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24. Freedom technologists: a short reading list

October 15, 2015

Freedom Technologists: Digital Activism and Political Change in the 21st Century (working title), Chapter 2, Freedom Technologists

This is the twenty-fourth post in the freedom technologists series.
See also Directory of freedom technologists 

This selection of key texts is drawn from a bibliography published here on 7 September 2015 — and subsequently updated — in which I brought together a large set of references on a specific category of political actor that I am calling ‘freedom technologists’. By this term I refer to 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 abilities 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), I find that 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 reading list 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).

As always, I’m grateful for any further feedback or information.

Update 17 Oct 2016: The working title of the book is now The Rise of Nerd Politics. The book will explore all four corners, or forms of political action, of a dynamic social world I am calling the nerd politics space, namely digital rights, data activism, social protest and institutional politics.

Keywords (updated 17 Oct 2016): data activism, digital rights, institutional politics, technology, politics, techno-politics, hackers, hacktivism, digital activism, internet activism, digital liberation movement, political change, social protest, techno-libertarians

Benkler, Y. (2011). Free Irresponsible Press: Wikileaks and the Battle over the Soul of the Networked Fourth Estate, A. CR-CLL Rev., 46, 311.

A study of the events surrounding the Wikileaks document releases in 2010 provides a rich set of insights about the weaknesses and sources of resilience of the emerging networked fourth estate. It marks the emergence of a new model of watchdog function, one that is neither purely networked nor purely traditional, but is rather a mutualistic interaction between the two. It identifies the peculiar risks to, and sources of resilience of, the networked fourth estate in a multidimensional system of expression and restraint, and suggests the need to resolve a major potential vulnerability—the ability of private infrastructure companies to restrict speech without being bound by the constraints of legality, and the possibility that government actors will take advantage of this affordance in an extralegal public-private partnership for censorship. Finally, it offers a richly detailed event study of the complexity of the emerging networked fourth estate, and the interaction, both constructive and destructive, between the surviving elements of the traditional model and the emerging elements of the new. It teaches us that the traditional, managerial-professional sources of responsibility in a free press function imperfectly under present market conditions, while the distributed models of mutual criticism and universal skeptical reading, so typical of the Net, are far from powerless to deliver effective criticism and self-correction where necessary. The future likely is, as the Guardian put it, “a new model of co-operation” between surviving elements of the traditional, mass-mediated fourth estate, and its emerging networked models.418 The transition to this new model will likely be anything but smooth. [Nerd politics domain: data activism].

Beyer, J. L. (2014b). The emergence of a freedom of information movement: Anonymous, WikiLeaks, the Pirate party, and Iceland. Journal of ComputerMediated Communication, 19(2), 141-154.

Online rhetoric about the Internet’s potential to change society, the need to reform intellectual property laws, and the evils of censorship is becoming increasingly similar across sites. The push for “freedom of information” is not restricted to online spaces, but it appears to be born from such spaces, with the concept itself shaped by the presence of the Internet and its effect on networked societies. Focusing on WikiLeaks, the Pirate Party, Anonymous, and Iceland, I describe the emerging coalescence of “freedom of information” advocates pushing for a simultaneous liberalization and homogenization of freedom of information regulations across democracies. [Nerd politics domains: data activism, institutional politics].

Brevini, B., Hintz, A., & McCurdy, P. (Eds.). (2013). Beyond WikiLeaks: implications for the future of communications, journalism and society. Palgrave Macmillan.

Revelations published by the whistleblower platform WikiLeaks, including the releases of U.S. diplomatic cables in what became referred to as ‘Cablegate’, put WikiLeaks into the international spotlight and sparked intense about the role and impact of leaks in a digital era. Beyond WikiLeaks opens a space to reflect on the broader implications across political and media fields, and on the transformations that result from new forms of leak journalism and transparency activism. A select group of renowned scholars, international experts, and WikiLeaks ‘insiders’ discuss the consequences of the WikiLeaks saga for traditional media, international journalism, freedom of expression, policymaking, civil society, social change, and international politics. From short insider reports to elaborate and theoretically informed academic texts, the different chapters provide critical assessments of the current historical juncture of our mediatized society and offer outlooks of the future. Authors include, amongst others, Harvard University’s Yochai Benkler, Graham Murdoch of Loughborough University, net activism scholar, Gabriella Coleman, the Director for International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Jillian York, and Guardian editor, Chris Elliott. The book also includes a conversation between philosopher, Slavoj Zizek, and WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, and its prologue is written by Birgitta Jónsdóttir, Icelandic MP and editor of the WikiLeaks video, `Collateral Murder`. [Nerd politics domain: data activism].

