sage on Sun, 29 Jun 1997 17:48:05 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> local knowledge - global wisdom report

Local Knowledge Global Wisdom Report

The Media Collective is an excuse to hack reality.
However, in this age of Information Warfare, it can be difficult to find

The World Bank and the Government of Canada just finished hosting a
conference in Toronto called 'Global Knowledge for Development'. The Media
Collective upstaged and infiltrated the Global Knowledge conference, and
found very little reality offered by the World Bank and surrounding
Corporate and Government Sponsors.

In this report I'm going to reflect on a four day period between June 22 and
June 25, in which I helped organize a counter-conference called 'Local
Knowledge - Global Wisdom', protested in the streets against the 'Global
Knowledge' conference, then with the help of a colour scanner, internet, and
colour printer, reproduced copies of the badge necessary to gain entry to
the World Bank's invitation only, $750 admission, Global Knowledge '97 (GK97).

I consider this 4 day period as the Local Knowledge - Global Wisdom
conference (LK), organized by the Media Collective. There were a number of
good reasons for us to organize this counter-conference: dramatic
technological changes underway locally, regressive techno-fascist regime in
power provincially, international trade agreements dissolving sovereignty
and nation-states, and a potential audience of international visitors in
town for the GK97 event. We wanted to perform a public education event, for
our friends and community locally, as well as international participants in

The World Bank scheduled the the Global Knowledge event to coincide with the
Earth Summit being held in New York, where many of the progressive and
anti-corporate NGOs would be spending their time and resources. The few who
attended Global Knowledge would not necessarily have the ability to resist,
deflect, or derail the World Bank and Co.'s attempt to manufacture consent,
and push through an agenda of free market, privatized communication,
technocratic, surveillance state.

Sunday June 22nd

We assembled speakers for Local Knowledge who would present a critical if
not radical perspective on the 'Information Revolution' and the society of
the 'Global Market'. Organized only three weeks ahead of time, with the help
of community radio and community networks, over 120 people participated in
the first day, including folk travelling from Africa, South America, Europe,
and Asia (including a South African caucus of 20 people). Sunday began with
everyone taking the opportunity to introduce themselves to the group, and
make a brief statement on why they were there, or what they wanted to hear

Anna Melnikoff began the event by saying a few words on the art of
communication and the generation of knowledge. Change comes through
conversation, and development results through a democratic process involving
tolerance and diversity.

I followed after Anna and spoke on the politics of the global village. I
defined the information revolution as: the overthrow of sovereign
governments and the empowerment of private capital. National trade
liberalization has brought international trade regulation (MAI, WTO, APEC),
national communication deregulation has spawned international corporate
concentration. The new state is based on the politics of connected
intelligence (the market and the network), and the religion of virtual
reality (consumerism, and pay-per-choice).

Dr. Bhausaheb Ubale, former Canadian Human Rights Commissioner, presented a
talk on the impact of technology on development. He explained that
technology could be used to speed up the development process, however if not
accompanied with sustainable rises in livelihood, such as clean air and
water, access to jobs or income, that the technology could be employed
solely by an entrenched and shrinking elite.

Felix Stalder spoke about the new environments that contain an old story,
employing the processes of connection, translation, and disconnection to
illustrate how the financial networks use new technology to appropriate new
powers, while perpetuating the same control narrative. His talk is available
online at:

PJ Lilley made a fun and provoking presentation, in which she drew a context
of the 'traps of sustainable development' as proposed by the World Bank.
Presenting an image of a newly paved highway with a sign indicating a turn
to the right, she argued that the current global development agenda is
neither for people nor progressive/social ideals.

A vegan feast for peace was served by the local Food Not Bombs group, and a
dub poet and hip-hop artist performed near the end of lunch. After the dark
topics discussed in the morning session, the lunch was a peaceful way to
relax and remember why we're here.

The first speaker after lunch was Sydney White, who spoke about electronic
treasuries, cashless societies, and the privation of social welfare systems
with the implementation of bio-metric scanning in the form of fingerprint
identification. Sydney discussed how first Metropolitan Toronto passed
legislation to privatize the digital management of the welfare system to a
subsidiary of Citibank, as well as plans by the Harris regime to implement
the same program provincially, except on a larger scale that includes the
health system, and various other government services such as licensing, and

Marjaleena Repo then spoke about NAFTA (North American Free Trade) and the
expansion into MAI (Multilateral Agreement on Investments). While discussing
the various efforts being waged to resist and cancel these international
agreements, Marjaleena also warned about the dissolution of national

The conference then split up into three concurrent sessions: off-line
struggles, on-line struggles, and organizing culture and media. These three
sessions covered topics and groups such as No to APEC, Friends of the
Lubicon, Citizens for Local Democracy, Catalyst, Media Collective, TAO
Communications, Students against Neo-Liberalism, Web/APC, OPIRG, Universal
Access, ENDA, the McLuhan Program, Information War, and Public Encryption.

