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1. Introduction

This essay is an investigation into New Social Movements and resistance in the area of the media environment, the mediasphere. The basic presupposition is that the natural environment of humankind becomes, in the age of the information society, to a great extent substituted by mediated environments. So in an urban context where most people live in our societies, the media-environment is often predominant to the natural surrounding. ' Media' in this context can be seen as everything from billboards to VR-equipment. A main focus shall be put on the universal medium computer esp. in its networked version.To be exposed to media, to be in a mediated environment makes up most of the time of a normal urban citizen. For urban people media represent their ' natural' environment. The media-sphere is therefore often described by terms which express a spatial connotation: Cyberspace, Cyberia, Information-highway or even second nature are often used synonyms for the media- or data-sphere.
In real space a lot of the counterculture is constituted around ecological issues. But both kind of spaces, real spaces and virtual spaces, are nowadays not separable anymore. So the question is whether there are similarities between what ecological movements do in real space and what kind of countercultural activities take place in cyberspace. The most significant counterculture in cyberspace is the Cyberpunk-movement. It shall therefore be investigated in direction how they can be understood as a movement with environmental issues in Cyberspace. Their origins, their shared identity, but also their social organisation and countercultural potential shall be viewed. A special focus shall be put on a comparison to the environmental movement. For this sake some generalisations about the environmental movement were unavoidable.

2. Cyberpunk: The Literature-Movement

The term cyberpunk was first used in a Bruce Bethke short story called 'Cyberpunk', published in the November 1983 issue of Amazing Stories. (Compare Featherstone and Burrows 1995: 7) It later served as a description of a special genre of science fiction-literature, which became known as CY-FY (instead of Sci-Fi). The most influential piece of literature is William Gibson's Neuromancer 1984, who is often supposed to create the Cyberpunk movement on his own just with this work. William Gibson also coined the term 'Cyberspace'. Also many other authors especially Rudy Rucker, John Shirley, Bruce Sterling and Neal Stephenson belong now to this genre as well as certain books from William Burroughs, John Brunner, Phillip K. Dick, George Orwell and Thomas Pynchon, which were retroactively labelled Cyberpunk. Also some science-fiction movies are labelled Cyberpunk, esp. Scott Ridley's Bladerunner 1982, Verhoeven's Total Recall, the TV series Max Headroom, the Terminator-movies, the Alien-trilogy, Wargames, Johnny Mnemonic etc. and so the concept of Cyberpunk swept through the popular culture. Also a lot of music can be suppossed to be Cyberpunk: for example Billy Idol's Neuromancer All these literature and films deal with a certain plot, which make up also the belief-system of Cyberpunks. This plot is summarized in the Cyberpunk-FAQs (Frequently asked questions) as: "Cyberpunk literature, in general, deals with marginalized people in technologically-enhanced cultural 'systems'. In Cyberpunk stories' settings, there is usually a 'system' which dominates the lives of most 'ordinary' people, be it an oppressive government, a group of large, paternalistic corporations or a fundamentalist religion. These systems are enhanced by certain technologies, particularly 'information technology' (computers, the mass media), making the system better at keeping those within it, inside it. Often this technological system extends into its human 'components' as well, via brain implants, prosthetic limbs, cloned or genetically engineered organs, etc. Humans themselves become part of 'the Machine'. This is the 'cyber' aspect of Cyberpunk. However, in any cultural system, there are always those who live on its margins, on 'the Edge': criminals, outcasts, visionaries or those who simply want freedom for its own sake. Cyberpunk literature focuses on these people, and often on how they turn the system's technological tools to their own ends. This is the 'punk' aspect of Cyberpunk." (Frank 1997: 2)
The setting of Cyberpunk novels is urban, the mood is dark and pessimistic. Model for this setting is often the landscape of the movie Bladerunner. Also the style expresses a certain realistic attitude. "Concepts are thrown at the reader without explanation, much like new developments are thrown at us in our everyday lives."(ibid.: 2)
So the main subject of Cyberpunk-literature is of a dystopian view of the future, where a good David fights a bad Goliath. The story very often resembles the one of a conspiracy-theory namely the belief that there are certain groups in society which aim for despotic power. Very good examples hereford are Stephenson's Snow Crash or Gibson's Neuromancer. Conspiracy-theories are most of the time not provable, however they make sense and follow a logical coherence.
"Whereas the majority of media-consumers have capitulated a long time ago to the multi-colored word- and picture-salad and have surrendered to the dull twilight, people who believe in conspiracy-theories insist with an astonishing optimism on the belief, that a meaningful explanation of the daily chaos/welter must be possible." (Freyermuth 1996: 7- transl. by S.J.)
Cyberpunk-literature makes its reader believe that resistance against the system is possible, but this belief has also dangerous aspects inherent. "Conspiracy-theories are therefore a reaction to the loss of meaning in the mass-media, they work with a strict logic and have a strong inner coherence. But this logic and coherence can also be seen as delusion and the coherence as contingency. [..] Marshall McLuhan thought, that the belief in such a sense is perishable, a superstition from past epochs, which only can do harm today. In an electronic environment it is not advisable, he claimed, to think or act coherently." (ibid.: 10 - transl. by S.J.)
Cyberpunk-literature can also be seen as an attack on the mainstream science fiction movement. It shifted the notion of science fiction to a much more realistic account. Larry McCaffrey analysed in his great book about Cyberpunk and postmodern fiction: Storming the Reality Studio 1991, Cyberpunk as "SF that mixes surrealism and pop culture imagery with esoteric, historical and scientific information. " (McCaffrey 1991: 272) " It's the realism that cyberpunk supplies, that sense of what it really feels like to be alive in our place, at our time." (ibid: 276) Also scientific futurology such as Alvin Toffler's The Third Wave 1980 (Cyberpunk-bible) and a certain type of social theory such as books by Jean Baudrillard, Arthur Kroker and Paul Virilio etc. became classified as some sort of Cyberpunk. The realism of Cyberpunk-literature blurred therefore the boundaries between science fiction and social theory as stated by Mike Featherstone, William Bogard or Donna Haraway: " The boundary between science fiction and social reality is an optical illusion." (Haraway 1991: 149) And so the Cyberpunk-literature could become an " illusion-making system producing Reality." (McCaffrey 1991: 206)

