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Radical Software, Volume I, Number 3
Untitled, Spring 1971

Click cover for thumbnails

Despite the bizarre cover drawing by Andy Poyner, a California-based artist from Joplin, Missouri, this Radical Software's main theme is grassroots television - using portable video as a tool for helping communities coalesce around issues important to them. This is more revolutionary than it sounds. Most early video people understood that change came from people gaining real understanding of their true situations and empowering themselves to express their desire for change in an effective way. Although the Civil Rights and Anti-War movements had the ability to gather broad groups of supporters, smaller communities with local issues and injustices lacked the means to formulate and publicize them. Video could help.

The video activists of the early 70s tried to avoid arrogance. A large part of their organizational effort was teaching people how to use video, and letting them decide for themselves the best way to use it. As artist Jenny Holzer once wrote: "Any tool is a weapon if you hold it right." The Raindance people, and most of those practicing 'guerrilla television' in those days believed in starting from the ground up.

Certainly weapons come to mind with Paul Ryan's opening article, "Cybernetic Guerrilla Warfare". But despite Ryan's provocative title the reader will find few polemics. Although there is some mention of Sun Tzu, a closer examination of Ryan's essay reveals a skeptical attitude toward violent revolutionary behavior in favor of a more reasoned approach, supported by some ideas of Norbert Wiener and Warren McCulloch. Following Ryan's essay is one by Gregory Bateson, an excerpt touching on the importance of cultural and ecological flexibility and the work of Ross Ashby, Richard Sennett and Christopher Alexander. Frank Gillette and Raymond Arlo continue with a discussion of media ecology.

Other major topics included networks, video editing, video distribution, a comparative report on portable video systems, and a prescient article by Paul Ryan positing the need for an 'information economy'.