Infoanarchy vs. Discordia?

By Quim Gil, 12 January 2004

Two different collaborative filtering projects, one well-established, the other virtually new – but which is best? In fact there’s no contest, since these initiatives don’t so much compete as complement each other. In one corner we have InfoAnarchy, a three-year-old weblog and wiki for the development of information about file sharing and anonymity tools. This very interesting resource explores the social and political aspects of peer-topeer, both its greatness and the ongoing prosecution of its users and developers. In the other corner stands Discordia, a fledgling weblog just nine months old, dedicated to ‘the intersection of art, activism and emerging networked technologies’ and promoted by a group of net artists and academics. Point your nose at Nettime, Ars Electronica and even our own Mute environment and you’ll scent its direction.

So what do these websites have in common? Well, both sit on the top of Scoop – a free software tool that any shaky, PHPNuke-based rolling content site should consider switching to. And both want to help us liberate ourselves from, or, at least, improve our awareness of, the social, cultural and technological apparati that are possibly controlling us more than we know. Also, since their core groups are spread across several continents, both projects were conceived and developed over email more than through face-to-face meetings. But the real reason why they should be considered together is that their trajectories look set to converge at some point in the future.

InfoAnarchy has history on its side and the so-called infoanarchists seem to come from very practical and hands-on backgrounds. Looking through the regular staff links you find promoters, developers, editors and active supporters of a wide variety of projects from ShouldExist to The Origins of Peace and Violence; from FreeNet to Der Humanist; Java to Python; Gameboy to post- Napster tools; cyber-liberties to IP, not to mention a myriad of personal weblogs. While InfoAnarchy counts among its contributors a team involved in SETI, the worldwide collaborative effort to find radio signals from intelligent alien civilisations, the site itself is growing into a rather unique and intelligent wiki-planet of content, with material on file sharing, copyright, and the gift economy, plus peer-to-peer research, information tools and all possible interconnections in between. For example, the infoanarchists have built a very comprehensive RIAA/Boycott page which I found via a link from the GTK-Gnutella website to the Gnutella page on their wiki. Discordia, although still more potential than actual, seems to be on a mission to push theory into practice and to bring essayism down to earth for a minoritymainstream located on the outskirts of, activism and Indymedia. The project is presented as quite technologyoriented, deploying Scoop as a platform because, with regards to social filtering and collaborative moderation, it seems to combine the best of Active (one of the Indymedia tools) and Slash (the operative outcome of the Slashdot experience). While acknowledging their critical legacy, Discordia also seeks to escape the limitations of Nettime’s mailing list format and Rhizome’s community enclosure.

If you are a Mute reader, have attended any Next Five Minutes event, are into plagiarism, know how Consume relates to wireless internet and/or subscribe to Nettime, the list of Discordia’s developers will sound very familiar. In fact, as part of the OpenMute project’s core team I could say they probably provide competition for our sister site, Metamute :-) which plans to implement features already up and running on Discordia. It would be great to find out in three years time that they (or us, or anybody else) had developed a specialised wiki as cool and useful as InfoAnarchy’s is in its field. Oh, I forgot to say something important: both these projects seem to love chaotic structures. Doesn’t that make you smile?

Quim GilInfoAnarchy – [ ] Discordia – [ ] Nettime – [ ] Ars Electronica – [ ] Scoop – [ ] ShouldExist – [ ] The Origins of Peace and Violence – [ ]FreeNet – [ ] Der Humanist – [ ] SETI@Home – [ ]Active – [ ] Indymedia – [ ] Slash – [ ] Rhizome – []