In many cases, their discussions and actions embraced the widely shared assumption that the power to protest the financial crisis today lies in using the new available communication infrastructure because of its capability to mobilize critical masses (Castells 2012; Jenkins, Ford, and Green 2013).
It will become clearer throughout this book that connective activism is about fostering social connection rather than networked mediation for political mobilization. In this sense it is very different from the logic of connective action theorized by W. Lance Bennett (2013) and Alexandra Segerberg (Bennett and Segerberg 2012).
The Independent Media Centers (IMC) or Indymedia were the first citizen journalism centers that systematically covered protests from the grassroots perspective of the movements involved in global justice, starting with the 1999 Carnival against Capital in London. Indymedia developed and used the first horizontal online open publishing platforms, which have eventually given rise to so-called Web 2.0 (see chapter 4). It rapidly grew into a worldwide network after covering the 1999 anti-WTO protests in Seattle.
All translations from Italian are mine unless otherwise indicated.
The diffusion of YouTube and other Web 2.0 spaces outdated Telestreet very soon after its birth: although internet-based media in Italy does not fulfill the same function as traditional television—always on as a background to household activities—platforms like YouTube became more accessible for Italians while Telestreet was attempting to grow. Once broadband internet became more affordable, some nodes moved online, abandoning the airwaves, for which transmission is often rife with technical and logistical problems. Some channels were never able to muster the analog transmission technology and opted for a WebTV version shortly after their start.
See chapter 2 for more on conricerca.
My ties and eventual participation in insu^tv grew organically over the first years of my research on other Telestreet nodes through multiple trips to my hometown of Naples and my friendship with some of its members.
While I make extensive use of the data gathered during the interviews and conversations with insu^tv, I have chosen to only selectively quote from my transcriptions and study results (a full list of interviews appears in the appendix). This is because I am wary of singling out others’ ideas in a context where ideas cannot be attributed to specific individuals. Moreover, from an ethical research perspective, it is often hard to make choices about what piece of information to include when the time spent with our so-called informants is not only data collection time but also our time of work and friendship. This time spent together was based on trust and not on self-censorship, and although I did my best to anonymize information while still providing a multilayered tale, I fully claim responsibility for my statements and interpretations.
1. Making Sense of Telestreet
See, for example, the law Decreto Legge 27.07.2005 no. 144, Gazzetta Ufficiale 27.07.2005, on urgent measures to fight international terrorism.
Karen Barad has used the notion of diffraction as a guiding practice, as “a method of diffractively reading insights through one another, building new insights, and attentively and carefully reading for differences that matter in their fine details, together with the recognition that, there, intrinsic to this analysis is an ethics that is not predicated on externality but rather entanglement” (2012, 77). As a guiding practice in my writing, diffraction is brought about by new compositions of ideas, methods, and media (including this book). The process of producing compositions with and through research on Telestreet is also a way of focusing on the importance of where knowledge comes from when reading insights through one another—experimenting with ethical patterns of relationality (Barad interviewed in Dolphijn and Tuin 2012, 50).
From this perspective, it can be argued that change is an immanent relationship in itself. Brian Massumi’s insights are worth quoting at length: “The idea is that there is an ontogenesis or becoming of culture and the social . . . of which determinate forms of culture and sociability are the result. The challenge is to think that process of formation, and for that you need the notion of a taking-form, an inform on the way to being determinately this or that. The field of emergence is not presocial. It is open-endedly social. . . . That interaction is precisely what takes form. That is what is socially determined—and renegotiated by each and every cultural act. Assume it, and you beg the whole question. . . . Not assuming it, however, entails finding a concept for interaction-in-the-making. The term adopted here is relation” (2002, 9). By separating the ontological status of the relation from that of its terms, the notion of change shifts from merely negating, subverting, or deviating from the preconstituted terms and codes of a relation within a structuring grid to the simultaneous emergence of both individuals and society. Individuation is very much about relations and compositions as modes of being themselves, that is, as simultaneous with the terms engendered (Simondon 2006, 38).
The concept of transduction captures the process of gradual physical, biological, mental, or social becoming—individuation—that puts into communication and structures different zones where it takes place: “Each region of the structure that is constituted in this way then serves to constitute the next one to such an extent that at the very time this structuration is effected there is a progressive modification taking place in tandem with it” (Simondon  1992, 313). This description of transduction reflects Simondon’s attempt to account for the nonlinearity of processes of emergence while still finding a common denominator for different processes of individuation (for instance, the formation of crystals of snow, the transition from the perception of the cold snow to the emotions felt touching it, to the effects on the individuality of a person, to their relation with their surroundings).
Simondon’s theorization of individuation offers a comprehensive framework to discuss not only the subjectivation of humans at these multiple scales but also the development of technology and its role in processes of subjectivation. This will become clear in the following chapters.
Chapters 4 and 5 delve deeper into the role of information within processes of emergence, engaging information theory, cybernetics, and Simondon’s understanding of information.
2. Intimacy and Media Making
Bifo is quoting André Breton’s “Manifesto of Surrealism” (1924).
