Oh so briefly do I feel the need to drop some public praise for how much I enjoyed reading this week’s articles [primarily] from Otto Von Busch. His approach to contextualizing do it yourself and do it together communities within global history is empirically inspiring, and provides a perspective of which is ahead-of-the-curve relevant. I say that with no discredit to any of the other weeks of reading, equally inspiring, relevant and mindblowing, but this is the first week in which I’ve been able to post a reading reflection.
Otto’s three articles each orbit the themes discussed in Abstract Hactivism, primarily being the politics of emerging computer network technologies in perpendicular feedback with contemporary strategies of activism and critique. From previously reading Bruno Latour and being a generally aware human being I am familiar with our notion of the “human politics of technologically-determined development” (23), but what struck me here was the academic and historical approach to today’s participatory cultures. Most notably among this intersection of ideas and practice became Otto’s theoretical relation between hacktivism and heresy, viewing both as a constructive position of co-design. He elaborates that both methods pave a new road for thought, empower aggregation, and reclaim system design. Perhaps what I resonate with most throughout these sections is his reflection that this nonconformism comes from a myth not of falsification, but of a Barthesian sense of socially formed truths. the opportunity of which this opens for social criticism is vast, and when practiced in a positive and authentic manner can become an accessible vehicle for anyone’s beliefs… from knitting collectives to the Roman Catholic Church and Liberation theology.
I’d love to take this opportunity to share a project that some friends and I began almost three years ago, to be more precise, and exercise in hacking urban space and experiencing a more real environment. If you’ve ever taken a looooong walk in Los Angeles you’ve maybe noticed that we have public outlets in the strangest of places. One Summer weekend my friends and I biked all around West LA [now: East, West, South LA] and created a Google Map for all of the public outlets we could find, whether they were on the roof of a parking garage, behind a market, in an abandoned railway tunnel, alongside a high school, and so on. The next week we decided to plan a nighttime bike ride around West LA, borrow some amps, and have our friends bands play at stops along along a pre-designated route. About fifty folks showed up and we had a great time… so the next week we borrowed a PA. One hundred people showed up and we hosted a band on tour. Three years later we’ve hosted these rides in New York, Los Angeles, Orlando, Peru, Santa Cruz, and in a sweet lil’ city in the south of France.
At the time we were just having stupid fun trying to reclaim our right to public space, but along the way taking the time to read Chris Carlsson‘s essays on founding / developing Critical Mass in San Francisco in ’92, papers on the concept of the derive, psychogeography, and really anything else that supports or challenges vehicles of collective movement. The last two years, inspired by Pedals for Progress and the Bicycle City we’ve begun teaching bicycle overhaul and maintenance in low income communities around Los Angeles and New York. Reading Otto’s brief mention of bicycle culture as a form of hacktivism just made me feel like I should bring this up… both as a social hack for non-authoritative collectivity and an urban hack for reevaluating not only public space but the private as well. I mean this in the approach of the spectatorship of music, as in Western society we are conditioned that we must become a patron of not only arts, but bars, agism, elitism, and expensive paper tickets. Throughout the world this is not the case, and music is rallied around and celebrated in the streets as an expression of daily life as opposed to divine homogenous talent. By extracting the market value from an activity we release its potential to collective energy.
Super excited to learn about the fascinating life hacks y’all have to share.