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3. Cyberpunk: The Social Movement of Resistance

The future has imploded onto the present. There was no nuclear Armageddon. There's too much real estate to lose. The new battle-field is people's minds. ... The megacorps are the new governments. ... The U.S. Is a big bully with lackluster economic power... The world is splintering into a trillion subcultures and designer cults with their own language, codes and lifestyles. ... Computer-generated info-domains are the next frontiers. ... There is better living through chemistry... Small groups or individual 'console cowboys' can wield tremendous power over governments, corporations etc. ... The coalescence of a computer 'culture' is expressed in self-aware computer music, art, virtual communities, and a hacker/street tech subculture. ... The computer nerd image is passé, and people are not ashamed anymore about the role the computer has in this subculture. The computer is a cool tool, a friend, important human augmentation... We're becoming cyborgs. Our tech is getting smaller, closer to us, and it will soon merge with us. Gareth Branwyn (quoted by Featherstone & Burrows. 1995: 9f.)
Inspired by Cyberpunk literature in the mid-1980's, certain groups of people started referring to themselves as Cyberpunks, because they noticed the seeds of the fictional 'techno-system' in Western society today, and because they identified with the marginalized characters in Cyberpunk stories. So the fictional Cyberpunk-literature created a real-life-movement which became real in the computer-underground. The belief coming from cyberpunk literature shows the political and cultural conflict, Cyberpunks are engaged with: the techno-system which invades more and more aspects of everyday life. To be subject to the techno-system, to live on its edges and to see conspiracies in the techno-system represent the basis for a shared identity of Cyberpunks.
According to Mario Dianis definition of social movement: " A social movement is a network of informal interactions between a plurality of individuals, groups and/or organizations, engaged in a political or cultural conflict, on the basis of a shared collective identity." (Diani: 13), Cyberpunk can be seen as a social movement. But Cyberpunk is not one monolithic group of individuals. The movement is often divided into specific subgroups, with different interests. The main-division in Cyberpunk is between Hackers, Crackers, Phreaks and Cypher-punks:

