Pedro Jacobetty: "Anonymous' demands highlight issues of public interest"

Rubn Permuy
A study performed by the UOC analyses the origins of the international community of cyberactivists

"I have followed Anonymous since this name was first given to an anonymous, transgressive group on the Internet, and also to its individual members", says Pedro Jacobetty, who holds an official llicenciatura degree in Sociology from the University Institute of Lisbon (ISCTE) and a doctoral degree from the UOC since 26 June, after defending his thesis Making a Name for Anonymous: Digital Culture, Anonymous Publics and Transgressive Subjectivities. This study analyses a group that has gained fame through actions such as the mobilization against the pro-copyright groups after the use of illegal tactics to render inaccessible the file-sharing website The Pirate Bay, or the protest actions in support of Wikileaks.

"My research has focused on analysing the anonymous Internet culture that culminated in the formation of an activist network with a global reach", says Jacobetty. The researcher has analysed contents related with Anonymous's activity until 2010, such as texts, images or websites, and the digital track that the movement has generated. "I have had to engage in Internet archaeology, retrieving old, forgotten, cached websites", he adds.

"The Anonymous activist network is only one of the developments of a broader cultural movement based on the awareness that networked digital technologies serve surveillance and identification purposes", Jacobetty points out. His thesis concludes that the large-scale adoption of anonymity allowed collective experimentation with public forms of expression and disclosure of what is usually considered personal and private. The result was an aesthetically attractive production and a digital, transgressive audiovisual exchange, carried out under the protection of online anonymity. "In spite of being virtually invisible, as a distributed, decentralized group, Anonymous stands out for its ability to react quickly and effectively, with swift changes and versatility in terms of its scale of action, focus and tactics", Jacobetty highlights. This movement has been able to generate impacting events that have caught the attention of leading communication media and its demands have been used to highlight issues of public interest.

The study indicates that Anonymous' discursive and audiovisual construct, based on the slogan Anonymous is everyone, you are Anonymous, led to the production of signifiers that integrate equivalence relationships with varied popular demands. According to Jacobetty, "these signs came to represent a demos: the political subject of democracy". However, unlike other contemporary expressions of protest which present popular demands in territorial or ethnic terms, "the resulting subject is the global Internet citizen", he concludes.

In the development of his thesis, Pedro Jacobetty has been tutored by Eduard Aibar, professor at the UOC's Faculty of Art and Humanities.