Hacking, Cracking, and Hacktivism: the many dimensions of hacker practice

This week, we bring you a special post from a friend of the SMRT Boler Research team, Yelena Gyulkhandanyan, University of Toronto.

Hacking, Cracking, and Hacktivism: the many dimensions of hacker practice

To refer to someone as a hacker often implies that they engage in illicit acts of tapping into secret databases, stealing information, and threatening network security. Law enforcement and security agencies guard against hacker attacks. To them, hackers stand for disobedience, anarchy, and challenge to the status quo order (Nissenbaum, 2004).

More recently, online hacker groups such as Anonymous have been gaining attention for targeted collective action in support of various social causes. From protesting the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) to investigating the Church of Scientology, hackers are increasingly emerging from the virtual world and making their presence felt. They are all over the world, act individually, but are connected through webs of social networks and interactions. Academics are struggling to find ways to interpret this emerging phenomenon and understand how it is changing the concept of citizen action and civil disobedience. Perhaps the answers to these inquiries are just as complex and ever-changing as its subjects and this post will not tackle this challenge. Nonetheless, to better position our understanding of what hacking has come to represent, we must look at where it came from and the environment and forces that helped shape its meaning. This analysis takes us to the early days of hacking in the technology labs of MIT and the subsequent Open Source Movement.

The Genesis 

The roots of the hacker identity can be traced back to the Tech Model Railroad Club in Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the late 1950s. The club members initially began using computers to improve the design of their model railroads. The computers soon turned into a separate obsession for the students, who shifted much of their focus to constructing and programming MIT’s early mainframes. These efforts were in complete agreement with the university authorities. Simultaneously, other hubs of hacker activity spread in other academic institutions and circles, such as Carnegie-Mellon and Stanford, expanding into nearby locales of Cambridge, Palo Alto, and Berkeley (Levy, 1984).

These hackers had the ability to create and debug code with incredible speed. They aided in the development of hardware and software for various functionalities as well as invented many original algorithms and applications. A lot of these were included in new generations of computers. The new developments served to enhance the recreational potential of computing and IT, such as digitized music, gaming, and virtual reality. They also upgraded practical capabilities—for instance, the control of robots. “Hacking” acquired the meaning of finding creative solutions to problems. These solutions often drew outside the realm of conventional theory-driven approaches to programming and involved a mentality of looking outside the box. There was a certain honour tied to being a hacker that came with respect from one’s peers (Nissenbaum, 2004).

The ideology associated with the hacker identity came to be informally known as the “hacker ethic”. In Hackers and the Contested Ontology of Cyberspace, Helen Nissenbaum provides an articulate description of the principles embedded in the hacker ethic:

“Commitment to total and free access to computers and information, belief in the immense powers of computers to improve people’s lives and create art and beauty, mistrust of centralized authority, a disdain for obstacles erected against free access to computing, and an insistence that hackers be evaluated by no other criteria than technical virtuosity and accomplishment (by hacking alone and not ‘bogus’ criteria such as degrees, age, race, or position). In other words, the culture of hacking incorporated political and moral values as well as technical ends.” (Nissenbaum, 2004: 3)

Up until the mid-1980s there was never a single organization or agency that could be attributed to hackers as a group nor was there any formal entry or initiation to being a hacker. Hackers were scattered across the digital terrain connected by loose networks of peer association (Nissenbaum, 2004). However the significance of free access to information embedded in the hacker ethic led to many hackers becoming involved in the open source movement (Taylor, 2005).

The Free and Open Source Software Movement

Between the 1960s and 1970s, software programming was primarily done by scientists and engineers in both academic and corporate environments. These early programmers openly exchanged and modified software. However by the 80s, software programming became increasingly appropriated by the private sector. The open source movement was a reaction to the commodification of information technology (Carillo, Okoli, 2009).

