Notes from the Digital culture, networks and distributed politics in the age of the Internet. From the Global Spring to the Net Democracy, organized by the Communication and Civil Society programme of the IN3 in Barcelona, Spain, in October 24-25, 2012. More notes on this event: comsc.

Round table: From movements to constitutions. How to think in a networked and open source constitutional process
Chairs: Tomás Herreros

Is it true that citizens (Spaniards, Greeks, etc.) are lab rats upon which we can play socio-economic experiments?

What has been the role of the European Union before the economic and financial crisis?

There is only an exit to the crisis with a commons-based economy, a new way to understand politics and participation, etc.

These movements are based on self-communication and higher rates of participation. And the difference between activists and non-activists are blurring, as participation comes naturally with being informed, providing and opinion and getting in touch with one’s peers.

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From movements to constitutions. How to think in a networked and open source constitutional process

Notes from the Digital culture, networks and distributed politics in the age of the Internet. From the Global Spring to the Net Democracy, organized by the Communication and Civil Society programme of the IN3 in Barcelona, Spain, in October 24-25, 2012. More notes on this event: comsc.

Round table: From movements to constitutions. How to think in a networked and open source constitutional process
Chairs: Tomás Herreros


(see after time 1:00:00)

Is it true that citizens (Spaniards, Greeks, etc.) are lab rats upon which we can play socio-economic experiments?

What has been the role of the European Union before the economic and financial crisis?

There is only an exit to the crisis with a commons-based economy, a new way to understand politics and participation, etc.

These movements are based on self-communication and higher rates of participation. And the difference between activists and non-activists are blurring, as participation comes naturally with being informed, providing and opinion and getting in touch with one’s peers.

With this changing times, what is the role of traditional politics?

Rubén Martínez Dalmau (Professor in Constitutional LAw, Universidad de Valencia)

There are concepts like “separation of powers” or “administration of sovereignty” that should be addressed carefully. So, before asking how to do things, we should above all ask ourselves why some things should — or should not — be done.

Why a constituent process?

Because, historically, constitutive democracy is an emancipatory process: it has provided more rights to the citizens than never before. Modern constitutions introduce the concept of the sovereignty of the people, which becomes very important in order to control power and its management.

Although modern constitutions have improved empowerment and have evolved (positively) along the years, there still are some glitches that need being fixed: many times, constitutions are nominal (state principles) but are not normative (and thus require a deployment of further regulation). A good example of that is health, housing, etc. though they are mentioned as rights in many constitutions, they do not count as such if they are not reflected in positive laws (as it often happens). Consequence? Parts of the constitution are not applied.

Another glitch is the difference between constituent power and constituted power. Constitutions are the manifestation of regenerative powers. But if representatives do not change their behaviours according to (new) constitutions, the constituent and regenerative power becomes but reproductive power. The glitch of the glitch is when representatives (the constituted power) are the ones that change or write the constitutions (the constituent power). This is a total contradiction in the very core of the concept of a constitution.

Thus, there is a need to break (1) the nominal parts of the constitutions and (2) the hope or mirage that constitutions can be changed by the people but actually only constituted powers can do it. We need not fight for a reform of the constitution, but for a rupture.

The qualitative leap between the 15M and the 25S is putting the stakes on the constituent power as the basis of a rupture against the constituted power — very much like many Latin American constitutions that were reformed or rewritten in the nineties.

The constituent process is not the only exit, but it might be the best one. On the other hand, the constituent power is a power that many times needs fighting the constituted power; thus, many times the legitimacy of the constituent process begins with a clash of powers. There is a need for a transitional process that will not be “the” transition, but a real transition time that links the preceding constitution with the following one, where consensus have to be reached, and based on a deep democratic maturity.

Emmanuel Rodríguez (Observatorio Metropolitano de Madrid)

There are many political institutions that instead of disclosing democracy, they actually close it: only some specific actors are acknowledged as such and the rest of actors is set aside of the democratic process. Besides representative institutions closing democracy, mainstream media have lately proven unable to channel the public opinion. Same with labour union, that have shifted towards representing only a specific part of the workers. Last, but not least, the economic power, whose jurisdiction has escaped the area of influence of all other powers.

