Internet Technology & Nonviolent Struggle : Serbia#4 (final)

October 13, 2008

4. CONCLUDING REMARK

In sum, to answer the second question of the article on dynamic of structural condition, it’s quite clear that in the Serbian case, the pattern of technological development is different from the explanation of SCOT or LTS. There was no diverse social group entering to the competition of internet technological design. The decision on what direction the internet technological system in general should be built was only in the state side. One reason certainly is because of they were under the repressive regime for ten years. Another reason might be because internet technology was not yet in the Serbian state and public’s eyes. As quote in Tunnard’s footnote that the state’s awareness of the power of internet was almost zero. (2003:109, footnote b.)

Therefore, the struggle over the technological structure in this case was about picking up some kind of suitable and available technology and setting up a particular system—or ‘solution’ as borrowing the computer business’s term—to pursue their purpose, as obviously in Radio B-92 case. In the case of Otpor, it seems that they did nothing about changing, developing or setting up some small scale technological system. They just acted as the good and active users that use the technological system that the state (in this case is AMREJ) provided for their goal. The state’s response by legal measures seem had not much effects to the resistant groups as they still keep using the internet to undermine Milosevic’s regime. This is different from China’s case that the state tends to has more capacity so that Shanthi and Taylor argue that the internet become increases the state’s capability rather than weaken it (2003: 42), which will be discussed later in this article.

Then, let’s step forward to the connection between the first and the second question of the article, how the structure of power affected the people’s consent— which is the key point of Sharp’s theory of nonviolent action and the critiques of Martin and Burrowes. In this case, the telecommunication control was in Telecom Serbia’s hand, and the Serbian internet structure seems to be centralized at University of Belgrade as shown in the above picture. Despite of these facts, both Radio B92 and Otpor can effectively employed the internet’s power to mobilized people and withdraw the consent from the state. This might be because of two factors. Firstly, unlike the traditional media (newspaper, radio and TV), the nature of internet is interactive and non-hierarchical so that even in some degree of centralized national structure and control, the manipulating of power still can be negotiable and highly fluid. Secondly, there were alternatives of internet technological option (or ‘solutions’), e.g. leased line and satellite, that allowed the resistant groups to escape from state controls.

Then, the first question of this article can be answered by concerning the using of internet technology as communication tool to campaign nonviolent action—in five frameworks of ‘communication as nonviolent action’ of Brian and Wendy (2003). In this case, except demanding Milosevic to step down, there was no attempt to open the dialogue with him or enforce him into the dialogue. The main functions of internet in nonviolent movement is to mobilize the internal third party, the Serbian majority, against the regime by protesting, non-cooperating, and intervention; to mobilize the external third party outside country, the foreign news agencies; and to maintain the common strategies within the resistant groups.

The nonviolent struggle using internet technology came up from the general constraints of the other traditional media. Almost all of presses, radios, and TVs in Serbia were extensively taken over, censored, centralized controlled by the repressive regime. Various methods were drawn, including passing laws, controlling the broadcasting agencies or individual broadcasters, and embedded in the communication infrastructure. So that the internet is the only remaining tool that available.

There are some strategies of the resistant movement in this case that should be noted here in order to compare with other cases . [First two point was from Tunnard (2003: 115-6)] Firstly, as all other communication channels were blocked, the alternative information was continuously disseminated to the public in a variety of form of explanation: maps, images, etc. Secondly, cross-media and cross-platform technologies can be employed both for escaping from the state’s control and for increasing the comprehensiveness of communication. Thirdly, locating server or web host outside the country. Fourthly, using distributive and independent structure but collaborative network of actions, such as e-mail, SMS, website, small ISP, etc. Fifthly, sometime accessing to the network by anonymous login name or nodes like internet café or public internet is useful to hide the movement from the state monitoring. Sixthly, the foreign coalition, both in term of media and international (government or non-government) agencies is the crucial strategic factor.

Reference
Martin, Brian and Wendy Varney. (2003) “Nonviolence and communication,” Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 40, No. 2, March 2003, pp. 213-232.

