Reflection on Digital Zapatistas.

By Frederik Madsen

Our society continuous to become more and more dependent on electronic devices and the use of the internet, and so does our everyday life and our virtual life. As we hear about the beginning of the Digital Zapatistas I can’t help to think about how dependent we are on the internet, and how big a part it plays in contemporary society. Faced with situation where these virtual spaces don’t work, due to lack of access for example, panic and dysfunction are bound to follow in “the real world”. As we are dependent on using the internet for certain tasks we can easily end up in a position where this isn’t possible, as in the case of power cuts, or inaccessibility of a designated site.

This dependence is what certain groups, such as the Electronic Disturbance Theater (EDT), has realized can be used as a tool to spread a message of dissatisfaction or disobedience if you want. In the text by Jill Lane, Digital Zapatistas, we hear about how the EDT used the virtual spaces to help The Zapatista movement in their fight against the Mexican government. As the Zapatistas fight against the government has been going on since 1994 till today, they have been through a big development I terms of activism and warfare. With the support of the Electronic Disturbance Theater they have certainly been first movers on the front of using the internet as a way of protesting.

The combination of political activism and computer attacks, known as hacking, is referred to as ‘Hacktivism’. Though hacking is an illegal action, the combination of the two doesn’t have to be, as Jill Lane explains:

 “In fact, on-line protest as pioneered by EDT involves no illegal use of networks: to the contrary, EDT uses the decidedly public spaces of the Internet (ports of access, reload functions) to stake the important claim that cyberspace is public space and should be governed by the same social and legal norms that pertain in public spaces off-line.” (Jill Lane, 139)

Saying that the EDT is in fact not doing anything illegal, but exploiting the public area the internet is. This was seen in the action of Zapatista FloodNet, as participants flooded different political sites, by the use of refresh request, and other functions the internet is built on. The EDT was doing this to voice the killing of the indigenous that were killed by the Mexican army, and to help the Zapatista movement spread their message. The fact that this ‘protest’ occurred online meant that thousands of people all over the world could participate, without being there as a physical protestor, but a virtual one.

Today it is hard to imagine any kind of protest without the help of virtual spaces, as a tool for hacktivism, or for simple planning. We are seeing the power of the internet still growing stronger also as a tool of disobedience, and the growing availability of the internet certainly shakes our global society in the hands of those that are oppressed.


Digital Zapatista by Jill Lane, (22-12-2013) (22-12-2013)


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