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This is cloud country, 2012
Montevideo Convention 2.0, 2012
The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: a) a permanent population; b) a defined territory; c) government; and d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states. […] The political existence of the state is independent of recognition by the other states. Even before recognition the state has the right to defend its integrity and independence, to provide for its conservation and prosperity, and consequently to organize itself as it sees fit, to legislate upon its interests, administer its services, and to define the jurisdiction and competence of its courts.
—Articles 1-3 of the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States [are describing the Internet]
At this point, it seems unnecessary to mention the potential sovereignty of corporate digital space—Facebook has a population greater than all but two countries; their terms-of-service are equivalent to a constitution; and their censorship guidelines are comparable to that of the Taliban, or Republican party. Internet companies like Facebook or Google produce space in place of a consumable product, thus providing the means to facilitate communication.
What is more important are the virtual territories created through communication—the formation of molecular assemblages within these molar, corporate-facilitated spaces. This document demonstrates how these virtual molecular assemblages satisfy the criteria for statehood as set out in the Montevideo Convention.
a) a permanent population
We are increasingly becoming netizens through our constant use and consequent reliance on the Internet. More and more mobile icons are appearing next to our names on Facebook, as a result of the proliferation of cloud-based apparatuses. At four in the morning, we are more likely to run into someone on a social networking site than on the street on which we live. With this intimate integration of technology and humanity, we are approaching a singularity-esque level of interconnectivity.
Even when we are not directly intercommunicating in these spaces, our profiles exist as a proof of our netizenship. The same rights and duties apply to these facsimiles, as they do to the users themselves.
b) a defined territory
Digital territory is created through communication. It is only through correspondence between occupants of a signifying territory that that territory is created, changed or extended. This territory is delineated through appropriation; through reappropriation; through plagiarism; through .jpgs, .gifs, .movs, etc.—intellectual “properties” that are uncontrollably de- and re-territorialized, constantly creating infinite chains of variable meaning. These territories are constantly in flux, simultaneously unique and intertwined as they form and re-form.
The shared space in which these territories emerge is a corporate product. The governing bodies of these spaces, private corporations, exercise a dictatorial rule over their citizens. These virtual governing bodies—molar entities—like governments of physical sovereign states, exist through simulacra: simulating the authority of a higher power. This is accomplished through the de-individuation of the population that composes the “communicative territory” that exists in-against-and-beyond the space that is produced by the corporation or state. Every Facebook profile exists within a given template. Stephen Harper speaks on behalf of “Canada.”
d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states
These spaces may exist in the parallel, virtual world, but the existence of this realm is dependent on physical space. Not only are the servers, cables, and apparatuses that constitute the Internet physically extant, but the nodes of this network of networks are real, actual, living beings. This parallel world is not a coexistent separate realm—it is simply another layer of the physical world; a method of international intercommunication, enabling forms of emergent democracy through the rhizomatic formation of communities, without the restrictions of physical space.
Corporate image search, 2012
"We must think beyond those who have gone before us, and discover technological changes that embolden us with ways to act in which our forebears could not."
This all started with Anna Walentynowicz. By this, I do not mean that this is who inspired this project, nor where I began. She is the one though, who this project is as a result of.
On 7 August 1980, Anna Walentynowicz was fired from her job at the Gdánsk shipyards for bringing to light fraudulent activity concerning workers’ bonus allotments. This, along with a recent government price increase, was enough to inspire a strike of over 1000 shipyard workers. They had two demands: wage increases to compensate for the price increases, and Walentynowicz’s reinstatement. The government quickly agreed to the demands, in order to subdue any further defiance. Upon this victory, Walentynowicz appealed to them: “What about the strikers in the other places, still on strike—will this government walk all over them?” Soon a nation-wide strike was underway, and the government reacted to it by cutting all modes of communication, primarily the telephone lines. The workers were unreachable, but so was the rest of the population. Sons trying to call their grandmothers were unable to talk to them. Consequently, it became clear that something was happening in Gdánsk. This resulted in the Gdánsk Agreement—which led to the removal and replacement of a corrupt regime, and in turn, to the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
This was not the only instance of the severance of communications demonstrating the potential for inciting political action. Another example of this was demonstrated in the Arab Spring, which both inspired and greatly informed many of the aspects of this thesis. In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak shut down the Internet throughout most of the country during the initial protests to limit communication on Facebook and Twitter between revolutionary groups. This did not just impact these communications—it had an impact on anyone trying to talk to their family; trying to pay their bills; even trying to watch a cute cat video on YouTube. As a result, these people (along with the rest of the world) knew their government had a reason to censor something—and hundreds of thousands of people flooded into the streets of Egypt. Less than a month later, Hosni Mubarak resigned. That is where this project began.
Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari have provided me a lens with which I could view society under capitalism, and understand and explain my role within. They explain the individual’s desire by placing them between two poles: the schizoid and the paranoid. Under capitalism, the individual is schizophrenic, due to roles and requirements imposed by labour and capital repressing movement between these two poles. The alternative they propose is a schizoid, subversive form of resistance, eluding subjugation—that “which manifest[s] molar modes of organization and seek[s] to maintain coherence against an outside identified as hostile”—by slipping through the cracks between the groupings that constitute capitalism (Thoburn, 2003: 38). They contrast molar entities—deindividuating groups; structures that correspond to prevailing social norms (they refer to them as the “herd instinct”)—to molecular assemblages, which can depart from, and subvert these norms. Deleuze writes about submission to structures as the “miraculating machine,” in the sense that through submission, one can produce schizoid forms of resistance. It is important to contrast this concept of revolution with the Marxist–Hegelian. Whereas Marx, influenced by Hegel, held faith in the world revolution—a climax at which the proletariat will achieve class consciousness and invoke the revolutionary moment, Deleuze instead describes a continuous revolution of consciousness. This is made possible through what Deleuze and Guattari refer to as bodies without organs. Borrowing from Wikipedia: “Every actual body has a set of traits, habits, movements, affects, etc. But every actual body has a virtual dimension, a vast reservoir of potential traits, connections, affects, movements, etc. This collection of potentials is what Deleuze calls the body without organs.”
Throughout the year, various people have expressed their confusion when I am babbling about these theories, telling me that I needed to analogize in order to let others (who haven’t been obsessively reading Deleuze for as long as I have) understand what I am talking about. I recently came to the realization that this thesis is the analogy—and I will explain how.
Brian Massumi states in the introduction to A Thousand Plateaus that “A concept is a brick. It can be used to build the courthouse of reason. Or it can be thrown through the window.” (1977: xii) The apparatuses we use to access the Internet have this same inherent ambiguity—they can be used both to reify the structures that govern us, or to decentralize the totality of power and distribute it democratically. A Blackberry—an anonymous, private (corporate) network—can be used by the Harper government to organize the construction of autocratic mega-jails, but was also subversively utilized by groups in London to organize mass riots and looting.
This anonymity that is enabled by corporately-produced private networks is crucial to insurrectionary tactics: Just as a black bloc may cloak themselves in corporately-produced black clothing, many of Anonymous’s DDoS attacks undoubtedly rely on a number of corporate servers and proxies. It was with these tools—the systems and protocols we use every day—that Occupy came about. These protests existed in online space long before the physical occupations occurred. These occupations were manifestations of the networks that formed on the Internet, in physical “public space”. The forced dissolution of occupations in North America proved yet again that this public space is not, in fact, public.
Contemporary anarchist theory has been useful to me as a form of negation: denying the established system of values’ basis in reality; attempting to deconstruct expected roles, institutions and paradigms; and as a justification for constantly being anti-something. Forget about changing ourselves to change the world: instead we must eliminate our identities (Crimethinc) Our digital lives are inherently multiplicitous, disparate elements crossing paths, constituting dynamic heterogeneous assemblages that project outward. As the Invisible Committee puts it in The Coming Insurrection:
"What am I? Tied in every way to […] all kinds of things that obviously are not me. Everything that attaches me to the world, all the links that constitute me, all the forces that compose me don’t form an identity, a thing displayable on cue, but a singular, shared, living existence."
Occupy Toronto was an impermanent example of anarchist social organization, without hierarchical structures, allocated tasks, or a consistent medium of exchange. The inherent problem with that, aside from the fact that most people wouldn’t want to live on a communal farm, is that these communities would be formed pragmatically, rather than organically. Through its momentary existence, Occupy was able to exist as a temporary autonomous zone—a space that eludes formal power and control structures, in the cracks as described by Deleuze: on the borderline of established regions within capitalism. Once something becomes permanent, it inevitably develops a structure, and becomes conservative, stifling creativity, in order to self-maintain. The constant concern about longevity was the main shortcoming of Occupy—theories of participatism and inclusivity were marred by the imminent threat of eviction, thus compromising the logistics necessary to translate these theories into practice—not to mention that many potential participants are not willing to camp out in the cold with the constant threat of police violence—they are more comfortable at home, on the Internet.
The Internet allows for the speculative application of theory, as well as the organic formation of these communities—a form of “countries without borders”—through a sort of gift economy: involuntarily anonymous exchanges of intangible commodities, devoid of authorship, context and property that are able to transcend the mutual reinforcement of a price-based understanding of value. This is how these virtual molecular assemblages form, and although they are not an end (by definition), they demonstrate the possibility of creating affect in the physical world, to be used in the process of achieving an end (revolution). Thus, the demise of Occupy at St. James Park wasn’t the end of Occupy, but rather the conclusion of St. James Park as a temporary autonomous zone.