Shanthi Kalathil and Taylor C. Boas (2003), Open Network, Closed Regimes: the impact of the Internet on authoritarian rule. Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Tunnard, Christopher R. (2003), “From State-Controlled Media to the ‘Anarchy’ of the Internet: the Changing Influence of Communications and Information in Serbia in the 1990s”, in Southeast European and Black Sea Studies, Vol.3 No.2, May. pp.97-120. London : Frank Cass.

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Internet Technology & Nonviolent Struggle : Serbia#3

September 21, 2008

This is the third part of my writing on Serbia case, which is a technological analysis of Serbian Internet technological system that enabled the use for nonviolent struggle.

3. ANALYSIS : Internet Technological Structure

From the technically structural fighting, both in term of employing techniques to release from the structural measure imposed by the state, and in term of establishing new cyber-organization, it should be useful to consider the technological structure of internet and other related media at that time and its development prior. This is to answer the question about how come the nonviolent movement can use the internet in overthrowing Milosevic. I will track back some key actor like Radio B-92, that used traditional media in collaboration with the new media, OpenNet, to unpack the domestic internet structure and its linking structure to international internet community. Other agencies like Otpor might be used to give more precise picture. The internet backbone, internet café, modem line, might be studied here.

Serbia internet can be said as beginning during 1995-1996. Two big agency supported by the government were National Academic Network, based at University of Belgrade, and Telecom Serbia. However, OpenNet—which was established by Radio B92 that opposed the government—set their own operation independently both abovementioned operators. OpenNet was established by using foreign ISPs named “XS4ALL” (internet slang for ‘access for all’) which was the third-oldest ISPs in the Netherlands. It seemed that one reason why XS4ALL helped OpenNet to set up itself under Milosevic repressive regime was rooted in its organizational culture. XS4ALL was found by the former hacker groups and was well-known as its willingness to take on many controversial issues. [ref. “XS4ALL”, wikipedia; and http://www.xs4all.nl/en/%5D

OpenNet connected to XS4ALL firstly by modem dial-up technology, and few months later it changed to analog leased line connection plus six local dial-up lines in order to set itself as mini-ISPs for other internet users in Serbia. Radio B92 in collaboration with Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM)—a consortium of more than thirty independent broadcasters throughout Yugoslavia—used OpenNet as internet channel to disseminate their information to the world outside Serbia and also rebroadcast back into Serbia by other international broadcaster like BBC and VOA.

Its live audio stream can be transmitted through the internet by using ‘real audio’, the digital audio format, supported by the US internet media provider named RealNetwork, Inc. This is the sophisticated routes that Radio B92 can escape from the authority control to indirectly reach the Serbia audience. [ref. “B92”, wikipedia; “B92, About US”]

Serbian ICTs in every sector grew rapidly after democratic transition in 2000 (UNECE 2002; Tunnard 2003b; Surculija 2003). But in Milosevic period Serbia’s internet and related telecommunication infrastructure was under Telecom Serbia’s control. This organization was the sole monopoly of telecommunication infrastructure which shaped internet and other communication usage a lot. Fixed-line telecommunications like telephone, ISDN, and other leased line were very few and high cost for individual usage. (Tunnard, 2003b) The development of cable connection—e.g. coaxial or optical fiber—that uses normally for cable TV and can be used for internet communication, was also blocked. Since late 1980s, Radio Television Serbia (RTV), the national broadcasting corporation that played the major propaganda media for Milosevic and hold the exclusive right on cable TV distribution, signed agreement with a Canadian company. This company decided not to invest in developing this kind of technological system due to the war (UNECE, 2002: 19) just hold the exclusive rights from the other competitions.

From ITU data, in 2000, there were about 300,000-400,000 internet users in Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro), around 376 users and 226 PC computer per 10,000 inhabitants. (Surculija, 2003) In many war-torn areas, including Kosovo, the fixed-line telecommunication infrastructure was destroyed by NATO bombardment—cost around $250 million. So, mobile phone usage was popular among the people due to its cheaper price and SMS service was still free of charges (Tunnard, 2003b)

National IP Backbone of Serbia and Montenegre, built by Telecom Serbia (source: SIEPA, 2005: 20)

One thing that Telecom Serbia had contribution to Serbia’s information infrastructure was its main project on installation around 3,000 km of national information backbone with speed 2.5 Gbps during 1997-1998. (see the picture above) However, it was doubtful that how many people would have got into such speedy information highway.

