Schwartz Future Of Journalism

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An adapted version of my earlier lecture, intended for submission to the Publish2 contest.

An adapted version of my earlier lecture, intended for submission to the Publish2 contest.

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  • 1. I am the future of journalism… because we all are.
  • 2.
    • Christopher Schwartz
    • [email_address]
    • http://cschwartz.info
    • http://schwartztronica.wordpress.com
    • http://chaikhana.neweurasia.net
  • 3. Greetings from the blogosphere!
    • I will be your guide today on your journey through some of the odder, shadowy corners of the World Wide Web.
    • We ’ ll be surveying some of the frightfully hilarious/hilariously frightful ways in which Web-based “New Media” like blogs, wikis, video-shares, podcasts, and online social networks are being used by groups on the margins of global society in their attempt to overthrow the current status quo, for better or for worse.
    • A little about me:
      • Reporting background
      • Academic and editorial background
      • Thinking-East and neweurasia
  • 4. “ There must be some way out of here,” said the Joker to the Thief…
    • Since the fall of the Soviet Union the world has experienced a boiling-over of long-simmering discontent in a number of countries and regions, including our own.
    • The incredibly rapid, viral-like spread of the World Wide Web and New Media has not only occurred alongside this process, but has aided and abetted it.
    • Tools originally intended to make journalism and media more participatory are now often at the forefront of social and political upheaval.
  • 5. The revolution will not be televised; it will be blogged
    • Here in the United States, we have witnessed the first truly cybernetic election. The campaign of Barack Obama utilized the full power of Web-based New Media in an innovative “bottom-up” strategy.
    Music videos, text messages, blogs – oh my! Click on the images for more...
  • 6.
    • Obama did more than simply plaster his face all over YouTube and cell phones. His campaign organized “Obama camps” that trained ardent young groupies into a disciplined crack corps of street canvassers, campus activists, and crowd rousers.
    • Many of the Obama camp graduates went on to create their own impromptu promotional materials, examples of which, doubtlessly, you’ve seen splattered all over Philadelphia.
    • However, the “Obamaniacs” not only invaded towns, cities, and colleges; they turned around and laid siege to the Web itself.
    • For example, they bloated blogging platforms with pro-Obama posts, and flooded Digg.com with so many Obama-related news stories that anything McCain-related was totally drowned out.
    • The effect was to give an impression early on that Obama was more than a man or even a movement – he was a force of nature .
  • 7.
    • It's likely many of you in the audience participated in the “(e-)lection,” yet were probably unaware of its historic importance with regards to the role technology played in grassroots mass mobilization.
    • By way of comparison,
    • consider this: Obama
    • mobilized more people
    • (5 million civilians)
    • than the United States
    • Army during WWI
    • (3 million soldiers). 1
    Click on the image to go to the Camp Obama Vlogging center.
  • 8.
    • In essence, Obama decentralized the propaganda and activism portions of his campaign by getting you to do the work for him.
    • And the result was stunning: a Black junior senator with little initial chance of victory out-maneuvered Hillary Clinton and overpowered the almighty Republican Party machine.
  • 9.
    • But reformists like the Obamaniacs are not the only movements who are tapping into New Media's potential.
    • Subversive and revolutionary organizations of all stripes are using it to varying degrees to recruit and prepare right in plain sight.
  • 10. The pioneers of New Media were idealistic, believing that the Web is by nature democratic and pluralistic. Fundamentally, they were right – but should they have been careful about what they wished for?
  • 11.
    • But before we proceed, now would be a good time for a bit of a history lesson.
  • 12. A history lesson from Prof. Wiki, PhD in Googlology To be honest, in a sense there really isn ’ t anything very “new” about New Media. Its underlying ideas go back at least to the 1980s, if not earlier (everyone in this audience really should dredge up a copy of Marshall McLuhan’s The Medium is the Massage , published in 1967, and read it). The technology emerged partially by accident. For example, Blogger was created as an after-thought to another project of Pyra Labs. It may have been the first free-form styled weblog, and as such would thus be the grandfather of TypePad, Vox, and WordPress .
  • 13.
    • Very quickly, however, technicians and users understood the innate potential of cyberspace (the Internet and Web) to democratize media –
    • in other words, to make mass media truly “mass” by making it public .
    In the 19th Century, Charles Darwin proposed that New Media was the result of random mutations in technological innovation among cyberpunks, software developers, and everyday end-users like you and me.
