Maxigas presented at the annual conference of Freenode, the chat network serving “peer directed projects”. The conference was the first of its kind and drew around a hundred participants at We The Curious in Bristol, UK, over the weekend of October, 28-29, 2017. The talk was recorded and should be available in the future. Maxigas also made interviews with IRC users, operators and developers for his ongoing research on the social history and contemporary use of the Internet Relay Chat protocolHere is the abstract:
This talk is an attempt to take a long durée view of challenges to IRC in the context of the changing technology landscape and its political economy, with a conclusion that addresses the burning question of the day.
IRC manifests a basic human desire to chat, hang out and collaborate in an informal manner. However, these activities have not always been valued too high by managers and gatekeepers of IP networks. At other times, they have been perceived as the potential basis for lucrative business models. Therefore, IRC communities and operators met various challenges through the history of the technology, ranging from outright ban to corporate takeover. Social conflicts unfolded in close interaction with industry actors, where sometimes users even reclaimed resources from employers. However, the very meaning and consequences of peer directed projects also shifted with the reorganisation of production during the latest decades of late capitalism.
Nonetheless, the story of IRC is an outstanding example of the self-organisation and self-management of users, showing how norms of organising and managing infrastructures prevalent in the early days of the Internet could persist through increasingly hostile historical circumstances.