# 'Hackers' are the 'wizards' of the computer community; people with a deep understanding of how their computers work, and can do things with them that seem 'magical'.
# 'Crackers' are the real-world analogues of the 'console cowboys' of Cyberpunk fiction; they break into other people's computer systems, without their permission, for illicit gain or simply for the pleasure of exercising their skill
# 'Phreaks' are those who do a similar thing with the telephone system, coming up with ways to circumvent phone companies' calling charges and doing clever things with the phone network.
# 'Cypher-punks': These people think a good way to bollock 'The System' is through cryptography and cryptosystems. They believe widespread use of extremely hard-to-break coding schemes will create 'regions of privacy' that 'The System' cannot invade." (Frank 1997: 3)

These four groups of people form the inner circle of Cyberpunks, but also many other groups are often referred to as Cyberpunks, from intensive internet-surfers to people seeking immortality through virtual existence to ravers who use synthesized and sampled music and computer-generated psychedelic art and virtual reality equipment for all-night dance-parties (raves).
Radical thinkers like Timothy Leary even see in Cyberpunk a new form of human being.
" Timothy Leary declares that Gibson has produced nothing less than the underlying myth, the core legend, of the next stage of human evolution. He is performing the philosophic function that Dante did for feudalism and that writers like Mann, Tolstoy [and] Melville ... Did for the industrial age. " (Leary quoted by Featherstone; Burrows 1995: 7)
He sees a long tradition of Cyberpunks, whereas cyber means something like Pilot, coming from the Greek word kubernetes to navigate. " The cyberpunk person, the pilot who thinks clearly and creatively, using quantum electronic appliances and brain know-how, is the newest, updated, top-of-the-line model of the "21st Century: Homo sapiens sapiens cyberneticus." (Leary 1994: 64). According to this broad definition " inventors, innovative writers, technofrontier artists, risk-taking film directors, icon-shifting composers, stand-up comedians, expressionist artists, free-agent scientists, technocreatives, computer visionaries, elegant hackers, bit-blitting Prolog adepts, special-effectives, cognitive dissidents, video wizards, neurological test pilots, media explorers - all of those who boldly package and steer ideas out there where no thoughts have gone before" (Leary 1994: 67) are all Cyberpunks.
In Leary's evolution of countercultures from the beats to the Hippies, to cyberpunk he describes Cyberpunks (1975-1990)

# Mood: gloomy. Hip, but downbeat.
# Aesthetic-Erotics: leather and grunge, tattoos, piercings. Hard drugs, psychedelics, smart drugs. Various forms of rock from metal to rap.
# Attitude: Angry, cynical, feel undervalued by elders.
# Brain-Tech: High-tech electronic.
# Intellectual Viewpoint: informed, open-minded, irreverent. Inundated with electronic signals.
# Humanist quotient: Non-sexist, ecological, global minded.
# Politics: Alienated, skeptical.
# Cosmic view: Pessimistic, but closet hope fiends." (Leary 1994: 81)

In a comparison of Cyberpunk- and Hippie-movement many differences can be seen. Cyberpunk " preferred the rave, with its hyperaccelerated remixed digital music, to simple acoustic folk songs; their drug of choice was Ecstasy, not pot. These were not New Age flower children looking for 'peace and love'; instead they were New Edge hiphoppers out for 'tech and cred.' Rather than having some kind of 'back to nature' romanticism, these folks preferred the urban disorder of the city, and they saw technology as their weapon of choice, not the enemy. Their heroes were not the Hippies of Peoples' Park - instead they looked to the pioneers of pirate radio as their icons." (Mizrach: 1)
But there are as many similarities as there are differences: their sympathy for drugs, their civil disobedience and the fact that " The computer culture of the 1980s was as global as the youth culture of the 1960s." (Hafner; Markoff 1991: 10) For Timothy Leary the basic philosophy for both movements stayed the same: " Think for yourself; question authority (TFYQA)." (Leary 1994: 69)
Though this wide notion of the term Cyberpunk, for the further analysis of Cyberpunk as a Social movement of resistance in the media-sphere and the comparison with the environmental movement especially the notion of the hacker, the cracker and the cypher-punk shall be kept in the eye. And their philosophy is often reduced to the simple formula 'information wants to be free' which may not sound very radical at first, but they mean that every kind of information should be free: Everything from: " How to rig vending machines and payphones. How to bootleg music concert tapes. How to snatch classified information from the government. How to write viruses [..] How to make pipe bombs and homebrew your own LSD. How to sabotage the workplace." (Mizrach: 2) to a total refusal and disregard of the copyright-system.
Some Cyberpunks also tried to define or 'hack out' as they like to say a more comprehensive philosophy which became famous under the ten commandments, but is not true for all Cyberpunks.

