Tag Archives: Arab Spring

The Parable of the Coffee Maker and the Design Sir

I’d like to start off with an admittedly grandpa-sounding critique of a piece of technology in my house: My coffee maker’s status lights are too bright. My dad got it for my partner and I this past Christmas and we threw-out-the-box-immediately-wanna-keep it, but the thing has a lighthouse attached to it.  We live in a relatively small (and very old) place and our bedroom is a small room right off the kitchen. The first night we had the coffee maker I thought we had forgotten to turn off the TV.  We don’t really need alarm clocks anymore either, because when it finishes brewing it beeps like a smoke detector. Again, we love the coffee maker (Dad, seriously we love it.) but sometimes it feels like wearing a shoe that was designed for someone with six toes. (more…)

The Politics of Communications Technology

original

It is pretty easy to mistake most technologies as politically neutral. For example, there is nothing inherently radical or conservative about a hammer. Washing machines don’t necessarily impose capitalism on whoever uses one, and televisions have nothing to do with communism. You might hear about communism through television, and there is certainly no shortage of politically motivated programming out there, but you’d be hard-pressed to find someone that says the technology itself has a certain kind of politics. This sort of thinking (combined with other everyday non-actions) is what philosopher of technology Langdon Winner (@langdonw) calls technological somnambulism: the tendency of most people to, “willingly sleepwalk through the process of reconstituting the conditions of human existence.” It is difficult to see the politics in technology because those politics are so pervasive. The fact that technological artifacts have politics is kind of like Call Me Maybe, once you’re exposed, it is hard to get it out of your head. (more…)

The Battle in the Dark: Syria’s Communication Blackout

Via Renesys
http://www.renesys.com/blog/2012/11/syria-off-the-air.shtml

  *12/01/2012: SEE UPDATE BELOW ORIGINAL POST*

Today (Thursday November 29, 2012), Syria’s internet shut down. This is a serious situation with literal life and death implications. We have been following the situation on the Cyborgology Facebook page since the story broke (largely, this consisted of seeing what was going on with Andy Carvin @acarvin). Much of this story has yet to play out, and we will certainly continue to follow/write about it as events progress and we learn more. Right now, I want to take a moment to explore one aspect of what this all means. Namely, I want to explore the question: why did the internet shut off now? To do so, I turn to Derrick Bell’s interest convergence theory. (more…)

#TtW12 Keynote: Who is Andy Carvin?

This is part of a series of posts highlighting the Theorizing the Web conference, April 14th, 2012 at the University of Maryland (inside the D.C. beltway). See the conference website for information as well as event registration.

Experiencing global events through social media has become increasingly common. For those in the West, the uprisings over the past few years in the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere were especially striking because social media filled an information void created by the lack of traditional journalists to cover the dramatic events. By simply following a hashtag on Twitter, we tuned into those on the scene, shouting messages of revolution, hope, despair, carnage, persistence, misinformation, debate, sadness, terror, shock, togetherness; text and photos bring us seemingly closer to the events themselves.

But of course the Twitter medium is not neutral. It has shaped what we see and what we do not. Where is the truth in all of this? The intersection of knowledge, power, struggle and the radically new and transformative power of social media begs for intense theorizing. How we conceptualize, understand, define and talk about this new reality lays the path forward to better utilizing social media for journalistic and political purposes.

This is why the keynote for Theorizing the Web 2012 conference (College Park, MD, April 14th) features Andy Carvin (NPR News) and Zeynep Tufekci (UNC) in conversation. Carvin (@acarvin) has become well known for his innovative use of Twitter as a journalistic tool. Tufekci (@techsoc) has emerged as one of the strongest academic voices on social movements and social media and brings a theoretical lens to help us understand this new reality. Together, insights will be made that have impact beyond just journalism but to all researchers of technology as well as those outside of academic circles.

Who is Andy Carvin; and What Do We Call Him?

Without a deep background in professional journalism, Carvin’s actual title at NPR is “Senior Strategist.” However,  (more…)

Limbaugh’s Social Media Problem

Rush Limbaugh is experiencing an advertiser exodus, and social media is playing a big part.

It’s the kind of story that writes itself. A popular media entity, on one of the oldest forms of electronic mass media, bears the brunt of activists’ Facebook wrath. It combines two old rivalries: liberals and conservatives and new media versus old media. In case you missed it, here’s the brief synopsis of events from ABC news:

Rush Limbaugh remains in big trouble. Advertisers – 11 at last count – are pulling spots off his radio talk show because of the reaction to his calling Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute.” Opponents are mobilizing on social media for a long campaign to try to convince even more sponsors to drop his program. Ms. Fluke herself has rejected as insufficient Mr. Limbaugh’s attempts at apology

Fluke had testified before congress about the importance of “the pill” for medical uses beyond birth control. Rush concluded that she was having so much sex that she needed the American tax payer to help defer the cost of her contraceptives. (This has led to some speculation that conservatives don’t know how hormonal birth control works.) Thousands of people are organizing to get advertisers to pull their money out of Rush Limbaugh’s show, and many of them are organizing via Twitter and Facebook. Will we be subjected to another round of technologically deterministic news stories about “cyber revolution,” or are we going to have a more nuanced conversation? More precisely, does Rush have a social media problem or has he -all things being equal- just gone too far this time? (more…)

On The Flow of Tweets: Private Interests and Public Speech


I took the liberty of making a new meme: "Censorship Sandworm". http://memegenerator.net/Censorship-Sandworm

“I must rule with eye and claw — as the hawk among lesser birds.”