The tragedy of the commons is not the annexing of land; it is the use of space as a tool to demonstrate influence, ideology, and power. This is evident in the architecture of the megacity down to the way we furnish our homes. You would be hard pressed to find a metropolis devoid of authority projected and demonstrated by buildings of inhuman scale, or a metropolitan dwelling devoid of IKEA products. Not only was Occupy a reclamation of the commons in this sense (from territorial influence, from ideology, and as a decentralization of power), but its physical architecture was also an exemplification of the subversion of the intended usage of corporate products: tents, pavilions, and even sleeping bags were manufactured by molar entities. These spaces were not manufactured with the intent of facilitating temporary autonomous zones, nor were they manufactured for use on family camping trips: they are products manufactured to sell for a profit.
Thus, the contradiction is that molar entities do not just appropriate space and resources for commerce—they create space as a corporate product. This space is then treated as shared—”public,” while still intrinsically private—illustrating the paradox inherent in the production of shared space by corporations. In the physical world, the governance of these spaces is absolute; totalising—for example, police destroying these corporate-produced spaces at the culmination of Occupy Toronto “for public safety.” However, unlike in the actual, encountering a “whole” within virtual spaces—bodies without organs—allows for the perception of a “totality alongside the parts, […] a whole of the parts, but which does not totalise them, a unity of the parts, but which does not unify them, and which is added to them as a new part constructed apart” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1983: 42). Hence, the governing bodies of these digital spaces are perceived as virtual entities—real, without being actual or possible.
This is because “things” on the Internet can exist in one chain of signifiers and simultaneously in thousands of unapproved others, thus creating a new kind of commons: one of signs and signifiers, without authors or owners to dictate their usage or meaning. This is reinforced by acts of creating content for distribution and communication in virtual space—short of watermarking an image, retention of owner–authorship is impossible. As a result, this leads to the diminishing importance of owner–authorship altogether—instead, the idea and values communicated through a virtual assemblage takes precedence. Thus, the virtual, parallel world of simulacra is democratized, through the Internet. My blog—this presentation—is proof of this. This is the realm where Deleuze posits that accepted ideals and paradigms can be “challenged and overturned” (Deleuze, 1994: 69).
The shared space that composes the parallel world, like public space in the physical world, is produced by corporate molar entities. Intellectual property becomes territory—”property” in the virtual realm. In these corporate-produced spaces, chains of signifiers constitute absolutely entwined and simultaneously distinct territories. Unlike the relationship between subjects and governing bodies of physical space, the playing field is leveled within these virtual bodies without organs—it is illegal to anonymously write “I HATE MCDONALDS” on one of their restaurants, but it is possible to anonymously tweet “@McDonalds I HATE MCDONALDS #mcdonalds,” and allow it to spread infinitely.
Paradoxically, the immateriality of a tweet is a more permanent and proliferative act of dissent than the act of writing on a wall, which is quickly and easily censored by grey paint. The power of anonymity is paradoxical as well—Facebook may be monetarily “free, and always will be,” but instead of paying with currency, we are paying for the service with something far more valuable: our identities. We self-fashion in the physical world—but the things we gravitate towards are not recorded, tallied and sold, like the things we “like” on Facebook. However, as these chains of signifiers in virtual space are free from the despotic signifiers of wealth, affluence, and beauty, this allows for a more accurate projection of values, and the undermining of the dominance of signifiers of capitalistic values and of conspicuous consumption. And through this, it is possible to accomplish what I set out to do in September: destigmatize alternatives to capitalism.
Crimethinc. God Only Knows What Devils We Are. 2012.
Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1983.
Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1987.
Deleuze, Gilles. Difference and Repetition. New York: Columbia UP, 1994.
Hakim, Bey. T.A.Z.: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism. Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia, 1991.
The Invisible Committee, The Coming Insurrection. Los Angeles, CA: Semiotext(e), 2009.
Sokolowski, John A., and Catherine M. Banks. “Case Study: The Polish Solidarity Movement—Laying the Foundation for the Collapse of Soviet Communism.”Modeling and Simulation for Analyzing Global Events. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2009.>
Swedish home furniture giant IKEA is taking a bold step toward urban planning, by acquiring 11 hectares of land in East London to build its very own neighborhood.
The Strand East, as it is called, will feature 1,200 rental homes—all of which will be priced to appeal to a range of incomes. […]
“We have a very good understanding of rubbish collection, of cleanliness, of landscape management,” says project manager Anthony Cobden.
Cobden adds that they further plan to “create a sense of place” that will be shaped rather than forced through promotion of community events, farmers’ markets and outdoor flower shops.
“We would have a fairly firm line on undesirable activity, whatever that may be,” says Cobden. “But we also feel we can say, okay, because we’ve kept control of the management of the commercial facilities, we have a fairly strong hand in what is said in terms of the activities that are held on site.”