Radical media, politics and culture.


1. Intro to autonomous media infrastructures: - anecdotes - autonomous platforms a focus for those engaged in developing technological and communications infrastructure involved in oppositional or contestational political activity.

Target: CNN: quality of service: akamai Obstacles: minimize technical expertise required, minimize creating disappointment due to temporary technical outages

2. Technological preconditions - compression reduce to 10% of original size - bandwidth: flat fee, all you can eat - storage space: exponential - p2p models top distribute the load, remove a single point of failure, robustness (possible also using multiple ftp servers but less elegant) reduce vulnerability to legal attack (copyright owners, police)

Systems born with purpose(unlike video blogging): developed in tandem with the experience of the pirate networks experience during feb15th ftaa (lost tapes) build band of materials for telestreet, satellite broadcasts

Why: importance of av literacy: limited av lexicon: our imaginations are substantially formed by stories told by others: disney and children, wholesomeness, ideological products

(1) Distribution & Archival (2) Production

different p2p protocols have different uses: maximal efficiency for dealing with large files: bt persistence, library and long term availability: ed2k

3. Models: distribution of finished projects: ngvision ftp/p2p architecture codec: divx 10m/p/m rss metadata naming conventions creative commons non-commercial massive use: 550 films 4000 downloads via ftp/p/week 6000 bt downloads off that one tracer alone

3a. Archive.org

4. Models: distribution of raw materials intended to be used: v2v codec: ogg theora 15m/p/m rss tool for encoding from dv to theora metadata etc bit torrent/magent/ed2k change model of production by distributing the production process (new york berlin rome shoot stuff for one another)

4a: Political question about representation and the difference between organizational models today and yesterday: not propaganda, no party line, independent infrastructures upon which it is possible to build many different gateways which can be designed according to people's own sensibility.

5. Question of community existing political affinities exchange feedback downstream benefits (screenings, logistical support)

6. Licensing: - non-commercial will not transform the model of production - specific types of media have determinate life cycles: television news - ethical questions arise in the context of some pieces of footage

7. Back to community: collaboration: sustained exchanges based on trust where questions about: decision-making ownership and control credit - GPL represents a social contract which is easily understood, community generated understanding, av community needs the same thing.

.... are negotiated

8. From production to distribution: the full articulation of the change in distribution into the production sphere:

- cyberpunk educator - the ring of free trade - subtitling - echochamber

9. Spaces for viewing Piratecinema.org uses of ipod or mp3 player devices as portable hard disks for promiscuos information exchange

10. Limitations: - no marketing budget the sustainability question has been partially but not fully addressed: how to liberate time for people to work on things they want or believe how to get out of the contradiction between wanting maximal access and some income (income becomes political question involving arts funding and public broadcast licence allocation) * contrast: BBC

11. technical problems: ISPs as gatekeepers discriminate against non-commercial services: the idea is to reproduce you as a passive consumer of other people's stories.

- artificially limited uploads - transfer caps - traffic shaping - legal assault in its various guises DRM, control of hardware, selective prosecution

12. Purpose: Tell our own stories, not to recreate forms of ideological communication linked to the past.

V2V - A User Built Infrastructure for Video Distribution

Background Since the beginning freedom to communicate has been bridled by costs of production and distribution. Gutherberg, creator of the first modern printing press, was himself the first victim of media venture capitalism, losing his machinery to the financier Fust shortly after its completion, who consigned it to his son-in-law, Guthenberg's apprentice. Books also required transportation and booksellers to distribute them, and especially where controversial materials were at issue this was a risky affair - twenty years prior to the liberation of the Bastille nearly 40% of those locked within its walls were serving sentences related to the booktrade. The twentieth century had its own form of controls, more tactful and becoming a civilised dictatorship of opinion. Distribution mechanisms were bought up and cartellized; alternative models such as cable or satellite required a level of investment that demanded commercial for-profit operation, all carried out under a state of artificial scarcity imposed by government through its management of radio spectrum. With the award in 1996 of a huge slice of the radio licenses to the incumbent television networks under the pretext fo the need to shift to High Definition Television the US government left no doubt that the synergistic utopia between the forces of media power and the political class remained intact.

