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laurel l. russwurm's political musings

Posts Tagged ‘Malcolm Gladwell

Loose Ties make WikiLeaks Strong

with one comment

I can’t get over the fact that Tom Flanagan didn’t understand suggesting assassination was inappropriate.

Tom Flanagan thought assassinating Julian Assange was reasonable.

Canadians are becoming angry at the arrogance of our elected officials and their unelected advisors.

Canadian Flag

Democracies around the world are facing calls for electoral reform. Coincidence?

Like Wikipedia, democracy can be altered in a heartbeat.

If we don’t protect our democracies, we’ll lose them.

The other night I stayed up far too late because I wanted to know that WikiLeaks was alright. Because I think WikiLeaks is important,

WikiLeaks shines a light on important issues– issues that the powerful and the self important want to keep dark.

Which is why powerful forces are arrayed against WikiLeaks.

Julian Assange is facing charges that I think even the most naïve schoolchild would realize are trumped up, along with both cyber and economic attacks, topped off with death threats. Wonder if that’s enough jeopardy for Malcolm Gladwell, who made the argument that real activism requires jeopardy in his New Yorker “Small Change” article, which prompted my rebuttal Tie Theory.

WikiLeaks is kind of a hybrid activist/news media. It is a truly international organization. Its only country is the Internet. That was the other fault Gladwell had with Internet activism: he thinks that activism requires people to be closely tied. WikiLeaks depends on being a “loose tie” network. You don’t get much looser than total strangers. Total strangers opt to host or mirror WikiLeaks on their computers. Because the more copies there are, the more spread out the network is, the looser the ties, the more difficult it is to shut it down.

In my post yesterday I called on the Pirate Party of Canada to be a Canadian host of WikiLeaks. I don’t know if they’ll do it or not, all I know is what I’ll do.

I am Hosting #cablegate

[Disclaimer: No, I don't actually know how to set up something like this myself; I had help. :) ]

You can peruse the cables at will on my Cablegate page,
or if you prefer to download or torrent You can do that here.

The thing is, I’m not alone. Here’s another list of WikiLeaks mirrors.

It isn’t much for one person to have to do, but there are rather a lot of us.

People connected through loose ties. We aren’t tied together by geography, ethnicity, family or religion, Malcolm, but only loosely connected by intangibles.

Ideas like:

#democracy,
#accountability,
#human rights,
#privacy…

That’s how “loose tie” networks work. And it’s also why loose tie networks can be superior.


WikiLeaks: Keep Us Strong


We all do what we can

You can just read the WikiLeaks Cablegate cables online. A new batch is released daily.

threethirty rt @WikiLeakMirror: Cables available at http colon slash slash bit dot ly slash ht6HqE semicolon includes LATEST cables bracket 12/4 bracket. Support free speech wikileaks #cablegate

Or, you can add your computer power to help, by seeding the WikiLeaks material that you have yourself downloaded via torrents.

rom1v  http colon slash slash 88 dot 80 dot 16 dot 63 slash torrent slash cablegate slash cablegate dash 201012041409 dot 7z dot torrent #wikileaks #backup #cablegate #statelogs

Or, last but not least, you can jump into the WikiLeaks network with both feet. Because the more spread out the network is, the more difficult it is to wipe out. This option is a bit more risky, particularly as it is lawmakers who want this stopped. Consider it carefully; remember you may wake up one morning to discover they have made this illegal.

jwildeboer  Are you brave enough? http colon slash slash 213.251.145.96 slash mass-mirror dot html #wikileaks #cablegate

Further Reading: Reporters Without Borders: WikiLeaks Hounded

Bill C-32 and the Environment

with 3 comments

AT

One of the brilliant online activists I “subscribe to” on Identi.ca and “follow” on twitter is Techrights founder Dr. Roy Schestowitz.

Roy passed along the link to this excellent The Story of Stuff video:
The Story of Electronics:
Why ‘Designed for the Dump’ is toxic for people and the planet

The Story of Stuff with Annie Leonard image features Annie Leonard photo holding ipod is integrated with black and white line drawing of Stuff

Because an increasing number of people use GNU/Linux operating systems, or simply resist using the proprietary Flash software, I’ve made a tinyogg conversion which I’ve hosted on my website here: The Story of Electronics – OGG conversion

You can read more of what Ms. Leonard has to say in her
The Huffington Post piece, or read what Geek Dad had to say in Wired about Annie Leonard’s latest film.