[here comes a thorough explanation of the growing power of international finance, getting much bigger than any country’s GDP] The defence of economic and finance powers has become a political priority, with the Maastricht Treaty as the most significant “constituent” example.

Summing up, while the economy is fully integrated at the European level, politics (or civil rights) are not so. Until a total parallelism is achieved, full democracy within Europe will be an illusion.

Digital culture, networks and distributed politics in the age of the Internet (2012)

Robert Bjarnason: Citizen participation in Iceland through the web Better Reykjavík

Notes from the Digital culture, networks and distributed politics in the age of the Internet. From the Global Spring to the Net Democracy, organized by the Communication and Civil Society programme of the IN3 in Barcelona, Spain, in October 24-25, 2012. More notes on this event: comsc.

Keynote: Robert Bjarnason (Icelandic non-profit “Citizens Foundation”)
Citizen participation in Iceland through the web Better Reykjavík (European eDemocracy Awards 2011)

The economic crisis made trust on politicians a difficult issue. The idea of Better Reykjavík was to use technology to get politics closer to the citizens, to improve participation, to boost public debate. The initial website gathered more than 100 initiatives that only Best Party (the party that ended up winning the local election) used and applied. And not only proposals were made, but there also was discussion and quality debate.

Better Reykjavík opened in collaboration with the city of Reykjavík on the 19 October 2011, with a strong collaboration with the city council. It has been a success because there has been an active collaboration with the city government: 13 out of top 17 ideas are being processed by the city every month. People in the city have been made aware of the website through PR and marketing and feel that they are being listened to. The website is heavily connected to social media, which helped in providing lots of feedback. Most of the visits to the website come through Facebook.

Better Reykjavík succeeded in inviting people to provide pros and cons for each issue discussed, a thing that was easy to do as points were separated so that discussions did not become too complex. And its the very same community the one that filters content and prioritises the proposals. Transparency is a total priority.

The website also includes a secure voting system that worked both online and offline, with electronic ID or with username/password identification.

A project recently included is participatory budgeting, but this is a very specific issue in participation with its own “rules”: people participate less, it requires more time, more information, more understanding of what is at stake, etc.

Everything has contributed in settling the Better Reykjavík site as a structural tool in decision-making in the cityh. It has been used for financial planning, online debates, referendums, etc. at different levels of the local administration. The strongest asset is that helps people in making up their minds.

All the software is open source and can be found at GitHub as Social Innovation. On the other hand, the software also operates as an online service as Your Priorities now serving the whole world and supported by the Citizens Foundation.

Crowdsourced Constitution

A constitutional assembly of 20 was elected amongst 1000 candidates that presented themselves to the elections. All the meetings and proposals and documents (including drafts) of the assembly have been published online and, at last, the Constitution is being voted.

Discussion

Q: were there proposals that were not accepted by the administration? in case that happened, why was that so? what was the reaction of the citizens? Robert Bjarnason: when that happened, the government would explain why a specific proposal was not possible (usually lack of funds). A good thing about the platform is that people were treated by adults by the government, so the dialogue was serious, constructive and, above all, honest.

Q: was the success the tool’s or the fact that the government was listening? How does one make that the government listens? Bjarnason: it worked both ways. Of course the government was willing to listen and to get people to participate, but also the open and transparent process contributed in making the tool much more binding.

Q: when proposals get to the top, is all the population aware of that? Will they vote? Bjarnason: the website is widely used and everyone interested in local politics are aware. Voters range from 500 to 2000 citizens, which stands for 20-30% of active users of the site. But it has to be taken into account the people only vote for the things they care, and the website gathers all types of proposals.

Digital culture, networks and distributed politics in the age of the Internet (2012)

Networked democracy and new institutionality. New models for the XXIst century democracy

Notes from the Digital culture, networks and distributed politics in the age of the Internet. From the Global Spring to the Net Democracy, organized by the Communication and Civil Society programme of the IN3 in Barcelona, Spain, in October 24-25, 2012. More notes on this event: comsc.

