tactics in Constant 2016


dit Hem Day

Amateur
Librarian
-A
Course
in
Critical
Pedagogy
Tomislav Medak & Marcell Mars (Public Library project)

A proposal for a curriculum in amateur librarianship, developed through the
activities and exigencies of the Public Library project. Drawing from a historic
genealogy of public library as the institution of access to knowledge, the
proletarian tradition of really useful knowledge and the amateur agency driven
by technological development, the curriculum covers a range of segments from
immediately applicable workflows for scanning, sharing and using e-books,
over politics and tactics around custodianship of online libraries, to applied
media theory implicit in the practices of amateur librarianship. The proposal is
made with further development, complexification and testing in mind during the
future activities of the Public Library and affiliated organizations.
PUBLIC LIBRARY, A POLITICAL GENEALOGY

Public libraries have historically achieved as an institutional space of exemption from the
commodification and privatization of knowledge. A space where works of literature and
science are housed and made accessible for the education of every member of society
regardless of th


tactics in Dockray, Pasquinelli, Smith & Waldorf 2010


olitical passion and a new modus operandi. The relation between hate
and knowledge, suggested by Tronti, is the opposite of the cynical detachment
of the new social figure of the entrepreneur-artist but it’s a joyful hate of
our condition. In order to educate ourselves we should hate our very own
environment and social network in which we were educated—the university. The
position of the artist in their work and the performance of themselves (often
no different) can take are manyfold. There are histories for all of these
postures that can be referenced and adopted. They are all acceptable tactics
as long as we keep doing and churning out more. But where does this get us,
both within the confines of the arts and the larger social structure? We are
taught that the artist is always working, thinking, observing. We have learned
the tricks of communication, performance and adaptability. We can go anywhere,
react to anything, respond in a thoughtful and creative way to all problems.
And we do this because while there is opportunity, we should take it. “We
shouldn’t complain, others have it much worse.” But it doesn’t mean that we
shouldn’t imagine something else. To begin thinking


. On the one hand, perhaps this reflective space
simply allows theoretical knowledge to shape or affect performative action;
but on the other hand, the production of this “clearing” is not given,
certainly not now and certainly not by the institutions that claim to give it.
Reflective space is not the precondition for performative action. On the
contrary; performative action is the precondition for reflective space—or,
more appropriately, space and action must be coproduced.

Is the University even worth “saving”? We are right to respond with
indignation, or better, with an array of tactics—some procedural, some more
“direct”—against these incursions, which always seem to authorize themselves
by appeals to economic austerity, budget shortfalls, and tightened belts.
Perhaps what is being destroyed in this process is the very notion of the
public sphere itself, a notion that. It is easy to succumb to the illusion
that the only possible result of this destruction of the figure of the public
is privatization. But what if the figure of the public was to be set off
against not only the private and property relations, but against a figure of
the “common” as well? What if, in


tactics in Fuller & Dockray 2011


h.

**SD:** It's partially driven by people simply being in the system, in the
same way that the library structures our relationship to text, the net does it
in another way. One comment I've heard is that there's too much stuff on
Aaaaarg, which wasn't always the case. It used to be that I read every single
thing that was posted because it was slow enough and the things were short
enough that my response was, ‘Oh something new, great!' and I would read it.
But now, obviously that is totally impossible, there's too much; but in a way
that's just the state of things. It does seem like certain tactics of making
sense of things, of keeping things away and letting things in and queuing
things for reading later become just a necessary part of even navigating. It's
just the terrain at the moment, but this is only one instance. Even when I was
at the university and going to libraries, I ended up with huge stacks of books
and I'd just buy books that I was never going to read just to have them
available in my library, so I don't think feeling overwhelmed by books is
particularly new, just maybe the scale of it is. In terms of how people
actually conduct themselves and deal with that reality, it's


tactics in Graziano 2018


et another example would be the increasing number of municipal decrees that make it a crime to offer food, money or shelter to the homeless in many cities in North America and Europe.
Hacker Ethics

This scenario reminds us of the tragic story of Antigone and the age-old question of what to do when the relationship between what the law says and one what feels it is just becomes fraught with tensions and contradictions. Here, the second meaning of ‘pirate care’ becomes apparent as it points to the way in which a number of initiatives have been responding to the current crisis by mobilizing tactics and ethics as first developed within the hacker movement.

