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niels van doorn

on 12 March 2015

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Transcript of Security


Traditional sovereign power: repression of information
Governmentality/biopower: openness of information
The public spectacle of secrecy:
Jack Bratich (2006):

"Secrecy here is not skilled concealment, but what Michael Taussig calls 'the skilled revelation of skilled concealment'."

"Whereas truth is often attached to notions of exposure and the elimination of secrecy, we see in the current conjuncture that secrecy, if anything, has become more visible."

Pre-emption of critique
upon revelation: controlled disclosure; disclosed info adds to the mystery rather clarifying/solving anything; tells us what we already suspected; feeds paranoia; business as usual
Bratich: "We see not just an increase in public secrets, but an increasing monopoly over 'secretion', or generalized secrecy."

But is this true, when we look at the past few years?

Lovink: "Disclosures and leaks have featured in all eras, but never before has a non-state or non-corporate affiliated group done anything like Wikileaks."

Wikileaks as populist counter-spectacle of revelation?
Wikileaks' rise to fame/infamy in 2010:

Collateral Murder
Afghan War Logs
Iraq War Logs
US Diplomatic Cables

"Never before had a Net activist initiative been responsible for the sacking of ambassadors and ministers worldwide." (Lovink)
Wikileaks' conditions of possibility:

ITs: widespread use, faster, smaller, more storage space, lower costs
Problem of secrecy "in an age of instant reproducibility and dissemination" (Lovink)
Rise of a discipline called 'digital forensics'
An online culture shaped by "the steamy ambiance of "citizen journalism", DIY news reporting in the blogosphere, and ever-faster social media like Twitter." (Lovink)
25 years earlier:
"The steady decline of investigative journalism caused by diminished funding is an undeniable fact." (Lovink)
Our generation's whistleblowers:
Wikileaks is a so-called SPO (Single-Person Organization)


"SPOs are recognizable, exciting, inspiring, and easy to feature in the media. Their sustainability, however, is largely dependent on the actions of their charismatic leader, and their functioning is difficult to reconcile with democratic values. This is also why they are difficult to replicate and do not scale up easily."
Lovink's critique of Wikileaks:

"Wikileaks raises the question of what hackers have in common with secret services (...)"
"Wikileaks has displayed a stunning lack of transparency in its internal organization."
"As Wikileaks is neither a political collective nor an NGO in the legal sense, and is not, for that matter a company or part of a social movement, we need to discuss what type of organization we are dealing with."
"Contrary to the collaboration philosophy of Wikipedia, Wikileaks turned into a closed shop that was managed by a handful of people."
Wikileaks needs to become an organized network:

Crucial importance of
, and
editorial resources
"What Wikileaks anticipates, yet has so far been unable to organize, is the crowd sourcing of interpretation of its leaked documents." (Lovink)
"Traditional investigative journalism once consisted of three phases: unearthing facts, cross-checking them, and backgrounding them into an understandable discourse. Wikileaks does the first, claims to do the second, but omits the third entirely." (Lovink)
Not all tasks can be "outsourced" to the crowds: technical and journalistic skills/experience is needed
Established media institutions will need to be integrated into the extended organized network that
makes things public
Wikileaks and the Political Economy of Disclosure

Who has the power to direct the resources that underpin public disclosure in the internet era?

Power operates along three dimensions:

Control over essential infrastructure
Control over income streams
Control over analytical labor (from raw data to narrative)
Brevini and Murdock on the political economy of Wikipedia:

"A critical political economy approach to communicative activity is not, however, confined to analyzing how variable sources of funding affect the viability and diversity of cultural production. It is also centrally concerned with the labour processes that organize production on a practical basis."