Round table: Networked democracy and new institutionality. New models for the XXIst century democracy
Chairs: Ismael Peña-López (ICTlogy)

Antoni Gutiérrez Rubí

Transforming institutions is compatible with occupying them, with questioning them, with trying to design new institutions. A key factor, though, of transformation or substitution of institutions is that major consensus and critical masses are required for changes to happen. There is a need to weave strong and broad alliances to question the status quo: it is a matter of democratic density.

There are many grounds that need being covered before citizen activism can take place. New laws on transparency or accountability are great milestones that enable further political activism. On the other hand, many of these laws are being designed as isolated laws and not as a part of a legal ecosystem.

Some times it’s institutions the ones that make the first steps (e.g. the Basque Government and the budget for 2012). These initiatives are good places that the citizenry can use to build bridges between institutions and social movements.

But while some institutions are trying to be more open, transparent, participative, this does not happen within political parties, whose DNA is just the opposite of the DNA of the movement of the XXIst century: centralized, vertical, often undemocratic and non-participative. We need to deeply transform political parties to their roots.

Top priorities: democratization of internal processes and creation of a culture of ideas (and not of mottos).

Social movements need less self-complaceny and dispersion: it is not about getting there first (and alone), but about getting there all together.

Francisco Jurado (Demo4punto0)

[click here to enlarge]

Democracia 4.0 aims at more participation, at understanding participation not as a problem but as a value, as an opportunity. A participation that can be either direct or representative depending on the personal will of the citizen.

A first foundation of Democracia 4.0 is that its technology must guarantee all democratic rights (privacy, security, etc.) and be, at the same time, as transparent as possible. Transparency is also about the workings of the tool, which has to be easy to use so that participation can take place without barriers.

The different powers are not balanced — there is no ‘check and balance’ — and the way to fix this is to distribute power: enabling better ways of watching power, of transparency, of accountability. Distribution of power also breaks with “politics in blocks”, where voting usually is not about specific issues but about sets of issues which cannot be voted individually.

Representative democracy, through intermediation, creates big hubs of power: Internet is a huge disintermediation machine that can end up breaking those big hubs while democratic efficiency and efficacy may not suffer at all. On the other hand, this lack of big powers would also enable vetoing specific laws that are unpopular or plain awful.

We can demonstrate that our political system is not compact and coherent (in Kurt Gödel’s words).

In the Internet matters not what (or who) but how (and where). Though focussing on the how the what gets revaluated.

Vasilis Kostakis
The governance of communities based in the commons: laying the foundations of an open source democracy?

[click here to enlarge]

The social web has change the way we can communicate and create content. A good side-effect of social media is that participation many times just happens, unconsciously, on the run. This creates several different profiles according to how people approach creation of content: the amateur, the professional, the final user, the white hat and black hat hacker, etc. In this scenario, the amateur plays a key role and constitutes a new “class” as they become the new controllers of the means of production. New economies are created: sharing and aggregation economies, crowdsourcing economies, commons-based economies… What are the consequences of the emergence of these new economies? Is that a good or a bad thing?

Commons-based economies have ways of organization that are different from traditional for-profits, as they foster social dynamics that play a very important role producing value for the public domain. This value is created through peer-production.

If peer-production can create value in the field of information and knowledge, peer-governance can do the same in the field of politics. Unlike centralized power, on peer-production authority is the currency and ‘benevolent dictators’ have arisen to their positions by contributing with their work.

Abundance of intellect + resources + tools = unpredictable outcome. This is a difficult to handle outcome, by the way.

Cooperation + abundance + desktop manufacturing: another way of “manufacturing” an open source democracy.

Discussion

Alberto Lumbreras: how can we enable that representatives can be an option in parallel with direct democracy? How can we avoid that someone votes everything while others do not even notice? Francisco Jurado: the idea is not to create an total substitute, but an alternative to a one and only way to do things. The problem is not the system’s, but how we communicate and deliberate about issues.

Alberto Lumbreras: how can we avoid a commons-based economy from being stopped? Vasilis Kostakis: Commons-based economics is an alternative, but based on capitalism. Thus, it is much constrained by its legal framework. The idea is to go beyond this framework by entering the new mindset taht a digital economy is not based on scarcity or transaction costs.