Find out more about Annie Leonard’s The Story of Stuff Project including steps that we can take to get involved on her website.

I think that this film is brilliant in its simplicity; it explains exactly what is wrong with what Annie Leonard calls the Electronics industry’s “Designed for the Dump” strategy.
They try to make this sound palatable by calling it “planned obsolescence”.

Deliberately manufacturing short lived physical materiel is not environmentally sustainable.

Bill C-32 legislates stuff to the Dump

Canadian DMCA

This Canadian DMCA will be WORSE than the American DMCA

Bill C-32, the so-called “Copyright Modernization Act,” has finished Second Reading and is in committee.

In spite of near universal opposition to this legislation which continues many bad elements first seen in its predecessors, Bill C-60 and C-61, the draft Bill C-32 ignores the majority of citizen input provided through the 2009 Copyright Consultation.

Michael Geist told Jesse Brown Bill C-32 will probably pass this time in the November 9th TVO Search Engine podcast.

But as bad as the American DMCA is, Bill C-32, the Canadian version will be much worse.

The DMCA does not make any aspect of their Fair Use regime subservient to technical measures, making the DMCA closer to the intent of the 1996 WIPO treaties to tie TPMs to infringing activities than C-32.

Russell McOrmond, Bill C-32 Frequently Asked Questions

My biggest problem with Bill C-32 as written is that it makes it illegal to circumvent “digital locks,” which are often called DRM (Digital Rights Management) or TPM (Technical Protection Measures), this latter being the language favored by Bill C-32. These “digital locks” are placed on our media and devices by manufacturers to control how we consumers can use the digital media and devices.

Q: How does “The Story of Electronics” tie in to the draft Canadian Bill C-32?

A: Making repair and recycling illegal will legislate Electronics to the Dump

By making circumvention of digital locks illegal for any purpose, electronics and media that still work, or that could be made to work, will now be legally consigned to the dump. Format shifting, recycling and repair of electronics with digital locks will be illegal.

Digital Locks prevent format shifting.

Unlike videotape, DVDs will play in any DVD player. At least until manufacturers add region encoding (digital locks/DRM/TPM).   When a Florida company shipped me a European DVD instead of the region 1 DVD that I would have been able to play on a Canadian DVD player, for me the DVD was garbage. I couldn’t play it the first time.

The company was aware that it was an error and shipped me a new copy of the DVD that was Region 1, so I wasn’t out of pocket. (They did not want the DVD back.) But the environment was.

When people move geographical locations if they move to a different “DVD region,” suddenly all their old technology and media can no longer be used because of digital locks. The ONLY reason that this is so is because of the digital locks applied by the manufacturer. Their idea is, as always, to sell more stuff. Wringing extra money from the consumer.

Consumers want to format shift, again for personal use, so that they can access their legally purchased content on their different devices.

When media and the devices we play it on become obsolete they proliferate in our dumps.

Digital Locks prevent us from repairing problems caused by DRM/TPM

Nobody seems to talk about the fact that the addition of digital locks/DRM/TPM quite often makes our media and devices not work. Ever had trouble playing your home burned home movie DVD in your DVD player. Or your grandmother’s DVD player? How about burning home movie DVDs at all.

Chances are that your digital stuff doesn’t work/is broken BECAUSE of digital locks. DRM. TPM,

If Bill C-32 passes as is, it will be illegal to fix it.

line drawing of a fat screen TV or monitor in a blue box

reusing, recycling

I foolishly bought an HP bubble printer without realizing the ink cartridges have DRM. It doesn’t matter how much ink is actually left in the cartridge, my cartridges are empty when the digital locks say they are. Which means, among other things, that I can’t save money and the environment by refilling them.

But I expect that refilling printer toner cartridges that have TPM will be illegal under Bill C-32 too.

No one is talking about this. Are they copyright issues? They should not be. But it once circumventing digital locks becomes illegal across the board I would expect they would be covered by Bill C-32.

Then there are all the OTHER uses of digital technology. Digital elements exist in refrigerators and cars, not just music and movies. If there aren’t TPMs on these things now, there will be once Bill C-32 becomes law. Because if circumventing digital locks is illegal, manufacturers would be foolish not to put digital locks on anything they can.

Which would be an even worse environmental catastrophe. Governments should not be legislating anti-interoperability.   For the good of the environment.

Canada’s technology will not just be

“Designed For The Dump”

but

“Legislated To The Dump”

by Bill C-32

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

[[Note to Malcolm Gladwell: yes Malcolm, there are online activists, and you know what? They do good work!]



