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Kosovo Science for Change: launch

Kosovo Science for Change co-design event - Prishtina, 20-22nd June 2014

The Kosovo Science for Change project launched in June 2014 with a weekend co-design event at the Unicef Innovations Lab in Prishtina. Participants included young people from several parts of Kosova that are experiencing severe environmental issues, including Plementina (a community right under the polluting power stations), Prishtina (the capital city, downwind of the power stations and with heavy traffic pollution), Drenas (near the Ferronickel plant), Mitrovica (with the legacy of mining) and Hani Elezit (not far from the cement plant).

There were also participants from UN Habitat, KEPA (Kosova Environmental Protection Agency), KOSID (the collaboration of environmental NGOs) and the Municipality of Obilic, which includes Plementina and the power plants.

The core project team is made up of local partner, Unicef Innovations Lab (who also hosted the launch event), Transitions and Internet.Artizans.

what is our kind of citizen science?

The event began on Friday evening with an overview of citizen science and why citizen science has particular potential in Kosova. The Public Lab definition of 'civic science' http://www.publiclab.org/about was used to situate the Kosovo Science for Change project, and a series of examples and videos were shown to illustrate the potential, including the work of Mapping for Change and UCL's Extreme Citizen Science research group (ExCiteS) in London, grassroots balloon mapping, and the AirCasting project in New York. The work of Global Community Monitor and their bucket brigades was used to illustrate the role of citizen science in environmental justice.

It was emphasised that citizen science can be important even when there is statutory monitoring by the authorities, for example when the community knows about hotspots that would be missed by orthodox surveys. The Safecast project http://blog.safecast.org/ was given as an example of the potential scale of citizen sensing, and also to show the usefulness of having a local hackerspace.

The central role of mapping was highlighted with examples from Pennsylvania fracking map, the Louisville air map and the Arvin Bucket Brigade Map.

The latter two maps were also used to introduce the idea of using qualitative data and citizens' observations alongside numerical data. The Kosovo Science for Change project will ask participating communities to reflect on the collected data in order to establish what it means for them. This is related to ideas of post-normal science which suggests the need for local knowledge and soft (qualitatve) data as part of a process of 'extended peer review'.

The session concluded by looking at the ways open source software, open hardware, hackerspaces and sensor networks have lowered the barriers to citizen science and opened up new possibilities for bottom-up participation and DIY impact.

why is citizen science right for kosova?

The introductory evening session also looked at the specific relevance of citizen science for Kosova, especially the overlap of serious environmental threats with a motivated and mobilised youth population.

The known health costs to Kosova from environmental issues, as documented in the World Bank's 2013 report "Kosovo - Country Environmental Analysis", come from air quality, lead exposure, water-borne infections and waste disposal.

The power plants produce PM10 particulates, SO2 (sulphur dioxide) and NOx (nitrous oxides). In the north near Mitrovice, research shows that lead exposure is affecting the IQ of young children. Nonpower SO2 emissions are mainly attributed to Ferronikeli, and Sharrcem cement factory is also an important NOx generator. However, the most recent KEPA report says that current data on these issues is either not of a good quality or is incomplete, and that there is a lack of capacity for environmental protection at a local level.

This contrasts with the importance placed on the environment in Kosova's consitution and laws (and also in everyday conversations with Kosovans). For example, the Law on air protection (no. 2004/30) assigns responsibility for setting air quality and emissions standards; identifies main air quality indicators; and sets obligations for protection of air quality. In the context of Kosova's aspirations to join the EU, it was also pointed out that the Aarhus convention mandates citizens' right of access to information about the environment and to participation in envirnmental decisions. This is mirrored in Kosovo's environmental protection law which identifies the principle of public access to information and participation; for example, Environmental Impact Assessments's are supposed to have citizen participation.

In contrast, the potential for making a difference with citizen science in Kosova is increased by being able to draw on motivated young people who have experience of participatory innovation (through the Innovations Lab) and a strong interest in digital technologies, especially via the recent series of Kosovo Social Innovation Camps and self-organised initiatives like FLOSSK (Free Libre Open Source Software Kosova). This opens up the potential for a citizen science project where the air monitoring can be low-fi, partly digital and participatory, in contrast to the €2,000,000 of EU funds it took to establish the semi-functioning government air quality monitoring network.

hearing from the communities

Saturday began with a session called 'hearing from the communities'. The participants were given a set of guiding questions and worked in small randomly assigned groups to generate the issues that most concerned them. Each person in the group had 5 minutes to talk through their responses to the questions while the other group members jotted down key ideas and terms on post-it notes. After 5 minutes the post-its were added to the main sheet and the next person had their say. After everyone was done, the group as a whole reflected on the issues that had come up and tried to group them in to themes for feedback. It was clearly a powerful experience for participants and a tremendous diversity of issues emerged from the discussions. Noise came up early as a problem from several sources, as did industrial concerns dumping in rivers. There were some direct observations about problems, such as being able to smell the bad air on certain days, and finding particulates like sand in the drinking water supplies.

An analysis afterwards of the post-it notes on the showed the following concerns;

air: Dust from power plant, rooftops turned white. Lead presence in air. Private operators filters not fully functional. No catalytic converters in cars. Acid rain.

water: Poor quality, undrinkable. Sand-like presence in tap water. Water losses due to old infrastructure. Water shortages (several hours a day/night).

sewage: Old infrastructure. Sewers overflow in rainfall. Poor improvement work being done by municipality. Infrastructure improvements for cable TV, KEK, roads, house construction etc., damage existing pipes and never repair them or repairs are done poorly.

rivers: Sewage end in the river. Trash thrown in the river by people Riverbeds ruined by private operators who dig out gravel for commercial purposes
No fish in our rivers anymore

land: Landfills. Trash thrown everywhere, contaminates soil quality. Lack of proper landfills, trash cans, containers in open spaces. Burning of trash is common. Lack of green spaces. Illegal, unregulated construction. Noise pollution. Traffic noise.

health related issues: Asthma. Respiratory diseases. Cancer incidence high. Lack of information. Inaccessible information. Lack of awareness of existing studies.

environment & health panel

After coffee, there was an Environment & Health Q&A session with a panel made up of representatives from KEPA (Kosova Environmental Protection Agency), KOSID (the collaboration of environmental NGOs) and the Municipality of Obilic. The moderator's questions were intended to draw out both what the known environmental problems are and what actions have already be taken.

The panel member from KEPA reported on their monitoring of environmental issues, and on some successes, such as getting filters installed at the KEK power stations. However, she also acknowledged that there are still huge problems due to pollution as shown by the much higher incidence of respiritory diseases in the capital Pristhtina, near the power stations, compared to Prizren in the south. The KOSID representative criticised government plans to replace the Kosova A power plant with Kosova C without looking at the external costs of coal power and without looking at renewables or energy efficiency, and referred to the Berkley report on "Sustainable Energy Options for Kosovo". The environmental officer from the municipality gave an account of the difficulties of making a difference at a local level; despite some success in clearning up waste and garbage, other problems still required daily pressure to be applied to KEK with phone calls, meetings and so on.