Generally, internet connections from home users at that time were in very poor conditions. According to Tunnard, the users have to dial the modem about 5-10 times to establish one connection, and with speed of 33 Kbps. So, normally, many people tended to use the internet from internet café, public library or university computer that provided leased line speed more than 2 Mbps. Especially, under Milosevic suppression to the media, this kind of internet usage was the major exchange of information among the resistance communities and contact to the foreign outside the country. (2003b, p.14) The almost sole ISPs that had capacity enough for these activities was Belgrade University Academic Network. That may be a reason why the major active internet resistant group, Otpor, was the students from Belgrade University. Now, let talk about this Belgrade University Academic Network.

Internet map of Academic Research and Education Network of Serbia (source: AMRES)

At the heart of Serbia internet infrastructure is Academic Research and Education Network of Serbia (AMREJ) which is located at University of Belgrade and operated by Belgrade University Computer Center (RCUB) since 1996. It also provided international link. All universities and other kind of academic institutions connected to AMREJ. Serbia information network structure put University of Belgrade as a central exchange node, while some other universities as regional hubs.

Though network connecting structure shown in the picture (above) is the year-2005 version, but it may reflect, more or less, some general pattern of information infrastructure of Serbia. There is no precise information on AMREJ infrastructure during Milosevic regime. All information available is that in late 1990s, three universities had 2-Mbps speed connections to AMREJ. These were University of Nori Sad, the second node acted as the regional hub in the north; University of Nis, the third node acted as the southern hub; and University of Kragujevac in the central region of Serbia. Before 2000, except these three universities, all the rest were connected to University of Belgrade in low speed by modem on leased telephone line. (ref. “Chronology of AMRES”) And before 2002, there were 63 institutions connected to AMREJ. (UNECE, 2002: 42) While in 2005, AMREJ had connection with 150 academic institutions and around 100,000 individuals with permanent infrastructure. (SIEPA, 2005: 30-1)

From this information, it can be guessed that there was no many internet users during Milosevic period. At the website of the resistance group, there were around 10,000 people that subscribed to Otpor website. But, this small number of 10,000 was enough for bringing more than 100,000 people to rally into the street almost unnoticed by the government in the early days of resistance, as Tunnard remarked (2003a : 113)

Reference

  1. “B92, About US”
  2. “B92”, wikipedia
  3. “Chronology of AMRES”,
  4. “XS4ALL”, wikipedia
  5. AMRES, “Topology Map,” Belgrad: Academic Network of Serbia.
  6. SIEPA (2005) IT Industry in Serbia, Belgrad: Serbia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (SIEPA)
  7. Surculija, Jelena (2003)Internet Regulation in Serbia and Montenegro : Country Report”, Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe, Mission to Serbia and Montenegro.
  8. Tunnard, Christopher R. (2003a), “From State-Controlled Media to the ‘Anarchy’ of the Internet: the Changing Influence of Communications and Information in Serbia in the 1990s”, in Southeast European and Black Sea Studies, Vol.3 No.2, May. pp.97-120. London : Frank Cass.
  9. Tunnard, Christopher R. (2003b), “The Role of Technology in the Development of a Modern Serbian State.” Cambridge: Kokkalis Program, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.
  10. UNECE (2002), Towards a Knowledge-Based Economy – Yugoslavia. Geneva: United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.
  11. USIP (1999) Preserving the Free Flow of Information on the Internet: Serbs Thwart Milosevic Censorship,” Washington, DC: United States Institute for Peace.

Internet Technology & Nonviolent Struggle : Serbia#2

August 13, 2008

Below is the second part of my writing on Serbia case, with the eye-glass of Sharp’s method of nonviolent action in cyber-version. The third part, technological analysis, will be posted soon.