De-lirium: mid-sixteenth century, Latin, from delirare, “deviate, be deranged” (literally “deviate from the furrow”); from de- (“away”) + lira (“ridge between furrows”). Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. “delire,” accessed April 1, 2009, https://www.oed.com. The latter is a ploughing metaphor.
The antipsychiatry movement was particularly strong in the sixties and seventies, denouncing institutional asylums as abusive and violent structures for control and decrying the unequal power relationship between doctors and patients that often led to questionable diagnoses. In Italy, the psychiatrist Franco Basaglia led the democratic psychiatry movement and, with the support of trade unions and the student movement, was able to make asylums and compulsory hospitalization illegal (Nasrallah 2011).
Drawing on Charles Pierce and Louis Hjelmslev, Deleuze and Guattari describe the sign (and language) as entirely immanent and socially determined by stratification ( 1983, 240–62; 1987, 39–74).
These kinds of pamphlets (e.g., OASK, Senso, la congiura de’ pazzi) were called fogli trasversali (transversal sheets) and were all produced and circulated in a similar context.
This notion of desire refutes the transcendent, idealist, or psychoanalytic approach to “desire as lack”—that is, the drive to fill a lacuna and procure pleasure, discussed in the canonical work of Plato, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, and Jacques Lacan. Deleuze and Guattari talk about a kind of “desiring-machine” that connects and disconnects the flow among larger interconnected machines while producing flows itself. The second volume of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, A Thousand Plateaus, replaces the concept of a desiring-machine with that of the assemblage.
The Vietnam War contributed to shattering the Italian myth of the United States as a country of dreams come true and shed light on its imperialist tendencies. Rather than the United States as a general abstraction, Italian activists identified with their rebelling universities, the Wobblies, the hippie communes, and the Black Panther Party (Ginsborg 1989, 406–9).
The theories questioned the labor theory of value and distinguished between labor power (the object of Marxism as a science) and the working class (the subject of Marxism as revolution) (Del Re 2013).
It is often accompanied by a theorization of the universal guaranteed minimum wage or basic income (Virno and Hardt 1996).
This critique of identity is taken up in Deleuze’s book The Logic of Sense (1969), through the example of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (Berardi, Jaquemet, and Vitali 2009, 78).
During this period there were two sides to Italian feminism: one that focused on the development of self-awareness (often based in the work of psychoanalysis) and one that was decidedly operaista (workerist) (Dalla Costa 2002). The latter produced important breakthroughs in Marxist analysis of gender.
The demands for money were primarily a response to the fact that women were financially dependent on men but they were also coupled with demands for the reduction of the working week to twenty hours, freeing time for social reproduction and making visible the labor of producing the laborer. Other women in the institutional left and from other strands of feminism critiqued this position and sought work outside the home. Even within autonomist feminism, some workingwomen found themselves marginalized by the demands for paid housework (Cuninghame 2008). Alisa Del Re’s (2013) analysis of the relation between work and personal time led her to advocate for social services and welfare programs like subsidized childcare to be relieved of work, waged or not, both outside and inside the house. Rather than being completely opposing positions, these could be described as “parallel streams of struggle, progress in both arenas constituting a necessary condition for women’s autonomy” (Culbertson 2012).
Lotta Femminsta was a splinter group of Potere Operaio. Groups like the International Feminist Collective coordinated actions across countries and held international conferences. Unlike many feminist movements of the time, the International Feminist Collective also considered race a further layer of oppression, for example in Selma James’s Sex, Race, and Class (2012). Worth mentioning is also a lesser-known tradition of exchanges between autonomists and black Marxists like C. L. R. James and Raya Dunayevskaya but also race and labor activists like Grace Lee Boggs. Finally, lines of solidarity ran at the intersection of patriarchy, class, and cultural marginalization. Mariarosa Dalla Costa (2002) recounts that “Afro-American women were part of this circuit. They used to say that the strong Italian presence in the circuit had made it conceivable for them to take part in it, because Italian women had little power (a kind of Third World women in their eyes).”
Here it is worth mentioning the work of Lea Melandri, a pathbreaking feminist from Milan, who was closer to the self-awareness than the operaista movement (the former had a strong footing in the city). Melandri brought together women from different classes through the groups on sexuality and writing (gruppi di scrittura e sessualitá) and through what she defines as “experience writing” (scrittura d’esperienza), where one interrogates the connection between thinking and body memory that shape subjectivity (Melandri 2002, 125).
For more information on the terror attacks, see, e.g., De Lutiis (1984) 1994; Willan 1991.
The reasons and dynamics behind this coup attempt are not yet clear. The trials linked fascist groups to the government, its secret services, the Free Masons, and the mafia. After a series of harsh sentences, the appeals to the trial ended with an acquittal of all the individuals involved, with the exception of some jail sentences for illegal weapon possession. For more information, see Flamini 2007.
In the first fifteen years under the Reale Law (nr. 152 on 22/5/1975), the Italian security forces shot 625 people (254 dead and 371 wounded), of which 208 had not committed and were not about to commit any crimes (Balducci 1990).
