Other Worlds Are (already) Possible: Cyber-Internationalism and Post-Capitalist Cultures
Draft Notes for the Cyberspace Panel, Life after Capitalism Programme, World Social Forum, Porto Alegre, January 23-28, 2003.
Note: These notes have been prepared following the general instructions for the LAC panels, that is, to focus on vision (“What do we want”) and strategy (“How do we get it?”).
Note: These notes have been prepared following the general instructions for the LAC panels, that is, to focus on vision (“What do we want”) and strategy (“How do we get it?”).
I. A. “What do we want?”
What we want is the full development of cyberspatial practices (“cybercultures”) that fulfill the novel promises of digital technologies while contributing to, and providing a new model for, the pluralization and democratization of social, economic, and ecological life. In is utopian conception –and to some extent in actual practice-- cyberspace builds on a decentralized, non-hierarchical logic of self-organization. This logic can also be seen at play in many instances of complexity in biological and social life; at their best, this complexity fosters the emergence of unexpected cultures and forms of life. We want social movements and social actors to build on this logic in order to create unheard of forms of collective intelligence – subaltern “intelligent communities” capable of re-imagining the world and of inventing alternative processes of world-making. Meshworks of social movements are the best hope to achieve this goal at present, although net artists and others are also making valuable contributions. The result could be a type of world-scale networking based on internationalist principles (a Fifth International? The Cyber-spatial international).
1. For centuries, if not millennia, economic and social life have been largely organized on a logic of order, centralization, and hierarchy building. In the past few hundred years, this model has been pushed by capitalism and its drive to accumulation, and by ruling structures in which the few privilege at the expense of the many. A different logic or model of social organization (which was always possible and always at play, albeit marginalized and largely invisible) has become increasingly visible in the most recent decades. This model is most clearly visible in two domains: digital technologies (cyberspace, as the universe of digital networks, interactions and interfaces); and the sciences of complexity, particularly in biology and other aspects of natural life.
2. Cyberspace (and in general the domain of new information and communication technologies, ICTs) is based on a model that is very different from that of modern media: information as “data,” a world of active emitters and passive receivers, unidirectionality of flows, tight ideological control, and the production of news media that reflect the world as seen by those who rule it. It is a top-down, one-way model of information, an action-reaction model. The model fostered by ICTs contrasts sharply with this dominant model: first of all, it is based on interactivity as an altogether new framework of interaction (referring not to an act, but to a different framework for action, of subject-subject interaction, a profoundly relational model in which negotiated views of reality are built, where all receivers are also potentially emitters, a space of truly dialogical interaction, as in the best examples of net.art,). Second, cyberspace in particular can be seen as a decentralized archipelago of relatively autonomous zones, in which communities produce their own media (rather than mass media), and where they grab, process and produce their own information. Third, ICTs and cyberspace promote the creation of networked cultures without the fixed and homogenized identities assumed by the mass media, new routes for the circulation of ideas (not subject to centralized controls), the irruption of sub-cultures aware of the need to re-invent social and political orders, a space for inter-cultural exchange and the construction of shared artistic and political strategies. As such, it affords an unprecedented opportunity to build new visions with peoples from all over the world (in this sense, Porto Alegre can be seen partly as a result of this dynamic). Here we are talking about a micropolitics for the production of local knowledge made possible by the “fluid architecture” of cyberspace, emphasizing the “molecular” (as opposed to molar, or characterized by large, homogeneous aggregates) nature of cyberspace. This micropolitics consists of practices of mixing, reusing, and recombination of knowledge and information.
2. In other words, ICTs enact a new model of life and world-making, with the potential of seeing cyberspace as a knowledge space, a space of collective intelligence, a “noosphere,” a signifying space of subject-subject interaction (individually and collectively) for the creation and negotiation of visions and meanings. These systems of networked intelligence could be of great cultural, social, and political potential. The result would be an inter-networked society of intelligent communities, centered on the democratic production of culture and subjectivity; in the long run, this may amount to a significant anthropological mutation or human transformation, perhaps a new stage in humanity’s development or hominization (Pierre Lévy’s thesis / Teilhard de Chardin’s notions). Rather than at the service of capital, this new economy of knowledge would be at the service of an emerging humanity of cooperation, pluralism (singularity), and collective learning. It would be receptive to a multiplicity of life forms and cultures rather than to the flattening of identities effected by capital’s steam rolling media; it would enable a re-signification of social and biological life and of freedom; it could get to constitute a new platform for the self-production of human groups and their cultural and natural worlds.