Joan Coscubiela: it should be possible to “use” the insiders of the system to change it from within, but fostering change from the outside. Joan Coscubiela disagrees that unions are as centralized and hierarchical as political parties, but that the problem of unions is that they were created in the industrial society, vertical, corporate, not horizontal and networked. For unions the problem is creating critical mass around common axes. Antoni Gutiérrez-Rubí: it is interesting to see representative democracy as an “administered sovereignty”. In an industrial society, parties and unions worked very well; but what happens in a digital society? How are parties and unions administering our sovereignties? Do political parties and governments really understand the people they are serving?

Ismael Peña-López: in a direct democracy, in a binary world, how do we take into account minorities that will never be able to be represented by a majority? Francisco Jurado: we can design participatory processes that take into account weightings for different opinions, so that the outcome is not a yes or a no, but a shade of grays. Arnau Monterde: indeed, it is not only about voting, but if the whole deliberative process is open and participatory, all these shades of gray can be taken into account in the final outcome. Antoni Gutiérrez-Rubí: agreed, but it is very difficult to carry on a complex debate without polarization and simplification, without echo chambers that do nothing but resonate.

Q: these improvements are ok for parliaments, but what happens with governments? Francisco Jurado: if the government is loyal to the parliament, then there is no problem. Antoni Gutiérrez-Rubí: regarding governments, new ways of democracy can play a major role in accountability.

Digital culture, networks and distributed politics in the age of the Internet (2012)

From the Arab Spring to the Global Spring. How to think on the global relationships of the new movements in the digital age

Notes from the Digital culture, networks and distributed politics in the age of the Internet. From the Global Spring to the Net Democracy, organized by the Communication and Civil Society programme of the IN3 in Barcelona, Spain, in October 24-25, 2012. More notes on this event: comsc.

Presentation of the 2n day of the Conference: Joan Coscubiela

Most social structures of the industrial society seem inadequate for today’s problems.

On the other hand, in times of change not only aren’t there many solutions, but existing solutions are far from being global or valid for all problems and contexts.

Another big problem is that people that have lived in previous social models usually do not have the keys for transformation.

Can we go forward with a de-constituent process that is followed by a constituent one? How will be build the required consensus? What is exactly the social conflict of the XXIst century? Is it capital? Is it the control of information? Of networks? Is it the control of the economic powers that are beyond the political power? How do we combine short-term solutions to daily problems with long-term, systemic ones?

Round table: From the Arab Spring to the Global Spring. How to think on the global relationships of the new movements in the digital age
Chairs: Arnau Monterde (Programme in Communication and Civil Society, UOC/IN3)

#yosoy132 #15m #ows #tahrir have implied more thatn 10 millino tweets in the last year. What is the impact of the whole set? What are the relationships between these movements? What is going to be next in these movements and in the very nature of these movements?

Nizaiá Cassián (UOC); Israel Solorio (Member of YoSoy132 Mexico)

Israel Solorio

The nature of YoSoy132 was quite different form the 15M Indignados, at least in its origins.

The nature of YoSoy132 was quite different from the 15M indignados, at least in its origins. The movement originated in universities to fight poor democracy, but quickly grew outside of the educational environment and thus YoSoy132 International is like the assembly of the circa 70 assemblies that generated after the initial spark of the movement.

Nizaiá Cassián

YoSoy132 is a Mexican students protest that initiates when the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) candidate Enrique Peña Nieto is haunted during a conference at a university because of denyal of human rights violation. After mainstream media minimize the impact on the image of the candidate labelling the students as a “few violent misfits”. The response of the students is a major, decentralized campaign, led by 131 students, stating that they are neither “a few” nor “violent misfits”. The result is that thousands of students support the initiative of the 131 by stating that they agree with them and that they are the 132 student.

This movement has determined the development of the electoral campaign, the way students have been more engaged in politics, etc. It is important to stress the point that the movement did not only address the political parties and politicians, but most especially mainstream media and their lack of neutrality and ethics. The criticism against Mexican media powers was very strong and as part of a demand for more and better democracy.

Israel Solorio

There is a deeper digital divide in Mexico than in Spain. In Mexico the usual way to diffuse (alternative) political messages is the bridageo, consisting in delivering leaflets in the underground or the streets. But YoSoy132 somewhat brought into the spotlight the power of social networking sites, and how they could bridge the Net and the street.