As described by Steven Levy in Hackers, the general principles of a hacker ethic include sharing, openness, decentralization, free access to knowledge and tools, and an effort of contributing to society’s democratic wellbeing. To which we could add, following Richard Stallman, founder of the free software movement, that “bureaucracy should not be allowed to get in the way of doing anything useful.” While here Stallman was reflecting on the experience of the M.I.T. AI Lab in 1971, his critique of bureaucracy captures well a specif


tactics in Graziano, Mars & Medak 2019


ut struggles. It is important
that we have documents for women who have never had any political experience.
This is why our priority is to write a popular pamphlet that we can distribute massively and for free—because women have no money.13
The obstacles faced by the Wages for Housework campaign were many, beginning
with the issue of how to reach a dispersed constituency of isolated housewives
and how to keep the revolutionary message at the core of their claims accessible
to different groups. In order to tackle these challenges, the organizers developed
a number of innovative communication tactics and pedagogical tools, including
strategies to gain mainstream media coverage, pamphlets and leaflets translated
into different languages,14 a storefront shop in Brooklyn, and promotional tables at
local events.
Freedom Schools and the Wages for Housework campaign are only two amongst
the many examples of the critical pedagogies developed within social movements.
The #Syllabus phenomenon clearly stands in the lineage of this history, yet we should
also highlight its specificity in relation to the contemporary political context in which it
emerged. The #Syllabus acknowledges that since the 70s


tactics in Kelty, Bodo & Allen 2018


nce we live
in a neoliberal society that prioritizes individual agency, we double down on media
literacy as the ‘solution’ to misinformation. It’s up to each of us as individuals to
decide for ourselves whether or not what we’re getting is true.” (boyd 2018)
In closing, I’ll return to the notion of Guerrilla warfare that brought this panel
together. While some of our collaborators and some in the press did use the term
‘Guerrilla archiving’ to describe the data rescue efforts (Currie and Paris 2017),
I generally did not. The work we did was indeed designed to take advantage of
tactics that allow a small number of actors to resist giant state power. However,

What if We Aren't the Only Guerrillas Out There?

31

if anything, the most direct target of these guerrilla actions in my mind was not
the Trump administration. Instead, the action was designed to prompt responses
by the institutions where many of us work and by communities of scholars and
activists who make up these institutions. It was designed to get as many people as
possible working to address the complex issues raised by the two interconnected
challenges that the Data Refuge project threw into relief. The first


tactics in Mars & Medak 2019


to acts of care for the infrastructure of our shared
knowledge commons that the first letter ended with. The second letter was a gift
card to Ubu, announcing that it had received two mirrors, i.e. exact copies of the
Ubu website accessible from servers in two different locations – one in Iceland,
supported by a cultural activist community, and another one in Switzerland,
supported by a major art school – whose maintenance should ensure that Ubu
remains accessible even if its primary server is taken down.
McKenzie Wark in their text on UbuWeb poignantly observes that shadow
libraries are:
tactics for intervening in three kinds of practices, those of the art-world, of
publishing and of scholarship. They respond to the current institutional, technical
and political-economic constraints of all three. As it says in the Communist
Manifesto, the forces for social change are those that ask the property question.
While détournement was a sufficient answer to that question in the era of the
culture industries, they try to formulate, in their modest way, a suitable tactic for
answering the property question in the era of the vulture industries. (Wark, 2015:
116)

As we claimed, the avant-garde


tactics in Mars & Medak 2019


for the Public Library/Memory of the World resonated
with many people. After the project initially gained a large number

53

54

of users, and was presented in numerous prominent artistic
venues such as Museum Reina Sofía, Transmediale, Württembergischer Kunstverein, Calvert22, 98weeks, and many more, it was no
small honor when Eric Kluitenberg and David Garcia invited us to
write about the project for an anthology on tactical media that was
to be published by the MIT Press. Tactical media is exactly where
we would situate ourselves on the map. Building on Michel de
Certeau’s concept of tactics as agency of the weak operating in the
terrain of strategic power, the tactical media (Tactical Media Files
2017) emerged in the political and technological conjuncture of the
1990s. Falling into the “art-­into-­life” lineage of historic avant-­gardes,
Situationism, DIY culture, techno-­hippiedom, and media piracy, it
constituted a heterogeneous field of practices and a manifestly
international movement that combined experimental media and
political activism into interventions that contested the post–­Cold
War world of global capitalism and preemptive warfare on a hybrid
terrain of


