mfioretti: activism*

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  1. Though Facebook will occasionally talk about the transparency of governments and corporations, what it really wants to advance is the transparency of individuals – or what it has called, at various moments, “radical transparency” or “ultimate transparency”. The theory holds that the sunshine of sharing our intimate details will disinfect the moral mess of our lives. With the looming threat that our embarrassing information will be broadcast, we’ll behave better. And perhaps the ubiquity of incriminating photos and damning revelations will prod us to become more tolerant of one another’s sins. “The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly,” Zuckerberg has said. “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”

    The point is that Facebook has a strong, paternalistic view on what’s best for you, and it’s trying to transport you there. “To get people to this point where there’s more openness – that’s a big challenge. But I think we’ll do it,” Zuckerberg has said. He has reason to believe that he will achieve that goal. With its size, Facebook has amassed outsized powers. “In a lot of ways Facebook is more like a government than a traditional company,” Zuckerberg has said. “We have this large community of people, and more than other technology companies we’re really setting policies.”
    https://www.theguardian.com/technolog...oks-war-on-free-will?CMP=share_btn_tw
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  2. The bubble filter demonstrates the internet as shifting from a tool of global connectivity to individual disconnect; personal opinion becomes fossilised while public discourse withers away. Without meaningful public discourse, the internet exposes us to competing opinions only through (often anonymous) trolling. This is dangerous. With little to no space for productive debate, ideological conflicts are carried out institutionally – as evinced by the onslaught of fake news accusations that characterised the final American presidential debate.

    When we live in bubbles, we forget how to engage and disagree in a civil manner.

    As a product of the neoliberal project, the bubble filter caters to our perceived demands for constant personalised stimulation and to the commodification of the digital experience. We find ourselves further removed from neighbours to whom we occupy distant ideological worlds; we cease to understand each other as we increasingly lack basic exposure to each other. When we live in bubbles, we forget how to engage and disagree in a civil manner. This situation has the potential to normalise extreme polarity and reactionary populism. Left without public forums to negotiate competing worldviews and engage with each other, we should not be surprised if ideological conflicts start to increasingly escalate in violent ways.
    https://www.opendemocracy.net/digital...erm=0_717bc5d86d-5aca16cdcc-407399415
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  3. The sustainability movement has been charged with being elitist—and it most certainly is. You need a fair amount of disposable income to afford ethical and sustainable consumption options, the leisure time to research the purchasing decisions you make, the luxury to turn up your nose at 95% of what you’re offered, and, arguably, a post-graduate degree in chemistry to understand the true meaning behind ingredient labels.
    Choosing fashion made from hemp, grilling the waiter about how your fish was caught, and researching whether your city can recycle bottle caps might make you feel good, reward a few social entrepreneurs, and perhaps protect you from charges of hypocrisy. But it’s no substitute for systematic change.


    Beyond making big lifestyle decisions such as choosing to live in a dense urban area with public transportation, cutting red meat out of your diet, and having fewer children (or none at all), there are diminishing returns to the energy you put into avoiding plastic or making sure your old AAs end up in the appropriate receptacle. Globally, we’re projected to spend $9.32 billion in 2017 on green cleaning products. If we had directed even a third of that pot of money (the typical markup on green cleaning products) toward lobbying our governments to ban the toxic chemicals we’re so afraid of, we might have made a lot more progress by now.
    “It’s a gesture,” Brown says of fretting over these small decisions. “Well-meaning signals that you care about the environment. But the action itself makes no difference.“

    Instead of buying expensive organic sheets, donate that money to organizations that are fighting to keep agricultural runoff out of our rivers.
    Instead of driving to an organic apple orchard to pick your own fruit, use that time to volunteer for an organization that combats food deserts (and skip the fuel emissions, too).
    Instead of buying a $200 air purifier, donate to politicians who support policies that keep our air and water clean.
    Instead of signing a petition demanding that Subway remove one obscure chemical from its sandwich bread, call your local representatives to demand they overhaul the approval process for the estimated 80,000 untested chemicals in our products.
    Instead of taking yourself out to dinner at a farm-to-table restaurant, you could take an interest in the Farm Bill and how it incentivizes unhealthy eating.

    On its face, conscious consumerism is a morally righteous, bold movement. But it’s actually taking away our power as citizens. It drains our bank accounts and our political will, diverts our attention away from the true powerbrokers, and focuses our energy instead on petty corporate scandals and fights over the moral superiority of vegans.
    So if you really care about the environment, climb on out of your upcycled wooden chair and get yourself to a town hall meeting. If there’s one silver lining to the environmental crisis facing us, it’s that we now understand exactly the kind of work we need to do to save the planet—and it doesn’t involve a credit card.
    https://qz.com/920561/conscious-consu...s-a-better-way-to-help-save-the-world
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  4. signs of democratic deconsolidation in the United States and many other liberal democracies are now similar to those in Venezuela before its crisis.

