Author Archives: meganboler

Audio for “Hacktivists, Cyberwarriors and International Relations” Conference

In follow-up to the “Event Summary: “Hacktivists, Cyberwarriors and International Relations”  post, we thought we would share the audio for this event. In this recording you will find Stefania Milan’s talk along with the Q&A session with her and Gabriella Coleman that followed. Special thanks to Yelena Gyulkhandanyan for sharing it with us.

You can download the file from HERE

SMRT Boler Team Attends HarassMap Talk

Recently two members of the SMRT boler team attended a talk hosted at Munk School of Global Affairs titled “Harassmap: Social Mapping Sexual Harassment and Violence in Egypt.” The presenter, Rebecca T. Chiao, is Co-Founder and Director of HarassMap. Combining community activism with mobile and internet technology, Harassmap is a volunteer initiative that strives to end the social acceptability of sexual harassment in Egypt.

In addition to her spot on  The Current with Anna Maria Tremonti, and George Stroumboulopolous Tonight, Rebecca spoke about the tool they have developed, the impacts, and their vision.

Some of the key highlights of the talk included:

  • Introduction to the Harassmap website – – the tool is accessible for everyone here to add/view reports
  • Harassmap is an instance of Ushahidi, a crisis mapping platform used around the world  to gather and aggregate citizen reports with maps. Examples include: Eleccion Ciudadana, an initiative in used to plot suspicious activity around the recent Venezuelan election; Uchaguzi – used to track election violence related to the present Kenyan election
  • The initiative provides the opportunity for both men and women to report any instances of harassment they  may have experienced or witnessed
  • Reports are geo-tagged and plotted on a map of the region for global viewing. Number of reports for a region are depicted by a red circle stating the number of reports received.
  • Hovering over a report allows the public to view the details of the report
  • Reports are validated by hand through Harassmap  prior to public post
  • Awareness raising is the result of this ongoing expression online and communities are starting to create “harassment free zones”
  • Until recently Harassmap has been strictly volunteer based. At present they have just received funding from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and have started to hire staff in country and at headquarters to progress the initiative
  • With hired staff they plan on developing reporting mechanisms that will allow them to better measure their impact

It was an excellent talk  to an audience full of hope and enthusiasm. Thanks Rebecca for the inspiration.

To see the full broadcast of her talk, click the following URL:

Written by:
Jennie Phillips | @drchangelove


Dr. Chris Hables Gray visits our team, CBC’s Spark

Recently, our team had the privilege of meting with activist and author Dr. Chris Hables Gray a visiting scholar at OISE. Dr. Gray is a lecturer at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and at California State University at Monterey Bay. He is also onminds the leading minds on cyborg culture, and author of The Cyborg Handbook, The Cyborg Citizen, and Peace, War, and Computers.

Unfortunately, a major snowstorm prevented Dr. Gray feach sitting on public panel that was to beheld at OISE, but luckily, his ideas gained some added Canadian exposure on CBC’s popular tech program “Spark”

We encourage you to take a listen to the interview, he is a really fascinating speaker and has helped us immensely by sharing his experiences as a revolutionary.

Check it out!
WeRallCyborgs’ interview, Dr Chris Hables Gray, CBC Spark [@16:00]

forthcoming/upcoming talks and papers

Forthcoming publications:

3rd printing, Digital Media and Democracy: Tactics in Hard Times, ed. Megan Boler, MIT Press, 2013.

Matt Ratto and Megan Boler, DIY Citizenship: Critical Making and Social Media, MIT Press, 2014.

Ian Reilly and Megan Boler, “The Rally to Restore Sanity, Pre-politicization, and the Future of Politics” Communication, Culture and Critique (forthcoming 2013)

Megan Boler, “Social Media and Global Protest: Hybrid Social Movements and Politics as the ‘Redistribution of the Sensible,'”ed. Martha McCaughey, Cyberactivism 2.0 volume, Routledge Studies in New Media and Cyberculture series (forthcoming 2014)

Megan Boler, “Truth and Sensemaking in Digital Dissent,” Routledge Companion to Alternative and Community Media, ed. Chris Atton (forthcoming 2014)

Upcoming Talks:

Respondent, Kneller Invited Lecture, Philosophy of Education Society, Portland, OR, March 2013

M. Boler, Invited Plenary, Transmedia Hollywood 4. UCLA Campus, April 12th, 2013 (conference co-directors Henry Jenkins and Denise Mann).

