums make links (conceptual and hyper-) to other contexts, local and international, in their treatments of the Greek situation?
b) is there (and if so, on what bases) a kind of ‘collective identity’ invoked in these treatments?
c) how do differing conceptions of the Greek situation present it as a discrete ‘event’ vs. as part of a wider process (e.g. spatially, as a manifestation of internal political dynamics vs. as symptomatic of wider systemic issues, and temporally, as something which is ‘over’ and can be reconstructed and analyzed as such vs. as only prominent ‘flare-up’ in long process of struggle)?

2. How does the coverage and commentary on the Greek situation contribute to discussions of general analysis, strategy and possibility for anarchist or other radical left-movements that continue to contest capitalism and seek radical social change?

long post...whew! more on justifications, ethics, methods and some elaboration on the problems and content I see myself working with - later.

Monday, January 19, 2009

some sites of interest....and a solicitation of sorts (but not that sort)

Ah...and here's a (radically non-exhaustive) listing of some of the sites that might make a shortlist for my endeavors here (focusing on the explicitly 'anarchist' in the following instances, though I'm nt married to that criteria): [ETC...]

some of these, especially the Montreal-associated (anarkhia, nefacmtl, voixdesfaits) pose the problems noted above (newsfeed/message-board formats, one-way - even if decentralized - communication); others provide a commentary/discussion venue. I'd still be interested in finding (a) site(s) which incorporate more of the technological potential to bring people together and let them loose...but a jumping-off point, at least!

Does anyone out there (in here reading) have any leads, clues, links, or other avenues that might both deal with these kinds of issues and present a good deal of regular interaction in the form of discussion, commentary, video-postings, creative online and offline forms of contention however manifested?

production issues

Kicking off from a point that puts some of the process prior to a definitively decided project out in the open (for all and none), the blog begins - for real this time - with a cluster of issues that present an early dilemma. Luckily for me, it seems that these same might already appear as a cluster, too, of conceptual problems that could play into anything I pursue along the lines that this project sets out on.

Long story short, I'm into looking at the workings, pluses/pitfalls and political (always already personal) practices manifested in online activist communities - particularly on what might get labeled the 'radical left.' Without getting into the sinuous and potentially endless production of explaining exactly what that means (for now), let's just say that I'm interested in those with (nebulous or explicit) anarchist leanings, 'radical' anti-capitalist and anti-oppression politics. In and of itself, these designations open up a hornets' nest of differences and disagreements (platformist vs. synthesist vs. poststructuralist anarchsims, for example); more pertinently though, the exercise of operationalizing such a project idea as a (virtually) located 'cyberspace ethnography' in a minimal time-frame presents its own issues:

1) interaction: A lot of obvious 'activist' (especially 'anarchist') sites are essentially Indymedia or message-board type productions; no dialogue, as such. 'cyberspace ethnography' (or whatever) seems like it needs to be beyond 'discourse analysis' of texts that only 'interact' in the indirect manner of texts everywhere that don't particularly seek to address others in an explicitly conceived dialogue (with whatever elements). Possible solutions: high volume blogging (with interlocutors love of commentary), discussion groups, or...???
2) spaces/locations: I've previously focused on activist productions largely around and about the city of Montreal; in 'meat-space' it's pretty helpful to draw these kinds of boundaries, if only to focus one's efforts. With an exception 0or two, those virtual locations associated with the geographical one I've been stuck on fall into the rpoblematic outlined above. Maybe 'local' sites are structured as they are bc the 'real action' is virtually unlocalizeable in geographic terms?
3) really an offshoot of the above: what would it mean for the relationship between online 'activist' or 'anarchist' communities and the (inevitably somewhat) local geographic contexts of what many anarchists have been fond of calling 'direct action' or 'la propagande par le fait'?

Points to ponder...

Monday, January 5, 2009

and so it begins... what is all the fuss about?