What happens once the protestors go home?
Richard D. Bartlett
61

It’s fascinating to see you guys going through a very similar experience to the Indymedia network. First came a protest movement. In our case the global protests against corporate globalization summits, from J18 (“Carnival Against Capitalism”, June 1999) to the G8 protests in Genoa (2001). In your case Occupy and its counterparts from the Arab Spring to Nuit Debout. Then an activist-run, digital infrastructure is created, based on free code. In our case Indymedia open-publishing news sites (launched for N30 “the Battle of Seattle” in November 1999) and the accompanying email lists and wiki docs. In your case, Loomio, Pol.is, D-Cent, and the many other collaboration and decision-making platforms that have emerged since the first wave of square occupations. Then, in both cases, there is a proliferation of tools, a lot of confusion about which ones to use for what, concerns about who controls them, different ideas about how to sustain them etc.

Because the public-access web was only just becoming a thing in 199, we thought what we were doing was unprecedented. But now I realise that’s not true. The Internet is a *medium*, and every generation of activists have hacked the available media in attempts to be “self-sufficient” in their ability to collaborate internally, and communicate publicly.

What could we have learnt in the 90s, and most importantly what dead ends could we have avoided, if we had seen our work as an iteration of the media hacks of the 1960s activists (eg self-published newspapers printed in communes and community print shops)? Particularly the political problems that emerged from decision-making around the use and organisation of those media, some of which seem to crop up again and again with each iteration. What could the current generation of media toolmakers learn from asking probing questions of their counterparts in both the 90s generation, and the 60s generations? Where are we all now? Still involved (as I like to think I am), or disillusioned and sold out to the corporates?

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