2. ANALYSIS of  Nonviolent Action

As similar to other cases around the contemporary world, media normally was used for violence as a propaganda machine to disseminate some agenda or content. In Serbia case, the significant media under state control was the monopoly and centralized Radio Television Serbia (RTS) that promote a lot of government agenda, such as nationalistic claims, ethnic chauvinism, ‘Greater Serbian’ campaign, homogenization, ethnic hatred, xenophobia in general; and polarization in particular period, like during peace process in Kosovo, between ‘peace-building’ government versus ‘unnecessary opposition’ (Reljic, 1998; cf. in Tunnard 2003a).

However, this case also shows that there were a lot of independent medias, both traditional (TV, radio, press) and new media (internet), that tried hardly to struggle with the repressive regime nonviolently. These nonviolent actions took place inseparably both in media and on other political arena, and also inseparably between nonviolent movement and the political institution. In this case, without collaboration between Otpor and other movement in general and DOS, the overthrown may not be achievable. Also, there were a lot of dynamic of violent and nonviolent action between the regime and the movement. Above all, every agent tried all of their capability to undermine (or in the regime side, to recover) the power of the regime. These attempts functioned targeting to both dimension of power: the people’s consent and the structural constraints. A lot of methods were drawn to take direct action, which can be categorized as three groups according to Sharp (1973). And to strengthen the direct action, a number of struggles took place in structural arena, generally in this case can be divided into two groups: technical and legal.

In term of traditional methods of nonviolent action according to Sharp (1973), Zajedno rally and daily demonstration all over the country in many time during 1996-2000 were methods of protest and persuasion. The nonviolent movement also had to deploy its dynamic when ‘the regime strikes back’. It may appear in such term of direct strike-back as police use force against the demonstration. The strike-back may happen as other method, such as political measure when Milosevic divided the opposition unity by bringing some of its leader into the government; or as legal measure when the law to limit freedom of media and of assembly was passed.

Concerning method of nonviolent action through new media as internet, there were also a lot of modes of action and a lot of dynamic fighting in both direct and other structural forms. For direct action, the establishment of many agencies on the internet—such as the independent ISPs : Sezam Pro, OpenNet; or independent cyber-agencies : Otpor, Kosovo/a On-line—were institutional set up for cyber-protest or cyber-persuasion against the regime. Beside informal political struggle, the cyber-persuasion also occurred in the formal political game as a number of independent websites promoted openly the opposition candidates, after Milosevic called for new election. In return, the state also had done its cyber-direct action to compete the movement by opening the own website to tell their story about Kosovo.

When the election commission called for the second round of election, the method of political non-cooperation was used significantly and collaboratively on the internet and in other political media, to mobilize the general strike and civil disobedience to force Milosevic to step down.

In this case, nonviolent interventions by the internet were drawn sophistically before the election. To use Burrowes (1996)’s word, this is the creative intervention using the internet. But the disruptive intervention was deployed only in the street—when a huge number of people launched nonviolent take over the parliament building at the climax day of fighting, not used on the internet. However, one action that may categorized as disruptive nonviolent cyber-intervention is that when the US and Albanian government website was attacked by the Serbian hacking group. To use other term, this action may be called ‘sabotage’, or using violent against things, not against human, which is another tactic that can be counted controversially as nonviolent action. (Brian, 1999)

Regarding structural fighting of power related to the internet, there were a number of means, mainly using technical and legal term. In technical dimension, re-routing Radio B-92 signals through internet to the world outside was the technically structural fighting in response to state technically aggressive measure. And when the OpenNet was technically filtered by and closed to the Serbian Academic Network, the nonviolent movement fought back using such technical mean as mirroring all website to external ISPs and re-establish e-mail network transmission.

In legal dimension, the regime had struck back by passing the Public Information Law was passed and the law allowing authorities to scan all e-mail and internet communication, and also issuing the decree to forbid ‘rebroadcast by any means’ including internet. This legal constraint can not be responded directly from the movement because they were under the undemocratic condition. Anyway, after overthrowing Milosevic, such law as Public Information Law was cancelled to unlock this legal structural cyber-constraint.