M. Boler, Invited Keynote, “Social Media and Horizontal Politics,” ‘Transforming Audiences‘  Fourth International conference,  2-3 Sep 2013 University of Westminster’, London September, 2013

Event Summary: “Hacktivists, Cyberwarriors and International Relations”

In recent weeks, the International Relations Society hosted a conference on Hacktivism at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto. Given the event’s focus on social action via the Internet, a few members from the Boler Research Team attended. Here is a quick summary of some of the highlights.

How secure are we online?
The keynote address from the Citizen Lab‘s Ron Diebert, emphasized how we must not take technology at face value. Diebert urged that citizens in the digital age need to question where their data goes (when you send an email, who can see it, besides just you and the recipient?) Increasingly, Diebert concluded, this will mean questioning the authorities who control these systems of information and content-sharing platforms.

Along with his talk, he provided URLs to further demonstrate the current status of cyberspace. Some of the URLs presented are as follows:

  • Wired Magazine – Do the Ends Justify The Means?
    Article on Internet Censorship and the Internet Censorship Explorer developed by Deibert’s team to bypass Internet-blocking schemes
  • Yahoo Terms of Service Agreement
    Highlighted that Yahoo service agreement grants foreign countries with permission to collect and use personal  data: “You understand that through your use of the Service you consent to the collection and use (as set forth in the Privacy Policy) of this information, including the transfer of this information to the United States and/or other countries for storage, processing and use by Yahoo! and its affiliates.”
  • Who Has your Back (by the Electronic Frontier Foundation)
    Non-profit that analyzes major provider including Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Skype for their commitment to defending our personal digital rights by evaluating the following 4 criteria: tell users about data demands, be transparent about government requests, fight for user privacy in courts, fights for user privacy in congress
  • The Evolution of Privacy on Facebook
    An info graphic depicting the changes in default profile settings over time
  • It’s 2AM. What Are Your Apps Doing?
    An info graphic depicting the activity of apps behind the scenes; approximately 97% of users do not know the risks associated with their apps
  • Behind Blue Coat: Investigations of Commercial Filtering in Syria and Burma
    Recent report released by the Citizen Lab on the use of commercial filtering products in authoritarian regimes

Hacktivism and Democracy-Building. Good or Bad? 

One of the panels featured Dr. Gabriela Coleman, and Dr. Stefania Milan discussing the pros and cons of  Hacktivism for a democratic society.

Dr. Coleman started things off with a presentation that was more performance art than panel chat, on the “Aphorisms of Anonymous”. Her presentation briefly tracked the history of Anonymous, the now-infamous loosely-associated hacker network. She then drew on aphorisms by Nietzche, like “Nothing succeeds if prankishness has no part in it,” to describe different elements of Anonymous as a movement (a massive movement of tricksters, when looking at it in this context).  Her talk really brought to life the different ways in which “trollish” behaviour might also be powerful, important for democratic aims, but also the paradox in that Anonymous seeks to expose state secrecy, but is a highly secretive movement in itself.

Next, Dr. Milan took the podium, explaning how hacktivism is not only “good for” democracy, but might be seen as a form of democracy in itself, as it could be conceived of as a method of “protest”. She spoke about the way in which hacktivism was challenging prior assumptions about political activism, especially by decoupling the notion of “resistance” with physical presence. According to Dr. Milan, there is much to be learned from such groups as Anonymous, as they point the broader public to a new model of cyber activism.

