Tecnologie e Società


Stepping out of the Sun, Zapatista management rules

Rob van Kranenburg






PDF [280 KB]






“It even grows out of the concrete.”

Naomi Klein: “I think that the most radical thing that any of us can do is talk to our friends and our neighbours and our families”. [i]

“Fundamentally people in a group walk in time with each other because it creates a sense of identification with the unit.” - Christian Nold.




Ways of learning

“There will be some pretty weird stuff happening over the next decade or so. I sometimes wonder if we’ll get our carbon nanotube fiber from biological systems in the end. Much depends on whether we’ll see Moore’s Law-type effects in this technology. Moore’s Law depends on the highly parallel nature of photolithography and chemistry, on carving structures into planar surfaces by exposure of substances to light patterns. Biotech depends more on the exponential growth curves of microorganism cultures and DNA can do 3-dimensional construction, not just 2D. One of the founders of Intel said they had trouble predicting anything in their technology more than 7 years out, even with the driving forces pretty well understood. I really wonder if anyone knows what’s going to happen at the biotech/nanotech interface even 3 years out, at this rate. For all we know, space elevator reasoning may seem crudely extrapolative in 10 years, with either much better approaches discovered, or all hopes dashed.” [1]

It took me five years to figure out, to grasp, - understand - let me use the word resonate - these lines of Heraclite: and I rephrase them in my own lines - “of all that which is dispersed haphazardly, the order is most beautiful.” In the Fragments you read that these lines are incomprehensible as far as the Heraclite scholars are concerned. They can not link it as a line of verse with other words in other lines in verse. I read it and in reading I knew it to be true. Knowing that only as experience is not very productive in a society that has no non-iconic medium for transmitting these kinds of experiences.

In order to make this experience productive; read: make it politically viable and socially constructive - in order to find ways of transmitting, ways of teaching experiences like this - we textualise them.

We find analogies, we read initial lines as metaphor, as metonomy. I went for a walk one day in the woods near F., in the Belgian Ardennes. A beautiful walk it was, steep down, hued autumn colours, leaves fading into black.

In the quiet meadow that we passed I saw autumn leaves, small twigs, pebbles sometimes - hurdled into the most beautiful of patterns by the strenght of water moving. I looked hard realizing there was indeed no other way of arranging them.

I recognized leaves as data. I recognized data as data. And I recognized the inability to find a way to come to terms with Heraclite’s line without walking, without taking a stroll in the woods and look around you, look around you and find the strenght of streams arranging.

if i am gone and with no trace i will be in my minor place

The ability to read data as data is what makes new beginnings.

Reflect a while on what you bumped into, run up against, hit when you did not look.

All I have to do now is the following. I can not quite put it into adequate terms and I therefore hesitate. I do check my lines regularly for lines that make no sense even in those regions where we need to make no sense for a while in the registers that do make sense so.

It has to do with my ability to visualise a setting in which people resonate with media through simulating processes. Simulating processes that are actual processes, for in a digitised real, any process might become experiential, might resonate.

In such a digitized real, a hybrid reality in which our analogue bodies and digital processing fuse into each other, any data might become information; that is: data to which we relate, resonate.

“Since electronic components are small enough to be embedded in any possible object they will literally become an integral part of our lives. Once integrated in our clothes, they can make up an active system that contains flexible displays and all sorts of sensors that react to the condition of our body or environment. These systems can be a great opportunity to allow us to change the cultural appearance of our clothes as a function of mood or situation. But how can we explore technological possibilities by capitalising on how people relate to their clothes?” [2]


Ways of gathering data:

Corporate public space: architecture: modified: “Local and foreign scientists have concluded the mysterious, ubiquitous corn variety is genetically modified, and illegal.... Transgenic strains were found in 15 of 22 communities in these hills and in 3 to 10 percent of plants in the fields sampled. “What’s frightening is how fast it has spread,” said Yolanda Lara, spokeswoman for Oaxaca’s non-governmental Rural Development Agency. “The government must put a stop to this.”

“Wherever those kernels fell, off the backs of the trucks, from bags carried from the store, the corn would grow,” said Olga Toro Maldonada, 39, who cultivates corn in her backyard to help feed her six children. “It even grows out of the concrete.” [iii]

Corporate public space: movement: travel: “Federal aviation authorities and technology companies will soon begin testing a vast air security screening system designed to instantly pull together every passenger’s travel history and living arrangements, plus a wealth of other personal and demographic information.