# The Hacker Ethic: 'Attack anything that tries to hide information from the masses.'
# Rebel against harmful or oppressive authority.
# Screw everyone but your friends.
# Never trust anyone.
# Style over substance, blur meat and machine (more on cybernetics later).
# Anti-totalitarianism. Anarchy preferred.
# Striving for a moral and spiritual utopian 'enlightened despotism'.
# Related to Post Modernism Movement.
# Democracy does not really figure in (individual not mass dictatorship).
# Striving for 'freedom' as either personal dependence or independence from/on technology."
(Lyons: 1)

Through all of these commandments and formula, Cyberpunk stayed in its forms of social organisation a very chaotic and loose network of individuals and although there is some solidarity between them, they share knowledge, software and so on, it stayed full of contradictions and inner fights. Cypherpunks for example seem to do the total opposite of crackers, they try to protect information and therefore create a private spheres. Radical crackers want every kind of information even private one to be free. Although or even because their common belief, solidarity and a common direction seem not to be an easy thing for Cyberpunks." Cyberpunks are notorious for ratting on each other and turning each other in. And they are famous for backstabbing each other in every way possible. Hacker paranoia is legendary - they don't trust anybody, and since most of them use 'social engineering' to trick people, they expect others to try and trick them." (Mizrach: 3)
Secret-services view the computer underground as 'a loose confederation of criminal organisations' and in fact many of the crackers and phreaks can for sure be seen as just criminals, cracking systems for the matter of money or just for fun. Nevertheless many of them can also be seen as highly socially engaged individuals who fight their fight as something like 'Guerilleros in the jungle of the Internet'.
So, though all these inner contradictions and disputes some institutionalisation has taken place and some organisations have been build to lead the fight in a certain direction. Some of the most famous ones are probably the 'EFF' (Electronic Frontier Foundation) (, the 'CCC' (ChaosComputerClub) in Germany ( and 'Hacktic' in Holland ( Other Cyberpunks are formed around certain E-zines, as a continuation of the Punk movement's fanzine, especially Mondo2000, bOING-bOING, Wired, SF EYE, Phrack, 2600 Magazine and 21C. Some of these E-zines such as Wired and Mondo2000 have a questionable cyberpunk-status nowadays, as they became less critical and are more famous as utopian cybercultural magazines, but they all started as Cyberpunk-E-zines.
The form of resistance of Cyberpunk can be described as 'glocal' (a term that came known through Paul Virilio and other social theorists). They resist local and global at the same time and they use the weapons of 'the system'. They use highly advanced media-technology and even push the development further, by realising their science-fiction-vision. But they also misuse the technology of the system for their own sake. For example, most computer-crack-programs like the famous 'Devil' were originally designed for system-administrators to find security risks. Encryption programs like the PGP (PrettyGoodPrivacy) are developed and used to make the Internet a secure place. By Cypher-punks they become used for the fight for privacy.

" Some cypherpunks believe encryption can ultimately destroy the State -if one enciphers their monetary transaction, taxation will become impossible. It's not for no reason that many of them are called 'cryptoanarchists'." (Mizrach: 3) And similar thinks 'the system' about encryption software. Highly secure encryption software is even declared as munitions in the U.S. and therefore illegal to export. By printing the Perl-source-code of PGP here I am already committing a violation against US-law.