Reference

  1. Burrowes, Robert (1996) The Strategy of Nonviolent Defense : A Gandhian Approach, Albany : State University of New York Press. [see Brian Martin’s review of this book]
  2. Martin, Brian (1999) “Technology, Violence, and Peace,” in Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace, and Conflict, Volume 3 (Lester R. Kurtz, Editor-in-Chief), New York: Academic Press, pp. 447-459
  3. Sharp, Gene (1973) The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Boston: Porter Sargent.
  4. Surculija, Jelena (2003) “Internet Regulation in Serbia and Montenegro : Country Report”, Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe, Mission to Serbia and Montenegro.
  5. Tunnard, Christopher R. (2003a), “From State-Controlled Media to the ‘Anarchy’ of the Internet: the Changing Influence of Communications and Information in Serbia in the 1990s”, in Southeast European and Black Sea Studies, Vol.3 No.2, May. pp.97-120. London : Frank Cass.
  6. UNECE (2002), Towards a Knowledge-Based Economy – Yugoslavia. Geneva: United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.

Internet Technology & Nonviolent Struggle : Serbia#1

August 11, 2008

Here’s the general picture of Serbian people using internet in overthrowing Slobodan Milosevic in 2000. The reference is not yet put in precise location of text, but at the end of this post are my reading sources in writing this case. There are 4 parts of Serbia case in my writing. The other three will be posted soon.

1. General picture

During his ten years of dictatorship rule in Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic brought a number of violence to the people in Balkan peninsular, ranged from taking country to the war in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo; putting people in concentration camp; driving ethnic Albanian out of Kosovo creating millions refugees; launching ethnic cleansing and a lot of massacre; bringing 78-day bombing by NATO. A lot of corruption, poverty, unemployment and country-wide fear were occurred under his repressive regime. In October 2000, Milosevic was overthrown by mass people movement from all over the country who declared the nonviolent resistance against his regime. In such huge-scale and complicated event as regime overthrow, the nonviolent movement was not isolated action, but comprised various sectors, including student network group named ‘Otpor’ (means ‘resistance’), opposition political parties alliance named ‘Democratic Opposition of Serbia’ (DOS), and a number of community groups. Struggle by and over diverse sort of political media—including press, radio, TV, and especially internet—were also equivalently complicated interwoven and so dynamic. Here, the nonviolent movement using internet will be mainly considered, with supplement of traditional nonviolent action and related struggle in other media.

On March 1996, in the second term of Milosevic as President of Serbia, the first signal of nonviolent struggle was appeared as a rally of opposition coalition named ‘Zajedno’ (‘Together’) was launched, following by daily demonstration in many cities all over Serbia six months later. Meanwhile, the transmitter of Radio B-92—the only one, small but influential, independent radio against Milosevic regime—was turned off by the government. That triggered the resistances to extent to another new fighting front, the internet. The signal of B-92 had been rerouted through internet to the host in the Netherlands and re-broadcasted throughout the world by BBC, Voice of America (VOA), and Radio Free Europe. Shortly then, the first opposition website was established hosting by ‘Sezam Pro’, the internet service provider (ISP) at Belgrade University.

In return to the struggle, on April 1998, two months after the rise of ‘war’ in Kosovo, the law for limiting media freedom and freedom of assembly was passed, but not yet responded to the internet front line. Otpor, a group of young students, mainly at Belgrade University, that used internet sophisticatedly to campaign nonviolent resistance against Milosevic’s repressive regime was established at this time. The massive e-mails among the resistance groups in the country and to inform foreign press on what happen inside were employed. Meanwhile, the opposition groups finally could be reunited as ‘DOS’ to compete Milosevic. Since then the mass struggle all over the country and government’s strike back were incrementally heated up.

