Internet

Protect your connection to the Internet

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 17/01/2018 - 2:05am in

Once a year you should take time to review and audit your digital hygiene to make sure you’re doing everything possible to protect yourself online. First, make sure you know what we mean when we discuss privacy and security online. Second, take control of your passwords. Third, use two factor authentication to add a layer of protection on top of your passwords. Fourth, you should make sure you’re always backing up your information and devices. Fifth, you should clean up your browser extensions to protect yourself from unseen threats. Sixth, you should examine the social logins you use for tools, apps, and accounts.

In this post, we’ll discuss ways to make sure your connection to the Internet is protected.

Your gateway to the Internet

Most times we don’t even think about how we connect to the Internet. At home, many of us use the cable or telephone company as our Internet Service Provider (ISP). We pay the monthly service for a connection to the Internet and just expect it to work. We hear the advertising about how fast the service is, and just expect things to work when we pay for them. Wi-Fi in the house is just something that is expected to work.

Likewise, we purchase mobile devices (phones/tablets) and expect that the service will be good, and we’ll be able to connect to the network when we need it, for whatever purpose. We have an expectation that we’ll be able to view web content, connect to social media, and communicate when needed.

As long as these services do not slow down, or disconnect, there is no concern. Strangely, there is also usually a belief that a slow connection may be expected. If there is a slow connection, or things bog down, we often do not know what to do about it. But, as long as things work, and they connect, we assume that everything is working correctly. We pay little attention to dangers that remain unseen.

As a regular user of these services, we need to pay more attention to our gateway to the Internet. That is, how do we connect our devices to the web. If you’re on Wi-Fi at work or at home, you have a router that is taking that Internet signal and broadcasting it to trusted devices in your home or office. If you’re on your wireless signal, you’re trusting that your service provider is protecting information going to, and coming from your device. If you’re out on the road, and on a public Wi-Fi, you’re trusting that the entity that is providing this Wi-Fi, is protecting you as well…and not harvesting your data. An example of this is stores, airports, hotels, or public spaces that offer free Wi-Fi for you while you are on the premises.

You need to understand that you are at risk in all of these situations. In fact, you may have already been compromised in any or all of these instances. The best course of action at this point, is to examine, and protect your connections to the Internet. These involve updating (or upgrading) your router, or using a VPN.

Update (or upgrade) your router

As detailed above, while at home we expect that our service to the Internet will be fast, and just work. This means that devices (a wireless router) is installed, you are given a password, and you log in to your wireless service. The technician will install everything for you, and test it before she leaves. Most times, you pay a monthly fee ($7 to $10) to “rent” this wireless router from your ISP. After the technician leaves, they usually only come back if there is an issue, or you are discontinuing service.

Your wireless router is one of the primary ways that you connect to the Internet, yet it is one of the most insecure. You can secure your router by making sure that you use a password with WPA2 encryption. When you log in to your router to check the settings…yes, you can do this and you should…you can select different types of encryption for your router. You want WPA2 encryption.

You should also make sure your router is always updated. Just like a computer or mobile device, your router needs to be updated if there is a security threat. Security threats are happening with more regularity, we need to trust that manufacturers are allowing you to log in and perform maintenance on your router, and this includes updating the software.

If you cannot figure out how to update or change the settings for your router, it may be time to upgrade your router. This means buying a new router and installing it to connect to the Internet. You can regularly find great deals on routers and install them to connect you to the Internet with relatively little effort. Many new routers have new features, and offer better Wi-Fi speed and strength than what you’re getting with the stuff you get from your ISP. Keep in mind, if you buy your own router, you can most likely return the router that you’re renting from your ISP.

Using a VPN

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) allows you to create a secure connection to the Internet. A VPN allows users to access a private network and share data remotely through public networks. In plain english, think of a VPN as a secure (private) server in between you and your connection to the Internet. When you want to use the Internet, you go to the VPN server and connect. From within the VPN server, you then connect to the apps, services, and spaces you want to access. The VPN server obfuscates and encrypts your data coming to and from the server.

For you this means that as you’re using the Internet, prying eyes see you connected to the VPN. While within the VPN, you might be off looking at social networks, banking, emailing colleagues, etc. Other people watching you will see you enter the VPN, and all traffic will be associated with the VPN. No one can easily identify you or your computer specifically as the source of the traffic. Finally, all data is encrypted, so if they do find your data, it will be garbled up content.

Finding and using a VPN can sometimes be a challenging process, but if you’re concerned about your privacy and security online (you should) it’s worth the (time and financial) investment. There are numerous options and services to select from.

If you want to try one out for free that is relatively easy to set up…try Tunnelbear. Tunnelbear has a free level that you can get you in the habit of using a VPN. You can also save the VPN for times when you feel like you need more protection. Tunnelbear has apps and extensions for all of the devices and platforms you use. Once you get the hang of it, I’d suggest finding a more robust option.

Remain vigilant

As heavy users of these connections to the Internet, it is our responsibility to make sure that we are protected and secure as we venture online. We cannot trust that the manufacturers of these devices and services are protecting our data. You also cannot trust that your ISP is protecting you. It is your responsibility to make sure that you are protected.

One of the key points of failure is often the very connections we make to the Internet. Secure this by updating or upgrading your router. If you’re out on public wifi, be careful and consider the use of a VPN. Finally, if you are on public wifi, and you are not on a VPN, consider doing basic, to no surfing that would share data that you want secure.

 

If this helps you out…please consider subscribing to my weekly newsletter to make sure you stay connected.

Image Credit

The crowds and the individual: why we should rethink how we debate complex issues on social media

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 17/01/2018 - 1:52am in

This is not an attempt to relitigate this episode, but to critically reflect on the underlying dynamics of social networks that contribute to such outcomes.

Picture by Zoé Carle, with permission. Last November, an online discussion between two prominent Syrian writers triggered waves of recriminations across and against both. The accusations and counter-accusations between Razan Ghazzawi, a political dissident and feminist activist, and Yassin Haj Saleh, a leftist political dissident, reignited earlier discussions on the role of feminist struggle in the Syrian uprising and the patriarchal nature of its elites. The focus was on the balance, legitimacy and place of the different intersecting struggles within the uprising: specifically (and most of all) those concerned with gender and class.

The original conflagration was started by an outrageous Facebook post by a young opposition Syrian activist and writer that carried a call for the rape of a pro-regime woman in Gaziantep, Turkey. This was as blatant an example as there could be of the pervasive patriarchy in the so-called secular Syrian oppositional sphere and the ubiquity of symbolic (as well as physical) violence against women in Syria in general.

The comment itself, as well as the cultural strains it represents, is unacceptable and should be condemned, and the failure to unequivocally and immediately condemn it constitutes in itself an issue to be discussed.

At the same time, to view this violence solely from the lenses of gender collapses the complexity of the issue and its intractable link to class, culture and the broader context of violence in the country. Indeed, there are serious, pertinent, and difficult, debates to be had about the intersection of these struggles in Syrian context. This complexity must be taken into consideration if the aim is to bring about a serious cultural transformation in this domain.