Brooke, H. (2011), The Revolution Will Be Digitised: Dispatches from the Information War, London: William Heinemann.

There is more information in the world than ever before – but who’s in control? At the centre sits the Establishment: governments, corporations and powerful individuals who have more knowledge about us, and more power, than ever before. Circling them is a new generation of hackers, pro-democracy campaigners and internet activists who no longer accept that the Establishment should run the show. Award-winning journalist and campaigner Heather Brooke takes us inside the Information War and explores the most urgent questions of the digital age: where is the balance between freedom and security? In an online world, does privacy still exist? And will the internet empower individuals, or usher in a new age of censorship, surveillance and oppression? [Nerd politics domains: data activism, digital rights].

Chadwick, A. and Collister, S. (2014). Boundary-Drawing Power and the Renewal of Professional News Organizations: The Case of The Guardian and the Edward Snowden NSA Leak. International Journal of Communication, 8, 22.

The Edward Snowden National Security Agency leak of 2013 was an important punctuating phase in the evolution of political journalism and political communication as media systems continue to adapt to the incursion of digital media logics. The leak’s mediation reveals professional news organizations’ evolving power in an increasingly congested, complex, and polycentric hybrid media system where the number of news actors has radically increased. We identify the practices through which The Guardian reconfigured and renewed its power and which enabled it to lay bare highly significant aspects of state power and surveillance. This involved exercising a form of strategic, if still contingent, control over the information and communication environments within which the Snowden story developed. This was based upon a range of practices encapsulated by a concept we introduce: boundary-drawing power. [Nerd politics domain: digital rights].

Coleman, E.G. (2011). Hacker politics and publics. Public Culture, 23(3 65), 511-516.

This article examines some of the attributes that mark geek and hacker politics as distinct from other domains of digitally based activism and offers an introductory framework to assess their political significance. [Nerd politics domain: data activism].

Coleman, E.G. (2014). Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous. Verso Books.

John Postill review: The past five years have seen a global flourishing of political initiatives in which tech-minded actors of different kinds (geeks, hackers, bloggers, online journalists, citizen politicians, etc.) have played prominent roles. From whistleblowing to online protests, from occupied squares to anti-establishment parties, these ‘freedom technologists’ can no longer be dismissed, particularly after Edward Snowden’s revelations about the surveillance abuses of America’s NSA and allied agencies. Based on long-term anthropological fieldwork, Gabriella Coleman’s Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy, is a riveting account of one these new collective actors: Anonymous. https://rmit.academia.edu/JohnPostill/Book-Reviews [Nerd politics domain: data activism].

Croeser, S. (2012). Contested technologies: The emergence of the digital liberties movement. First Monday, 17(8).

The digital liberties movement is an emerging social movement that draws together activism around online censorship and surveillance, free/libre and open source software, and intellectual property. This paper uses the social movement literature’s framework to build an understanding of the movement, expanding the dominant framework by including a focus on the networks which sustain the movement. While other communities and movements have addressed these issues in the past, activists within the digital liberties movement are beginning to build a sense of a collective identity and a master frame that ties together these issues. They are doing this in online spaces, including blogs, and through campaigns around landmark issues, which also help to build the network which the movement relies upon. The 2012 campaign against the U.S. Stop Online Piracy Act has highlighted the movement’s strength, but will also, perhaps, raise challenges for digital liberties activists as they confront the tension between attempts to disavow politics and a profoundly political project. [Nerd politics domain: digital rights].

Deibert, R. J. (2013). Black code: Inside the battle for cyberspace. Signal.

