In August 2010, a year before Occupy kicked off, I posted the following comments on an article posted to the open newsire of Aotearoa Indymedia. The more things change, the more they stay the same…

“Sometimes people seem to get confused about the difference between a website (or email list) and a group or organisation. It doesn’t help that the poorly defined word ‘network’ often gets used interchangably to refer to any and all of these things. A website is not the same thing as an organisation for the same reason a building is not the same thing as an organisation. It is a private space which can be used by a particular group or organisation, or like Indymedia (at least in theory), a neutral space that can be used by anyone who feels attracted to it.

Unlike a building though, which requires organising a large number of people to build in the first place, a website can be built by one person. So it’s becoming more and more common for people to see the need to build a broader campaign around something, and set up a networking website/ forum/ email list/ FaeceBook group, and see who they can attract. To me this is just the online equivalent of calling a public meeting or open conference, and seeing who comes, and what ongoing relationships and results come out of it. This is what Simon has done, at the request of his group in Tamaki Makaurau, in creating Solidarity.org.nz [sadly not archived anywhere that I know of - Stypey, 2017].

In theory such a website is a neutral space, and whoever participates determines it’s tone and character. But as we’ve seen with Indy, this is not actually true in practice. At the end of the day, someone has admin access to the guts of the thing, and there is an implicit heirarchy in any website that begins with those people (admins), is delegated to whoever does the day to day troubleshooting and editing at the CMS level (moderators), who effectively excercise censorship and banning powers over participants.

So what we have is a class heirarchy within the website:

admin = ruling class

moderator = middle class

participant = working class

This is why it matters who sets up and maintains websites, which website gets used for organising, whose computers are hosting them etc and why people raise the sorts of concerns being raised by Anonymous1. I wish I had a simple solution to this problem. I don’t. I am hoping that the new generation of peer-to-peer social networking clients like Diaspora (http://www.joindiaspora.com/) might offer us a truly decentralised way to network, where no one person or group has to hold power over the root of the system. In the meantime, I would recommend directing people to existing activist networking sites like CoActivate.org, and We.RiseUp.net, rather than any one person or group setting up a space and expecting everyone else to find it neutral.

I hope we can keep in mind that what matters most is not which websites we are posting campaign and action ideas on, but what groups we are working with face-to-face in our own regions, and what actions we are putting our own time into. If websites and emails lists like Indy, Solidarity.org.nz, or DiscussionBeyondResistence - or even Facebook and Twitter for that matter - are a useful extension to that, great! Otherwise, just don’t use them. If you don’t like the person running this or that website, just don’t go there.

“Get off the internet, I’ll see you in the streets” - Le Tigre”

Filed April 8th, 2017 under open social networks, independent media

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