Unfortunately, what could have been a significant opportunity for a fruitful (if conflictual) debate gave way to a series of recriminations, personal accusations and counter-accusations that mainly furthered the polarisation. Of course, to ignore the issue was indeed not an option. Moreover, we hope that there is still a chance that what appears now as a poisoned, divisive, and polarized battleground will be translated at some point into a discussion in which different positions can be articulated and some common ground over the issue of women in Syria and specifically in opposition circles can be found.

Our chosen focus on communication processes may seem trivial to some given what is at stake

This is not an attempt to relitigate this episode, but to critically reflect on the underlying dynamics of social networks that contribute to such outcomes. In the hope, perhaps, that in the future similar problems can be contained or partially avoided. Indeed, this is only the latest of many cases on Syrian social media spheres that followed a largely similar pattern.

Our chosen focus on communication processes may seem trivial to some given what is at stake. However, we believe that how, where, and by whom these discussions are conducted can have a huge impact on the outcomes and, therefore, on the creation of a larger consensus or, as in this case, the recognition of what Syrian women have to struggle with on a daily basis.

This last case, among many others, highlights a significant paradox in how we use social media networks and the effect it has on concrete social struggles. On the one hand, the episode highlights a monumental shift in the discursive power enjoyed by Syrian intellectuals before and after the 2011 uprising. This is, in no small part, due to the status that platforms such as Facebook and Twitter acquired as the main sites of discursive struggle in the sphere of Syrian revolutionaries and the site to express contentious politics. Social media networks equipped activists and intellectuals, like Ghazzawi and Haj Saleh, with unprecedented avenues to raise issues of importance for their primary constituencies and their connected networks. In a context of a brutal military conflict, fragmentation and exile of Syrian activists and intellectuals, these nascent spaces could arguably play a significant role in the shaping of new political blocs, opportunities and subjectivities.

On the other hand, engaging with these discussions on social media has a price and presents us with many issues:

One is the inherent individualism embedded in these forms of communication. Social media inevitably place the emphasis on personal authenticity and individuality, rather than collectives and groups. Thus, debates become very emotional and person-centered. Such a mode of communication foregrounds the actor above the issue, and erases the necessary distance between the person of a political actor and the (collective) ideas s/he represents. And thus, it quickly degenerates into the level of quarrel between single individuals, with the underlying political disagreement languishing in the background.

Engaging with these discussions on social media has a price

In the example above, this is translated into the activation of the relevant networks of both actors (respective circles of friends and like-minded people) into a defense based largely on personal loyalty and affinity. It is not relevant whether it is a conscious strategy or not as it is an almost automatic process. But it was clear that many people were not expressing solidarity or attacking on the basis of the ideas that were supposed to be at the core of the debate, but rather because of their personal relation with the two main actors of the discussion.

The brevity and the immediacy of a Facebook post or a tweet facilitate misinterpretations and misunderstandings, so that many people are pushed even further to take position on the basis of their sympathies rather than on their knowledge about the topic at discussion. When some longer and less emotional clarifications came, it was already too late, as the machine of comments and insults was already at its peak and the debate was framed only along a “with” or “against” dynamic.

This tendency towards a polarisation of the debate is further reinforced by the clustering dynamics of social networks creating echo-chambers of like-minded individuals largely isolated from other groups. Networks can give us the illusion that we can reach anyone, but we almost always end up reaching the same people with the same convictions. Networks almost never converge into a more heterogeneous movement, because the investment to articulate this process needs other forms of dialogue and organization. It is quite relevant, for example, that the debate around the specific case we are considering here was often divided into two different spheres: one in Arabic, and one in English.

In other words, pro-feminist networks on Facebook or Twitter will meet many difficulties in reaching (and convincing) people who think in a different way. Worse still, when one always frequents people who have the same cultural background, one forgets what is needed to communicate with people who do not share crucial elements of that background.

Another problem is the evasiveness and immediacy of the responses and tools at the disposal of such networks: likes, comments, shares, expressions of solidarity etc. can only sustain attacks on opponents or express solidarity but for a brief moment. After which the actor at the center of the storm is left isolated to deal with the aftermath of what could only be a traumatic episode. The brevity and immediacy with which these tools are used privilege again the emotional short-term response and leaves no room for reflection or organising. It solidifies the in-group but without the mechanisms to produce viable alternative discourses, and cross sectional collaborations and solidarities; it thus leaves both groups even more vulnerable to future challenges.

The political scientist Jodi Dean in her book “Crowds and Party” makes this point very clearly: being part of a collective (like a party or any other structured organization) is also an affective matter. Having a collective around provides one with a shield when crowds (virtual or not) dissipate and disappear. Expressions of solidarity (likes, tweets, etc.) on social media do not provide this shield and leave the individual activist alone to fight the consequences (accusations, insults, acts of “betrayal”). In this context, the psychological pressure and feeling of isolation may be very difficult to bear. Solidarity on social media can alleviate it, but not resolve it.

All these factors should be considered when we engage in complex and relevant debates relying on social media as a privileged medium. To be aware of such consequences is particularly relevant for Syrians, given the prominence that these platforms acquired to discuss and connect people geographically dispersed and often still lacking stronger forms of collective organizations.

Other strategies must be experimented and this case should serve us as a lesson

Alternatives are always available, but they require another, often less visible, collective labour: collective statements and organized media campaigns; engaging of existing actors to negotiate with them before going public; more centralized and stable networks; and, of course, the establishment of more structured organization. In all these cases, the use of social media comes after a patient collective organizing, and should not be the first step.

Changing the ways we communicate with each other is of utmost importance if we consider the weak and fragmented character of Syrian secular opposition circles nowadays. Such a reflection inevitably involves the leading voices articulating these important issues (gender, class, among others) to take their responsibility in elaborating their positions and points of difference and to seek viable alliances and wider solidarity networks.

These issues, if debated and articulated collectively, offer invaluable opportunities to articulate new subjectivities and political blocs. The patriarchal culture, often hidden and denied, among many Syrian opposition circles is a reality. In order to change that reality, among many others, other strategies must be experimented and this case should serve us as a lesson.

Sideboxes
Related stories: 

The battle between Syrian secular activists and feminists: we all lose

الجماهير والفرد: إعادة النظر في كيفية مناقشة القضايا المعقدة على وسائل التواصل الاجتماعي

Country or region: 

Syria

Topics: 

Civil society

Democracy and government

Internet

Rights: 

CC by NC 4.0

The crowds and the individual: why we should rethink how we debate complex issues on social media

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 17/01/2018 - 1:52am in

This is not an attempt to relitigate this episode, but to critically reflect on the underlying dynamics of social networks that contribute to such outcomes.

Picture by Zoé Carle, with permission. Last November, an online discussion between two prominent Syrian writers triggered waves of recriminations across and against both. The accusations and counter-accusations between Razan Ghazzawi, a political dissident and feminist activist, and Yassin Haj Saleh, a leftist political dissident, reignited earlier discussions on the role of feminist struggle in the Syrian uprising and the patriarchal nature of its elites. The focus was on the balance, legitimacy and place of the different intersecting struggles within the uprising: specifically (and most of all) those concerned with gender and class.