During the discussion other issues were raised, such as companies illegally taking gravel from riverbeds near Rahovec (the main wine growing area) which had 'nearly killed' the life in the river. When the questioner asked about fines for this she was told that inspectors in the field had been threatened by companies taking the gravel.

The panel members engaged open to discussion with the audience of motivated and critically-minded young people, which is not the usual way that policy is debated in Kosova. Some explanations were offered by panel members for relatively slow progress on the environment, such as "we had a war, and the post-war focus was on social issues", and "economic development was a priority but now environment will be more of a priority". Overall there was a sense from participants that there has been lots of debate and relatively little concrete action: as one young questioner said "plans, plans it's always plans", with another saying "why are you not panicking?! why can't we do more, why are we waiting for others to solve our problems?". There was a general agreement that we should all ask ourselves questions about where the solutions could and should come from.

methods: tubes, wipes, noise, maps and more

After lunch on Saturday there was an introduction & training sesssion on the use of the proposed non-digital methods, mainly diffusion tubes (to measure levels of SO2 and NO2) and so-called ghost wipes (which can detect the presence of heavy metal contaminants).

The session began with a look at the action research cycle, and examples of various methods were discussed, including diffusion tubes, ghost wipes, noise monitoring, logs and mapping. Overall, the idea of establishing and sticking to a protocol was emphasised, both as good scientific practice and also as one of the key pieces of advice the project had received from Global Community Monitor.

For diffusion tubes, the topics covered were how they work, where to put them, the concept of a chain of custody, where to record details of location, conditions etc and the technique of getting people to 'adopt a tube'. The possibility was raised of using rapid air monitors such as those from Gradko in situations where a snapshot reading is more important than a monthly average. This may be one of the actions triggered by digital readings from the Smart Citizen Kits.

For the ghost wipes, we briefly looked at how they work and the methods of using them, with the aid of the Dust Air Quality Toolkit from Mapping for Change. There was also a joke about these being 'the most expensive wet wipes you'll ever use' (the main cost, of course, being the analysis at the lab).

Noise measurements were not one of the original aims of the pilot project, but because they were mentioned several times during 'Hearing from the Communities' several examples were show, especially the Mapping for Change noise toolkit and the NoiseTube project http://scistarter.com/project/475-NoiseTube. This also opened up a discussion about qualitative measurements, as the Mapping for Change noise monitoring in Royal Docks is a good example of recording qualitative data alongside empirical data.

Following on, the idea of keeping logs was introduced. We looked in detail at an example of a pollution log from Global Community Monitor which included questions for observers about what they saw, heard, smelled, tasted and felt (e.g. "what kind of bad smell and when?"). We looked at map from Global Community Monitor's Louisiana Bucket Brigade to see how these qualitative measurements worked alongside sensor measurements, also re-emphasising the importance of mapping as a way to collate and make sense of the results of our work. The session also looked at example of kite mapping from the Public Lab online community which showed evidence of a company dumping coal in a river, as this was relevant to reports from the 'Hearing from the Communities' session of factories dumping in rivers in Kosova.

smart citizen kit

The second session on Saturday afternoon was led by Alexandre (Alex) Dubor of the Smart Citizen project, who produce the Arduino-based Smart Citizen Kit (SCK) which the Kosovo Science for Change project is using as it's digital sensor device. To put the SCK in context, Alex began with an introduction to Fablabs, their mission and principles, and a description of the way the SCK had been created in Barcelona Fablab. This also gave us an insight in to the nature of prototyping; as Alex said, it took only four days to rapidly prototype the original version of the Smart Citizen Kit but almost two years of refining it to bring it to a stage where it could be deployed in significant numbers in somewhere like Kosova.

Alex then gave a demonstration of the kit and also of the platform where the data will be livestreamed to the internet. This will be an important part of the Science for Change Kosova project.

A discussion followed of how to deploy the kit in practice. Some of the questions were related to the local context; for example, as Kosova still experiences power cuts it was useful to find out that the battery will keep the devices going for up to 24 hours and that sensor data is stored to RAM until the kit is back online and can upload it to the internet. Alex also shared practical tips about the best way to orient the kit and how to tape the usb cable so it doesn't put strain on the usb socket when the kit is hanging on the wall. The Science for Change project won't be using the designer 3D printed enclosures that feature on the Smart Citizen site so there's was a discussion about what kind of boxes would be good for enclosures, what air flow is needed, and so on. There was also a discussion about how best to co-locate the kits with the diffusion tubes, as this is part of the project's strategy for matching digital readings with well-calibrated laboratory readings.

The Kosovo Science for Change project is fortunate to have a volunteer technical support team made up of participants from FLOSSK (Free Libre Open Source Software Kosova) and the tech community who are established Prishtina Hackerspace.

advocacy & impact

The Sunday morning session set out to develop plans for advocacy & impact. It started with a presentation about the relationship between digital spaces like social media, activism and social change, drawing on global examples like the Arab Spring as well as local examples like recent campaign about the Rectorate at the University of Prishtina, and case studies like the agile Greenpeace campaign about palm oil (URLs).

Trying to answer the question 'what difference can citizen science make?' the group looked at the Pepys noise campaign, the Putney air quality measurements that followed (which highlighted the rat runs and enabled the community to be able to sit down and have a roundtable with council & tfl). The session also looked at the achievements of Global Community Monitor's bucket brigades, which has helped communities be relocated in in Norco, Louisiana, had a school moved and has had companies like the steel facility Claymont, Delaware spend large amounts of money to clean up (some details of which can be found in the REPORT). However, he also emphasised the advice from GCM to understand Science for Change Kosovo is a pilot project, so our expectations of immediate impact should be realistic, while also recognising the larger longer term potential.

It was also pointed out that science doesn't always have the kind of certainty about environmental impacts (or lack of impacts) that is portrayed in public, and that there are a lot of disagreements inside science and a lot of arguments about what data is valid and what isn't. Participants were introduced to Phil Tattersall's Community Based Auditing, a methodical process that doesn't try to disprove the science asserted by the institutions but simply points out the gaps and mismatches (what Phil calls the disconfirmation process). The impact is not only the change but the realisation of the participants that they are agents of change.

personas for impact

The introduction to advocacy & impact was followed by a group exercise, where each local action group was asked to create detailed personas for the individuals they were trying to influence, and to create imaginary strategies for how to do that with the kind of data and qualitative information that the Science for Change project is aiming to produce.

action planning

After lunch on Sunday, the local groups were tasked with producing a one side action plan, with a top level statement about what they wanted to monitor, what they wanted to achieve by doing this, who was going to be involved and what support they needed from the Science for Change project and the Innovations Lab.

It was explained that the core project team would look at all the plans alongside each other and would prioritise which ones could be started straight away and which would be part of a second phase of the project, based on constraints such as money, local support capacity and the currently available methods (which focus on air quality).

The project's closing remarks emphasised the amazing potential revealed by the weekend; the co-existence in Kosova of critical environmental issues alongside savvy youth who are motivated to become active participants in independently tackling these problems. After a group photo and the official closing of the weekend, some people returned to lab for a further working group sessions.