In his analysis of the relationship between Italian politics and violence, the “Anatomy of Autonomy” (Berardi 2007), Berardi makes a distinction between forms of violent struggle that are necessary for direct action (picketing, occupations, taking to the streets) and forms such as the militarization of the movement through autonomous armed cells, that is, terrorism. This distinction clarifies the contradictory stance of Radio Alice developing as a project that repudiates violence and the radio’s support of the riots in March 1977.
Shortly after the riots, in September 1977, a convention against repression brought together seventy thousand members of autonomia groups and sympathetic international intellectuals to rescue the movement from its crisis. The event merely resulted in the reemergence of an old fracture on the forms of political organization and left the groups ill-equipped to produce any alternatives to the “armed struggle” and to their own looming demise (Berardi 2007, 160). The debate between those who refused any kind of structures that shaped the movement from the inside and those who advocated for a clear political direction of the movement to reach political mediation with the dominant powers had been an underground force that shaped and reshaped the various groups ever since its beginning. This hard-to-reconcile tension between class subjectivity and political subjectivity is still a major part of the debates that shape Italian autonomist movements (and many others) in the present.
Again, here I am careful to stress that the “madness” of a person refers to their behaving outside the norm rather than their being abnormal.
3. Delirium at Work in Berlusconi’s Mediascape
In 1978 there were 434 private television channels (Barbacetto 2004, 38).
Assemblages are a more conceptual and philosophical framing of what the mathematics of topology conceives as manifolds. Like manifolds, assemblages can be made visible by mapping the potential relations among various terms without assigning a specific value to each term (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 12). In other words, the relation among these terms is differential (Deleuze 1994, 179).
For this economic analysis, I draw on Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler’s theory of differential accumulation. Differential accumulation refers to the processes through which economic actors compete to accumulate in relation to each other and identifies the kinds of practices that obtain and consolidate power; in our time the practices are characteristic of neoliberalism. With the lens of differential accumulation, I show production from the perspective of power rather than the worker. For Nitzan and Bichler, productivity bears directly on power, while capital accumulation, state formation, and criminal activities are all key elements of a single process to accumulate capital as power (2009, 280). On the whole, struggles for differential accumulation among powerful actors continuously order and reorder society, and their analysis can outline a topology of qualitatively changing power arrangements and the discursive and nondiscursive formations that sustain them (Cochrane 2011).
Capital is also redistributed when profits rise faster than it takes for wages to catch up.
When looking at assets as capitalized power, government is incorporated into capital and its influence is discounted into corporate stocks and bond prices. In a context in which this process can be made predictable and manipulated through corruption and other practices, accumulation increases more easily, affecting the market/social makeup through more concentration of power into the hands of fewer capitalist groups. These groups, in turn, can condition institutions and shape the logic of capital, often making powerful corporations into de facto regulators (Nitzan and Bichler 2009, 297–99).
In his collection of documents and transcripts of all the trials and investigations, Gianni Barbacetto also mentions Berlusconi’s membership in the secret Masonic Lodge P2, involved, among other things, in an attempted coup d’ètat. In 1981 fellow members, P2 head Licio Gelli, Communication Minister Michele Di Giesi, and other high-ranking government officials procured Berlusconi the exclusive rights to broadcast live and nationwide a world soccer championship, despite legal restrictions. On many other occasions, Berlusconi’s channels were rescued and RAI sabotaged by the prompt intervention of other friends (Barbacetto 2004, 40–41). The secretary to Communication Minister Oscar Mammì left his job right after the law was passed and received from Fininvest a gift of 460 million lire (61).
Virtual money transactions enable the economy to thrive even in the absence of “real” capital in the hands of consumers who are subject to job and financial insecurity. Debt itself takes over the function fulfilled by state assistance that guarantees access to basic rights such as housing and education. For a discussion of subjectivation through debt, see Maurizio Lazzarato’s The Making of the Indebted Man: An Essay on the Neoliberal Condition (2012).
Membership in Forza Italia was limited to an initial four thousand members for many years before it was opened again. It still has a screening process.
The personalization of politics in Italy was significantly aided by the change to the electoral system from a proportional voting system to a majority one in 1993. Like in the United States, a majority voting system favors the showcasing of top candidates in political debates in the media.
Affects were implicated in the reactions of the viewer to the mediality of the medium transmitting the images (Grusin 2010, 81). I believe that Berlusconi’s control of the media helped him win, not because he could monopolize the information flows but because he could use marketing and knowledge of affective manipulation developed over the years to reshape the language of politics.
Papì is the nickname used by many of Berlusconi’s employees (especially young women on his television channels) to address him (Anonymous 2009). While it literally means “daddy” and points to his touted father role for the country, it also has a very strong sexual connotation.
