MediaFilter on Fri, 13 Jun 1997 09:56:26 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> Pit Schultz Interview with Paul Garrin

The following is an interview between Pit Schultz
( and Paul Garrin about,
art and tactical media.

[unedited version]

Originally published in German on the TelePolis
website (

>Pit Schultz:
>lets start:
>1. You are an artist. you went deep into technology with
>, but this is not the first time you did it.
>What, in general, does art have to do with media + technology,
>and do how you define your place in it.

Paul Garrin:

Control media and you control the public. Free media is a
threat to control.  As an artist, one strives to discover
an effective means of working in any medium--and when that
medium is a mass medium, the key is to establish and sustain
visibility.  If there is no support system to guarantee reliable
distribution, the work disappears.

One of the main concerns in my work has been the notion of
the public vs. the private.
Territory. Security. Privacy.
And the way that "the media" manages the perception of the public.

These things have always been of interest to me.

>2. The net, nobody can overlook it, as it becomes something
>mystical at the end of the millennium. One of the productive
>questions which were brought into circulation through
> was: who governs the net? It was always
>a tool of power to control the process of naming and even
>more, names are the resistent part of language where
>another semiotic regime takes place. Take religions, the
>space of names is a spiritual one, the space of the dead,
>ancestors, gods and ghosts. Today it is filled with brand
>names. In which way were you reflecting the name.spaces
>outside the net when you began with pannet and what was the
>impetus for your decision to start 'playing' with the DNS system.

A name is an essential and universal element.  On the net,
the uniqueness of the name is imperitive.  In capitalism, the
idea of uniqueness means "value"...commodity.  One of the key
elements of opression and control is to control the notion of
identity.  In the meme of the "DOMAIN NAME SYSTEM" (caps intentional)
the message is control, "DOMINATION", "TERRITORY".

The idea of the "Permanent Autonomous Net" dubbed the "panet"
initiative, was founded on the idea that in order to sustain
and develop a presence for Free Media, it is imperitive establish
and propogate an identity.   In order to assure the autonomy of the
content, totally self regulating, without the control of commercial
interests, it is imperitive to buy the bandwidth--the only option
to eventual disappearance of Free Media when the "Disneyfication"
of media and the net is completed.
[see my article "the Disappearance of Public Space on the Net"]

Two recent concrete examples illustrate this point.  An excellent
website, was started as a commercial project at TCI
(Telecommunications, Inc., the largest cable tv provider in the
USA with heavy bets on the internet).  TCI had the perception that
disInformation was an entertainment site, like the "X Files".
What they did was create a "Radikal Search Engine" and indexed
much of the content of MediaFilter and other sites of alternative media.
As soon as John Malone saw what disinformation was really about, he
ordered the plug pulled immediately.  I then offered the site's
founder, Richard Metzger, a home on my network.  He had already hooked
up with, luckily.  Another is the CypherPunks.  The
Millionaire's club,, the proverbial bastion of free speech on
the net recently kicked the Cypherpunks mailing list off of their server.
So much for their guardianship of free speech on the net.  (
offers Cypherpunks a new home if they see this...).

The Sponsors have their agendas and their limits to "tolerance".
The idea of what is "authorotative" and what is "acceptable" should
not be controlled by commercial interests.

The idea of decentralizing DOMAIN NAME SERVICE came when Network
Solutions, Inc. announced that it would start charging $100US for
name registrations.  When I studied the logistics of running dns,
I realized that the limits on it were artificially imposed in order
to limit supply and facilitate control.  The central database and
"whois" records are all controlled by Network Solutions, Inc., who
is a subsidiary of SAIC (Science Applications International Corp.),
the largest private contractor for the US National Security Agency
and the Pentagon.  Most of the top corporate officers are former
US military personnel who have retired from service and are engaged
in "private practice", including former NSA Chief, Bobby Inman, current
Director on the Board, putting their militarily-acquired skills to work
for profit.  In effect, when one registers and pays Network Solutions
for a domain name, they are also paying to maintain surveillance on
themselves.  Ask yourself.  Is this what you want?  Does it make you
feel comfortable?

>3. After the insight you got into the technology of DNS,
>what would it need to rebuild a DNS structure if Network-
>solutions would shut down the '10 root-level-servers'.
>(Any news about the connections to CIA?) Is it useful
>to demand a backup which is not under the main
>access of network solutions, and how should one do this?

First of all, Network Solutions has a contract with the
National Science Foundation which expires in 1998.  By that
time, many changes will have taken  place that will make their
disappearance a non-issue.  For now, Network Solutions controls
an essential facility which keeps the entire internet in sync.
It is not immediately feasable or constructive to disrupt this
function since it would be (at least temporarily) disruptive of
the net.  It is not currently feasable to change the entire internet's
configuration of reference to the current rootservers without
major disruption of service for several days to weeks--by the time
that everyone is informed and updated (and accepts the transition).