**The real takeaway for our purposes from this panel, was, as Dr. Milan put it “we cannot afford to raise our kids without the knowledge of these systems”. Here, she was referring to a more intimate knowledge of how the Internet functions and also what benefits and risks are associated with using it for activist purposes. Dr. Coleman emphasized that computing knowledge is power and this led to a discussion around the importance of teaching coding especially, so that the next generations stay connected to the languages that make up the internet.**

Written by Averie MacDonald (@averiemac) & Jennie Phillips (@drchangelove)

“To See or Not to See: Cyborgs, Veillance, and Materiality”

We hope to reschedule this Cyborg panel (cancelled by snowstorm).  Meanwhile, please check out interview with Dr Chris Hables Gr”ay, “MyCyborg MySelf CBC Spark Feb 15 [@16:00] (OISE/UT visiting scholar February 2013)

cyborgposter (1)

This is a quick note with information on an upcoming panel event organized by Dr. Boler which will take place at the OISE/UT this Friday Februrary 8th. Hope to see you there!

Event details:

When: Friday, February 8, 2013, 4:00pm-6:30pm (Reception to follow)
Where: OISE/UT Library, 252 Bloor St West, Toronto, ON

Featuring Provocations from:

Steve Mann (Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering, University of Toronto)

Chris Hables Gray (author of The Cyborg Handbook, Postmodern War, The Cyborg Citizen, and Peace, War and Computers, Cultural Studies of Science and Technology, University of California)

Caitlin Fisher (Canada Research Chair in Digital Culture and Director, Augmented Reality Lab, York University)

Suzanne DeCastell (Professor and Dean, Faculty of Education at UOIT)

Moderated by: Megan Boler (Faculty of Humanities, Social Science, and Social Justice Education, OISE/UT)


Panelist Bios:

Steve Mann is widely recognized as “the father of wearable computing” and “the father of AR”, a more than $200 billion industry.  Mann was the inventor of<> the EyeBorg camera<>, named one of the 50 best inventions of the year by TIME. He is the inventor of the hydraulophone, a public water feature that is a fun and playful musical instrument similar to a woodwind instrument but using pressurized water instead of air. He has been featured by news organizations including AP News, New York Times, LA-Times, Time,  Fortune, WiReD, CNN, David Letterman, Rolling Stone, and BBC. His award winning documentary cyborglog ShootingBack, and the ideas from his recent book “CYBORG: Digital Destiny and Human Possibility in the Age of the Wearable Computer” (Randomhouse Doubleday, 2001) inspired a 35mm feature length motion picture film about his life “Canada’s most important film of the year” according to POV. Mann is the General Chair of IEEE ISTAS-13.  (Paper submissions are due Feb 28th, 2013)<>

Chris Hables Gray lectures at the University of California at Santa Cruz and California State University at Monterey Bay in Cultural Studies of Science and Technology. His particular interest is in how information technologies shape contemporary war and peace making and the politics of our ongoing cyborgization. His book publications include The Cyborg Handbook, Postmodern War, The Cyborg Citizen, and Peace, War and Computers, all with Routledge Press.

Caitlin Fisher’s primary research investigates the future of narrative through explorations of interactive storytelling and interactive cinema in Augmented Reality environments. Current research interests also include digital archiving, lifelogging, data visualization and experimental game structures for storytelling. Professor Fisher was awarded a Canada Research Chair in digital culture in 2004. She is a co-founder of the Future Cinema Lab<>, dedicated to the exploration of new stories for new screens, and director of the Augmented Reality Lab<> in the Faculty of Fine Arts at York. In the AR Lab, she is working to construct and theorize spatial narrative environments and build expressive software tools for artists.

Suzanne DeCastell, Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, has published extensively on educational philosophy and theory, literacy and new media studies and technology, gender and digital game studies. Books she has co-edited include Literacy, Society and Schooling, Language, Authority and Criticism, Radical Interventions, and Worlds in Play. She is the founding President of the Canadian Games Studies Association, and is also the founder and continuing senior editor of its journal, entitled Loading. In 2000, she was the recipient of the Wired Woman Pioneer in Technology and New Media Award, Women in the Spotlight, and BC Research Partnership Award. In 2004 she was awarded the YWCA Women of Distinction Award for Education: Learning for Life.