-Duke Leo Atreides in Book 1: Dune

Over a week ago, Twitter announced a new censorship policy, stating that it would comply with any “valid and applicable legal request” to take down tweets. The announcement came just as we were still digesting Google’s unified privacy policy and were still debating the (now confirmed) rumors that Facebook was releasing an IPO. Twitter has since been applauded, denounced, and dissected by a variety of scholars, media critics, and business leaders. In this post I will give a brief summary of the controversy, briefly weigh in with a commentary of my own, and conclude with a discussion of what all this means for theorizing online social activity.

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This Blog is Not a Fungus

Kurt Anderson, writer, critic, and public intellectual

I share David Sasaki’s sentiments when he says,

Along with David BrooksJeffrey Goldberg, and Jad AbumradKurt Anderson belongs to my select fraternity of idealized, intellectual American man-crush.

But while Sasaki is disappointed with Anderson’s “Person of the Year” article, I am concerned about his recent article in Vanity Fair titled “You Say You Want a Devolution.” Anderson contends that the past 20 years have seen a total stagnation in the production of new cultural aesthetics. In other words, the end of the 50s looked nothing like the end of the 70s, but 1989 looks remarkably similar to 2009. Anderson concludes:

We seem to have trapped ourselves in a vicious cycle-economic progress and innovation stagnated, except in information technology; which leads us to embrace the past and turn the present into a pleasantly eclectic for-profit museum; which deprives the cultures of innovation of the fuel they need to conjure genuinely new ideas and forms; which deters radical change, reinforcing the economic (and political) stagnation.

This is concerning, since that means the entirety of our blog is nothing more than the fungal growth sitting upon the neutral technological substrate that we impregnate with decaying cultures of past decades. Tattoos, Facebook, Burning Man, the iPhone, Twitter, sex dolls, wifi, internet memes, reality TV, geek culture, hipsters, video gamesfaux-vintage photographs, and dubstep are all popular topics on our blog, and (along with blogging itself) are products of the last 20 years. Anderson assumes that cultural objects are made possible through technology, but refuses to admit that technologies can also be cultural objects in and of themselves. (more…)

Everything New is Old Again: Historical Augmented Revolution

Occupy Berlin!

With all the rhetoric around “Facebook Revolutions” and “Twitter Revolutions”1 that we’ve had to endure over the last couple of years, it’s easy to get the sense that there’s something new about the character of contemporary political protest and revolutionary action, and that this newness is, in some fundamental way, the practical result of the omnipresent nature of technology. It’s difficult to miss the profound interweaving and enmeshing of the physical and digital aspects of protest as we see it in both the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street – the weight of the protests produced by the occupation of physical space by gathered human bodies, coupled with the constant documentation and nearly instantaneous sharing of images, video, and text that have chronicled these physical occupations and arguably helped them to grow – in short, the augmented nature of contemporary social action. We see this and to us it feels new. Even if we recognize that there are old things at work here – symbolism, patterns of mobilization and diffusion, pieces of the past reclaimed for the purpose of the present – we at least feel instinctively that there is something novel about the Arab Spring, Occupy, and all the other movements and events that have birthed themselves in correlation.

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#OWS and the Formation of Rhizomatic Associations

Zuccotti Park before a march

Last week I went down to Zuccotti Park out of an overwhelming desire to be a part of something intensely important. One of my professors  compared the occupation of Wall Street to People’s Park in Berkley, California. He also sees strong connections to the ongoing hacktivist activities in Spain. OccupyWallst.org draws their tactics explicitly form the Arab Spring. I have waited so long to write something about my own experiences because, frankly, it almost feels too personal. So, if you’ll indulge me, this post is going to be a little different from the ones I’ve written in the past.

While the major news outlets try desperately to shoehorn OWS into existing frames, smaller outlets have provided excellent commentary and insight. Jenny Davis was the first on this blog to write about the movement’s use of social media. Since her insightful post, social media has proven to be an effective tool in revealing police brutality and even possible entrapment by the NYPD. The various Twitter backchannels have been instrumental in organizing and publicizing the organization – as well as the results- of major protests. Nathan has also done an excellent job of discussing the relationship of online and offline action. And yesterday’s post by Sarah Wanenchak describes exactly my feelings on the confluence of various forms of technology. There truly is no easy way to describe the feeling you get when you hear the people’s mic for the first time. It is a little difficult to master, but a truly powerful tool.

Having participated in (more…)

#Occupywallstreet: Social Media as a Strategic Frame

On September 17th, Wall Street was occupied. It was occupied by the bodies of about 500 protesters. The protests, aimed at the unjust hierarchical distribution of resources, were explicitly modeled after the Arab Spring, utilizing social media and a “leaderless” structure to organize a democratic revolution. Unlike the reality of the Arab Spring, however, protesters were asked to remain peaceful as they occupy downtown Manhattan for months to come. They aim to swell their numbers up to 20,000 or more.

What I find interesting about this, is the strategic emphasis on spontaneity, the romanticizing of the grass roots element, and framing, by organizers, of this event as something of a “social media” revolution. This is interesting because these protests are highly organized–not spontaneous. Organizers even went through a “practice run” before the day of the main event. Moreover, the protests do not stem from a small group of renegade revolutionaries, but are linked to established organizations–especially Adbusters, who launched the call for this protest months in advance. 

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