Sunday ended with an open general session discussing issues from the day.
Plans were also made for a march to be held in the early evening down to the
venue holding the Global Knowledge conference. 42 people gathered in the
early evening summer sun, half on bikes, some carrying signs like 'free your
mind' or 'free global knowledge', and we all walked the dozen or so blocks
from the University of Toronto (LK) to the Sheraton Centre (GK97). The
unruly mob walked down the middle of the street, blocking traffic on St.
George, Beverley, and Queen Sts, employing a megaphone to broadcast news
about the global corporate agenda envisioned by the world bank, the
resistance celebrated by those marching, and the promise of free beer at the
end of the line, for those who joined in on the march. As the march
proceeded, we were met with loud car horns from irate drivers, smiles from
sympathetic pedestrians, and television coverage by pre-warned media.

When we arrived at the main entrance to Global Knowledge, we were met with a
red carpet, and security guards scrambling to block the doors. We the people
demanded entry to the conference but the security guards held strong. No
longer than 60 seconds after we arrived, a member of the Metro Police
Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism unit came out and begin asking who we
were, and what was our intent, the Prime Minister of Canada, and the
President of the World Bank were due to arrive soon. Shortly thereafter half
a dozen police from 52 division arrived and peaceably removed us from the
red carpet, wherein it was quickly rolled up and removed.

Joined by dissident participants from inside the Global Knowledge event, we
stayed and blocked the main entrance for over an hour, sitting and standing
in the sun, having a fun end to a long day. Some of us got into the building
through other entrances, but the inside had tight security and multiple
secret service agents, as several heads of state (from Canada, Costa-Rica,
and Uganda) were slated to give speeches. After we found out that the
motorcades were diverted to underground entrances, we decided to meet at a
patio for dinner and more discussion.

Monday June 23
International Independent Media Federation

The second day of Local Knowledge, Monday June 23rd, didn't begin until late
in the afternoon. After the long first day, and even longer first night,
those who could, slept in late on Monday. Global Knowledge meanwhile began
early, and had sessions given by the likes of Jean Monty CEO of Northern
Telecom, one of the world's largest suppliers of telecom equipment, the
global information infrastructure itself.

The schedule for the second day of Local Knowledge was open. It began with a
demonstration made by Scott Anderson of the International Institute for
Sustainable Development, of the Southern Development Gateway, a web site
employing frames and java to organize and present sustainable development
info. Running concurrent to this demonstration was an open forum on tools
for action, organizing, and other issues that were brought up through the
first day's events.

In the late afternoon Local Knowledge also hosted a meeting of the
International Independent Media Federation. Participants in this meeting
included the host Media Collective, the Association for Progressive
Communications (international internet network), Videazimut (international
network of independent video and community media), and AMARC (international
network for community media), many of whom were in town for the Global
Knowledge event. Topics discussed in this meeting were greater
collaboration, and the need for an independent and grassroots federation to
organize alternatives to the global corporate cocacolonization.

That night as part of the weekly McLuhan Seminars, a presentation was made
by Guizhi Wuang on 'The Psychological Processes of Chinese Characters'.
Guizhi, who is China's top McLuhan Scholar gave a fascinating presentation
on the analogic nature of the Chinese alphabet, as well as drawing on the
many parallels between Chinese linguistic culture and characteristics of the

Tuesday June 24 and Wednesday June 25
Infiltrating Global Knowledge

Participants of the Local Knowledge event received an invitation to the
Women's Breakfast being held at the Sheraton Centre as part of Global
Knowledge. Using a colour photocopier we reproduced this invitation so as to
enable as many people as possible to attend the morning event. However while
reproducing invites to the breakfast, we also reproduced the badges
necessary to get into the entire GK conference. In so doing, GK quickly
became part of LK97 as loudmouthed radicals gained entry to the GK
proceedings. My badge had the name Taylor Mead, others had badges with names
like Indiva Dual.

The breakfast, held in honour of the role of women in creating, maintaining,
and sharing knowledge, was a large, grandiose affair, with James Wolfenson,
president of the World Bank, making patronizing remarks on the role of women
in technology. While the breakfast itself was meant to be a celebration and
call for increasing participation of women in all aspects of society, it
quickly became a sign of how far women need to go. The large majority of
participants in the GK event were men, primarily men from the developed
world, but more so, men in power. Many people left the breakfast feeling
that it did not accurately reflect the ongoing struggle for women's equality
and liberation. Once again the World Bank was able to tone down any notions
of change, and replace them with the illusion that the status-quo was making
accommodations that could address any and all inequalities.

After the breakfast Local Knowledge participants split up and went to some
of the sessions being offered as part of GK. I decided to go to the session
titled: "The Role of the State in Creating and Enabling Environments for
Private Investment and Access: Policy Regulatory Frameworks" which featured
panellists from the World Bank, World Trade Organization, Teledesic, UNESCO,
and the Governments of Uganda and Chile. I felt that a more accurate title
for the panel would be: "The Information Revolution: Overthrowing the
Nation-State and Empowering Private Capital".