The original conflagration was started by an outrageous Facebook post by a young opposition Syrian activist and writer that carried a call for the rape of a pro-regime woman in Gaziantep, Turkey. This was as blatant an example as there could be of the pervasive patriarchy in the so-called secular Syrian oppositional sphere and the ubiquity of symbolic (as well as physical) violence against women in Syria in general.

The comment itself, as well as the cultural strains it represents, is unacceptable and should be condemned, and the failure to unequivocally and immediately condemn it constitutes in itself an issue to be discussed.

At the same time, to view this violence solely from the lenses of gender collapses the complexity of the issue and its intractable link to class, culture and the broader context of violence in the country. Indeed, there are serious, pertinent, and difficult, debates to be had about the intersection of these struggles in Syrian context. This complexity must be taken into consideration if the aim is to bring about a serious cultural transformation in this domain.

Unfortunately, what could have been a significant opportunity for a fruitful (if conflictual) debate gave way to a series of recriminations, personal accusations and counter-accusations that mainly furthered the polarisation. Of course, to ignore the issue was indeed not an option. Moreover, we hope that there is still a chance that what appears now as a poisoned, divisive, and polarized battleground will be translated at some point into a discussion in which different positions can be articulated and some common ground over the issue of women in Syria and specifically in opposition circles can be found.

Our chosen focus on communication processes may seem trivial to some given what is at stake

This is not an attempt to relitigate this episode, but to critically reflect on the underlying dynamics of social networks that contribute to such outcomes. In the hope, perhaps, that in the future similar problems can be contained or partially avoided. Indeed, this is only the latest of many cases on Syrian social media spheres that followed a largely similar pattern.

Our chosen focus on communication processes may seem trivial to some given what is at stake. However, we believe that how, where, and by whom these discussions are conducted can have a huge impact on the outcomes and, therefore, on the creation of a larger consensus or, as in this case, the recognition of what Syrian women have to struggle with on a daily basis.

This last case, among many others, highlights a significant paradox in how we use social media networks and the effect it has on concrete social struggles. On the one hand, the episode highlights a monumental shift in the discursive power enjoyed by Syrian intellectuals before and after the 2011 uprising. This is, in no small part, due to the status that platforms such as Facebook and Twitter acquired as the main sites of discursive struggle in the sphere of Syrian revolutionaries and the site to express contentious politics. Social media networks equipped activists and intellectuals, like Ghazzawi and Haj Saleh, with unprecedented avenues to raise issues of importance for their primary constituencies and their connected networks. In a context of a brutal military conflict, fragmentation and exile of Syrian activists and intellectuals, these nascent spaces could arguably play a significant role in the shaping of new political blocs, opportunities and subjectivities.

On the other hand, engaging with these discussions on social media has a price and presents us with many issues:

One is the inherent individualism embedded in these forms of communication. Social media inevitably place the emphasis on personal authenticity and individuality, rather than collectives and groups. Thus, debates become very emotional and person-centered. Such a mode of communication foregrounds the actor above the issue, and erases the necessary distance between the person of a political actor and the (collective) ideas s/he represents. And thus, it quickly degenerates into the level of quarrel between single individuals, with the underlying political disagreement languishing in the background.

Engaging with these discussions on social media has a price

In the example above, this is translated into the activation of the relevant networks of both actors (respective circles of friends and like-minded people) into a defense based largely on personal loyalty and affinity. It is not relevant whether it is a conscious strategy or not as it is an almost automatic process. But it was clear that many people were not expressing solidarity or attacking on the basis of the ideas that were supposed to be at the core of the debate, but rather because of their personal relation with the two main actors of the discussion.

The brevity and the immediacy of a Facebook post or a tweet facilitate misinterpretations and misunderstandings, so that many people are pushed even further to take position on the basis of their sympathies rather than on their knowledge about the topic at discussion. When some longer and less emotional clarifications came, it was already too late, as the machine of comments and insults was already at its peak and the debate was framed only along a “with” or “against” dynamic.

This tendency towards a polarisation of the debate is further reinforced by the clustering dynamics of social networks creating echo-chambers of like-minded individuals largely isolated from other groups. Networks can give us the illusion that we can reach anyone, but we almost always end up reaching the same people with the same convictions. Networks almost never converge into a more heterogeneous movement, because the investment to articulate this process needs other forms of dialogue and organization. It is quite relevant, for example, that the debate around the specific case we are considering here was often divided into two different spheres: one in Arabic, and one in English.

In other words, pro-feminist networks on Facebook or Twitter will meet many difficulties in reaching (and convincing) people who think in a different way. Worse still, when one always frequents people who have the same cultural background, one forgets what is needed to communicate with people who do not share crucial elements of that background.

Another problem is the evasiveness and immediacy of the responses and tools at the disposal of such networks: likes, comments, shares, expressions of solidarity etc. can only sustain attacks on opponents or express solidarity but for a brief moment. After which the actor at the center of the storm is left isolated to deal with the aftermath of what could only be a traumatic episode. The brevity and immediacy with which these tools are used privilege again the emotional short-term response and leaves no room for reflection or organising. It solidifies the in-group but without the mechanisms to produce viable alternative discourses, and cross sectional collaborations and solidarities; it thus leaves both groups even more vulnerable to future challenges.

The political scientist Jodi Dean in her book “Crowds and Party” makes this point very clearly: being part of a collective (like a party or any other structured organization) is also an affective matter. Having a collective around provides one with a shield when crowds (virtual or not) dissipate and disappear. Expressions of solidarity (likes, tweets, etc.) on social media do not provide this shield and leave the individual activist alone to fight the consequences (accusations, insults, acts of “betrayal”). In this context, the psychological pressure and feeling of isolation may be very difficult to bear. Solidarity on social media can alleviate it, but not resolve it.

All these factors should be considered when we engage in complex and relevant debates relying on social media as a privileged medium. To be aware of such consequences is particularly relevant for Syrians, given the prominence that these platforms acquired to discuss and connect people geographically dispersed and often still lacking stronger forms of collective organizations.

Other strategies must be experimented and this case should serve us as a lesson

Alternatives are always available, but they require another, often less visible, collective labour: collective statements and organized media campaigns; engaging of existing actors to negotiate with them before going public; more centralized and stable networks; and, of course, the establishment of more structured organization. In all these cases, the use of social media comes after a patient collective organizing, and should not be the first step.

Changing the ways we communicate with each other is of utmost importance if we consider the weak and fragmented character of Syrian secular opposition circles nowadays. Such a reflection inevitably involves the leading voices articulating these important issues (gender, class, among others) to take their responsibility in elaborating their positions and points of difference and to seek viable alliances and wider solidarity networks.

These issues, if debated and articulated collectively, offer invaluable opportunities to articulate new subjectivities and political blocs. The patriarchal culture, often hidden and denied, among many Syrian opposition circles is a reality. In order to change that reality, among many others, other strategies must be experimented and this case should serve us as a lesson.

