21
Oct 12

Free at Last?

Something Wendy Hui Kyong Chun writes in the introduction to Control and Freedom Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics in an interesting way sums up the dichotomy between just the struggle for freedom (that one might argue Anonymous undertakes) on one hand and the struggle for control (let’s say the state wants control) on the other hand: “Although ideologies and practices of freedom and control are not new, the coupling of these term is uniquely tied to information technology and our current political situation” (2006, p.1). Some argue that the Internet have lead us into an era of freedom whereas others argue it has pushed us towards a greater control. “Control-freedom,” the two are terms clearly connected with each other and are both possible directions that the continued development of the Internet can take. “Paranoid narratives of total surveillance and total freedom are the poles of control-freedom, and are symptomatic of a larger shift in power relations from the rubric of discipline and liberty to that of control and freedom” (2006, p.6).

So the question is if there can be harmony? And if we even want to strive for harmony! As you might have noted I strongly believe in the freedom that Internet can provide one with. But is it even possible to break free from control? Well. “Yes,” Chun argues–Freedom cannot be controlled and new media provides us with “possibilities for a freedom beyond control” (2006, p.2).  She goes on to describe it by interpreting the ideas of Lawrence Lessig presented in the work Code: And Other Laws of Cyberspace (1999) by claiming that freedom means free code, if code cannot be owned then it’s difficult to control, in other words: “to ensure democracy, code must not be owned” (Chun, 2006, p.67). This of course relates back to my previous post about hacktivism, hacktivism is a way to challenge power relations and power. It’s a way of using code to strike back at those who control it as a way to free cyberspace.

This of course leads us to the idea of governance. Can the Internet be governed? And if so, by whom? In the book Multi-Stakeholder Governance and the Internet Governance (2008) Jeremy Malcolm uses the Internet Governance Forum, established in 2005 to provide “a transparent, democratic, and multilateral process (…) for dialogue on Internet Governance policy” (Malcolm, 2008, p.2), as a basis for his reflection upon the topic. Malcolm notes, relating back to ideas of freedom that “modern-day hacker culture (…) in fact [is] largely coincident with open source culture” ( 2008, p.5) and that “all information should be free” (2008, p.216).  But to get back on track, Malcolm argues that governance is not the same as government but rather “management” (2008, p.19).  Which is something that I think most people can agree with, there needs to be some sort of management even in a free world. We are not, just like in real life, allowed to exercise our freedom in a way that infringes upon another individuals freedom.

In the end Malcolm lands in the idea of governance via networks including both state-actors and actors from the private sector as well as, and in my mind most importantly, actors from the civil society, which in Malcolm’s words “has a role in articulating and developing norms” (2008, p.26). Governing or managing the world wide web needs to be a multilateral project and relating back to the ideas of freedom and democracy–a multilateral OSS undertaking.

— Irina Bernebring Journiette


20
Oct 12

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

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HrXyLrTRXso[/youtube]


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


20
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


20
Oct 12

Activism as support? An invitation to write letters to Gottfrid Svartholm.

Pirate Bay founder Gottfrid Svartholm was arrested in late August in Cambodia and later extradited to Sweden. Today his supporters are asked to show their support by writing him letters. The move is interesting to reflect upon in regards to the offline and online relation within new activism. By reaching out to the online community the intention is to have them act in the offline world. And relating to Pirate Bay it’s of course always fascinating to see how online mobilization can lead to offline momentum.

But when we talk about mobilization we need to do a short detour. Mobilization or “mobil(e)isation” is something Joss Hands reflcts upon in her work @ Is for Activism : Dissent, Resistance and Rebellion in a Digital Culture. Mobilization is the move “from gathering to acting” or from “demonstration to direct action” (Hands, 2010, p.124). This movement is something Hands, and other scholars on the topic, mean have changed radically with the growth of our digital culture. Today activists can use a myriad of different devices and networks to “coordinate, organize and disrupt at speed and in numbers” (ibid.) This means that mobilization today can be almost instant, but most important of all according to me–global. Which in turn leads us back to the global support of Svartholm and the Pirate Bay. A global online support that also lead to local offline support which lead to political policy impact.

During the Pirate Bay-trial and the demonstrations and protest that surrounded it several of the organizers of the offline protest, that was mobilized mainly online, were a part of the Swedish Pirate party, a political party founded in 2006, who among other issues is known for its fight for increased freedom in sharing online content. After the verdict in the TPB trial was announced the number of members among the Swedish Pirate Party increased rapidly–which can b interpreted as the online and offline activity leading to political mobilization. During the elections to the European Parliament the following year the Party managed to secure a seat and showed that it had become a part of the Swedish and European policy setting political sphere. The online and offline debate hence helped mobilize support to impact current policy.

 

— Irina Bernebring Journiette


15
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