Reinhold Grether on Tue, 6 Jun 2000 22:23:00 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Blueprint for TOYWAR II

Blueprint for TOYWAR II
>From Net Criticism to a Politics of Code
Theses on Network Economics and Network Politics
Written by Reinhold Grether
and translated by Brian Currid <>
Lecture, Tulipomania Dotcom Conference
June 2, 2000

In memory of Benno Ohnesorg who was killed on this day
33 years ago during an Anti-Shah-Demonstration in Berlin.

Kung Fu and Cheng Ho

Around 1400, no region of the world could measure up to
China.  Since the eleventh century, all fertile lands were linked
by a huge network of canals.  Paper money accelerated the
exchange of commodities, printing with movable type accelerated
the transfer of knowledge.  Gun powder and cannons had
defeated the Mongols and secured the caravan routes to
Russia and the Middle East.  However, the new medium was
fresh water -- even more so, salt water.  Private and public
fleets competed over trade in the canals, on the coast and
over the Indian and Pacific Oceans to Africa and Japan.  The
navigation instrument of the seas, the magnetic compass, is
a Chinese invention, it is conceivable that the official fleets
of Cheng Ho could have "discovered" the Portuguese natives
on the Southwest tip of Europe. But within a few years, the
Confucian bureaucracy let the routes of the new medium silt
up, and in 1436 even forbade the construction of sea-worthy
ships.  The Chinese spent the next 564 years around their canals,
and they are still waiting today for entry into the World Trade

Professionalization of Sects

Imagine an infinite regress, leaving behind world, body, and
the ego (das Ich).  In a purely mental process, the empty
reception faculties experiences itself as pure medium.  Adepts
from all around the world have created this condition of
luminous self-medialization, and interpreters from all cultures
have semanticized "notions" (Einfaelle) of transcendence into the
conventional world to every form of belief system.  Western
philosophers theorized this pneumatic process as a reflection
of eternal ideas, and the bearer of this reflective knowledge
stretches from the ancient theoria through the medieval artes
liberales to the modern humanities.   In contrast, if we isolate
a technological process in a black box, we are using a totally
different form of knowledge.  At issue here is a applicable,
control knowledge, intent on obtaining from a process the
most efficiently produced output possible.  Here, the Western
lines of tradition lead from the ancient techne through the
medieval artes mechanicae to the modern engineering sciences.
The object-oriented programming of computer science, in my
opinion, professionalizes a third form of knowledge, which I
term "network knowledge" (Netzwissen).  Again, this begins
with an encapsulation.  The informatized "object" is encapsulated
as a module.  This is still all quite similar to the industrial black
box.  But the object would merely be a meaningless component
on its own if it could not by definition communicate with other
objects.  A system of objects is structurally a communication
network, the conditions of which are always in fluctuation.
Object-oriented software is nothing but the "self-descriptive
language" of the network knowledge implemented in it.

Clash of Codes

1. In all human societies, there are three forms of knowledge:
reflection knowledge, application knowledge, and network
knowledge. 2. In all human societies, there are clashes of
codes between the forms of knowledge and their representatives.
3. With the technological media, network knowledge is undergoing
a tremendous burst of professionalization. 4. Beside reflection
science and application science, network science (Netzwissenschaft)
will establish itself as a third pillar of science. 5. Modularization
creates degrees of freedom. 6. The communicability of objects will
become increasingly intelligent. 7. The controlling powers find
themselves strategically in the defensive. 8. The controlling
powers must operate in codes of network knowledge. 9. All
codes are beautiful, because they increase complexity. 10. The
essence of the Net is flow, and in its disjointed character cannot
be controlled. 11. The happy Chinese: a second 1436 will not
take place.

Informational Cultivation

Information emerges as a local event in a narrow personal
context.  Fixed as a freely duplicable sequence of bits, the
now mobile information loses its local horizon of understanding
and reaches in a process of all world wide personal environments,
which can use the information;  this process has no monetary
value and is temporally successive.  Structurally speaking,
information is not a good of scarcity, but a good of abundance,
and there are essentially only three strategies to impose a fictional
scarcity onto information.  First:  one can make the transmission
channels scarce, and thus secure a transaction premium (Maut).
This is precisely what is done by the current domain name system,
which only makes a tiny spectrum of the in principle limitless space
of addresses available, and thus cultivable.  Second:  individualize
information, and thus create a positional surplus value which
makes the free good tradable in the market sense (the formation
of brands).  If one imposes a lexicon of domain names on the
asemantic field of numbers in the IP-address space, then all
social differences which this lexicon contains are capitalized to
become to positional goods with a monetary value.  The first
information transfer which here takes place is that of the social
distribution of the power structure itself.  Third, the abundant good
information takes on commodity form through strategies for the
informational production of surplus value. If one for example
reconstructs the semantic environment where information makes
sense, or if one develops a scenario of application options, or
if one shortens the time interval required until the information
reaches an interested customer, or if one translates it into
another language, one adds to the information a monetizable
informational surplus value.  The DNS System can take credit
for the fact that in relation to the IP-System it accelerates
and simplifies search and bookmarking operations, and thus
creates an informational surplus value.  If information must
be first produced, the theory of property rights, which predicts
a more steep path of knowledge production for private rights
of use, and open source theory, which expects comparative
development advantages through prestige-driven cooperation
chains, given open competition.  An optimal information
production and distribution, which both produces information
and distributes it rapidly, can probably only be achieved in a
hybrid mix -- which must constantly be renegotiated -- of
property rights and open source, and from partial information
cultivation with largely free information access.  General
solutions here arouse the most doubt.