4. Activist Energetics in the Information Milieu
Amid the dominant demonization or infantilization of the students, coverage of the 1990 movement also made history in Italian journalism because some mainstream media outlets directly provided a platform for the students to speak for themselves. In this sense, news outlets were partly responsible for the spread of the occupations across the Italian peninsula. Already in December 1989, the left-leaning daily L’Ora in Palermo had allowed one of its new journalists, Titti De Simone, who was involved in the occupations, to chronicle the events from within the occupied university. In early January 1990, with a reportage by the national weekly L’Espresso and RAI talk show Samarcanda—which had live interventions by the students in the universities—a different representation of the occupations spread across Italy and garnered support (Denaro 2006).
As someone who witnessed some of the discussions, I recall that not everyone agreed with associating a political movement with a logo because they felt it was necessary to keep capitalist aesthetics and communication tactics outside politics.
One of the social centers squatted that year in Naples was named Tienament (1989–97)—as homage to Chinese students and as a pun on a Neapolitan dialect expression meaning “remember, or keep in mind.”
Okkupanet reminds us that, while occupation and “Occupy” became a meme in the second decade of the new millennium, many of its tactics and discourses have been part of social movements for a long time, not just in Italy. See, for example, Feigenbaum, Frenzel, and McCurdy 2013.
The chat communication features of networks like DECnet and BITnet had already led Jarkko Oikarinen to develop Internet Relay Chat (IRC) in 1988 (Oikarinen 1997). IRC became very popular and is still a common communication tool to chat among hackers.
These discourses on heterogeneity within collective subjectivity can be found again in theorizations of the multitude as the vanguard subject of struggle in neoliberal societies (Hardt and Negri 2000, 2004, 2009; Virno 2004).
Telecommunications engineer Claude Elwood Shannon (1948) conceived of information as a ratio of signal to noise. His research was concerned with efficient communication of messages and with how signals can overcome noise as they travel through channels. Shannon’s theories are helpful to understand the kind of guerrilla communication I have described so far. In Simondon’s theories of individuation (2006), information is a structuring force that constantly gives shape to—literally informs—structures and systems. His understanding of information is key in framing movements like La Pantera and Telestreet as formations that are subject to constant inputs to change within a milieu where seeds for transformation abound. For a more in-depth discussion of the difference between Simondon’s and Shannon’s theorization of information, see the work of Thomas Lamarre (2012), Muriel Combes (2013, 51–55), and David Scott (2014, 39–42).
Individual perception supports processes of subjectivation (see chapters 3 and 5) while social dynamics connects individuals to groups and broader social formations (see chapters 6 and 7).
For a history and characterization of social centers in Italy, see the work of Pierpaolo Mudu (2014).
For Maxigas, a scene points to the idea of bodies and machines located in specific sites and performing concrete functions that are part of hacker cultures (Autistici/Inventati 2017, 13). Decoder was founded in Milan in 1986 as a group interested in social uses of new technologies like the bulletin board system BBS FidoNet (Di Corinto and Tozzi 2002, 220). The Italian FidoNet created the local node of the Association for Progressive Comunication (APC): the Associazione PeaceLink—telematica per la pace (Peacelink Association—telecommunications for peace) (1992) (Di Corinto and Tozzi 2002, 294).
Buttressing the work of these tech collectives was free and open-source software (F/OSS) like Dynebolic, which, from 2002 onward, provided media activists with a toolkit for F/OSS multimedia production and audio streaming (eventually video too). Dynebolic runs Linux from a CD-ROM on recycled computers, without having to install the operating system, making media production portable and affordable (Dyne.org 2002). The development of free software for activism fulfilled the multiple aims of bypassing corporate monopoly on hardware and software, guaranteeing more anonymity for users and creating programs and interfaces for information production and circulation. At the same time, discussions about intellectual property became part of a sustained effort to create a knowledge commons. The discussions on cyber rights and on intellectual property eventually engendered projects like Creative Commons (Italy), the Italian version of a transnational “copyleft” set of licenses that guarantees the preservation of some rights for authors while leaving out corporate control.
“La Neta” means “the real story” in Mexican slang. Martinez-Torres also discusses prior collaborations to set up BBS-based networks like PaxMex in the 1980s (Martinez-Torres 2001). For an in-depth history of the use of emerging technologies for social struggle in the Americas, see the work of Dorothy Kidd (2004) and Brian Murphy (2002, 2005).
The EZLN’s use of informational guerrilla tactics became proof of the possibility to tamper with the relationship between government and investors that is key to the flow of capital, by affecting the dominant power’s potential to use information for economic gain. Even before the hackers of Anonymous developed more powerful tools for distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, RAND Corporation research was already defining activist informational guerrilla as netwar (Arquilla and Ronfeldt 1997, 369–95; 2001, 171–99; Ronfeldt et al. 1998, xi–xii), pointing to the damaging effects these forms of digital direct information-based action could have on governments and economic actors.
The police brutality of Genoa is relived to various degrees still today at protests where governments have standardized their methods of dissent preemption through the protocols of the Miami model (Renzi and Elmer 2013). These include but are not limited to surveillance of online communication, preemptive arrests of organizers, surveillance and infiltration of groups, large police presence, and the use of military less-than-lethal weapons. See, for example, Preempting Dissent: Policing the Crisis (Elmer and Opel 2014) and The Miami Model (Indymedia 2003).