The government’s plan is to establish a computer network linking every reservation system in the United States to private and government databases. The network would use data-mining and predictive software to profile passenger activity and intuit obscure clues about potential threats, even before (Italics mine)the scheduled day of flight.” [iv]

Selforganized public space: movement: action. “In Mobile Vulgus Christian Nold reveals the “potential force a crowd of people hold when they act as a cohesive whole.”

Music is not dangerous, it’s the people. Music can be as loud as you like, ok you get blast effects but they can’t be worse than explosions, and buildings are designed to withstand explosions. No, its the actual effect that people would be able to cause. By standing still an average person weighing around 65 kilograms exerts a force of 650 newtons straight down onto the floor.

Once mobilised into jumping with both feet that force is multiplied almost seven times. If fifty people jump simultaneously, this force produces 23 tonnes of pressure which is the same weight as thirty-three cars stacked one on top of the other. With every drum beat, these tonnes of pressure piledrive into the ground at the resonant frequency.
Seeing, hearing or feeling even the slightest response from the structure initiates a feedback loop between the building and its occupants which increases the feeling of communal action.

The amount of force required to cause a full structural collapse is between ten to one hundred timesgreater than that needed to see the first surface cracking. These warning signs are sufficient for our purposes since they force the authorities to close down the structure. Used in this way the tactic should pose no danger to anyone.” [v]

Selforganized public space: polyphony media: “The assembly shall be considered constituted when at least 20 neighbors are present. All who live in the neighborhood may participate with voice and vote,” reads a woman, aided by a brand-new megaphone, on a street corner where more than a hundred residents have gathered.

“The executive committee shall meet 15 minutes prior to the assembly to draft the agenda with the proposals provided by the neighbors,” she says, handing the word - and the megaphone - over to the “moderator”. It is clarified repeatedly that “here, no one is in charge, we are going to take turns.” One of the proposals made during the assembly was to set aside 15 minutes each week on a neighborhood radio program to provide updates about the movement.

The proposal was readily accepted.

But when the moderate announced that a television news program has sent a reporter and a camera operator, the reaction is one of absolute rejection, with the neighbors shouting for the media representatives to leave.

...In fact, in the assemblies and in mass e-mails, Argentines are calling not only for the removal of the career politicians and entrenched union leaders, but also for the rejection of the privatized entities entrusted with public services and of the news media which, they say, are not accurately portraying the population’s suffering.

“I am very surprised because there are people participating who otherwise never left their homes. My 70-year-old neighbor had never taken part in anything, but now she has such an extremist stance that it is truly astonishing,” said Palermo neighborhood assembly participant Fernández.

She said one of the slogans repeated in her neighborhood is “the politicians must go because they do not understand a thing.” Fernández explained that this reflects the sentiment that political leaders no longer comprehend, nor can they express, the citizenry’s problems because they are too far removed from that reality.” [vi]

Selforganized public space: architecture: paper: “The archives of the NAi (Netherlands Architecture Institute) are full of architecture dreams in cardboard. Paper was the building material for buildings in scale. That paper as fragile, flammable and cheap material is also suitable for making real buildings seemed unthinkable, until recently.

There are of course a lot of finishing materials in which paper is processed. For example plasterboards, wallpaper and eco-insulation from paper shredding. But cardboard in carrying constructions seems at best something for card houses.

We first used paper tubes in an installation project for an exhibition of Alba Aalto’s Work in 1986 and noticed their potential as a building material with considerable aesthetic possibilities.

We then built Suikinkutsu Arbor using 48 paper tubes in the venue of the Nagoya Design Exposition which was followed by Main Hall for the Odawara Festival and Library of a Poet.

In 1993, paper tubes were officially authorized by the Minister of Construction as structural materials for permanent building structures in conformity with Article 38 of the Building Standards Act. When we were developing shelters for refugees in Africa using this system in cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, a great earthquake hit the Hanshin Awaji area of western Japan on January 17, 1995.

We then decided to build temporary houses for people whose houses were destroyed by the earthquake as well using the same system. Of course, we have used the term “paper architecture” to mean an architectural proposal on paper that likely could not be built.” [vii]


Ways of making data into information:

Of course, we have used the term “paper architecture” to mean an architectural proposal on paper that likely could not be built.


Of course, we have used the term “originality” to mean a proposal no one else likely could have conceived, a proposal that someone who is not networked.

Of course, we have used the term “privacy” to mean as belongings to an individual that is not networked.

Of course, we have used the term “copyright” to refer to the exceptional unique abilities of an individual that is not networked.


