One of the final essays in An@rchitexts: Voices from the Global Digital Resistance offers a curious definition of one of the older mediums: the paper book. Provided by Felix Stalder and Jesse Hirsh in their essay “Open Source Intelligence,” this definition is odd because it seems disconnected from the book it is printed in. An@rchitexts is a collection of essays by and interviews with media artists, activists, organizers and hackers, and while the subject matter is unusual and shows the courage of the small press Autonomedia, the forms of the pieces both individually and collectively are pretty standard. The book squarely fits on an anthology shelf in an independent store, but it doesn’t fit the following definition from Stalder and Hirsh: “A book is a highly hierarchical and centralized form of communication – there is only one single author, and a very large number of readers. It is centralized because users form a relationship with the author, while typically remaining isolated from one another.”
Stalder and Hirsh make this statement while discussing a bestseller from a mainstream press, Naomi Klein’s No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies. Although they overgeneralize on the basis of their example, their discussion of how Klein used the internet in a subversive manner is notably thorough. When, in 2002, Klein became inundated with emails from the many readers of No Logo, she responded by establishing a website for them. By going to nologo.org, people not only could learn more about the anti-globalization movement that inspired her book, they could begin to communicate with one another. Their online conversation was made possible by the open source (or free and modifiable) software called Slashcode. As Stalder and Hirsh explain: “The Slashcode-based web site provided a readily available platform for the readers to become visible to one another and break through the isolation created by the book.”
An@rchitexts supplies many specific examples of media activism, and its grounded details make it an absorbing read to anyone who is using technology to try to challenge corporate structures. But what I enjoyed most about this book were other less technological connections that it allowed me to make. Editor Joanne Richardson has brought together people whose innovation and persistence speak of a global need for freedom and integrity, a need that makes the mind and heart move quickly together.