Freedom Technologists: Digital Activism and Political Change in the 21st Century (working title), Chapter 2, Freedom Technologists
** last updated 15 Oct to 4 Nov 2015 (Balkan 2014, Cost of Freedom 2015, Karatzogianni 2015, Milberry 2009, 2014, van de Ven 2015) **
(see also earlier Doc version, 73 pp.)
In this working bibliography I bring together a large set of (mostly academic) references on a specific category of political actor that I am calling ‘freedom technologists’, namely those tech-minded individuals, groups and organisations with a keen interest in the democratic and emancipatory potential of information and communication technologies (ICTs). Freedom technologists combine technological and political notions and skills to pursue greater Internet and democratic freedoms, which they regard as being inextricably entwined (Postill 2014). Far from being techno-utopians or deluded ‘slacktivists’ (Morozov, 2013, Skoric, 2012), in my experience most freedom technologists are in fact techno-pragmatists, that is, people who take a very practical view of the limits and possibilities of new technologies for political change. This working bibliography is part of current research towards Chapter 2 of my forthcoming book Freedom Technologists: Digital Activism and Political Change in the 21st Century (working title).
Keywords: technology, politics, techno-politics, hackers, hacktivism, digital activism, internet activism, digital liberation movement, political change, social protest, techno-libertarians
Aday, S., Farrell, H., Lynch, M., Sides, J., Kelly, J., & Zuckerman, E. (2010). Blogs and bullets: New media in contentious politics.
In this report from the United States Institute of Peace’s Centers of Innovation for Science, Technology, and Peacebuilding, and Media, Conflict, and Peacebuilding, a team of scholars from The George Washington University, in cooperation with scholars from Harvard University and Morningside Analytics, critically assesses both the “cyberutopian” and “cyberskeptic” perspectives on the impact of new media on political movements.
Akser, M. (2015). The Revolution Will Be Hacktivated. Digital Transformations in Turkey: Current Perspectives in Communication Studies, 275.
The democratic rights claimed to be enshrined but curtailed under the AKP government’s repressive regime was counterbalanced by Redhack, a Turkish hacktivist group online. Through their diverse tactics such as resistance, revelation and countering Redhack’s activity led to a digital transformation in Turkish politics. Redhack’s opposition is towards AKP’s neo-liberal patronage policies. The resistance took many forms: (1) defacing government websites that misuse public resources. (2) revelation to counter censorship against traditional media by the AKP government. By revealing documents related to AKP government’s corruption, Redhack led the way for traditional media to bring the issue to public scrutiny. The third tactic of taking direct action in the form of counter-attack came as a result of the Gezi Park Occupy Istanbul movement. Redhack actively used television to voice their agenda and called people to action. A networked discourse analysis that looks at mediation of playful tactics by hacktivists is a new transformative phase in how cyber security shifts from terrorism into information resistance, revelation and countering.
Alcazan et al (2012) Tecnopolítica. Internet y R-Evoluciones. Icaria.
#Error 404. Democracy Not Found. El 15 de mayo de 2011 salimos a la calle después de meses de trabajo en la red. El 15-M es inimaginable sin internet y el uso político que las multitudes conectadas han hecho de él. El 15-M es impensable sin la red de redes, somos una red distribuida de cambio social. Con este libro queremos hacer una contribución a una lectura del 15-M abierta y en construcción, que valore su dimensión tecnopolítica. Entender la relación del 15-M con internet, con sus precedentes, con sus dispositivos de comunicación y organización, es esencial para comprender las posibilidades abiertas para la acción colectiva en la sociedad red. La r-evolución está en marcha y se multiplica de manera global. Se extiende la indignación, el deseo de cambio y emerge el potencial de transformación de las redes abiertas y distribuidas.
Al Hussaini, A. (2011). Tunisia: Anonymous vs. Ammar–who wins the battle of censorship?. Global Voices, 3 January 2011, https://globalvoicesonline.org/2011/01/03/tunisia-anonymous-vs-ammar-who-wins-the-battle-of-censorship/
The Tunisian censor, commonly known as Ammar, continues to wreak havoc on activists’ accounts, in a country that has been witnessing a wave of protests since the middle of December. Just today, activists claimed that the government has hacked into their email accounts, accessing their blogs and social networking sites, and disabling them. The move seems to have come in retaliation to an attack by Anonymous, which has targeted vital Tunisian government sites and gateways.
Andrejevic, M. (2014). WikiLeaks, Surveillance, and Transparency. International Journal of Communication, 8, 2619-2630.
The place for WikiLeaks was, in a sense, carved out in advance by the dramatic failure of conventional channels for challenging power or holding it accountable. It is a fact that deserves more attention than it gets that, in the United States, the two political newspapers of record (The New York Times and The Washington Post) issued extended public apologies for failures in their coverage during the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. In no uncertain terms, these influential newspapers conceded that they did not provide adequate information to the populace about one of the most important decisions facing the nation—a decision that would claim the lives of tens of thousands of people and redefine international relations on a global scale. The Times noted that, on reviewing its coverage of the lead-up to the war, “we have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been” (The Editors, 2001, para. 3)—a failure that it identified as structural.
