TOP: Networks and Resistance

On: March 9, 2011
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About Fei An Tjan
After finishing a Bachelor's in communications and Information I wasn't quite happy with, I decided to soak up some more life experience elsewhere before starting my Master. In Bolivia I worked for the newspaper of Santa Cruz (El Deber) and the Museum of Contemporary Art (Museo de arte contemporáneo). After six months, I changed location to Costa Rica to do a media internship with a volunteer travel agency. Here I gained more practical experience in the blogosphere, social media, and design which all laid the basis for my newly triggered interest in New Media. When I came back in the Netherlands, I signed up for the MA New Media and hope to finish this one happily ever after.


While we had been discussing the role of the activism in the digital era, there were some things that kept me thinking for the past few days, mainly related to the issue of resistance. Is it really, as Galloway and Thacker ((Galloway, Alexander, and Eugene Thacker. The Exploit. A Theory of Networks. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007. 1-42, 58-63, 81-
101.)) claim, something that lies within the network? A virus that needs to find the holes in technology in order to alter the current situation?

As an example, we discussed the case of ‘The Yes men fix the World’, where two activists take on several identities of important corporate characters and act in name of the company at stake. Here we could clearly see the point made by Galloway and Thacker as to how the network is being exploited. They have ‘infiltrated’ the company’s system and tried to alter it from within. The same accounts to hackers, who smartly manage to use the protocol of the network in order to hack a system. The rules and regulations of how a network functions, are in both cases used to alter that same network. And although I found this idea quite appealing, the question remained if this is something that we could apply in each case when resistance come in play?

What about the case of the Arabic revolution? Can we then speak about a network that is being changed from within? And what, in that respect, is within? The situation in Egypt became so chaotic that defining a network in the first place seems highly problematic. How do you determine the boundaries of national/localized resistance? Therefore also Castells (( Castells, The Power of Communication. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. 10-53 (chapter 1). )) approach of networks ‘fighting’ networks, or change from outside the network seems to be difficult to apply to some real life situations. While discussing this theme, I guess I shared the struggling thoughts of many students on how to deal with situations such as these, sometimes arduously trying to apply one theory to a certain phenomena.

Eventually, it all fell in place a little bit more thanks to Bruno Latour. We tend to belief that democracy is the highest aim for the protesters, but this appears to be more Western thinking than anything else. Should we let the actors speak for themselves, other values most likely come up. We should ask ourselves the question where the online representatives of the revolution come from, are they mainly US based citizens or are the reaction coming straight from the Tahrir square? Therefore, in defining the revolution in the Arabic world, we should first do one step back instead of jumping right to the ‘revolutionairy abilities’ of online social networks. Once we have figured that out, we might understand a little better where to look for resistance in the network.

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