Ways of making information into community knowledge:

In a networked environment we have to rethink politics, that is the translation of power into discourse and vice versa.

“Since electronic components are small enough to be embedded in any possible object they will literally become an integral part of our lives. Once integrated in our clothes, they can make up an active system that contains flexible displays and all sorts of sensors that react to the condition of our body or environment. These systems can be a great opportunity to allow us to change the cultural appearance of our clothes as a function of mood or situation. But how can we explore technological possibilities by capitalising on how people relate to their clothes?” [3]


Where to start?

In order to reflect upon what is generated by new media revolutions, it is necessary to simplify our current practice into four major building blocks that make up our current view of what new media constitutes: code, node, link, network. In code we find algorithm, the grammar that we use in the translation into data blocks which are nodes that are linked to other nodes in a network. [viii]


Zapatista Management

“‘To test whether people with dyslexia are less able to link sounds to what they see, the researchers asked 36 dyslexics and 29 people without the disorder to sit in a darkened room and look at a series of closely-placed lights, and indicate which light came first.’ ... ‘Indeed, people discriminated better between the lights when they also heard sounds. However, non-dyslexics only improved when the sound appeared within 150 milliseconds of a light, while dyslexics improved even after an interval of 350 milliseconds between light and sound.’These findings suggest that dyslexics have an “abnormally large window of time in which they combine visual and auditory information,” Wallace said.’ ... ‘“We think (dyslexia) is even more fundamental than language, and more global than vision,” Wallace said.’” [4]

Just listen to Andrew Flood now for a while:

“I was interested in the self-management structures they had built in this period but also the nature of the compromises and in particular the question of dual power. That is the question of how long a situation could exist where you had Zapatista structures of self-management on the one hand and the Mexico state on the other as opposed mechanisms that both tried to decide what life in Chiapas could be like.

... we learn that the *”good government juntas”* follow the libertarian structures established by the other layers of Zapatista self-management. By far the most provoking aspect is that the actual people who make up each junta are rotated in an incredibly rapid fashion.
According to Marcos these rotations are from every *”eight to 15 days (according to the region)”*. The delegates are themselves drawn from the members of the Autonomous Council (AC) and because these are rotated in turn (over a longer period which seems to be a year) this means that by the time everyone on an AC has been on the junta a new AC is created and so all these new people must in turn learn the ropes.

As might be imagined this is driving those who work with the Zapatistas nuts because it means every time you go to a ‘good government junta’ you are dealing with different people. This is by design and it is worth quoting Marcos at length as to why this is so

*”If this is analysed in depth, it will be seen that it is a process whereentire villages are learning to govern.*

*”The advantages? Fine, one of them is that it’s more difficult for an authority to go too far and, by arguing how “complicated” the task of governing is, to not keep the communities informed about the use of resources or decision making. The more people who know what it’s all about, the more difficult it will be to deceive and to lie. And the governed will exercise more vigilance over those who govern”.*

*“It also makes corruption more difficult. If you manage to corrupt one member of the JBG, you will have to corrupt all the autonomous authorities, or all the rotations, because doing a “deal” with just one of them won’t guarantee anything (corruption also requires “continuity”). Just when you have corrupted all the councils, you’ll have to start over again, because by then there will have been a change in the authorities, and the one you “arranged” won’t work any longer. And so you’ll have to corrupt virtually all the adult residents of the Zapatista communities. Although, obviously, it’s likely that once you’ve achieved that, the children will have already grown up and then, once again”” [ix]

Now don’t that make you happy? Don’t that make you smile?

I thought so.

Worry is no longer our only friend. (listen up Ray Lamontagne!)

“‘In World War II, friendly fighter planes sent out identifying radio signals. Today, if you use an I-Pass on the toll road, a Speedpass from MobilExxon to buy gas or McDonald’s hamburgers, or an electronic device to lock or unlock your car door, you’re using RFID. The technology is in those ID chips people implant in their dogs and cats, cards for access in buildings and in the Chicago Transit Authority’s smart cards.’ - [And from article on same page] ‘In the study, uncovered by the Chicago Sun-Times , shelves in a Wal-Mart in Broken Arrow, Okla., were equipped with hidden electronics to track the Max Factor Lipfinity lipstick containers stacked on them. The shelves and Webcam images were viewed 750 miles away by Procter & Gamble researchers in Cincinnati who could tell when lipsticks were removed from the shelves and could even watch consumers in action.’” [5]


Friends, let’s get down on paper before they do!

