Erik Haines on Tue, 14 Mar 2000 17:29:40 +0100 (CET)

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[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> tracking sci-fi futurists

>A friend of mine is making a documentary on resistance to corporations, 
> >and I'm helping.  I think he needs to interview some sci-fi future 
> >thinking types with an activist vision or outlook. Not just the ngos 
> >using the net to organize, but also those using the net or ideas it 
> >represents to transform the future.

The net, as various people have said, doesn't "represent" anything, really; 
it's a mirror.  (Or we could invoke Tom Lehrer's comment that life, and by 
extension the net, is like a toilet: what you get out of it depends on what 
you put into it. :))

If you consider the net to represent decentralization, or democratization, 
the Zapatistas of Mexico may provoke some thought.  If you're not familiar 
with them, they've been fighting the Mexican government (and the 
multinationals whose will it enforces) for some six years now, in a 
networked, mediated propaganda conflict as well as a more conventional 
guerilla manner.  They exhibit not only the decentralized, "anarchic" nature 
of the net, but also its fluidity. There's an extensive report by the Rand 
Corporation (the title is something like "The Zapatista Social Netwar") that 
you can find in pdf format on Rand's website. As I'm sure you know, Rand is 
a creature of the US Pentagon, so they see the unconventional tactics of the 
Zapatistas as a menace to be countered, and their reporting is 
correspondingly biased.  You should also check out the Zapatista website at

Another, less netty, but still interesting movement is the local development 
and empowerment scene, where inner cities and other areas that have 
effectively been cut off from the mainstream economic grid are attempting to 
develop their own economies, with a measure of autonomy, and in some cases 
even local currencies. Along with the Zapatistas, these are the ultimate 
corporate resisters: although the corporate power structure doesn't employ 
them, it does its best to suck every last drop of money out of their 
communities, and they're very hip to that fact.  These people are very much 
about bottom-up, grass (if not glass) roots democracy and, obviously, 
decentralization. Sometimes they are also very high tech, surprisingly so 
when many of the people in their commmunities may not even be print 
literate. The Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (, here in 
my home city of Boston, might be a useful or interesting example of such a 
group.  I believe they have some links to other groups.

I've had a lot of long arguments with friends about how to best oppose 
corporate power.  In the end, perhaps the only way is to deprive the 
corporations of enough money and labor that they collapse.  The best way I 
can think of to do that is to create a parallel economic structure that 
_doesn't_ exploit the workers or destroy the environment, that really meets 
people's needs and gives them fulfilling lives.  The net would be enormously 
useful in creating and maintaining such a structure.  But (time for another 
cliche) it is just another tool.  There's no sense organizing one's future 
around tools; any future worth living in is going to be organized around 

I've never posted to this list before, so I hope I'm doing this right.  I 
also hope I haven't grossly misinterpreted your question and posted a wad of 
useless trash. :)

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