Later that evening, some participants gathered for a meal on a balcony which, coincidentally, overlooked one of the government's fixed air quality monitoring stations in Prishtina. The large LED indicator board above it, which used to display the ambient temperature and the air quality, was completely dark and apparently has been for some time...

(to be continued...)

 

Kosovo Science for Change: background

Kosovo Science for Change

citizen science

'Science for Change' is a pilot citizen science project in Kosovo. It's now possible for people to make measurements of air quality and other forms of pollution in their own communities, and DIY digital measuring devices make it possible to map & share data in real time over the internet. In this project, the community is at the heart of the scientific inquiry; not just measuring data, but deciding what and where it is important to measure, and taking part in analysing the results. The participants will be able to use the data for advocacy to improve their situations, based on the enforcement of legal standards and environmental principles. In the process they will learn skills related to science & technology, increase their understanding of the impact of pollution on health and wellbeing, and feel in a stronger position to ask questions and take action.

smart citizen kit

smart citizen kit

data

While citizen science doesn't solve problems by itself, it is part of a process that is important for the whole of Kosovo, where air quality degradation is estimated by the World Bank to cost the country at least 100 million Euros each year due to deaths, illnesses and time off work{1}. It is also vital for the future to know what is in the environment, as studies have shown that children are the most affected (with lead contamination affecting IQ levels). It is not acceptable for governments and corporations to ignore the issues, either by not monitoring the pollution or by keeping the information secret. One of the first communities the project will work with are people living near the Kosovo A and B power plants.

The methods used to measure the air quality will be a mix of the Smart Citizen arduino-based digital sensor{2} and diffusion tubes which are analysed at the lab for measurements of nitrous oxides and sulphur dioxide{3}. There are also plans to test for heavy metal contamination (such as lead) and particulates - the small particles in the air (labelled PM2.5 and PM10) which are known to have serious health consequences. Data collection points will be decided by the communities, and measurements will be taken over four or five months. Data from the digital sensors will be live on the internet, and will be added to a map along with the lab measurements. The aim is to create open data and make it available online.

Pepys Estate noisemap

Pepys Estate noisemap

impact

Different communities from around Kosovo will be invited to take part in the project launch, a weekend event where we will co-design the pilot project, learn how to use the tools and discuss the different ways to have an impact. The project partners include the Unicef Innovations Lab{4}, which has a track record of participatory work with young people in Kosovo, and the team that has delivered digital innovation by running a series of Social Innovation Camps. It has been advised and inspired by projects such as Excites at UCL{5}, Mapping for Change{6} and Global Community Monitor{7} and is following the model of 'civic science' set out by the innovative Public Lab{8}. If the pilot project is a success it can be extended to look at water quality and soil quality, as well as expanded with a range of techniques ranging from balloon mapping{9} to radiation {10}.

  1. The World Bank, 2013. Kosovo - Country Environmental Analysis (CEA), Available at: http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/2013/01/17485553/kosovo-country-environmental-analysis-kosovo-country-environmental-analysis-cea
  2. Smart Citizen. Available at: http://smartcitizen.me/
  3. Gradko, 2012. Nitrogen Oxide Diffusion Tubes, Nitrogen Dioxide Diffusion Tubes. Available at: http://www.gradko.com/environmental/products/nitrogen-oxides.shtml
  4. UNICEF, Innovations Lab Kosovo. Available at: http://kosovoinnovations.org/
  5. UCL, Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS). Available at: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/excites/
  6. Mapping for Change. Mapping for Change. Available at: http://www.mappingforchange.org.uk/
  7. Global Community Monitor. Available at: http://www.gcmonitor.org/
  8. Public Lab: a DIY environmental science community. Available at: http://publiclab.org/
  9. Balloon & Kite Mapping. Available at: http://publiclab.org/wiki/balloon-mapping
  10. Safecast. Available at: http://blog.safecast.org/

Algorithmic States of Exception

Abstract for a paper submitted to the European Journal of Cultural Studies

This paper follows the loose thread of the Snowden revelations back through the fog of big data to see what kind of apparatus emerges. Instead of Foucault's disciplinary model rooted in the specifics of relational databases, it finds that the operations of datamining produce a regime of predictions built on the substitution of correlation for causation, manifesting in the world as the emergence of algorithmic regulation. Abandoning relational databases for NoSQL has helped to open up a free field for preemptive prediction across the social field. The historical force of these developments is characterised through Giorgio Agamben's concept of the State of Exception; a state where law, rights and political meaning to life are suspended.

The final part of the paper asks what can be done to contest an apparatus that produces algorithmic states of exception. Recognising that law & policy are a priori insufficient, it seeks guidance from historical social movements that have operated during earlier times of exception and their correlates in contemporary forms of digital disruption. It examines in detail the medieval Brethren of the Free Spirit and the contemporary antinomians of Anonymous, and also the moral economy of mid-eighteenth century English food riots and what that might teach us about initiatives like Cryptoparty. It concludes with a call to reverse the current mode of machine learning in order to start 'learning against the machine'.

If you would like to read a draft of the paper please drop me a line: dan AT internetartizans DOT co DOT uk

Cyber War Crimes: speculations on their inevitability

The British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has announced that the UK is “developing a full-spectrum military cyber capability, including strike capability”. In doing so, has become the first Western politician to publicly acknowledge offensive operations in cyberspace as a state priority, although a few months earlier the head of the NSA spoke of creating cyberwarfare divisions

The context of the British revelation was a Dr. Strangelove style interview in a nuclear bunker beneath Whitehall. The narrative was of “clinical cyber strikes” and claimed that “in contrast with bloody, dangerous and inaccurate bombing raids, entire cities could be conquered without a single loss of life, helping Britain to avoid a military war – and a public relations battle”. 

The reality of cyberwar is likely to be dirty; more like a messy proxy-war than a disciplined confrontation between national armies. What is more, cyberwar arrives draped in the vestments of future war crimes. A closer reading of current evidence suggests it will generate activity across three areas that are definitely unethical and potentially illegal; namely funding dangerous militias, increasing the number of children enrolled in conflict, and poisoning public spaces. 

Firstly, the threat of militias. Despite being a top-end engineering project, Stuxnet seems to have depended on shady private sector engagements. The zero day exploits used to deliver the payload were almost certainly a product of the growing black-market in vulnerabilities. Companies like French firm VUPEN are the Blackwaters of cyberwar, and even civilian law-enforcement agencies are willing to pay for exploits so they can slip spyware onto suspects' mobile phones according to Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union. As a case in point, the Syrian conflict has spawned several digital militias with dubious affiliations, from the established pro-regime Syrian Electronic Army to the spray of opposition splinter groups like the Jabhat Al Nusra Electronic Army. There's a murky nexus of mafia, malware and militias at the core of cyberwar which can only swell as the military ramps up it's budget for offensive capabilities. It's not hard to see what kind of mess can be created by mixing global demand with a militia and proxy wars; just look an the unending strife in Congo where various interests fight for, among other things, control of the mineral coltan which is used in mobile phones & laptops. Moreover, nothing about cyberwar can be separated from the surveillance systems exposed Edward Snowden. As Thomas Rid, Reader in War Studies at King’s College London says in the FT; “Building cyber weapons requires attacking first. You can’t build a cyber weapon without first knowing the target. This requires penetrating the target first, through aggressive probing for intelligence. The effect is escalation, not deterrence.” Cyberwar needs Prism, Bullrun and the rest.