This is also to say that the net and ICTs have created an unprecedented shift in what we understand by “culture.” Some speak of cybercultures, meaning the cultural practices that arise out of, and around, the new media (Harcourt/Escobar). The Net takes us out of out usual “homes” (places, spaces of habitation, modes of thinking), redefining in so doing our very homes and places (Burbano)
3. A similar model for the production of life and the world is emerging from the sciences of complexity and self-organization. Ants, swarming molds, cities, certain markets are example of what these scientists call “complex adaptive behavior.” (Thousands of invisible single-celled mold units occasionally coalesce into a swarm and create a visible large mold. Ant colonies developed over a long time span with no central pacemaker, since the queen does not give orders and is no authority at all. Local markets used to link efficiently myriad producers and consumers with prices setting themselves in a way that was understood locally, without any central control at all ) In this type of situation, simple beginnings lead to complex entities, without there being any master plan or central intelligence planning it. These are usually bottom-up processes; agents working at one (local) scale produce behavior and forms at higher scale (e.g., the great ant-globalization demonstrations of the last few years). Simple rules at one level give rise to sophistication and complexity at another level. This is what is called emergence: the fact that the actions of multiple agents interacting dynamically and following local rules rather than top-down commands result in some kind of visible macro-behavior or structure. There is more: these systems are (some times, not always!) “adaptive”: they learn over time, responding more effectively to the changing needs of their environment.
4. As with cities, emergent behavior usually shows a mix of order and anarchy, meshworks and hierarchies (e.g., myriad encounters in side walks vs. rigid rules). The important issue is the logic of self-organization at play (and which planning tries to control, those curtailing the self-organizing potential of diverse agents or multiplicities.). It is important to respect and build on this logic (some new software and interfaces attempt to do just this, by learning to recognize complexity). This entails building on the logic of distributed (not centralized), bottom-up intelligence as opposed to unified, top-down forms.
5. As collective intelligence and adaptive emergence, cyberspace can be thought about in terms of the network form. There are, however, all kinds of networks. Many reproduce the sins of the past (command-and-control systems, narrow goals, centralization, etc.). We are talking here about a particular kind of network form. It is possible to distinguish between two general types: more or less rigid hierarchies, and flexible, non-hierarchical, decentralized and self-organizing meshworks (de Landa’s distinction). This is a key distinction that underlies two alternative philosophies of life. Hierarchies entail a degree of centralized control, ranks, overt planning, homogenization, and particular goals and rules of behavior conducive to those goals. The military, capitalist enterprises and most bureaucratic organizations, for instance, have largely operated on this basis, although they are also shifting partially to the logic of meshworking. Meshworks, on the contrary, are based on decentralized decision making (such as the “swarming effect” just described), self-organization, and heterogeneity and diversity. Since they are non-hierarchical, they have no overt goals. It can be said they follow the dynamics of life, developing through their encounter with their environments (by “drift”), although conserving their basic structure. Other metaphors used to describe these phenomena are tree-like structures or “strata” (for hierarchies) and “rhizomes” or “self-consistent aggregates” for meshworks. The metaphor or rhizomes suggests network of heterogenous elements that grow in unplanned directions, following the real-life situations they encounter. The former shun heterogeneity and diversity, the latter welcome it. Two very different life philosophies. It should be made clear, however, that these two principles are found mixed in operation in most real life examples. They could also give rise to one another (as when social movement meshworks develop hierarchies and centralization). The internet is a case in point: having grown mostly on the model of self-organization (by drift), it became increasingly colonized by hierarchical forms (from the military to e-bussiness and media, which have attempted to turn it into another space of mass consumption of commodities and information). Today, the internet can be said to be a hybrid of meshwork and hierarchy components, with a tendency to increase the elements of command and control (de Landa); hence the importance of defending cyberspace from this appropriation (see below, Strategies).