Simultaneous with these developments however there was another: the formation of diffuse networks sharing files horizontally, parsing information for one another, recombining each other's data and forwarding it onwards. This tendency received a quantum boost in 1999 with the emergence of the first mass file sharing tool Napster that established the technical conditions for the massive point to point transfer of media files directly from one user to another using HTTP. This tool rendered clear to users what would later be articulated by network analysts as the fundamental characteristics of digital production. First both the inputs and the outputs were informational. As such they had what are known as 'public good' characteristics, namely that the cost of paying for initial production includes does is that of all subsequent copies. Furthermore the ability of one person to use the data does not hinder from the opportunity for any other to use the same data. Secondly, co-operation was made easy by a huge decline in communication costs, so that all one needed to know was whether a file was online at a given time or not, and this functionality was handled by the search interface. Thirdly, the ease of connecting the network provided a gigantic base of users with different types of files - elsewhere peer systems have succeeded by providing access to a panoramic range of living labour. Fourthly, all of these things had been rendered possible by the massive decline in cost of computational equipment capable of processing, storing and retrieving widely dispersed data - this apparatus provided both a means of production, and when attached to the network, a means of distribution.

As the jaws of the law closed in on Napster, and the latter attempted to weather the storm by becoming a commercial operation and initiating negotiations with commercial interests nominally owning the digital goods being shared, numerous alternative file-sharing systems arose and flourished. Most of these networks however contained similar content predictably mainstream in character, and so the process of user passivity to protagonism seemed stalled, locked into the prison of the imagination that had been constructed by decades of marketing, promotion and imagineering.

V2V V2V is conceived as an answer to several problems. The first is to make critical and creative work more widely available and familiar. Secondly to lay the plumbing of a network upon which people will be able to build their own gateways, according to their subjectivity. Thirdly to encourage users to allow their materials to be used as building blocks for others. Fourthly to enable a space for users and producers for feedback and the development of relations.

The fundamental resource necessary for V2V are plentiful bandwidth and storage space. Many high-speed services now charge a flat rate based upon the presumption that users will only use a fraction of their notional capacity creating a surplus available for allocation to purposes other than personal data transfers. Likewise the dizzying speed at which hard disk space has grown means that many users have surplus memory that they do not need. These two factors combined with evolving peer to peer protocols satisfy the necessary requirements to begin building a user-based infrastructure.

Given the permeation of internet coordination into social radical organizing that community is already quite elaborately networked. Communications have emphasized organization of demonstrations and events, or the development of common analytical resources however rather than the collectivization of unused transmission resources.

Increasing amounts of our media consumption are digitally delivered while commodity process continue to drive down the price of equipment and connectivity such that what today appears as a service available only to limited sections of the population will be extended to the population as a whole. By assembling this infrastructure now we can anticipate these developments, refine our techniques and be ready to convey our meanings to a wider audience.

Sustainability & Scalability Our history is littered with the contradictions of independent media structures and few have managed to retain their integrity. The reason for this has been the cost-sustainability nexus. As a magazine's readership grows printing costs increase, the level of commitment required of the writers rises and deals with commercial distributors become difficult to avoid. Typically two outcomes emerge. The first is dependency on external forms of funding from foundations, arts councils or private individuals. As anyone who has failed in a grant application is well aware, this reliance introduces distortions, both obvious and subtle, in purpose and self-perception. This tension is accentuated as the project expands and the discrepancy between external funding and internal revenue generation grows.

Professionalization is the other path that often awaits sometime critical endeavours. Daily newspapers such as Liberation and Tageszeitung in Europe are good examples of this, as are the various free-sheets in the United States such as Village Voice. Over time this commercialization eviscerates the critical quality of the work and imposes a 'mainstreaming effect'.