Indeed, having an influence on the communication agenda was always one of the main goals of the movement.

The movement YoSoy132 acknowledges the great wealth that the 15M movement generated by documenting procedures, sharing tools and opening their source code, analysing how people communicate and got engaged, etc. The 15M still is a good reference to be able to know the pace of things.

And the other way round: all movements feedback one each other, as “Rodea Televisa” was an inspiration to “Rodea el Congreso”.

If power goes global, let’s globalize the resistance.

Pablo Rey Mazón (OccupyResearch)

Pablo Rey analyzed the coverage that newspapers did of the 15M which can be seen in the following links:

A similar analysis with Occupy Wall Street and the pepper spray incident also shows that what people talk about and what media show is closely related, but unlike what used to happen in the past, it is interesting to see that social networking sites are beginning to condition what ends up in the front page of newspapers.

The relationship and mutual feedback between social media and traditional media is increasing, many times creating “transmedia” pieces of news that are originated in one platform and then is transposed to the other one, creating a dialogue across platforms and actors.

[click here to enlarge]

The Occupy movement generated around it a group of researchers and communicators that focused on gathering and curating content about the movement, in order to record what happened, diffused it, and, above all, analyse it, like #OccupyData NYC or Occupy Research.

Main things learnt: activists have learn new ways to mobilize and, more important, to communicate. Many citizens have seen new movements (and Occupy specifically) as new and fresh ways of engagement and of changing the typical political discourse. The movement has also acted as a bridge between collectives (immigrants, unions, etc.) that usually did not work together and that now are part of a same network, [added after numeroteca’s comment] though this bridging was not broadly achieved.

Lali Sandiumenge (Author of: Guerrilleros del Teclado)

The Arab Spring really is a regional phenomenon, not a collection of isolated/national unrests. There really is a collective conscience that transcends the boundaries of countries. The increase in the number of blogs since 2004 in the Arab World is exponential: from just some dozens to literally hundreds of thousands, many of them speaking one to each other about human rights and civil liberties. Of course, every country has its own revolution (or transition in some of thems), but the collective sense prevails.

In the case of Egypt, even if now in a political transition, the revolution is still going on: there still are protests, there still are victims, there still are struggles to speak and be heard. There is a symbiosis between the fights in the streets and the fights that happen online: the street and the online world are not separate worlds. Indeed, one of the acknowledged flaws of the revolution in Morocco is that it has not succeeded in taking the streets.

On the other hand, despite the fact that all the Arab revolutions are part of a bigger network and share a lot of knowledge (tactics, tools, etc.) there still is the feeling that a closer relationship and collaboration could take place. Added to that, the different regimes are also fighting back the movements on the Net too. And, still, one of the problems to be informed of what a network does is being part of the network.

Kazeeboon’s channel on YouTube shares footage taken on the streets on protests and human rights violations. But these footage is taken “outside” of the Internet and shown in the streets, on walls, on the ground or even on people so that everybody (with or without Internet access) can see what has been taped.

Digital culture, networks and distributed politics in the age of the Internet (2012)

Technopolitics and the 15M. The power of connected crowds. Network system #15M. A new paradigm for distributed politics

Notes from the Digital culture, networks and distributed politics in the age of the Internet. From the Global Spring to the Net Democracy, organized by the Communication and Civil Society programme of the IN3 in Barcelona, Spain, in October 24-25, 2012. More notes on this event: comsc.

Round table: Technopolitics and the 15M. The power of connected crowds. Network system #15M. A new paradigm for distributed politics
Coordinates: Javier Toret

Gestation of the 15M, devices and augmented events, network system, emergence and self-organization. Evolution of the network system.
Javier Toret, Óscar Marín, Alberto Lumbreras, Pablo Aragón, Juan Linares y Miguel Aguilera.  Grupo @datanalysis15M (15Mdata)

Javier Toret: methodological reflections

It is important to stress the different approach of this research: instead of an ex-ante design and hypotheses, the huge amount of data allow for a reverse conception: see what are the patterns that arise and, after them, infer the hypotheses.

