Skip to content

The five modes of self-tracking

August 8, 2014

John Postill:

By Deborah Lupton

Originally posted on This Sociological Life:

Recently I have been working on a conference paper that seeks to outline the five different modes of self-tracking that I have identified as currently in existence. I argue that there is evidence that the personal data that are derived from individuals engaging in reflexive self-monitoring are now beginning to be used by agencies and organisations beyond the personal and privatised realm. Self-tracking rationales and sites are proliferating as part of a ‘function creep’ of the technology and ethos of self-tracking. The detail offered by these data on individuals and the growing commodification and commercial value of digital data have led government, managerial and commercial enterprises to explore ways of appropriating self-tracking for their own purposes. In some contexts people are encouraged, ‘nudged’, obliged or coerced into using digital devices to produce personal data which are then used by others.

The paper examines these issues, outlining five modes of self-tracking…

View original 817 more words

4. We don’t know how to participate

August 6, 2014

In this fourth episode of the freedom technologists series we hear from Margarita Padilla, another IT specialist active in Spain’s civil society, most recently in the indignados (or 15M) movement. The story below is once again translated and adapted from an interview by Stéphane Grueso that took place in Madrid in December 2011 (see my earlier post on Daniel Vázquez). The  interview is freely available on YouTube (in Spanish). In future posts I will share some anthropological reflections on this and other personal narratives of the 15M movement.

My name is Margarita Padilla. I am a 53-year old hacker and a self-employed entrepreneur. I work with other women at a small cooperative in Madrid dedicated to developing free software projects.

I acquired a political education during the 1970s workers’ movement, a worldview made obsolescent by the post-Franco transition. Eventually the class struggle became history, an anachronism, so I was fortunate to run into the squatter movement — my first political upgrade.

Another turning point in my political development was the Atocha (Madrid) bombings of 11 March 2004 (11M for short). It was an experience of utter shock followed by a government cover-up and spontaneous protests on 13 March (13M). It was also an intuition that, from then on, events would happen in either an 11M or 13M register.

Later, in a post-2008 scenario, I began to wonder why nothing was being done about the crisis. This search for answers led me to the 15 May 2011 demo in Madrid, and then to the Puerta del Sol encampment. Sol was a joyous encounter with something we had assumed was there but no one had actually seen.

A moving moment

Perhaps the most moving experience at the Puerta del Sol encampment was ‘moment zero’ – the start to the day of reflection, a period of 24 hours prior to an election in which political campaigning is not allowed. This was on 20-21 May, six days after the occupation of Sol. I was reminded of the Spanish tradition of eating twelve grapes on New Year’s Eve, one for each chiming of the clock at Sol (it is customary to eat the grapes at Sol, where the encampment was located). It was the same time and place, but with the added uncertainty of not knowing what would happen. Nobody was really sure about the legality (or otherwise) of the encampment. It is different when a political party calls for a rally, where you have a rough idea of how many people will turn up. But how many people 15M could mobilise, if that’s the right word, was anyone’s guess.

I arrived at around 8 p.m. and started walking around Sol, running into people I knew, groups of friends that kept expanding. At one point we went off to get some dinner. We were eating with the excitement of having to finish early because soon it would be midnight. “Let’s get the bill or we won’t make it”, “Yes we will”, “We won’t, hurry up!”, not knowing what to expect. When we got back we found huge crowds. I was at the far end of calle Arenal, still a long way from Sol. I could picture all the side streets around Sol being equally packed, and marvelled at the spectacle of a much larger crowd than on New Year’s Eve. Read more…

3. How Spain’s indignados movement was born

August 1, 2014

In this third instalment of the freedom technologists series we hear the extraordinary story of the IT specialist Daniel Vázquez, one of the original occupiers of Puerta del Sol square, in Madrid, where Spain’s indignados (or 15M) movement was born in May 2011. On the first night of the occupation, Daniel set up the soon-to-be influential Twitter account @acampadasol. The story below is based on a long interview he gave to a fellow indignado, the documentary filmmaker Stéphane Grueso (@fanetin), who we met in the previous post. The two-part interview (in Spanish with English subtitles) can be viewed on YouTube. Here I have translated and adapted selections from that interview (see Spanish version). In a future post I will share some anthropological reflections on this narrative, with particular emphasis on four themes: free culture, viral reality, non-violence and historical agency.

My name is Daniel Vázquez. I am an IT specialist from Madrid (Spain). I work with new technologies, especially on free software and civil society projects. Over the last 12 to 13 years I have participated in a number of projects, such as a self-managed cyberspace server called, or most recently with a collective called I am also part of 15hack and of a small cultural association named aLabs.