Peer to peer forms have the potential to scale through these difficulties without imposing financial burdens. As a network widens, its new participants bring additional resources so that the 'load' is distributed over a greater number of machines. The programme that we recommend for downloading files "Bit Torrent" illustrates this point. the performance of file sharing protocols such as Gnutella and Fast Track (Kazaa, Grokster) is handicapped by the fact that there are many users who only download files and do not contribute resources to the network. This is the problem economists classically refer to as 'the tragedy of the commons' or 'free riding'. In short the refusal of some to share inhibits the functioning of the system as a whole. Bit Torrent distinguished itself from these protocols by hardwiring in the code the obligation to share a file as one downloads it. The initial source of the file is known as a 'seed' and it distributes different components of the file to requesting clients. Each client is also connected to a 'tracker' that monitors which users are active and which elements of the file are in their possession. Via the tracker the clients then begin a coordinated exchange of packets between one another, gathering data from multiple sources simultaneously in a swarm formation. The result is that the higher the level of demand for a file, the more sources exist and the better the performance of the system.

Modus Operandi Submitting materials to the network requires the following steps. First the file should be compressed with the codec of your choice. If pressed we commend VP3 and XVid because of their non-proprietary character or DivX because of its efficiency and ubiquity. Ultimately however such technical determinations are not the province of V2V. The file should then be renamed following our naming convention, which means simply the addition of v2v_ before the file name. This convention makes it easier for users to search for independent files within the larger sea of music and video files.Basic data about the file must then be provided by filling in a form at v2v.indymedia.de that provides a summary of the genre, length, size, format, description, language and license type. When completed this file downloads to your desktop. Both the media file and the .info metadata form should then be placed in a folder with same name as the file and the uploaded via FTP to a V2V server. This means that the load of the initial wave of demand is spread over the servers and the time required to transfer is reduced.

The servers are set up with a scrip that proliferates the file through the server ring and generates three links. The first is a 'magnet' link and is commonly used by Gnutella Clients. The second is an eDonkey2000 link for clients of the eponymous network. The last is a torrent file, which must be downloaded and then opened to commence the transfer. Finally the news of the file's release appears on a V2V site/RSS containing both the basic metadata and the p2p links.

A Syndicated Network and No Exclusive Gateway V2V is a protean group composed of many diverse subjectivities. To try and capture them all in a definition of political purpose or cultural hue would be reductive and futile. The characteristics of the network also make it unnecessary. V2V is an infrastructure project to which each can build their own gateway. Files uploaded are published to an RSS (really Simple Syndication) wire that can be integrated into any page alongside one's own content or links. We urge others to form their own release groups, digitizing and making available files that reflect their interests. Individual Bit Torrent files and edonkey links can easily be copied and added to pages or emails.

A Community of Produsers "...where the gift is concerned, goods circulate in the service of ties. Any exchange of goods or services with no guarantee of recompense in order to create, nourish, or recreate social bonds between people is a gift. We intend to show how the gift, as a form of circulation of goods that promotes social bonding, represents a key element in any society." Jacque Godbout

Cultural workers are standardly used as source of moral authority by the copyright lobby as if the production of capitalist culture was not also a matter of exploitation of artists. Despite common adversaries little meaningful dialogue has taken place between cultural workers and p2p users. Users are depicted in a parasitic light -- when not portrayed as 'pirates' or 'criminals' -- as their activity is presented as consisting only in the unsanctioned consumption of the work of others. The lucrative rewards of mass culture are available however only to a handful, those whom the entertainment magnates have decreed will receive millions of dollars of promotion. For the rest there is the work of the journeyman, debt or the part-time job.

What keeps most independent culture alive is the rich fabric of community that makes the uneconomic possible, the myriad DIY film showings and concerts, the small magazines and distros, the tapestry of email lists that provides a conduit for feedback, response, and engagement with the meanings produced. And of course there are the beds and couches to sleep on all over the world, the curious packages and letters received in the post. To this list of 'benefits' provided by users and peer relationships we can add two others. The first is the actual physical and telecommunications platform upon which works can be hosted persistently and served at speeds that make viewing convenient rather than just feasible. Secondly the release of the material takes place into a crowd of potential emissaries, from individuals to independent film theaters and public access television.