The government increasingly realized the power of internet that needed to be controlled by imposing legal restriction. In October 1998, about after two years since Radio B-92 had transmitted its signal through the internet, a special decree for forbidding ‘re-broadcast by any means’ and Public Information Law were issued. It also targeted on re-broadcasting such foreign radio news program as BBC or VOA which become plentiful among the small independent radio stations in Serbia. Shortly after that, OpenNet, another ISP that found by Radio B-92 to train Serbian people to use computer and internet since 1995, was closed to Serbian Academic Network. OpenNet was a host for almost all opposition websites. Immediately, all websites were mirrored to external ISPs and the network of e-mail transmission was set up, resulting almost nothing affected from closing OpenNet.

In early March 1999, in the fog of NATO bombardment to drive the Serbian troops out of Kosovo, the struggle of many sectors was mixed with the international threat and Kosovo crisis. After imposing a number of almost useless legal restrictions, the government started its direct action on the internet by setting up website to tell its own version of story of Kosovo. Meanwhile, as internet café was boomed in Kosovo, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), the group that does not refuse using violent means, also established Kosovo internet community by using laptop in connection to the satellite. Furthermore, Belgrade-based Beta News Agency in collaboration with Koha Ditore, the Pristina-based Albanian newspaper, opened ‘Kosovo/a On-line’ to present both side story of Kosovo crisis too. The internet battlefield also came outside the Serbian country. In consequence of USA’s role in NATO, a Serbian hacking group named ‘Black Hand’ attacked American and Albanian government websites, brought back the US’s threat to cut off satellite links (that allow international transmission) to the Serbian ISPs. After 78 days bombardment of NATO, among omni-directional pressure, Serbian troops finally began leaving Kosovo. NATO then suspended bombing.

BELGRADE, Serbia (Reuters) - A woman feeds her baby in a bomb shelter with no electricity in central Belgrade after air raid sirens sounded May 8. Thousands of people have spent their nights in shelters since NATO air raids started over Yugoslavia 45 days ago. Photo by Reuters

BELGRADE, Serbia (Reuters) - A woman feeds her baby in a bomb shelter with no electricity in central Belgrade after air raid sirens sounded May 8. Thousands of people have spent their nights in shelters since NATO air raids started over Yugoslavia 45 days ago. Photo by Reuters

Though NATO and US government hold a large part of responsibility to the catastrophe in Serbia, NATO bombing probably was the last straw for Serbian people in living under Milosevic’s regime. After that, his regime seems continuously and rapidly in its falling. People demonstration all over the country rose to its boil. Unexpectedly, in July 2000, Milosevic changed his political strategy to gain more advantage, by calling for a new election, very shortly, in September of the same year. The game was changed. The oppositions in DOS needed to prepare for the next election. A lot of independent website promoted opposition candidates openly. Collaboratively, Otpor and the people movement, especially on the internet, had to turn their strategy to election-related struggle too. Every group shared the common goal, bringing down Milosevic’s dictatorship with slogan ‘He’s finish!!’

In the meantime, a new and more aggressive law was passed to give authorities permission to access to all e-mail and internet communications. Despite the new law, internet was used sophisticatedly to organize the voting campaign; to check the electorate census list; especially to monitor the election. And especially, in the Election Day on September 24, 2000, the internet was used to report more accurate and faster result than the government party back to DOS headquarter. The result showed that the candidates won the election. Anyway, the election commission called for the second round by claiming that neither Milosevic nor Kostunica (the opposition candidate) got more than 50% of the majority. Otpor and the oppositions claimed the fraud in the election and started new series of strikes and civil disobedience again to force Milosevic to step down. At the coal mine in the South of Belgrade that produces 70% of Serbian electric power, 17,000 workers ran strike immediately. Taxi and Bus drivers in many cities slow down and blockade the road. October 5, ten days of continuously strike all over the country after election, the popular protest reached its peak.

[From the clip, you can see that there was no any police or army beating the demonstration, as they knew the movement win & Milosevic must stepped down very soon.]

By sophisticated communication among Anti-Milosevic popular movement via e-mail, internet communication, short-wave radio contact, Radio B-92, and other media types, hundreds of thousand people from all over the country directed their street to join the rally that run nonviolent take over the parliament building at 3 p.m. Milosevic stepped down in the next day. His regime was overthrown. Three month later, the Public Information Law (passed since September 1998) was repealed to discard the legal-structural repressive restriction to the internet and people free communication.