  • 14.
    • So, precisely what is “ New Media ” ?
    • It ’ s usually digital and networked, although some scholars consider the dinosauric VHS and fax to also qualify for the title, and not just in a 1980s Apple big-hair sense of new.
  • 15.
    • Consider this: until only a few years ago, magnetic tape (VHS and audiocasette) and fax were the means by which radical fundamentalist preachers and liberal democratic reformers in Saudi Arabia secretly expressed their dissent.
    • The reason they got away with it for so long was because the Saudi crown needed the technology to do business.
    • Moreover, while it’s relatively
    • easy to firewall YouTube, the
    • only way to effectively firewall
    • a tape is, well, with fire –
    • by burning it.
    • But you have to catch the tape in order to burn it. (DVDs are posing a similar problem for Saudi authorities today.)
    Tomorrow‘s book-burning: DVDs. Click the image for more information.
  • 16.
    • The point is, “ New Media ” is somewhat relative, defined in relationship to its setting.
    • Nevertheless, “ New Media ” has come to generally mean communication technology and software that enable informational accessibility, transmission, and interactivity via an integration of textual and audiovisual elements.
    • Bleh. Talk about a mouthful.
  • 17.
    • In laymen’s terms, “ New Media ” is media in which there is no audience:
    • we are all content-creators.
    “ Old Media“ is defined by its one-to-many relationship of creator and recipient (audience). “New Media,“ however, is defined by its many-to-many relationship between receiving/sending creators.
  • 18.
    • Not to belabor the point, but even this PowerPoint presentation could be considered New Media.
    • It’s multimedia, easily spreadable electronically (not to mention virally), and can be edited by any number of handlers during its journey.
  • 19. But our focus here will be upon those New Media that utilize what’s often called “Web 2.0” to carry out their functions. Uh oh, another loaded term. *sigh
  • 20.
    • No, more like “the participatory Web.”
    • Before the Millennium, cyberspace’s full potential could be tapped pretty much only by coders.
    • Since then, however, end-users like you and me have been empowered by software developments which foster greater and greater interconnectivity and reciprocity between user and provider.
    • In other words, we aren’t restricted to downloading and using anymore: we can upload, share, and interact.
    “ Web 2.0,” as in, “Web the sequel”?
  • 21.
    • Tim O’Reilly, an info-activist and entrepreneur who gave us the term “Web 2.0,” uses this hierarchy as a measure:
    • Level-3 applications , the most Web 2.0-oriented, exist only on the Internet, deriving their effectiveness from inter-human and network connections, and growing in effectiveness in proportion as people make more use of them .
    • Examples: Facebook, Craigslist, Wikipedia, and Skype.
    • Level-2 applications can operate offline but gain advantages from going online.
    • Example: Flickr and YouTube, which benefit from shared databases and community-generated archives.
    • Level-1 applications operate offline but gain features online. Examples: Google Docs and iTunes.
    • Level-0 applications work as well offline as online.
    • Examples: MapQuest and Google Maps.
  • 22.
    • Say hello to Web 2.0 –
    • truly your cyberspace .
  • 23. The best laid plans of both mice and men oft go astray…
    • So, as I said before, the dream of people like O’Reilly has been to make media democratic and pluralistic by opening it up to the public via cyberspace and user-friendly applications.
    • But now comes the big “ BUT .”
  • 24.
    • New Media‘s users are truly plural, but not always plural istic , much less democratic. Here’s an ideological sampling:
      • pro-democracy/pro-Westernizers
      • the anticapitalism movement
      • anarchists/post-communists
      • religious and nationalist extremists
      • cyberutopianists
  • 25.
    • Ranging from the benign to the malicious, most of these organizations are engaged in national or esoteric conflicts with varying importance for the rest of the world.
    • Examples:
      • the Color Revolutions in the former Soviet Union
      • the Second Life Liberation Army
  • 26.
    • Some are registerred political parties in “RL” (real life) who are seeking to use New Media primarily to spread their ill-begotten gospels.
    • Examples:
      • the French National Front ( Front National )
      • the Stormfront White Nationalist Community
  • 27.
    • And a small percentage are engaged in international conflict, typically against the United States and Israel, most notably:
      • the anticapitalism movement
      • al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, et al
  • 28.