The Story of Stuff Project’s “The Story of Electronics” is licensed under a Creative Commons BY NC ND license

Bill C-32 can be found online,
as can Digital Copyright Canada’s: Bill C-32 Frequently Asked Questions

ACTA Truth or Pravda?

with 4 comments

mouse ears on the world: text says ACTA ATTACKS INTERNETABC reports that Agreement Reached in Tokyo Anti-Counterfeiting Talks

I tried to comment on the article, but even after jumping through hoops, it wouldn’t let me. If it has to pass a moderator my comment is certainly dead in the water. Which is a good reason to have a blog, so I can comment on articles full of misinformation like this one.

Why shouldn’t Kraft be prevented from calling their product “Parmesan” or have to pay royalties to Parma, Cognac, Roquefort or Champagne for infringing on these legally trademarked names? Isn’t that the point? REAL Parmesan cheese comes from Parma. Kraft’s Parmesan Cheese is COUNTERFEIT. That’s what ACTA is all about… stopping piracy, right?

Isn’t that why they want these laws? So THEY get paid every time. But paying someone else is a problem. They don’t want to have to pay others, I guess they like the RIAA/CRIA music business model where everything possible is done to avoid actually paying the artists.

This dilemma clearly illustrates the slippery slope traveled with the ridiculous changes to copyright, trademark and patent law that are being undertaken at the behest of corporate special interests. If you make laws and treaties to cover this foolishness:

you can’t have it both ways

although it is clear that they are trying to work it that they can have their cake and eat it too.

Ultimately it is consumers/citizens/society that will suffer the price of this corporate greed.

Corporations are changing the rules of ownership. What they are calling piracy is what the world used to know as sharing. They want us to purchase multiple copies of the picture book we read to our children. One for the reader, and one for every child it is read too. And they also want us to have to purchase it over and over again. So next year if we want to read it again we have to buy it again. Then we have to train our children not to memorize the catch phrase or poetry, because if they recite them at the Christmas concert without first having purchased a license they or their church or their school might very well end up in court.

Gone are the days that books can be passed from parent to child to grandchild. The world they want will make each new consumer will have to pay to access the content. Every time. Because they will own all the rights to all the creativity.

Like Parmesan Cheese, all cultural material is built on what came before. Ironically, almost every Disney movie is based on stories taken from the public domain. Yet the public domain is being attacked and eroded by these laws. What will they do when the public domain is gone?

So has ACTA passed?

Not hardly. In fact,

The LA Times says, Global anti-counterfeiting agreement still weeks away

Or this: Danger of international accord on repressive policies in final ACTA talks, says RSF

Because in today’s world, ABC belongs to Disney, so we have to take it with a grain of salt.

Maybe it isn’t even necessary for ACTA to pass. When you control the media, whatever you say is “true”. They used to call that “pravda” back when governments not corporate interests ran countries. That’s why when people used to run the world, the first thing revolutionaries did during a coup was to take over the newspaper or radio station. Control the flow of information.

Today Disney just has to buy the news media. Good for the L.A. Times for actually reporting.

This is why the Internet must stay free. Why Net Neutrality is so very important.

And why Malcolm Gladwell was so very wrong.

Tie Theory

with 13 comments

Gladwell at a table, Los Angeles, January 2009

Malcolm Gladwell wrote a New Yorker article called Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted, ostensibly about the superiority of “strong ties” versus “weak ties” in social activism. His premise is that “social media” — that is to say, Twitter and Facebook — are not able to effect real social change.

Telling us that social activism requires closely connected people, Gladwell devotes much of the article explaining how the students who began the Greensboro sit-in in 1960 were friends and roommates. They had strong ties. Then he introduces the “second crucial distinction between traditional activism and its online variant”, a centrally controlled hierarchical organizational system.

Twitter and Facebook aren’t hierarchies but loose networks of acquaintances and strangers, which result in weak ties, according to Gladwell. He contends these networks are “effective at increasing participation—by lessening the level of motivation that participation requires” which implies devaluation of this participation.

Gladwell dismisses an example of a digital “weak-tie” campaign that got people to sign up for a bone marrow registry.   Not because it wasn’t successful.   It was.   But because it somehow doesn’t meet with Gladwell’s criteria for social activism.   It lowered the barrier and made it too easy for people to participate.   I’m not quite sure what is wrong with lowering the barriers to participation.   Isn’t citizen engagement is a good thing?