Jeffrey Juris (2008) has discussed in detail the process and debates leading up to the summit and the role of discussions about violence in fragmenting the movement, drawing attention to the lack of internal coordination among organizing groups from Genoa onward.
It is possible to observe the continuity between the first debates on consent-based online discussions with Okkupanet and Indymedia’s Principles of Unity (http://perthindymedia.net/principles-of-unity), meant to structure interaction among network nodes. Similar strategies and discourses resurface in the moderation criteria of NGVision, the video platform of Telestreet.
For instance, the organization of the Florence Social Forum widened the political cracks that had opened after Genoa and strained a movement that was already ailing from repression: “But in Florence it was like a bomb went off. In Florence everything vanished. Everyone huddled around what little was left standing. And for the little that remained, the evictions began, the charges rained down, it was a massacre. A political and human massacre, because people stopped talking to each other, even people within A/I” (Caparossa, qtd. in Autistici/Inventati 2017, 79).
A/I provides encryption and anonymity services and does not keep logs of the communication it supports. Nevertheless, on some occasions, police have been able to copy all the data on its servers with the pretext of looking for specific email accounts (Autistici/Inventati 2017, 89).
The effect of this growth will impact social movement communication not only because tech collectives will have to compete with more established platforms that are expressly designed with for-profit aims in mind but also because the growth of Web 2.0 will significantly impact discourses on surveillance and privacy: “For example cryptography spread, but in a completely different way from the cypherpunk ideas that had fueled Kriptonite or the early A/I collective. E-commerce firms sanctioned and imposed it, whilst users mostly found the complications involved in cryptographic tools to be tiresome, and were happy to trade their privacy for free services” (Autistici/Inventati 2017, 73).
The movement was also staffed with an army of militant co-researchers producing knowledge on the new forms of labor—service, migrant, care, and informational—that were becoming more common in the country’s service economy (Mattoni 2008). This kind of work created a renaissance of autonomist research on class composition in the new labor force of cognitive capitalism (Tsianos and Papadopoulos 2006; Mattoni 2008; Neilson and Rossiter 2008; Berardi 2009). For a general analysis of the economy, see the work of Andrea Fumagalli (2007) and Nick Dyer-Witheford (1999); for work on labor, race, and immigration, see Sandro Mezzadra and Brett Neilson (2013) and Miguel Mellino and Anna Curcio (2002); for work on gender and precarity, see Alice Mattoni (2008); for precarious work at call centers and in journalism, see Enda Brophy (2017) and Nicole Cohen (2016). Much of the research on precarity has been published on sites like Quaderni di San Precario (http://quaderni.sanprecario.info/) and has formed the basis for a rethinking of the relationship between communication and the economy in the field of media studies (McKercher and Mosco 2007; Roggero 2011; Brophy 2017). See also Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies 11, no. 1 (2014) (e.g., Bratich 2014; Thorburn 2014).
5. Squatted Airwaves, Hacked Transmission
The final chapter asks what it would mean to inquire into these recompositions as a form of conricerca and as a way of learning from the past to strengthen the future. What can an energetics of movements tell us about media and change and about strategies to strengthen movements and media use?
Perception is the act of increasing the information in a system and is at the basis of psychic individuation. The processing of information is what allows the viewer system to reorient every time the system’s equilibrium is upset. Muriel Combes explains that a “physical system is said to be in metastable equilibrium (or false equilibrium) when the least modification to the parameters of the system (pressure, temperature, etc.) is sufficient to break the equilibrium of the system. . . . Before every individuation, being can be understood as a system that contains potential energy” (2013, 11). Every metastable system contains potential and its energy is potential because in order to structure itself it requires a transformation of the system.
Isole nella Rete is part of the European Counter Network (ECN), a virtual network created in 1989 as a bulletin board system (BBS), which then acquired an internet server in 1996. The network was created after a series of European meetings that started in 1984 (Di Corinto and Tozzi 2002). The ECN is a platform connecting different elements of the extraparliamentary left in Italy and Europe, similar to North American initiatives like Riseup.
P2P has a horizontal architecture without suppliers and consumers: everyone partakes in both functions. For these reasons, it can produce use value among freely cooperating nodes rather than exchange value for the market (Bauwens 2005). P2P content-delivery systems have paved the way for the development of all kinds of applications, ranging from music exchange to streaming media and serverless portal systems for anonymous and autonomous web portals.
NGVision closed down in 2012, mostly because it had been superseded by commercial video platforms.
See Creative Commons, “About,” accessed January 2, 2019, https://creativecommons.org/.
Since all of Telestreet’s nodes are strictly noncommercial, there is no advertising. It is worth mentioning that Disco Volante TV was the only channel officially shut down under the pressure of local commercial broadcasters who were afraid of losing viewership and therefore advertising revenues.
Procura della Repubblica presso il Tribunale di Ancona, Richiesta di Archiviazione 562/04, in Art. 408/411 c.p.p., 125 e 126 D.L.v. 271/89 (Ancona, March 1, 2005).