    • In other words, Web-based New Media, despite the utopianism that birthed it, is proving to be really no different than an everyday hammer:
    • neutral,
    • unbiased,
    • and just as useful for bashing heads as for pounding nails.
    • Or to put it another way, what Obama accomplished for democracy in the United States is just as possible for Osama bin Laden and theocracy in the Middle East.
  • 29. “ No reason to get excited,” the Thief kindly spoke… I‘m pointing out the obvious. Yet, sometimes the obvious gets obscured in all of the hoopla and needs to be pointed out again. In the spirit of anti-hoopla, here‘s more obviousness: cyber-organizing is not the same as cyber-terrorism. So, take a deep breath. In and of themselves, YouTube, FaceBook, wikis, and blogs aren‘t about to end civilization as we know it. … although some bloggers are certainly trying. ;) And now onto the main event, shall we?
  • 30.
    • Remember O ’ Reilly ’ s hierarchy?
    • It ’ s a pretty handy device for measuring the “Web 2.0”-ness of an application.
    • Well, it ’ s also fairly useful as a metaphorical device to help us talk about the extent to which an organization is tapping into the power of New Media.
    • Let‘s start with the “least Web 2.0” of our case studies, the National Front of France – a Level-1 bunch if ever there was any.
  • 31. La France long temps de phase! (Mais seulement le Fr ançais que nous aimons)
    • The National Front ( Front National , or FN) is a French Far-Right-wing nationalist political party.
    • To give you an idea of how far Right these fellows are, its founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen, recently characterized the Nazi occupation of France as “ not particularly inhuman. ” Wow.
    • Although the FN has only 75,000 card-carrying members, in the French presidential election of 2002 Le Pen finished second to Jacques Chirac, albeit distantly. Since then, it has established itself as the country’s third largest party.
    • Remarkably, the FN has achieved this feat through fairly old-fashioned “Rock the Vote” methods. But its leadership has begun to look to the future. Enter: Second Life , a popular online video game that employs Web 2.0 and New Media.
  • 32.
    • For those throwbacks and Luddites in the audience who don‘t know what the heck Second Life is, it ’ s a Web-based game in which players buy and sell virtual property, live in virtual homes, go to virtual jobs, and have virtual friendships and romances.
    • Second Life is literally what it says it is: an online replicant of the real world – and more.
  • 33.
    • Players ( “residents”) create virtual personas (“avatars”), ranging from the normal to the bizarre.
    • The world of Second Life (called the “grid”) is divided into regions, each of which is run on its own server.
    • Players may traverse this world by any number of means, including teleportation and levitation.
    • The game has also developed its own internal economy. Transactions are performed electronically with both virtual and real life currencies.
    • Thus, by utilizing the most cutting-edge capabilities of Web 2.0, Second Life is not only a premier example of what is possible with New Media – it has also become the most the world’s most advanced electronic social network .
    • It is, for all intensive purposes, a metaverse .
  • 34.
    • Second Life has also become a new battleground for the hearts and minds of everyday citizens.
    • The FN has pioneered the use of Second Life to propagandize and recruit. In 2007, it opened a full-time office inside the game.
    • Their move was met with a typically French response.
    Hungry for some roast pork? Click on the image for video.
  • 35. Lang Phasenamerika! (Aber nur die Amerikaner, die wir mögen)
    • The length to which a subversive/revolutionary group is willing to “go Web 2.0” is often determined by its surrounding culture.
    • The Far Right in Europe is feared for many things – including some rather bad Metal – but certainly not its technological adeptness.
    • Although residents of Second Life were infuriated by the FN’s incursion, the protestors’ deployment of symbolic exploding pigs indicates the depth to which the Far Right’s attempts to enter cyberspace are perceived as laughable.
  • 36.
    • Think about the cultural context: Europe is arguably a continent of craftsman, not industrialists. Generally speaking, then, Europeans prefer refinement over sheer functionality, culture over machinery.
    • The European Far Right tends to draw its ranks from “blood and soil” types and culturalists; in other words, the “low-tech” crowd. This is especially true, of all things, for Nazis.
  • 37.
    • Fun fact: did you know Hitler was a vegan? Or that the SS leadership esteemed Buddhism?
    • Though they were by no means back-to-nature Free Love hippies, the Nazis were actually very ambivalent about technology beyond its military and administrative uses. Ironically, some of them worried about its “dehumanizing” effects!
