James.Ryan on 9 Feb 2001 05:07:38 -0000

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Re: <nettime> Strategic Spam

I think Ted and Jon have made some good points, but somehow to me neither
quite hits the mark.  This "Public Service" spam thing has struck a chord
with the idealistic, activist soul-of-my-forgotten-youth.  Anyway, here's
what I think, for what it's worth:

>you have a megaphone. it's got a volume knob. the markings on
>that knob are logarithmic: 1, 10, 100, 1000, 10000, 100000,
>1000000, 1000000, and so on. they denote how many people will
>hear what you say through it. you have a 'beautiful' or 'valu-
>able' idea. how loud do you turn it up?

Actually, I don't think this is accurate.  The megaphone is not that
smoothly adjustable.  From my point of view, it goes 1, 10, 100, 10000000.
Lists like Nettime are perhaps a 10 or a 100.  Non-commercial
issues-oriented websites, depending on their popularity, are anywhere from
a 1 to a 100.  Spam is 10000000.  There's really not much in between.
You're either stuck in a relatively small group of fairly like-minded
people, or you're blasting everyone indiscriminately.  My second point
(alluded to above) is the _target_.  With the megaphone analogy, basically
as you turn the volume up, more and more people hear you, but the message
is not targeted.  Any passers-by within range can hear it.  That is why I
don't think the megaphone analogy works (except for spam).  Websites cannot
reach people who are not already interested in a topic and actively
searching for information.  Lists tend to gather a small core of
contributors, generally all sharing interests and political leanings.  It's
more like you have a megaphone that has one setting, 10000000 (spam), a
bulletin board with millions of messages on it buried under layers of
advertisements (websites), and a bunch of highly-focused magazines (lists).
I realize that these metaphors suck, by the way...

>The best way around this is to establish networks or communities of
>correspondents who agree to share emails.  This is a tactic that online
>activists uses at various times... e.g. the Voters Telecommunication Watch

That's fine if you're just trying to coordinate a group of people who are
already interested in and sympathetic to what you have to say.  I suppose I
wasn't clear enough in my first post, but I read the first anonymous post
in this thread as a "call to arms" to use spam as a way to subvert the
existing information distribution networks which are controlled by
corporations with the asisstance of governments whose only purpose is to
keep us buying tons of shit we don't need and to prevent us from either
rioting in the streets or killing each other.  Corporations spend millions
to get the armies of couch potatoes to buy lipstick, beer and cars (and
then return docily to their couches), why not use spam to get them off
their asses and back into the streets?

Yes, it is an idealistic idea.  Yes, there is the risk that the messages
could be either deriled as "spam" or just plain "lost in the noise."  But
perhaps the potential good outweighs the risks?

                    t byfield                                                                                              
                    <tbyfield@panix.com>         To:     nettime-l@bbs.thing.net                                           
                    Sent by:                     cc:                                                                       
                    nettime-l-request@bbs        Subject:     Re: <nettime> Strategic Spam                                 

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