The 15M means that a technological and social critical mass takes the street: a long history of movements, unrests and protests finally crystallize as a major protest and camps all over Spain. The profile, though, is not the usual profile of a social movement, but of a network movement: there are several sub-movements in action, several hashtags and memes, several proposals, etc.

A working hypothesis is that as the network movement grows, the interest and participation in “real” politics also grows. Technopolitics is neither slacktivism nor cyberactivism: the goal is real politics and “real life”. Technopolitics is a tactical and strategic use of digital tools and collective identities. The aim of technopolitics is to organize, communicate and act.

Technopolitics have a certain sense of forecasting: they anticipate what is going to happen, or what is about to happen, and help it in finally making it happen, catalysing the change. Technolpolitics drive the flow of the collective action.

Technopolitics, though, heavily rely on technology, in two ways: (1) people intensively use technology to inform and be informed, to coordinate and organize, but also (2) online participation counts as 100% participation, it is not a second best but simply another channel for participation and engagement. Technopolitics normalizes the use of technology.

Another working hypothesis is that the Arab Spring was a reference for the 15M, and the demonstrations on Tahrir Square were key for AcampadaSol (the camps initially in Madrid Puerta del Sol square and after in the rest of Spanish squares).

Alberto Lumbreras: tools

Analysis is done by following the movements of hashtagsin Twitter, including the ‘flocks’ or ‘swarms’ of Twitter users. And thus be able to tell the political relationship between hashtags, users, etc.

To analyse flocks one can either follow the hashtag in real time or recovering data (e.g. from Topsy), analyse what users are following or tweeting two different (but related) hashtags, and then analyze them with a social network analysis software (e.g. Gephi).

This flock analysis allows testing (1) whether the 15M was the product of prior citizen movements in Spain and (2) whether it had any relationship with the Arab Spring. For instance, 31% of the users that tweeted under #spanishrevolution had already twitted #nolesvotes (the movement against bipartidism in Spain). And what also happened is that #spanishrevolution brought back to life #nolesvotes [disclaimer: data are not still very accurate].

Issues: Topsy provides a truncated and thus biased sample of the tweets; we do not know how big has a flock to be to e considered as the generator/influencer of a movement.

Javier Toret: on the precedents of the 15M – Democracia Real Ya – Toma la Calle

Democracia Real Ya was able to activate and engage many existing platforms and groups that had either been very active in citizen protests/demands or were planning to be or wanted to but did not know how (e.g. how to create a critical mass and be relevant).

15M was active in 59 cities through 59 local groups: the explosion of the #15 as a big event/movement turned itself into a massive creation of local camps and local groups connected at a national level, but acting somewhat individually/locally. The affective commotion fostered a distributed and self-organized movement; and the viral propagation was key for the local nodes to be able to be effective.

But, what happened between the 15M until the 22M so that the phenomenon boosted the way it did?

The growth of profiles follows a pattern of simple and logical self-organization fostered by technology. Attention is synced around some very specific issues (e.g. nobody searches “democracy” in Google in Spain… until May 2011, when it peaks!). The 15M can be understood as an event, an augmented event, interconnected and that affects people whether they are present in the physical space or not.

The 15M fosters a cognitive diet: instant messaging, blogging, usage of social networking sites, etc. are intensively used in search of information and communication channels, in search of knowing, in search of understanding.

It is important to note the importance of the subjective/emotional factor of the 15M. The 15M enters the emotions of people and this is shown by what people tweeted those days. There is a need for an emotional analysis of the 15M as it will contribute to explain how it worked and spread.

Óscar Marín: emotions in Twitter

To be able to analyze emotions in Twitter some questions have to be made in order to establish an ontology: what are the predominant emotions in the 15M, what is the emotional charge, what is the relationship between the emotional charge and virality. After these questions, a list of expressions is created that identifies emotions, a grammar is used to detect negations, and a corpus of twitts is tagged manually so that the analysis can be iterated.

What data show is that there is more emotional virality (vs. non-emotional virality) when people are physically together. Or, in other words, the virality of emotional tweets is not unconditionally superior to non-emotional virality, but it depends on people being physically together. We can check this for instance by seeing that emotional charge is much bigger around May 15th 2011 (previous day and a few following days) than on any other date in the time-span of the movement.