tactics in Mars & Medak 2017


y academics – and all non-academics – across the
world, and render it a token of privilege (Custodians.online, 2015).
PJ & AK: Please describe the existing strategies for struggle against these
developments. What are their main strengths and weaknesses?
MM & TM: Contemporary problems in the field of production, access,
maintenance and distribution of knowledge regulated by globally harmonized
intellectual property regime have brought about tremendous economic, social,
political and institutional crisis and deadlock(s). Therefore, we need to revisit and
rethink our politics, strategies and tactics. We could perhaps find inspiration in the
world of free software production, where it seems that common effort, courage and
charming obstinacy are able to build alternative tools and infrastructures. Yet, this
model might be insufficient for the whole scope of crisis facing knowledge
production and dissemination. The aforementioned corporate appropriations of free
software such as ‘tivoizations,’ ‘walled gardens,’ ‘software-as-a-service’ etc. bring
about the problem of longevity of commons-based peer-production.
Furthermore, the sense of entitlement for building alternatives to dom


tactics in Medak, Mars & WHW 2015


nd thus to property and scarcity. Inter-

112

McKenzie Wark

estingly, those legal steps were not just a question of
pressuring governments to make free information
a crime. It was also a matter of using international
trade agreements as a place outside the scope of de­
mo­­cratic oversight to enforce the old rules of property. Here the culture industries join hands with the
drug cartels and other kinds of information-based
industry to limit the free flow of information.
But laws are there to be broken, and so are protocols of restriction such as encryption. These were
only ever delaying tactics, meant to shore up old
monopoly business for a bit longer. The battle to
free information was the battle that the forces of
détournement largely won. Our defeat lay elsewhere.
While the old culture industries tried to put information back into the property form, there were
other kinds of strategy afoot. The winners were not
the old culture industries but what I call the vulture
industries. Their strategy was not to try to stop the
flow of free information but rather to see it as an
environment to be leveraged in the service of creating a new kind of business. “Let the data roam free!”
say


n the
hands of the surveillance state.
So this is how we lost the war. Making information free seemed like a good idea at the time. Indeed, one way of seeing what transpired is that we
forced the ruling class to come up with these new
strategies in response to our own self-organizing
activities. Their actions are reactions to our initiatives. In this sense the autonomists are right, only
it was not so much the actions of the working class
to which the ruling class had to respond in this case,
as what I call the hacker class. They had to recuperate a whole social movement, and they did. So our
tactics have to change.
In the past we were acting like data-punks. Not
so much “here’s three chords, now form your band.”
More like: “Here’s three gigs, now go form your autonomous art collective.” The new tactic might be
more question of being metadata-punks. On the one
hand, it is about freeing information about information rather than the information itself. We need
to move up the order of informational density and

114

McKenzie Wark

control. On the other hand, it might be an idea to
be a bit discreet about it. Maybe not everyone needs
to know about it. Perhaps it is time to practic


trying to teach, study or make work in the
avant-garde tradition these are very useful resources.
The other is the ongoing selection, presentation and
explanation of the material going on at these sites
themselves. Both of them model kinds of ‘curatorial’
or ‘publishing’ behavior.
For instance, Monoskop has wiki pages, some
better than Wikipedia, which contextualize the work
of a given artist or movement. UbuWeb offers “top
ten” lists by artists or scholars which give insight
not only into the collection but into the work of the
person making the selection.
Monoskop and UbuWeb are tactics for intervening in three kinds of practices, those of the artworld, of publishing and of scholarship. They respond to the current institutional, technical and
political-economic constraints of all three. As it
says in the Communist Manifesto, the forces for social change are those that ask the property question.
While détournement was a sufficient answer to that
question in the era of the culture industries, they try
to formulate, in their modest way, a suitable tactic
for answering the property question in the era of
the vulture industries.
This takes the form of moving from data to metadata


tactics in Stalder 2018


understood as environments in
which one could act without directly representing a reality outside of
the media. Television was analyzed down to its own legalities, which
could then be manipulated to affect things beyond the media.
Increasingly, culture jamming and the campaigns of so-called
communication guerrillas were blurring the difference between media and
political activity.[^77[]{#Page_47 type="pagebreak"
title="47"}^](#c1-note-0077){#c1-note-0077a}

