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Breaking the Spell: A History of Anarchist Filmmakers, Videotape Guerrillas, and Digital Ninjas

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My book on anarchist-inflected media activism from the 1970s to the early 2010s.
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... With few digital communications resources of their own, they relied on the decentralized 'electronic fabric of struggle' created by the Indigenous, feminist, labour and environmental movements contesting NAFTA that Harry Cleaver has characterized as 'rhizomatic' (Cleaver 1994). Several IMC founders have credited Subcomandante Marco's call for an intercontinental network of autonomous communication against neo-liberalism as inspiration for their vision of the IMC as a network of selfgoverned media centres autonomous from all systems of centralized power (Kidd 2004(Kidd , 2003Stringer 2013;Robé 2017). Nevertheless, most IMC activists in the global north paid far less attention to the complex Mayan roots and organizational dynamism of the Zapatistas (Wolfson 2014, and even less to the anti-colonial organizing, and communications and mutual aid repertoires of the intercontinental Indigenous network meeting in Mexico during the same period (Cleaver 1994;Benjamin 1994). ...
... They deliberately built a network autonomous of the corporate platforms, and the tech teams distributed recycled computers and software and provided training in hacker spaces or in special site trainings to ensure that each centre was technically equipped. They also wrote code to shield participants from surveillance and protect their data from corporate and state interests and often had to defend themselves against legal threats (Robé andWolfson 2020: 1025;Indymedia Montreal 2018). Then, as internet use exploded exponentially, they built tools and procedure to detect spams and hateful posts and move them to back pages (Glaser 2019). ...
... Positioning themselves within protests, they captured visuals and reported stories about communities and movements that are systemically marginalized by the dominant media. Their tactics of sousveillance or citizen monitoring of police actions are widely used today (Robé 2017), and their early version of live streaming from protests has become the norm. ...
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This article reviews the legacy of the global Indymedia Center (IMC), a news and information network of 175 autonomous media centres that operated in every world region autonomously of the dominant corporate and public service communications and information systems. Emerging first during protests against the neo-liberal practices of the World Trade Organization, the IMC represented a media-historic moment, one of the first times that social movement media activists were able to bypass the dominant media to produce their own reports and circulate them directly to activists and supporters around the world. My review examines the composition of the IMC’s infrastructure and volunteer force, and their technological and communications repertoires in relation to the dominant communications systems, and consider their legacy in succeeding cycles of social movement contention. I then compare the legacy of the IMC with the more recent media-historic moment of the Standing Rock Sioux water protectors who in 2016 tactically employed a land-based mobilization with a movement-directed online and offline communications assemblage to mobilize against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline on their traditional territory. Capturing more US and international dominant media attention than any previous Indigenous movement, and reaching even more people with their self-generated media, they countered the neo-liberal extractivist paradigm of resource exploitation and also affirmed their Indigenous sovereignty, history and knowledge systems. Finally, I summarize some of the similarities and differences between the two cases and suggest questions for further study.
... Not much has been written about the mediated experiences of LGBTQ people in the early years of the AIDS crisis. While there is a robust body of literature exploring the psychological impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, scholars who write about AIDS media produced by LGBTQ people tend to write about work created after the emergence of ACT UP in 1987(Hallas 2009Hilderbrand 2006;Juhasz 1995;Robé 2017). Gould's work provides insight into an earlier time period: focusing on newspapers like The New York Native and The Advocate, she extensively discusses responses to the epidemic in the gay press between 1981 and 1985, writing that discussions of AIDS in the early 1980s "were saturated with ambivalent language" as they oscillated between a sense of communal pride in the rapid response service provision undertaken by gay communities alongside a perpetual sense of shame about the relationship between gay sexual practices and the spread of the disease (Gould 2009, 62). ...
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Starting in New York City in the 1970s, gay men and lesbians created public access television programs to shine a spotlight on their experiences, communities, concerns, and businesses. This article asks, “How did public access programming provide an emerging televisual forum for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people to circulate community affects, experiences, and activism?” Looking to the “AIDS” episode of the 1983 cable access series Our Time, this article traces emerging affective responses to the AIDS epidemic, fear and anger in particular, present in the episode. This article argues that the content and aesthetics of the episode produce a televisual emotional pedagogy about AIDS, making sense of the rising panic to channel these feelings toward collective action. While little research has explored gay and lesbian public access programming, this article reveals that it provides a significant contribution to television history and to mediated archives of feelings in response to AIDS.
... One could also link in a significant way how the reproduction (maintenance, care, support) of alternative media infrastructure is tied to social reproduction (Deseriis, 2017;Robé, 2017). When relying on corporate infrastructures, the (re)compositional relations associated with technical services are removed from the social body and placed in an inaccessible sphere. ...
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Debout is/was, if anything, a furtive phenomenon. How do we account for the emergence, withdrawal, and stuttering attempted returns of Nuit Debout? Nuit Debout needs to be analyzed, and yet its existence confounds analysis. Its operational tactic (intense actions while up all night, then dispersal) defies usual characterization as a social movement. This was compounded by its overall timeline: a rapid upsurge followed by stunning disappearance. What conceptual tools do we have to make sense of the milieu out of which Nuit Debout emerged? And what do media ecologies have to do with it? This article undertakes such an analysis by developing a theoretical framework around social bodies, compositionism, and social reproduction. It draws from autonomist social theory to address what is, or was, Nuit Debout.
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Article Volume 13 (1): 317-348 (July 2021) Robé, Mosireen and the Egyptian revolution Abstract The Mosireen Collective serves as a case study that represents a new form of diasporic, global media activism that operates across a series of commercial and non-commercial digital platforms (in addition to physical locations) and employs different video forms depending on the needs of the moment. Mosireen reveals a dynamic process at work where its media activism changes configurations to adapt to new circumstances all the while being deeply steeped in anarchist-based practices and certain digital logics that prioritize participants' ability to influence and restructure archival materials to produce multiple revolutionary perspectives. The Mosireen Collective stresses how struggles over narrative and archival materials play central roles in collective organizing and social transformation. Yet also worth noting is how this diasporic, global mode of media activism relies upon the labor of people from relatively elite backgrounds who speak multiple languages and can easily traverse locations due to their privileged socioeconomic status.
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Anti-nuclear civil society activism starting with peace advocacy is considered to be a process consisting of strategic actions and civic engagement in the decision-making process. This research examines what made civil society in Aotearoa New Zealand successful between the mid-1960s and 1980s with a particular focus on their action repertoire through a goal-oriented approach. This study highlights the importance of civil society engagement in activism while identifying the relationship between maximized tactics, strategies and political environment in the anti-nuclear struggle in New Zealand. To gain an accurate analysis of success in New Zealand’s anti-nuclear debate, this research focuses on the extent to which anti-nuclear actors have been able to achieve their objectives and the degree to which influential activities have effectively been involved in the process. The results reveal that the political actors and civil society actively participating in the policy-shaping process and their involvement signified strong anti-nuclear advocacy under the peace and security narratives.
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Introduction to Practice Approaches to Video Activism in Hilde Stephansen & Emiliano Trere. Citizen Media and Practice: Currents, Connections, Challenges.
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