Gladwell maintains that networks are not as effective or efficient as hierarchies because,

“How do you make difficult choices about tactics or strategy or philosophical direction when everyone has an equal say?”

Centralization can be more efficient because there is single decision maker.   It works the same in government, with an omnipotent ruler as the head of state decisions are easy.   It’s always easier to forcibly impose “discipline” than it is to build consensus.

friendship = “strong ties”

As Gladwell points out, real world friendship can make for some very strong ties.   The two examples cited show clearly what can result from the strong ties of friendship.   On one hand, you can have something as important as the Civil Rights Movement; on the other, strong ties of friendship can result in a frivolous campaign to punish the person who stole your friend’s cell phone and wouldn’t give it back.

Both examples demonstrate successful campaigns.   One used the strong tie hierarchy of the Civil Rights Movement, the other the weak tie network of social media.

So, what has been proven, exactly?

Probably the low point of the article was Gladwell’s repetition of the oft used Facebook meme:

The evangelists of social media don’t understand this distinction; they seem to believe that a Facebook friend is the same as a real friend…”

Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker: Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted

Clearly, Gladwell doesn’t use Facebook.   Yesterday on the New Yorker live chat he admitted he’s not a Twitter user either, but that “I think someone created a twitter account in my name, and tweeted things a while back.”

Urban legends aside, the real point seems to be that Malcolm Gladwell doesn’t like Facebook or Twitter.   He doesn’t see the point.

Malcolm Gladwell:
I have nothing against Twitter. And I’d use it if I had more time. . . Here’s the deeper issue for someone like me or, for that matter, anyone contemplating using tools like Twitter. What is it you want to accomplish? Do you want a broad audience? Or a deep audience? In other words, would you rather do the best possible job engaging with a small but focused audience. Or would you rather spend your marginal hour reaching a large audience on a superficial level? There are lot of situations where the latter is a reasonable choice–like if I’m selling something, or announcing an event, or sharing a small but crucial bit of information. But I’m interested in exploring ideas in depth with the (small) group of people willing to geek-out with me. That makes strategy A a better choice.

—Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker Ask the Author Live: Malcolm Gladwell on Twitter

What caused the escalation from not wanting or needing a set of tools to attacking the validity of the tools?

Malcolm Gladwell makes it clear he is opposed to Facebook and Twitter.   There are all kinds of things wrong with these two “social media” platforms.

Yet to my great disappointment, Gladwell doesn’t seem to know what they are.

apples and oranges

For the argument to have had legitimacy, it should have compared tools with tools, or systems with systems. It would have been reasonable to compare social media with mass media, say.   Instead, Civil Rights Movement Activists are compared with Twitter and Facebook.   Gladwell isn’t proving a theory, he’s telling us what he believes an activist should be and we’re supposed to take it on faith.

All it takes to counter “tie theory” is a different incident from the Civil Rights Movement.

No central hiearchy told Rosa Parks to refuse to give up her seat on the bus.   Even though there were others on the bus who shared her plight, lived in the same geographic location, rode the same bus, suffered the same oppression— all presumably the stuff of “strong ties”— those people chose not to stand with her that day.   She made her decision to resist as an individual.   Strong ties or not, the others moved to the back of the bus.

Activism doesn’t have to the result of some grand design strategized by a central committee.   Quite often it just happens when people have reached their tipping point.

From the Live Chat:

[Comment From William Carleton: ]
Mr. Gladwell, the COO of Facebook and a Twitter exec both spoke at a marketing conference this week. In a way, they seem to be making your case for you, without much sense of irony. The description of the session led by the FB exec talks of “activisim” as a brand promotion tool. Do you think part of why social media reinforces the status quo may be because the stewards of the most succesful platforms seem to be selling them short?

Malcolm Gladwell:
That’s hilarious. If the civil rights movment were taking place today, do you think that some corporate entity would see it as a brand opportunity as well? Would Dr. King have done Nike ads? But yes, I’m not sure Facebook does much for real activism when they treat it as just another app.”

graphic reproduction of page one of Freedom's Journal

The printing press was a tool for social activism

activism IS just another app to a corporation

Neither Facebook or Twitter are activists; they are corporations. They are not forces for good or evil.
They exist to make a profit.   These are businesses that provide a platform and offer apps.   Corporations
don’t care about the environment, but they will
go “green” if it means an increase in profitability.

