Proposal to set up an anarchist computer network

Uploaded as part of the Anarchism in Australia project.

Author: Will Kemp
Originally Published: 1993
Retrieved from: Spunk Archive

A Proposal To Set Up An Anarchist Computer Network

A network is a system of linking computers so they can share information. There are several types of net, but the one that interests us most is the BBS type network.
BBS stands for Bulletin Board Service. It describes a system where there is a central computer which users can call, using their own computer and a phone line. A BBS may have message areas (where users can leave messages to each other), file areas (with a variety of text and software files available), games and possibly a system for users to chat to each other “live” (if there’s more than one phone line connected to it). Or there may be any combination of these services.

Two or more BBS’s can be linked together by a network to enable the passing of messages and files between them. They could be in the same town, or on opposite sides of the world, and it allows the users of (callers to) one BBS to communicate with the users of any other BBS in the same network. This communication is done by sending messages, rather than direct chat.

To give a practical example of this: you could call a bulletin board in Darwin today, leave a message addressed to the user of a BBS on the same network in Madrid and possibly get a reply tomorrow (although it’s more likely to take a bit longer than that). All for the cost of two local calls. Files can be sent via a network in a similar way.

There are numerous anarchist groups and individuals scattered widely throughout Australia. Most of us are connected in some way by a network that is more accurately described as a “grapevine”.

This grapevine ensures that a lot of us are kept in touch to some extent with what’s going on in the anarchist scene around Australia. However, it’s a very haphazard system, often slow and sometimes wildly inaccurate.

We live in the most sparsely populated continent on earth and if we are ever going to build a strong anarchist movement, we have to be united over very long distances.

Mail, telephone and personal contact are, and always will be, an important part of this. However computer networks are the most efficient means of reliable, constant and fast mass communication. The government, business and the media all use these systems increasingly more effectively and if we don’t start looking at this within the anarchistt movement, we are in serious danger of being rapidly left behind.

I am personally a confirmed luddite and have strongly resisted compulsive use of computers and technology. But, despite looking at it from this point of view, i have come to realize what an essential tool computers are in a scattered community like ours.
What I’m proposing is the establishment of a network of computers set up by group of collectives throughout Australia. Any collective that wants to get involved, will have to somehow get hold of a computer (preferably an IBM or compatible PC) and a modem. All the software required for joining the network is readily available, as is help with, and advice on getting set up.

Ideally, there will eventually be at least one collective in all the main cities and hopefully also a few in other places too.

These collectives will be responsible for the operation and administration of their part of the network and jointly responsible for the administration of the whole net.

How the individual collectives operate outside of immediate networking responsibilities may well vary from one to another.

How we all link together will be pretty standard, but how each collective chooses to use their access to the net will be up to them. For example, it will be possible to run a public access bulletin board to allow people to call up from outside and gain access to the network. This BBS could be open to anyone interested or it could be private and only available to authorized users.

Another possibility is the use of the network to produce a nationwide and possibly international newsletter, which could be published in a form that suits local readers. The material would be easily available and with the right equipment and software, the production of a newsletter or magazine could easily be at least partly automated. This would put our media on a more equal footing with the commercial press and allow people who don’t have access to a computer to access information from the net.

Something else that could be done is to set up a community media group, allowing people outside the network collective to have access to a computer. This would encourage more input to the net and allow those who haven’t got access to computers to join in.

Eventually, I hope we will be connected not only to collectives within Australia, but to other anarchist groups all round the world. There are anarchist computer networks operating in Europe and we could fairly easily link up with them. There are undoubtedly anarchist groups with computers in New Zealand and North America who we could also connect with. In fact, ultimately, wherever there are anarchists and computers, we could be in direct contact with them. This will make it much easier to share ideas internationally and to find out what’s really going on around the world without having to rely on the lies of the capitalist media. It will also lead to a much greater strength and international solidarity in the anarchist movement worldwide.

We need to work on both the national and international aspects of the network more or less together. However, until we’ve got a network going here, we won’t have very much to offer an international network in return for all the information that will be coming our way. I feel we must have at least two Australian cities in our network before we commit ourselves to linking up overseas. This will not only increase the flow of material but will share the burden of maintaining the international connections.

Finance for the network is something that we will have to think about. It can be set up very cheaply, but the running costs will mount up, particularly with the expense of maintaining regular overseas communication. We will need some means of covering these expenses collectively.

If you’re interested in becoming part of this network, the first thing you should do is form a collective with other interested people in your area, get yourselves some computer equipment and then get in touch with us.

Contact: Brisbane Anarchist Computer Kolektiv 190 Boundary St West End Brisbane Queensland 4101 Australia
e-mail: will@desire.apana.org.au
or call “the eXchange” bbs 03-383 3094