As cyberspace develops in unprecedented ways, powerful agents are scrambling for control. Predatory cyber criminal gangs such as Koobface have made social media their stalking ground. The discovery of Stuxnet, a computer worm reportedly developed by Israel and the United States and aimed at Iran’s nuclear facilities, showed that state cyberwar is now a very real possibility. Governments and corporations are in collusion and are setting the rules of the road behind closed doors. This is not the way it was supposed to be. The Internet’s original promise of a global commons of shared knowledge and communications is now under threat. Drawing on the first-hand experiences of one of the most important protagonists in the battle — the Citizen Lab and its global network of frontline researchers, who have spent more than a decade cracking cyber espionage rings and uncovering attacks on citizens and NGOs worldwide — Black Code takes readers on a fascinating journey into the battle for cyberspace. [Nerd politics domain: digital rights].

Diamond, L., & Plattner, M. F. (2012). Liberation technology: Social media and the struggle for democracy. JHU Press. http://hci.stanford.edu/courses/cs047n/readings/diamond-libtech.pdf

The revolutions sweeping the Middle East provide dramatic evidence of the role that technology plays in mobilizing citizen protest and upending seemingly invulnerable authoritarian regimes. A grainy cell phone video of a Tunisian street vendor’s self-immolation helped spark the massive protests that toppled longtime ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and Egypt’s “Facebook revolution” forced the ruling regime out of power and into exile. While such “liberation technology” has been instrumental in freeing Egypt and Tunisia, other cases—such as China and Iran—demonstrate that it can be deployed just as effectively by authoritarian regimes seeking to control the Internet, stifle protest, and target dissenters. This two-sided dynamic has set off an intense technological race between “netizens” demanding freedom and authoritarians determined to retain their grip on power.

Liberation Technology brings together cutting-edge scholarship from scholars and practitioners at the forefront of this burgeoning field of study. An introductory section defines the debate with a foundational piece on liberation technology and is then followed by essays discussing the popular dichotomy of “liberation” versus “control” with regard to the Internet and the sociopolitical dimensions of such controls. Additional chapters delve into the cases of individual countries: China, Egypt, Iran, and Tunisia. This book also includes in-depth analysis of specific technologies such as Ushahidi—a platform developed to document human-rights abuses in the wake of Kenya’s 2007 elections—and alkasir—a tool that has been used widely throughout the Middle East to circumvent cyber-censorship. Liberation Technology will prove an essential resource for all students seeking to understand the intersection of information and communications technology and the global struggle for democracy. Contributors: Walid Al-Saqaf, Daniel Calingaert, Ronald Deibert, Larry Diamond, Elham Gheytanchi, Philip N. Howard, Muzammil M. Hussain, Rebecca MacKinnon, Patrick Meier, Evgeny Morozov, Xiao Qiang, Rafal Rohozinski, Mehdi Yahyanejad. [Nerd politics domains: social protest, data activism].

Doctorow, C. 2012 The problem with nerd politics, The Guardian, 15 May 2012, http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2012/may/14/problem-nerd-politics

If people who understand technology don’t claim positions that defend the positive uses of technology, if we don’t operate within the realm of traditional power and politics, if we don’t speak out for the rights of our technically unsophisticated friends and neighbours, then we will also be lost. Technology lets us organise and work together in new ways, and to build new kinds of institutions and groups, but these will always be in the wider world, not above it. [Nerd politics domain: digital rights, institutional politics].

Fernández-Delgado, F. C., & Balanza, M. T. V. (2012). Beyond WikiLeaks: The Icelandic Modern Media Initiative and the Creation of Free Havens. International Journal of Communication, 6, 24.

On June 16, 2010, the Icelandic Parliament unanimously approved the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), a legislative package that turns the concept of “tax haven” on its head by offering fundamental protections for free speech and freedom of expression. This article offers a general picture of the political context in which the IMMI is set and describes the core free speech concerns identified in it as well as the legal reforms put forward to tackle them. To conclude, we examine both the possible legal implications of the IMMI and its general significance for the emergence of the networked public sphere in general and of the networked fourth estate in particular. [Nerd politics domain: digital rights].

Freedom House (2015) Freedom on the Net 2015.

