On the S77CCR-Consortium
The S-77CCR Unit was on display for an interested public from May 14 to May 27 2004 on Karlsplatz, Vienna
The System 77CCR Civil Counter-Reconnaissance project is mainly based on two premises: One of them is political, and one of them is technological. They are of course part of the same story, part of the same complex of issues that defined this project and also define the body of projects around it. They apply to the future, too, as there is a range of activities that have been going on for some time.
On the political side, System 77CCR is a project that works on two main levels: One of them is connected specifically to Vienna, to the Viennese situation, to the situation of the history of the protest movement from the year 2000 and also to the dissipation of that protest movement until today. It tries to look this movement, and to remind the public how these four years proved to be historically entropic – we are used to these situations where there is a big social push for change at first – which then slowly erodes and turns into a kind of very mellow, elementary flow of disconnected events, even though politically and conceptually these events might have some kind of linkage to the primary events, to the reasons why the demonstrations happened in the first place. In these protests, which were represented a classical clash between civil society and powers of the state, civil society was technologically not empowered. One possible way of empowering civil society is through the use of counter-surveillance technologies to actually see and observe how the state acts, to exercise control, to turn the mechanics of control back on the state, as governmental accountability should always be part of democracy and should never be given up. Of course the state functions in a way that minimizes this accountability, to say the least. Lessons from history speak to us very clearly about that. Lessons of very recent history show clearly how the American state was not able to control itself in what was going on and still is going in Irak, in the Middle East. But of course you don't need to go there, usually you just need to look around the next corner. Even in a parliamentary democracy this kind of mechanics are at work all the time and that is why the civil society should be empowered through technology. Now it is!
To a certain level the demonstrations of 2000 were one of the best-documented demonstrations in recent history. People used digital technology, digital cameras to produce enormous amounts of footage of what was going on. The same thing happened of course during the clashes in Genoa and in Seattle, and we will see how this movement will develop in the future. But on a wider scale, of course, I believe that this kind of counter-surveillance should be enacted by law, through the power of law and that the civil society should actually take control over certain assets that are for now only living and functioning in the domain of the military-industrial complex – like the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) technology that we have been talking about in this project. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are nothing new. In fact, their history goes back to the Second World War, but the technology has been strongly promoted since the mid-nineties and has played an important role in contemporary conflicts such as Balkans conflict, and then of course in Afghanistan and the whole of the Middle East. Israel has used Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for a very long time without much noise, and it still uses them.
One of the main missions of Pact Systems and Project Atol, specifically of the Consortium, has been to bring this kind of technologies into the hands of civil society in an organized and orderly manner – abiding by the law, defining the laws. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles do not have a space in civil airspace at the moment anywhere in the world, but we believe that there is a future for this kind of civil use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and that is why the Consortium was formed. Specifically in the clashes with the state, but also for many other, let us say less edgy situations, where a civil fleet of UAVs actually could provide information and surveillance on ecological matters, or on other matters that are usually sidelined or even concealed by the state – monitoring back the activities of the state, ensuring these activities do not transgress the law. It's just a technology, it's nothing else, and technology should always be empowering all levels of society, not only those in power. That is the main rationale behind the establishment of the Consortium and behind the development of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for purposes of Civil Counter-Reconnaissance on one level, but also for civil society monitoring of the environment, of urban space, of the control over military movements, etc. Wherever civil society has to be empowered, wherever it has a symbolic role, it should also have empowerment through this kind of technological tool. Sure enough, we are talking about a technology whose accessibility is defined by the Western military-industrial complex on one side, and by the former Soviet military-industrial complex on the other side. These are the two branches we are trying to pursue here.