 

The second disturbing trend is the focus on enrolling youth and children. The tabloid article interview with Hammond in which he revealed the switch to a cyber offensive stance also contained references to a new Cyber National Guard of part-time reservists which will be “open to computer whizzkids who cannot pass the current Territorial Army fitness tests, on the basis that press-ups do not aid computer skills. ‘A TA for computer geniuses’, as Mr Hammond called it”. While this may be rhetorical chaff to divert attention from other cuts in the defence budget, cyberwar raises a substantive issue about age and conflict. Hackers start young, and some will be behind those exploits that fetch high prices in the global black markets. We can also ask what part of existing cyber militias consist of kids too young to take up a Kalashnikov. As for the state, what should we make of DARPA's enthusiasm for funding the 'maker' agenda in education (as Tim O'Reilly's tweet says “@make and @otherlab plan to bring making to education … with the help of a DARPA mentor grant” ). In the past, the UK has been criticised by Amnesty International for using 'child soldiers' ("The United Kingdom is the only country in Europe which routinely sends children under the age of 18 into armed conflict”). The government's welcome switch in schools' ICT learning curriculum to make coding a priority is now taking place in a state that considers offensive cyberwar as central to future war strategy. While no-one is suggesting the education agenda has been set by the military, there is some sense in which they are moving in step. At the very least, the expansion of the malware-industrial complex will proliferate job ads like those from Raytheon which boast of youth culture: “Surfboards, pirate flags, and DEFCON black badges decorate our offices, and our Nerf collection dwarfs that of most toy stores. Our research and development projects cover the spectrum of offensive and defensive security technologies.”  

 

A third strand of possible cyber war crimes is the nature of the weapons as indiscrimate rather than surgical. In this arms race, proliferation is baked in; techniques used by Stuxnet have surfaced in code used by regular cyber criminals (“The parallel is dropping the atomic bomb but also leaflets with the design of it” according to one think tank). The fact that Stuxnet itself was discovered by the outside world is attributed to a bug in the malware which led to it spreading beyond its intended target (the centrifuges in Iran's Natanz nuclear plant). A programming error introduced in an update led to the worm infecting an engineer's computer that had been connected to the centrifuges, and spreading further when the engineer returned home and connected his computer to the internet. In the past few months a couple of US-based engineers have exposed vulnerabilities in other SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) systems used to remotely monitor power stations and water utilities. “In the case of one vendor, Mr. Crain found that he could actually infiltrate a power station’s control center from afar. An attacker could use that capability to insert malware to take over the system, like Stuxnet”. This has led to a series of CERT (Cyber Emergency Response Team) advisories, such as: “The affected Triangle MicroWorks products are stand-alone or are third-party components, which communicate to outstation/slave devices using various transmission protocols. According to Triangle MicroWorks, the products are deployed across several sectors including electric utilities, transportation systems, water, and government facilities...The outstation can be sent into an infinite loop by sending a specially crafted TCP packet from the master station on an IP-based network. The device must be shut down and restarted to reset the loop state”.  Sujeet Shenoi of the Cyber Corps Program at the University of Tulsa 'fears the consequences of active strikes against infrastructure. “I think maybe the civilian courts ought to get together and bar these kinds of attacks,” he says'. As the Internet of Things infuses every aspect of our lives well beyond our industrial infrastructure, the potential for attack becomes fractal. If a hobbyist can create a search engine Shodan for exposed devices including traffic lights, security cameras and home heating systems, as well as industrial infrastructure, what will a serious cyberwar agency or militia be able to do? And what will be the inevitable unintended consequences? Despite Hammond's claim that “entire cities could be conquered without a single loss of life” we know that so-called non-lethal weapons like tear gas frequently kill; when, for example, the gas is fired in to enclosed spaces where there are older people or children. Cyberwar will attack the atmospheres of our lives in ways that will unpredictably toxic. 

 

When all this or something similar comes to pass and, too late, we agree that cyber war crimes have occurred – what then? Do we rely on an institutional human rights framework which has failed to adapt to the age of networks? What class of professionals will be qualified to prosecute? In the USA, legislators charged with overseeing surveillance programmes were persuaded that metadata is innocuous, and the judiciary legitimised blanket interception by defining massive data sets as 'targeted facilities'. Perhaps we will look to 'the new politics of the internet', a networked politics which takes the commons as a priority. “What these new political models hope to achieve is not just decentralization, but self-organization...The internet has given not only the tools but also the language and culture required for so many people to participate in self-organized systems at global scales”. Perhaps the peace and anti-nuclear movement will be reinvigorated and combine Menwith Hill peace grannies with Tweets from the Streets. The politics that emerges from the internet also comes with the defence of the internet as a fundamental social good, whereas a notable characteristic shared by surveillance agencies, cyberwar programmes and, for that matter, the defenders of incumbent business models (think SOPA and ACTA) is a willingness to 'break' the internet in pursuit of their goals. The internet was imbued by its university origins with the academic ideals of free expression and the sharing of knowledge. As one of the leaders of Germany’s Pirate Party once said “We don’t offer a ready-made programme, but an entire operating system” and this could describe the internet itself, a space for global collaboration in the face of climate change and energy shocks. In this situation, waging war on the internet itself may at least constitute a crime against the commons. 

The fruit of the Vine?

Why are micro video blogging sites like Vine so popular? TechCrunch's DIY analysis back in March showed a trend in Vine's early growth that's still going strong, although the big media story right now is the battle between Vine and the newer Instagram video offering (fifteen seconds of video instead of six! Filters!!). Sure, social media trends can be as shallow as you like: but can a closer reading of Vine tell us anything more interesting about our times?

The BBC was off the blocks in January with a decent stab at listing 'six things people have learned about six-second video in a week'. Although all social media sites can seem superficial they are also cultural spaces; and people can participate in creating these cultures instead of choosing from cultural forms approved by mainstream taste-makers. Six seconds of video can be banal; but it can also be poetic or political. An aggregation of Vine videos recalls the the Mass Observation social research project of the 1930s. You're seeing the ordinary stuff of people's lives unfold in front of you: in this case, a few dizzying seconds at a time.

What's more, there's something meme-ish about the micro video format. As other people have pointed out, you can see the lineage to animated gifs. Vine videos can have that funny-or-disturbing payload that lends itself to sharing and adaptation. Memes are the DNA of online culture (complete with junk DNA) and they're way we share a common feeling or outlook about everything from cats to the overthrow of Mubarak.