To sum up, what we are saying is that in cyberspace and complexity we find a viable model of social life. This model is based on self-organization, non-hierarchy, and complex adaptive behavior on the part of agents. This model contrasts sharply with the dominant model of capitalism and modernity, particularly in their incarnation as neo-liberal globalization (NLG). This model is closer in spirit to philosophical anarchism and anarcho-socialism and may provide general guidelines for internationalist networking. The model of self-organization (SO), finally, constitutes an entirely different form for the creation of biological, social, and economic life. What we want is the world’s Left to take this model seriously in their organizing, resistance, and creative practices. The lessons for the Left are clear! In the long run, this amounts to reinventing the nature and dynamics of social emancipation itself. The left is thus confronted with a novel sociology and politics of emergence from this perspective (Boaventura de Sousa Santos)..
1. The transformation in question is already happening, but it is possible to make it more conscious. Let us focus on the anti-globalization social movements (AGMs). These movements may be seen as fostering an “artificial emergence” in their attempt to counter the deadening hierarchy-laden systems of NLG. None of the movements making up the AGM can by itself tackle the entire “system” or the global situation (not even understand it as a whole), yet they have shown that they work together in some coordinated fashion. They do not take their cues from any central committee, but act largely in response to local/national concerns, albeit having in mind some global issues (Osterweil’s argument about Italian movements). With AGMs, in short, we have a case where local collective action results in global behavior.... at least some times (or is there a global effect always going on, besides and beyond the visible global manifestations? Is there a stifling “Seattle effect” that does not let us see the always on-going swarming that goes on at the local/regional levels, that in some way is also “global”?). In other words, while no single movement can “see the whole” (e.g, for an Italian movement it is hard to see the complexity of a local movement in a Colombian rainforest, and for both hard to see the complexity that their combined action might create, let aline when linked to a greater number of more diverse movements!), the fact that there are forms of globally emergent behavior affects what particular movements think and do. In other words, place-based and other local movements contribute to emergent behavior, that is, forms of macro-intelligence and adaptability, even if the “overall state of the system” might be difficult to assess (actually such assessments might be counter-productive, or at least always a perilous reduction). In these cases, global forms of knowledge and strategy making cannot be reduced to the individual movements making it up. The “global movement” may indeed develop its life and adapt over a much longer time span than any individual movement that contributes to it (e.g, ant colony vs. individual ants).
2. In other words, AGMs can be thought about as a self-organizing network (meshwork) of movements that produces behavior that goes beyond each individual movement (there has to be feedback among agents to alter agents’ behavior). Again, here it would be a question of proving the means for suitable interactions (through f2f encounters, cyberspace, etc.: eg, as the sidewalks in the city operate as interface for SO behavior). These interfaces need to foster complex learning that would not happen just locally. This suggests that when thinking about AGMs it is important to think about two dynamics: the day-to-day lives of individual movements; and the historical scale of collective movement over the years (different ethnography requirements). To this we might add the macro-scale of human society over long periods. Movements (and persons) are not very good at keeping these various levels in mind, and at responding to changing patterns over time. It is important to recognize the role of SO behavior in it to foster it [Utopian Hypothesis: that there will occur a phase transition as a result of AGM activity, that is, a radical change in state and organization at a critical juncture, perhaps promoted by some sort of non-linear dynamics in the mechanisms of the world economy, ecology, ideology, etc., with positive feedback and auto-catalytic loops, etc. The utopia of a Giant Leap, a transition in consciousness, reverberating from one end of the globe to the other, as in one Global Pulse produced by music; see the 1 Giant Leap music project, www.1giantleap.tv)]
