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We’ve touched on the distinction between strategy and tactics in this class a few times (using de Certeau’s formulation: the former signifies a delineation of goals and means to achieve them, and implies a high level of organization often linked to powerful institutions, while the latter is a less structured, more opportunistic and flexible way of acting, used by individuals without much power). Coleman argues that Anonymous operates in the realm of tactics, acting “on the wing,” which gives them much of their flexibility. As she points out, this flexibility is also inherently tied up in the logic of place and space: strategy, according to de Certeau, “postulates a place that can be delimited as its own and serve as the base from which relations with an exteriority composed of targets or threats … can be managed.”

A crucial dimension of Anonymous’s character is the fact that it doesn’t exist in any one place: the idea of an “Anonymous HQ” seems precisely against the point. No central servers can be compromised, no “war room” can be bugged — only the dark corners of various IRC channels and 4chan boards can Anonymous members be watched. Though these virtual locations are in a sense quite public (as anyone can access them), they also require a specialized language to participate in, and they can also be discarded and recreated elsewhere — Coleman describes one of the IRC channels she was in “vanishing” for the period of a month. It seems to me that this lack of a defined place is what makes Anonymous so threatening — the are “legion”, they are a swarm or hive whose blurry spacial boundaries make it difficult to position ourselves with respect to. The internet, by distributing and decentralizing communication, has also allowed for the creation of a non-space for Anonymous to exist in.

 

(Not immanently related, but something I’ve been thinking about a lot this week: how should we legislate revenge porn? I was a bit surprised to see Sarah Jeong’s stance on it: http://www.wired.com/2013/10/why-criminalizing-revenge-porn-is-a-bad-idea/)