Twitter was dismissed as trivial at the start, it's now a strategic component of politics, business and social uprisings. Imagine a six second looping video of Mohamed Bouazizi setting himself on fire. And if you think Vine and it's ilk are simply the waste pipe of public consciousness, you missed the significance of 4chan's /b/ board.  The images there are like a teenager's toilet humour on Tourette steroids, but the shared grammar of jokes and memes was an important petri dish for the sub-culture that became Anonymous

But of course, like the other spawn of Silicon Valley, the business model is the dark side of Vine and the other sites and may ironically be the source of their ultimate failure. It's no secret that the battle between Vine and Instagram video is a courtship of the advertisers as much as (more than) an appeal to the users. That's the ABC of the tech startup – grow a massive user base by being both cool and free, then sell to a bigger company who can monetise the metrics. You can almost taste the advertiser's saliva when they say "We would be interested in exploring the advertising capabilities, their analytics platform/offering and how granular they can go from a targeting perspective".

Targeting is the key here. The sinister thing about all the video blogging sites is that it's really you, the person making the video, who is being watched.  The companies want to know who all your friends are and what kind of stuff you like so they can target advertising at you (“If the product is free, you are the product”). Thanks to Edward Snowden we also know that the intelligence agencies are hoovering up everything we do online. By making a form of stalking into the engine of social media, Silicon Valley has achieved a Taoist unity of business model and threat model. What will the wider impact of Vine be in the age of PRISM? Remember, it was a video that gave Wikileaks a big kick-off (the one of a helicopter gunship in Afghanistan casually killing a Reuters journalist and some children). Will the micro video sites simply be part of the strangling pondweed of surveillance or will we see some Vine-powered transparency? How about a six-second video from a drone control room in Lincolnshire?

In this light it's an app like Snapchat that says more about our times than the enhanced video editing  features of Vine's competitors. Although it shares a refreshingly minimalist approach to user interface, Snapchat is mainly interesting because of the promise to forget your images & videos – ten seconds and they're gone. Of course, Snapchat's pitch for privacy was technically fake and it shares pretty much nothing with proper privacy tools. But it's the idea that gave it life. We don't want everything to last forever, to haunt us at our job interviews or to sit in the digital filing cabinet of some spy agency. So maybe the next hot video app won't be a slicker version of Vine but some hybrid of Snapchat and Tor. People want to express themselves freely – and that's what the internet was originally good for.

MA module: Social Media Campaigning

I'm teaching this new MA module on Social Media Campaigning this term (Spring 2013). I'll update the list of lecture links each week as we go through the course. The hashtag is #smcampn

introduction

"This course will immerse participants in the latest developments around social media campaigning. It will explore the underlying dynamics of change around political and social campaigns and their interactions with companies and government. This participatory module will explore the affordances of technology, digitally-enabled crowdsourcing and participation, and new practices of prototyping and agile campaigning. This course will be relevant to students from a range of disciplines including political science, media & communications, and entrepreneurship. It will engage with external communities and take a connectivist approach to learning. Lectures will be combined with peer-to-peer group work and hands-on experiments with a range of tools".

syllabus

1. social media as a platform. Tracing a path from "Grass Horse Mud Style" past the "Sh!t Online Organizers Say" we find that social media has escaped the organisation while becoming strategic enough for war. Along the way we pick up some useful terms (striation, affordances and hacktivism) with which to dig deeper in to these changes. lecture 1 links

2. agile campaigns and social movements. "Agile movements are continually emerging from the underlying flow of micro-political acts" - in particular we look at NOTW, UK Uncut, and the mobilisation against cuts in disability benefits. We uncover parallels with Spain's 15-M movement and trace the characters of these movements through the mobilising affect of the hashtag. lecture 2 links

3. crowds and participatory tools. The response to hurricane Katrina was a snapshot of early crowdsourcing and a lesson in institutional striation. While some projects require bespoke platforms, we explore the crowdsourcing tools that are to hand, and the implications for self-organisation. While Crowdflower has captured crowdsourcing for corporate benefit, we look at counter-examples of learning and capacitation such as Crop Mob and The Good Gym. lecture 3 links

4. mapping as campaigning. Digital cartography blends the technical descdendents of web 2.0 (ajax, APIs) with the political interventions of Dronestagram and the Syria Tracker crowdmap. We look in some detail at the machinery behind Google Maps and Open Street Map to find affordances for campaigning and community empowerment. "Most people think [maps] represent the world. My argument is maps propose the world, then bring it into being through enforcement policies."(Denis Wood). lecture 4 links

5. social business and openness. Rather than focus on campaigns against specific businesses, we examine changes in the form of business itself. Starting with the Cluetrain Manifesto, we see that "all organizations are social, but few are social organizations" and that "there is no such thing as a social media strategy, there are only business strategies that understand networks". Following the passage of 'open' through open source & open innovation, and the rise of crowdfunding, we hear the call for social business to tackle society's biggest problems. lecture 5 links

6. making as campaigning. It's time for campaigners to 'get excited and make things', especially as 'making is connecting'. Through examples, we see how  biomapping, 3D printing and experiments with Arduino are crossing over in to campaigning, underwritten by an emerging infrastructure of hackerspaces & makerspaces. This starts to look like a critical form of Citizen Science, and we extrapolate what this might mean for the Internet of Things and the possibility of community #drones. lecture 6 links

7. hacktivism & internet freedom. Going back to hacktivist roots in Hactivismo/Cult of the Dead Cow (programmer culture), and the Electronic Disturbance Theater (progressive artist-activists) we try to delineate the idea of hactivism as something outside the old catogories of civil disobedience, criminality and activism. Identifying core issues (from free speech to 'keeping things up and running') we follow it forward through 4chan, Anonymous and Wikileaks, arriving at the campaigns against SOPA & ACTA and the spread of self-organised activities like CryptoParty. lecture 7 links

8. prototyping and prefigurative politics. Where orthodox campaigning seeks to influence political decision makers, we look at the direct impact of network politics. Starting with the Pirate Party (“We don’t offer a ready-made programme, but an entire operating system") and ideas of liquid democracy, we fmove to a broader view of post-SOPA politics. Is internet politics the new environmentalism - a epochal consciousness change like that of 1968? We trace the link between hacktivism's policy circumvention and the post #OWS practices of Occupy, and suggest a connection in 'non-excludable benefits' and the production of the Commons. Plus, we practice Occupy hand signals ('jazz hands'). lecture 8 links

9. breaks & flows: the post-structural philosophers of social media campaigning lecture 9 links

Big Data Capabilities and Citizen Glitching

by Dan McQuillan

 

Big data has followed the web out of the accelerator tunnels. When I was a particle physicist in the late 1980's the data flowing out of detectors was a mere one or two Mb/s[0]. Now the Large Hadron Collider produces at least 1 GB/s[1] while self-generated personal data flows into Facebook data centres at a similar rate. And on this journey out of the superconducting dark, big data has (like software) acquired a dimension called 'open'.

These days the big open data movement slurries through the streets like a mudslide, swirling repetitions of hopeful intention seeping over the sandbags of criticality. Big open data will bring transparency, accountability and democracy, and will sweep in to line rigid institutions and govermental structures.