Chapter 8 discusses how regulations on digital broadcasting rendered Telestreet’s transmission system obsolete and how its ensemble had to be reconfigured again through social media and other available components.
To many Telestreettari’s dismay, the proposed regulation came to nothing after the collapse of the center-left government and the return of Berlusconi’s center-right coalition. Other Telestreet members did not consider this a major defeat since not all nodes were interested in legalizing the network because of the hurdles that come with working within institutional settings. For these people, the molecularity of the Telestreet assemblage allows for creative recomposition in a way that molar, institutionalized media assemblages like public and open channels cannot. Although “Bill Gentiloni,” the draft legislation that Telestreet proposed, was never approved, the meetings and discussions for its preparation mark an important moment because of the conflict and of the self-examination that ensued in the network. The discussions about the bill were also the last moment of intense collaboration among many different Telestreet nodes before their general dispersal.
The concept of modulation foregrounds the continuity of the process within a metastable system and, as such, always entails the potential for further transformations.
While the term community television is rather ambiguous and can refer to a variety of grassroots media (Rodríguez 2001; Carpentier 2007), my use of the term is closer to its definition as open-access television, one that has been promoted by activists like George Stoney and projects like Paper Tiger TV (Boyle 1999; Halleck 2002) and that is supported by legislation in many countries.
Telestreet has also featured video by Otello Urso, a blind camera operator for SNK TV in Catania.
During this interaction, the ceremony host blatantly directed the awards into the hands of the person pushing Civelli’s wheelchair, who, in turn, gestured toward Civelli. The exchange is a good reminder that the impact of viewing certain content on television does not always last long enough to replace social habits.
Unfortunately, Disco Volante was never able to recover from the blow of the long legal battle and slowly phased out of existence as some of the key people driving the group burned out or had to take leave because of health problems.
6. Subjectivity, Therapy, Compositionality in the Porous Spaces of Naples
As part of the interiority that keeps individuals constantly in tension with their environment, the preindividuality of the Neapolitan is only different from that of others insofar as its relation to the outside may be shaped by a more sustained engagement and intimacy with impermanence. In this sense, many other informal environments are conducive to similar processes of individuation that could be considered an aspect of resilience.
Here I am building on Simondon (2006), for whom society is not the result of the reciprocal presence of several individuals; nor is it a substantive reality to superimpose on individual beings, as if it were not dependent on them.
The funds to upgrade, outfit, and maintain these spaces come from money raised through large parties that are organized at the university. The university only covers the water and electricity costs (TerzoPiano n.d.).
In reality, the protests against the forum were “an invention” of Neapolitan activists. Insu^tv member Wadada explains that the forum itself was not high on the protest agenda of the global justice movement but activists mobilized against it mostly as an occasion for coalition building and to call attention to the impact of neoliberal policies on the city (Stein n.d.).
Ten years later, the Coordinating Committee against the Ship Sails lobbied for the demolition of the housing projects because of their inhabitability. In 1998 some of these notorious buildings were finally demolished and new “human-friendly” housing was created in the same area (Festa 2003, 392). Three more buildings will be demolished in 2019. Among the causes of the degradation of the area is the fact that many of the public spaces and community centers that had been planned were never built (Pagliardini 2011).
Disobbedienti is an autonomist network active in the global justice movement since 2001 and close to the Italian social centers. Its antecedents were called Tute Bianche (White Overalls). See Azzellini 2009.
In general, a critical revision of the history of the unification of Italy in 1861 likens the process to one of colonization of the south by the Savoy monarchy and managerial class from the north. Even Gramsci makes reference to this (Gramsci and Togliatti 1972, 490–91).
I prefer to use the term near colonialism to discuss the framing of the Southern Question through Fanon’s work in recognition that real colonial relations are built on genocidal histories and not on metaphors, no matter how useful (see Tuck and Yang 2012).
Southern Italians are often called by northern Italians terroni, a derogatory term that means a person of the dirt.
Since 2000, Adunata Sediziosa is the yearly festival of the Campania Region’s radical grassroots that showcases autonomous cultural production and political debates while fundraising for projects.
The choice of a media representative also posed a problem later on when the mainstream media developed the tendency to look for a voice of the movements to talk about actions (Hydrarchist 2005). Having one appointed speaker has often led to the pigeonholing of specific actions and groups. It usually detracts from the weight that many of the issues contested have on people’s everyday lives and prevents broader social identification with the practices.
There are general splits in the area antagonista of the social centers, which mostly run along the lines of anarchist, Marxist-Leninist, and Disobbedienti (Ceri 2003). While these divisions are political, divisions within divisions sometimes go back to individual exchanges or episodes that cause friction, especially in the handling of direct action.
After Genoa, media activists were accused of circulating images that could be used by the authorities as evidence in court. While the media center in Genoa became the site of unprecedented (and unpunished) police violence and human rights violations, the more than forty documentaries produced on the protests and the information on the computers confiscated by the Italian police have been used to prosecute activists. Moreover, with Berlusconi’s newly elected government, the movement was not able to open up a debate on the events in the mainstream media in the same way it did in Naples. By demonizing any kind of violent clash as a deliberate attempt to silence the voice of other protesters, the media contributed to deepening the split between more and less radical groups, hampering future collaboration and dialogue.