PGP-perl-code (RSA-encryption-algorithm)
#!/bin/perl -s-- -export-a-crypto-system-sig -RSA-3-lines-PERL
$m=unpack(H.$w,$m."\0"x$w),$_='echo "16do$w
pack('H*',$_)while read(STDIN,$m,($w=2*$d-1+legth($n)&~1)/2)

These couple of characters are technically classed as munitions by the U.S.-government. So do not send it from the US to any other country. Cyberpunks enjoy to misuse technology and break the law. So it is no problem to get this illegal software.
This demonstrates how hard it is for public authorities to deal with the loose organisation of the computer-underground, how much fear and ridiculousness there is in the fight against this computer-underground. Their methods of resistance build a great threat to the established system.

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4. Cyberpunk and the Environment

There are a number of surprising similarities between the Cyberpunk- and the environmental movement.
Computernetworks, the domain of Cyberpunks are often also used as alternative media for environmental groups. Many of the early grassroot-BBS-systems (BBS= Bulletin Board System) started off as alternative information-systems for ecological issues. For example the z-net (zerberus-net: a former linked BBS-system: today a subnet of the Internet) started off as an alternative medium for sharing information about contamination after the nuclear meltdown in Chernobyl. And so Cyberpunk and the environmental movement often meet in using the same media. Also the WELL (Whole Earth 'Lectronic 'Link-system) started in 1985 in San Francisco as an Information-system for many environmental issues. The WELL nowadays is the most famous virtual community in Cyberspace and one of the strongest bases for the resistance in Cyberspace.
In their fight for free information both movements seem to support each other. For example, in the aftermath of the massive protest against nuclear-waste transport to Gorleben, Germany, the German government tried to censor radical web-pages in the internet about direct action and techno-terrorism like blocking railways especially the journal Radikal at The government afraid of these instructions for direct action was successful in forcing internet-service-providers to install filters for this server. Cyberpunks protested massively against the censorship and made the information available again on many other servers.
As already mentioned there are also a number of similarities between the Hippie-movement, which is often viewed as an ecological movement, and the Cyberpunk-movement. So it is no wonder that old Hippie-icons like Timothy Leary, John Perry Barlow or Robert Anton Wilson are also icons of the Cyberpunk movement. John Perry Barlow, former Grateful Dead songwriter is also one of the founder of EFF and Timothy Leary made his shift from 'psychedelics to cybernetics'.
Also some direct-action methods of environmental movements and the Cyberpunk-movement have a lot of similarities. They just take place in different types of environments. Whereas environmental groups block streets by street-protesting, cyberpunks under the leadership of the EFF organize black days in the internet to block the information-highway and protest against new laws for censorship.
So just as the environmental movement takes care that the environment is not polluted, spoiled or exploited and tries to protect natural reservoirs, in a metaphorical sense Cyberpunk can be understood as a movement which takes care that the second nature, the media-sphere is not spoiled, polluted or exploited and tries to protect reservoirs in the media-sphere, proclaiming 'reclaim the Cyberspace' instead of 'reclaim the street'. In the new forms of techno-terrorism, Cyberpunk-methods have also become methods of the environmental-movement. So airport-protests become performed by cutting the information-pipelines of the airport, like two or three years ago in Frankfurt-airport or bringing the computer-systems to a standstill by attacking the computer-systems in cracking the system or by virus-attacks.
Both movements also share often a similar dystopian view of the world to come. The grey city setting of Cyberpunk-novels and -movies often resemble apocalyptic visions of environmental groups. Also the way of thinking the world as an organism can be found in both movements. Cyberpunks often think of the mediasphere as an ecological system.