Running new toplevel names is not a difficult thing.  Its simplicity
is almost obscene.  The issue of global recognition is the key.
Right now, lives as an intranet within the internet.
Like a matter of perception, the recognition of
nameservers or not determines wheather exists or not.
Like changing channels--Removing the censorship filter.
This is a "grassroots" thing, and my favorite aspect of the
potential of individual's ability to choose
their view of the net...Unregulated by commerce or government.

>4. showed with the efforts and hard work of
>a few people how effective a process of decision making
>can bring about panic-results. (7 new tlds, 4. Feb.)
>How can it remain possible that the internet is an open
>standard, and in which way does IAHC already indicate the
>dangers of the end of such a policy. How would you proceed?
>Is it possible to open from a few-man-project
>to an object of collective mind work? Or do you see a way
>to learn from it, despite the protocols of bind and DNS ?

The proposal put forth by the International Ad-Hoc Committee
is a mediocre attepmt to impose a set of controls and regulations
on the internet without any mandate to do so.  Their indecisive
arrogance is as outrageous as if GATT or NAFTA would have blatantly
announced their implemention straight out of the boardroom of some
GloboCorp, Inc. without the painstaking international debate they so
required. It will never happen.  It's legally impossible by current
international law.
The internet is international and ideally, self-regulating and the
reality is that market forces will determine the dyanmics of the

The convention of DNS is not the issue presently--it's the scope
of its possible implementation. works with the existing
DNS software and protocols, exactly.  There is no difference.
IS DNS...and about exploring the potentials of a free namespace., from its beginnings has always been a collaborative and
cooperative project.  Most of the toplevel names were suggested by
users via a suggestion form on the website.  The new
"Integral Database Synchronizer Daemon" or "idsd" that is
developing will enable the total decentralization of name registries.
Registering a named.address will like reserving a seat on an airline
with a travel agent.  No seat can be booked twice, and all agents
share the same database.

>5. Many poeple complain that did not work,
>for me it is maybe the best project I know of.
>It shows to me how far art can go, and only as art does it evolve
>as a full success. But even if you don't name it art,
>it is obviously political. it works on the symbolic level
>where naming as a technolgy of power takes place.  The deeply poetic
>and subversive investigation of renaming the net-world, comes close
>to playing with a technological state of madeness, where things and
>names are spiraling in their own universe. How do you think it mimicks
>what is already happening(in the net)? How much were you aware of these
> certainly works.  Anyone who says that it doesn't work
hasn't tried it.  There is no excuse for such false criticism. is not globally recognized currently, but that will
most likely change very soon.  Stay tuned....Meahwhile, anyone
can try it by changing their tcp/ip dns settings to the
nameservers in their area.  It currently functions as an intranet
that recognizes the whole net.  A different route for content.
It's about "content routing" rather than territory or control.
Addresses created in don't have to pertain to purpose
or geographic location...the names combined with virtual domains
can be descriptive of content, and address web pages directly.
The "black.hole" project is an exmple of content routing with addresses. ( or http://black.hole).

>6. The economic question. How do anarchy, freedom and a radical
>left worldview fit together with entrepreneurship within the
>new 'cyber' markets? People from the left complain that
>you have become a neoliberal, marketeers say that you are a
>dangerous anarchist. It looks like a trap, but instead of
>defending it here, what do you think is the problem on both

Anything which defies definition is a threat to order.  I have
been called many things.  The speculative labels that make me
laugh the loudest are "neoliberal" and "closet-extropian"...
They don't have a clue.
that's the funniest part.

>7. The fight is not over, you may go to court. Wouldn't
>it be better to reach a kind of counter-consensus on the net
>and see what comes out of it instead of following the policy
>of MCI vs. AT+T as a one man show of pgMedia against the
>net oligarchists? Wouldn't it be more clever to find a bottom
>line of criticism surviving the Blitz-reform introduced
>by IAHC to neutralize counter-movements? Along which lines
>you would start if you would open the discussion, taking the
>practise of Alternic and DNS as the backdrop.

Your suggestions will not work. In the "practical" world,
things do not work out as nicely as one would write them up
in a proposal.  There are ways to use the controls of the system
to cause it to regulate itself by ways that it never intended,
given that they always assumed a hierarchy of government-and-
military-style order.  The people are always supposed to follow that
without question.  In this case, the fact that there is no
regulation or clearly defined authority over the determination
of the toplevel namespace, makes it possible, through corporate law,
to establish a competitive structure to the current monopoly and
therefore invert the hierarchy, and better yet, eventually totally
decentralize it without degrading the integrity of the synchronicity
of the dns or internet directory service.

There is an essential difference between Alternic and the so-called
"newdom" movement.  The newdom movement wants to break up the internic
monopoly held by Network Solutions, Inc., by creating many micro-monopolies.
In the Alternic/newdom model, each private registry company would
own the exclusive rights to generic dictionary words like "web" or "art"
or "earth" among others.  Any other registries would have to first buy
the name from the "owner" and then resell it as a product or property.
This is absurd.  It's about the privatization and commodification of

The model creates an expansive toplevel namespace that
is in the public domain.  The toplevel namespace is not owned by
anyone and is to be shared even by competing registries.  The
registries provide a service in the public interest and trust and
do not "sell property".  Toplevel names can come and go according to
use, like a natural process.  If there is demand for even one
toplevel which can be shared by the public, then it will be created
as long as the current version of the software can handle it.  If there
is no longer demand, it can be "retired" in order to free up space
for other new toplevel namespaces which may come into being.