In 1984, Richard Stallman established the Free Software Foundation (FSF) to challenge the encroachment of copyrights and patents in the software industry. The foundation was based on the principles Stallman, himself a hacker, had acquired among the MIT hackers, in particular: the sharing of scientific knowledge; cooperation; and pedagogy (Coleman, Golub, 2008). He set out to create a free alternative to UNIX, a popular operating system that was becoming inaccessible to many due to the high licensing fees. Stallman created a free version of UNIX that he called GNU (which stands for Gnu’s not Unix). The GNU operates under the GNU General Public License (GPL) which introduced the concept of the “copyleft”. The license guarantees:

  1. The right to access the source code which enables the computer programmer to understand the way the software functions and be able to modify it.
  2. The right to alter the source code
  3.  The right to use the program for any purpose
  4. The right to the distribution of the software both in its original and modified form
  5. The right of all users to be aware of their open source rights (Carillo, Okoli, 2009)

Furthermore, while everyone is entitled to the outlined rights, no one is permitted to disallow the ongoing distribution of the software. In particular, no one is allowed to use the modified software for proprietary means (Stallman, 1985). This ensured that the software remained in the public domain and was safeguarded against exploitation for corporate profit even while the sale of copies of the program was permitted (Benkler, 2011). Stallman made the comparison of free software to free speech, not free beer, which implies that it can be written, rewritten, used, and reused by anyone as many times as they like (Benkler, 2011). The principles vested in the FSF were elaborated by Stallman in the GNU Manifesto. The manifesto also became a call to other software programmers to join the FSF efforts. In it Stallman states:

“I consider that the Golden Rule requires that if I like a program I must share it with other people who like it. Software sellers want to divide the users and conquer them, making each user agree not to share with others. I refuse to break solidarity with other users in this way. I cannot in good conscience sign a nondisclosure agreement or a software license agreement.”

In 1991 Linux Torvalds initiated the Linux Project. Torvalds distributed a source code he was working on as a hobby over a mailing list. The action sparked the first mass-scale, long-distance collaborative software platform. The project combined a free UNIX kernel with the GNU software to create the GNU/Linux operating system (Coleman, Golub, 2008). The software was released under the GPL (Carillo, Okoli, 2009). By the end of the 1990s, the free software movement spread to become a cross-continental network of collaborators working together on thousands of projects (Coleman, 2008).

In 1998 many software developers within the free software movement became keen on mainstreaming their software and making it more attractive for investors (Coleman 2008). They conceived the concept of open source software (OSS), which included all of the previous licensing criteria and the aim of making information accessible, but differed from free software by being less ideological. Bruce Perens and Eric Raymond advocated for this change, stating that the movement required a more business-oriented approach. According to proponents of OSS, the concept of free software came across as too radical and anti-corporate which could detract investment (Carillo, Okoli, 2009).

As it was intended, OSS experienced a mass adoption by corporations that spend millions of dollars on the development and promotion of OSS (Coleman, 2008). These corporations include Netscape that created Mozilla and made the Mozilla Firefox 1.0 web browser available to the world, and IBM which announced in 2000 that it was going to invest a billion dollars into free software (Benkler, 2011). The Apache, another OSS project that began in 1995, became the most used web server in the world (Carillo, Okoli, 2009).

In 2002 the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) conducted a survey of OSS community members that use SourceForge.net, the biggest Open Source development website in the world. The study that included 526 users was presented at the Linux World meeting that took place in New York City. All study participants identified themselves as hackers. The study had the following key findings: participants specified that they were highly creative with their current OSS projects; having fun (43%), enhancing skills (43%); support for the OSS community (34%); and user needs (30%) were listed as top motivators for participation—desire to challenge corporate software companies was not mentioned as a chief influence; the survey participants came from 35 different countries; on average, participants spent at least 10 hours a week on OSS programming; 56% of the participants were IT professionals, others being students and academics (PR Newswire, 2002).

Hackers and Crackers

According to Eric Raymond a self-identified hacker and a prominent spokesperson for the open source movement, a hacker is an individual that is interested in discovering the functions of programmable systems and who programs well at a fast pace. The term “cracker” is reserved for the malevolent individual that threatens online security (Raymond, 1997). Nonetheless, this distinction does not seem to exist outside hacker circles and those that are aware of their culture.

Select hackers that committed criminal acts by penetrating into sources of sensitive information caused the increasing defacement of what it means to be a hacker (Papadimitriou, 2006). Hackers acquired a bad reputation. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 and the subsequent Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 enforced stringent measures and punishments to deal with such actions. The 1980s involved a series of sting operations which resulted in the arrest of notorious hackers and Phreaks (hackers that infiltrate  telecommunication systems). Some of these individuals include Kevin Mitnick, Robert Morris, and Craig Neidorf (Nissenbaum, 2004).

