Alec Empire, one of the founders of music collective Atari Teenage Riot, gave the keynote speech at the annual event of Chaos Computer Club 2014. The artist, who uses an old Atari 1040 ST for his compositions, talks about a variety of topics ranging from the beauty found in machine code and sheet music to the connections between the fight for privacy and the promotion of authors’ rights.
Drawing upon his personal experiences with streaming services and censorship in the music industry, he speaks out against passive consumerism and for an alliance between hackers, musicians and other artists to shape the digital culture of the future.
In 2013, blog author and security expert Bruce Schneier was invited by google to give a talk as part of the “Authors at Google” series. Under the title “Liars and Outliers”, Schneier compared our use of technology and our relationship to tech companies to medieval feudalism, where the weak give up their rights for the promise to be protected by the powerful. He links this concept to the average user’s inability to control their own devices, and to the power amassed by almost monopolist corporations and service providers.
At the SXSW conference 2014 in Austin (Texas), Edward Snowden addressed the tech community, encouraging them to play the role of ‘firefighters’ who have the ability to craft solutions and make society safer. Answering questions submitted via twitter, he reflects on differences between data mining done by companies and governmental surveillance, the role of private contractors to the development of policies, and steps everyone can take to counter mass surveillance.
Laura Poitras talks about “Citizenfour”, her documentary about Edward Snowden, the NSA, and surveillance that won the `Academy Award´. Yes, this is what professionals also call the Oscar - it is now official that the arts have, after many years of activists risking their sanity, freedom and their families, joined the new clash of cultures on the sensitive and progressive side. During a Q&A at the 52nd New York Film Festival, she recalls her transformation from a documentary journalist into an activist during the production of the film that narrates her stay with Glenn Greenwald and Snowden in a hotel in Hong Kong.
Citizenfour won the 2014 Gotham Independent Film Award for Best Documentary and the International Documentary Association award for best documentary feature. It was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature for 2015. (our first update from February, 2015: “It has won the Oscar in this category.)
What would Marshall McLuhan think about the way the internet has evolved during the last decades? This interview followed days of presentation and discussion at the Ars Electronica symposium on the topic of Origins in 2011, the year of Marshall McLuhan’s 100th anniversary. There, lead scientists of the Large Hadron Collider experiment at CERN, Geneva, explained their technical set-up, their middle- and long-term research goals and discussed their possible significance with other scientists and philosophers. Derrick de Kerckhove sits down with Leo Findeisen to discuss how Marshall McLuhan might have reacted to the state of the art in experimental physics. McLuhan has been one the founders of Media Theory as we know and de Kerckhove has been his long-time assistant back in the days.
* How would you explain the relevance of McLuhan´s work to a fourteen-year-old, a member of the Always-On generation that lives a digital life at the current stage of the information revolution?
* Would McLuhan have laughed about the fact that the World Wide Web was a technical spin-off from physicists at CERN, yet has lead up to developments like WikiLeaks and the current Jasmin-Revolution in Tunisia?
* And, if in CERN, McLuhans prediction of 1962 that the next medium will make ‘humans hold all times in our hand’, is validated, what are possible implications to our own cognitive and actual self-navigation at the current state of Quantum Logics?
* What are the implications of McLuhans statement that. ultimately, ‘one has to be a mystic to understand the world’ ? And what is his connection to the Hegelian tradition in philosophy? Why is spirituality nowadays ‘merely a technical problem’?
Groklaw is slang for “to really grasp the world of law”, or in Pamela Jones’s words, a “place where lawyers and geeks could explain things to each other and work together, so they’d understand each other’s work better.”
In this document, a lady well-known in the free world, Pamela Jones, delivers a short message of “thank you” on behalf of thousands of computer geeks and lawyers swarming around their unique online platform, groklaw.net. This sound file is a rare piece of digital history as one will otherwise only find drawings of her or texts by her, she had learned the hard way to be very protective of her privacy.
In 2003, Jones was working as a paralegal, a research assistant, at an US law firm. Being technically minded, she was able to help out fixing problems with the IT infrastructure and was proficient in using both operation systems, Microsoft and Linux. Next to researching cases she had also joined the emergent blogger movement when a major attack on the entire model of Free Software and its legal security was launched: The infamous lawsuit attack by Linux-vendor SCO on Linux and, later, IBM, a novel Linux partner. Their plan was to threaten all Linux users into paying some hundreds of dollars a year because SCO claimed to own the copyright to its historical predecessor, the Unix operating system.
In reaction, Pamela Jones, or “PJ” in short, saw the need to get hackers and lawyers to start talking and learning from each other. Yet the more results their common endeavor would produce, the more unscrupulous the attacks became. Not only is FUD a nuisance to deal with when publicly standing up for freedom in politics, but also in the world of software production. It implies for somebody to willfully create “Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt” against somebody else.
And when, not surprisingly, FUD attacks were soon after launched against her own person, the hackers at groklaw knew how to get her back. They launched a campaign proclaiming that they are “all PJ” and continued to collect counter-proof against the allegations made against Linux in court. Four long years after, in 2007, SCO’s case was finally dismissed, yet also a model of collective effort had been born. Meanwhile, other companies collaborating with the Free and Open Source Software economy like SUN Microsystems or Google got caught up in legal battles around copyright and software patents and found that people at groklaw to help them out as well.