    Across numerous countries, including Australia, Britain, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden and the United States, the percentage of people who say it is “essential” to live in a democracy has plummeted, and it is especially low among younger generations.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/29/wor...ysheadlines-europe&nlid=73658710&_r=1
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  5. In 18th-century America, colonial society and Native American society sat side by side. The former was buddingly commercial; the latter was communal and tribal. As time went by, the settlers from Europe noticed something: No Indians were defecting to join colonial society, but many whites were defecting to live in the Native American one.

    This struck them as strange. Colonial society was richer and more advanced. And yet people were voting with their feet the other way.

    The colonials occasionally tried to welcome Native American children into their midst, but they couldn’t persuade them to stay. Benjamin Franklin observed the phenomenon in 1753, writing, “When an Indian child has been brought up among us, taught our language and habituated to our customs, yet if he goes to see his relations and make one Indian ramble with them, there is no persuading him ever to return.”

    During the wars with the Indians, many European settlers were taken prisoner and held within Indian tribes. After a while, they had plenty of chances to escape and return, and yet they did not. In fact, when they were “rescued,” they fled and hid from their rescuers.

    There might be a Great Affluence Fallacy going on — we want privacy in individual instances, but often this makes life generally worse.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/09/opi...fallacy.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0
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  6. Tech Platforms for Civic-Participation - Public Version : Platforms
    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/...SNW6T14p15aKU/htmlview#gid=1660122072
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  7. The individual increasingly has at her disposal the means of taking on large, powerful bureaucratic institutions as an equal.

    Networked consumer, environmental and labor activism, with its ability to subject corporate malefactors to boycotts or tort actions, and to expose them to humiliating scrutiny, offers the potential to control and punish bad corporate behavior at least as well as did the regulatory state or the traditional press, and — insofar as they are not prone to the same sorts of cross-institutional collusion — to do an even better job of it.

    This includes “culture jamming” of the sort employed by the McLibel defendants and by Frank Kernaghan against Kathie Lee Gifford. It includes labor-led boycotts and information campaigns based on “open mouth sabotage” like those of the Imolakee Workers and the Wal-Mart Workers Association, and a whole host of online “employernamesucks.com” websites. It includes targeted campaigns to embarrass such corporate malefactors in the eyes of their suppliers, outlets, major stakeholders, and labor and consumer interest organizations. It includes networked activism through umbrella movements of labor, consumer and social justice organizations linked together for ad hoc single issue campaigns against a particular corporate criminal. It includes efforts like Wikileaks to promote whistleblowing and provide secure platforms for circulating embarrassing information about corporate misbehavior. It incorporates a large element of what John Keane calls “monitory democracy.”

    Networked organization offers, as well, to supplant the regulatory state’s old licensing, authentication and quality certification functions. If Consumer Reports was pithecanthropus in this evolutionary schema, and Angie’s List ishomo erectus, then the future lies with full-blown networked civil societies, organized on a voluntary basis, providing a context within which secure commercial relationships and other forms of cooperation can take place. The future of this model has been described variously as neo-Venetianism or phyles (fictionally in Stephenson’s The Diamond Age and non-fictionally in de Ugarte’s work), the Darknet in Suarez’s Freedom, and “economies as a social software service” by John Robb.

    In short, networked activism offers to do to the state and the large corporation what the file-sharing movement has only begun to do to the record industry, and what Wikileaks has barely even begun to do to the U.S. national security community.
    http://kevinacarson.org/drt
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  8. Many instances of democratic empowerment enabled by technology take place at the local level and thus elude national-level measures of democratic gains. Restless citizens in many countries may be unhappy with their non-democratic political leaders, but they use accessible technological tools to focus their energies locally — engaging in their local community with FixMyStreet, holding local and regional officials to account on spending issues using BudgIT, and tracking the performance of their local schools with Mejora Tu Escuela. In other words, technology’s positive political effects are now gaining traction in sub-national ways.

    We like to think that Gutenberg’s press brought on the Reformation. That’s probably because we prefer a compelling narrative to a messier truth.

    In 2009 I started Twaweza, an ambitious social change initiative in East Africa, in part to realize the “deeply democratizing” potential of communication technologies. The spread of independent (or rather not government-controlled) radio, television and newspapers, cheaper mobile telephony, and the Internet was profoundly important because it allowed ideas to be generated and shared anywhere and by anyone, at unprecedented speed and cost. Authorities would no longer be able to keep a lid on what happened and what people thought; innovation and aspiration would flourish.

