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+Kaos (of autodidacts and adepts of Primo Moroni)

Autistici/Inventati, together with Rise Up!, is the preeminent provider of network resources and infrastructure to social movements worldwide. An English translation of the Italian tech collective’s history has now been published. The account should get some oxygen at hacker events over the next while and fills an important gap in the literature around politics and technology.  The origin and development of the sharply political sensibility behind the collective is set out here in a rich combination of recent Italian history and participant self-narration.

“Condividere saperi, senza fondare poteri” 

‘Share knowledge, without installing power’

– Primo Moroni (1)

Mediterranean hacktivism is distinct from the ‘hacker spaces’ of the US and the engineering influenced hacker culture of northern Europe (think Chaos Computer Club), more confrontational and embedded in a broader political atmosphere. This is a world where computer science faculties have competition from autodidacts who stay up late in squatted industrial buildings, equipped with recycled hardware running free software, a net connection, and subversive intent. Their knowledge is different, as is the way they produce it: outside of institutions and political parties, somewhat and unevenly self-organised, and yes, chaotic.

Published by Agenzia X in Italian in 2012, +Kaos covers the decade after the collective’s birth, in the ferment of the summer of 2001, before the trauma of Genoa and the political upending of September 11th. But it also looks back to the genesis of radical computer networking in the 1980s & 1990s – a homage to the pioneers and their predecessors.. From April 2001 onwards this is a tale of the slow assembly of a global infrastructure, punctuated by periodic setbacks, occasionally technical but mostly legal, and more joyfully the sleepless annual ritual of the hackmeeting. Like the networks A/I supports these legal attacks were both global and local, and functioned as a catalyst for the development of innovative solutions and resilient attitudes. The English edition comes with a technical glossary and extensive footnotes to help non-Italians get a grip of the peninsula’s peculiarities.

The world it describes already appears somewhat distant, before the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street, the Syrian Civil War and Trump. But history seemed to accelerate in 2001 as well – how to stand up to these phases is the question and the challenge. This is an account of one attempt to do so, a collective agency combining operation of technical systems with political analysis amidst conflict, crisis and opportunity.

(1) This phrase has served as the unofficial motto of A/I since its creation. Primo Moroni (1936-1998) was a key figure of the revolutionary and countercultural milieu in Milan for over forty years. An autodidact, writer, and professional dancer, he opened a bookshop, Calusca/City Lights, in 1971 which became a faucet for political and cultural heterodoxy, including the introduction of beat and hippie literature that would quickly have a significant impact in Italy. His book L’orda d’oro, co-authored with Nanni Ballestrini, remains the definitive account of the revolutionary movement in Italy in the ’60s and ’70s.

May 31, 2017 Posted by | /, hackers, history, italy | Leave a comment