    • Nevertheless, Nazism has spread far and wide since the 1930s, and it has benefitted from its newfound multiculturalism (no pun intended).
    • American Neo-Nazis in particular share their countrymen’s love for gizmos – and the Web.
    “ Don‘t burn trees, burn Jews!“ The Libertarian National Socialist Green Party is a real American political movement. Click on the image to read their blogsite.
  • 38.
    • Say hello to the Stormfront
    • White Nationalist Community,
    • the Web‘s premier white
    • supremacist internet forum.
    • The website is structured as a discussion forum. Some of the hot topics therein:
      • philosophy and historical revisionism
      • racial and personal self-defense
      • the sustainability of multicultural society
      • and the possibility of a race war.
  • 39.
    • Much of the forum is devoted to “white culture” events. It also hosts an online dating service ( untermenschen need not apply: “for heterosexual White Gentiles only”).
    • I don’t know about you, but in light of all the heritage and dating services that exist for ethnic and religious minorities, I shrug and say, “Okay, fine. Fair’s fair.”
  • 40.
    • But this isn’t fine: in a 1998 interview for the alternative weekly newspaper Miami New Times , Stormfront’s owner, Don Black (a former Klu Klux Klan Grand Wizard) is quoted as saying,
    • “ We want to take America back. […] Whites won't have any choice but to take military action. It's our children whose interests we have to defend.” 2
    • Then in 2006, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported a discussion on Stormfront in which white nationalists were encouraged to join the US military.
    • Why? So that they could learn the skills necessary for winning a race war. 3
  • 41.
    • As far as New Media goes, Stormfront ranks a Level-2 on the O’Reilly hierarchy.
    • However, the site’s administrators are endeavoring to climb the ladder.
    • Stormfront is developing a wiki to supplement the forum bulletin boards.
    • A repository for rough drafts of future wiki entries currently exists on the forum ( here ), and a test site is already up ( here ).
    • There are plans for a French mirror-site for their wiki – as well as to expand into video production.
  • 42.
    • Now, the scary part :
    • Stormfront’s registered users rose from 5000 in January 2002 to 52,566 in June 2005, and it received more than 1500 hits each weekday in 2005. By June 2008, the site was attracting more than 40,000 unique users each day. 4
    • And Stormfront is not the only center of electronic activity: in 2005, Neo-Nazi leader Bill White launched a white supremacist version of eBay called “ShopWhite.”
    • The potentials for training and mobilization are only just beginning to be undersood by the white supremacist movement. Clearly, Cybernazism is only in its infancy.
  • 43. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, capitalist pig!
    • While the Far Right may be playing catch-up with New Media, the Far Left, in particular the anticapitalism movement, has long been riding the cutting-edge.
    • Indeed, many of New Media ’ s pioneers subscribe to the “California Ideology,” a mix of libertarianism, cyberutopianism, and contractor culture. They have a lot of common-cause with this movement.
    • Arguably, then, New Media is anticapitalism‘s baby.
  • 44.
    • By the way, if the phrase “anticapitalist” is unfamiliar, it may be because you’ve only ever heard of them as “the anti-globalization rent-a-mob.”
    • That’s how the mainstream mass media tends to think of them, but it’s innaccurate.
    • Well, not so much the rent-a-mob part, but the anti-globalization bit: they’re not against globalization. In fact, they rely upon it.
    • They’re actually against “American imperialism.” Don’t be (too) alarmed, since that’s usually just a code word for transnational corporations running roughshod over the world – usually .
  • 45.
    • If you thought the varie ties of Nazism were surprising, wait until you get a load of th e anticapitalists:
      • green anarchists (who basically want to de -civilize the earth an d go “back to nature”);
      • syndico-anarchists (who rather enjoy civilization but w ould like it to be a lot less hierarchical);
      • situationists (who basically want to turn the world into one big street party, à la the 1968 Revolution);
      • communists and post-communists (folks who were seriously let down by the Soviet Union);
      • “ one-worlders,” “Free Mumia” types, Labor activitsts, anti-Zionists, a lot of people who are just pissed off, even more who are looking for a cause, and a whole lot of everyday folks who just want the world to be a better place but don’t really have any identifiable label beyond “liberal” or “progressive.”
  • 46.
    • … and those are just the Western kids.
    • The anticapitalist movement has a global constituency in the Third World among the lower- and working-classes.
