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At the transgressive ever morphing edges of tekno culture there exists media pyrates who have immersed themselves in the exploration of knowledge beyond that of prefab consumerist compartments. Diverse voices manifest in their zines and virtual networks. The information that they uncover and unleash has at once liberated their minds to the timeless foundations of building community and the long traditions of exploring consciousness. They possess and cultivate alchemical expertise in the invention and use of new tools and technologies. Pyrticipators in a spectator society, they constantly re-invent, re-invigor and re-arrange through embracing change and learning how to achieve authenticity in a plastic and ephemeral world. Upon swallowing the fruit of the abominable knowledge tree, they have become privy to the disturbing excesses of power and privilege: the struggle for democracy and freedom involves a struggle for peoples' minds.
Within tekno pyrate culture the distinction between producer and consumer blurs, thriving instead on a pyrticipatory horizontal network, and breaking down the commodity relationship of regular commercial publishing. Hakim Bey suggests that the world of commodity separates people and divides our communities, and exploring alternative economies and experiments in living (r)evolutionizes the way we think and live 2. Pyrate media investigates sustainable lifestyle, nomadicism, meme mutation, r(e)volutionary autonomy, alchemical investigations, reinventing initiation and coming of age rituals, embracing chance, the unexpected and change, flexibility, ephemerality and exploring mutation into community creatures. It focuses on sharing information and networking, the evolution of people power and the nature of democracy, unsupervised reconciliation with indigenous peoples, issues surrounding copyright and censorship, excursions into creative protest and celebration, and grassroots community activism. It provides an alternative historical documentation of many groundbreaking events and activities usually ignored by corporate media.
Tekno pyrates actively splice up and reconfigure mass media in accordance with their own perspectives. They fuck-up, jam, subvert and de-memefy institutions by using corporate symbols, practices and commodities to re-invent their own meaning, and subvert mono-culture. Throughout the 20th century, democratic ideals appear to have been confused with the freedom to spend money, and power by and for the people silently falls by the wayside as information becomes commodified, restricted, controlled, contrived and insidiously manipulated to ensure the continued power base of the business elite. Decades of mind numbing television has kneaded our brains into a soft dough resulting in the devastating "defeat of a culture of critical consciousness" 3. The media, like other institutions, has acted in the service of individual power and class privilege 4. Tekno pyrates perceive that the corporate media perpetrates destructive social control, and that it ignorantly misrepresents issues considered important by this fringe culture.
The Unenlightenment - The Age of Missing Information 5
The information disseminated in zines helps redefine the very essence of community by questioning limiting hierarchies. Exploring a more creative future, artists, writers, thinkers and activists attempt to dissolve conditioning, and to uphold freedom of information access, dissemination, debate and protest. Zines counter-attack the infestation of forces determined to marginalize and destroy local community in their obsession with global profit and power. The world is information, the domain of the imagination, and the short-sighted commercial media limits and manipulates through the commodification of ideas. It flattens and trivializes as it tries to propagate submissive mass consumption.
Pyrates plunder meaning out of a malleable and meaningless world, and within this environment of unlimited possibilities, creative activity raises awareness and prods consciousness. Using "the oldest navigational tools known to humankind: sacred ritual and metaphysical speculation, spiritual regimen and natural spell" 6 they obliterate the boundaries of intelligence, art, and information flow, by questioning our tendency to label and compartmentalize, through contemplating rapid change in beliefs, chaos, balance, and taking responsibility. Wave Beach's Another Bodgy Production zine includes a manifesto about change, diversity, and community:
"All we want (I reckon) is to get back/forward into a local community lifestyle where the hierarchies have dissipated and most of what we need doesn't have to come from too far away. What gives me hope though is that we are all capable of change . . . But it takes effort and commitment to open communication, attentive listening, and not taking things too personally. We're all here on this spec of dust - so let's get on with it! I reckon tho, that its stuff to do with communication that where the toughest revolution is - to enable us to simply live together in peace. Regardless of how similar or different we may appear to be, it doesn't matter a shit when it comes down to our inability to come down from the lofty heights of our human ego . . . " 7
Seizing the Means of (Re)Production
In the community of pyrticipatory publishing, the production of the zine itself explores a cooperative community with open contribution welcome. Zines promote a skeptical, satirical and questioning approach to communication, information and life. Tweaking the spectacle's propaganda nerve encourages people to think, with the message, rather than the messenger, as the most important.