The presentations made as part of this panel were extremely dry, and
instinctively internalizing a rabid free market ideology. As with other LK
participants in other sessions, I made two comments to the panel which were
met with mixed responses.

The first remarks I made challenged the notion that we were heading into a
new era of competition, but perhaps what we were witnessing was a transitory
phase, between the breakdown of national and regional monopolies towards the
formation of a global monopoly. I cited the recent flurry of communication
and media mergers, and subsequent lack of any new competition from outside
players. I reminded the panel that traditionally state monopolies existed to
ensure that the operators remained accountable and in the public interest,
ensuring that access levels were just, if not universal. I asked the panel
what international body would be able to regulate this emerging global
monopoly. The moderator of the panel immediately remarked that it was a good
question, however the representative from the World Bank offered a puzzling
remark stating: 'It is narrow minded to believe that international capital
will be dominant.' ???

The second remark I made, along the lines of content and culture, was to
remind the session that it was convergence that was driving communication
deregulation, the dissolution of barriers between telecom and broadcast,
which was supposedly heralding a new era of interactive, participatory
media. However I challenged this notion of convergence, citing that among
the largest shareholders of the telecom companies were the content and
digital companies. That in fact convergence was also a metaphor of
concentration, and the companies who are building the communication channels
are also ready to provide consumer content to fill those same channels.
While the electronic commons is a nice metaphor, that implies equal
participation in the new media environment, the barriers to this new arena
are economic. Historically the policies used to circumvent these barriers
were cross-subsidization or some form of government assistance, which would
be against international law once the WTO and MAI took effect.

The type of comments I was giving to this particular session, as well as the
responses I received, were indicative of the rest of the GK event. Meeting
up in the corridors and hallways, Local Knowledge participants reflected
that it felt as if we were on another planet. The people organizing and
speaking at GK seemed to be part of another reality, another consensual
hallucination. Another agenda was driving GK, and not only did most GK
participants have no clue what it was, but those who did and wanted to
dissent, were unable to. The channels of power were moving too fast for any
diversion to have any effect. With our various radical comments in various
sessions were able to reach the audience and make friends and allies from
all over the world, however the panellists and organizers would not budge,
and their conception of a successful conference which heralded the ability
for 'technology to eliminate global poverty' continued unabated.

One session featured a partnership between the World Bank and Walt Disney
Company, wherein the World Bank would pay for bio-genetic scientists from
around the world to make presentations at Disney World's Epcot Center, and
learn the magic of communication, and the Disney diatribe of fun and
fantasy. At GK, Disney had a whole slew of environmental propaganda touting
their 'environmentality' and their commitments to sustainable development.

The reality at GK was just too weird. It was so crafted and so virtual that
resistance was almost futile. However those of us who were in the audience,
found strength in our numbers, and made contacts and started relationships
with our friends in struggle around the world. We'd meet afterwards and talk
about what was really going in our own localities, our own cultures. In each
session the people either in dissent or in question of the dominant agenda,
were always the largest in number. The people were on our side, but in a
conference organized by the World Bank, for organizations in the
International Development Community, we did not have the support of power.
Power was in the form of large global bodies like the World Bank, like the
global communication corporations, like the Disneys, the Unievers, the
Coca-Cola's, and the Nike, who sponsored the Global Knowledge Event.

The corporate consensual hallucination, that the World Bank offered as
reality, was completely disconnected with real people. People from Africa,
Asia, South America, Europe and North America over the four days came
together and spoke about the reality of their locality. On a face to face
basis, when we met with all these different people, our visions of struggle
and change were reaffirmed. We understood clearly what the interests of
power were envisioning, and even more directly the consequences of their
actions, and the response needed from we the people. When we spoke with all
the people from all over the world, we found a common thread of
disenchantment with the neo-liberal global regime, mixed with eagerness and
energy to resist, while building alternatives.

Global Knowledge is free, and access must be universal. There is an
international popular movement of the social, and it is waging a revolution.
Everyone is involved, but not everyone realizes it.

The Information War has been unleashed to deny us our true reality. It knows
no boundaries, and seeks no prisoners, only participants as consumers. The
fight for our mind is a fight against reality. We are not fighting, merely
defending ourselves. Reality is natural, we generate it as we breathe. By
denying us reality, replacing experience with consumer desire, the
Information War denies us our humanity.

In calling for peace, we are calling for life. In calling for peace, we are
calling for human-centred development. In calling for peace we are calling
for a democratic reality that all may have opportunity to engage equally. In
calling for peace we are calling for a free mind with free knowledge.

The Media Collective is a peace movement in an age of Information War.

Jesse Hirsh - -
P.O. Box 108, Station P, Toronto,  Canada, M5S 2S8

Version: 2.6.2


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