>8. The net is based on the ethics of 'running code'. No admin
>would chance it as long as it works 'somehow'. NS is based on
>a revolutionary instead of an evolutionary, or a parasitical
>instead of a symbiotic, concept. It is somehow breathing
>the air of war, and risking a net-split. How far you were
>thinking this? And do you think that there could be a smoother
>version of it?

The concept of a net-split is being propogated by a few
individuals who lack understanding of  The current
mode of, as an intranet, is a demo, to prove that
such naming conventions and content routing is possible.  It's
already been proven beyond a doubt.  The next step is to have all the toplevel names included in the file of the
rootservers currently under the administration of Network Solutions, Inc.
This will be resolved in the US Courts as an anti-trust action
based on existing precedent and case law.

The letter requesting inclusion of the roots in the
Network Solutions rootserver databases has already been delivered
to NSI and I have already spoken to their General Counsel on the
telephone, in conference with the Internet Business Manager of
Network Solutions and my legal counsel, Michael J. Donovan.
Our request was a friendly one from a competing comapny, asking
for inclusion in the file.  NSI denies their
role and responsibility and said "We do what they tell us
to do" (IANA)....but also admitted that they have no written
contract which names IANA as the party responsible for determining
the contents of the file.  Stay tuned......

[the case has since been filed in US Federal District Court in NYC...

>9. There where several counter concepts. One was starting
>on one new tld (like BIZ) another was squatting unused tlds
>(NT) another was a Rename-the-net project (more artistic).
>Technicians are saying it will only change together with
>new ways of routing (ipv6) and prepare us for Lap500 directory
>services. I thought about NS more like an Intranet with its own
>Ip space and therfore also DNS. Do you think that once it
>becomes necessary to start an independent technical counternetwork,
>and do you have statistics about how many sites would partipate?
>And again, how you would build up a net where these people are
>bringing their forces together instead of falling into
>another hierarchy?

The expansion of the ip address space and the potentials of
DNS are two totally separate issues.  In fact, with the use
of virtual domains, it is possible to free up many ip addresses
that are used unnecessarily as hard virtual domains for websites
and email.  One Sun Sparc can such up an entire class "c" net
with 255 ip addresses!  I have a mac running WebStar and a
Linux Box running Apache which have scores of virtual domains
while using only one ip address each.  Much more efficient use of
ip numbers, one could say. is part of the internet. It is also the future of
the named.address structure of the internet.  As an independent
tactical network, it is a system which will create an economic
basis for free media to remain on line without corporate or
institutional regulation or censorship.  The goal of
is to buy as much bandwidth and processor power as possible
to insure that there is always a home for free media and
alternative voices and visions on the ever changing internet.

>10. Maybe this is a question you want to pose to us. "Why didn't
>we participate?" For any of us, NS was a conceptual piece,
>we spent hours over the last weeks discussing it, and with it,
>the use of radical political/technical concepts, let's
>say revolutionary ones within the context of networked
>capitalism. We found that, especially with those technicians
>who are net-conservativists, it was difficult to accept a completly
>new system while theorists liked the idea, but didn't know how and if
>it works at all. What do you think attracted so many people to think
>and so few to act (in a technical way)?

It is a cliche' that people are in fear of change.  DNS is a holy
cow to network operators.  If it works, don't touch it...and forget
about it if you less thing to deal with.  It's the one
centralized aspect of the internet.  Big Brother will watch over us
and protect us.  That is the easy way out.  The so-called "hacker"
crowd mainly shuns because it was implemented by an
"outsider", an artist, not a "hacker".  None of them have any concept
of law or have the insight to engage on the level that I have, nor
do they have the strategic legal, econonmic and public relations
concepts that I have engaged successfully so far
in the initiative.

They suffer from simple adolescent jealousy.  Too bad.  They are a
wasted resource when it comes to autonomy and political action.
I am very disappointed with them in general for their lack of
maturity and foresight.

The theorists have good reason to be interested since
has so many symbolic implications.  The problem is that
is about _real_action_ which requires the responsibility to act on
ones propositions and suffer the consequences or reap the benefits,
whichever prevails.  Certainly not as safe as plain old ASCII.
It becomes another dilemma for them wheather to think or to act,
or how to reconcile thoughts into action.

In all, the idea of Tactical Media in practice becomes the issue.
This is a subject that we have all been  engaged in discussion over
for many years, but very few have put into practice.  My problem is
that I am a simple practitioner.  I can write about things, but only
seldom, when I can find the time in between all the actions necessary
to actually realize the ideas in my head through real implementation...
and the struggle to pay for it all.

for more info, please read my essay,
"Say you want a revolution...."
among others.

I'm tired....have to sleep.

Please let me know if you need more comments.



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