Geert Lovink on Thu, 13 Aug 1998 08:59:36 +0200 (MET DST)

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nettime-nl: Nieuwmarkt, 19.8, 21.00: ECD, IW, ARS ELECTRONICA

Date: Wed, 12 Aug 1998 14:04:27 -0400 (EDT)
From: Stefan J Wray <>
Subject: Nieuwmarkt, 19.8, 21.00: ECD, IW, ARS ELECTRONICA


Wednesday, August 19, 9 p.m.
The square in front of De Waag (Nieuwmarkt)

Next month, people from around the world will meet at the annual Ars
Electronica festival in Linz, Austria, Sept. 7 to 12. This year's 20th
anniversay festival gathers under the banner of INFOWAR.

In advance of the Ars Electronica Infowar festival, you are invited to an
informal meeting/discussion in Amsterdam on Wednesday, August 19, at 9
p.m., in the square in front of De Waag.

(For those who can not attend, see below for Infowar listserv details) We
would like to talk about several highly related subjects:

1) Electronic Civil Disobedience
2) Bottom-Up Information Warfare
3) Ars Electronica

"Electronic Civil Disobedience" is the name the Electronic Disturbance
Theater gives to its electronic actions against Mexican government web
sites. (see: The Electronic
Disturbance Theater is a small net-based group in the United States that
since April 1998 has targeted Mexican government web sites with its
FloodNet software because of that government's continued low-intensity
warfare strategy against the Zapatistas and others in southern Mexico. 
FloodNet is a distributed system, dependent on mass participation, that
sends automated reload requests to a targeted site which has the effect of
simulating a blockade, sit-in, or protest at the entranceway to the site. 

"Towards Bottom-Up Information Warfare" is an article just written that
hopefully can be used to frame discussion around a grassroots Information
Warfare theory and practice. (see below for full text or see: The main point of the
short article is that we need to negate dominant conceptions of
Information Warfare that are primarily derived from a corporate-state and
military-intelligence point-of-view. Secondly, we need to look for
positive examples from our own experience to begin crafting a bottom-up
approach to Infowar. Third, it seems that resistance to future war - which
we may say has arrived - is a site for further exploration of a bottom-up

>From looking at the web site of this year's Ars Electronica festival, it
seems the subject of Information Warfare is being broadly interpreted. 
(see: We can see a range of
participants and sponsors, including people from more radical projects
along with representatives of the U.S. military. This sort of "open
source"  environment has its advantages - we learn about them - and it has
its disadvantages - they learn about us. One problem with placing such a
wide, open, all-inclusive, frame around Information Warfare is that it
then becomes difficult to get a grip on this more slippery and blurred,
gray area, conception of Infowar. It is important to recognize and
remember that, as in traditional or conventional war, in the realm of
Information Warfare there are also distinct sides. Identifying these
sides, the positions and interests they represent, is important. 

With respect to Ars Electronica in its totality and to the different sides
or lines that will be drawn around Information Warfare, it seems there
will be a group of people representing the corporate-state or
military-intelligence IW points-of-view, there will be a group
representing the bottom-up or radical grassroots IW perspectives, there
will be some with an digital arts perspective on IW, and then there will
be a majority who don't allign themselves - or who are not alligned - with
any one particular conception of Information Warfare. The tendency of some
may be to maintain or obtain a consensus, an agreement not to disagree,
around Information Warfare, preferring the more muddled gray area middle
ground, while the tendency of others will be to take a more critical
approach. This latter approach in which sides are clearly noted and
defined, it seems, is what is necessary for developing a bottom-up
critical approach to Information Warfare theory and practice. By beginning
discussion around these sorts of matters now, we go in to Ars Electronica
with a better sense of who we are and where we stand in relation to others

Beyond Ars Electronica being a useful site for the furtherance of
bottom-up Information Warfare theory, the festival also should be a venue
to advance techniques and tactics. In the end, this may be the more
important potential of Ars Electronica. After all, the best bottom-up
Information Warfare theory is useless if the means to engage in
information-based conflict do not exist. Software devices like FloodNet
are important, but they can not be effectively used as singular
instruments. There needs to be a multitude, an array, of FloodNet-like
devices in order to realize the full potential of the SWARM proposal (the
next phase of bottom-up Infowar practice?), the enactment of a
simultaneous, collective, mass action in cyberspace involving multi-source
and multi-range software devices. (see: 

If you can not come to this discussion then join on-line discussion around
these subjects:

     go to

     find netsymposium

     find instructions for subscription


Towards Bottom-Up Information Warfare Theory and Practice: Version 1.0
by Stefan Wray
August 5, 1998

(Stefan Wray wrote his masters thesis on "The Drug War and Information
Warfare in Mexico." ( He is
a New York member of the Electronic Disturbance Theater and is working on
a doctorate degree in communications at New York University.) 