Reference

  1. Ackerman, Peter (2001) Bringing Down A Dictator, DVD movies.
  2. Tunnard, Christopher R. (2003a), “From State-Controlled Media to the ‘Anarchy’ of the Internet: the Changing Influence of Communications and Information in Serbia in the 1990s”, in Southeast European and Black Sea Studies, Vol.3 No.2, May. pp.97-120. London : Frank Cass.
  3. USIP (1999) Preserving the Free Flow of Information on the Internet: Serbs Thwart Milosevic Censorship,” Washington, DC: United States Institute for Peace.

Internet Technology & Nonviolent Struggle : Introduction

August 6, 2008

Below is the very first draft of my article (on going writing) in relation to my PhD dissertation, with similar to the title of this post as “Internet Technology and Nonviolent Political Struggle : A Case Study of Thailand”. I decide to put it in the blog to get people to discuss to me. Here’s the introduction part. Other parts, in developing, is coming soon.

I. INTRODUCTION

This article’s topic on internet technology and nonviolent struggle was popped up from two isolated sub-discipline of studies: peace studies and technology studies. During its popular period around past twenty or thirty years, peace studies had touched some of technological issues, but mostly are weapon or military-related technologies. It stopped its boundary of research at, I would call, ‘violence studies of technology’. There was almost none of the study that keeps forward to what I might entitle as ‘nonviolence studies of technology’. Similarly, for technology studies, most of their territories were bounded up at such issues as political value, prejudice or social injustice of technology. Though these issues are important, but to my knowledge and from my point of view, there was almost none of them that went further to the most tangibly moral position, which is the topic on violence and nonviolence of the technology. So, this article intends to connect both fields and outreach to the topic of so-called ‘nonviolence studies of technology’.

Let consider peace studies first. Among various theories of them, the article chooses Gene Sharp’s theory of nonviolent action (1973) as it intends to study the political struggle in practical and actual situation. His theory is fundamentally based on so-called ‘consent theory of power’ in which reverses our ordinary though about the power as monolithic power that ruler’s power can be self-sustained at above and determine the ruled in the society. Instead, he proposed other version of power as pluralistic that the ruler can hold the power just by gaining supports from the consent of the ruled. This means that the people indeed control the ruler, not the ruler control the people. So, the point is that a repressive regime can be changed without violence by the mass people just withdraw their consent from the regime so much that it can not function and have to accept the demand of the mass, or sometime the ruler can no longer hold its legitimacy to govern the people so that the regime must be changed.

Based on this fundamental concept, Sharp provided a variety of ‘method of nonviolent action’ that had happened around the world. Another of his important point is that he insisted that nonviolent method is higher efficient than the violent means. In actual struggling situation, he proposed the concept of the ‘dynamic of nonviolent action’ that the regime may possibly adopt violent measure to keep control the movement back into the order. The nonviolent practitioners have to maintain the ‘nonviolent discipline’ so steady that finally they can gain the achievement. This is because of what he called ‘political jiu-jitsu’ in which the more violence the regime uses, the more it strike back to lose the legitimacy of the regime to the degree that it breakdown.

Sharp’s innovatively consent theory of power in nonviolent action—that both brought him to the frontier of this field and gained popularity to this field—was criticized by Brian Martin (1989) and Robert J. Burrowes (1996) as the theory was too simplified and it dichotomize between the ruler and the ruled. Martin gave a lot of example that power is not just giving people’s consent to the ruler, but there are varieties of structural manipulation—such as bureaucracy, capitalism, masculinity, hegemony, technology and so on.

Burrowes argued that the rulers can maintain their power not only directly by gaining consent from people. There are a number of sub-structures of power that support the central power of the rulers. These sub-structures in themselves can be sustained also by taking consent from the ruled. So consents should not be withdrawn only from the central structure, due to it would still be able to maintain itself, but also from the sub-structure. Both critiques of Martin and Burrowes are based on what might calls ‘structural theory of power’, which covers various categories of power, including technology. And that bring us to another field of this article, technology studies.