Collaborative software allows commentary to be added directly to the notice of the film's release so that dialogue between users and producers occur, a dialogue which could relate to the substance of the film, the technique behind a shot, and offer of assistance or an invitation to present one's work. As the costs of equipment fall further, and video-editing skills proliferate, further inflections in literacy occur and more people will write audio-visually, Garage TV and Belles Images. Every user will also be a producer, and these categories will cease to have any salience in the age of the produser. This promiscuous mixing of images is anathema to copyright lovers and the interests behind them, but disturbs others as well, who have seen their work exploited, decontextualised and appropriated. Yet we know that copyright infringement makes no sound in cyberspace, and that such cries can serve to legitimize the fashion for extending control, monitoring and police-ware in the network. Away from the clumsy vice of the law space for reciprocal respect is fundamental. The licenses we attach to our achievements are signals about the way we want to be treated, appeals for fair attribution, for the protection of the subject, for protection against unjust profiteering. Mutual parasitism is possible but requires that we are all careful not to kill the host.

1. SETI example

2. Visibility

There's No Such Thing as Free Beer (as Mako pinted out about piracy as cheap advertising) Limits of freedom: commodity form; sharing of mainstream media products contributes productively to maintaining mainstream preferences. Payment may be lacking but the formula upon which the media companies relies remain intact: popularity of their archive produces revenues to control contemporary production and marketing, guaranteeing their dominance over the future. P2P distribution risks becoming a mechanism for the reinforcement of preferences alrreqady created by the market.

Pirate Challenge The battle has been won in distribution of the commodities. The amount of materials which are out there; the extent of the code base, functioning implementations; proliferation of physical devices that allow us to share outside without being online, via firewire or USB.

New Horizons The full articulation of the changes in distributions impact on productive processes in the audi-visual field is still to come. The raw materials are there. User interfaces to allow editing and recombination are being progressively simplified: don't think avid or final cut pro, think quicktime pro, iMovie etc. Do it and then distribute via p2p.

Space of reception Like the independent bookshop, the indie cinema is disappearing. Fortunately there is the rise of the amateur illegal, and 100% pirate. A place to show films entirely outside of industry distribution mechanisms, to free ride on their popularity, to enable spaces for the socialization of film through discussion, possibility to acquire copies. http://www.piratecinema.org

Product placement: millions of dollars are the evidence of the value producing capacity of media products as mirrors refracting our world, encouraging and fashioning consumption.

Distinction between free infrastructure and the affective effects of media in the production of exchange value. The first is the basis for the potential assault on the other, the possible platform for a self-determined reverse engineering of the mind. Without the second aspect the first loses its political significance, but it is necessary, it at least affords us the chance to make our own mistakes. When we counterpose free to proprietary, we are really talking about the problem.

path dependency

Some Consequences 1. Law 2. Censorship 3. Space of politicization created by repression of file trading laws.

joolsyp@blueyonder.co.uk Negri doc

New Global Vision Established in 2001, following the G* demonstrations in Genoa, born of the urgency to disseminate information, not only to the world in general but to the 300,000 who had taken part in demonstrations that had been physically broken up by the police, leaving one dead, hundreds injured, hundreds arrested and tortured in police custody.

Video distribution was already taking place on VHS, but was too slow, its coverage was minuscule, and there were the limitations imposed by cost. FTP servers were established and video updates circulating materials some taken from local television, most drawn from individual film makers and camera-operators. It was a massive success and the process took on a life of its own: today the ngvision archive contains over 550 films. these are not the 7 second clips of shadows or people falling over on a friday night. they are finished works of different standards.

Statistics: 4000 downloads per week

BT- 4 world war - 6,000 times off the bit torrent tracker alone.

Memory, but also about a dialogue with the present.