Sideboxes
Related stories: 

The battle between Syrian secular activists and feminists: we all lose

الجماهير والفرد: إعادة النظر في كيفية مناقشة القضايا المعقدة على وسائل التواصل الاجتماعي

Country or region: 

Syria

Topics: 

Civil society

Democracy and government

Internet

Rights: 

CC by NC 4.0

Team Syntegrity 2017: edging towards a more liveable world

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 15/01/2018 - 12:32am in

Tags 

Ideas, Internet

Is it
really enough to ‘like’, ‘follow’, and ‘retweet’ each other’s posts and updates?
Or do we need something more – co-produced meeting points and collaborative projects
in our real/daily lives?  

lead Screenshot: Armine on her significant moments in Team Syntegrity 2017 in the final session at Artchimboldi, Barcelona.In June last year I had the pleasure of being part of a Team Syntegrity conference
hosted by openDemocracy. Until the workshop, I had heard much about the process
from my colleague and openDemocracy main site editor, Rosemary Bechler. The
main question addressed at the conference was: “In the context of several major
interconnected global crises, how can civil society help to renew our
democracies to rise to the challenge?” It is a question I helped Rosemary draft
and one in which I am very interested. 

What
most drew me to the Team Syntegrity model was that it combines a
non-hierarchical model of engagement with a well-developed system of facilitation
and moderation. But before arriving in Barcelona, I couldn’t quite imagine how this
system would work in practice. While I had been very much looking forward to
the conference, due to some unforeseen complications, I could only join the
workshop mid-way. By that time, the group had developed its own unique dynamic,
so when I arrived in Barcelona two-days after the workshop had started, I felt
as though I was stepping mid-way into an on-going conversation. I would catch
snippets of past discussions and interactions and although the participants all
welcomed me, I could not shake the feeling that I was more of an observer,
rather than a full-fledged participant since I had missed out on the
foundational interactions of the first days. Regardless, I could clearly see the earnest and honest discussions that
were taking place and the strong connections that had been forged in such a
short space of time.   

The
participants came from different countries across the globe (e.g., from
Australia, Wales, and all points in between) and from very different walks of
life (e.g., artists, politicians, and entrepreneurs). But once we were together
in that space, they brought our energies together to  address not only the main question above, but
also to start generating and thinking through various sub-questions including, how
do we create safe and inclusive spaces in society and how do we reinvent
politics. 

In an
era of ever-shrinking public spaces (physical and otherwise) and growing
intolerance and hate, events which bring together diverse groups of people to
debate, to think, and to come up with new ideas and ways of thinking and
engaging with others are important. But being a realist (some would say
pessimist…), I cannot help but wonder whether and how we can sustain the
discussions, connections, and momentum beyond such organised events and
conferences?

Some participants
have already connected and continue to maintain links with others on social
media. But these are individual connections, and is it really enough to ‘like’,
‘follow’, and ‘retweet’ each other’s posts and updates? Or do we need something
more – such as co-produced, collaborative projects or meeting points and
connections in our real/daily lives? And how can we make this happen when we
are so geographically dispersed and immersed in our own work and projects? 

Obviously,
it is up to each of us to maintain the connections and conversations, to seek
new collaborations with people we met through Team Syntegrity, and to show
solidarity to one another. For me, openDemocracy is that meeting point, albeit a
virtual one, through which this can happen and through which the participants
of the Barcelona Team Syntegrity conference can stay in touch. 

But
ultimately for the process to be meaningful and sustainable, it demands action from
each of us and a willingness to continue the conversations we started in
Barcelona. So, let’s check-in every once in a while into this space and find
ways we can create, what my fellow Team Syntegrity member, Joan Pedro-Caranana
called, “a more liveable world”. 

Cameron Thibos, Team Syntegrity 2017 photographer. All rights reserved.

Sideboxes
'Read On' Sidebox: 

Team Syntegrity 2017

Meet the participants

Some results

Process in their own words

Sidebox: 

Armine Ishkanian co-organised Team Syntegrity 2017 in her capacity as co-editor of openMovements.

Related stories: 

Team Syntegrity, a comprehensive method of hope

From civil society to political society

Team Syntegrity emergent

Letter from a recovering Team Syntegrity 2017 participant

Diary of an organiser: Team Syntegrity 2017

The politics of feelings

The future of civil society is dependent on space

While the sun shines

Change in a consensual way

Safe spaces, bagpipes and houmous

Let’s not ‘politicise’: let’s skill

Meeting Lofa

Intercommunication in Barcelona, past and future

City: 

Barcelona

Topics: 

Civil society

Democracy and government

Ideas

International politics

Internet

Rights: 

CC by NC 4.0

Open letter on fake news and elections in Latin America

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 12/01/2018 - 10:22pm in

Tags 

Internet

In the context of growing international debates about the so called “fake news”, the undersigned
organizations would like to express strong concerns about paths that the issue is taking. Español Português

A software to help journalists to debunk fake videos on social networks shown during an international festival dedicated to digital innovations in Paris, on June 10, 2017. Photo by Michel Stoupak/ NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved

0
0
1
1149
6551
Open Democracy
54
15
7685
14.0

Normal
0

false
false
false

ES-TRAD
JA
X-NONE

In the context of the Internet Governance Forum 2017 and
growing international debates about the so called “fake news”, the undersigned
organizations would like to express strong concerns about possible paths that
the framing of the issue is taking.

The terminology has been widely spread in rhetorics from the
Global North, but we cannot import such a concept without taking into account
the long history of media concentration and manipulation in Latin American and
Caribbean region. Legitimizing the term as a novelty is misrepresenting the
nature of the problem, as asserted by Frank La Rue during the Internet
Governance Forum in Geneva:

Campaigns of misinformation have been a strategy from traditional media monopolies to threaten and dismantle democracies for years.

 

 “I don’t like the term “fake news” because I think there is
a bit of a trap in it. We are confronting campaigns of misinformation. So we
should talk about information and disinformation (…) They are trying to
dissuade us from reading news and thinking.”

Campaigns of misinformation have been a strategy from
traditional media monopolies to threaten and dismantle democracies for years.
We cannot disconsider years of work and debate from the movement for
democratization of communications and adopt the “fake news” terminology as a
completely new phenomenon in Latin America. Disconsider old and new power
imbalances concerning media ownership concentration, social media monopolies
and Nation States political interests to control and manipulate speech - within
and beyond its borders -, opens space for serious consequences.

Ultimately, we are concerned that the adoption of such
terminology and proposed ways to redress it will eventually lead to:

a) Empowering traditional media monopolies against
independent media, community media and independent critical voices, as if they
were solely the one entitled as possible official fact-checkers. A trend that
might escalate in the same way as the persecution against community radio
proliferated across Latin America.

b) Opening space for surveillance, content manipulation and
censorship from platforms . We have already seen social media platforms
positioning themselves and testing tools to classify (and block) what is “fake”
or “real” and “trustworthy”. Any provision on intermediary liability should
never entail the need for this sort of activity. Furthermore, fact checking
partnerships might not be transparent or take into account that we operate in a
context in which platforms have substantial power to manipulate their
untransparent algorithms to prioritize particular kinds of content. That would
also be equally misleading and even more damaging and obscure, as it would not
be subjected to any oversight. This trend becomes even more worrisome in the
context of regional elections.

c) Encouraging surveillance and censorship from governments.
We have already seen troublesome initiatives and a proliferation of laws aiming
at active monitoring and regulating of online speech and delegating fact
checking to authorities, therefore weakening the role of independent media
watchdogs. For instance, Brazil has just set up a governmental council
composed, among others, by representatives from the Army and the Intelligence
Agency to monitor “fake news” during the elections and have draft bills with
the intent to define “fake news” as “false and incomplete content”.

