Hacked Transmissions

Technology and Connective Activism in Italy

2020
Author:

Alessandra Renzi

Hacked Transmissions

Mapping the transformation of media activism from the seventies to the present day

Hacked Transmissions explores how social movements change across cycles of struggle and alongside technology. Weaving a rich fabric of local and international social movements and media practices, politicized hacking, and independent cultural production, it takes as its entry point a multiyear ethnography of Telestreet, a network of pirate television channels in Italy that challenged the media monopoly of Silvio Berlusconi.

Arising out of the author’s own political engagement in Telestreet, a network of pirate TV channels aiming to challenge Berlusconi’s control over the Italian media, this book’s analysis of social movements in terms of how they change the composition of the neoliberal geopolitical landscape is an intriguing and enabling proposition. It boldly reclaims the studies of political activism, and of leftist political activity in particular, from narratives and feelings of loss, failure, and melancholia.

Joanna Zylinska, Goldsmiths, University of London

Hacked Transmissions is a pioneering exploration of how social movements change across cycles of struggle and alongside technology. Weaving a rich fabric of local and international social movements and media practices, politicized hacking, and independent cultural production, it takes as its entry point a multiyear ethnography of Telestreet, a network of pirate television channels in Italy that combined emerging technologies with the medium of television to challenge the media monopoly of tycoon-turned-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Street televisions in Italy represented a unique experiment in combining old and new media to forge grassroots alliances, fight social isolation, and build more resilient communities. Alessandra Renzi digs for the roots of Telestreet in movements of the 1970s and the global activism of the 1990s to trace its transformations in the present work of one of the network’s more active nodes, insu^tv, in Naples. In so doing, she offers a comprehensive account of transnational media activism, with particular attention to the relations among groups and projects, their modes of social reproduction, the contexts giving rise to them, and the technology they adopt—from zines and radios to social media. Hacked Transmissions is also a study in method, providing examples of co-research between activist researchers and social movements, and a theoretical framework that captures the complexities of grassroots politics and the agency of technology.

Providing a rare and timely glimpse into a key activist/media project of the twenty-first century, Hacked Transmissions marks a vital contribution to debates in a range of fields, including media and communication studies, anthropology, science and technology studies, social movements studies, sociology, and cultural theory.
Hacked Transmissions

Alessandra Renzi is associate professor of communication studies at Concordia University. She is coauthor of Infrastructure Critical: Sacrifice at Toronto’s G8/G20 Summit.

Hacked Transmissions

Arising out of the author’s own political engagement in Telestreet, a network of pirate TV channels aiming to challenge Berlusconi’s control over the Italian media, this book’s analysis of social movements in terms of how they change the composition of the neoliberal geopolitical landscape is an intriguing and enabling proposition. It boldly reclaims the studies of political activism, and of leftist political activity in particular, from narratives and feelings of loss, failure, and melancholia.

Joanna Zylinska, Goldsmiths, University of London

With this deep dive into the creative collective spirit of early twenty-first-century media activists, Alessandra Renzi gives us the neglected histories of the activist internet while situating current corporate social media in a genealogy of radical grassroots DIY innovations. Hacked Transmissions is an instant classic for social movement media studies.

Jack Z. Bratich, author of Conspiracy Panics: Political Rationality and Popular Culture

Alessandra Renzi's exquisite account draws on a decade of research and collaboration with Italian media activists and hackers to shake up and put to rest all too simplistic theories around social movements and media. Hacked Transmissions is an intellectual tour de force, sure to hit the reader with delightful waves of methodological, theoretical, and political insights, all relevant across time, place, and case.

Gabriella Coleman, author of Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous

Hacked Transmissions

Contents

Introduction: Co-researching Telestreet as a Form of Connective Activism

1. Making Sense of Telestreet: Three Compositions

2. Intimacy and Media Making: A Long History of Delirium, Care, and Social Reproduction

3. Delirium at Work in Berlusconi’s Mediascape

4. Activist Energetics in the Information Milieu

5. Squatted Airwaves, Hacked Transmission

6. Subjectivity, Therapy, Compositionality in the Porous Spaces of Naples

7. Insu^tv, Media Connective

8. De/Re/Compositions, in Process

Epilogue: Repurposing Is How Connective Activism Happens

Acknowledgments

Appendix: List of Interviews

Notes

Bibliography

Index