Research Agenda

1)  The principle of counter-differentiation formed an enormous
drive for European development.  In this model, two irreducible
antagonists are sent out to compete in expenditures -- for example,
pope and emperor -- and both attempt to achieve hegemony by
stimulating, evolving, and outdoing the resources of their counterparts.
This leads at first to remarkable increases in internal differentiation
on both sides, and at some point to a shared collapse, which allows
those sailing along on board, protected from the wind -- for
example mercantile territorial states -- to then set full sail.   Instead
of now require from the Internet economic theory a decision
between market economy and gift economy, perhaps it is more
productive to first play out the model of counter differentiation
and to thematize the complex interplay of market and gift economy.

2)  I consider the fact that highly developed societies, down
into the upper margins of the lower classes, are pumping
gigantic sums of money into high risk sectors like the Internet
economy, to be a burst of vitality, regardless of any stock
market crash, comparable to tattooing and piercing; it burns
the ships it leaves behind, in order to then break out into the
unknown.  For just that reason, it would be good to know
exactly where the money has ended up.  We need to study
the actual property and power relations in the Net.  How
much actually flows into the evolution of net technology,
content and social structures?  How much is spent consumeristically
on the sweet trip of the dolcefarniente to bankruptcy?  And how
much is  being skimmed off the top of the bubble economy, without
having seen anything of the Net besides financial transfers?

3) Since the end of the 1960s, economists outdo one another
with arguments about why national economies suffer a loss of
prosperity due to inflationary tendencies.  By now, every television
viewer jumps at the word inflation.  The high flights of the
exchanges are however universally praised in the most glowing
terms.  The million dollar prize question is then why moderate
inflation for consumer goods is an evil, but a galloping inflation
on the stock markets a blessing?

4)  We now need to separate the dotcom from the Net
economy, and to study both separately.  I see most of the
dotcom economy as nothing else but a transfer of the paradigm
of process control from the industrial age to the Net, in many
cases doomed to failure.  These are businesses with vision,
corporate identity and business plan.  None of this functions
in the Net.  Net economy is pure fluxus, micro-networking,
modularization of the smallest units, work in parallel worlds.
Following emerging paths, delete everything else.  Fluid borders,
fluid knowledge. Multilogic instead of monologic.

Don't be afraid of dotcoms.

In the 1950s, in the factories of the Northern Italian automobile
industry, small groups of worker radicality formed which
distinguished themselves from the traditional union and party
representation with the term "operaismo."  The basic idea of
operaimso was to attack the capitalist production of surplus
value at the center of the capitalist production process,  and
thus to block the capitalist dynamic of development. In order
to do this, the entire production logistic of the automobile industry,
across divisions and factories, was reconstructed, all by hand
and without the help of a single computer.  In the end, all
neuralgic points of the entire matrix of value production were
known, so that a counter matrix of absenteeism, blockades
of deliveries and surprise strikes in the shortest period of time
brought the entire automobile industry to a standstill.  The
trick was to bring a more powerful enemy to the mat without

EToys ran into a similar trap.  After going public on May 20,
1999, it could barely walk, weighted down by all its financial
muscle.  In June, they began dealing with etoy, the first offer
was $30,000 -- answer a smiley -- in order to get rid of the
annoying domain neighbors once and for all .  When etoy
refused higher offers, they played the only trump card they
had, to bury etoy in an avalanche of legal costs -- and disappeared
until the end of the campaign from the radar screen.  As a typical
dotcompany lost in the Net, it was stuck in the circle of their
business-plan economic monologic, and found no way to counter
the possibilities of the Net which were breaking down on top
of their heads. To refresh your memory:  legally speaking, this
was a disagreement about brand names.  In the course of the
legal battle, eToys' argumentation crumbled more and more.
They even risked losing their legal claim on the trademark to etoy.
On the business level, in direct contact with the opponent, etoy
by no means limited itself to defending their domain.  etoy even
offered a merger, where they would have brought their own
domain into the merged company.  This kind of business logic
confused the enemy as much as the gearing of the campaign to
totally annihilate the stock value of eToys, which I developed
and set up, together with RTMark .  I have extensively described
the motives for this strategy in "Telepolis," and therefore will
here only give the pure numbers.  When I threw out the suggestion
to the lists, eToys stood at $55, when etoy was back on the Net
at $13.75: this means a loss in stock value loss of $4.97 billion
dollars. Stock market insiders attribute the loss in part to the
campaign.  In terms of the campaign, it is even more interesting
how a seemingly decisive strategy element occupied minds on
both sides.  A direct shock to customer relations, which eToys
can only build up on its web page, was threatened by a virtual
sit-in;  on the 10 days before Christmas, for five 15 minute
periods, campaign participants called up the web page of the
web server of eToys in masses, and sent it spinning.  Shortly
afterwards, a chain of 700 avatars formed on the Toywar
platform, one more ready for battle than the next, and no one
knew what they were plotting.  Soon, there were 3 toy warriors
for every eToys employee.  To top it all off, a constant stream of
protest mails, and a media campaign which spun faster and faster
until it reached the peaks of the world press.  Web campaigns
are won by those who tax the time and fantasy of the management
to an unimaginable extent.