Some of the founders of Radio Alice were part of OrfeoTv.
Pirate Radio Sarracino and its other temporary incarnations circulated information and covered events like Adunata Sediziosa.
The theorization of media production as a form of social therapy had already started earlier in the seventies, when the psychotherapist and activist followed closely the free radio movement in Italy—especially the work of Radio Alice, with his friend Bifo.
Fanon never fully rejected traditional psychoanalysis: the colonial subject is still led by her unconscious—a false self overdetermined by the experience of colonization (Luce 2016). Guattari rejects the notion of the unconscious and pushes for the affirmation of a process of subjectification that is driven by desire; it is self-producing but also collective.
The etymology of the word individual is from Latin individuus from in- “not” + dividuus “divisible” (from dividere “to divide”) and is the same root in the word con-dividere, which means to share. Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. “individual,” accessed April 1, 2012, https://www.oed.com.
Cobas are Italian local unions that are an alternative to traditional, verticalist unions. These organizations started in schools as Co.Ba.S. (Comitati di Base della Scuola, School Base Committees) that hark back to the coordination organs of autonomist and student movements in the 1970s. They are now organs for workers in different sectors.
While retaining the conceptualization of the activist group as the continuation of the activist, one can focus on this empathic mode of coexisting among in-groups without having to focus on the group boundary.
7. Insu^tv, Media Connective
Their numbers are rising rapidly. The Italian Ministry of Interior claims that in the first two months of February 2017 alone, 136,215 migrants reached the Italian shores and were hosted in refugee centers (Piccolo 2017).
Due to its history, Naples has a very well-developed field of informality that folds in the gray and black economic sector (illegal activities, semihidden factories that often produce counterfeit goods, contraband, etc.) and a cultural sector supported by a local music production industry. The so-called neomelodic music industry produces a huge amount of songs in the Neapolitan language and is distributed by local commercial broadcasters often connected to or owned by the Camorra. The TV channels exist in the gray areas of supposed prelegalization and sometimes close down and open elsewhere. In this sense, piracy in Naples has more support than in other places in Italy. Insu^tv is the only noncommercial station in this local mediascape.
A focused analysis of the role of gender in Telestreet is beyond the scope of this book because it would require a long digression into the development of Italian feminism and the opposition to it, as well as a discussion of the construction of gender roles through religion, the media, and popular culture. From what I have seen, different nodes in the network have different discourses and practices around gender. In the case of insu^tv, I find it to be one of the rare spaces in Naples in which gender roles do not shape or polarize interaction. This is particularly worthy of notice because, often, the work connected with technology and media is male-dominated, whereas this is not the case with the insulini. There is also a clear interest among many members of the group in exploring the issues of gender and sexuality from alternative perspectives. This is visible in the collaboration with queer collectives like the transgeneri, the support of queer cultural events, and the inquiries into alternative relationships to the body and into sex work.
Published by Marotta & Cafiero editori, this award-winning book provides alternative stories about the youth of Scampia to counter mainstream media narrations that paint all young people as members of the Camorra. The word snow in the title refers to the abundance of cocaine that is trafficked in the area.
Beyond the studios, through the airwaves, and online where the episode is archived, GRIDAS’s creative social critique and Vo.di.Sca’s books, videos, and theater also reached a wider audience with their nuanced self-representation. This is a residual effect of Domenica Aut.
Revealing the conflicts and groups involved in direct or indirect local struggles, insu^tv develops concrete analytical maps with the help of communication tools. The video material for the more recent Domenica Aut episodes are reassembled into downloadable documentaries that circulate the knowledge produced collaboratively.
Members of the movement against the high-speed rail (No TAV) and representatives of the new populist party Cinque Stelle were often at the media center.
In a genealogy of the discursive construction of the southern Italian as a race through centuries of ethnographic, medical, and literary studies that underlie political decision-making about the region, Antonello Petrillo (2009) offers an uncanny thread that intersects with Fanon’s (2004) discussion of the Algerian racialized subject.
NIMBY has also been the strategy to undermine the work of other Italian environmental movements opposing other disastrous plans like the construction of the TAV speed train, military bases, and the bridge connecting the Italian mainland to Sicily. On this topic, see Wu Ming’s (2016) gripping and detailed account of twenty-five years of resistance to the speed train in northern Italy.
Mogulus was one of the first livestreaming platforms. It launched in 2007 to be rebranded as the popular platform Livestream in 2009.
Since its inauguration in 2009, the incineration plant has already been closed down and reopened many times due to corruption scandals, malfunctioning, and toxic particle emission (insu^tv 2009b). Italy has been supporting what Naomi Klein (2008) calls disaster capitalism, a mode of investment that uses crisis to develop projects and policies that would otherwise receive more public scrutiny and would be halted.
European Commission, “New Forms of Innovation,” Theme: Societal Challenges (H2020-INSO-2014, Sub call of H2020-INSO-2014-2015), posted December 11, 2013, Topic: Understanding and Supporting Business Model Innovation, INSO-2-2014 (funding application in author’s possession).