Of course, not any interface or collection of agents is able to produce adaptive, emergent behavior (e.g., highways vs. sidewalks). Many environments suppress such behavior, hence the need to nourish it. There has to be both connection and organization. Even the web does not show self-organizing behavior any more, not structures that can foster it. It does not create higher-level learning. Like many other systems, the web/ cyberspace might promote self-organization (SO) but not adaptive behavior –that is, a behavior that has learned from the interaction with its environment (e.g, snowflake vs. neural net). The web in fact does not seem to be becoming more intelligent. In other words, SO needs to be steered in specific ways to produce the kinds of collective intelligence (CI) that are needed. Connections need to foster higher learning, through feedback. Networks need to learn as they grow. They learn by making links with each other, with many other sites. The greater the interconnectedness, the greater the likelihood of positive feedback. Reverberations happen, and the system itself –rather than specific agents– starts to lead the dynamics. Negative feedback is also important in attempting to steer a system into particular goals, making it into a complex adaptive system (CAS). What is needed then is a combination of ever-widening positive feedback and some negative feedback –again, SO with some measure of leadership and regulation. The need for some self-regulation and decentralized control arises when the community/system cannot reach a constructive balance on its own. Movements should learn to “read the signs” as well and adapt to it (negative feedback), but also learn to capitalize on the swarming behavior and positive feedback of SO (high signal, low noise). To foster interactivity conducive to these ends it is necessary to think about the rules of interaction. The system needs to “wired” accordingly.
3. This double dynamic seems to be already at present in the Porto Alegre-initiated proposal for a Social Movements World Network. Taking advantage of the virtual and real space created POA’s WSF, this proposal aims at creating a minimum base for a world network of social movements. The proposal stems from the recognition of the need for “new structures, decision-making processes and new formations to articulate and drive a radical democratic, feminist, internationalist and anti-imperialist agenda.” The network “would help us develop the conditions so that the diverse social movements of the world can exchange analyses, opinions and information on the present conjuncture and establish some shared priorities and necessary tasks .... The objective is to go beyond episodic encounters among the movements of the diverse countries and continents, to construct a deeper political debate, to establish horizontal structures to facilitate exchange and common actions and to extend the reach of the movements in all the continents (See Proposal at the WSF web site). The proposal resonates closely with the logic of complexity that builds on the logic of self-organization of meshworks combined with some elements of structure and regulation just described. The proposal is also attuned to the newer forms of politics of contemporary movements (radical democratic, feminist, anti-hierarchical, anti-imperialist and anti-racist politics).
4. Electronic art (e.g., net.art, software art, transgenic art) is largely focused on these problems. Situated at the intersection of technology, art and culture, it brings artistic and the social together through technology; that is, it sees what happens in the web in relation to intricate socio-political events, of which, say the “hacktivism” of the EZLN is a clear case in point. The interventions and peripheral appropriations of peripheral net.artists in particular take place according to a local logic and defy the dominant economic construction of reality, and of he net in particular. E-art continues to build in this way on a critical aesthetic tradition. Some examples are alternative web browsers and interfaces that re-conceptualize the web as an open-ended domain of information rather than a bounded set, opening the net towards infinity. Others seek to use the net as an intelligent application rather than a giant data base. It is the user who dialogues with the net, generating flows of text, images and sound, and all within a context that retains memory of past interactions. These forms of art are geared to re-investing the net with flexibility and freedom, and to counteract the limiting and authoritarian tendencies of most contemporary applications (See Burbano and Barragán’s collection for Latin American electronic art).
