So what is the definition of "global guerrilla," anyway?

I thought global guerrillas opposed the hegemony of the state. Apparently not (or else John has now transformed into an official anarchist cheerleader):

Chris Anderson (the editor of Wired magazine) has been pushing the envelope of do-it-yourself reconnaissance using low cost UAVs, stitching software (in conjunction with Google Earth), a GPS datalogger ($99), and digital cameras (the Canon PowerShot SD650, at 6 MP). Yet another global guerrilla (for good) tinkering project for applications in security and disaster response.

Thanks to Curtis of Dreaming 5GW and the 5GW Theory Timeline for the link.

11 thoughts on “So what is the definition of "global guerrilla," anyway?”

  1. Adrian,

    “Well the state has not always been the predominant user of legitimate violence in its area of operations, so to speak.”

    No, but the police are one of the great technological inventions of the west. [1]

    “Even well after the Constitution you had urban gangs in northern cities, lynch mobs in the South, vigilante groups everywhere, etc.”

    Do you have specific dates or data-sets in mind?

    “Perhaps they were[n't] global guerrillas because of the lack of globalization, “

    Globalization is a necessary condition for global guerrillas to exist?

    I don't know. I don't think so [2,3], but certainly no proponents of global guerrillas theory have bothered to operationalize what they're talking about (at least that I know of).

    “but in my mind they had the same idea – why wait around for a big lumbering state bureaucracy to act when it might not act in your favor, and when you could act yourself?”

    To belabor the point, does global guerrilla then just mean D.I.Y.? Do you have a definition in mind for this term that you use?

    “Thus today's global guerrillas don't have to be murderous criminal organizations, but they could also be people like Shannen Rossmiller, Rita Katz, people who do “state-like stuff” outside the confines of the state, who are empowered by globalization. Thus, “good” global guerrillas.”

    So the Sysadmin-Industrial-Complex is a global guerrilla organization?

    [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2006/07/05/last-thoughts-on-pinker.html
    [2] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2007/01/30/working-definition-of-global-guerrillas.html
    [3] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2007/02/05/working-definition-of-global-guerrillas-try-2.html
    [4] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2007/07/07/describing-the-military-industrial-sysadmin-complex-how-we-w.html

  2. Robb's post was good and bad.

    It was good because it showed me as clever use of DIY technology.

    It was bad because, but this was presented as a GG thing.

    It should have just been presented as
    1) A clever DIY tech thing.
    2) GGs may be clever too…
    3) …so GGs may also do something like this.

    Clever+Tech+DIY != GG.

  3. All I want is to know what is being talked about. Perhaps global guerrillas is an amorphous term that really just means individual- and community- empowerment. But the term appears to be used inconsistently and casually.

  4. Well the state has not always been the predominant user of legitimate violence in its area of operations, so to speak. Even well after the Constitution you had urban gangs in northern cities, lynch mobs in the South, vigilante groups everywhere, etc. Perhaps they were global guerrillas because of the lack of globalization, but in my mind they had the same idea – why wait around for a big lumbering state bureaucracy to act when it might not act in your favor, and when you could act yourself?

    Thus today's global guerrillas don't have to be murderous criminal organizations, but they could also be people like Shannen Rossmiller, Rita Katz, people who do “state-like stuff” outside the confines of the state, who are empowered by globalization. Thus, “good” global guerrillas.

  5. Adrian,

    Could you rephrase your first comment?

    My initial reaction to what you say is very negative, which tells me we are not using words in the same way. In particular, how do you mean the 'term' hegemony' (I use it to mean leadership, or “The predominant influence, as of a state, region, or group, over another or others.” [1])

    [1] http://www.answers.com/hegemony&r=67

  6. Clearly the state hasn't had a hegemony over defense and political processes forever. That hegemony developed some time after the Constitution was written (or in some places hasn't developed yet). It's my understanding that global guerrillas want to take that hegemony back. Thus, I see no inconsistency.

  7. I don't see how the phrase you bolded is inconsistent with the idea that global guerrillas are against the hegemony of the state. Can't ordinary citizens involve themselves in security, disaster response, etc., and thus because global guerrillas supporting “good” goals?

  8. Adrian,

    Your second sentence doesn't support your first.

    If “involvement in” means “against the hegemony of the state in,” then the U.S. Constitution is a global guerrillas document, as it protects the involvement of the states and the people in the political process, self-defense, &c!

    Purpleslog,

    Agreed.

  9. Adrian,

    “but in my mind they had the same idea – why wait around for a big lumbering state bureaucracy to act when it might not act in your favor, and when you could act yourself?”

    –do you realize how this really describes millions of actors throughout human history? Robber barons [1], hunter-gatherer warriors, various gangs of thieves and bandits, criminals of all stripes, and grass-roots philanthropic societies…the list goes on.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robber_baron

  10. Inventors.

    I should have mentioned inventors.