    • The Third World membership doesn‘t often identify with these ideologies (the notable exception being the Zapatistas in Mexico).
    • Instead, they are usually motivated by tragedy or exigency…
  • 47.
      • an oil company in Columbia is pillaging ancestral tribal land and destroying a way of life;
      • an Indian government agency is building an enormous hydro-electric dam that will destroy entire villages;
      • a Palestinian farming community is being torn in half by the Israeli Separation Wall;
      • an Iraqi village under military occupation is caught in the crossfire between nationalist rebels and American soldiers
    • … and so on. All without the consent of the pillaged, flooded, separated, and occupied, with heartbreaking results.
  • 48.
    • The anticapitalist movement believes the hand of an American corporation can be found somewhere lurking behind these and other similar travesties.
    • Often this invisible hand is nothing more than imagined; sadly, just as often, it is not.
  • 49.
    • So, the anticapitalist movement is composed of a vast range of people, from the lunatic fringe to concerned citizens to desperate poor workers.
    • As I indicated before, the mainstream mass media prefers to focus on the lunatic fringe.
    • The old media especially loves it when the Western kids cause trouble and break things, as they did in Seattle in 1999, Genoa in 2001, and New York in 2003.
    • The movement is very aware of this.
    • Which is why they created Indymedia .
  • 50.
    • The Indymedia Network is a global participatory network of citizen-journalists that reports on political and social issues not normally covered in the mass media.
    • It uses open publishing and grassroots-based technology and media processes that (theoretically) allows anyone and everyone to contribute content. On the O ’ Reilly ladder, it ranks an easy Level-3.
  • 51.
    • Or, in their own words:
    • “ Indymedia is a democratic media outlet for the creation of radical , accurate , and passionate tellings of truth . ”
    • The careful reader will note the telling juxtaposition of those last few phrases.
  • 52.
    • Indymedia operates as a network of autonomous, localized collectives.
    • This coreless community frequently coordinates at the regional, national, and global level, but almost always strictly to:
    • (a) develop new software and disseminate it across the network;
    • and (b) to organize offensive action.
  • 53.
    • No, you didn‘t
    • misunderstand me.
    • I said,
    • “ offensive action.”
  • 54.
    • Indymedia originally developed ostensibly as a way for the movement to provide its own news coverage of activities.
    • These activities are typically in the form of mass demonstrations or street theater, but the language used for them is militaristic (in fact, many anticapitalists conceive of themselves as “ guerillas ” or “freedom-fighters”).
    • The Indymedia project was born and baptised in flame: during the events of Seattle in 1999 – called a “riot” or “revolt” depending on one’s point-of-view – anticapitalist organizers used the new technology to instruct activists where to engage police and attack corporate targets.
    • These instructions were written in the form of “news updates,” e.g., “Protesters are reported to be moving toward the Starbucks on the corner of…” but tellingly they were published during or before the action described.
  • 55.
    • True believers deny that mobilization is Indymedia ’ s real purpose, but even a passing survey of its archives will reveal that upwards to two-thirds of all its content is devoted to this very subject.
    • I can attest to Indymedia‘s real function from personal experience. You see, I rolled with these folks back when I was an undergrad.
    • I was a proud shock-trooper in the rent-a-mob during the 2002 demonstration against the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the enormous February 15, 2003 “pre-emptive protest” against the Iraq War, both in New York City.
    • In fact, I was one of the ten protestors who in 2002 almost managed to it to the Waldorf Astoria hotel, site of the WEF meeting. Literally walled-in by police officers, we cursed out a Fox News reporter and nicknamed ourselves, “Dance Party Vietnam.”
  • 56.
    • Truth be told, it was great fun. But now that I’m a journalist, one troubling thing that stands out in my memory was the role played by Indymedia.
    • I clearly remember that instructions to assault the Waldorf Astoria had been “sent from the IMC,” that is, the local Indymedia center.
    What‘s behind the placards? Click to find out.
  • 57.
    • But you don ’ t have to take my word for it.
    • Just browse for yourself the archives of
    • the Philly IMC during the Un-Convention .
    • This was a massive demonstration
    • held in our city during the 2000
    • Republican national convention.
  • 58.
    • My point is not to decry the Indymedia network or the movement that birthed it, since obviously I ’ m sympathetic to both (to a degree).
    • Rather, my point is to raise an ethical concern: Indymedia is not only a powerful example of New Media in full swing, it is also a troubling example of New Media‘s slippery slope .
