Academics usually do not talk about “tactics.” There are theories, methods, critiques, but we -as professionals-rarely feel comfortable advocating for something as unstable or open to interpretation as a tactic. In the latest edition of the Science, Technology, and Human Values (The flagship journal for Society for Social Studies of Science) three authors threw caution to the wind and published the paper “Postcolonial Computing: A Tactical Survey“ [over-priced subscription required]. While the content of the paper is excellent, what excited me the most was their decision to describe their new “bag of tools” as a set of tactics. Kavita Philip, Lilly Irani, and Paul Dourish take a moment in their conclusion to reflect on their decision:
We call our results tactics, rather than methodologies, strategies, or universal guarantors of truth. Tactics lead not to the true or final design solution but to the contingent and collaborative construction of other narratives. These other narratives remain partial and approximate, but they are irrevocably opened up to problematization.
I will employ the language and approach of the “tactical survey” to offer a new set of conceptual tools for understanding augmented protest and revolution. It is my aim that they prove useful for activists as well as academics and journalists following Occupy Wall Street and similar movements. This first part focuses on the intersections of transparency, social media, privilege, and public depictions of protest. Part 2 will cover the utilization of corporate technological systems (e.g. Apple products, Twitter) and building alternatives to those systems (e.g. Vibe, Diaspora). These tactics are forged from observations (first hand and otherwise) of the #OWS movement. They are intentionally abstract, because they are menat to apply to a wide range of instances and scenarios. (more…)
Marc Smith of the Social Media Research Foundation analyzed twitter associations of Occupy Wall Street tweets and found a viral, highly decentralized network of individuals. They compared this to the Tea Party, which had a much more centralized group dynamic.
Americans have gotten so good at being consumers that it almost seems hackneyed to acknowledge such a thing. I say “almost” because there are still wonderfully interesting things being said in some literary and academic circles that continually find deeper levels of meaning in the seemingly shallow end of the societal pool. Our near-perfect systems of consumption not only make it technically possible to exchange beautifully designed plastic gift cards,but it makes it socially acceptable as well. A gift-giver can reliably assume that the recipient a thousand miles away has access to the same stores, with almost the exact same products. The gift-giver can also assume a certain level of homogeneity about gift-giving practices. Most of us share a set of common beliefs about what constitutes a good gift: It should, relate to our interests, be useful, carry sentimental value, reflect the nature of a relationship, provide entertainment, and/or fill a need. When you give a gift card, you are acknowledging the need or want, but allowing the receiver to specify its final material (or digital) form. This system relies on stability and uniformity to function smoothly. There must be a common culture, as well as a reliable stream of goods and services. But such stability is becoming less, and less likely. Whether it is peak energy, financial collapse, or a little bit of both- our world is becoming less predictable and the systems that rely on steady streams of capital and petroleum are breaking down. In their place, we might begin to find self-organizing systems that are not only more efficient, but also much more just forms of resource distribution. (more…)
A modern day panopticon. Photo by Nathan Jurgenson.
The first post I wrote for Cyborgology concluded that many of the dominant socio-technical systems in our world look and behave in a similar fashion. The entertainment industry, advanced military surveillance, search algorithms, and academic reference tools are swapping hardware and best practice in such a way that the carrying out of a military invasion, or the Super Bowl begins to look disturbingly similar. Around the time that I wrote that post, USAToday ran a disturbingly cheerful story about police departments’ desire to acquire similar technology. Miami’s police department acquired the Honeywell’s T-Hawk Micro Air Vehicle (MAV) a few moths later. The only regulations that prevented the MPD (or any police force) from acquiring such technology were FAA regulations about where and how it could be flown. Such acquisitions have gone largely unquestioned by the media as well. In fact, local coverage of the purchase was supportive. A local CBS affiliate led with the headline, “Dade Cops Waiting To Get Crime Fighting Drone Airborne.” This all seems very bleak, but just as powerful actors have increased their abilities to engage in surveillance, the individual has more tools than ever to watch the watchers. (more…)
Just a quick Sunday post- At the beginning of this month, a U.S. Appeals Court ruled that filming police officers is protected under the first amendment. As we have covered before, social networking sites are very powerful tools for protestors. They are organizational tools for peaceful protest, they provide safety to those that wish to get out of dangerous situations, and they also broadcast the events of protests beyond their geophysical boundaries. Now that capturing video won’t land you in jail (or on the pavement) I think we are seeing some important citizen footage of the #OccupyWallSt Protests. The major news outlets have largely failed to cover them, but maybe our online platforms can get the word out. Until, of course, they start censoring protest as well.
The Anonymous Twitter Feed Announcing the NATO Breach
On July 21st, 2011, Anonymous—the 4chan-associated hacker collective with a cyber-libertarian bent—announced that they had breached NATO’s secure database and retrieved roughly a gigabyte of restricted data. To verify their claim, Anonymous posted a “NATO restricted” document to Twitter. Interestingly, Anonymous has been very cautious in leaking the documents it has obtained, publicly declaring that it would be “irresponsible” to publish most of it. Much of what has be published is “Redacted, for sanity.” (more…)
Citizen-generated film footage – from the Zapruder film, to the Rodney King beating, to 9/11 – has long served an important role in shaping media narratives around major news events. Yet, with the recent advent of smartphones, virtually everyone will soon have the ability to film public events at virtually anytime. What many people do not realize is that the legality filming other people varies widely from state-to-state. Massachusetts and Illinois, for example, both have strict laws about filming without consent, even in public.
Nevertheless, the technologies are increasingly being used by everyday citizens to record interactions with those in positions of authority. This trend is often described as sousveillance (meaning observation from below). For some people, this instinct to record of seemingly significant events has become almost second nature. Consider the recent video from Casey Neistat, who immediately pulled out a camera when stopped by an officer while biking. (more…)
We live in a cyborg society. Technology has infiltrated the most fundamental aspects of our lives: social organization, the body, even our self-concepts. This blog chronicles our new, augmented reality.