politics

Platform Politics Conference

Here's the abstract of my planned contribution to Platform Politics: A Multidisciplinary Conference, - Cambridge 12-13 May 2011.

The Pirate Bay and WikiLeaks. Platforms for radical politics of access

The two defining stories of radical media activism over the last few years have been The Pirate Bay (launched in late 2003) and WikiLeaks (launched in late 2006). The former's aim has been to highlight in the most drastic fashion the inadequacy of the current copyright regime. In order to do so, it established an alternative distribution platform based on free access to media products. WikiLeaks was founded to make possible access to insider information by encouraging whistle-blowers around the world to bring their material to the public, protected via WikiLeaks. Beyond protecting whistle-blowers, WikiLeaks aim has been to transform journalism by forcing it to publish – as much as possible – its sources so that the public can check the veracity of the claims. Its founder, Julian Assange, called this “scientific journalism”.

In my contribution to the conference, I propose look at the politics of these platforms in three ways. First, by analyzing how it has been articulated by the activists themselves. They are distinct from most previous media activists, in so far as they are not directly connected to traditional social movements and their political agendas, but are rooted in the hacker culture and its specific political culture, centering around access to (public) information, transparency of institutions and individual empowerment.

Second, I will look at the politics of the infrastructures. Each was built using open source software that has been adapted with very considerable technical skill. Each has been run by a very small number of people, using very little money (in comparison to what they achieved).

currently operating leaking platforms

Not all of them are actually fully operating, some are still in planning stages, and tunileaks and frenchleaks are, strictly speaking, not a leaking platforms but republish selected US embassy cables released by WikiLeaks. We can see a great deal of innovation in this space, addressing some of the most problematic architectural flaws of WikiLeaks, mainly the high degree of centralization and the lack of transparency that goes with it. Now that the efficacy of the basic principle has been established beyond doubt, the next phase is about fine-tuning the systems. If that can be done inside WikiLeaks, ot or if the next phase will be achieved by any of the alternative platforms remains to be seen, but it seems likely that one way or the other, it will be achieved.

Warum WikiLeaks noch lange interessant sein wird

Ein Kommentar im Falter, Wien (08/2011).

Die Berichterstattung zu WikiLeaks folgt einem bekannten Muster massenmedialer Aufmerksamkeit. Erst ist alles wunderbar und heldenhaft, dann plötzlich skandalös und irgendwie nervig, um schliesslich als eh-nichts-neues wieder ad acta gelegt zu werden. Auch wenn es scheint, dass wir bereits in der dritten Phase angekommen sind, wäre es falsch, jetzt einfach zur Tagesordnung zurück zu kehren.

Personal Web searching in the age of semantic capitalism: Diagnosing the mechanisms of personalisation

I'm very happy, our new paper on the personalization of search results is out now. To our knowledge, it's the first to do empirical research in a systematic way on how personalized results actually differ from non-personalized results and interpret the results within a critical framework.

First Monday > Volume 16, Number 2 - 7 February 2011
Personal Web searching in the age of semantic capitalism: Diagnosing the mechanisms of personalisation.
Martin Feuz, Matthew Fuller, Felix Stalder

Abstract

Autonomy and Control in the Era of Post-Privacy

Open: Post Privavy Cover Researcher Felix Stalder analyses the loss of the key role of the concept of privacy. Privacy long secured the balance between the control of institutions and the autonomy of the citizen. Today, with institutions aiming more and more to provide customized services and the autonomy of both citizens and institutions changing, this role is disappearing, making the danger of an increase in control and power a realistic one. To turn the tide, Stalder argues for a greater transparency of the back-end protocols, algorithms and procedures of the new, flexible bureaucracies.

Source: Open. Cahier on Art and the Public Domain. # 19: Beyond Privacy. New Notions of the Private and Public Domains

One way to characterize Western modernity, the period we are just leaving, is by its particular structure of control and autonomy. It emerged as the result of two historic developments – one leading to large, hierarchic bureaucracies as the dominant form of organization, the other to the (bourgeois, male) citizen as the main political subject. Privacy played a key role in maintaining a balance between the two. Today, this arrangement is unravelling. In the process, privacy loses (some of) its social functions. Post-privacy, then, points to a transformation in how people create autonomy and how control permeates their lives.