    • For instance, in June 2005 the Bristol Indymedia Center published an enigmatic post regarding a planned “action” against a train. This prompted the local police to raid the center and seize its servers.
    • Both Indymedia and the journalist rights group Reporters Without Borders protested the police’s action, but they failed to look at things from the cops’ perspective.
  • 59.
    • Remember:
    • Indymedia is run by radical citizen-journalists ,
    • not trained pros.
    Where is law enforcement to draw the line between a citizen, a journalist… and a revolutionary?
  • 60.
    • Two final notes about Indymedia:
    • #1 What those unfamiliar with cyberspace continually understimate are online communities ’ ability to think and act collectively – which is precisely what the Indymedia Network is doing.
    • The Network has been organizing in RL, running pirate radio broadcast services.
    • The New York City Indymedia Center even publishes a full-fledged broadsheet, The Indypendent .
    • Indymedia‘s growing reach is a fearsome example in which the online world can invade the offline .
  • 61.
    • And #2 the way in which Indymedia was created demonstrates the fertile interconnectivity of the Web:
    • The original software was developed in Sydney, test-ran in the northwest USA during the June 1999 “Carnival Against Capitalism,” and then fully implemented at Seattle in November.
    • From Seattle it spread to cities across the world. By 2002, there were 89 Indymedia centers covering 31 countries; by 2006, 150.
    • And all of this has been accomplished with only voluntarism and grassroots fundraising.
    • A truly breathtaking global effort done entirely electronically!
  • 62. Stick that in your hukka and smoke it, Godless pig!
    • In the last case study I raised the specter of the technology-induced blurred lines between citizen-journalism and revolutionary activity.
    • Subversives and revolutionaries may call cops “pigs” because of the way in which they defend “the establishment,” but that’s their job – law and order.
    • But long before the anticapitalists got into the New Media game, there was one group with an avid interest in the Web who have been finding all sorts of ways to blur lines. They need no introduction:
    • Radical Islamists.
  • 63.
    • A mob of neo-cons will probably lynch me for saying this, but not all Islamisms are the same.
    • Some of them actually like electoral democracy (at least when it goes their way), nor do they all resort to terrorism (all of the time).
    • Moreover, arguments about morality aside, it would be wise to remember that one man‘s terrorism is another man‘s freedom-fighting (especially in the Middle East).
    • Finally, not all jihad is wanton suicide-bombing. In fact, the anti-civilian use of suicide-bombers, e.g., like that seen in New York City and Iraq, is resorted to only by the most extreme of the extremists .
    • To put it frankly, al-Qaeda scares the shit out everyone , including even its “allies.”
  • 64.
    • But if there is one thing almost all Islamists share it ’ s a passion for technology.
    • Recall that Islamic civilization once rode the cutting-edge of science. A finely tuned machine, such as a water clock, was seen as a reflection of God‘s order in the universe.
    • So, unlike European Neo-Nazis,
    • radical Islamists love gizmos.
  • 65.
    • We could have a week-long discussion about all the ways in which New Media is being utilized by the “cyber jihad .”
    • But for time’s sake, let’s focus on an especially salient example: AqsaTube .
  • 66.
    • Yes, AqsaTube is exactly what your sorry Godless mind suspects it to be: Islamism‘s answer to YouTube.
    • The site was sometimes used to pass messages along, but primarily it served the function of a propaganda machine. Consequently, it ranks at Level-2.
    • It specifically focused upon Palestinian militant videos. The videos featured the by-now familiar tropes of radical Islamist filmmaking: masked men standing menacingly in front of banners, shooting guns and firing rockets to the sounds of Arabic military songs. All very ho-hum.
    • But there was also some very unexpected material…
  • 67.
    • Interestingly, militant videos were not the most popular content on AqsaTube.
    • The BBC reports that the most viewed clips were episodes of Bab al-Hara , a ridiculously popular Arabic soap opera broadcasted every Ramadan. 5
    • Were that not surprising enough, the advertising on AqsaTube was something to behold: internet gambling, breast enhancement surgery, and even Israeli companies!
    • Either someone in the AqsaTube marketing department had a very interesting sense of humor, or he was beheaded and all quality control was subsequently lost (and in the Middle East, these possibilities aren’t necessarily mutually co-exclusive).
  • 68.
