Stefan J Wray on Fri, 14 Aug 1998 22:23:40 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> Amsterdam Mtg: ECD, IW, Ars Electronica

(rush delivery? remember the  announcer list, to be sent to fokky for delivery to your doorstep on fridays/m)

Wednesday, August 19, 9:00 p.m.
In the square in front of De Waag
Neiuwmarkt 4

Next month, people from around the world will meet at the annual Ars
Electronica festival in Linz, Austria, Sept. 7 to 12. This year's 20th
anniversay festival gathers under the banner of INFOWAR.

In advance of the Ars Electronica Infowar festival, you are invited to an
informal meeting/discussion in Amsterdam on Wednesday, August 19, 9:00
p.m. in the square in front of De Waag.
(For those who can not attend, see below for Infowar listserv details) We
would like to talk about several highly related subjects:

1) Electronic Civil Disobedience
2) Bottom-Up Information Warfare
3) Ars Electronica

"Electronic Civil Disobedience" is the name the Electronic Disturbance
Theater gives to its electronic actions against Mexican government web
sites. (see: The Electronic
Disturbance Theater is a small net-based group in the United States that
since April 1998 has targeted Mexican government web sites with its
FloodNet software because of that government's continued low-intensity
warfare strategy against the Zapatistas and others in southern Mexico.
FloodNet is a distributed system, dependent on mass participation, that
sends automated reload requests to a targeted site which has the effect of
simulating a blockade, sit-in, or protest at the entranceway to the site.

"Towards Bottom-Up Information Warfare" is an article just written that
hopefully can be used to frame discussion around a grassroots Information
Warfare theory and practice. (see below for full text or see: The main point of the short
 article is that we need to negate dominant conceptions of Information
Warfare that are primarily derived from a corporate-state and
military-intelligence point-of-view. Secondly, we need to look for positive
examples from our own experience to begin crafting a bottom-up approach to
Infowar. Third, it seems that resistance to future war - which we may say
has arrived - is a site for further exploration of a bottom-up view.

>From looking at the web site of this year's  Ars Electronica festival, it
seems the subject of Information Warfare is being broadly interpreted.
(see: We can see a range of
participants and sponsors, including people from more radical projects
along with representatives of the U.S. military. This sort of "open source"
environment has its advantages - we learn about them - and it has its
disadvantages - they learn about us. One problem with placing such a wide,
open, all-inclusive, frame around Information Warfare is that it then
becomes difficult to get a grip on this more slippery and blurred, gray
area, conception of Infowar. It is important to recognize and remember
that, as in traditional or conventional war, in the realm of Information
Warfare  there are also distinct sides. Identifying these sides, the
positions and interests they represent, is important.

With respect to Ars Electronica in its totality and to the different sides
or lines that will be drawn around Information Warfare, it seems there will
be a  group of people representing the corporate-state or
military-intelligence IW points-of-view, there will be a group representing
the bottom-up or radical grassroots IW  perspectives, there will be some
with an digital arts perspective on IW, and then there will be a majority
who don't allign themselves - or who are not alligned - with any one
particular conception of Information Warfare. The tendency of some may be
to maintain or obtain a consensus, an agreement not to disagree, around
Information Warfare, preferring the more muddled gray area middle ground,
while the tendency of others will be to take a more critical approach. This
latter approach in which sides are clearly noted and defined, it seems, is
what is necessary for developing a bottom-up critical approach to
Information Warfare theory and practice. By beginning discussion around
these sorts of matters now, we go in to Ars Electronica with a better sense
of who we are and where we stand in relation to others present.

Beyond Ars Electronica being a useful site for the furtherance of bottom-up
Information Warfare theory, the festival also should be a venue to advance
techniques and tactics. In the end, this may be the more important
potential of Ars Electronica. After all, the best bottom-up Information
Warfare theory is useless if the means to engage in information-based
conflict do not exist. Software devices like FloodNet are important, but
they can not be effectively used as singular instruments. There needs to be
a multitude, an array, of FloodNet-like devices in order to realize the
full potential of the SWARM proposal (the next phase of bottom-up Infowar
practice?), the enactment of a simultaneous, collective, mass action in
cyberspace involving multi-source and multi-range software devices. (see:

If you can not come to this discussion then join on-line discussion around
these subjects:


    go to

    go to Netsymposium

    find subscription form

Towards Bottom-Up Information Warfare Theory and Practice: Version 1.0
by Stefan Wray
August 5, 1998

(Stefan Wray wrote his masters thesis on "The Drug War and Information
Warfare in Mexico." ( He is a
New York member of the Electronic Disturbance Theater and is working on a
doctorate degree in communications at New York University.)