    But over six sobering years of trial, error, and partial success, we learned that it doesn’t quite work that way and probably never has. Technology does not drive anything. It creates new possibilities for collecting and analyzing data, mashing ideas and reaching people, but people still need to be moved to engage and find practical pathways to act. Where the fear of being beaten or the habits of self-censorship inhibit agency, technology, however versatile, is a feeble match.

    The ways in which authorities and corporations exercise power to stifle human agency are real and increasingly naked. That these need to be exposed and disrupted is clear. But the much harder task is to figure out how to motivate and organize people to press for social change, where fear is warranted, bandwidth is crowded by a thousand demands, and success is uncertain.

    The Gutenberg press, the ballot box, and the Twitter feed are wonderful inventions to propel democratic impulse. But we fetishize them at our own peril. The truly revolutionary aspect of human revolutions is the hard work of forging collective belief and action.

    the challenge of advancing or consolidating democracy in many countries is not only — or even predominantly — about increasing avenues for citizen expression. It is also about establishing credible representative institutions that can respond to citizen demands and needs. Building such institutions has been an uphill battle for many aspiring democracies, and technological fixes can only provide limited assistance.

    Interestingly, a parallel debate is emerging in the economic domain. Paul Krugman of the New York Times recently asked, in a column entitled “The Big Meh,” why all the technological development of recent years, which seemed to promise all sorts of economic leaps and bounds, has coincided with economic slow growth and rising inequality, especially in the countries most enjoying this technology. Perhaps as answers are reached about that question they can be brought together with further exploration of the political side of the ledger and a more complete answer to both will emerge from the intersection of the two accounts.
    http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/06/03/w...ter.com&utm_campaign=buffer#pq=Z8Sxjg
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  9. In the work I have done I would say that the most influential group of people of all are 12-year-old girls; they have their fathers wrapped around their little fingers.”

    “Schools can do more to educate children, who can then go on and pester their parents,” added Andy Deacon, managing partner of the environmental charity Global Action Plan.

    If the environmental movement wants to get the child naggery right, the great grandaddy of this sort of thing are the crew of Freud-influenced social scientists, like Edward Bernays. Bernays was Freud’s actual nephew, and the creator of modern public relations (a term that he promoted the use of because he thought it sounded nicer than its predecessor, “propaganda”). Bernays, and like-minded Freudians like Ernest Dichter, studied the way that people persuaded each other, and the way that children persuaded their parents. They found that reasoned arguments — like, say, Dichter’s realization that the key to little girls pitching Barbie to their parents was for them to position her as a device for learning the importance of good grooming — are the gold standard for child nags. Other marketers have provided even more finely tuned categories.

    I’m totally at sea, though, when I try to think of what a children’s crusade of climate-change-related nagging would look like. An army of preschoolers, piling on sweaters, sipping out of thermoses, and telling adults to turn down the thermostat? Surly teenagers rolling their eyes at the idea of driving the car instead of taking the bus?

    Children of the world, Baron Stern has told you to put your best efforts into nagging on behalf of the planet. Is this fair? No. But, as I am sure your parents have told you many times before, life isn’t fair. I, for one, as someone who completely failed in my environmental nagging duties, am very interested to see how far you get.
    http://grist.org/living/could-pesky-c...tion&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=feed
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  10. The only reason to be a technology activist is if you don’t believe in determinism. An activist is someone who thinks that the future is up for grabs, and that what we do today can make tomorrow better. An activist is someone who thinks that without action, things will be worse. Activism is a synonym of indeterminacy, a belief that the future changes because people change it.

    It’s true: technology activists view the world through the lens of technology. If the “sharing economy” has become a front for exploitative labour practices, tech activists might propose a collective bargaining app, a crowdsourced lobbying campaign, a networked co-op for workers whose cream is being skimmed by venture-backed corporations. These activities are technological, but they attack the problem as a market problem, a legal problem and a normative problem.

    This isn’t “solutionism” – it’s activism. Technology makes it cheaper to try stuff than ever before. Activists can coordinate with one another and test a lot of tactics out to see how they work. When networked computers become a problem, we need to fix the problem – and it’s natural to start with the networked computers that are causing the problem. Not because everything looks like a nail to a person with a hammer – because you can’t solve a problem by ignoring its source.

    Geeks can be wrong. Very wrong. I am often wrong. But technology will change the world in profound ways. It’s urgent that we get that change right, or things will go very wrong indeed. Those are two things that geeks have been right about all along.
    http://www.theguardian.com/technology...hope-future-internet-activism-freedom
    Tags: , , by M. Fioretti (2015-06-08)
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