Zines explore freedom of communication. Anti-copyright promotes the not-for-profit movement of information, and calls for "fair use" of popular culture through sampling and mixing, citing the discrepancy between what a few artists are paid and the poverty of the majority. Commercialism has grown to be the new patron of the "arts", and only a lucky few "stars" benefit. In Copyrant zine firstname.lastname@example.org asks what is originality? What is copyright? Who does it benefit? His examination suggests that our communities prefer to celebrate the supremacy of the profit making individual over the community to the legal extreme. However, for many artists copyright stultifies the creative process through possession, commodification and alienation. There is a tendency in our societies toward a monoculture where only those with money control art. Copyright disrupts creative community by preventing an atmosphere of trust and cooperation among artists; a truly free environment. 8
In 1991, Hakim Bey noted that zine production was mainly a hobby, and he called for the next step in using them as real weapons of liberation: to go beyond the zine network, and explore how to communicate a creative principle of community to a wider group of people 9. Tekno pyrates use zines to explore alternative ways of thinking about and tackling the concept of community particularly by promoting the DIY (Do-it-Yourself) ethos. DIY helps people help themselves to be self-sufficient or more resourceful. Zines empower people in a society which shows disinterest in understanding true autonomy, by focusing on active organization and providing focal points for information exchange. They contain imaginative solutions to ongoing social problems. Sporadical zine shows that pyrates journey into zones of liberation disspersing information about free press and community, how to take care of ourselves, the DIY ethos, and how to create spaces for individuality and diversity.
"This zine is designed to disseminate positive and self empowering ideas that can be critical, humorous, informing, silly and entertaining . . . It is increasingly important to promote free press in these times of misinformation." 10
The Reclamation of the Playground
To build creative community in an imaginatively impoverished society, we have to be conscious not only of where we belong in this new world but also of the factors that prevent or promote that belonging.
"An organized social structure tuned to knowledge of ancient and contemporary harmonious planet interaction should be implemented . . . Life in the new millenium could shift from the seesaw deceit of the two party system to the mutual exchange of community and spiritual information and resources . . . Sensing the feeling of community globally many expressions and angles of truth could be offered to humanity adding to the creation of a new age of enlightenment . . . Production of things that liberate, inform and improve existence sustainably for all would replace the current alienation in the workplace or the urban environment and unequal distribution of resources and opportunity that currently exists." 11Pyrate culture reacts to the prevailing sense of alienation and superficiality in our consumerist world and attempts to rebuild this sense of belonging to an evolving creactive community, as opposed to self-destructive consumption and obeying meaningless "progress". Zines spread information about tools for transformation into community creatures. They question contrived hierarchies and ideologies, and explore ideas which help put sense back into the healthy functioning of community.
Zines encourage critical thinking, and explore possibilities of regained responsibility and empowerment. Embracing diversity and snubbing dogma, their values revolve around participation, creativity and embracing change.
"To deconstruct the negative stereotype media creates about youth, by making our voices heard within the community and throughout society. To be unashamed, and unapologetic for who we are and the way we choose to express ourselves. To educate other generations about positive solutions by living out those solutions in experience and experimentation. Change the world before it changes you, contribute today!" 12Zines can be considered temporary autonomous zones of the mind, a place to mutate media, remove boundaries and above all, to spread information that revives a culture of participation. Pyrates promote an imaginative response to the bankruptcy of materialist culture, providing tools for radical organization and personal exploration, and activating transformation into self-mutating machine elves.
1. Hakim Bey, Geekgirl #7, p.7, 1996.
2. Hakim Bey, reprinted from final issue of Babyfish lost its Momma Anti-copyright zine. At time of writing this was at www.subsitu.com/kr/zinescom.htm, but its no longer there. Anybody know if it's currently online?
3. Andrew Lowrey in Alex Cary, "Taking the Risk out of Democracy", p.1
4. Alex Cary, "Taking the Risk out of Democracy", p.11
5. Bill McKibben quoted by Mark Dery, Pyrotechnic Insanitarium, www.levity.com/markdery/culturjam.html
6. Erik Davis, Techgnosis: Myth, Magic and Mysticism in the Age of Information, Three Rivers Press, New York, , p.3, 1998
7. Wave Beach, Editorial, Another Bodgy Production, Handmade cover issue.
8. email@example.com, "Copyrant", Copyrant: The Free Zine with the Cure for Infomortis.
9. Hakim Bey, reprinted from final issue of Babyfish lost its Momma Anti-copyright zine. See reference 2.
10. Editorial, Sporadical #5, p.1
11. "Revolve Solve Evolve", Sporadical #5, p.13
12. Yoghurt #13