The Art of Campaigning

The idea for the Art of Campaigning topic originates from the works of the McLibel group []. Their type of net.campaign questions previous forms of activism, which was focused on the mass media and their ability to influence public opinion, by staging direct action (targeted at known media makers). Big NGO's such as Greenpeace have built up experiences with this model for decades. The scenarios they use have not changed much since the seventies. There is the usual PR material: official reports, books, folders, flyers, magazine and original video footage, shot on location. Campaigns are being planned long in advance. The way of working does not differ much from a campaign to launch a new product. Professionalism has taken over the task of volunteers. Their role is being reduced to that of a local support group, doing the actual grass roots work with the population.

Political campaigns these days do not just offer counter-information. When done the right way, in good spirits, the Internet sites of these campaigns highjack data, hack into the corporate/state site, or at least they try to do so. Such campaigns are living networks of people, groups, databases, not just dead information.

Why campaigns?

Campaigns these days are so important, because there are less and less radical, fast critical movements, that can gain momentum over a short period of time. The format of the campaign seems to be an appropriate answer to the (apparent) lack of political activities in the late nineties. Campaigns are less local. They can be done in a fragmented time frame, prepared over the Net and other communication means. Campaigns usually culminate into actual events; summer camps, demonstrations, the occupation of a certain object, where they bring people together from very different locations and backgrounds. Most campaigns require the work of dedicated technical (media) specialists and are multi-disciplinary by nature: video, dance, music, cooking, communication, radio, print, web sites, support groups elsewhere, etc.

The Art of Campaigning, for us, consists of two aspects. The first one deals with the question of methodology, the question of strategy and tactics. It deals with the question also why campaigning is becoming more important these days, in part as a sign of poverty, of the lack of real social and political movements. Though this issue is not specifically media-related, it does point towards the current attempts to break out of the closed autonomous and alternative ghettos, the leftovers of the eighties.

The time is over to be sentimental or pitiful about the amateurish "good will" character of campaigns. These days, campaigns have changed their directions and topics, and are surprisingly ahead of the time. They truly embody and express all the urgent (global) political themes. Rather than being in need of help from professional advertisement specialists, we think they need to reconnect with tactical media. This touches the second aspect: the political aesthetics of campaigning. Alternative campaigns could learn a lot from designers, artists and other new media experts. And they in turn can learn a lot from the urgent agenda's that seek to express themselves through the new media channels. For the conference we target at an open show element, in which a lot of different people can show their work and speak about them on stage. The program will conclude with a panel, in which the different strategies, models, and problems are being discussed. For this show, new guests can be brought in till the last five minutes...

But of course we will also invite some of the most interesting campaigners we encountered beforehand. First of all the "Sans Papiers" campaign from Paris [], and its German counterpart, the "Kein Mensch ist Illegal" campaign [], that both deal with the issue of refugees and immigration. These campaigns are both radical and media aware, overcoming the laming shift of the eighties when the notions of "alternative" and "media" (-technologies) seemed to exclude each other. Another campaign, which is touching the PGO issue, is the anti-MAI campaign and the Global Action Network [] (which deals with trade issues).

Another remarkable example is the Clean Clothes Campaign [], a global campaign that addresses working conditions in the textile industries around the world, with a particular emphasis on developing countries where the production work for the international garment industries is out-sourced, and working conditions are often appalling.

Next to a central debate there will be three additional workshops:

1. Net.activism Counter Information and Electronic Civil Disobedience, critiques from activists and more technical criticisms from hackers.
Coordination: Geert Lovink, Patrice Riemens, Carl Gunderian

2. Panel discussion: Media campaigns against multi-nationals, counter strategies of corporations. "The greatest threat to the corporate world's reputation comes from the Internet, the pressure groups newest weapon. Their agile use of global tools such as the Internet reduces the advantage that corporate budgets once provided." Quoted is a PR-manager who is trying to teach multinationals how to deal with modern day pressure groups, creatively using the power of the media sound bite.

Loosing control of the situation as result of the activities of a pressure group has become a nightmare scenario for the modern multinational enterprise. Some of them learn fast, from their enemies, from us that is. PR-companies are hired to change the worst scenario into a business opportunity. What are the modern times strategies of present day companies? How to pass by the PR-department of your local multinational? How to deal with these modern spin-doctors?
See also:
Coordination: Eveline Lubbers

3. Small meeting of the initiatives that deal with migrants and 'illegal' people.
Coordination: Florian Schneider