“The problem is that fake news becomes a perfect excuse to just silence or shut down any alternative or any dissident voice”.

In face of this scenario, we profoundly agree with another
concern also expressed by Frank La Rue:

“The problem again is that fake news becomes a perfect
excuse to just silence or shut down any alternative or any dissident voice”.

Therefore, reinforcing the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and inspired
partly by the Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and “Fake News”,
Disinformation and Propaganda, we would like to reinforce the following
principles to guide future conversations about dissemination of
(mis)information in the digital environments:

The human right to impart information protects ideas that
may shock or disturb and it is even not limited to “correct statements”, though
it “does not justify the dissemination of knowingly or recklessly false
statements by official or State actors”, or by organized and powerful private
actors;

“States may only impose restrictions on the right to freedom
of expression in accordance with the test for such restrictions under
international law, namely that they be provided for by law, serve one of the
legitimate interests recognized under international law, and be necessary and
proportionate to protect that interest.”

“General prohibitions on the dissemination of information
based on vague and ambiguous ideas, including ‘fake news’ or ‘non-objective
information’, are incompatible with international standards for restrictions on
freedom of expression”;

It is necessary to consider various forms of disinformation
in this debate, ranging from news without any factual basis, created
intentionally to deceive (for political or economic reasons), to
decontextualized or unbalanced information. The identification of falsehood in
the first case differs from the others.

States and Intermediaries should refrain from taking
“measures to limit access to or the dissemination of digital content, including
through automated processes, such as algorithms or digital recognition-based
content removal systems, which are not transparent in nature, which fail to
respect minimum due process standards and/or which unduly restrict access to or
the dissemination of content”;

“General prohibitions on the dissemination of information based on vague and ambiguous ideas, including ‘fake news’ or ‘non-objective information’, are incompatible with international standards for restrictions on freedom of expression”

States and Intermediaries should engage in efforts to ensure
clear and complete information about payed political advertisement over the
internet and to promote algorithmic transparency;

All the stakeholders should promote a media and digital
literacy, as well as free, independent and diverse communications environment,
including media diversity, which is a key means of addressing disinformation
and propaganda. In democratic societies, it is the confrontation of ideas and
the existence of open and plural debates that can combat misinformation.

All the stakeholders should “consider other measures to
promote equality, non-discrimination, inter-cultural understanding and other
democratic values, including with a view to addressing the negative effects of
disinformation and propaganda.”

Geneva, December, 2017

Signatures:

Coding Rights, Brazil

Intervozes, Brazil

Fundación Karisma, Colombia

Hiperderecho, Peru

R3D, México

IPANDETEC, Panamá

Acoso Online, Chile

PROTESTE Consumers Association, Brazil

Internet Without Borders, Brazil

Tedic, Paraguay

Casa da Cultura Digital Porto Alegre, Brazil

Derechos Digitales, América Latina

Association for Progressive Communications (APC)

ARTICLE19 Oficina para México y Centroamérica

Actantes, Brazil

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)

Sursiendo, Comunicación y Cultura Digital, México

Igarapé Institute, Brazil

Instituto Nupef, Brazil

Fundación Datos Protegidos, Chile

Enjambre Digital, México

Observatorio Latinoamericano de Regulación, Medios y
Convergencia - Observacom

Institito de Referência em Internet & Sociedade - IRIS,
Brazil

Agencia Latinoamericana de Información - ALAI

Asociación por los Derechos Civiles, Argentina

Instituto Demos, Guatemala

Centro de Estudos da Mídia Alternativa Barão de Itarare,
Brazil

Movimento Mega Não, Brazil

Instituto Bem Estar Brasil

LAVITS_Rede latino-americana de estudos em vigilância,
tecnologia e sociedade

SOCICOM - Federação Brasileira das Associações Científicas e
Acadêmicas de Comunicações

UBM - União Brasileira de Mulheres

Nodo TAU, Argentina

SonTusDatos (Artículo 12, A.C.), Mexico

Coolab, Brazil

IDEC - Instituto Brasileiro de Defesa do Consumidor

Sula Batsu Cooperativa, Costa Rica

Usuarios Digitales, Ecuador

Sideboxes
Related stories: 

Internet shutdowns: the “new normal” in government repression?

Fake news didn’t start with Donald Trump

Topics: 

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Open letter on fake news and elections in Latin America

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 12/01/2018 - 10:22pm in

Tags 

Internet

In the context of growing international debates about the so called “fake news”, the undersigned
organizations would like to express strong concerns about paths that the issue is taking. Español Português

A software to help journalists to debunk fake videos on social networks shown during an international festival dedicated to digital innovations in Paris, on June 10, 2017. Photo by Michel Stoupak/ NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved

0
0
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Open Democracy
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false
false
false

ES-TRAD
JA
X-NONE

In the context of the Internet Governance Forum 2017 and
growing international debates about the so called “fake news”, the undersigned
organizations would like to express strong concerns about possible paths that
the framing of the issue is taking.

The terminology has been widely spread in rhetorics from the
Global North, but we cannot import such a concept without taking into account
the long history of media concentration and manipulation in Latin American and
Caribbean region. Legitimizing the term as a novelty is misrepresenting the
nature of the problem, as asserted by Frank La Rue during the Internet
Governance Forum in Geneva:

Campaigns of misinformation have been a strategy from traditional media monopolies to threaten and dismantle democracies for years.

 

 “I don’t like the term “fake news” because I think there is
a bit of a trap in it. We are confronting campaigns of misinformation. So we
should talk about information and disinformation (…) They are trying to
dissuade us from reading news and thinking.”

Campaigns of misinformation have been a strategy from
traditional media monopolies to threaten and dismantle democracies for years.
We cannot disconsider years of work and debate from the movement for
democratization of communications and adopt the “fake news” terminology as a
completely new phenomenon in Latin America. Disconsider old and new power
imbalances concerning media ownership concentration, social media monopolies
and Nation States political interests to control and manipulate speech - within
and beyond its borders -, opens space for serious consequences.

