Wednesday, September 15, 2010

phyles

Deugarte | The Internet is the great steroid jar of this century. Take the ethics of the lonesome Ivy League hackers of the 80′s and set them loose on the web: in 15 years you will get Linux, Firefox, free music, the Public Domain movement and the end of the old culture industry. Take the old BBS, fanzines and fan conventions, move them to the Internet, and you will get the greatest conversational community boom since the Babel Tower.

When conversations take place in languages such as French, Spanish, or Arabic, they become transnational with great ease. Only 2 out of every 5 people who write in French on the Internet live in France. More than half the readers of any Madrid website with more than 1000 visitors per day are in Latin America. Arabic in the Western islamic world has gone, in ten years, from being a religious language superimposed onto regional, almost mutually unintelligible varieties (Moroccan, Algerian, etc.), to having a standard that is gradually reunifying the local dialects: Al Jazeera Arabic.

Virtual communities arise in new spaces, the spaces of the various globalisations associated with the great transnational languages. The main players in these communities belong to two generations that have grown up with Himanen’s hacker ethic: the network logic of abundance and the work ethic of free software are the glue that binds the blogosphere. The result: conversational communities, identitarian, transnational non-hierarchical tribes, based on the powerful incentive that is recognition.

Let us place these communities in the midst of the whirlwind that is a world where national states are sinking and the globalisation of the economy is eroding all the good old institutions that used to make people feel secure. Many of these communities will wish to have their own economy, community companies and common funds.

Spanish cyberpunks went from cyberactivism and literature to constituting a group of cooperative enterprises straddling South America and Madrid. Their new banners: economic democracy, resilience, and transnationality. They changed names: now they are known as “Indianos”, the Spanish word for the emigrant who would return to his home village after making his fortune in the Americas. Only that the Indianos’ America has been the Internet, and their business has spread from consultancy to sustainable production or local development.

In these very same years, the Murides, the old pacifist Sufis from Senegal, went from having a nationalist discourse and growing peanuts to constituting a community trade network with two million members that spreads from South Africa to Italy. Its transformation isn’t over yet, but the young Murides have turned the daïras, the old Koranic schools, into urban communes that are also business cells.

At first blush, nothing could be farther apart than cyberpunks and the Murides. But the parallelism is significant: they are not companies linked to a community, but transnational communities that have acquired enterprises in order to gain continuity in time and robustness. They are phyles. Fist tap Dale.