Deep Lab – The Book
About the book:
During the second week of December 2014, the Deep Lab participants—a group of internationally acclaimed new-media artists, information designers, data scientists, software engineers, hackers, writers, journalists and theoreticians—gathered to engage in critical assessments of contemporary digital culture. They worked collaboratively at the STUDIO in an accelerated pressure project, blending aspects of a hackathon, charrette, and a micro-conference.
The demographic makeup of [social media] corporations should not go unnoticed. These are the companies that build the tools and make the rules about what we can and cannot say or do online. The people making those rules have been indoctrinated by an outlook specific to one culture, and are now—unwittingly or not—exporting that outlook around the world.
State Power 2.0: Authoritarian Entrenchment and Political Engagement Worldwide
From my chapter, co-authored with Katherine Maher:
Much like the early Internet, these digital spaces had the allure of the unregulated: free of censorship and offering the appearance of anonymity. Tunisians took to blogging and other self-publishing forums to express dissidence on a broad range of sensitive cultural and political issues, countering official state narratives and offering a range of opinions rarely evident in the traditional press. As expression in these spaces grew increasingly critical of the Ben Ali regime, the government responded: Tunisia, the first Arab country to connect to the Internet also became the first to utilize the Internet for repression.
…there are those who will argue that while surveillance is burdensome, it is far less a priority than other social ills such as poverty, or in the United States, the issue of healthcare. Without the freedom to speak out about such needs, however, all other struggles become more difficult.
As Special Rapporteur to the United Nations on freedom of expression and opinion Frank LaRue recently wrote, “Undue interference with individuals’ privacy can both directly and indirectly limit the free development and exchange of ideas … An infringement upon one right can be both the cause and consequence of an infringement upon the other.” Without freedom of speech, all forms of activism, of challenging state power, come under threat. And pervasive surveillance absolutely threatens our ability to speak freely by creating a climate of fear.
Beyond WikiLeaks: Implications for the Future of Communications, Journalism and Society
The future of the transparency movement beyond WikiLeaks is undoubtedly global and will certainly find its home online. The only question that remains, then, is if it can outrun the greater powers that seek to silence it. That concern is indeed an argument in favour of a diverse landscape beyond WikiLeaks; a mere replacement will not stave off the myriad threats that plagued WikiLeaks, from denial of service from webhosts and payment providers to the threats from governments facing Assange. Ensuring that transparency activism is the domain of many rather than few not only ensures that whistle-blowing will not become a partisan affair, but also that it will be able to thrive in censorious environments.
States have always placed restrictions on content for the purposes of national security, but never before has the determination of what constitutes a national security threat been left to minor agencies or private regulators, creating greater room for error and corruption . Furthermore, when “national security” becomes a catch-all to justify the censorship of anti-nationalist activities or social movements, the resulting effect is often overly restrictive.
Early visionaries imagined the internet as a borderless world where the rule of law and the norms of the so-called physical world did not apply. Free expression and free association were envisioned as entitlements, a feature of cyberspace rather than rights to be asserted.
These early conceptions quickly gave way to the realisation that, just as the internet was embraced by people, so would it be controlled: by corporations, by policy makers, by governments, the latter of which began asserting control over the internet early on, enacting borders to cyberspace and preventing the free flow of information, not unlike the physical borders that prevent free movement between nations.
From my interview:
For me, empowerment is having a voice, and the Internet—connectedness, really—enables that. It’s been amazing over the past year, not only in the Arab world but in the US and other regions, to see individuals taking to social media (and by extension, to the streets) to fight for their rights…and many of the rights they’re fighting for have online implications — such as free speech or the freedom to assemble.