After the death of Franco in 1975, my parents’ generation accepted a new democratic order along with the re-instauration of the monarchy. It all came in the same pack. I didn’t sign it, and I want this to be discussed once again. My parents are now retired, and so are most of their generation. Those of us who came after them know nothing about how this came to happen, so we want to talk it over.

When people become aware that politicians represent market interests and that sovereignty no longer resides in their country but rather with actors they cannot reach, or vote for, or criticise, that’s when the discrediting begins. In Spain we have a two-party political system. This system consists of finding jobs for friends and cronies and to take it in turns to share power. As simple as that.

How I arrived at the scene

For me the 15M (or indignados) movement started with a trip to Lavapiés, a barrio in central Madrid. I was there to help a group of people who wanted to take a small van with a PA system to the 15 May demo. I was doing it on behalf of a local radio station named Onda Precaria. There was a new immigrant movement linked to this station taking shape at the time. It was made up of street vendors in Lavapiés who wanted to join the demonstration as a single bloc.

Read more…

2. Freedom technologists and their practices

July 24, 2014

This is the second in a series of 42 blog posts devoted to exploring the connection between freedom technologists and the new protest movements. See the first post here, the next post here, the whole series as a document or as blog posts.

In the first post of this series I defined freedom technologists as citizens who like to mix their techs with their politics, often as part of a popular protest or uprising. Some freedom technologists are techies, others are not, yet they all share a strong interest in the potential uses of new digital technologies for political change and social emancipation.

But what do freedom technologists actually do?

The Toronto-based scholar Megan Boler and colleagues offer us some tantalising clues in a recent article. Drawing from interviews with women participants of the Occupy movement in the US, these researchers single out three main digital media practices among Occupiers: adminning, documenting and connecting.

To pay my own way into this discussion I would like to add a fourth techno-political practice – mapping – and extend the geographical reach of this working model to Spain’s indignados (15M) movement.

Read more…

1. The year of the freedom technologist

July 10, 2014

By John Postill. Republished from Savage Minds

This is the first in a series of 42 blog posts devoted to exploring the connection between freedom technologists and the new protest movements. See the next post here, the whole series as a document or as blog posts.

Two and a half years ago, TIME magazine declared 2011 to be The Year of the Protester. From the Arab Spring or Spain’s indignados to the Occupy movement, this was undoubtedly a year of political upheaval around the world.

But 2011 was also an important year for a new global vanguard of tech-minded citizens determined to bring about political change, often in connection with national crises. Let us call these citizens, at least for the time being, freedom technologists.

Consider, for instance, the loose network of freedom technologists who spearheaded the Tunisian uprising. On 28 November 2010, after long years of struggle under one of the world’s harshest regimes, the lawyer and blogger Riadh Guerfali created the site TuniLeaks. A WikiLeaks spin-off, this site released US diplomatic cables that were highly embarrassing to Ben Ali’s autocratic regime. These leaks helped to prepare the protest ground. The trigger came through the actions of another freedom technologist, veteran activist Ali Bouazizi, who recorded on his smartphone the self-immolation of his cousin Mohamed, a street vendor. He then shared the video via Facebook, where it was picked up by journalists from Al Jazeera – barred from entering Tunisia – and broadcast to the whole nation (and the rest of the Arab world). Al Jazeera’s freedom technologists relied on blogs and social media to bypass the official restrictions and report on the fast-moving events on the ground. When the government censored Facebook, the transnational online group Anonymous launched Operation Tunisia, carrying attacks against government websites via dial-up connections provided by Tunisian citizens.

In nearby Spain, where I was doing anthropological fieldwork with internet activists when it all kicked off in May 2011, the imprint of freedom technologists on the nascent protests was also strongly in evidence. After Spain’s political class passed an unpopular digital copyright bill under US pressure in early 2011, the digital rights lawyer Carlos Sanchez Almeida and other net freedom fighters responded by creating #NoLesVotes, a new platform that urged Spanish citizens not to vote for any of the major parties. Shortly afterwards, tech-minded activists such as Gala Pin, Simona Levi, Javier Toret and others formed Democracia Real Ya, an umbrella group calling for peaceful marches across Spain on 15 May 2011 to demand ‘real democracy now’. Inspired by the occupation of Tahrir square, a small number of protesters, including the hacker collective Isaac Hacksimov, decided to set up camp at Madrid’s main square, Puerta del Sol. This action was soon replicated across Spain. As in Tunisia, tech-savvy journalists played their part in the fledgling movement. Joseba Elola, a reporter with the centre-left daily El Pais and WikiLeaks admirer, described ‘young people conscious of their civil liberties who have risen to head a protest in search of a great change’. A few months earlier, Elola had secured a place for El Pais in the global release of WikiLeaks’ US diplomatic cables following a secret meeting with Julian Assange in London [1]. Read more…

