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Anarchism and Social Technology Stuart Mason Building, Room SMB008 Session 2: 16.00 – 17.

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Anarchism and Social Technology: Contextualising the (non?)field Simon Collister, Royal Holloway, University of London The relationship between Anarchism and technology has been described by Gordon (2008) as 'ambivalent' and in much historic and contemporary discourse we find a wealth of technological critique from anti-authoritarian perspectives. At the same time we are arguably seeing the mobilisation of digital and social technologies in challenging and re-configuring dominant social structures. Indeed, this conference's original Call For Papers identified events in Egypt and the global #Occupy movement as defining movements for anti-authoritarian struggle. To this organisers could have added the Spanish 15M movement as well as the British student movement and even the English August riots of last year. This paper seeks to explore the context of what can be argued is a theoretical disconnect between anarchist perspectives on technology and seek a possible route to more productive engagements. This will be achieved through identifying some of the popular challenges to social technologies and then attempting to demonstrate how a reinterpretation and reclamation of key concepts along postanarchism lines can lead to a reradicalisation of social technologies. This provocation is not intended to be all-encompassing but will hopefully connect with ideas explored by other papers presented in this stream and reframe anarchist engagements with social technologies - both in terms of theory and praxis.

New Movements within Perpetual Austerity – Soviets of the Multitude Aaron Peters, Royal Holloway, University of London A great deal has been said about the rise of new social movements and contentious collective actors as a response to the global financial crisis and the Long Recession that has been consequent to it. One might include within such new groups, actors as heterogenous as the 15M movement in Spain, the British Student movement of 2010, OWS in the United States and even parliamentary actors who have particpated in non-parliamentary contentious repertoires such the United Left in France. This paper contends however that while one observes perhaps the beginnings of a new cycle of struggle (Tarrow) within such events after 2008 and the GFC, and the attendant qualities of 'cyclicty' in these contentious episodes (Tarrow) the basis of the new movements can be summed up in the words of Paolo Virno when he writes, “The leagues, the councils, and the Soviets—in short, the organs of nonrepresentative democracy— give, rather, political expression to the "acting-in-concert" that, having as its network general intellect, already always enjoys a publicness that is completely different from what is concentrated in the person of the sovereign. The public sphere delineated by "concourse" in which "obligation of one to another" does not apply, determines the "solitude" of the king, in other words, reduces the structure of the State to a very private peripheral band, which is overbearing but at the same time marginal. The Soviets of the Multitude interfere conflictually with the State's administrative apparatuses, with
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a view to eating away at its prerogatives and absorbing its functions. They translate into republican praxis, in other words, into a care for common affairs, those same basic resources—knowledge, communication, a relationship with the "presence of others" — that are the order of the day in postFordist production. They emancipate virtuosic cooperation from its present connection with waged labor, showing with positive actions how the one goes beyond the other. To representation and delegation, the Soviets counterpose an operative style that is far more complex, centered on Example and political reproducibility. What is exemplary is a practical initiative that, exhibiting in a particular instance the possible alliance between general intellect and Republic, has the authoritativeness of the prototype, but not the normativity of command. Whether it is a question of the distribution of wealth or the organization of schools, the functioning of the media or the workings of the inner city, the Soviets elaborate actions that are paradigmatic and capable of blossoming into new combinations of knowledge, ethical propensities, technologies, and desires.” What we are seeing amid these new movements is a genesis of a non-state mediated public sphere with communicative practices based upon the model of the distributive network which harnesses the communicative possibilities of collective action when mediated by digital communications technologies. ‘If you take Frodo Baggins from Lord of the Rings and give him a mobile phone, the story ends very differently’: Social Media, Organisation Cybernetics and Non-hierarchical Organisation. Thomas Swann, University of Leicester The UK riots of 2011 saw social media coming to the fore in a seemingly horizontal form of organisation. The availability of real-time information allowed unconnected groups to coordinate action in efficient and successful ways. This presentation aims to discuss the use of social media during these uprisings within the framework of organisational cybernetics. Organisational cybernetics, an approach developed by Stafford Beer (1979; 1981), proposes that the most efficient form of organisation is that which allows individual operating units to work autonomously within their own niche. These autonomous units are able to self-regulate their activities in coordination with one another and in line with the goals of the organisation. This is achieved by information sharing between operating units and higher level, more centralised units which redistribute information as opposed to distributing orders. Hierarchy and centralisation are not, however, essential to this organisational model (Espinosa, Harnden and Walker 2007; Walker 1991). In this presentation, I want to highlight how the use of social media allows this information sharing to occur without the need for centralised information hubs. Different levels of the hierarchy become functional roles played by different people at different times according to how the information is being transmitted. This, I will argue, is how temporary, mediated organisations can function in ways that eschew the centralisation, hierarchy and established structures central to past social uprisings. The relevance of this model for both anarchist and autonomist thought will be discussed.

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