3 Aktuelle Podcasts

Zwei Interviews und eine Buchbesprechung
1

Wie das Web 2.0 «Öffentlichkeit» neu definiert
Mit Youtube, Facebook, Google und Co. verändert sich der Begriff der Öffentlichkeit rasant. Der angesehene Soziologe Manuel Castells hat mit seiner Studie «Communication Power» eine umfassende Analyse der Veränderung der Kommunikation und der medialen Öffentlichkeit durch das Web 2.0 vorgelegt. Der Medientheoretiker Felix Stalder, der selber zu den Netzpionieren gehört, kennt Castells Thesen - und diskutiert mit Barbara Basting darüber.
www.drs2.ch Reflexe vom Fr, 9.4.2010, 28. Min.

2

“Deep Search” Politik des Suchens jenseits von Google
Die digitale Explosion konfrontiert uns seit Jahren mit einem regelrechten Daten-Tsunami. Die Suchmaschinen sind es, die uns helfen, diesen Tsunami zu beherrschen. Das Verheerende: Was wir über die Welt wissen, erfahren wir fast immer durch Google. Anders gesagt: Was Google nicht findet, existiert für viele Menschen nicht. Mit dieser Situation und ihren Implikationen beschöftigen sich Medientheoretiker, Kulturwissenschaftler, Soziologen und Politologen im Sammelband “Deep Search – Politik des Suchens jenseits von Google”. Philipp Albers hat das Buch gelesen.
http://breitband.dradio.de 26. März 2010, 10 Min.

Wenn man diese Besprechung mit der Renzension der FAZ vergleicht, muss man sich fragen, wo heute wirklich die Qualitätsmedien liegen.

US Justice Dept. defends warrantless cell phone tracking

The FBI and other police agencies don't need to obtain a search warrant to learn the locations of Americans' cell phones, the U.S. Department of Justice told a federal appeals court in Philadelphia on Friday.

A Justice Department attorney told the Third Circuit Court of Appeals that there is no constitutional problem with obtaining records from cellular providers that can reveal the approximate locations of handheld and mobile devices. (See CNET's previous article.)

Source: CNET

U.S. Spies Buy Stake in Firm That Monitors Blogs, Tweets

Source: Wired.com

In-Q-Tel, the investment arm of the CIA and the wider intelligence community, is putting cash into Visible Technologies, a software firm that specializes in monitoring social media. It’s part of a larger movement within the spy services to get better at using ”open source intelligence” — information that’s publicly available, but often hidden in the flood of TV shows, newspaper articles, blog posts, online videos and radio reports generated every day.
<...>
The intelligence community has been interested in social media for years. In-Q-Tel has sunk money into companies like Attensity, which recently announced its own web 2.0-monitoring service. The agencies have their own, password-protected blogs and wikis — even a MySpace for spooks. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence maintains an Open Source Center, which combs publicly available information, including web 2.0 sites. Doug Naquin, the Center’s Director, told an audience of intelligence professionals in October 2007 that “we’re looking now at YouTube, which carries some unique and honest-to-goodness intelligence…. We have groups looking at what they call ‘citizens media’: people taking pictures with their cell phones and posting them on the internet. Then there’s social media, phenomena like MySpace and blogs.”

OpenNet Initiative

OpenNet Initiative: Covering the state of Censorship and Filtering online

From an interview with Rafal Rohozinski, a founder and principal investigator of the Information Warfare Monitor and the OpenNet Initiative.

One of the more interesting things we've observed in recent years has been the emergence of "third-generation controls". This form of content control stops short of censorship, but rather sees the state (and pro-state groups) engage in active information warfare against their opponents. They use denial of service attacks, and other techniques in order to silence opposition. This approach is interesting, as it allows the state to claim that it is not censoring groups, but the effect is the same. Of course, there is no legal recourse to challenge these practices.

RIAA-funded copyright curriculum

Ars Technica has an article on how the cultural industries are pushing their "copyright curriculum"  into US schools. An much expanded update of that old classic "don't copy that floppy" and similar to Canadian attempt of 2006, Captain Copyright (soon abandoned). Bottom line: it's a disgrace to the very idea of education.

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