Megan M. Boler is Professor and Associate Chair in the Department of Humanities, Social Sciences and Social Justice in Education, OISE/University of Toronto; and Associate Faculty of Knowledge Media Design Institute. Her books include Digital Media and Democracy: Tactics in Hard Times (MIT Press, 2008) and DIY Citizenship: Critical Making and Social Media with Matt Ratto, (forthcoming 2013, MIT Press). She is the recipient of two major research grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council: the first 3-year project, “Rethinking Media, Citizenship and Democracy: Digital Dissent after 9/11,” used mixed-methods to examine the motivations of producers of “digital dissent”.  Her current funded 3-year project focuses on the intersection of social media and social movements, with focus on women activists’ digital media practices are redefining participatory democracy.

Back in Action! — Research Team Update

Hello world!

As January draws to a close, it’s a good time to take stock of what’s going on with the Boler Research Team.

We have nearly finished our interviews with west coast women activists on their uses of digital and social media (amongst many other things — the interviews are each 1-2.5 hours!). We are now madly transcribing. Whew! demanding work; no RSI reported yet :)! We’ve collected 17 interviews (some with multiple participants) so far! Suffice to say, we’ll be in transcription mode for a bit!!

Meanwhile, we’re reading up on how social movement theory speaks to network and media theories and studies.We will proceed then to engage grounded theory in our analysis and coding of the interview data (we’ll be using the qualitative data analysis software Atlas.ti).

Our interview questions included: what motivated respondents to engage in social activism and (for these interviewees) Occupy in particular; how they use digital and social media; and what it’s like being women “leaders” in a pretty male world of many social movements (although the term “leader” is adamantly NOT used by the occupy participants we’ve been talking with, since horizontal leadership and consensus is the name of the game… 🙂 ).

Preliminary findings: our research thus far is showing that women comprise the majority of the “backbone” of north American movements. Women are the majority membership in ongoing working groups, doing the online networking, social media maintenance, communications, Facebook updates and announcements, Twitter accounts, and livestreaming in some instances. We are planning to follow up with these amazing “horizontal leaders” with further questions around their experiences with police in Occupy camps; how and when activist community/conversation/time shifts between on- and offline spaces; and how these women learned and finessed their technology and media skills that keep social movements alive!

We’re always open to receiving articles and literature that might be relevant to us, as well as news and current events tips that relate to our project, so feel free to send!


In addition to those formal research tasks, we stay current on trends surrounding social/digital media, feminist organizing and social movements by following Facebook news feeds, Twitter conversations, and press content.

Here are some things that we’ve “tagged” recently in our favourite content curation software, diigo.

Idle No More Update (Toronto Star)
Chief Spence ends her hunger strike, Shawn Atleo takes a medical leave, and solidarity action spreads throughout the United States. The Toronto Star has a comprehensive file going on the movement.


Occupiers and others in Venice Beach, CA organize in solidarity with Idle No More.

Pentagon says it is Lifting its Ban on Women in Combat (NYT)
Talk about the changing relationship of women and tech!

Assange attacks new film about Wikileaks (the Guardian)
Speaking at in Oxford Union debate, Assange described the forthcoming Hollywood film as a “massive propoganda attack on him, and an inflammatory attack on Iran.

 New Tactics for Social Network Analysis (iRevolution)
New research on Social Network Analysis for Digital Humanitarian Response shows that picking a “sensor group” and watching their actions can be more productive than crunching huge data sets, trying to track the spread of information on Twitter yourself.

The Internet is Still a Man’s World in Developing Countries (Wired)
Recent study data shows that, in developing countries, the gap between the number of men and women who use the Internet is 23 per cent. In the U.S. it’s around 4 per cent. Puts a new spin on the notion of the “digital divide”.

Dr. Boler on the Idle No More movement

With the recent rise of the Idle No More movement here in Canada and in some parts of the United States, Dr. Boler has been invited to offer her perspective as a social media and social movement scholar in the press.

Here are some links to her recent media appearances:

Social Media helps drive Idle No More movement” – Toronto Star, Jan. 11, 2013

Discussing Idle No More on CTV – CTV Toronto, Jan. 16, 2013

Check out her comments and share your views with us below!

Photo from the Toronto Star, Jan. 11, 2013

Idle No More protesters at Yonge and Dundas in Toronto in December — Toronto Star, Jan. 11, 2013

Fighting Austerity: From Walmart to Bill 115

Hello all and a Happy New Year from the Boler Research Team!