The question of form is as crucial to net art as to other radical aesthetic movements of the past.. The Mexican net artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, for instance, uses a panoply of technologies to create works that question the revolutionary aesthetic of past Mexican painters, muralists and graphic artists based on a linear conception of history and a romantic vision of the Indian masses. Rather than a monologic representation of the past, his virtual art (e.g, a massive work in the Zocalo using computers and giant light canons, which people throughout the world could interact with and intervene upon from their terminals) operated as a space of critique of dominant identitarian narratives (e.g. as in most light and sound “end of millennium” celebrations, with their “special effects” provided by the dot com capitalist enterprises). The work was interactive from its very design. It was a way to use the power of high tech in a subversive manner, à la Marcos. For Lozano-Hemmer, what matters is for the media artist to give new uses to technology in order to break down stereotypes and open up to novel creative languages and forms. What this means if that if it is true that digital art is the product of transnational capitalism and the military-industrial complex, artist can implement strategies to subvert it and indeed they are at the avant-garde of such a subversion and the creation of new forms. For Brazilian artist Eduardo Kac, transgenic art can make visible new possibilities of alterity. Even an encounter with the “transgenic other” (e.g., the famous GFP Bunny, a rabbit endowed with a green fluorescent protein) elicits a response on our part, thus necessarily entailing an ethical responsibility (there are new interfaces, such as Kac’s human-plant-bird-mammal-robot-insect-bacteria, akin to Haraway’s bom-chip-gene-seed....). From this artist we can take the idea that the principle of interaction (or interactivity) needs to be always grounded in notion of individual and collective ethical responsibility (as both caring and possibility of response). Interactivity is, in this way, about intersubjectivity and the profound relationality of existence, including the non-human world. Transgenic art reminds us that what is at the basis of life is communication and interaction with all life forms.
Net artists are interested in forms of interactivity that go beyond the illusory “clicking” here and there. Interactivity cannot being and end in the screen. This brings to the fore the problem of interface design and the need for an interface anthropology. Interfaces have to foster subject-subject interaction for the production of meaning, by using properly the signifying space made possible by machines [Cyberspace as signifying space for subject-subject interaction in the production and negotiation of meaning]. Again, “interactivity” refers not to an act, but to a framework of action that is quite different from the action-reaction paradigm. This framework puts into question the model of the audovisual media market of a single cultural universe of consumption. Machine program –digital interfaces– need to enable the user’s dialogic interpellation (e.g, hypertextual model; see the work of Argentinian communications exper Gabriela Habich). Online communities, for instance, are able to share the construction of a discourse, a virtual public sphere of sorts through dialogical interactivity. In these cases we do not have two sides (emitters and receptors) but “a reciprocal dis-location, an ex-centric and de-hierarchized dispersion (a rhizome) in which all receptors are also emitters -even if just in potentia” (Spanish artist Luis Brea). Online communities would always be in the process of constructing their own narrative in the endless circulation of dialogue, the assembling of a multiplicity of singular efforts (some e-mail lists approach this ideal, and legendary virtual communities such as The Well. Virtual sit-ins, electronic disturbance and resistance, etc. are also cases in point).
In short, electronic art reminds us that the vocation of the Net is that of multiplicity and difference. There can never be a single giant Net, a Superhighway with only one style of navigation; the net is contamination and multiculturality par excellence: it is made up of a multiplicity of nets and communities disseminated. From this perspective, it can be said that social movements propitiate “communitarian moments” that is, moments where communities without fixed identities are created through “difference effects,” and as so many expressions of free difference. The world-wide consciousness of the AGMs is largely and effect of this new sensibility; to this extent, the net has enabled the coming together of a host of social and cultural minorities to produce effects at various levels and in various social and political conditions.
5. To get back to movements. AGMs could be thought about as building decentralized intelligence partly with the help of, and following the non-colonized logic of, ICTs, particularly cyberspace. Despite the fact that this same strategy is to some extent followed by capital, it seems to be the best hope for the future. The need to avoid centralized power and control is paramount. Adaptive self-organization is the best alternative available. This “politics of emergence” (S. Johnson) show that there can be CI and even “real results” (in terms of power) in SO, “swarming” behavior. If it is true that global capitalism and information society operate more and more like a distributed network, movements would do better build on the same logic and get ahead of the game. The movements have the advantage, since in the end capitalism’s contradictions –particular its tendency to re/introduce a measure of control, centralization and hierarchy into its networks– suggest that it will defeat its own attempts at adaptation. Unable to really pursue a strategy of CI, capitalism will progressively loose out to an AGM which, when all is said and done, will have learned to “think like a swarm” (S. Johnson). They will develop a degree of self-awareness that only distributed intelligence can muster: that of contributing with every action and political act to long term processes of alternative world-making
In sum, the question before us is: Can AGMs create a sort of collective intelligence that opposes the collective ignorance of NLG? If so, cyberspace and ICTs are central to this project. These movements would show complex adaptive and emergent behavior on their own, and would propitiate it for society as a whole out of their own local work. In fact, it can be said that the “behavioral ecology” of AGMs shows that they have indeed developed adaptive behavior to the changing environment of cyberspace. Our vision of the future could then well build on the relational, radically self-organizing principle of networking as the one most appropriate to the social movements of today (Waterman’s declaration, this session). It is on this basis that an international/ist challenge and alternative to NLG can be most effectively advanced.