What isn't code, isn't real.

A world cultural medium shaped by hundreds of millions of people
needs other rules than an Internet for a few ten thousand military
officers, scientists and computer freaks. First, because the cultural
bearers of past epochs, modeled for reflection and control, legally
attack the openness, freedom and transparency of implemented
net architectures with their claims on copyright, patent, brand
and liability and try to recode their ideological and mercantile
interests accordingly.  Second, the regulations governing of
bourgeois collective life like anonymity, crypto, privacy, and
security need new regulations.  Third, because the incompatibilities
between transnational attempts at regulation,  national legal systems,
and the system of developing rules are dramatically growing,
this opens for some a nostalgia for the good old days of the
pioneer years, for others, areas for action for a progressive
politics of the code, and for still others hopes for a "contrat
digital" of all netizens towards constructing a global net democracy.

Areas of action for a progressive politics of the code

In conclusion, a short sketch of possible areas for action,
which -- like dotcoms and the rest of us -- must answer the
following questions:  what is to be networked?  Why?
Which kinds of network knowledge will be professionalized?
Is the Internet making progress as a world culture medium?
Are new chances opening up for the production of world cultural

1.) ICANN. ICANN stands for a total control of the Internet
by the US government and for an artificial limitation of domain
names. ICANN is to take over the management of the A-Root
Server and become the highest regulatory authority of the Internet.
For this, there needs to be a double strategy:  a relentless
delegitimization from outside and a massive democratization
movement from the inside.  On the one hand, implementing
new top level domains throughout the entire existing system,
on the other hand obtaining ICANN membership and offering
a progressive politics from the inside.

2) Directing development policies towards financing wireless
broadband networks for developing regions.

3) A world-wide campaign towards introducing Open Source
in international organizations, governments, administrative units,
firm networks and schools.

4) Globalization of the multiplicity of languages.  90% of Net
intelligence falls through the cracks due to the forced use of
English.  The Anglocrats are just the other side of the virtual class.

5) The development of peer-to-peer architectures. Peer-to-peer
means that users give free access to files from their hard drive
to the Net without a server between them.  The future belongs to
Open Source projects like Freenet, especially if they export all
file formats, encrypt all files and make all computers anonymous.

6)  Calling in old protocol promises.  Further development of
the WWW towards a multiplicity of versions on user-alterable
web pages (editable documents) and towards free linking in
existing web pages (reversible links).

7)  The establishment of browserless networks as a further
development of Netomat.

8) Technification of the Internet culture. Mailing lists embody
the ideology of the status quo.  They can be transformed into
real cooperation platforms, so that multiple working groups
can work on parallel projects. Mailing list archives gain in
value, if the contributions are constantly re-linked with one
another.  Blaster technology can do this: it automatically links
references to topics.

9)  The construction of technical, media, and social infrastructures
of virtual protest.  In this direction, Alvar Freude, a co-author
of the "association blaster", as a semester project for Olia
Lialina's "Active Link"" seminar at the Merz Academy in
Stuttgart, is developing a "virtual demonstration network"
which can be used for virtual sit-ins.  Parallel to this, an
accompanying group of lawyers, political scientists, and
journalists has formed, which will bring the discussion on
the legitimacy and legality of net-activism to the public.

(This text was written as a discussion paper for the
Tulipomania Dotcom-Conference in Amsterdam and
Frankfurt. The political part of the paper owes a great
deal to the net politics debate in the mailing list "rohrpost".
Much of my thinking on this owes a great deal to Dirk
Schroeder. Brian Currid provided in no time the excellent
English translation.)

Benno Ohnesorg
Code and other Laws of Cyberspace
Alvar Freude
Reinhold Grether
How the Etoy Campaign Was Won
Reinhold Grether
Durchbruch zum Weltcode
Reinhold Grether
Von der Netzkritik zur Politik des Code

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