Appelgren, E., & Nygren, G. (2014). Data Journalism in Sweden: Introducing new methods and genres of journalism into “old” organizations. Digital Journalism, 2(3), 394-405.
Data journalism is an evolving form of investigative journalism. In previous research and handbooks published on this topic, this form of journalism has been called computer-assisted reporting and data-driven journalism, as well as precision, computational or database journalism. In Sweden, data journalism is still fairly uncommon. The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of the development of data journalism at seven Swedish traditional media companies, using action research methods. The content of this paper is based on an online survey of journalists and in-depth interviews with editors at these participating companies. The results indicate that, based on how this field is currently perceived by journalists in the interviews, there is a common definition of data journalism. Furthermore, the survey shows that the attitudes towards data journalism during the process of introducing new methods and genres of journalism into “old” organizations are correlated with the level of perceived experience in data journalism working methods. The main challenges facing the working methods of data journalism today are a shortage of time and the need for training and developing data journalism skills.
Armitage, J. (ed.) (1999) ‘Special Issue on Machinic Modulations: New Cultural Theory and Technopolitics’, Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities 4(2) (September).
Assange, J., Appelbaum, J., Muller-Maguhn, A., & Zimmermann, J. (2012). Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet. Singapore Books.
“Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet is an important wake-up call about a possible dystopian future, which is a technological reality now… While messengers of dangerous outcomes are always met at first with hostility and even mockery, history shows that we disregard such warnings as these at our peril.” —Naomi Wolf
Baack, S. (2015). Datafication and empowerment: How the open data movement re-articulates notions of democracy, participation, and journalism. Big Data & Society, 2(2), 2053951715594634.
This article shows how activists in the open data movement re-articulate notions of democracy, participation, and journalism by applying practices and values from open source culture to the creation and use of data. Focusing on the Open Knowledge Foundation Germany and drawing from a combination of interviews and content analysis, it argues that this process leads activists to develop new rationalities around datafication that can support the agency of datafied publics. Three modulations of open source are identified: First, by regarding data as a prerequisite for generating knowledge, activists transform the sharing of source code to include the sharing of raw data. Sharing raw data should break the interpretative monopoly of governments and would allow people to make their own interpretation of data about public issues. Second, activists connect this idea to an open and flexible form of representative democracy by applying the open source model of participation to political participation. Third, activists acknowledge that intermediaries are necessary to make raw data accessible to the public. This leads them to an interest in transforming journalism to become an intermediary in this sense. At the same time, they try to act as intermediaries themselves and develop civic technologies to put their ideas into practice. The article concludes with suggesting that the practices and ideas of open data activists are relevant because they illustrate the connection between datafication and open source culture and help to understand how datafication might support the agency of publics and actors outside big government and big business.
by Will Balmford
Digital Ethnography Research Centre (DERC)
School of Media and Communication
RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia
Welcome to round three of DERG! We’ve got an article by Helen Kennedy this week, entitled ‘Technobiography: Researching lives on and off’. It takes a bit of a different approach to earlier readings, but is an interesting read that will hopefully get us all thinking about how we conceptualise digital experiences.
Remember, DERG sessions run on the second Wednesday of each month. Please forward this email to those you think may be interested in attending this or future DERG sessions. I’ll send out calendar invites shortly so that we’re all digitally synced up.
And, here’s a couple of questions to get us thinking in the lead up to the meeting:
2. What are the relationships between digital ethnography and technobiography?
- What does technobiography do that ethnography does not?
- What does ethnography do that technobiography cannot?
3. Kennedy argues that technobiography better elucidates the relationship between online and offline lives/selves/identities/agency.
- How do we understand these relationships and is it problematic to imagine them as separate yet related lives?
And, as always, please feel free to bring lunch, snacks or whatever you fancy. We’re going to be in the same room as last time (Building 9, level 2, room 9), so it should be nice and easy to find.
European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA)
Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology
University of Vienna, Austria
23-24 October 2015
** Financial assistance available, see below **
The aim of this workshop is to remedy this situation by bringing together media anthropologists and other media and communication scholars working on the complex relationship between media and conflict.
Having presented and discussed their own research (Day 1), workshop participants will then ask the following collective questions (Day 2):
- What is the present state of anthropological and interdisciplinary knowledge on media and conflict?
- What are the main questions in need of urgent research and writing?
- How can media anthropologists and others contribute to the interdisciplinary effort of theorising the elusive relationship between media and conflict?
- What topics and themes should an edited volume arising from the workshop focus on?