    • Alas, as of October 2008 AqsaTube has been shut down, so I can ’ t show you any of its videos.
    • But do not despair: AqsaTube was not the first time radical Islamists ripped off YouTube; doubtlessly, it won ’ t be the last, either.
    • After all, evidently there is hot demand in the Middle Easter for videos of Israeli suicide bombers with enhanced breasts.
    Click the image to see an AqsaTube advert.
  • 69. So you say you want a revolution…
    • We now come to everyone’s
    • favorite historical event –
    • REVOLUTION.
    • The Color Revolutions were a series of liberal-democratic opposition movements that erupted throughout the former communist bloc of Eastern Europe, as well as in the Middle East:
      • Yugoslavia, 2000: the “Bulldozer Revolution”
      • Georgia, 2003: the “Rose Revolution”
      • Ukraine, 2004: the “Orange Revolution”
      • Kyrgyzstan, 2005: the “Tulip Revolution”
      • Lebanon, 2005: the “Cedar Revolution”
  • 70.  
  • 71.
    • The Color Revolutions shared these themes:
      • they occurred in formerly socialist-controlled countries that had been reborn as democracies;
      • the revolutionaries wanted to make their countries more democratic and sovereign;
      • and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and student activists were at the heart of organizing the resistance, both nationally and at street level.
    Bishkek, 2005 – Can anyone say, “Dance Dance Revolution”? Click on the image for photos.
  • 72. The question analysts have been asking is: how did they do it? There have been a lot of arguments. Could one answer be that they cyberized the grassroots ? In e ach case, massive street protests followed disputed elections and led to the resignation or overthrow of entrenched political leaderships. The revolutionaries used nonviolent resistance to seize control of streets, offices, and entire cities.
  • 73.
    • Sadly, not really.
    • The amount of internet access available to a country, much less to individuals within that country, is very determined by class, and the former Soviet Union is not exactly well-to-do.
    • While the occasional blog would get involved, most of the electronic organizing that we know of was performed via the “old internet, ” and that’s not a Rumsfeldian euphemism for French and German servers: bulletin boards and listservs.
    • In other words, the Color Revolutions ranked near Level-0, at best a dim Level-1.
    • So, why have I included them in this lecture?
  • 74.
    • For one, because what internet activity did occur was remarkably intense.
    • For another, because the Color Revolutions were the first major political upheavals to include a cybernetic element.
  • 75. The Color Revolutions produced a lot of confusion. Of course spontaneous and enormous street demonstrations that topple heads-of-state are probably naturally prone to this. However, much of the confusion also arose from the internet combat waged between those acting in the name of the authorities and their opposition – emphasis on “ acting in the name of . ” There are a lot of shady folks lurking on the internet, but none more so than a certain Russian leader by the name of Vladimir Putin…
  • 76.
    • Internet-based opponents of the current Russian regime, both inside the country and in its surrounding neighborhood (whom Russia has given the pet name “the near abroad”) have long complained of attacks from secret “web brigades.”
    • The task of the web brigades seems to be counteracting criticism of Russia with threats, flooding forums and blogs with ultranationalist ranting, and hacking (denial-of-service attacks, like the kind that shut down Estonia last year).
  • 77.
    • The Russian government denies any connection to the web brigades. The only evidence their victims can proffer are rather suspicious correlations between controversial government actions and the timing of web brigade activity.
    • Sometimes it even seems as though the web brigades know what the government is going to do in advance.
  • 78. However, more important that the actual cybernetic aspects of the Color Revolutions is their legacy in the minds of activists around the world. Their causes and consequences are at the heart of a heated conversation occuring in FaceBook and in blogs, including those on neweurasia. And in at least one instance, the Color Revolutions have inspired a blog-manual dedicated to the subject of studying them in order to replicate them elsewhere!
  • 79. The blog-manual is entitled, “Guerillas without Guns.” Its slogan is as stirring as it is haunting: “Ukraine is just the tip of the iceberg…” Thus, although the historical Color Revolutions were a Level-0 on the O’Reilly hierarchy, their spirit on the other hand is a Level-3. Click on the image to visit the blog.
  • 80. When art (and video games) imitates life…
      • Finally, we come full-circle: remember that little something
      • called Second Life ?
      • The game – if it can be called that anymore – has become an international phenomenon. From a humble beginning of only a few thousand residents, by September 2008 just over 15 million accounts were registered.