Picture this:

““TAPPI RFID Symposium, Bootcamp and Smart Packaging Workshop [x]

RFID4U, the world’s leader in radio frequency identification learning solutions, will create a RFID symposium along with half day bootcamp and smart packaging workshop in 2006 to inform the paper and converting industries on latest in cutting edge RFID technology. Designed on behalf of TAPPI, the world’s largest professional organization serving the pulp, paper, packaging, and converting industries, the two-day Symposium will have two tracks – one for paper industry personnel and one for converting industry personnel with the half-day pre-conference boot camp will be held specifically for beginners to RFID.””

Smart Packaging is a new technology involving sensors that can indicate, among other things, how long a product has been on the shelf.

,Among other things,

,Among other things,

,Among other things,

Among other things, I tell you we will rotate the world’s population through 8 to 15 days of government. It is a small world, after all.

And we’ll do it dancing too. Easy. Like nothing to it. Just watch us move. Can’t touch that. Going to do a Fortino Samano on you.


Rob van Kranenburg, Ghent, December 2, 2005



1) From: "Michael Turner" Date: Sat, 22 Nov 2003 21:27:20 +0900 To: Subject: Re: Nanotube cable will connect Earth and Luna. Nano-transistor self-assembles using biology 19:00 20 November 03 news service [back]

2) Wearable Dreams , Research Project Developed for the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea. October 2001 – June 2002, Stijn Ossevoort. [back]

3) Wearable Dreams , Research Project Developed for the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea. October 2001 – June 2002 , Stijn Ossevoort. [back]

4) Dyslexics Unable to Coordinate Sight and Sound // brain processing? [back]

5) Users Betting Big on RFID // pro-RFID bluechips [back]

i) From: (nologo-d-digest) To: Subject: nologo-d-digest V1 #64 Date: Thu, 16 Aug 2001 06:35:55 -0400 (EDT) [back]

ii) Crossroads store and U.S. Post Office. Sprott, Ala. 1935 or 1936. Photo by Walker Evans
Courtesy Library of Congress.
Source: [back]

iii) Date: Fri, 1 Feb 2002 03:02:45 -0000 From: Andrew Hennessey <> Reply-To: To: Subject: [fsml] GM corn runs riot. Mysterious 'Alien' Corn Invades Mexico Countryside By PAV JORDAN Reuters. ..CAPULALPAN, Mexico (Jan. 30) - In this one-telephone village in the hills of Mexico's Oaxaca state, corn grows out of cracks in the sidewalks, along roadsides and anywhere else it can find soil. [back]

iv) Declan McCullagh <> To : Subject : FC: Feds will begin testing massive system to profile air travelers Date : Fri, 1 Feb 2002 05:21:38 -0800 (PST) By Robert O'Harrow Jr. Washington Post Staff Writer Friday, February 1, 2002; Page A01. [back]

v) Date: Sat, 9 Feb 2002 11:45:11 -0500 From: Announcer <> To: Subject: <nettime> Publications [x9]
MOBILE VULGUS is published by Book Works. 128 pages, printed offset, with an audio CD, 170x155mm ISBN 1870699564, price £7.50 [back]

vi) Date: Fri, 15 Feb 2002 15:51:36 -0500 (EST) From: Clore Daniel C <> Subject: (en) Media: Argentina's Neighborhood Assemblies. A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E's Rebellion in the Neighborhoods by Marcela Valente BUENOS AIRES, Feb 13. [back]

vii) Date: Sat, 16 Feb 2002 11:02:39 -0800 From: Howard Ray Lawrence <howardl@INREACH.COM> Reply-To: "Basic and applied design (Art and Architecture)" <DESIGN-L@LISTS.PSU.EDU> To: DESIGN-L@LISTS.PSU.EDU Subject: Paper Architecture. [back]

viii) [back]

ix) Date: Mon, 28 Nov 2005 15:56:41 -0500
From: Andrej Grubacic <>
Subject: [pgawana] FW: A.Flood:The Zapatistas:A New Strategy,Nov
Subject: The Zapatistas: A New Strategy 051119000316439 From Red &Black Revolution 10 - 2005 - online soon
The Zapatistas: A New Strategy By Andrew Flood [back]

x) From:
Subject: [SV_RFID] TAPPI RFID Symposium, Bootcamp and SmartPackaging Workshop
Date: November 28, 2005 5:28:04 PM GMT+01:00
Reply-To: [back]



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