Perhaps the institutions of power have not been hypnotised by open data. Perhaps they are happy to ride the wave for political advantage. In the UK, government open data could be a vital lubricant for civic outsourcing; part of a privatisation API that slots the Sercos and G4S's neatly in to place[2].  Selling off non-anonymised data from the UK's National Pupil Database is only the start[3]

Not that the idea of big open data for good has gone unvoiced. The UN's Global Pulse initiative has tried to harness big digital data and real-time analytics and asks “How do you find indicators for changes human well-being in big data? How do you know which digital signals are relevant enough to warrant further investigation?”, hoping to find answers through partnerships with data research companies and research centres[4].

But the current data ecosystem lacks diversity, especially in the capabilities of citizen actors. Sen & Nussbaum's capability theory sees wellbeing as based on a set of functionings (‘beings and doings') that we have reason to value – a view that they trace back to the Aristotelian notion of flourishing[5]. The negative freedom of open data (“we won't stop you using it”) needs to be superseded by the positive and substantive freedom of being able to use big open data to enrich the lives of people and communities. 

There are some worthy initiatives trying to fill the capability gap, such as the School of Data[6], although the current beneficiaries tend to be from disciplines trying to update themselves (journalists, social scientists). More fundamentally, the exercise of capabilites is based on the ability “to choose from possible livings”. It requires a critical understanding of the present and the development of an Imaginary about possible futures.

A citizen capability approach to big open data needs a critical pedagogy that fits with technological forms of life; a combination of critical peer learning and rapid prototyping that can be called Critical Hacktivism[7]. The gains of open data are not to be found only in statistical correlations but in the critical engagement of participants in examining and questioning what represents their world inside the data machine, and having the ability to intervene on behalf of their preferred futures.  

As people engage with the data they will encounter its obstinacy and material resistance. A data scientist knows that the bulk of work is beneath the surface – cleaning and purifying the data ready for analysis and visualisation. But these glitches can also be heuristic, can surface questions about the way the categories are constructed (“are the causes of my problems really captured by the category of Troubled Family?”[8])The exercise of separating indivisible lived experience in to suitable data objects becomes political, and the next logical step is to create data that is meaningful to us as citizens, that has value to us because it is part of a process of achieving wellbeing. This is where data science meets citizen science.

Participatory citizen science combines techniques of data analysis and mapping with a community development methodology, enabled by the affordances of technological innovation. A citizen science project in conducted by Mapping for Change in Deptford developed a methodology for collecting noise measurements with cheap, hand-held devices that the residents of Pepys Housing Estate could use to create an online map of noise pollution in the area, as part of their campaign against an unpopular local scrapyard. At a public meeting, the community were able to present the authorities with the evidence. After professional acousticians carried out a survey that largely confirmed the results of the residents' study, the environment agency revoked the license for the scrapyard[9].

Citizen science scales to big data when it meets the Internet of Things. Post-Fukushima projects like Safecast[10] are starting to generate large quantities of citizen-powered radiation measurements. The infrastructure is growing in the form of projects like Cosm/Pachube[11], and the Public Laboratory has successfully crowdfunded a DIY spectrometry kit[12]

What happens when citizen data meets big data? If citizen capabilities have been informed by a critical pedagogy, we can expect something like the approach of the Counter-Cartographies Collective to mapping data: 

“One big point of discussion was how to deal with the embedded biopolitics behind data sources like US Census data that we use in our maps — as 3Cs, we often talk about how we ‘queer’ data or statistics by pulling map stories out of them that they weren’t intended for.”[13]

In this way, citizen data could bring the New Aesthetic[14] to big data; a glitching that reveals the computational assumptions behind our databased world, a hacking away at the invisible voxels of power that striate society, an R[15]-powered interruption that returns a capability to the collective citizenry.

[0] The ZEUS detector and Data Storage at ZEUS

[1] CASTOR2 rises to LHC's data storage challenge http://cerncourier.com/cws/article/cern/31529

[2]Outsource to easyCouncil? Not in our name, says Barnet http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/nov/11/local-government-democracy-outsourcing-barnet

[3]Opening the National Pupil Database? http://www.timdavies.org.uk/2012/11/12/opening-the-national-pupil-database

[4]Video from Global Pulse’s 8 November briefing to the UN General Assembly http://www.unglobalpulse.org/ResearchAndBigDataVideos

[5]Technology as empowerment a capability approach to computer ethics by Justine Johnstone, Science and Technology Policy Research, Freeman Centre, University of Sussex http://eccleethics.wikispaces.com/Technology+as+empowerment+a+capability+approach+to+computer+ethics+by+Justine+Johnstone

[6]School of Data - Learn how to find, process, analyze and visualize data http://schoolofdata.org/

[7]Critical Hacktivism, by Dan McQuillan, Internet.Artizans blog http://www.internetartizans.co.uk/critical_hacktivism

[8]Troubled families, Department for Communities and Local Government http://communities.gov.uk/communities/troubledfamilies/

[9]Scientists and Citizens, Chinadialogue http://www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/4782-Scientists-and-citizens

[10]Safecast global sensor network - “for collecting and sharing radiation measurements to empower people with data about their environments” http://blog.safecast.org/

[11]Cosm platform, API and community – How it works https://cosm.com/how_it_works

[12]Public Lab DIY Spectrometry Kit > on Kickstarter http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jywarren/public-lab-diy-spectrometry-kit

[13]3cs in Chicago (part 1), Counter-Cartographies Collective http://countercartographies.wordpress.com/2010/02/13/3cs-in-chicago-part-1/

[14]The New Aesthetic: Waving at the Machines, a talk by James Bridle http://booktwo.org/notebook/waving-at-machines/

[15]RStudio - Take control of your R code http://www.rstudio.com/ide/

Hopeful Hybrids: the idea of Social Innovation Assemblages

by Dan McQuillan

 

In Critical Hacktivism[1] I outlined an approach to the affordances of social technology that evades capture by existing institutional and knowledge structures. In this post I'll look at the next challenge; how can these social innovations scale in a way that is 'prototyping a new society in the shell of the old' without becoming completely assimilated by existing institutions.

Most of the systems that we inhabit are 'striated' (marked by linear boundaries, restricted to a particular plane of activity in the space of all possible potentials) and this inevitably acts to control and capture. Our experience with Social Innovation Camp[2] is that projects coming out of the camps are are too small and too different for a system to acknowledge (whether that system is a host organisation or the wider political economy around a social issue). Or, if they are recognised, the reaction is just as likely to be hostility as support[3]. Similarly a project like Apps for Good[4], channeling pure Paulo Freire through the affordances of the Android operating system, finds itself pushed away from disaffected youth and in to schools[5] by the fear-based benefits system and the myopic and self-interested voluntary sector. How can we scale our critical hacks without becoming the same as that which went before? When Richard Day warns against 'the hegemony of hegemony'[6] he's highlighting the poverty of our ideas about how to be influential in the world. I'm proposing a line of flight based on 'hopeful hybrids'; hybrid combinations of social startups and existing entities based on the idea of assemblages.