      • And check out this crazy stat: in January 2008, residents spent 28,274,505 hours “inworld,” meaning that on average about 38,000 residents were logged on at any particular moment! 6
  • 81.
    • Second Life has grown so humongous and so incredibly fast that RL powers are beginning to take serious notice.
    • Corporations have been particularly keen to colonize the game with stores and advertisements, and the Maldives, Sweden, and Estonia have established permanent embassies (Malta and Dijbouti are also planning to open virtual missions).
    The wicked-looking Estonian embassy (left) and Sweden’s ambassadorial island.
  • 82.
    • In a situation uncomfortably similar to a certain Middle Eastern conflict, the original inhabitants of Second Life, feeling the colonial squeeze, resent the newcomers.
    • In a twist furthering the uncomfortable parrallels, the natives, realizing that they are simply out-manned and out-gunned, have turned to asymmetrical warfare.
    • Yes, that ’ s right: TERRORISM .
  • 83.
    • And by “ terrorism ” I mean everything you’re thinking of –
    • assasinations (of avatars)
    • skyjackings (of virtual airplanes)
    • and suicide bombings (of virtual targets).
    • They call themselves the “Second Life Liberation Army” (SSLA), and while they haven ’ t yet crashed planes into the inworld headquarters of Second Life ‘s owners, they have already nuked several neighborhoods inworld.
    • And demonstrating serious hacking skill, the SSLA is becoming a force to be reckoned with. It ’ s all fun and games until someone loses a virtual city…
  • 84. Click on the images above and in the upper lefthand to see footage of SSLA suicide bombings; click on the image to the left to go to their website.
  • 85.
    • The SSLA ’ s demands are simple on first glance: “t he establishment of basic political rights for avatars within Second Life . ”
    • However, on deeper analysis, their agenda poses problems far more complex on a number of conceptual and ethical levels.
  • 86.
    • Who actually owns Second Life ? The immediate answer would be its creators, Linden Research, Inc.
    • But wait a minute – real money is used for transactions within its world. If a resident purchases land inworld, couldn‘t it be said that they thus own part of the game itself?
    • So, should the concept of cyberspace then be taken seriously as an incorporeal geographic realm separate from the physical world? If so, couldn ’ t its occupants claim sovereignty?
    • But cyberspace ’ s occupants must log on . Can a sovereign cyber-nation really exist if its nationals are only ever occupying it, at most, part of the time?
    • And cyberspace exists only so long as it has servers to run upon. If Second Life ‘s servers are owned by an American company and are situated on American soil, then would the cyber-nation be subjectable to American law?
  • 87.
    • There don ’ t seem to be any easy answers.
    • Yet, if there is one thing for certain, it is that if O ’ Reilly ’ s hierarchy had a Level-4, the SSLA would be it: they are Web 2.0 to the max, almost to the point of being Web 3.0!
    • The SSLA is hurtling the millions of lives that comprise the populace of Second Life toward an unknown future.
    • Within that undiscovered country the tried- and seemingly-true definitions of property ownership, citizenship, territoriality, and personhood are exploded into meaninglessness.
    • The SSLA thus represents a fitting conclusion to this lecture. These player-terrorists return us to the most fundamental question of New Media and subversive/revolutionary activity:
    • As media becomes more democratized, w here do we draw the lines between citizen, journalist, and revolutionary?
  • 88.
    • 1 Ingrassia, Bob. Obama campaign made history in many ways. http://www.ktvu.com/politics/17895093/detail.html
    • 2 Abel, David Schwab. The Racist Next Door. http://www.stormfront.org/dblack/racist_021998.htm
    • 3 Holthouse, David. A Few Bad Men. http://www.splcenter.org/intel/news/item.jsp?aid=66
    • 4 Saslow, Eli. Hate Groups‘ Newest Target . http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/21/AR2008062101471.html?hpid=topnews
    • 5 BBC Online. Jihad website AqsaTube goes offline. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7672162.stm
    • 6 Wikipedia. Entry for Second Life. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Second_Life&oldid=250743314#cite_note-9 (Yes, I cited Wikipedia! Cut me some slack, will you? This is a lecture about New Media, after all.)
    What lecture would be complete without endnotes? If there‘s anything I missed in this general survey, or if there‘s anything you would like to talk with me about, feel free to e-mail: te {dot} schwartz {at} gmail {dot} com.