Oct 12

The Good the Bad and the Ugly? The many truths of Anonymous.


I haven’t yet decided what I think about Anonymous—the loosely associated hacking collective that randomly pops-up and then and then to oppose internet censorship, corporate domination and what it feels is unjust government. They have been praised as freedom fighters and they have been targeted for their lawless behavior. So, even though I know it’s been done before I’ve decided that I for my individual assignment will focus on the case of Anonymous and their use of hactivism to promote online liberty and independence.

— Irina Bernebring Journiette

Oct 12

Alternative Computing–When Hacking Meets Activism

A part of the assignment we have been given to work with during this course is to write a case study about what we find interesting within the theme of ”New Media Activism.” Being somewhat of a rebellious mind and interested in breaking boundaries and cracking social codes I’ve always found digital codes a fascinating enigma. I’ve hence decided to focus on the phenomenon that occurs when activism meets hacking and merge in to hactivism. The tools of new media have re-invented activism and terms like hactivism, electronic disobedience and the digital frontier are becoming important in the discourse surrounding the ongoing online debate about alternative computing. Hactivist are no longer fringe actors but often attack the digital heart of their opponents. But how do we as ComDev students understand hacktivism?

Well, you will have to return later to read my full essay to get the answer but I can tell you this.

In the words of Jennifer Earl and Katrina Kimport in their work Digitally Enabled Social Change: Activism in the Internet Age, hacktivism means “using hacking related techniques for political ends” (Earl and Kimport, 2011, p.225).  I my words, hacktivism is creative online political action and is an electronic way of intervening in politics. It is a direct way of disrupting power and hence a form of direct action. If, as I do, we believe what is written in Reclaiming the media: communication rights and democratic media roles  that: “direct action is at the core of processes of social change” (Cammaerts & Carpentier, 2007, p.217)—then hacktivism can be interpreted as a core process for social change.

“Bahumbug” you might say. Actually, No! Not really. Here is why. Hacktivism or cyber activism in many cases seem to fight the digital capitalism and monopoly on information. Beyond talking over a site to promote a political idea, hacking is a way of attacking digital gatekeepers—those who withhold, re-write or censor information. By attacking and hindering these gatekeepers the goal is to liberate information and make it accessible to all. By doing so the attackers or hackers also challenge the already predetermined ideas of knowledge that is provided by the government or corporation and communicate their own ideas of knowledge. This means that alternative computing can be a way to reconstruct knowledge and just like Lievrouw describes that common knowledge projects do in Alternative and Activist New Media. Namely to: “reorganize and categorize information in ways that can challenge or reframe the established, expert knowledge classifications of mainstream cultural institutions and disciplines” (Lievrouw, 2011, p.20).

Challenging knowledge is a way of challenging power and perhaps hacktivism can be seen in the light of online anarchy and a way to fight “the dangers of the rise of an information elite exercising absolutist control over a communications system” (Atton, 2002, p.135). Something Chris Atton reflects upon in his book Alternative Media and something I argue could be the outcome if uncensored access to information is denied. In that sense I guess I to some extend can label myself as what Loving and Soenke call “techno determinists”  the in The Incommunicado Reader (2005, p.17). I do believe that the spread of technology equals a spread of development since it provide individuals with the possibility to tap in to the endless stream of communication and information. At the same time I do of course acknowledge the idea that “the effective value of information depends on the user’s ability to interpret it. A higher level of education is fundamental to maximize the potential offered by the Internet” (Loving and Soenke, 2005, p.47).


— Irina Bernebring Journiette

Oct 12

Introducing myself and my views on Internet Freedom

I was doing some minor work the other day when it occurred to me that one way for me to introduce myself and my perspective upon New Media Activism properly would be share some of the opinionated pieces I’ve written for the online think-tank policymic. From the following pieces you should be able to get a good understanding of my own stance within the debate.

UK Communications Data Bill Would Destroy Internet Freedom and Lead Us On the Road to Totalitarianism

“The bill stipulates a further infringement of online privacy, and is without doubt a step towards a more totalitarian, and perhaps down the line authoritarian, online regime. Everyone is now considered a criminal until proven otherwise.”

British government announces plans to monitor emails and website visits

“As surveillance of our offline and online activities increases, the dystopia of the monitoring society seems already upon us. The idea of the thought police might not seem as distant as before.”

Indiana Boy Expelled For Dropping F-Bomb on Twitter Sparks Free Speech Debate

“The right to express oneself and one’s ideas freely is a human right. As stipulated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”

Expelling a young boy might seem trivial, but even the most basic erosion can lead up to erosion of the freedom of thought. What hinders the authorities from seeking out, questioning, and persecuting every individual with unconventional or uncomfortable views?”

— Irina Bernebring Journiette

Oct 12

Understanding New Media Activism

So the directive for this blog and assignment is to reflect upon the topic of New Media Activism. To do so , in my mind, you need to determine: What constitutes “New Media?” What constitutes “Activism?” And how are the two terms related? “Blah, blah, blah” some of you might say, “we already know that.” But just bear with me and let’s pretend that you don’t, so that we can settle on some vague definition that will be the basis for the rest of the material provided by me on this site.

The easiest way to define new media is to claim that new media is everything that is not traditional, or by other words, old media. New media then become media associated with post-millennial technology and communication. However, this definition feels very over-simplistic and perhaps it’s easier to define new media by the features that it embodies, the most important one for the reflections that are to follow–it’s possibilities to be interactive. New media, according to my definition, hence becomes something that turns the spectator into a spect-actor. This is something that Lievrouw in her book, Alternative and Activist New Media, also seem to land in. What she writes is that “New Media” is media that “provides conditions for participation” (Lievrouw, 2011, p.3). With, for example the expansion of and the wider use of, the world wide web, the distance between gaining information of something you find is wrong and acting/partaking to prevent the wrongdoing from continuing has lessened (Lievrouw, 2011, p.14). This idea of participation is in itself a key feature of activism in the form that it’s captured in Reclaiming the media: communication rights and democratic media roles:  “activism (…) represents the practice of struggling for change” (Cammaerts & Carpentier, 2007, p.217). At the same time, however, even though activism always indicates participation, participation does not always indicate activism. Instead it needs to be evaluated on a case-to-case basis to, in the words of Cammaerts and Carpentier, determine “when participation has taken on such a focused, critical mass of energy aimed at attaining specific changes that we would want to label it activism” (2007, p.ix).

So to conclude, my very brief theoretical framework is that: “New Media Activism” is based on focused participation with the goal of attaining specific changes and use media with interactive features to reach it’s goal.

— Irina Bernebring Journiette