Freedom on the Net 2015 finds internet freedom around the world in decline for a fifth consecutive year as more governments censored information of public interest while also expanding surveillance and cracking down on privacy tools: Content removals increased: Authorities in 42 of the 65 countries assessed required private companies or internet users to restrict or delete web content dealing with political, religious, or social issues, up from 37 the previous year; Arrests and intimidation escalated: Authorities in 40 of 65 countries imprisoned people for sharing information concerning politics, religion or society through digital networks; Surveillance laws and technologies multiplied: Governments in 14 of 65 countries passed new laws to increase surveillance since June 2014 and many more upgraded their surveillance equipment; Governments undermined encryption, anonymity: Democracies and authoritarian regimes alike stigmatized encryption as an instrument of terrorism, and many tried to ban or limit tools that protect privacy. [Nerd politics domain: digital rights].

Goggin, G., McLelland, M., Lee, K., Frances, S., Tkach, L., Tamura, T., & Yu, H. (2013). Internet Activism in Asia-Pacific: A Comparative, Cultural History. Selected Papers of Internet Research, 3.

As the internet has become a central delivery platform across contemporary mediascapes, activism around internet access, freedom, censorship, and openness has become more prominent. As internet freedom gathers momentum as a global media policy concept and movement, it is important to interrogate the terms in which it is constructed and understood. All too often, and certainly evident in these recent moves, is a strong, normative sense in which North American concepts of internet, media, activism and even ‘freedom’ shape the boundaries and modes of contemporary debates, policy frameworks, and action. Against this backdrop, this paper seeks to reframe contemporary notions of internet freedom, their politics, publics, actors, and movements. Drawing from the wider project on Asia-Pacific internet histories, this paper presents three case studies of internet activism –– respectively in Australia, South Korea, and Japan. [Nerd politics domain: digital rights].

Greenwald, G. (2014). No place to hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the US surveillance state. Metropolitan Books.

Going beyond NSA specifics, Greenwald […] takes on the establishment media, excoriating their habitual avoidance of adversarial reporting on the government and their failure to serve the interests of the people. Finally, he asks what it means both for individuals and for a nation’s political health when a government pries so invasively into the private lives of its citizens—and considers what safeguards and forms of oversight are necessary to protect democracy in the digital age. Coming at a landmark moment in American history, No Place to Hide is a fearless, incisive, and essential contribution to our understanding of the U.S. surveillance state. – See more at: http://glenngreenwald.net/#sthash.jyvVBmZB.dpuf [Nerd politics domain: digital rights].

Hintz, A. (2013). Dimensions of Modern Freedom of Expression: WikiLeaks, Policy Hacking, and Digital Freedoms. Beyond WikiLeaks: Implications for the Future of Communications, Journalism and Society, 146.

The WikiLeaks project can be placed in the midst of these examples of the use of liberation technology and the various experiences of individuals and movements in advancing free expression, transparency, and social transformation. The leaks platform has bypassed information restrictions, expanded the range of publicly available information, and challenged the leading media players to change their routines and practices. Demonstrating the capacity of technical experts to challenge major powers, WikiLeaks seems to express a broader trend in which the power relations between individuals and institutions are shifting in favour of the former (Grimsson, 2011 ). In that sense, citizen journalism, the Arab Spring, and WikiLeaks may confirm some of the predictions of cyber-libertarians and techno-utopians, who have long criticized traditional institutions as outdated and have praised the power of individuals in cyberspace (Barlow, 1996). However, this reading of recent events may be premature. Just as social media have been used by activists to advance political change, they have been used by governments to control and deter such action, for example, by identifying protesters (as in Tunisia, Syria, and Iran). Vital online resources and funding streams have been cut to weaken dissident organizations (as happened to WikiLeaks in December 2010 and ever since). [Nerd politics domains: data activism, digital rights, social protest].