6. A final caveat is in order. For the vision presented above to have a chance it has to be accompanied by an ineluctable obligation: “to the local/locale; to the marginalized; to the public sphere, to a constant critical self examination” (Waterman, this session). This is not easy to accomplish, since the very same ICTs foster a disregard for locality, body and place. ICTs foster a degree of global de-localization and erasure of body/embodiment and place that is perhaps greater than ever before. Feminists and environmentalists are very much aware of this fact (Harcourt/Escobar, Virilio). There is a political ecology of cyberculture that suggests that the “cultures” developed out of ICTs-supported networking need to be conscious of the double character of the struggle: over the very nature of cyberspace and ICTs, on the one hand (to make sure they do not go back solely to the logics of the past); and over the real restructuring of the world being effected by ICTs-led transnational capitalism and NLG. This means that if the aim is to create intelligent communities, these need to be ecological and ethical in the broad sense of these terms. Cyberspatial practices need to contribute to the transformative defense of place and cultural difference (as resistance to the normalizing logic of hiearchies), even as they create novel forms of trans-local interaction and communities. Some women, environmental, and ethnic social movements seem to be particularly attuned to this problematic. There is thus a cultural politics of cyberspace that resists, transforms, and presents alternatives to the dominant real and virtual worlds. This cybercultural politics can be most effective if it fulfills two conditions: awareness of the dominant worlds that are being created by the same technologies on which the progressive networks rely; and an ongoing tacking back and forth between cyberpolitics and place-based politics, or political activism in the physical locations where networkers sit and live. This is precisely the politics that some of today’s movements are attempting to develop in creatively combining local and global strategies for action, local and global goals, local and global interaction (SID’s Women and the Politics of Place project,
Brief technical note:
The debate on the nature of ICTs –including questions of form, and their political and liberatory character-- goes back to early days of cybernetics. These debates took a largely conservative character as the movement (both cybernetics and systems science in general) were taken over by reactionary institutions and goals (e.g., development of systems analysis, operations research, and AI for military and narrow business purposes). The development of the Internet in particular rekindled the debate on the scope, form and politics of these technologies. I have referred here in particular to Pierre Lévy’s notion of cyberspace in terms of collective intelligence. Lévy’s works have been available in Portuguese and Spanish since the early 1990s, more recently in English. I have also leaned on de Landa’s recent work on interfaces (see his web page, I also found tremendously useful a recent collection on Latin American electronic art by Colombian artists Andrés Burbano and Hernando Barragán (see the book and CDROM in the references, and also the hipercubo/ok/ project’s web page, Histories of the Internet before it was “colonized” show the logic of decentralization and SO that drove it in its early years (Brian Murphy). Among the most caustic, but enlightened, critic of these technologies is Paul Virilio.