Podemos: Spain’s new ‘transmedia’ party

June 12, 2014











One of the biggest surprises in the recent European elections has been the sudden rise of the Spanish party Podemos (“We Can”), which obtained 8% of the vote in Spain. Podemos is a 4-month old, leftist formation rooted in the indignados (15M) movement and led by the charismatic political scientist Pablo Iglesias, 35. The following passage (my rough translation) is from a thoughtful analysis of the elections published today by another 15M-based party, Partido X, which is currently critically reviewing its own campaign. It contains an intriguing reference to Podemos’ successful ‘transmedia’ approach worthy of further research and reflection.

“[...] Podemos have done a masterful, strategic job and have doubtless carried out the most intelligent and effective electoral campaign amongst all of us [new] contenders.

They have managed to anticipate and lay the groundwork thanks to the efforts of Pablo Iglesias and his colleagues with whom he created La Tuerka [a successful TV programme shown via YouTube] with great self-reliance and skill.

With this independent, original programme – a labour of love – they first carved out a sizeable niche audience, and then a space sustained by more resource- and infrastructure-rich media organisations such as HispanTV or [the online newspaper] Público. It was the latter media outlet that eventually became their headquarters, an outlet whose information flow they were able to directly shape, practically turning it into their campaign’s main communication media. Pablo Iglesias then participated as a skilful counterpoint in the political debates broadcast by the [conservative TV channel] Intereconomía, from which he made the leap into the [mainstream channels] Cuatro and la Sexta as a twice-weekly current affairs panelist, thereby creating a highly recognisable persona in his claims and demands.

It was only after all this groundwork was laid that Podemos attacked the electoral front, achieving a highly effective combination of TV work and a “transmedia” use of social media in order to feed back and replicate its message.”

Original Spanish passage

“Concretamente en el caso de Podemos, queremos señalar que han hecho un trabajo estratégico magistral y sin duda han sido los más inteligentes y eficaces en politica electoral de todos los que estamos en juego.

Han sabido anticipar y preparar su terreno y esto es debido a un esfuerzo propio de Pablo Iglesias y de los compañeros con los que ha creado la Tuerka, sin la ayuda de nadie y con mucha habilidad.

Con este programa independiente y de estilo propio se han labrado a pulso, y trabajando mucho, primero un nicho de audiencia muy considerable; luego un espacio amparado por otros medios de mayores recursos e infraestructuras como son HispanTV y Público. En este último han acabado estableciendo su sede y así han pasado a influir directamente en la información que llegaba a este medio, consiguiendo que fuera prácticamente el medio de comunicación de su campaña; luego participando muy hábilmente como contrapunto en los debates en Intereconomía, Pablo Iglesias consiguió saltar así a Cuatro y a la Sexta como tertuliano fijo dos veces por semana, creando así un personaje claro y reconocible en sus reivindicaciones y demandas.

Solo después de todo este trabajo previo, se han lanzado a atacar el frente electoral, consiguiendo una combinación muy efectiva de trabajo en televisión y de uso “transmedia” de las redes sociales para retroalimentar y replicar su mensaje.”

Photo credit: Equinox Magazine

Afterword to Consent of the Networked by Rebecca MacKinnon

May 21, 2014

The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom. A book by Rebecca MacKinnon.

In late January 2012, thousands of people across Poland took to the streets to protest the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). The treaty had already been signed in late 2011 by European Union trade negotiators and twenty-two EU member states without much media attention, but by early February anti-ACTA protests had spread to over two hundred cities across Europe. Politicians got the message. On July 4, 2012, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly against ratification. Several dozen parliamentarians held up bright yellow signs: HELLO DEMOCRACY, GOODBYE ACTA.

Europe’s rejection of ACTA was just one victory of a global movement for digital liberty that came into its own in 2012. As Chapter 7 described it, ACTA was conceived by the United States and negotiated over the course of several years—initially in secret—with thirty-four other nations. For years, debates over ACTA—and related debates over how to balance intellectual property rights and online free-speech rights—had been confined to relatively obscure and specialized communities of activists, lawyers, and academics. That has changed, as the global netizen-rights movement to counter abuses of digital power has grown from infancy to adolescence.

I ended Consent of the Networked with a call for action, and in 2012 netizens around the world proved they are willing to act, as demonstrated by the movement’s recent successes. But while we have gained momentum, we face continuing challenges in the pursuit of digital liberty that will not easily be overcome.

Read more


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 454 other followers