Hussain, M. M. (2014). Securing Technologies of Freedom after the Arab Spring: Policy Entrepreneurship and Norms Consolidation Practices in Internet Freedom Promotion. Doctoral dissertation (Ph.D.), University of Washington. https://dlib.lib.washington.edu/researchworks/handle/1773/26059

This dissertation is an investigation of the aftermath of the Arab Spring protests of 2011-2012 and their consequences for impacting contemporary discussions and efforts to promote “internet freedom” by Western democratic states. This study focuses on the key stakeholder communities that have emerged to compete, define, and consolidate the norms and frameworks surrounding internet freedom promotion: state-based, private sector, and civil society actors. This dissertation also describes the rise and failed attempt of civil society stakeholders to infuse democratically-oriented frames for approaching digital infrastructure management with the primary interests of protecting citizen rights and political activists in autocratic states. The political economy of global digital infrastructure regulation is also examined, and the positions of state-based and private sector influences within it are articulated. In doing so, this study identifies a key tech-savvy community of practice that has delineated the most comprehensive opportunities and pitfalls of using digital media tools for democracy promotion, and is struggling to consolidate and enact these practices and norms into policy frameworks. However, these efforts are cast against the competing interests of the technology providers in colluding with repressive and democratic state powers to provide functionally equivalent anti-democratic technocratic capabilities. Thus, this story is parts network analysis, part policy analysis, and part event analysis. Throughout, the proto-regime formation approach to technology policy is emphasized in contrast to existing state-sponsored telecommunications regulatory bodies. [Nerd politics domains: social protest, digital rights].

Kelty C (2008) Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free Software. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

In Two Bits, Christopher M. Kelty investigates the history and cultural significance of Free Software, revealing the people and practices that have transformed not only software but also music, film, science, and education. Free Software is a set of practices devoted to the collaborative creation of software source code that is made openly and freely available through an unconventional use of copyright law. Kelty explains how these specific practices have reoriented the relations of power around the creation, dissemination, and authorization of all kinds of knowledge. He also makes an important contribution to discussions of public spheres and social imaginaries by demonstrating how Free Software is a “recursive public”—a public organized around the ability to build, modify, and maintain the very infrastructure that gives it life in the first place. [Nerd politics domain: none].

Kubitschko, S. (2015b). Hackers’ media practices: Demonstrating and articulating expertise as interlocking arrangements. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 1354856515579847.

The increased level of technical abstractness poses a challenge for laypersons and politicians alike to notice the political impacts specific technical developments might bring. By presenting qualitative research on Europe’s oldest and one of the world’s largest hacker organizations – the Chaos Computer Club (CCC) – the article shows that the CCC acts as a civil society organization that brings together a wide range of knowledge, skills and experiences related to media technologies and infrastructures. By deconstructing the abstractness of a given technology, the CCC materializes its formerly unrecognized political quality. Yet, the political endeavour of closing the expert-public gap, in the interests of public democracy, is only brought to life once the outcomes of a particular hack are communicated in comprehensible manners to diverse publics and audiences. Overall the article points to the emergence of new modes and practices of expertise by conceptualizing the Club’s active demonstration of expertise through hacking and its articulation of expertise through media-related practices and interactions with institutional politics as interlocking arrangements. Today, hackers – and in particular hacker organizations – are best considered actors whose skills, knowledge and experiences are ever more relevant for political cultures and democracy at large. [Nerd politics domains: digital rights, institutional politics].

MacKinnon, R. 2012. Consent of the Networked: The Struggle for Internet Freedom, Basic Books: New York, 2012.

In the early days of the web, some hoped that these two worlds [online and offline] would simply stay apart. In 1996, civil libertarian John Perry Barlow wrote ‘A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace’, which demanded that the governments of the physical world not impinge on the freedom of the digital one. Yet governments and corporations did impinge, with laws, law suits, and censorship. Books by Lawrence Lessig, Shanthi Kalathil and Taylor Boas, Ronald Deibert, and Jonathan Zittrain described how the Internet was regulated, legislated, divided, and monitored. Soon the freedom of the Internet was no longer a fact, but a fragile quality.

Almost 15 years later, in 2010, Secretary of State Clinton gave a speech, which proposed that the US government should promote a free Internet because it had the power to democratize societies by freeing their citizens to publicly dissent and organize. In 2011, journalist Evgeny Morozov made a big splash with his book The Net Delusion , which directly challenged this argument. Morozov counter-argued that the Internet does not particularly empower citizens, and perhaps even empowers repressive governments more through surveillance, propaganda, and censorship.