In addition to its networking function, the workshop will lead to an edited volume provisionally titled Theorising Media and Conflict. This will be the third in the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) Media Anthropology Network’s series of theoretical volumes published by Berghahn. The first volume came out in 2010 as Theorising Media and Practice (Bräuchler & Postill, eds), and the second volume, Theorising Media and Change (Postill, Ardevol & Tenhunen, eds) is forthcoming. The aim of the series is to place media anthropology at the forefront of theoretical advances in both anthropology and media and communication studies.
N.B.There will be financial assistance with travel and accommodation expenses available to participants who require it. Please contact the organisers for further information if you require such assistance. The organisers are grateful to EASA, the Austrian Research Association (ÖFG), and the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Vienna, for their generous support of this event.
This is the twenty-second post in the Freedom technologists series.
by Victor Lasa
RMIT University, Melbourne
In this second session of the monthly Digital Ethnography Reading Group meetings at RMIT we discussed the Introduction and Chapter 5 of Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous. Gabriella Coleman. Brooklyn, NY: Verso Books, 2014. 464 pp.
In attendance were Will Balmford (digital gaming), Kate Cawley (digital gaming), Andrew Glover (sociology of consumption), Allister Hill (organisational ethnography), Victor Lasa (radical transparency), John Postill (internet activism), Jolynna Sinanan (digital ethnography), Katya Tokareva (Russian internet) and Ge Zhang (digital gaming).
This was a productive and thought-provoking meeting. The group read and discussed Gabriela Coleman’s (2014) fascinating analysis of Anonymous: from the informal beginnings to their intriguing role in contemporary global socio-politics, focusing on the case of Anonymous’ intervention in the 2010 Tunisian revolution (Chapter 5). Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous is a daring and unique attempt at deciphering the origins, structure, internal dynamics, motivations and strategies of Anonymous, the cryptic global hacking group.
Perhaps because of its complexity, some participants found the reading somewhat undefined, as if the general goal of the book wasn’t clear. Bearing in mind it is a work of popular scholarship rather than an academic text, the aim is not clearly spelled out until the book’s conclusion. In fact, the book’s structure seems to mirror Anonymous’ operational behaviour, since many of their missions remain a mystery until the end.
One issue we discussed was the ethnographic challenge of doing research on a collective like Anonymous. By immersing herself in the collective as participant observer, Coleman was able to go beyond the popular stereotype of Anons as unsocial ‘white boys’ out to wreak havoc. Instead she highlights their heterogeneity, inspired adhocery and team-based politicisation over time. In exploring the complexity of Anonymous’ morphology, Coleman also shows that sometimes it only took the leadership of one or two people to drive significant missions, as was the case with the Tunisian uprising in 2010-2011.
Despite a growing political nature in its actions, Anonymous still conserves an important element of mischief and havoc, or ‘motherfuckery’ as they call it themselves. There is a factor of having fun, doing ‘cool’ things by selecting challenging missions that will have a strong impact. However, some reading group members questioned the real impact of Anonymous’ actions in situations like the Tunisian revolution. The question of how serious Anonymous really got in Tunisia and how strong their political motivation was seems to remain unanswered in the book.
At any rate, Tunisia was Anonymous’ first major foray into international politics. It was no more just about ‘internety’ issues, as Coleman point out. They seemed to realize their own power, becoming one of the pioneers in the new information geopolitics. In fact, their actions provoked envy in other non-state agents that were aiming to become geopolitically significant, like Al-Qaeda. More recently, the Islamic State seem to have learned about the potential of the internet to create action collectives and maximize the impact of its operations.
Anonymous’ turn into a political player can be partly explained by the actions of authorities on them, like the FBI, which hit their structure and provoked anger. The innovative and baffling nature of the organization made authorities nervous in many countries and led to repressive actions. A desire of revenge or reaffirmation might have driven the organization towards more political actions against institutions. However, participants realized that the tension between acting just for the ‘lulz’ of it or for political reasons still exists and has probably not been resolved. Part of the same debate is the legality versus legitimacy discussion, with Anonymous members justifying illegal actions for the sake of justice. Others believe that that kind of actions, i.e. distributed denials of service (DoDS), are counterproductive. Meanwhile, Pirate-style political parties have tried to get the movement to work through political institutions. Participants recognized this as a classical tension within activist groups.
The discussion then moved on to other examples of ‘freedom technologists’ moving towards conventional politics, like the citizen movements in Spain, now governing in big cities like Madrid and Barcelona or the Bernie Sanders campaign in the US. A representative of ‘nerd-friendly’ politics in Australia would be Scott Ludlam, Federal Senator for the Greens. John Postill 3MP theory the forging and spread of post-Global Financial Crisis (GFC) social uprisings is a useful framework to explain the transition from freedom technologist activism to social movements and conventional politics. The theory exposes the instrumental role of ‘nerds’ and specialized journalists and lawyers in this transition. Interestingly, the presence of anthropologists has not been that strong in these environments.
Back to Freedom technologists series…