Ultimately, we are concerned that the adoption of such
terminology and proposed ways to redress it will eventually lead to:

a) Empowering traditional media monopolies against
independent media, community media and independent critical voices, as if they
were solely the one entitled as possible official fact-checkers. A trend that
might escalate in the same way as the persecution against community radio
proliferated across Latin America.

b) Opening space for surveillance, content manipulation and
censorship from platforms . We have already seen social media platforms
positioning themselves and testing tools to classify (and block) what is “fake”
or “real” and “trustworthy”. Any provision on intermediary liability should
never entail the need for this sort of activity. Furthermore, fact checking
partnerships might not be transparent or take into account that we operate in a
context in which platforms have substantial power to manipulate their
untransparent algorithms to prioritize particular kinds of content. That would
also be equally misleading and even more damaging and obscure, as it would not
be subjected to any oversight. This trend becomes even more worrisome in the
context of regional elections.

c) Encouraging surveillance and censorship from governments.
We have already seen troublesome initiatives and a proliferation of laws aiming
at active monitoring and regulating of online speech and delegating fact
checking to authorities, therefore weakening the role of independent media
watchdogs. For instance, Brazil has just set up a governmental council
composed, among others, by representatives from the Army and the Intelligence
Agency to monitor “fake news” during the elections and have draft bills with
the intent to define “fake news” as “false and incomplete content”.

“The problem is that fake news becomes a perfect excuse to just silence or shut down any alternative or any dissident voice”.

In face of this scenario, we profoundly agree with another
concern also expressed by Frank La Rue:

“The problem again is that fake news becomes a perfect
excuse to just silence or shut down any alternative or any dissident voice”.

Therefore, reinforcing the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and inspired
partly by the Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and “Fake News”,
Disinformation and Propaganda, we would like to reinforce the following
principles to guide future conversations about dissemination of
(mis)information in the digital environments:

The human right to impart information protects ideas that
may shock or disturb and it is even not limited to “correct statements”, though
it “does not justify the dissemination of knowingly or recklessly false
statements by official or State actors”, or by organized and powerful private
actors;

“States may only impose restrictions on the right to freedom
of expression in accordance with the test for such restrictions under
international law, namely that they be provided for by law, serve one of the
legitimate interests recognized under international law, and be necessary and
proportionate to protect that interest.”

“General prohibitions on the dissemination of information
based on vague and ambiguous ideas, including ‘fake news’ or ‘non-objective
information’, are incompatible with international standards for restrictions on
freedom of expression”;

It is necessary to consider various forms of disinformation
in this debate, ranging from news without any factual basis, created
intentionally to deceive (for political or economic reasons), to
decontextualized or unbalanced information. The identification of falsehood in
the first case differs from the others.

States and Intermediaries should refrain from taking
“measures to limit access to or the dissemination of digital content, including
through automated processes, such as algorithms or digital recognition-based
content removal systems, which are not transparent in nature, which fail to
respect minimum due process standards and/or which unduly restrict access to or
the dissemination of content”;

“General prohibitions on the dissemination of information based on vague and ambiguous ideas, including ‘fake news’ or ‘non-objective information’, are incompatible with international standards for restrictions on freedom of expression”

States and Intermediaries should engage in efforts to ensure
clear and complete information about payed political advertisement over the
internet and to promote algorithmic transparency;

All the stakeholders should promote a media and digital
literacy, as well as free, independent and diverse communications environment,
including media diversity, which is a key means of addressing disinformation
and propaganda. In democratic societies, it is the confrontation of ideas and
the existence of open and plural debates that can combat misinformation.

All the stakeholders should “consider other measures to
promote equality, non-discrimination, inter-cultural understanding and other
democratic values, including with a view to addressing the negative effects of
disinformation and propaganda.”

Geneva, December, 2017

Signatures:

Coding Rights, Brazil

Intervozes, Brazil

Fundación Karisma, Colombia

Hiperderecho, Peru

R3D, México

IPANDETEC, Panamá

Acoso Online, Chile

PROTESTE Consumers Association, Brazil

Internet Without Borders, Brazil

Tedic, Paraguay

Casa da Cultura Digital Porto Alegre, Brazil

Derechos Digitales, América Latina

Association for Progressive Communications (APC)

ARTICLE19 Oficina para México y Centroamérica

Actantes, Brazil

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)

Sursiendo, Comunicación y Cultura Digital, México

Igarapé Institute, Brazil

Instituto Nupef, Brazil

Fundación Datos Protegidos, Chile

Enjambre Digital, México

Observatorio Latinoamericano de Regulación, Medios y
Convergencia - Observacom

Institito de Referência em Internet & Sociedade - IRIS,
Brazil

Agencia Latinoamericana de Información - ALAI

Asociación por los Derechos Civiles, Argentina

Instituto Demos, Guatemala

Centro de Estudos da Mídia Alternativa Barão de Itarare,
Brazil

Movimento Mega Não, Brazil

Instituto Bem Estar Brasil

LAVITS_Rede latino-americana de estudos em vigilância,
tecnologia e sociedade

SOCICOM - Federação Brasileira das Associações Científicas e
Acadêmicas de Comunicações

UBM - União Brasileira de Mulheres

Nodo TAU, Argentina

SonTusDatos (Artículo 12, A.C.), Mexico

Coolab, Brazil

IDEC - Instituto Brasileiro de Defesa do Consumidor

Sula Batsu Cooperativa, Costa Rica

Usuarios Digitales, Ecuador

Sideboxes
Related stories: 

Internet shutdowns: the “new normal” in government repression?

Fake news didn’t start with Donald Trump

Topics: 

Civil society

Democracy and government

International politics

Internet

Rights: 

CC by NC 4.0

Milo Yiannopoulos, product of the crisis of post-modern politics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 11/01/2018 - 12:28am in

A troll who might
as well be the new prototype of the 21st-century politician, what Milo does to
us is what we have done to the world.
Therein lies
the challenge.

Protesters clash during a demonstration outside Milo Yiannopoulos' sold out show at the Melbourne Pavilion in Melbourne, Monday, December 4, 2017. Erik Anderson/ Press Association. All rights reserved.

Can a
non-ideological right exist? Is there such a thing as rebellious
conservativism? Can being a member of a sexual minority be used as a shield to
hold in front of you when you attack the forts of (supposedly) traditional left/liberal
political correctness? These are the questions we should ask in relation to the
quasi-invitation of Milo Yiannopoulos, a celebrated star of the Trump (online)
subculture and a figure almost completely unknown in Hungary, to a conference
organized by the Hungarian government
.

Typically, in the
current reality of Hungarian politics however, we tend to respond to such
crisis identities and crisis-political products of (post-)modernism as those of
Milo by hysterically stigmatizing the phenomenon as far-rightism. To quote the
dialogue of Péter Nádas and Richard Swartz
: "Verdicts appearing in the clothing of
finality are valid for one day only (...). They are final verdicts based on the
prejudices derived from contemporary taste."

Let us examine why
Milo should be considered more than just a "far right" provocateur,
and why he may instead be a product of the crisis of postmodern politics.

Starting his career
as a tech journalist and gaining dubious fame for his extreme acts and statements,
and actually becoming a real opinion shaper as communication between such
individuals and the public became increasingly privatized, Milo reduced public
political discourse to the language of social media, thus becoming the face of
an "alt-right" that concurrently denies the validity of ideologies,
is anti-elite and xenophobic as well as heavily reliant on the fear of
postmodern identity-driven politics. He is the face of a right the political
essence of which may perhaps be most validly described as ‘troll politics’.