A year later Rebecca MacKinnon has again shifted the discourse: yes, the Internet does have the capacity to empower citizens and thus increase and improve democracy, but that civic power is under existential threat. MacKinnon also breaks new ground by highlighting the tremendous importance of private firms in determining the political nature of the Internet. Google, Facebook, and their peers have been kind enough to have ‘created a new, globally networked public sphere’, she notes, but that supposedly public sphere is ‘largely shaped, built, owned, and operated by the private sector’ (p. 9). This fact poses a political threat as ‘Internet and telecommunication companies have gained far too much power over citizens’ lives, in ways that are insufficiently transparent or accountable to public interest’ (p. 10). One of her most interesting ideas is that of ‘networked authoritarianism’, the observation that a society’s citizens can be connected to one another and yet remain unfree. China, on which she is an expert, is surely the most skilled practitioner of this new form of governance. ‘Herein lies the paradox of the Chinese Internet’, she writes. ‘Public debate and even some forms of activism are expanding’ while ‘state controls and manipulation tactics have prevented democracy movements from gaining meaningful traction’ (p. 42). [Nerd politics domain: digital rights].

McCarthy, M. T. (2015, June). Toward a Free Information Movement. In Sociological Forum (Vol. 30, No. 2, pp. 439-458).

The past decade witnessed the emergence of numerous Internet-based social justice groups, some of which have readily apparent social roles and follow traditional organizational paths, while others occupy more ambiguous spaces, and blur any clearly demarcated lines of classification. Groups such as Anonymous and WikiLeaks present researchers with difficulty in strict categorization and as such are often labeled in ways that obscure their classification and understanding. Situating these two groups within network society and social movement literatures, this study offers a sociological explanation for the rise of these groups and attempts to knit their disparately understood practices of “hacktivism” and “journalism” together in a coherent framework. Frame analysis is employed to examine how each group attends to core framing tasks, finding that both groups do so in substantially similar ways, employing complementary frames concerning the asymmetrical distribution of information. Moreover, their embeddedness in digital information networks, and their particular opposition to information asymmetry, acts as a unifying thread that enables these apparently disparate actors to be studied within a single analytical framework as part of an emerging digital, peer-produced movement concerned with the asymmetrical distribution of information. [Nerd politics domain: data activism, digital rights].

Milberry, K. (2014). # OccupyTech. In Activist Science and Technology Education (pp. 255-268). Springer Netherlands.

Occupy Wall Street grew rapidly from an internet meme and tent city in the heart of America’s financial sector to a global revolt against neoliberal capitalism. Focusing on economic inequality and corruption in the banking industry, Occupy drew attention to the plight of the majority of people suffering under neoliberal globalization. Its slogan, “We are the 99 %,” references the growing concentration of income and wealth among the top one percent of income earners in the United States. Within weeks, the protest had self-replicated, with occupations cropping up in 900 cities around the world. Evidently, it spoke a common language of hope, rage and refusal that had been unleashed by the Arab Spring almost a year earlier. The internet was crucial to the birth and proliferation of the Occupy Movement, enabling protestors to overcome the initial media embargo against Occupy Wall Street and began airing their concerns via social media. The #Occupy hashtags were powerful signifiers that enabled the ideas, sentiments and spirit of the protest to diffuse, evolving from a movement tactic into a global phenomenon. This chapter traces Occupy’s roots in the recent history of internetworked social movements and examining its dual nature as a simultaneously virtual-physical phenomenon. It considers the essential role of tech activists in building the technical infrastructure of Occupy, using free and open source technology (FOSS) as well as corporate social media to bridge the online/offline divide. Finally, this chapter discusses Occupy as a distributed platform upon which a global super-movement is currently being built. Keywords: Internet • Social movements • Tech activism • Occupy • Philosophy of technology • Social media • Free software [Nerd politics domain: social protest].

Morin, J. F. (2014). Paradigm shift in the global IP regime: The agency of academics. Review of international political economy, 21(2), 275-309.