This bio was submitted to the Toronto Free Broadcasting event at the Free Gallery in Toronto in October 2009, curated by Tejpal S. Ajji, Chris Lee, and Maiko Tanaka. Insu^tv organized an episode of Domenica Aut in the west end of Toronto, where I was living at the time. The episode “Everybody Wants Something” (insu^tv 2009a) focused on issues of gentrification and pollution in the area. We also held a public screening of Wasting Naples in collaboration with local organizers dealing with waste management problems in the city.
8. De/Re/Compositions, in Process
Scampia’s dystopian social housing shaped like the sails of a flotilla will become an international icon through the opening shot of the blockbuster Camorra film Gomorrah.
Burnout and PTSD, for instance, have to do with extended exposure to stimuli that trigger the release of hypothalamic, pituitary, and adrenal hormones as well as other substances released by the adrenal glands to keep one’s attention focused and ready to flee. The ongoing response to stressful situations affects a body’s ability to participate in collective activities and be connected to others.
Since 2018 insu^tv has been working on a series of events and videos on migration issues and housing justice, and on archiving its videos and unedited footage, using an open-source, distributed, and autonomous digital archiving platform, currently under construction.
Discussions, however, have always been unstructured and unfacilitated and at the moment in which it became harder to communicate, some facilitative principles would have been useful to make the meetings more efficient and perhaps productive.
Insu^tv’s crew are constantly trying to think of new ways to stabilize the migrant contribution to media activism, but so far, they have not been entirely successful because this would require financial resources that are not available. At the same time, through the contacts and previous collaborations with migrant rights organizations, insu^tv is among the few groups that follow and report on the dramatic events affecting migrant communities in southern Italy, something so rare that mainstream media outlets sometimes contact insu^tv asking for footage.
A similar format seems to be emerging through reporting work in new journalistic organizations such as Field of Vision, and in some cases Vice Magazine.
Open DDB is a sister project to Distribuzioni dal Basso, the crowdsourcing platform for activist and grassroots documentary.
Open DDB, “Come Funziona?” [How does it work?], accessed October 11, 2017, http://www.openddb.it/come-funziona.
In Canada, the Cinema Politica network has been supporting and distributing political documentaries for more than fifteen years and is deeply connected to Canadian social movements in a variety of ways (Turnin and Winton 2014).
For more information on the wave of occupation in the cultural sector in Italy, see the interview with MACAO’s Cultural Workers Organize (2013).
I believe that some of the political discourses of culture workers running projects like Stalking Asilo are less conducive to radical experimentation than those circulating in other social-justice-oriented spaces. Although occupied cultural centers are still important endeavors in the landscape of movements for autonomy and against austerity, the individualistic character of much of the work carried out in these professionalized art spaces and the spaces’ relation to mainstream art scenes and to local administrations present a less fertile ground for in-depth, systemic critique of the function of culture for social change. Political differences were not the main reason for the end of Stalking Asilo but they certainly challenged its development and caused some friction.
Ulises Mejias (2010) has written extensively about how the structure of commercial social media practices affects sociality. Among its effects he discusses that the reliance on nodal connections (nodocentrism) of social networks excludes as much as it connects.
From a perspective of connective activism, it is worth asking whether the underlying homophilic structure of social media platforms can be repurposed to foster porosity among groups. As Wendy Hui Kyong Chun (2016) explained in her insightful lecture on the engineering principles of the internet, “the assumption is that birds of a feather flock together.”
A similar reconfiguration took place in the early twenty-first century with the explosion of the blogosphere. As NGOs, activists, and community groups were able to self-publish and manage their content online without needing to know HTML (Hypertext Markup Language)—the standard markup language for websites—Indymedia became less relevant for social movements’ communication.
I am not advocating for abandoning social media but for a more critical attitude toward its affordances. Social media can be useful for organizing (Gerbaudo 2012; Costanza-Chock 2014). Similarly, there are some very inspiring instances of radical livestreaming assemblages (Thorburn 2014, 2015).
FairCoop is a global cooperative network developing resources and infrastructure that aims to build an alternative global economic system based on cooperation, ethic, solidarity, and north-south redistribution and justice in economic relations (https://fair.coop/). It uses the crypto-currency Faircoin.
It is also worth noting that insu^tv had a strong footing in the Neapolitan social movements and therefore had a larger basis of support than other less political nodes from the Telestreet network.
There are new projects like the Liquid Democracy Association that develop open-source software tools that support civic and political participation (Brues and Deseriis 2017). Perhaps these will become technical objects that foster new sociotechnical assemblages for connection. Other kinds of media tools that are not proprietary are being developed to support organizing, including new apps to document police brutality and state violence; affordable software and DIY sensors to crunch data and facilitate citizen science inquiries; secure leaking platforms to foster transparency; and open data platforms for civic media projects.
Barad often discusses how, as a principle of physics, diffraction allows us to study both the nature of light and also the nature of the apparatus itself (2007, 73).