1.0 Bottom-Up Information Warfare

Bottom-up Information Warfare (BUIW) theory/praxis is needed because
dominant IW conceptions are not based on our interests, but on the
interests of the corporate-state and its military-intelligence community. 
Bottom-up IW theory/praxis should negate dominant
corporate-state/military-intelligence IW theory/praxis and should affirm
our digital resistant experience and related theory/praxis. Resistance to
future war, totally dependent on information and communication technology
(ICT), is a useful area for exploration and elaboration of bottom-up IW
theory/praxis. Many of today's conflicts verge on future war and current
resistance to them provide sites for developing bottom-up IW ideas and

2.0 Negation of Dominant Information Warfare Conceptions

A negation of dominant corporate-state/military-intelligence IW theory
should be based on a close examination of the sources of these dominant
conceptions, the content and main conclusions, the underlying assumptions
and myths, and the context from which IW theory was produced. Primary
sources for dominant IW theory/praxis are U.S. academicians, scholars, and
analysts from places like the RAND Corporation, the National Defense
University, the U.S. Air Force, other branches of the military, public and
private universities, and 'independent' think-tanks. Dominant IW theorists
argue that, in today's information society, nations and corporations are
increasingly vulnerable to information-based attacks aimed at ICT
infrastructure. With the end of the Cold War, the ideology of Information
Warfare - often in conjunction with Drug War ideology - provides the state
and the military with a new rationale for growth and expansion. 

3.0 Affirmation of Resistant Information Warfare Conceptions

An affirmation of bottom-up Information Warfare theory/praxis means
learning who we are, consolidating our own theory/praxis, and recasting
dominant myths and assumptions with ones more suited to our interests. So
far, bottom-up Information Warfare actors are an international mix of
computerized activists, politicized hackers, new media theorists, digital
artists, and others at the juncture of computers, media, radical politics,
and the arts. The theoretical basis for bottom-up Information Warfare is
from a mix of related sources including work on nomadic warfare (Bey; 
Deleuze and Guattari), on electronic disturbance and civil disobedience
(Critical Art Ensemble), on tactical media (Next Five Minutes), and
others.  Bottom-up IW praxis is not widespread, but one example of
incipient work in this area are the Electronic Civil Disobedience actions
against the Mexican government that use a device called FloodNet. 

4.0 Resistance to Future War 

The Gulf War has been called the first Information War because of the
heavy reliance on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for
military and propagandistic purposes. Since the Gulf War such reliance on
ICT - on InfoWar technology - has become commonplace for both military
conflicts, such as in former Yugoslavia and in southern Mexico, as well as
for law enforcement efforts, for example, to control drugs and
immigration. For all intents and purposes, future war has arrived and
people who resist war today are finding that new means of electronic,
digital, or virtual resistance are becoming both possible and necessary.
Cyberspacial resistance to future war enables polyspacial hybrid forms of
resistance that combine the older rural-agrarian and urban-industrial
models of warfare, with the newer cyberspacial-informational forms. 

5.0 Global Zapatista Internet Resistance 

A current example of hybrid rural, urban, and cyberspacial resistance is
the case of the global pro-Zapatista movement, which has demonstrated how
the Internet allows non-state actors to build networks of solidarity and
resistance across national borders. Immediately after January 1, 1994, the
Zapatistas had a strong Internet presence. Through email listservs like
Chiapas95, Cc: lists, and an array of interconnected web sites, a global
pro-Zapatista movement formed. This year political communication moved
toward political action as, for example, the Electronic Disturbance
Theater started Electronic Civil Disobedience actions against the Mexican
government. Also on several occasions this year, anti-government and
pro-Zapatista messages have been placed on Mexican government web sites. 

6.0 An Electronic Boston Tea Party

As the Paris Salon is to political communication on the Internet, the
Boston Tea Party is to political action; more so it is a metaphor for
direct action. Although the bias of Internet politics favors the more
passive discursive space of political communication (the salon), things
like Electronic Civil Disobedience campaigns against the Mexican
government (the tea party) are expanding the range of possibilities. While
individuals and small groups have experimented with electronic resistance
there is still room for more experimentation and development of techniques
and devices. A particularly intriquing idea, that has not been tested, but
that has been proposed to Ars Electronica is a proposal for a SWARM, an
advanced, multiple source, ECD action happening on different levels and in
different spaces, somthing like a simultaneous convergence of numerous
electronic Boston Tea Parties. 

7.0 Conclusions

There is a need for an elaboration and an expansion of bottom-up
Information Warfare theory/praxis. For this there needs to be a negation
of dominant top-down conceptions of Information Warfare and an affirmation
of resistant bottom-up conceptions. The sites of resistance to future war
are good locations for further thinking and practice of bottom-up
Information Warfare. The global pro-Zapatista movement is one site where
such experimention with electronic resistance has taken place. Finally,
there needs to be more experimentation and development of electronic
techniques and software devices for more advanced electronic civil

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