    Plenty of those in the history of humankind. Makes me wonder if this “GG” concept is just new clothing….

  11. “Many of us no longer look to government for solutions. Some of us are empowering ourselves.”

    –on Civilian Irregular Information Defense Group in a post called “The Unorganized Cyber Militia of the United States” [1]

    The post is about the “pajamahadeen” [2] as 5GWarriors (even if 5GW is not named in the post), and is a kind of combined manifesto and ecstatic rejoicing.

    Interestingly, that subject ties into the latest D5GW posts. [3] [4] — more to come, I'm sure. Just giving Dan a run for his money on the interlinking within comments… ;)

    [1] http://cannoneerno4.wordpress.com/2007/09/26/the-unorganized-cyber-militia-of-the-united-states/

    [2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pajamahadeen

    [3] http://www.fifthgeneration.phaticcommunion.com/archives/2007/09/coopting_zombie_fashion.php

    [4] http://www.fifthgeneration.phaticcommunion.com/archives/2007/09/what_openness_in_open_source_w.php

  12. Sorry for the delay, I was enjoying my weekend. :)

    I would say DIY is a core part of GG ethos, but other things are required, like free/cheap platforms which to exploit, open communication, non-state-based loyalties, etc.

    In the book Robb mentions some open-source disaster-relief efforts as the “good” counterpart to GG (pg 179). What's different between that and the GG post that spawn this whole thread?

  13. Adrian,

    I began a series of reviews on Brave New War [1], but gave up when I realized that John had not written a substantive book, and so a substantive review was both impossible and unfair. (As marketing for a set of do-it-yourself DIY ideas the book is fine.)

    I don't have the book in front of me so I can't comment specifically on what was said on page 179.

    [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/tag/brave+new+war

    Curtis,

    Great point. DIY describes most people throughout history. Except in totalitarianism, such behavior cannot be eradicated.

  14. Adrian,

    Found the book!

    In my copy of Brave New War, the only reference to global guerrillas on page 179 reads:

    “In earlier chapters of this book, I've put the role of open source networks in teh camp of global guerrillas. They certainly shouldn't have a monopoly on this form of organization.”

    So to answer your question on the difference: In the book passage, John argues that global guerrillas are bad but that their techniques can be used by us, too. In the blog post, the talks about “global guerrillas for good,” which implies that global guerrillas can in fact be good.

    So which is it?

    My impression is that John's blog, being focused mostly on marketing DIY techniques, is not worthwhile to read closely. But perhaps there is something there that everyone is missing?

  15. I'm at work so I don't have the book on me, but if I remember right, the reference is to the open source reactions to Hurricane Katrina, where lots of people got together on blogs and wikis and such and did good deeds. He doesn't call them global guerrillas. I think when Robb talks about 'GG for good' the simplest explanation is that the 'GG for good' people are simply leveraging the same dynamics that normal GGs are using, except they are using them for ends that we describe normatively as “good.” Thus while they might not technically be “Global Guerrillas”, essentially they're the same type of organizational model, just with different end goals.

  16. So global guerrilla is a catch-all term for non-passive individuals, who sometimes are good and sometimes are bad? How is the term different than, say, “human”?

    How often does this body of work “technically” contradict itself?

  17. That's not what I said at all. I said that GGs don't necessarily have to have a normative aspect, and GGs don't all have to have the goal of hollowing out a state. But the open source, swarming, platform-centric, communications, network, loyalty/identity, etc. dynamics, all the other stuff, also applies. It's clearly much narrower than “non-passive human” or “inventor.”

  18. You read the book! =P

    I think Robb doesn't include a strict definition on his site because it's an emerging phenomenon, so what global guerrillas “are” will change as they evolve. It's one of those things that definitions don't help you understand. But I think you are a more concrete thinker than I am and want definitions for things – thus why you will never be happy with the Global Guerrilla concept!

  19. “You read the book! =P”

    I did. No definition is included.

    (I recognize you realize this, as implied by your second paragraph, but the point that John does not define the supposed focus of the book is worth considering.)

    “I think Robb doesn't include a strict definition on his site because it's an emerging phenomenon, so what global guerrillas “are” will change as they evolve.”

    Thus no definition is possible? Or is it like pornography — you'll know it when you see it?

    “It's one of those things that definitions don't help you understand.”

    Does this mean it cannot be used to explain observed variation?

    “But I think you are a more concrete thinker than I am and want definitions for things – thus why you will never be happy with the Global Guerrilla concept!”

    Is an “undefinable concept” a concept? On what grounds?

  20. I'm a big fan of definitions. In general, even an incomplete definition (granted you realize it is an incomplete or working definition) is immensely helpful in trying to discover the shape of a new concept.

    Robb seems determined to eschew definitions almost so that anything he deems interesting may, in some way, be included as a GG phenomenon.

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