On one level, an assemblage is simply a heterogeneous complex system – it could be made up of objects, people, organisations and biological components. As a philosohphical idea from Deleuze & Guattari, and developed by de Landa, it takes on some characteristics that make it a good fit for social prototyping, a way of hacking the system while 'keeping the power on' (to borrow a phrase from Abstract Hacktivism[7]. On of the useful distinctions made by assemblage theory is the distinction between the properties and capacities of an entity. “We may have exhaustive knowledge about an individual’s properties and yet, not having observed it in interaction with other individuals, know nothing about its capacities”[8]. When these elements come together in an assemblage new capacities emerge, that become characteristic of the emergent whole. The assemblage is not reducible to its parts.

Working with an ontology of assemblages lets us think our way past the potential choke points, whether technical, organisational or social. It allows us to look at an set of elements to hand and think “how can we reassemble this?” What's more, it is impossible to predict a priori what will emerge with from a particular assemblage until we try. For these reasons it is a useful way to look at the practice of critical hacktivism, an active reassembling that draws on the unexpected affordances of technology for constructing socio-technical structures. I'm going to illustrate this with a real world example that traces a path of emergence between the Katrina hurricane and the earthquake in Haiti.

In 2005 Hurricane Katrina displaced thousands of people and many online survivor registries appeared where people could report missing relatives or check for family and friends. One of the responses was an early effort in volunteer hacking and crowdsourcing which became known as the Katrina PeopleFinder Project.  One of the participants, Ethan Zuckerman, gives a riveting first-hand account[9] of the way the project emerged as “geeks start screen scraping databases and bulletin boards with information about hurricane survivors” while volunteers work on manual entry of data from unstructured sources like discussion forums and blog comments. The #globalvoices channel on irc.freenode.net becomes a key point of coordination for the project (Ethan is also a co-founder of Global Voices) as the coalition finds ways to route around problems. “We rapidly figure out that assigning people a page of bulletin board results isn’t going to work, as the posts on each page change as new posts are added to the system. A pair of Craigslist geeks solve the problem on their site, by creating HTML pages with the contents of 25 Craigslist posts on each page – they place them on a constant URL so we can index the pages easily for the wiki. Nate Kurz comes up with a clever hack to index posts on bulletin boards that use sequential post IDs. I write an ugly perl script using his hack to generate assignment pages that have links to bulletin board posts.”

One of the key early steps was the creation of the People Finder Interchange Format (PFIF)[10], a data model and an XML-based exchange format for information about missing or displaced people. Using this open standard for storing both person records (identifying information about a person) and note records (comments and updates on the status and location of a person) enables survivor registries to aggregate and share information with each other via automated means. One of the creators, Kieran Lal, wrote a personal account of the creation of PFIF[11] showing how individual efforts weaved together projects like CiviCRM and companies like Salesforce. At the time of Katrina, however, incumbent NGOs like the Red Cross did not participate in these efforts.

In the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) we can identify some of the structural roots of striation that act to close down innovation. The mission of their Central Tracing Agency is 'reuniting families separated by conflict and disasters'[12] and goes back to 1870 when it was able to use prisoner lists from the German forces to inform French families about the fate of those missing in action. Critically, this role has become established in international humanitarian law[13], an authority which is maintained by the ICRC itself since “the ICRC, being the initiator and the guardian of international humanitarian law, is responsible for its development”. Embedded in international humanitarian law and percolated through the operating culture of a historical institution - the perceived 'ownership' of a social issue doesn't get deeper than this.

The period between Katrina in 2005 and Haiti in 2010 saw the growth of civic and crisis hacktivism, ranging from MySociety and Social Innovation Camp to software platforms like Ushahidi and establishment of the Crisis Camp movement. “CrisisCamp began in March 2009 as a barcamp event to connect crisis management and global development practitioners to the technology volunteer community. During the Haiti response, CrisisCamp became a movement and added a response mechanism to the community.”[14]. The self-organised crisis camp community played a role in passing hacktivist learning from People Finder to the Haiti response. According to the After Action Review on CrisisCommons, the CrisisCamp volunteers become concerned about the fact that there were at least 46 missing persons systems available by the first weekend of the crisis. 

" 'I was involved after the first day or so, participating in a discussion forum run by volunteers from CrisisCommons and Random Hacks of Kindness,' said Andy Carvin, social media strategist for NPR, in an e-mail interview. 'Though I'm not a techie and can't really participate in the substance of the tool-building that's taking place, I advocated that we all figure out a way to have these various missing persons lists talk to each other ... So I advocated that they use a format developed after Katrina called the PeopleFinder Interchange Format (PFIF), which was created by volunteers to make it possible to process all of these various missing persons reports into a single format that could be passed along to the Red Cross.' According to his online resume, one of the originators of PFIF, Ka-Ping Yee works in software engineering for Google's philanthropic initiatives, and 'no doubt that influenced how they moved forward' Carvin said. Within 36 hours of the January 2010 Haiti earthquake Google engineers built Person Finder in order to help those affected by the earthquake connect with their loved ones"[15].

From the perspective of hybridity, one of the most interesting projects to emerge from the dust of the Haitian earthquake was Mission 4636, the crowdsourced reporting and processing of crisis-related SMS messages via a local mobile shortcode ('4636'). Although hugely driven by Haitian efforts in the diaspora and on the ground, catalysed by some key tech enablers, the project also gave rise to a proto-assemblage that connected large institutions, grassroots projects and ad-hoc initiatives in a shifting pattern of information exhange and action. The Ushahidi blog was among the first to try to capture this new creature, but the far-from equilibrium nature of the assemblage can be seen from the fact that the diagram underwent major changes between 8th February[16] and 11th February 2010[17]. As the introduction to the second version says:
“Shortly after we posted the original Project 4636 info graphic, a few folks involved in the project got in touch to see if we could clarify the process. There are a lot of moving parts, many of which are constantly changing, and so the original graphic didn’t quite reflect the exact process as well as it could have. With that in mind, we worked with Josh Nesbit of Frontline SMS Medic and Nicolás di Tada of InSTEDD to make sure the graphic reflected the process as accurately as possible”.

 

One reading of this assemblage is the possibility that incumbent institutions, whose rigid structures also command significant practical resource in terms of people and equipment, can be productively enrolled with grassroots projects and agile initiatives to leverage technologies for a crisis situation, without crushing the necessary speed of innovation under the weight of bureaucratic overcoding. This is also the atmosphere of the 'Geeks for Haiti[18], a crisis camp video showing how technical specialists came together in a hackspace with students and volunteers from the diaspora. It created a 'smooth space' for anyone frustrated about the speed & ambition of institutional responses and the passivity of simply donating money to international NGOs.  “CrisisCampers are not only technical folks like coders, programmers, geospatial and visualization ninjas but we are also filled to the brim with super creative and smart folks who can lead teams, manage projects, share information, search the internet, translate languages, know usability, can write a research paper and can help us edit wikis.”[19]

But a word of warning comes from one of the reports on Mission 4636. Despite positive conclusions about the crowdsourced activity of the Haitian diaspora (“The structured data, now in English, was streamed directly back to the relief efforts in Haiti, with a typical turnaround of just 5 minutes”) the report by one of the key people involved argues that the role of NGOs has been exaggerated. “Previous reports about Mission 4636 have incorrectly credited international organizations with the majority of the work. Only 5% of messages to 4636 went through the software run by international not-for-profits, but reports like the Disaster Relief 2.0 Report inflated this 5% to appear to be the whole effort, sidelining the 95% that was Haitian run.“[20] While there was some genuine operationalisation of a crisis assemblage around Project 4636, it seems that the post-event narrative was captured by the NGOs.