1.0 Bottom-Up Information Warfare

Bottom-up Information Warfare (BUIW) theory/praxis is needed because
dominant IW conceptions are not based on our interests, but on the
interests of the corporate-state and its military-intelligence community.
Bottom-up IW theory/praxis should negate dominant
corporate-state/military-intelligence IW theory/praxis and should affirm
our digital resistant experience and related theory/praxis. Resistance to
future war, totally dependent on information and communication technology
(ICT), is a useful area for exploration and elaboration of bottom-up IW
theory/praxis. Many of today's conflicts verge on future war and current
resistance to them provide sites for developing bottom-up IW ideas and

2.0 Negation of Dominant Information Warfare Conceptions

A negation of dominant corporate-state/military-intelligence IW theory
should be based on a close examination of the sources of these dominant
conceptions, the content and main conclusions, the underlying assumptions
and myths, and the context from which IW theory was produced. Primary
sources for dominant IW theory/praxis are U.S. academicians, scholars, and
analysts from places like the RAND Corporation, the National Defense
University, the U.S. Air Force, other branches of the military, public and
private universities, and 'independent' think-tanks. Dominant IW theorists
argue that, in today's information society, nations and corporations are
increasingly vulnerable to information-based attacks aimed at ICT
infrastructure. With the end of the Cold War, the ideology of Information
Warfare - often in conjunction with Drug War ideology - provides the state
and the military with a new rationale for growth and expansion.

3.0 Affirmation of Resistant Information Warfare Conceptions

An affirmation of bottom-up Information Warfare theory/praxis means
learning who we are, consolidating our own theory/praxis, and recasting
dominant myths and assumptions with ones more suited to our interests. So
far, bottom-up Information Warfare actors are an international mix of
computerized activists, politicized hackers, new media theorists, digital
artists, and others at the juncture of computers, media, radical politics,
and the arts. The theoretical basis for bottom-up Information Warfare is
from a mix of related sources including work on nomadic warfare (Bey;
Deleuze and Guattari), on electronic disturbance and civil disobedience
(Critical Art Ensemble), on tactical media (Next Five Minutes), and others.
Bottom-up IW praxis is not widespread, but one example of incipient work in
this area are the Electronic Civil Disobedience actions against the Mexican
government that use a device called FloodNet.

4.0 Resistance to Future War 

The Gulf War has been called the first Information War because of the heavy
reliance on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for military and
propagandistic purposes. Since the Gulf War such reliance on ICT - on
InfoWar technology - has become commonplace for both military conflicts,
such as in former Yugoslavia and in southern Mexico, as well as for law
enforcement efforts, for example, to control drugs and immigration. For all
intents and purposes, future war has arrived and people who resist war
today are finding that new means of electronic, digital, or virtual
resistance are becoming both possible and necessary. Cyberspacial
resistance to future war enables polyspacial hybrid forms of resistance
that combine the older rural-agrarian and urban-industrial models of
warfare, with the newer cyberspacial-informational forms.

5.0 Global Zapatista Internet Resistance 

A current example of hybrid rural, urban, and cyberspacial resistance is
the case of the global pro-Zapatista movement, which has demonstrated how
the Internet allows non-state actors to build networks of solidarity and
resistance across national borders. Immediately after January 1, 1994, the
Zapatistas had a strong Internet presence. Through email listservs like
Chiapas95, Cc: lists, and an array of interconnected web sites, a global
pro-Zapatista movement formed. This year political communication moved
toward political action as, for example, the Electronic Disturbance Theater
started Electronic Civil Disobedience actions against the Mexican
government. Also on several occasions this year, anti-government and
pro-Zapatista messages have been placed on Mexican government web sites.

6.0 An Electronic Boston Tea Party

As the Paris Salon is to political communication on the Internet, the
Boston Tea Party is to political action; more so it is a metaphor for
direct action. Although the bias of Internet politics favors the more
passive discursive space of political communication (the salon), things
like Electronic Civil Disobedience campaigns against the Mexican government
(the tea party) are expanding the range of possibilities. While individuals
and small groups have experimented with electronic resistance there is
still room for more experimentation and development of techniques and
devices. A particularly intriquing idea, that has not been tested, but that
has been proposed to Ars Electronica is a proposal for a SWARM, an
advanced, multiple source, ECD action happening on different levels and in
different spaces, somthing like a simultaneous convergence of numerous
electronic Boston Tea Parties.

7.0 Conclusions

There is a need for an elaboration and an expansion of bottom-up
Information Warfare theory/praxis. For this there needs to be a negation of
dominant top-down conceptions of Information Warfare and an affirmation of
resistant bottom-up conceptions. The sites of resistance to future war are
good locations for further thinking and practice of bottom-up Information
Warfare. The global pro-Zapatista movement is one site where such
experimention with electronic resistance has taken place. Finally, there
needs to be more experimentation and development of electronic techniques
and software devices for more advanced electronic civil disobedience.

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