This difference was dissolved entirely by a new generation of
politically motivated artists, activists, and hackers, who transferred
the tactics of civil disobedience -- blockading a building with a
sit-in, for instance -- to the
internet.[^78^](#c1-note-0078){#c1-note-0078a} When, in 1994, the
Zapatista Army of National Liberation rose up in the south of Mexico,
several media projects were created to support its mostly peaceful
opposition and to make the movement known in Europe and North America.
As part of this loose network, in 1998 the American artist collective
Electronic Disturbance Theater developed a relatively simple computer
program called FloodNet that enabled networked sympathizers to shut down
websites, such as those of t


-note-0120a} The company thus
introduced explicitly political and economic criteria in order to
influence what, according to the standards of certain powerful players
(such as film studios), users were able to
view.[^121^](#c2-note-0121){#c2-note-0121a} In this case, too, it would
be possible to speak of the personalization of searching, except that
the heart of the situation was not the natural person of the user but
rather the juridical person of the copyright holder. It was according to
the latter\'s interests and preferences that searching was being
reoriented. Amazon has employed similar tactics. In 2014, the online
merchant changed its celebrated recommendation algorithm with the goal
of reducing the presence of books released by irritating publishers that
dared to enter into price negotiations with the
company.[^122^](#c2-note-0122){#c2-note-0122a}

Controversies over the methods of Amazon or Google, however, are the
exception rather than the rule. Necessary (but never neutral) decisions
about recording and evaluating data []{#Page_121 type="pagebreak"
title="121"}with algorithms are being made almost all the time without
any discussion whatsoever. The logic of the original Page­Ra


,"
*European Commission: Press Release Database* (April 15, 2015), online.

[120](#c2-note-0120a){#c2-note-0120}  Amit Singhal, "An Update to Our
Search Algorithms," *Google Inside Search* (August 10, 2012), online. By
the middle of 2014, according to some sources, Google had received
around 20 million requests to remove links from its index on account of
copyright violations.

[121](#c2-note-0121a){#c2-note-0121}  Alexander Wragge, "Google-Ranking:
Herabstufung ist 'Zensur light'," *iRights.info* (August 23, 2012),
online.

[122](#c2-note-0122a){#c2-note-0122}  Farhad Manjoo,"Amazon\'s Tactics
Confirm Its Critics\' Worst Suspicions," *New York Times: Bits Blog*
(May 23, 2014), online.

[123](#c2-note-0123a){#c2-note-0123}  Lucas D. Introna and Helen
Nissenbaum, "Shaping the Web: Why the Politics of Search Engines
Matters," *Information Society* 16 (2000): 169--85, at 181.

[124](#c2-note-0124a){#c2-note-0124}  Eli Pariser, *The Filter Bubble:
How the New Personalized Web Is Changing What We Read and How We Think*
(New York: Penguin, 2012).

[125](#c2-note-0125a){#c2-note-0125}  Antoinette Rouvroy, "The End(s) of
Critique: Data-Behaviourism vs. Due-Process," in Katja de Vries a


tactics in Thylstrup 2019


of their work on a
free text-sharing network such as Monoskop. 38

How might we understand Monoskop’s legal situation and maneuverings in
infrapolitical terms? Shadow libraries such as Monoskop draw their
infrapolitical strength not only from the content they offer but also from
their mode of engagement with the gray zones of new information
infrastructures. Indeed, the infrapolitics of shadow libraries such as
Monoskop can perhaps best be characterized as a stratagematic form of
infrapolitics. Monoskop neither inhabits the passive perspective of the
digital spectator nor deploys a form of tactics that aims to be failure free.
Rather, it exists as a body of informal practices and knowledges, as cunning
and dexterous networks that actively embed themselves in today’s
sociotechnical infrastructures. It operates with high sociotechnical
sensibilities, living off of the social relations that bring it into being and
stabilize it. Most significantly, Monoskop skillfully exploits the cracks in
the infrastructures it inhabits, interchangeably operating, evading, and
accompanying them. As Matthew Fuller and Andrew Goffey point out in their
meditation on stratagems in digital media, they do “

 

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