The Internet is a Factory – Strike, Occupy, Blockade!
Private cloud-based data monopolies threaten to undermine not only our access to information but the very fabric of our social ties. The personal becomes public, the public becomes personal. The process is already unfolding before us at the continuing expense of liberty and privacy. The fact is, most of us need various levels of privacy; we don’t mind our information being public to our friends, we shy a bit away with our bosses, and we find ourselves somewhat disgusted to think of the relationship our data enjoys with the data oligarchs (of which Google represents only the most aggressive and most notable early accumulator).
Cloud computing marks the beginning of a new strategy on the part of the enemy. Along with the outward movement away from centralized servers is the inward movement of data onto the private clouds. We must recognize in this process the tendency toward a total private appropriation of information. This is nothing but an affront to the producers of the world.
Yet, in shifting to the cloud, the information bourgeoisie is already acknowledging our greatest strength. We are many, and our resources are wide. Capitalists will always be able to outproduce us in material terms, so long as our struggles remain alienated. The struggle for information, though, is the struggle for the public appropriation of the new capital. The bourgeoisie has long sensed that it can only maintain its grip through the development of new forms of production if it is prepared to carry out Enclosure-Without-End.
Far beyond our needs for processor cores and storage space, information is the resource we lack now. Yet this very real lack is not the result of a single Enclosure Act, it is the product of an ongoing process of appropriation. Information is the primary means of production of information; and thus, the bourgeoisie must constantly struggle to maintain its iron grip. Make no mistake, this is class war, with implications remarkably similar to those long-faced by workers in every other sector experiencing cutbacks and restructuring:
While the current global recession has certainly cut deeply into many IT budgets, it also makes many businesses more willing to pursue new lower-cost computing alternatives. The massive scale of consumerized cloud suppliers has brought with it very different business models. A typical large enterprise data centre might require one IT administrator for every 20 to 40 servers. However, at leading cloud computing firms such as Amazon, the ratio is more like 1 to 2,500 – or more. Thus cloud computing can move labour down the list of data centre costs from first position to fourth (after power, hardware and facilities). (Cloud rEvolution: A Workbook for Cloud Computing in the Enterprise)
The DMCA was a qualitative shift in some ways, but it was a mostly defensive maneuver. In fact, patents had already long since been used as a weapon against producers. Every day another Information Enclosure; every day another dream foreclosed.
This is a nightmare, but all dreams are real. We, the producers of information, do not have to dream of different conditions. The information we create is the primary input into the production of information. This sounds paradoxical, but as the General Intellect becomes the driving force of production, it becomes doubly so the motor for production of information.
Our access to the information needed to produce is limited by the system of private property. We can, however, struggle defensively to maintain access to sections of this information–this they call “piracy.” We can struggle to prevent the Enclosures of Information by building open, collaborative frameworks with conscious design.
The effect is not one such as the Marxists may desire. No single new subjectivity is opened up, and no ‘revolutionary consciousness’ unfolds. Rather, the free use and production of information is a revolutionary mode of being. We cannot speak of ‘ideology’ or ‘false consciousness’ because all consciousness is false, and nothing illustrates this better than the vast collective unconscious currently accessible via the Internet.
With or without a system of ownership, no one has total access to information–whether under the worst fascist or Leninist totalitarianism, or in a post-property world. Information is limitless by nature, slipping through the fingertips, bits are so many grains of sand.
If information is sand, we its producers must aspire to an avalanche. The production of information must be accelerated, not feared. Through this acceleration we must destroy limits on the pathways for information’s production and distribution (which are not at all disparate processes). This is the struggle against what can be called “Facebook consciousness”–that is, a struggle against the nondesiring subjectivities produced by the centralized means of communication. We must aim not to substitute the limitations of a given subjectivity for those of the dominant information monopolies. Instead, our methods should be those which enable the production of cascading subjectivities–those which are themselves productive of more subjectivities (perhaps this process is fractal-like–at the least, Deleuze and Guattari’s comparison of fractals and rhizomes should be reconsidered in connection).
The widespread affective drain resulting from the proliferation of Facebook and similar information-traps is already ingrained with the truth of experience in the lives of the producers. Life is boring between status updates. Is this chilling effect necessarily a byproduct of increases in connectivity and communication? What prevents these technologies from being used to create new social realms, to reshape in a more social direction the everyday lives of participants? We must answer: only the monopolization and enclosure of the information thus produced prevents us from observing the real effects of our alienated production. We are blinded by the spectacle of social media; we are as oblivious to the flows of value as we are isolated from the flows of information.
New social media are means for counterattack, for allowing the free production of subjectivities and the free subjectivities of producers. Those factors of the existing social media which give rise to alienation and state intervention must be identified, defined, and replaced. As demonstrated by attempts like Facebook’s foray into email or Google’s foray into operating systems, the enemies are diffuse and deterritorialized. We must also be, but we can only begin by channeling our productive energies into efforts which can give rise to increases in our own free production. In the realm of social media, the implication is clear: we must build a new social network, capable of preventing the commodification of the information it contains and we produce. It must be at least as impervious to infiltration by agents of the state as are our own egos (which may prove insufficient). Its data must be stored in the cloud formed by its users, and this data must be secured between and among sharing groups.
There may come to be a tension between data security and anti-commodification efforts. While this conflict reflects none other than that between private and public property, the battles which constitute it are not so simply defined. The mitigation of the conflict, however, indicates not a fundamental resolution but a tipping of the broader balance of power in one direction or the other. For now, perhaps, the competition of information monopolists still presents the opportunity to move forth with our own development efforts. This is the starkest means of resistance to the enclosure of the new social media. But while the opportunity still exists, it dwindles as technology and subjectivity change daily. Hitherto existing efforts at such a development have been hindered by limitations in political perspective, limitations in scope, and limitations in productive energy. These are the primary obstacles facing a new, freer social networking medium. These are the obstacles which must be overcome to smash the emergent Facebook consciousness which depresses us so.