A long time ago, a man named Gutenberg invented a tool called a printing press.   Over the years, this invention has been used to print bibles, history books, political manifestos, novels, newspapers, wedding invitations and even magazines like the New Yorker.   A tool is only as good as the use to which it’s put.

So why is Malcolm Gladwell attacking “social media”?   Although asked to define “social media” it in yesterday’s chat, he declined.   In the article he says,

It shifts our energies from organizations that promote strategic and disciplined activity and toward those which promote resilience and adaptability. It makes it easier for activists to express themselves, and harder for that expression to have any impact. The instruments of social media are well suited to making the existing social order more efficient. They are not a natural enemy of the status quo. If you are of the opinion that all the world needs is a little buffing around the edges, this should not trouble you. But if you think that there are still lunch counters out there that need integrating it ought to give you pause.

Malcolm Gladwell, Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted

According to Gladwell, social media tools are not only a waste of time which could be better spent making a real difference, but they bolster the status quo.   He doesn’t offer any support for this premise either, though.

During the article he raises the stakes so that we aren’t just talking about ‘activism, we’re talking about ‘high-risk activism.’   The implication being that social activism without a component of personal jeopardy is not important.   Which is kind of like saying journalism without jeopardy is valueless.

Like Gladwell, I too grew up with stories of the civil rights movement.   A lot was accomplished.   Great odds were overcome.   And of course it makes for high drama.   Which is great on a movie screen but for the people living it, not so much.   In fact, I’m guessing that most activists would prefer not to give up their lives or their freedom or their livelihoods to meet their goals.   Think how much more Mr. King might have accomplished had he lived.

White lowercase letter F on a blue field is the FaceBook logo

Many of the more than 200,000 Canadians who had felt increasingly disenfranchised by unresponsive government have been organizing under the Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament group on Facebook.

Because it IS “easier for the powerless to collaborate, coördinate, and give voice to their concerns.”   And that’s a good thing.

Ironically a high school student created a Facebook activist group that helped save a forest in Gladwell’s home town.

Without actually using digital media, it is easy to be ignorant of the fact that conversations are possible in 140 character bursts. Links to longer works or reference material can be transmitted if more depth is required.

Malcolm Gladwell should understand the importance of these communication media, as he says himself,

“Our acquaintances—not our friends—are our greatest source of new ideas and information. The Internet lets us exploit the power of these kinds of distant connections with marvellous efficiency.

Malcolm Gladwell Small Change

Yet he brushes it off as being important to business, not activism.   It seems that Malcolm Gladwell thinks we have all the information we need.   I think he’s wrong.   The older I get, the more there is to learn.

Particularly as we are smack dab in the midst of a digital revolution. It was fascinating to watch history being made as the UK’s Digital Economy Bill was debated in the House of Lords while being filled in on the background by UK citizens on an IRC channel.   Twitter and Facebook aren’t the whole story, there are blogs, and podcasts, and even other microblogging services like the non-proprietary Identi.ca.   There are a great many activists to be found on Twitter, and some of the ones I know are:

The blue Twitter bird mascot

@doctorow     @ninapaley     @JesseBrown     @Openattitude     @schestowitz     @PaoloBrini     @p2pnet     @jkoblovsky     @techdirt     @ZeroPaid     @Org9     @zotzbro     @mgeist     @GloriousAndFree     @zittrain     @Crosbie     @lessig     @jerezim     @_the_mad_hatter     @russellmcormond     @copyrightgirl     @crime_minister     @s_nunn     @mgifford     @EFF     @publicknowledge     @creativecommons     @juditrius     @StopActaNow     @OpenRightsGroup     @CETAWatch

Canada is very fortunate to have online activists.   This is especially important at a time when the main stream news media has failed to adequately inform citizens on a number of important topics.   Bloggers and online activists who broadcast and share information online have been picking up the slack.   We are also fortunate to live at a time when the barriers to assembly and partipation have been lowered by advances in digital technology.

In the absence of digital advocacy, Canadians could have been suffering under a Canadian DMCA as far back as 2005.   Bill C-32, the current incarnation of harmful copyright law we are facing, carries serious ramifications for Canada’s digital economy, as well as issues of cultural freedom, responsive government and even sovereignty.

Malcolm Gladwell may not find these issues as important as the Civil Rights Movement was, but they are of vital importance to Canada in the here and now.
a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves



Image Credit: Malcolm Gladwell photo by bunnicula (cc by-nd)

Also: special thanks to John S, for his blog post Whose Ties Are You Calling Weak” for focusing my attention on the issue.

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