Systematic upsetting

Earlier on, a
significant part of Milo's activities was that he went to anti-Trump rallies
with his camera during the presidential election campaign, and while the
participants of these events were demonstrating for peace, solidarity, and
compassion under the flag of a tolerant America, they often reacted arrogantly
and violently in Milo's videos. This was the way the Trumpist online network
was able to "deconstruct" the self-image of Democrat supporters.
Shared at an exponential rate within minutes, these videos, albeit aired with
less significant viewership compared to the total American population, managed
to reach where they needed to (and even farther), via the new online marketing
tools.

So the point of
these actions was to quickly and widely "deconstruct" or undermine
the image that the democrats attempted to convey about themselves. Recording
the scene with his mobile phone, Milo accosted democratic protesters who
gradually lost their "political temper" to the point when one
particular demonstrator began to pound Yiannopoulos with a "Peace"
sign, while Milo was broadcasting the whole thing live on Facebook, thanks to
Mark Zuckerberg.

Bubbles

This kind of
"systematic upsetting" could not have worked so well in the time of the
slow-response print media. The camera crews of major networks were sometimes
unable to cover demonstrations in the era before online media dominance but the
appearance and widespread use of (smart) phones has even rendered them
unnecessary. Due to the new technology, opinion narration is privatized and the
impact of the New York Times opinion column is less significant in the era of
visual images (used as [counter-]evidence). We are stepping from one media
bubble to another, finding ourselves in the narrative quarantines of meta-realities
of whose real or supposed impact we don't really have any idea.

The context of the
above is described by Péter Csigó as follows: "Collective speculation in
financial markets has not been the sole case to manifest the systemic crisis of
feedback (or “responsivity”) mechanisms in late modern society. Similarly to
financial investors, today’s political actors are also immersed in a
self-referential speculative game, a “bubble” that retreats from reality and
follows its self-justifying inner logic. While finance actors speculate
collectively on financial asset prices and on to what extent these prices
faithfully represent underlying “fundamental” processes, the system of
“mediatized populist democracy” nurtures a collective speculation about “the
people” and “the popular.”

Politicians,
experts, and observers commonly speculate on how to win the “popularity
contest” of politics, how to win the hearts and minds of their popular
media-using constituencies. However, this speculative process has detached
itself from the real trends of public opinion formation – and it has betrayed
the “fundamentals” of the political field just as has been the case with
financial bubbles and the real economy."

So mediatized
democracy struggles with structural feedback and responsivity defects, which
then exaggerate the perception of events, individuals and scandals, and the
"impact" of which is further intensified by the reactions of a
critical public.

This is how Milo,
who is not simply a troll but the product of the crisis of mediatized politics
and the consequence of the disintegration of self-evidence, becomes well-known,
popular and even a point of reference.

Supporters of British alt-right commentator Milo Yiannopoulos clash with left-wing protesters in Lilyfield, Sydney, Tuesday, December 5, 2017. Danny Casey. Press Association. All rights reserved.

Soft-censorship

On the other hand,
if you really look into it, the aura of this product of political crisis is not
very far-removed from the political technology of contemporary leaders
considered as right-wing populists. The primary goal of this political activity
is not to promote the common good but to maintain a grip on power by occupying
and monopolizing certain sectors (media, entertainment, etc.) and transferring
them into the hands of the business elite collaborating with the holders of
power, so that the thus "captured" state can manipulate the public
through soft censorship.

Despite the many
differences (that are equally important but not emphasized here), the above
political technology seems to work in such countries as Russia, Hungary, Turkey
and the United States. The intensity and grade of organized resistance to it
depends on the individual features of the given region.

However, this is
not the only area where the radical innovation of an alternative and populist
right manifests itself. It is also demonstrated in understanding the negative
effects of postmodern politics. Liberalized by the new leftist movements of the
1960s, the left lulled itself into the illusion that the working class and
their attendant social groups had disappeared. The postmodernism of the 1990s
basked in the un-narratibility of the world (including the ego) and the diffusion of values (and the ego).

At the collapse of
the Eastern bloc, the (neo)liberals of the post-bipolar world were celebrating
the onset of the eternal peace so desired and the multi-coloured democracy of
identities as well as the conforming triumph of the market. In the meantime,
the contemporary right attempted to modernize, while also preserving their
original meaning, the ideas (nation, family, community) that formed the natural
foundation of their political efforts.

These values were
typically met with irony from progressives, who were using forms of  political expression that were coming into line
with the principles of marketing (i.e. politicians are to be advertised the
same way as detergents) and making tabloidism a key device of political
communication. At the time, they were right in thinking that they would be able
to dominate the language of political postmodernism. However, that political
thought relied on the indomitable nature of political correctness, that is, its
applicability to all situations. But this failed to integrate the impulses and
the sometimes extreme self-expressions of those at the bottom of the pile, who
were thus ashamed of them and therefore suppressed them.

These suppressions
were liberated by the populist (pop-political) right. In its communication, it
preserves the traditional ideas of political conservativism and blends them
with the expressions of live speech imitating the language of social media,
including its slang components.

Power-oriented in
its rhetoric, this passionate language is rooted in the sentiments of the
oppressed. It is no longer just tabloidism: not only does it open its bedroom
doors wide; it also exposes bedroom activities completely unveiled for the
political consumer.

In the context of
"official politics", the Milos of the world are trolls. However, they
don't care whether their statements correspond to the reality or the experience
they identify reality with. Ignoring debates, they cause scandal and create chaos
to force their way into the political discourse, click by click. They no longer
want to defeat or surpass postmodern intellectual narratives. Instead, they
want to make them their own, turn them upside down so that they could
eventually hold them up to the progressive elite as a mocking glass.
Ultimately, this ideology-deprived politics aims to sell itself as the natural
addiction of the "people" and the amplifier of the voice of those at
the bottom – which also sounds all too familiar in Hungary.

lead British alt-right commentator Milo Yiannopoulos speaks during an event at Parliament House in Canberra, Tuesday, December 5, 2017. Lukas Coch/ Press Association. All rights reserved.

Seriously?

Does Milo
Yiannopoulos take himself seriously? He doesn't need to. Do Orbán's people take
him seriously? They may, but probably just as much as they have realized that
postmodern liberalism must be defeated using postmodernism as the
"means", by creating chaos, upsetting or even ridiculing values and
throwing around ideological inconsistencies.

Milo Yiannopoulos
heralds the era of a new politics. He is consciously spontaneous, innovatively
conservative, a trend-setting extremist. A troll who might as well be the new
prototype of the 21st-century politician.

What Milo does to
us is what we have done to the world.

Therein lies the
challenge.

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Neither Jews nor Germans: where is liberalism taking us?