In fact, NGOs and other institutions can themselves be seen as assemblages. The theory makes for a flat ontology, where any level of 'being' or 'structure' can be seen as a combination of elements with particular properties and capacities. In de Landa's version, one dimension through which assemblages can be defined is the synthetic role the assemblage plays , on a spectrum between full territorialisation and full deterritorialisation. '" 'Territorialision is any process that seeks to stabilise the identity of an assemblage, to define physical boundaries, to express codes of appropriate behaviour so as to homogenise other parts...' On the level of social organisation, such territorialising forces include the police and border control, which are largely material assemblages, and on the other hand, policy documents and law archives, which function mainly as expressive assemblages"[21]. Agile inititiaves, on the other hand, are marked by the deterritorialising tendency that characterises critical hacktivism and the ability to innovate through the affordances of technology. There's an activist mandate in these latter assemblages, an urgent experimentalism, as it is only by doing that we can discover the emergent capacities of the parts, and the wholes that they will produce.

It remains to be seen whether the idea of hacktivist assemblages will be useful for social projects. Will hopeful hybrids only emerge in the heat of a humanitarian disaster? Or will the lengthy social crisis create an alembic out of which social innovation assemblages will emerge to tackle homelessness, dwindling pensions and depressing care homes[22]. What kind of structure will amplify the flow between the Good Gym[23], the NHS and local communities? Between EnabledbyDesign[24], the Homecare Industry, Occupational Therapists and disability activists? What assemblages will channel the flow between government, citizens and hacktivist youth projects[25] for the prototyping of a new country like Kosovo[26]? For social assemblages to be innovative they will need to evade the forces of reterritorialisation, perhaps by incorporating elements that bring the the energy and intensity of social movements. "And as with natural dynamical systems, the key ingredient to insuring that assemblages remain ‘interesting’ is the production of intensive differences that are produced through flows of energy through the system. These flows can be analysed for the limits they place on the system and the structures they impose, thus forming an analysis resembling a kind of neo-materialism"[27]. In the next post in this series I'll look at the emerging area of citizen science; how this can be a form of critical hacktivism and be furthered through assemblages. But I'll suggest that, rather than depending on the existing levers of policy change, the impact of citizen science will be stronger if it becomes rooted in the prefigurative politics of social movements like Occupy.

(This is #2 in a series of posts based on my talk at “The Co-Production of Knowledge: Social Media and Science &Technology Studies” at the University of York.)

References:

[1] Critical Hacktivism

[2] Social Innovation Camp

[3]Government is an elephant | Public Strategist. (n.d.). Retrieved August 23, 2012, from http://publicstrategist.com/2010/03/government-is-an-elephant/

[4] Apps for Good

[5]From NEETs to schools: a shift in channels. (n.d.).CDI Europe. Retrieved August 23, 2012, from http://cdieurope.eu/2011/04/18/neets-schools-shift-channels/

[6]Day, R. J. F. (2005). Gramsci is Dead: Anarchist Currents in the Newest Social Movements. Pluto Press.

[7]Busch, O. V., & Palmas, K. (2006). Abstract Hacktivism: The Making of a Hacker Culture. Mute

Publishing Ltd.

[8]DeLanda, M. (2005). Intensive Science & Virtual Philosophy. Continuum.

[9]…My heart’s in Accra?» Recovery 2.0 – thoughts on what worked and failed on PeopleFinder so far. (n.d.). Retrieved August 23, 2012, from http://www.ethanzuckerman.com/blog/2005/09/06/recovery-20-thoughts-on-what-worked-and-failed-on-peoplefinder-so-far/

[10]People Finder Interchange Format 1.4. (n.d.). Retrieved August 23, 2012, from http://zesty.ca/pfif/1.4/

[11]A personal history of the effort to find the survivors of Hurricane Katrina | CivicSpace. (n.d.). Retrieved August 24, 2012, from http://web.archive.org/web/20061009120722/http://www.civicspacelabs.org/home/node/14162

[12]Reuniting families separated by conflict and disasters. Retrieved August 23, 2012, from http://www.icrc.org/eng/what-we-do/reuniting-families/overview-reuniting-families.htm

[13]International Humanitarian Law - Fourth 1949 Geneva Convention. Art 26 (n.d.). Retrieved August 23, 2012, from http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/FULL/380?OpenDocument

[14]About Crisis Commons. (n.d.).CrisisCommons. Retrieved August 23, 2012, from http://crisiscommons.org/about/

[15]CrisisCamp AAR - Project Support - Person FInder - CrisisCommons Wiki. (n.d.). Retrieved August 23, 2012, from http://wiki.crisiscommons.org/wiki/CrisisCamp_AAR_-_Project_Support_-_Person_FInder

[16]Project 4636: An Info Graphic – Ushahidi:: Blog. (2010, February 8). Retrieved August 23, 2012, from http://blog.ushahidi.com/index.php/2010/02/08/project-4636-an-info-graphic/

[17]Project 4636 Revisited: The Updated Info Graphic – Ushahidi?:: Blog. (2010, February 11). Retrieved August 23, 2012, from http://blog.ushahidi.com/index.php/2010/02/11/project-4636-revisited-the-updated-info-graphic/

[18]Geeks for Haiti. (n.d.).Current TV. Retrieved August 27, 2012, from http://current.com/technology/91965297_geeks-for-haiti.htm

[19]About Crisis Commons. (n.d.).CrisisCommons. Retrieved August 23, 2012, from http://crisiscommons.org/about/

[20]Mission 4636?» Mission 4636 Report. (n.d.). Retrieved August 23, 2012, from http://www.mission4636.org/report/

[21]Hodgson, T. (2007). A Social Philosophy of Immanence: Realism, Assemblage Theory and Neo-Materialism.

[22]Social Innovation Camp Meetup - ‘What is the potential for new startups to get involved in Social Care?’ (n.d.).Eventbrite. Retrieved August 23, 2012, from http://sicamp-socialcare.eventbrite.com/

[23]GoodGym | a group of runners that runs to do good (n.d.). Retrieved August 27, 2012, from http://www.goodgym.org/

[24]Enabled by Design | People passionate about Design for All. (n.d.). Retrieved August 27, 2012, from http://enabledbydesign.org/

[25] Kosovo Innovation Camp | Projects. (n.d.).Kosovo Innovation Camp. Retrieved August 27, 2012, from http://kosovoinnovationcamp.wordpress.com/apply/

[26]Prototyping a new Kosovo

[27]Hodgson, T. (2007). A Social Philosophy of Immanence: Realism, Assemblage Theory and Neo-Materialism.

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