Anarchism & Social Technology: Contextualising the (non?)-field? – Full conference paper

I blogged a couple of months ago about hosting and facilitating a conference stream at the Anarchist Studies Network’s conference, Making Connections, about the relationship between anarchism and social technology. We had two presenters come along and discuss their research which focused on and explored some novel theoretical approaches to social media and technology from a distinctly anarchist or libertarian communist perspective.

Aaron Peters spoke about the network society, public-private spheres and Paolo Virno‘s ‘Soviets of the Multitude‘ in relation to the networked social movements we’ve seen emerge around the globe post-economic collapse. While Thomas Swann discussed the potential for cybernetic theory to be brought into play to account for the decentralised organising seen during last year’s riots and what this might mean for a conceptual model of anarchist organising. You can get download Aaron’s paper via Scribd here and Thomas’ paper here.

Aside from facilitating, I presented a short paper that aimed to contextualise what Gordon (2008) has described as the “ambivalent relationship” between anarchism and technology. This ambivalence as one of the reasons we proposed the stream originally as despite the conference organisers citing the #Occupy and Arab Spring movements as powerful, contemporary anti-authoritarian social media-enabled forces rising from the grass-roots, there were few attempts to engage with and analyse technology directly within the conference’s extensive agenda. My paper attempts to understand why this is and suggest what might might be done:

Ultimately, the paper – and the wider conference stream – aimed to kick-start a debate about the role technology plays (and the potential it possesses) in political resistance and social struggles as well as to stimulate renewed theoretical as well as practical engagements with the topic. What this might look like, I’m not entirely sure yet – although I’m fairly soundly convinced it will need to include a greater level of scholarly and activist reflection and praxis – but I’d love to hear any suggestions.

Anarchism and social technology: conference panel

I’m going to be facilitating a panel on anarchism and social technology at this year’s Anarchist Studies Network conference in Loughborough next week. You can read the abstracts below.

There are a couple of really interesting papers up for presentation that seek to account for the social changes we’re witnessing around the globe. Both papers draw on some really interesting and novel theoretical approaches to social media and technology that – in the true ethos of the internet – hack existing theories to account for contemporary radical projects or event. For example, Aaron Peters takes Paolo Virno‘s ‘Soviets of the Multitude‘ – an extremely far-sighted perspective that appropriates Marx’s notion of the ‘general intellect’ and uses it to account for the decentralised and autonomous techno-social productivity that we’re witnessing with the social web. Thomas Swann, meanwhile, draws on (the often maligned) cybernetic theory to account for the decentralised organising seen during last year’s riots.

Aside from facilitating, I want to use my time to give a short overview of what has been described as the “ambivalent relationship” between anarchism (and anarchists) (Gordon, 2008). This relationship appeared to be manifest when trying to generate interest in this conference panel. Despite the organisers citing the #Occupy and Arab Spring movements as powerful, contemporary anti-authoritarian forces rising from the grass-roots it has not been easy to identify researchers or practitioners to take part.

I plan to address this issue and hopefully put it into some context before attempting to briefly point a way out of the ambivalence!

Maybe see you there :)