India at 70: bigotry rules

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United States

EU

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Culture

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Books on Afro-American and Afro-Caribbean Archaeology

A few months ago I got through the post the 2017 archaeology catalogue for Eurospan University Presses. Amongst some of the fascinating books listed were several on the archaeology of Black communities in America and the Caribbean. As you’ll see, they’re at prices well beyond what ordinary readers can afford. They’re really available only to the rich and academic libraries. If you’ve got access to one near you, then I recommend you try to borrow it from there. Some universities do lend to members of the public in the summer holidays when most of the students have gone home. It might also be possible to get it on interlibrary loan, although this can also mean a long wait and isn’t cheap either. The last time I enquired about it at Bristol, I was told the price was £5 per book. Which means that if you want to borrow more than one, it can become very expensive very quickly. Dam’ Tories and their cuts! I don’t know, but it may also be that some of these books may be available in PDF form over the Net at a cheaper rate. This isn’t mentioned in the catalogue, but it might be so. Alternatively, you could see if there are secondhand copies on Amazon. On the other hand, it might be worth waiting to see if a paperback edition comes out, which may be cheaper.

Here are the books I found interesting, and the blurbs for them in the catalogue.

Archaeologies of African American Life in the Upper Mid-Atlantic, edited by Michael J. Gall & Richard F. Veit
9780817319656 Hardback £74.50

Provides insights into the archaeology and cultural history of African-American life from a collection of sites in the northeastern US. This volume explores the archaeology of African-American life and cultures in the Upper Mid-Atlantic region, suing sites dating from the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries.

University of Alabama Press.

Before the Pioneers: Indians, Settlers, Slaves and the Founding of Miami, Andre F. Krank, 9780813054513, hardback £18.50

Formed seemingly out of steel, glass, and concrete with millions of residents from around the globe, Miami has ancient roots that can be hard to imagine today. This work takes readers back through forgotten eras to the stories of the people who shaped the land along the Miami River long before most modern histories of the city begin.

University of Florida Press.

Honoring Ancestors in Sacred Space: The Archaeology of an Eighteenth Century African Bahamian Cemetery, Grace Turner, 9781683400202, hardback £79.50.

Throughout life, black Africans in the Bahamas possessed material items of various degrees of importance to them and within their culture. St. Matthews was a cemetery in Nassau at the water’s edge – or sometimes slightly below. This project emerged from archaeological excavations at this site to identify and recover materials associated with the interned before the area was completely redeveloped.

University Press of Florida.

The Rosewood Massacre: An archaeology and History of Intersectional Violence, Edward Gonzalez Tennant. 9780813056784, £84.95.

Investigates the 1923 massacre that devastated the predominantly African American community of Rosewood, Florida. The author draws on cutting edge GIS technology, census data, artefacts from excavations, and archaeological theory to explore the local circumstances and broader socio-political power structures that led to the massacre.

University Press of Florida.

Simplicity, Equality and Slavery: An Archaeology of Quakerism in the British Virgin Islands, 1740-1780, John M. Chenoweth, 9781683400110 hardback, £79.50.

Inspired by the Quaker ideals of simplicity, equality, and peace, a group of White planters formed a community in the British Virgin Islands during the eighteenth century. Here, the author examines how the community navigated the contradictions of Quakerism and plantation ownership.

University Press of Florida.

These books sound very interesting. There have been a lot of research into the homes and communities of Black Americans over the past couple of decades. They’ve been excavated in New York, and also the slave communities owned by the Founding Fathers, like Benjamin Franklin. In the case of excavating cemeteries, it’s obviously a particularly sensitive area, and the archaeologists involved have obviously had to be particularly careful in their negotiations of the host Black community and the surviving relatives of the deceased. As you should when excavating any human remains.

From what I gather from reading elsewhere, cemeteries and burial grounds are of particular importance in Afro-Caribbean culture, where it’s associated not only with personal heritage and family history and identity but also occupation of the land.

I remember correctly, the 1923 Rosewood massacre was White supremacist pogrom against the Black community in Rosewood, their politicians and their White supporters and allies. This was before McCarthyism, when the American Left was still very strong, and the Republican party the more left-wing of the two main political parties. The town’s mayor was Black, and the town council included Socialists. Even the Republicans issued a statement condemning the treatment of the poor, the corrupt corporate politics keeping them there, and declaring healthcare and education a right. Obviously the Conservatives and the Klan really couldn’t tolerate that, and stirred up resentment until it boiled over into organised violence.

As for the Quaker plantation in the British Virgin Islands, the Quakers very early denounced and condemned slavery as fundamentally opposed to their principles. John Fox, the sect’s founder, denounced and by their laws no member could own slaves. Nevertheless, the acceptance of slavery was so deeply ingrained in European society, that its rejection was not easy for many to accept. And although they were condemned from owning or dealing in slaves, some Quakers did make their cash through supplying the slave ships. If you want to know more about the Quakers, their ideals in this period, then I recommend you read David Dabydeen’s history of the Quakers in the 17th and 18th centuries, Sugar and Slaves.

Robohunter: 2000 AD’s Warning about Crazed Robots?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 30/12/2017 - 7:08am in

Now for something a bit lighter. What struck me watching Six Robots and Us on BBC 2 last night, was how similar the real robots given to the six families to help them with their problems resembled the demented machines drawn by art robot Ian Gibson for 2000 AD’s ‘Robohunter’ strip. Written by script droid John Wagner, who was Pat Mills’ partner in crime behind Judge Dredd, ‘Robohunter’ was about a future private detective, Sam Slade, who specialised in hunting down rogue robots. In his first adventure, Slade is sent to Verdus, a planet colonised by robots ready for eventual human occupation. But the robots have developed so rapidly, that they now exceed humans in strength and intelligence. Programmed to regard humans as their superiors, they simply don’t recognise the inferior organic beings that turn up as humans, and so incarcerate as experimental animals in concentration camps.

‘Robohunter’ was one of my favourite strips in 2000 AD. It was Science Fiction, but had the wit and style of an old-fashioned hardboiled detective thriller from the thirties or forties. Slade – ‘that’s S-L-A-Y-E-D to you’ was something like a futuristic Sam Spade. Which meant that he was frequently being beaten up by the villains, before fighting his way out with a few laconic witticisms. And the robots drawn by Gibson were imaginative and convincing, with the same type of cartoony features as the robots used in Six Robots and Us.

And like very many of the other strips in 2000 AD, ‘Robohunter’ was also sharply satirical. Here’s Wagner’s and Gibson’s take on the British parliament, from the collected strips Robo-Hunter: Verdus, by John Wagner, Ian Gibson, Jose Luis Ferrer and Jose Casanovas, published by Rebellion/ 2000 AD.

Okay, so the robots sent to the families weren’t demented killing machines intent on enslaving us. In fact the Shopbot sent to a supermarket in Glasgow offered people hugs. One of the store workers observed shrewdly that he had nothing against the machine, as long as it didn’t put human employees out of a job. Quite.

And some of them actually didn’t work very well. The Carebot sent in to look after a lady with MS, thus allowing her husband some time away from looking after her, actually couldn’t physically help her. It could only remind her and her husband when she needed to take her medicine and to call him on the mobile if there was something wrong. Unfortunately, it used the internet, and so the moment the husband was out of wifi range, the connection went down and it was more or less useless.

So they’re not quite like the robots in ‘Robohunter’ just yet. But we have been warned!

Cartoon of the day

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 24/12/2017 - 5:00am in

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