It’s Averie here with a recap from an interesting presentation I attended this evening on behalf of our group.

You may recall a while back when we looked into the efforts of a group called OUR Walmart and the strikes by Walmart workers and their supporters on #BlackFriday.

Well this evening at OISE, the International Socialists at UofT held a discussion on austerity in the modern labour context and invited an organizer, Elizabeth Clinton, from OUR Walmart in Texas to speak about the movement. Also speaking was Ritch Whyman of the International Socialists.

The presentation did include a lot of labour lingo that I wasn’t altogether “hip to” but I found it incredibly valuable. In our project, we talk a lot about such large-scale movements, so here was my chance to actually meet activists who were themselves involved in these struggles and hear about the interrelatedness of these movements.

Allow me to summarize the main points that I found interesting below:

— The work of the OUR Walmart campgaign certainly did not stop after #BlackFriday, and as a result of some of the pressure being put on Walmart’s execs, the company announced today it would introduce ore transparent scheduling and more scheduling choices for part-timers.  On this development, Elizabeth Clinton said,“ I think that it demonstrates that if we fight, we can actually win.”


— On his own note of optimism, Ritch Whyman told those assembled that 1000 teachers surrounded the Board of Education downtown today to protest Bill 115 and its effects — shutting down Bay St. in rush hour in the process. (some news reports put the number assembled much lower)

–Overall message/question explored was how to knit together the activism going on in various movements presently within Canada and the US. As Whyman stated, “It’s not just a fight around Bill 115, it’s not just about Idle No More, .. It’s about how do we knit these struggles together.” He added that there needs to be further communication between activist groups to find strategies that will allow them to address the current labour environment as a whole, as a class issue, not a matter of isolated issues.

— One major obstacle noted by many in the room was the stifling of activist organizing at the grassroots by senior union leaders. Some suggested that workers must first rise up against the inaction/unfair practices of their unions before they can actually tackle the larger labour issues they’re facing.

Toronto Elementary and Secondary teachers block Bay St. in protest (via the Toronto Star).

Toronto Elementary and Secondary teachers block Bay St. in protest (via the Toronto Star).

–This feeds into an extremely interesting point/contradiction which may be one of the biggest takeaways from the night overall. For here was Elizabeth Clinton, in an environment like Texas, with some of the weakest labour conditions in the country, talking about the progress of OUR Walmart organizers helping workers to stand up for themselves within one of the most anti-labour corporations in the world. Meanwhile, the assembled Ontario socialists spoke at length about the failure of their robust and highly established unions to protect them and put their best interests first!

–Whyman had a very interesting point about this. He said that in Canada, there’s often an “illusion” that we’re  THE progressive country when it comes to labour — that we’re somehow ‘safe’ due to the simple fact that unions exist. This evening’s discussion suggested this couldn’t be further from the truth. Whyman and others encouraged workers to remain vigilant and talk to their co-workers about how they feel their union is/is not representing them for a start.

STAY TUNED for an upcoming interview with Elizabeth Clinton on women’s roles in the OUR Walmart/ #Occupy Walmart organizing!



Research Update: Interviewing Occupy Women, December 2012

Our research team is traveling the West Coast of the U.S., interviewing many amazing horizontal participant-leader women of occupy! Beginning December 12, PI Megan Boler landed in Los Angeles and has since met and interviewed six inspiring and diverse women in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Santa Cruz, and soon more in Oakland and San Francisco.  Team members Emil Marmol and Christina Nitsou will also be doing interviews with Occupy women in southern California this month.

Our interviews focus on women’s experiences as central participants in this movement of horizontal leadership, and how and when issues of gender and race are discussed as central to the goals and/or process of the movement.  We are particularly interested in women’s roles in admin of social media and communications for Occupy, and whether there is evidence of new forms of feminism or women’s liberation movements. Interview questions include: What were your hopes and motivations when you participating in the Occupy Movement? Are there particular philosophies, books, theories, documentaries of guidance/guidelines that Occupy participants frequently reference? Have you witnessed cross-generational fertilization going on between veteran activist and younger new activists?

Check in soon for our preliminary finding from these 12 interviews with #occupywomen!