From crowdsourcing to outsourcing knowledge and skills
: "This strategy of piggybacking on the resources provided by established news media raises the question of how far a platform can claim to be a radical alternative for disclosure if it lacks the resources to interpret the raw data it presents in a thoroughgoing way and is obliged to relinquish its editorial independence."
"The increasing control exercised by the leading commercial corporations points to the continuing need for counterinstitutions based on ideals of public service. As the experience of Wikileaks demonstrates, the long-term future of radical disclosure is ultimately tied up with the development of a network of publicly owned and accountable supporting organizations, from server farms to banks." (Brevini & Murdock)
Captives of the Cloud

"In a society permanently connected through pervasive broadband networks, the shared internet is, bit by bit and piece by piece, overshadowed by the "cloud"." (Metahaven)

The cloud as "planetary-scale infrastructure"
First mention in 1996: a "confederation" of networks governed by common protocol
Google's Eric Schmidt in 2004: "The computation and the data and so forth are in the servers."
"The internet's dispersed architecture gives way to the cloud's central model of data storage and management, handled and owned by a handful of corporations."
Biggest driver of the cloud: mobile devices (lightweight)
The Patriot Act and US "super-jurisdiction": control over all top-level domains (.com; .org; .net; etc.)
Reterritorialization of the internet: national sovereignty & security

John Perry Barlow, "A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace" (1996): territorial states have "no sovereignty where we gather"
Renaissance of the State
: "The internet began as a place too complicated for nation-states to understand; it ended up, in the second decade of the twenty-first century, as a place only nation-states seem to understand." (Metahaven)
Examples: NSA's
project; Lieberman's "pan-industrial, state-corporate embargo" ("he is an actor within a nexus of sovereign, economic, and social power" - Grimmelmann); NSL; but also experiments with national "data sovereignty"
Importance of
territory and resources:

The cloud "presupposes an environment protected and stable enough for its server farms to be secure, for its operations to run smoothly and uninterrupted."
Benjamin Bratton: the (Black) Stack

"Planetary-scale computation" (Facebook's server farms service 1 billion global users)
"Accidental megastructure": its parts "align, layer by layer, into something not unlike a vast (if also incomplete), pervasive (if also irregular) software and hardware
"It is a machine that serves as a schema, as much as it is a schema of machines."
This "image of a totality" makes visible "the composition of new governmentalities and new sovereignties"
Bratton's focuses less on privacy issues than on how the Stack "distorts and deforms traditional Westphalian modes of political geography, jurisdiction, and sovereignty"
Peace of Westphalia (1648)
A new
of the cloud

(law/order): "horizontal" system of modern nation-states who abide by international law
"We wrestle with the irregular abstractions of information, time, and territory, and the chaotic de-lamination of (practical) sovereignty from the occupation of place."
of the Cloud would (...) draw jurisdiction not only according to the horizontal subdivisions of physical sites by and for states, but also according to the vertical stacking of interdependent layers on top of one another" (DNS, etc.)
The Stack, in short, is that new
rendered now as vertically thickened political geography."
Clouds as Para-States

"Contemporary Cloud platforms are displacing, if not also replacing, traditional core functions of states, and demonstrating (...) new spatial and temporal models of politics and publics."
Infrastructure, legal identity and standing, maps, currencies, shared social imaginary, etc.
We lack a proper geopolitical theory of these transformations
"For these platforms, the terms of participation are not mandatory, and because of this, their social contracts are more extractive than constitutional."
Governmentality as control of flows: "It is not at all clear whether, in the long run, Cloud platforms will overwhelm state control of such flows, or whether states will continue to evolve into Cloud platforms"
Black Stack
: the "computational totality-to-come"; "not the platform we have, but the platform that might be."
Data Sovereignty, or the State as Platform

"The data haven is the spatial form that, at least theoretically, enables the evasion of sovereign power, while establishing an enclosed territory on the face of the earth." (Froomkin, 1996)

Offshore data hosting (Havenco on platform in North Sea)

New offshore destination: Iceland (the "Switzerland of bits")
Aftermath of its banking crisis: Icelanding Modern Media Initiative (IMMI)
"In Iceland, the classical data haven has evolved into a more advanced combination of policy, software, coding, and advocacy, removing itself from the anarcho-libertarian free-for-all. The internet, here, is an experiment with democracy."
"The design agenda for the future of the internet seems straightforward: become a networked, post-institutional, non-state actor and start right where you live with political reform. The idea of a "localized internet" anticipates increasingl overlaps between digital and physical social structures." -- Metahaven,
Captives of the Cloud, pt. III
Techno-Politics, Info-Disclosure
& the Cloud

New Media Theories
Week 14
Niels van Doorn
Full transcript