INC Synthesis -- Follow-up to Unlike-Us mailing-list closing

Today, Geert Lovink announced the termination of the Unlike-Us mailing-list. The Institude for Network Cultures decided to regroup their mailing lists into the new INC Synthesis mailing-list. Here’s a copy of the message I sent to this new list to respond to the announcement and, hopefully start some interesting discussion.


I did not follow the discussion on the mailing-list changes, but wanted
to comment a bit of Geert’s message on the late Unlike-Us mailing list.

On 5/20/20 1:28 PM, Geert Lovink wrote:
The list started in 2011 and has been moderately successful. Let’s say, it had its ups and downs…

Unlike-Us was great and came at a time when it was needed to bring together the people from the alternative Social Web, P2P and privacy activists, and independent Internet hosting parties. I would suggest that it was “moderately successful” partly because all these people had their own online venues already, quite a lot of diverging views, and in my opinion did not find here enough radical politics to sustain the conversation beyond technical issues that were discussed elsewhere – or rather: the radical politics involved in hackers taking to the infrastructure do not really match the abstraction that was dominating
this space ; more importantly, this list went looking at the mainstream and not the alternatives: it’s probably because the simple outlook of mainstream/alternatives does not match the reality of “the alternatives”.

I remember an informal meeting during UU#2 in Amsterdam where, in my enthusiasm, I declared that we were making history. Looking back, and watching where we stand now, I think that indeed, the people involved then have been growing in agency and are forming stronger and tighter solidarity networks than a decade ago. But the opposing forces have been intensifying as well.

From my perspective, “the alternatives” were not really into providing alternatives to “the mainstream” but instead were looking into creating free technologies and infrastructure for the resistance: not merely escaping the capitalist black hole that was absorbing all the humans and all the matter, but building the means to organize globally and resist it. I think we’ve gone a long way in that direction and grew stronger, although this is all very fragile anyway, as hackers are dealing with scraps, paling in comparison to the insane power of Internet Giants.

But as P2P technologies mature and acceptance grows, discontent also grows sharply – as do the tensions on people, energy, food, and water, in other words: the systematic war on life. After this event of the COVID-19 crisis, many more people understand the need to organize away from the capitalist surveillance system. There’s no reason yet to believe a majority of people will prefer to take to the streets instead of staying home consuming crap, or to stay home for a living and code/abstract away. What changed is that activists, who have continued to fight during the confinement realized how much they needed to find technologies matching their ethics – because of the need to gather and organize and the difficulty to do so in systems that are designed to track individuals and dislocate communities, because of the surveillance and censorship, because of the integration of such services in the apparatus of oppression. Many woke up to the lies of “information” in societies of control – what Deleuze defined as “the controlled system of watchwords” – maybe we could say in nuspeak: information is the timeline of hashtags.

If you want to continue the debate about social media alternatives, please subscribe to the ‘billions’ list, moderated by Sam de Silva out of Melbourne:

I’ve been through the whole archive of this list, and I must say I won’t subscribe to it, because it does not serve my purpose. I have no interest in following what happens to Fakebooz. I’m interested in what the peasants do against corporations and patriarchy, what commoners do to safeguard the Commons, and what hackers do to give them the means to organize the resistance and do it effectively and safely, to disrupt the watchwords, and to bring about a civilization that will escape solitary confinement.

Living within 6 walls never appealed to me, and many on this planet cannot even afford them six walls. If some dream to send humans into space, I dream that we realize that we’re already there. Nobody needs a
seventh wall. It’s when we turn away from them that their message become shallow until it fades away in the ambient noise. Whatever we do, they do something else, bigger, faster: but we still can step away and do without them. Let them crash. The only way to win this game is not to play it. If you like to support the alternative, you must use it and stay away from the propaganda: step where you want, and be sure it’s away from the Castle.

Good luck watching the wardens play their game.



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