There has been talk of a technological revolution for decades. And, basically, the radical interventions of digital information technology (IT) in everyday life can no longer be denied. Nevertheless, these manifestations probably do not evoke the impression of a revolution on the part of most people, since many of their consequences are too discreetly concealed behind the marketing-motivated euphoria of the IT industry’s sales campaign strategies.
But it is no mere coincidence that violence dominates the overall image which subsumes the impressions of the particular forms assumed by this deep-seated historical process of change. During the course of a ”revolution in military affairs (RMA),” war—since time immemorial, the very embodiment of violence and destruction—mutates in the conceptions of protagonists and propagandists of ”information warfare” into discreet actions in cyberspace and in the infosphere. But in the scenarios of such infowars in which both ”form” and ”bloodshed” are absent, even technically well-versed individuals are stylized as potential cyberpartisans constituting a threat to the state.
This project enables us to directly grasp the social implications of the digital revolution. After all, what could be more real than warfare in the history of humanity which is the history of its wars? And what could more powerfully underscore the reality and cultural dominance of the immaterial sphere than its suitability as an improved battlefield? Militarily-planned infowar, however, is only a single aspect within the field of activities involving acquisition, control, and subjugation.
The technologies of the digital revolution were developed in the interest of war and derived from its logic—technologies of simultaneity and coherence that now put out civil society in a state of permanent mobilization. A struggle is being waged for markets, resources and spheres of influence, whereby the objective is to achieve supremacy in processes of economic concentration, and the fronts are no longer delineated by national borders or jurisdictions of legal systems, but rather by the range of technical standards. This is a conflict in which the power of knowledge is managed as a profit-yielding monopoly over its dissemination.
In international politics, the geographic boundaries of the Industrial Age increasingly diminish in significance, giving way to vertical fronts along the lines of social class. On the political as well as the economic level, new players enter the arena in which the struggle for hegemony is fought—new combatants who are much better versed with the lay of the land in the terrain of IT than the hierarchically-organized forces arrayed in the service of state security carrying out their traditional effort to centralize and regiment knowledge.
A development looms on the horizon whose potential to bring about massive social, economic, and political change within civil society is unprecedented. Even art—confronted with the transformation of our culture’s informational dimension into the reality of mobilization—faces an enormous challenge. As a self-referential system, it seems to be, once and for all, obsolete and entangled within an increasingly palpable web of social contexts and interconnections. InfoWar thus insists itself with great urgency as a theme for Ars Electronica—a festival for art, technology, and society.
This publication not only provides a run-down on RMA, but also brings in a wide variety of perspectives to shed light upon precisely that sphere of the Information Society engendered by war as the ”father of all things.” Above all, though, these texts make clear the extent to which the information revolution has changed the nature of conflicts.
This anthology includes all addresses delivered at the Ars Electronica Festival 98 Symposium ”INFOWAR—information.macht.krieg” plus nine additional papers. It provides insights into the spectrum of new conflict situations and potential for conflict, images conjured up of enemies and threatening scenarios. It offers an explanation and elaboration of the concepts and theories of cyberwar and netwar, enhancement of battle effectiveness by means of IT, psyops and propaganda, the war of the mind and people’s information warfare. It also includes up-to-the-minute examples of and approaches to new forms of electronic civil disobedience as well as considerations on a network culture seen as being in the process of emerging.
One of the prime considerations in assembling this anthology has been to reflect the global dimensions of this development by presenting the perspectives of experts from a wide array of cultures and nations including Europe, the US, China, Russia, and Nepal, of those active in the civilian sphere such as hackers and cypherpunks, and of representatives of the art scene and the world of science.
Gerfried Stocker/Christine Schöpf