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Electronic Civil Disobedience: Inventing the Future of Online Agitprop Theater

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 October 2020


We see that a certain revolutionary type is not possible, but at the same time we comprehend that another revolutionary type becomes possible, not through a certain form of class struggle, but rather through a molecular revolution, which not only sets in motion social classes and individuals, but also a machinic and semiotic revolution.

—Félix Guattari (qtd. in Raunig)

We follow the speed of dreams.

—Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos, The Speed of Dreams (2007)

Critical art ensemble staged the theory of electronic civil disobedience (ECD) as a gamble against a form of the all-too-present future of “dead capital,” otherwise known as late capital. In our 1994 book The Electronic Disturbance, Critical Art Ensemble argued that dead capital was being constituted as an electronic commodity form in constant flow (11). Capital had been, was, and would continue to be reensembling itself, as the contemporary elite moved from centralized urban areas to decentralized and deterritorialized cyberspace (13). For Critical Art Ensemble, it was clear that cyberspace, as it was called then, was the next stage of struggle. The activist reply to this change was to teleport the system of trespass and blockage that was historically anchored to civil disobedience to this new phase of economic flows in the age of networks: “As in civil disobedience, primary tactics in electronic civil disobedience are trespass and blockage. Exits, entrances, conduits, and other key spaces must be occupied by the contestational force in order to bring pressure on legitimized institutions engaged in unethical or criminal actions” (Critical Art Ensemble, Electronic Civil Disobedience 18). As we imagined it in the early 1990s, electronic disturbance was the core gesture that could initiate a new “performative matrix” (Electronic Disturbance 57).

Theories and Methodologies
Copyright © Modern Language Association of America, 2009

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