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Preface First

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The War of Meaning: Open Sources, Media Activism and Communication Guerilla

What appears as a war of concepts, is a conceptual shift in warfare -- comparable to the experiences of world war 1 and the resulting crisis of imagination that lead to dadaism as a strategie to declare war on war.

What will be the production of vision that is emerging out of the current crisis?

I am talking against the backdrop of a certain notion of political activism, that is opposed to military thinking and the inductrial-military complex. Its theoretical reflections have been fed by rather successful attempts to locally destabilize a border regime by carrying out a wide range of activities that may be coined as "communication guerilla".

Undermining established values, revaluating or devaluating concepts, mobilizing images, and networking the frameworks of grassroots political activism and the aesthetetics as well as cultural production in the artworld.


The very idea, the philosophy and the pragmatic methodology of open source has appeared as twofold,

- a concrete and practical realisation of the (neo-)liberal dreams from the late 1960ies and 1970ies about world peace (or world domination in the slang of the google corporation) based on voluntary agreement, free cooperation and free association of producers, real competition of brilliant minds etc.

- but also as a tactics of a sort of guerilla warfare on the material basis of the networked economies. Open source appeared in order to resolve the blockages during or after the lawsuit of the AT&T corporation against the University of Berkeley which resulted in the release of FreeBSD. It culminated in the development of the Linux operating system under the GPL or free software license.

Both aspects merged in the proposal of tactical media: the 'do it yourself' approach that has triggered the deregulation of standardized media production in the 1990ies. It also led to a participatory media culture that has done away with the exclusivity of mass-communication and its organization as as a one-way-street.

Although there are striking similarities, such as a system of meritocracy, hierarchical structure, It would be obvious to understand the idea of "open sources" as an antagonistic concept to the military (the military as a state machine, open source as a nomadic war machine).

The military stands for the secret that needs to be kept in order to exploit a technological superiority on the battlefield. From the mystification of guns in colonial conquest to the fear of the wunderwaffe of the nazis the logic of both, military domination and subjugation rests on the mysteriosity of sources, the demonization of the weapons of the enemy or the intimidation of the enemy by technological supremacy.

Although completely incompatible both concepts, the civilian openness of sources, as well as the military organisation of secrecies depend on each others, each is the condition of the other. It would be rather pointless to see them only as antagonism, in a binary perspective of an "either/or", and it would be rather dangerous to fantasize about a certain practical or even pragmatic compatibility...

Nothing else is at stake when it comes to a-symmetric warfare: The assumed intelligence of weapons is confronted and at the same time conceptually intermingled and unseparably connected with the banality of do-it-yourself war.


The state has reacted to the ideas, the very concept of "open source", the ideology production as well as the practice of coding: half-hearted attempts to reappropriate and to reintegrate it into new accumulation regimes that are coined as creative industries, cognitive capitalism etc.

This integration has taken place in a rather molecular fashion, quite smooth and without great ruptures.

But the result is dramatic: collective imagination seems to become the labor force of creative capitalism.

The abstract freedom that is constitutive of labor as soon as it is turned into a commodity form, manifests itself today as a certain openness of its source code: Imagination

Rather than just a common place in management literature that mystifies the success of the self-made man, or more contemporarily the start-up company, imagination has become the key factor of cognitive capitalism or accumulation regimes that are centered around commdifiable notions of knowledge. What is at stake is our very capacity to make an image. To make an image that is much more and essentially different to mere visualization of data.

Open source technology does not only provide the infrastructure on serverside, but the very idea of "open source" still shines through when it comes to the relational value that, alongside with an increasingly "marginal cost of a product" is exploited from networked user operations and reduced to metadata.

"Man defends himself against overwhelming impressions and experiences,
against surging forces, by rationalizing and conceptualizing them. That is to say, he effects a diminishing reduction of the Real in its complexity."

A strategy of open source would have to attempt a reverse engineering of the Kantian model of imagination: a complexification of concepts that increases and expands the power to make images or the very ability to imagine things differently.

Today, the static boundaries against which a dissident imagination was shaped, are on the move, subjected to management, calculation and evaluation, giving rise to novel configurations of power, in which the imaginations power to negotiate the limits of the possible is itself at stake.


Concepts do not fall from heaven. Instead, what in deed is falling from heaven is "charisma". It is a divine gift-economy that comes without being due, it has no cause.

While a politics of intervention tends towards a neutralisation of forces, the mode of charismatics is devoted to the simulation of power.

Charisma is the currency in a society of control where the performance of a self is supposed to take place in real-time. Or, as Alain Badiou states: If the subjectivation point is the declaration of an event, every subjectivity is initiated as a charisma.

The mode of charismatics requires constant self-monitoring to be capitalized in the form of permanent self-congratulation. Not only proprietary new technologies penetrate the market due to charisma of their CEOs such as Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. Although they are de facto relatively powerless the open source community is characterized by charismatic leaders like Richard Stallman and Linus Torvalds.

According to Hannah Arendt charisma is not just a gift that one has not earned, but the capacity to have an opinion "under any and all circumstances". Blogs, video portals, let alone "facebook" and "twitter" have realized the charismatic mode in the form of the network.

What matters in the new charismatic mode of web 2.0 are mood messages, like-buttons, share-with widgets. In short: Opinion-having under all and any circumstances exerted by the user.

If forensics has become the prevailing pattern in a critique of the military, then the modes of charismatics seem to emerge as the analogon in a reciprocal approach that has replaced the military secret by virtues like participation or interactive populism, that are supposed to compensate the most obvious discomfort with the surveilance paradigm in a society of control.


The grammar of the military is based on the idea of pre-emption. It prevents certain events from happening. The grammar of open source uses a different approach, that operates in the opposite direction: It anticipates, in sofar as it is relating to the mode of the documentary rather than to the mode of fiction that preempts reality, diminishes its complexity and renders it legible, precisely because the plots remain unexposed.

The anticipatory instead is characterized by a very peculiar and utterly positive relationship to the unexpected, unforeseeable and uncalculable that is supposed to be reglemented only in constructive ways. This distinguishes the anticipatory from military fiction, which is ruled by the idea of pre-emption, by fabricating a narrative before the forces actually are set free and aligning their respective images in advance.

The anticipatory relates to the future through a rupture while preemption assumes a continuous, unbroken relationship towards the future. It is a production of vision that breaks with the present by going the opposite direction.

The anticipatory is directed towards the past. It opens up history for a process of potential rewriting. It does not need to happen, it is enough that it could happen, in order to destabilize the existing order and the prevailing values as well as their meanings.

"We remember nothing, we only rewrite memory as if we rewrite history", Chris Marker stated in his film "Sans Soleil". Here i think lies the new potential of an open source approach towards the challenges that are connected to collective intelligence and collective imagination: how to shape and develop technologies of a self that would be capable of rewriting memory as if it were history, since maybe we finally might have had enough of all sorts of fabricated fiction that reduce and limit complex realities towards more or less paranoid plots.

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