In retrospect, Pamela Jones has been starting one of the most efficient, low-cost and influential examples of self-organized crowd sourcing intelligence in recent years. Every day, thousands of hackers kept on reading her articles, discuss options and collect details of computing history that were needed elsewhere. Especially the news section of groklaw has been used by many members of the Free World in order to keep track of important and funny ongoings, the ones that might actually matter.
Yet the story does not end here. Groklaw had helped to win the legal assault on Linux. Many other cases were pondered, many complicated problems researched and analyzed by many thousands of lawyers and programmers. Six years later, however, on August 20th, 2013, the platform is shut down with one decisive blogpost by Pamela. She starts off by writing about her experience of being robbed during a visit in New York. And she compares it to her change in feelings of groklaw since the Snowden documents revealed the ubiquitous spying on all online communication just some weeks before.
She quotes from the book Private Matters - In Defense of the Personal Life by Janna Malamud Smith that the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at the Harvard Law School is hosting as a document for students to read:
“The totalitarian state watches everyone, but keeps its own plans secret. Privacy is seen as dangerous because it enhances resistance. Constantly spying and then confronting people with what are often petty transgressions is a way of maintaining social control and unnerving and disempowering opposition.”
She does not activate the comment section. She recommends collab.net
The audio file conserves the recorded message by Pamela Jones on the occasion of groklaw.net receiving the Annual Free Software Award for Social Benefit 2007 by the Free Software Foundation, next to Harald Welte from gpl-violations.org.
In a lengthy and dense, yet very understandable interview, two young European intellectuals from Paris and Berlin are dealing with one issue of endangered digital freedom after the other. They count amoung the most knowledgable and experienced analysts of the interplay between political, technical, artistic and private engagement, a crucial quality in these kinds of cultural conflicts. Their ongoing work can be visited at laquadrature.net and netzpolitik.org (in German language). The prolific information video about ACTA that is mentioned can be watched here.
In a rare interview scenario for internationally acclaimed artists, Thom Yorke of Radiohead and Robert de Naja (3D) of Massive Attack are talking about their views on the recent, global phenomenon of the Occupy Movement. They have been playing a Thank-You-concert for the Protagonists of Occupy London on December 6th, 2011, at a newly squatted venue called “Bank of Ideas” that had been used by the bank UBS before. Thom Yorke speaks of the documentary “Inside Job” to have opened his eyes about the conceptual architecture of complexity that the finance systems has construed for itself and believes that most politicians do not understand more than he and are merely told to “mop up” the chaos created by others. “we’re just really proud that our fellow human beings have got their shit together. It’s great.” Thanks for the transcript to @spentrails (on Twitter).
In October 2011, the well-known internet expert Clay Shirky, a professor of New Media at New York University, has given a remarkable lecture on the state of Freedom of the Press in Western democracy. He makes a comparison between the technical, territorial, political and legal implications of the Watergate scandal, the recent publications of Collateral Murder and the documents of Cablegate that were published online by Wikileaks. He concludes that they are inherently different and builds his argument on an analysis of incidents long after the Gutenberg revolution in the 17th century where publications outside of a national territory could not be controlled by its legislation. The future implications for the protection of Freedom of Speech are, however, in no way encouraging in Shirky´s view, he holds that national regulation of Free Speech in democratic countries is at stake. ” (…) this is a dangerous moment for free speech. Not because we know how nation states and post national media environments interact, but because we don’t. (…) And the reaction to that change, the reaction to the enormous increase in free speech as an actual practical capability could leave us in a considerably worse state than we are now. (…) There is a lot of attention paid when thinking about freedom of speech, particularly as regards to the use of the internet, on the world’s autocracies, on Iran, on China, on Cuba. But of course there is nothing new there. (…) The threat we face now is coming from the world’s democracies.” For this, he is giving recent expamples of South Africa or Italy and argues that the mainstream media´s unwillingness to defend its new internet competitors is the most disappointing. If this is not changing, “we have no standing to lecture autocracies” any more. An extensive Question & Answers session concludes this outstanding event at Harvard University.
Daniel Ellsberg is a well known figure in the United States of America as he leaked the so-called Pentagon Papers to the press which lead to the Watergate affair later and forced President Nixon to resign.
He joins students that have just been re-occupying the Sprowl Plaza at the University of California Berkeley, a significant place in the history of the country as the protests against the Vietnam War started exactly there.
Ellsbeg comments might be surprising for most listeners: he confesses that he had lost hope in a betterment of the over-all political situation, but when he say the group decision making of the students who voted for which decisions to take in a democratic manner, he says to have regained hope.
He recalls the recent chain reaction of events that lead to the very situation he is interviewed in: Bradley Manning, the man accused of leaking the Cablegate files, being in detention, the documents themselves inspiring the changes in Tunesia and Egypt. These, in turn, gave rise to the Occupy Movement which spread to Berkeley, where the generational change started in the 1960ies. Ellsberg assertains that a contemporary youth movement can be seen to evolve now.