Hacktivism

The 1990s saw the beginning of hacktivism, which incorporates acts of hacking with a political position or social stance (Taylor, 2005). “Hacktivism” comes from combining “hacking” with “activism” (Papadimitriou, 2006). Just as other activists, hacktivists aim to spread their message within society. Their tactics include virtual sit-ins, protest websites, mail bombings, and the virtual vandalism of websites (e-graffiti) (Auty, 2004).

The Hacktivismo group that formed out the Cult of the Dead Cow (cDc) hacker group in 1999 is one of the earliest instances of hacktivism (Papadimitriou, 2006). The group was organized by Oxblood Ruffin, a member of the cDc, to advocate for information rights (Ruffin, 2013). The Hacktivismo Declaration states, “People have a right to reasonable access of otherwise lawfully published information. If our leaders aren’t prepared to defend the Internet, we are” (Hacktivismo, 2001). The declaration relies on Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which states that: “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” The declaration maintains that, “denying access to information could lead to spiritual, intellectual, and economic decline, the promotion of xenophobia and destabilization of international order” (Hacktivismo, 2001).

While Hacktivismo concerns with issues of internet censorship and access to information, hacktivists do not solely deal with ICT related issues. The online support garnered by the Zapatista movement in Mexico is a striking example of deliberate and coordinated political action by hackers. The movement began on a grassroots level when the Chiapas peasants and the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) engaged in a protest against the increasing marginalization of the Chiapas indigenous community and the exploitation of their land. The Zapatista campaign used the internet to spread their message through websites, email lists, online petitions, and discussion forums. The online outreach effectively gained the support of international human rights activists and groups (Lunat, 2008). One of these was the Electronic Disturbance Theatre (EDT), which is a group of cyber activists and artists that engage in the practice of electronic civil disobedience. EDT describes its work as being at “the intersections of radical politics, recombinant and performance art, and computer software design” (Wray, 1998).

In 1998, the EDT organized multiple web sit-ins in support of the Zapatistas using Flood Net, a URL based software created by EDT (Wray, 1998). After being downloaded, Flood Net connects the browser to a predetermined website and automatically activates the browser’s reload button every seven seconds. When thousands of people use Flood Net in the same day targeting the same website, they effectively block it (Taylor, 2005). EDT’s targets were the Mexican President Zedillo’s web site, five web sites belonging to Mexico City’s financial institutions, and the Clinton White House web site (Wray, 1998). Online based tactics and activism on the ground succeeded in challenging state authority by creating international pressure over the Mexican government to democratize and recognize the rights of its indigenous population (Lunat, 2008). What came to be known as the Zapatista effect, demonstrated the potential of virtual public spheres to affect change in the physical public sphere, contributing to the concept of the Global Civil Society (Amoore and Langley 2004; Goodhart 2005).

One of the most recent and talked about examples of hacktivism pertains to Anonymous, an online group that describe itself as, “a decentralized network of individuals focused on promoting access to information, free speech, and transparency.” (Anonymous Analytics). Operating on an international level, Anonymous has no centralized leadership or agency. The group made a shift to political activism in 2008 when it initiated a protest against the Church of Scientology (Sengupta, 2008). The protest was sparked by the Church’s forceful attempts to take down the infamous Tom Cruise Scientology video from the internet. Members of Anonymous went on to conduct an investigation of the Church of Scientology, uncovering allegations of abuse and human rights violations (Anonymous, 2011). Since then Anonymous has engaged in multinational campaigns including taking part in the Occupy movement, Arab Spring, and activism against Internet censorship (Sengupta, 2008).

With the digitization of sensitive government and corporate information, hacktivism is a perceived threat much like hacking (Sengupta, 2012). However, as opposed to being compared to cracking, hacktivism can be viewed as an embracement of the fundamental principles of the hacker ethic, concerned with the reappropriation and reengineering of technology in support of the original message of access to information content and resources (Taylor, 2005).

The Zapatista movement has demonstrated that online activism can facilitate participatory democracy by democratizing channels of communication and political activism (Auty, 2004).  Hacktivism is an effective tool of civil society activism, having the ability to spread awareness and call for mass action against political and social injustice; leading to positive political change and social empowerment.