Physical events, and the emotions of “empowerment” and “indignation” are they keys to understand the emotional factor in the 15M movement.

Related to emotions, some questions can be also put about the vocabulary: does it evolve, does it have anything to do with virality, what is the frequency (temperature) of a given term, is the vocabulary used coherent, etc.

Data show that, initially, terms rotate with certain speed and that they are weakly related one with each other (low cohesion). As time advances, the vocabulary has much more cohesion, becomes more restricted (less words) and more stable (remain longer in time): the message becomes clearer and stronger. Last, as the core event (camps) fades away, so does the vocabulary, that again has lower cohesion and higher rotation.

Discussion

Q: It would be in interesting outcome of emotional and vocabulary analysis the finding of outliers.

[the session goes on in a second part, which I cannot attend :( ]

Digital culture, networks and distributed politics in the age of the Internet (2012)

The defence of the Network, hacktivism and other contributions to the source code of the new movements

Notes from the Digital culture, networks and distributed politics in the age of the Internet. From the Global Spring to the Net Democracy, organized by the Communication and Civil Society programme of the IN3 in Barcelona, Spain, in October 24-25, 2012. More notes on this event: comsc.

Round table: The defence of the Network, hacktivism and other contributions to the source code of the new movements
Chairs: Cristina Cullell (Universitat Jaume I)

Technological infrastrucures have changed the landscape of participation and activism. There also is a new hacker ethic or hacker culture that promotes sharing, decentralization, openness, etc. Hacking is not based on an expectation of profits, but on personal pleasure or realization, on prestige and recognition: hacking is better understood in a gift-economy rather than a traditional capitalist economy.

Hacking requires net neutrality and an open network to be able to realize its full potential. But is it the Network a common good or a private service? Depending of how the Internet is understood, different ethics apply and different ethics clash one with each other.

Can hacking provide a new framework that is able to design (alternative) solutions for the economic and political crisis?

Txarlie (Hacktivistas)

How is the Internet born? It’s not the outcome of some amateurs, but the outcome of scholars, scholars trying the get the best of their powerful but underused infrastructures (regardless of the fact that they were directly or indirectly financed with military funding). And, in a scholarly way, technology, research, designs and results are openly shared.

But little by little, and fostered by private investors, infrastructure and its open outcomes are increasingly privatised and released with different licenses that allow different uses and “ownerships”. One of these licenses is the GPL, that uses the hegemonic rules and practices to fight them back.

The GPL and the way of working around the GNU not only provided new outcomes (i.e. an operating system) but also new ways of working, of collaborating, of distributing tasks.

Most of the developments that run the Internet or that run over the Internet are built upon this new way of working, and based on two main pillars:

  • Low consensus: maximum consensus cannot be achieved; thus, practicality and the lowest common denominator is what applies.
  • Running code: things are built upon practice, what is to be applied is what is been worked on, what is being actually coded and run.

This way of working both fits the basic needs of a project and also that dissension can be redirected by means of forking a specific initiative or project. Forking (usually) does not mean splitting a project but actually multiplying it.

[Txarlie implicitly recalls in software what in social movements is called as ‘do-ocracy’: activism by doing, not by representation.] The parallelism between free software and (new) (hack)activism is that decisions are taken in a decentralized way, there is no-one (but many people) deciding what initiative or project is being developed and carried on. In this sense, the 15M works as a free software project and the 25S as a fork of the initial 15M project.

The big difference between the 15M movement (aka Indignados) and the Anti-globalization or Alter-globalization movement is having a strong link with the media corporations, so that the message can get out of the insiders, that outsiders to the movement can connect, be informed, understand or interpret the message, resend it, remix it, etc.

Carlos Sánchez Almeida (Bufet Almeida)

When communication media try to explain the phenomenon of “AcampadaSol” (camps in the Spanish squares), they usually forget the whole landscape and context that leads towards Sol: AcampadaSol is not an isolated event, but the outcome of many micro-events and initiatives that had taken place before. A good explanation of the movement is Ciberactivismo: Las nuevas revoluciones de las multitudes conectadas, by Mario Tascón and Yolanda Quintana.