The global intellectual property (IP) regime is in the midst of a paradigm shift in favour of greater access to protected work. Current explanations of this paradigm shift emphasize the agency of transnational advocacy networks, but ignore the role of academics. Scholars interested in global IP politics have failed to engage in reflexive thinking. Building on the results from a survey of 1679 IP experts, this article argues that a community of academics successfully broke the policy monopoly of practitioners over IP expertise. They instilled some scepticism concerning the social and economic impacts of IP among their students as well as in the broader community of IP experts. They also provided expert knowledge that was widely amplified by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and some intergovernmental organizations, acting as echo chambers to reach national decision makers. By making these claims, this article illustrates how epistemic communities actively collaborate with other transnational networks, rather than competing with them, and how they can promote a paradigm change by generating, rather than reducing, uncertainty. [Nerd politics domain: digital rights].

Morozov, E. (2012). The Net Delusion: The dark side of Internet freedom. PublicAffairs.

Two delusions in particular concern Morozov: “cyber-utopianism”, the belief that the culture of the internet is inherently emancipatory; and “internet-centrism”, the belief that every important question about modern society and politics can be framed in terms of the internet. Put so starkly, such extreme beliefs may sound laughable, yet he sees them in action everywhere: from the misguided belief that Twitter could foment revolution in Iran in 2009 (on the eve of the elections, the country had fewer than 20,000 Twitter users) to the naive hope that instant international exposure via new media will necessarily result in a diminishing of violence in Africa and the Middle East. Moreover, Morozov argues, the west’s reckless promotion of technological tools as pro-democratic agents has provoked authoritarian regimes to crack down on online activity in some style: not just closing down or blocking websites, but using social networks to infiltrate protest groups and track down protesters, seeding their own propaganda online, and generally out-resourcing and out-smarting their beleaguered citizenry. http://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/jan/09/net-delusion-morozov-revie [Nerd politics domain: social protest].

Owen, T. (2015). Disruptive Power: The Crisis of the State in the Digital Age. Oxford   University Press, USA.

Anonymous. WikiLeaks. The Syrian Electronic Army. Edward Snowden. Bitcoin. The Arab Spring. Digital communication technologies have thrust the calculus of global political power into a period of unprecedented complexity. In every aspect of international affairs, digitally enabled actors are changing the way the world works and disrupting the institutions that once held a monopoly on power. No area is immune: humanitarianism, war, diplomacy, finance, activism, or journalism. In each, the government departments, international organizations and corporations who for a century were in charge, are being challenged by a new breed of international actor. Online, networked and decentralized, these new actors are innovating, for both good and ill, in the austere world of foreign policy. They are representative of a wide range of 21st century global actors and a new form of 21st century power: disruptive power. [Nerd politics domains: data activism, digital rights, social protest].

Pieterse, J. N. (2012). Leaking Superpower: WikiLeaks and the contradictions of democracy. Third World Quarterly, 33(10), 1909-1924.

While US government agencies endorse and support the democratic potential of the internet and social media overseas, the criticisms of the WikiLeaks disclosures of US diplomatic cables reveal the bias in relation to transparency and democracy. This poses a wider problem of connectivity combined with hegemony. This paper discusses what the criticisms of the WikiLeaks disclosures reveal. After discussing the enthusiasm about ‘hyperconnectivity’, the paper turns to the WikiLeaks disclosures, and next spells out global ramifications of the leaked cables, the problems of transparency and hegemony, frictions between democracy and democratisation, and the role of banks blocking donations to WikiLeaks. [Nerd politics domain: data activism].

Postigo, H. (2012b). Cultural production and the digital rights movement.         Information, Communication and Society, 15(8), 1165-1185.

The Digital Rights Movement is an effort by activists and advocacy organizations to expand consumer rights in media content use. A central argument for legitimating those rights pivots on a view of culture as a participatory endeavour. This article focuses on the Movement’s use of the discourse of culture and digital technology describing (1) how the Movement positions culture as necessarily participatory; (2) the role of mediating technologies in achieving a culture that is participatory; and (3) the connection of those visions to a discourse of free speech in the form of what is termed here, remix speech. The article suggests that adopting this view of culture and media consumption can result in a politics of participatory culture, where the political economic arrangements of the cultural industries and consumers are realigned. [Nerd politics domain: digital rights].

Postill, J. (2014) Freedom technologists and the new protest movements: a theory of protest formulas, Convergence 20 (3), pp. 402-418.