Among diverse schools in technology studies, this article stands on the ground that there is no neutrality in technology. Every artifact and technological system have more or less some sorts of what Langdon Winner (1986) called ‘political inheritance’. It means that there is power embedded in every kind of technology, both in term of effecting people’s life and being derived from some sorts of political attitude. In other words, the structure of power relationship in a society can be studies from its technology. Technological structure, once it was designed and implemented, can give advantage to some people while take from the other. To more extreme, technologies can even kill someone, or some state, as an expense of the existence of the other one, or other state.

This kind of technological violence, in Galtung’s word, is the direct violence of technology such as obviously weapons and military technology. This article reaches further to, to use Galtung’s concept (1969), the structural violence of technology as there is no tangible perpetrator, but violence still occurs from technological structure of society. For example, railway system would have been constructed in order to transport the natural resource from the remote to central industry, which resulted in increasing the natural scarcity or degradation and pollution so much that bring an epidemic and death to the locals. Or the communication system was designed to be so centralized that a repressive government can hide their massacre—or even can campaign some prejudice or hatred propaganda—without the alternative voices. Clearly, both example of railway and communication system can not be solved by just change the government, because the sources of violence are not only from it, but also embedded in the technological structure.

As alternative to these kinds of technological structure of violence and to the intention of this article, what is called ‘technological structure of nonviolence’ can be found, to my knowledge, in the only one work in this topic, entitled ‘Technology for Nonviolent Struggle’ of Martin (2001). He explored various sorts of nonviolent technology, such as namely livelihood technology, intermediate technology (according to E.F. Schumacher’s concept), and decentralized communication system. The fundamental ground of these kinds of technological structure, in my opinion, is that it is small, non-hierarchic and decentralized enough (also interactive and cooperative enough, in such technology as communication) for being in people’s controls. Though there is still some limitation about the small-scale, distributed and non-hierarchical technology can be used to commit the violence like modern terrorism—waiting to be solved as a theoretical problem—this article maintain that it is worth to go beyond violent studies of technology to nonviolent one along the line of his argument.

Concerning the focusing technology of the article, the internet is also similar to other kind of technology which is political inherited. It is a kind of communication technology dealing with people’s idea, ideal, and especially in Sharp’s term, consent submitted to the rulers. As mention above, the internet, as communication technology, could also be used as violent or nonviolent instruments depended on its structural conditions.

So, the article aims to study the using and the conditions of internet technology in related to nonviolent struggle (and along with violent repression). In sociological terms, it attempts to investigate the ‘agency/action’ of and ‘structure’ of violence and nonviolence of internet technology. However, it’s worth to note here that the approach of this article is a bit different from so-called ‘media studies’ or ‘communication studies’, as it does not focus only on the content of communication or its psychological/sociological/political effects, but also the structural condition and the struggle to shape its structural development, that recurrently enable using it violently or nonviolently.

Therefore, two key questions of the article are as follow. (1) Action or agency dimension: how is internet technology dynamically used for nonviolent struggle and violent repression? (2) Structural dimension: how come can they use it in such way? Or other word, what are the structural conditions, which had been competitively struggled to allow them to do like that? The answer to both questions will be conducted in two forms: the study of experiences around the world and the theoretical workout to propose a theoretical framework of further studies.

Reference

  1. Burrowes, Robert (1996) The Strategy of Nonviolent Defense : A Gandhian Approach, Albany : State University of New York Press. [see Brian Martin’s review of this book]
  2. Galtung, Johan (1969), “Violence, Peace and Peace Research,” Journal of Peace Research. Vol.6 No.3
  3. Martin, Brian (1989), “Gene Sharp’s Theory of Power”, Journal of Peace Research, 22:2, pp. 213-22;
  4. Martin, Brian (2001). Technology for Nonviolent Struggle, London: War Resisters’ International, 2001.
  5. Sharp, Gene (1973) The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Boston: Porter Sargent.
  6. Winner, Langdon (1986) “Do artifacts have politics?” in The whale and the reactor : a search for limits in an age of high technology, Chicago : University of Chicago Press

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