We need to reflect on the new ways of activism and understand their new role and the role of the Net. And this is an urgent need if citizen movements want to fight back the attacks of governments and corporations to these new ways of activism.

Hacking, new activisms, hacktivisms, etc. came up with new ways to circumvent or to hack the law and were able to raise improved ways of participation and protest. In reaction, legislative bodies are changing the law to prevent such circumvention, most of the times attacking not only new practices but the very core of some human and political rights such a freedom of expression or the right of assembly.

Activists need to set up new tools to circumvent the anti-circumvention laws. Society needs no new elites, but distributed and decentralized power. Society needs more hackers, but not technology hackers, but “society” hackers.

Discussion

Francisco Jurado: Why hacktivism? Why going against the system and not contributing to it? Txarlie: The traditional creators of content, of information, of knowledge (e.g. the academia) are no more able to be the only engines that empower the society. So, it is not exactly a matter of going against something or someone, but contributing to the work of the institutions… despite they wanting it or not. Carlos Sánchez Almeida: sometimes, though, some things need to be fought as they directly attack some human rights or some tools that enable the practice of some humand rights (e.g. P2P technologies).

Marga Padilla: what is the difference between activism P2P and activism Free Culture / Creative Commons? P2P is more based on protocols, on sharing initiatives, and Free Culture / Creative Commons activism is more based on creating more content, more information, and sharing and diffusing it.

Q: What exactly is the Internet? Does the definition determines what is cyberactivism? Txarlie: Internet is a network of computers. The problem is that over this network there are sub-networks that often isolate themselves from the rest of networks. So, when we talk about the Internet we should talk at both levels: the physical network and the logical or social sub-networks that coexist within. Almeida: Internet is a constitution written by hackers, and the Internet is a neutral network: a neutral network lets all bytes flow equally.

Q: Why hacktivism is many times not proud of its own actions? Why anonymity? Why not “full” civil disobedience instead of a rough approximation to civil disobedience? Txarlie: this is not a decision that an individual can take, but that the whole collective have to agree upon. And, at the moment, it seems like collective action on the Net is easier to do this way. It is not a matter of shyness or hiding, but a matter of efficacy (or so perceived efficacy). Almeida: we should differentiate hiding and anonymity or “not full” civil disobedience, from unfair laws and how these turn some legal actions into illegal ones. But, of course, civil disobedience has its consequences and hacktivism has to acknowledge them.

Ismael Peña-López: are we fostering hacktivism or rather cracktivism? If a hacker is someone inside the system and a cracker someone trying to (violently) enter it, are we really trying to change the system from within or to crack it? Where are politicians and parties and NGOs and other institutions in this hacktivism or activism from within? Or is it rather cracktivism? Txarlie: most cracking is useful for hacking, so sometimes there is a need for a prior cracking that enables the hacking that follows. Some institutions need to be cracked first so that then the insiders can hack it from within. Almeida: the best insider is the one that hacks and builds bridges with the outsiders. But this hacker-insider has to assume that they will often fall into civil disobedience and acknowledge the consequences… which they usually don’t. We do not want a switch of elites, but a transformation of the system.

Q: is it fair to use private tools (e.g. Facebook) for hacktivism? Almeida: it is fair because it is the best way to contaminate the system without the system being able to disable it. On the other hand, there is not a single tool for hacktivism, but a toolbox, with several tools to be used at different times and scenarios.

Q: what are the technological and economic requisites of hacktivism? Almeida: activism has to fight against the monopolies of power: economic and political power. This means that (1) activism will never fight in equal conditions but (2) activism does need some economic and political resources (armies march on their stomachs, Napoleon). It is very important, though, that these resources are transparent and accountable.

Q: the new constitutions that have to be written, shouldn’t they focus more on the procedures and protocols rather than on “content”? Txarlie: opening procedures and protocols is crucial in activism. But content is also important: if there is nothing “constituted” before a “destitution” process, the outcome of such process can be a worst situation than the former. Almeida: more than protocols and content, decision-making has to be very agile, transparent and executive. This is the way to keep constitutions simple but effective. And this includes a good judicial power, efficient, independent, legitimated.

Digital culture, networks and distributed politics in the age of the Internet (2012)