Debates on self-organization also date back a while, at least to the 1970s, with the work of pioneers like Eric Jantsch and Conrad Waddington, and in less direct ways the entire wave of systems thinkers and the so-called general systems theory. Ilya Prigogine and Isabel Stengers certainly took these debates into a new dimension with their famous work of the early 1980s, but many others have contributed to this effort. This could be said to have been the take off of complexity and research on complex adaptive systems, which continues today in earnest (although far from being the orthodoxy!). This thought was believed to constitute a paradigmatic break in the hard sciences. Among the first to signal its implications for the social sciences was Boaventura de Sousa Santos, who in the 1980s called on all social scientists to take the new trends seriously (A volume will be published soon with contributions that assess this piece, see refs.). There are already a number of “histories of complexity” (some of the early ones are cited in Escobar 1994.). I have used here a very fine piece by Stephen Johnson that focuses on emergence in complex systems. Above all, I have relied on Manuel de Landa’s sustained effort at pushing complexity forward by focusing on social systems (besides natural systems). The Chilean phenomenological biologists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela have been in the background of a number of these debates (some times in explicit way). So have the French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, who made the crucial distinction between “arborescent” models (i.e., tree-like, hierarchical systems) and rhizomes. “We are tired of trees” and arborescent thinking, they told us, calling on us to think in terms of SO rhizomes as a means to manoeuver around the fascism of daily life. Some of the concepts of the Jesuit paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin are experiencing a minor renaissance in light of developments in both complexity and cyberspace (concepts such as noosphere, complexification, and hominization).
Finally, more and more people are turning their attention to networks in connection to movements. This has happened in both social movement discussions and in the academy, and, more frequently, at the intersection of these domains (e.g., Peter Waterman). A number of anthropologists are engaged in theorizing and doing the ethnography of networks (Mary King and Chaia Heller at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Michal Osterweil and Vinci Daro at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). Two dissertations on the broad theme of Zapatista networks have been recently completed (Solano-Leyva 2001, Olesen 2002). They are, of course, theorizations of networks from dominant perspectives, such as Aquilla and Ronfeldt (for the RAND Corporation). Finally, I should say that a great deal of what I have learned about these topics I owed to the movements and people I have worked with over the years, including the Process of Black Communities of the Colombian Pacific Coast; Wendy Harcourt and the “Women on the Net” and “Women and the Politics of Place” projects (Society for International Development, SID); our loose “Latin American social movements research group” (with Sonia Alvarez and Evelina Dagnino); and a number of gifted and committed graduate students in Massachusetts and Chapel Hill. I should mention also Alejandro Piscitelli for introducing me first to “things cyber” from a Latin American perspective in the late 1980s; Manuel de Landa for motivating me to delve deeper into complexity; and fellow anthropologists David Hess and Gustavo Lins Ribeiro for fruitful dialogue on cultures and politics of technology. I would, of course, have many other people to thank. The above are just the most directly influences in what I have attempted to present here.
Department of Anthropology
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Some Useful References
Alvarez, Sonia E. In Press. Contentious Feminisms: Critical Readings of Social Movements, NGOs, and Transnational Organizing in Latin America. Duke University Press..
Alvarez, Sonia E. 1998. “Latin American Feminisms `Go Global’: Trends in the 1990s and Challenges for the New Millennium.” In Cultures of Politics/Politics of Cultures. Revisioning Latin American Social Movements. Sonia E. Alvarez, Evelina Dagnino, and Arturo Escobar, eds. Pp. 293-3245. Boulder: Westview Press.
Arquilla, John, and David Ronfeldt. 2001. Networks and Netwars. Santa Monica, CA: Rand Corporation.
Burbano, Andrés, and Hernando Barragán, eds. 2002. hipercubo/ok/. arte, ciencia y tecnología en contextos próximos. Bogota: Universidad de los Andes / Goethe Institut
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Critical Art Ensemble. 1996. Electronic Civil Disobedience. Brooklyn: Autonomedia.
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de Landa, Manuel. 1997. A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History. New York: Zone Books.
de Landa, Manuel. n. d. “Meshoworks, Hierarchies and Interfaces” (web site:
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Escobar, Arturo. Forthcoming. “Actors, Networks, and New Knowledge Producers:
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Harcourt, Wendy, ed. 1999. Women@Internet. Creating New Cultures in Cyberspace. London: Zed Books.
Harcourt, Wendy, and Arturo Escobar. 2002. “Lead Article: Women and the Politics of Place.” Development 45(1): 7-14.
Jantsch, Erich. 1980. The Self-Organizing Universe. Oxford: Pergamon.
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