In this article, I draw from anthropological fieldwork in Spain and secondary research on Tunisia and Iceland to explore the connection between Internet freedom activism and post-2008 protest movements. I introduce two new concepts: ‘freedom technologists’ and ‘protest formulas’. I use the term freedom technologists to refer to those social agents who combine technological and political skills to pursue greater Internet and democratic freedoms, which they regard as being inextricably entwined. Far from being techno-utopians or deluded ‘slacktivists’ (Morozov, 2013, Skoric, 2012), I argue that 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. I also differentiate among freedom technologists, singling out three main specialists for their strong contribution to the new movements, namely hackers/geeks, tech lawyers and online journalists. The second new coinage I develop is protest formulas. This term refers to the unique compound of societal forces and outcomes that characterizes each protest movement – as well as each phase or initiative within a movement. In this article, I track the influence of freedom technologists on emerging protest movements as they interact with other agents within these political compounds. [Nerd politics domains: social protest].

Powers, S. M., & Jablonski, M. (2015). The Real Cyber War: The Political Economy of Internet Freedom. University of Illinois Press.

“As governments, companies, civil society, and other stakeholders struggle towards a new global information and communication order in the post-Snowden world, this equally provocative and important book cuts through the Western rhetoric of ‘Internet freedom’ and draws a sobering picture of how policy-making in this space is ultimately a fight for control over information, which is largely driven by economic and geopolitical interests rather than democratic ideals and human rights.”–Urs Gasser, Executive Director, Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Harvard University

“More comprehensive than most work on global internet politics because it incorporates perspectives from a wider range of interests around the world. The treatment of China is strong, as are the examples from emerging nations.”–Vincent Mosco, author of To the Cloud: Big Data in a Turbulent World. [Nerd politics domain: data activism, digital rights].

Sifry, M. L. (2011). WikiLeaks and the Age of Transparency. OR Books.

Welcome to the Age of Transparency. But political analyst and writer Micah Sifry argues that WikiLeaks is not the whole story: it is a symptom, an indicator of an ongoing generational and philosophical struggle between older, closed systems, and the new open culture of the Internet. “What is new,” he writes, “is our ability to connect, individually and together, with greater ease than at any time in human history. As a result, information is flowing more freely into the public arena, powered by seemingly unstoppable networks of people all over the world cooperating to share vital data and prevent its suppression.” Despite Assange’s arrest, the publication of secret documents continues, and websites replicating WikiLeaks’ activities have sprung up in Indonesia, Russia, the European Union, and elsewhere. As Sifry shows, this is part of a larger movement for greater governmental and corporate transparency: “when you combine connectivity with transparency—the ability for more people to see, share and shape what is going on around them—the result is a huge increase in social energy, which is being channeled in all kinds of directions.” [Nerd politics domain: data activism].

Turner, F. (2006). From counterculture to cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the rise of digital utopianism. University Of Chicago Press.

Fred Turner here traces the previously untold story of a highly influential group of San Francisco Bay–area entrepreneurs: Stewart Brand and the Whole Earth network. Between 1968 and 1998, via such familiar venues as the National Book Award–winning Whole Earth Catalog, the computer conferencing system known as WELL, and, ultimately, the launch of the wildly successful Wired magazine, Brand and his colleagues brokered a long-running collaboration between San Francisco flower power and the emerging technological hub of Silicon Valley. Thanks to their vision, counterculturalists and technologists alike joined together to reimagine computers as tools for personal liberation, the building of virtual and decidedly alternative communities, and the exploration of bold new social frontiers. [Nerd politics domain: digital rights].

 Ziccardi, G. (2012). Resistance, liberation technology and human rights in the digital  age (Vol. 7). Springer Science & Business Media.

This book explains strategies, techniques, legal issues and the relationships between digital resistance activities, information warfare actions, liberation technology and human rights. It studies the concept of authority in the digital era and focuses in particular on the actions of so-called digital dissidents. Moving from the difference between hacking and computer crimes, the book explains concepts of hacktivism, the information war between states, a new form of politics (such as open data movements, radical transparency, crowd sourcing and “Twitter Revolutions”), and the hacking of political systems and of state technologies. The book focuses on the protection of human rights in countries with oppressive regimes. [Nerd politics domains: data activism, digital rights, social protest].

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