Designed Conflict Territories- Tobias Revell

The thing we have to consider is who and what we are protesting against. I won’t regurgitate the stacktivism or infrastructure fictions ideas. Chances are, that if you’re here, you know them already but there’s a general idea that the very shape of global geopolitics has changed in the last 20 years or so and the people in charge are not who we thought they were. To re-word a great Dylan Moran gag: While we were talking, Google very, very gradually built a future around us. (Please replace Google with whatever or whoever you like to satisfy your own biases.) The point stands that the entities constructing and steering our futures, or what they often like to call the future - with all the baggage of powerlessness and inevitability that that wording brings - aren’t states, and they work on a completely different geopolitical strata: There is no town square for Google.

When Edward Snowden leaked the details of the PRISM program to the world press, he wasn’t revealing anything. We already knew, at some very fundamental level that a vast apparatus existed to observe and harvest us and our ‘data’. Whether through decades of dystopic training or the simple maths of adding ruthless western capitalism and it’s history of paranoia to enabling technology we knew that these things were happening. I wrote some time ago about the fact that the rebalance of power enacted by the PRISM revelations is different to what is easily read - they forced us to react. Snowden issued a call for action, and the world failed to respond. I now have a term for this retreating reaction - shocked acquiescence. When faced with something so large and unfathomable as PRISM or climate change, the most common reaction is to accept or pretend it’s not happening and move on.

So why this response? ‘There’s no town square for Google’ wasn’t just a tweetable bite. We have no space in which we can protest, in which we can occupy and configure a conflict besides or in front of the thing we wish to protest and air our grievances against. For both the new geopolitics and the threat of climate change, there is no common language, no common space, no commons.

Read the full essay.

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