References

Anonymous. (n.d.). Anonymous. Retrieved February 26, 2013, from http://anonanalytics.com/

Auty, C. (2004). Political hacktivism: tool of the underdog or scourge of cyberspace?. New Information Perspectives, 56(4), 212-221.

Carillo, K., & Okoli, C. (2009). The Open Source Movement: a revolution in software development. The Journal of Computer Information Systems, 49(2), 1-9.

Coleman, G., & Golub, A. (2008). Hacker Practice: Moral Genres and the Cultural Articulation of Liberalism. Anthropological Theory, 8(3), 255-277.

Goldin, I. (2009). Evolution of Development Thinking. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Hacktivismo. (n.d.). Cult of the Dead Cow. Retrieved January 12, 2013, from www.cultdeadcow.com/cDc_files

Intersimone, D. (n.d.). Survey Provides New Insights Into ‘Hacker’ Culture. Embarcadero Developer Network . Retrieved February 26, 2013, from http://edn.embarcadero.com/article/28300

Lopung Hsu, L. (2007). Hacking Development: how geeks do good in the Digital Age. (Doctoral Dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest database.

Lunat, Z. (2008). The Internet and the Public Sphere: Evidence from Civil Society in Developing Countries. The Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries, 35(3), 1-12.

Nissenbaum, H. (2004). Hackers and the Contested Ontology of Cyberspace. New Media & Society, 6(2), 195-217. Retrieved January 16, 2013, from the Sage Journals database.

Papadimitriou, F. (2006). A geography of ‘Notopia’ Hackers et al., hacktivism, urban cyber?groups/cyber?cultures and digital social movements. City: analysis of urban trends, culture, theory, policy, action, 10(3), 317-326. Retrieved January 16, 2013, from the Taylor Francis Online database.

Scientology Activism: general information. (2011, January 13). Why We Protest. Retrieved January 15, 2013, from https://whyweprotest.net/community/threads/read-this-first-scientology-activism-general-information.67664/-Anonymous

Sengupta, S. (2012, March 17). The Soul of the New Hacktivist. The New York Times. Retrieved January 16, 2013, from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/sunday-review/the-soul-of-the-new-hacktivist.html?_r=1&

 

Taylor, P. (2005). From hackers to hacktivists: speed bumps on the global superhighway?. New Media & Society, 7(5), 625-646.

Wray, S. (1998, June 17). The Electronic Disturbance Theater and Electronic Civil Disobedience. thing.net. Retrieved February 26, 2013, from http://www.thing.net/~rdom/ecd/EDTECD.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 WeTransfer.com HERE

SMRT Boler team attends HarassMap conference

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 – http://harassmap.org/ – 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:
http://hosting.epresence.tv/MUNK/1/watch/352.aspx

Written by:
Jennie Phillips | @drchangelove

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 – http://harassmap.org/ – 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:
http://hosting.epresence.tv/MUNK/1/watch/352.aspx

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] http://tinyurl.com/bb28qr6

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). http://www.liquid-bass.com/conference/panel-3-through-any-media-necessary-activism-in-a-diy-culture/

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] http://t.co/5oSy8uQ8 (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)

REGISTER FOR THIS FREE EVENT AT http://cyborgs.eventbrite.com <http://cyborgs.eventbrite.com/&gt;

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<http://patents.ic.gc.ca/opic-cipo/cpd/eng/patent/2313693/summary.html> the EyeBorg camera<http://wearcam.org/TheEyeborgMan.pdf>, 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.http://www.eecg.toronto.edu/~mann/ Mann is the General Chair of IEEE ISTAS-13.  (Paper submissions are due Feb 28th, 2013) http://veillance.me<http://veillance.me/>

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. www.chrishablesgray.org

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<http://www.futurecinema.ca/>, dedicated to the exploration of new stories for new screens, and director of the Augmented Reality Lab<http://futurecinema.ca/arlab/> 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. http://www.yorku.ca/caitlin/

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.http://news.uoit.ca/archives/2012/04/uoit-announces-new-faculty-of-education-dean.php

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. www.meganboler.net

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!

WE CONTINUE TO…

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.

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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