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Excursion: Information-ecology

" Today's activists understand media as extension of a living organism. Like ecologists comprehend the life on this planet as part of a single biological organism, media-activists view the data-sphere as a circulatory system for information, ideas and pictures of the day." (Rushkoff 1995: 12 -transl. by S.J.) This 'deep insight' into the way media work became known as 'information-ecology' and become very popular in the Cyberpunk-movement. The understanding of the mediasphere as an ecological system is strongly based on chaos-theory and memetics.
News and ideas in the media-sphere become according to this view spread like viruses with different memes. The term meme and the concept of memetics originally comes from the British biologist Richard Dawkins. " Dawkins claimed in The selfish Gene 1976, that all living beings are basically only tools of inherent dominating genes, whose only aim is to reproduce and spread." (ibid.: 237) Cultural 'memes', often widened to 'meme-complex', act so just like genes manipulating their environment for the sake of their own reproduction. These memes can so easily transport and spread ideas, convictions and systems of belief. " Dawkins has suggested the word 'memes' to describe these self-replicating ideas that sweep across human populations, bringing about cultural mutations." (Leary 1994: 71)
Any kind of news or idea which enter the media-sphere, enters the process of repetition and recycling and can have enormous effects. So just like Chaos-theory's 'a butterfly's wing in China can cause a tornado in the U.S.', a small media event when it spreads like a self-replicating virus can have an enormous impact. " The hacker-subculture picked up these conceptions of Dawkins in the 80s with enthusiasm and understand themselves as meme producing complex." (Rushkoff 1995: 238 -transl. by S.J.) Cyberpunks use the theory of memetics in many different and sometimes very obvious ways, in making propaganda or advertisements through so called neuro-lingual viruses like virus 23 or through pseudo-religions like the Church of the Virus at Information-ecology or memetics is also the information-theoretical idea, underlying software-weapons like viruses, worms, trojan horses etc.
To understand the media-sphere as ecological organism has, on the one hand, an implication of empowerment, because small events can have great effects. To realise the empowerment through media can be also important for small ecological groups which want to spread their ideas.
The understanding of the information-sphere as ecological system inspires on the other hand many people to apocalyptic visions. Small bugs or accidents can also have catastrophic effects on the physical world. So for example predicts Paul Virilio, a French Social Theorist: " After the globalization of telecommunications, one should expect a generalized kind of accident, a never-seen-before accident.[..] A generalized accident would be something like what Epicurus called 'the accident of accidents'.[..] The stock-market collapse is merely a slight prefiguration of it. Nobody has seen this generalized accident yet. But then watch out as you hear talk about the 'financial bubble' in the economy: a very significant metaphor is used here and it conjures up visions of some kind of cloud, reminding us of other clouds just as frightening as those of Chernobyl." (Virilio 1995: 3) So for example little bugs like the Millennium bug in computer-software could have huge effects also in the physical world, and an accident in cyberspace can cause catastrophical effects in the natural environment, from a Nuclear meltdown, caused by a computer- bug or a software-attack to wrongly started missiles everything is possible. Cyberpunks, especially crackers play an ambiguous role in this area . On the one hand, they are the ones who can perhaps cause such accidents on the other hand they are the ones who also have the ability to show the security-risks of the computer-systems and therefore prevent them. They are highly empowered individuals and in the end it all depends on the moral standards they have.
So it is also understandable that although these striking similarities between Cyberpunk and environmental movement the relationship between both movements is not an easy one. Especially in many environmental groups there are lots of prejudices against media at all, which can be seen around movements which one could call immediatism or media-ecology. And also on the side of Cyberpunks there are many prejudices against environmental groups criticizing their 'back to the nature' romanticism.

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5. Conclusion

Cyberpunk starting as a kind literature in the 1980s swept all over the popular culture. It became realised and can be seen nowadays as something from a loose organisation of criminals to a social movement of resistance or counterculture . They do not fight against technical development but their science-fiction element even precedes the technical development and pushes it further. They stay with their struggle within 'the system', using its weapons. They can be seen as the first warriors in a fight for an ecological media-environment.
There are also numerous similarities which they share with the ecological movement. Their concerns, belief and thinking, but also their methods show similarities, but the relationship is nevertheless not an easy one. A closer interaction could be helpful for both movements.
Although some institutionalisation has taken place in Cyberpunk, the movement as a whole still stays full of contradictions and inner struggles. So to become a movement which fights against its dystopian view, they still have a lot of lessons to learn from the movement history. They have a much greater potential to challenge the system then other movements. But for the same reason cyberpunks are also a greater danger to society as a whole and for the environment, not just the powers that be.

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6. Bibliography

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