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continuing from Hamish's...

Moving on from some agreement that there is brokenness in the areas of activists' media use, and activists' use of tools for organising, and in the process by which they interact with supporters....

This TED talk is about cognitive biases, and then uses the notion of security as an example. Near the beginning of the talk, he lists 5 types of cog. bias, which are relevant to the above mentionned activism brokennesses. The 5 types of cog bias are:

1.we respond to the feeling of security not the reality of security

2. we exaggerate risks that are rare to be greater than risks that are familar, but nevertheless more deadly (flying vs driving)

3. personalised threat  eg to oneself from a named person, is perceived to be more scary than a generalized threat, eg from an organization to everyone of your nationality

4. we perceive unknown risks to be scarier than known risks

5. we underestimate risk in a situation which we believe we control, and overestimate risk in a situation we don't have control over.

(If it is true that) activists who believe themselves to be technically competent to establish a secure site end up being the people who (A) run such sites and (B) also instruct other less technically capable people how best to organize online.....then the 5 above  cognitive biases will come into play to adverse effect: Technical competence = familiarity, sense of control > (false) sense of security. The risk that communications are insecure is vague, non-personalized  and also everyday real, as in points 3 & 2. Futhermore, when techy people mediate the anxiety of non-techy people (anxiety induced by THEIR cognitive biases to find the unknown etc scary) and soothe their fears away with 'how to' instruction, it is probable that they are removing the only questioning mechanism about security within an activist group - anxiety. It is also not necessarily the case that the person setting themselves up as reassuring expert, has in fact got expertise .

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cyborg

This is what I think a cyborg is,

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-22083337

so I'm put off by your embracing the symbiosis of man and machine. If one watches or reads even a little bit about the non-benign use of technology, (both the proposed use and the already existing use), I believe one would have difficulty maintaining a love-affair with gadgetry. (That doesn't mean I am a Luddite, but I focus on how the other side is going to use the technology. For example, carboncapturereport.org.   or web analytics people enthusing about data capture tools)

The exact same robotics news item above was watched by a 17 yr old. He is enthusiastic about the building and use of these things. And he is being recruited into the military, via a program which was ostensibly about the thrill of engineering and robotics.

This makes me think that, in a "conversation" (and I'm not sure this is one) about what is broken in activism, we need to be careful to identify what may be generational influences on our idea of utopias vs dystopias.

For example I think we're about the same age Hamish, and I "hear", perhaps incorrectly because we haven't met, shades of hippy in you. ( I like shades of hippy). "Hippy-ness" brings a certain gentleness to the examination of trust issues, online and offline. Even if "hippy" is an incorrect thing I am attributing to you, ( apologies), what I am saying is that age difference matters, because it entails a cultural difference tied to that age . For example, I doubt very much that anyone of our age could say this: "I don't really know what right and left mean" referring to politics. Could one have been alive in the 1980's and not learned a rough outline? Yet I heard that fascinating statement from someone in the cohort down in age from me, and I stress that person is NOT unengaged in the issues around them in the world.

Those two people I describe as examples make me think that there may be a problem not just with geek talk being a divider between activists and their potential audience. There may also be a problem up and down the generations. Young enthusiast for technology is co-opted into the military before he is old enough to have acquired any political colouration? Apolitical activist.....who is unaware of historical and political precedents? (Including Assange in Cypherpunks, where he appears to think that the mills as a work environment preceded feudalism).

 

meeting at a border crossing

I'm going to continue within my own blog because I don't want to detract or distract from Hamish's posts by putting comments there, and to my mind this is more polite if I am essentially having a conversation with Hamish, albeit publicly.

And also because I am challenged even by navigating this whole site and it feels safer to stay here for now. When I say that, you should correctly assume that I am not a "geek activist" - apologies if that is not the right term. Again you should see from that, that I find there to be alien terminology and cultural norms on the tiny bit of site I have explored, and you should therefore regard this post as like a conversation at a border crossing between different countries. That is certainly the feeling I came away with after reading the links on the hard/soft security post Hamish, and especially that meatballwiki thing. I haven't seen anything like that before, even though I poke about on many different sites, and have done for many years.

I'll tell you what meatball made me think. First I found it just annoying, because it seemed to be trying to be funny but I wasn't sure. Than I thought well, it's clearly an interesting project, with people trying to make interactions better by devising rules of conduct. But, importantly, if they were offline they could practice those same interpersonal ethics more easily and I suggest more productively. Then I thought : would I recommend that others come and have a look at any of this? Because although I am non-geek, it is actually the case that out of the "activist" people I interact with, I would be the most geek; I would be the one pointing them in the direction of new things online. That's what I have in mind when I say this conversation appears to me like a meeting in the jungle between different tribes to establish communication. So, I went away and thought about my reactions to meatball for a few days, asking myself chiefly: maybe I should just undefine myself as an activist.

So I need to say a bit about what I think is meant by activist, to me and to those in my circle: someone who chains themselves to trees, does the camping at protest sites, gets arrested, is young, probably unemployed (like myself) but dresses in a readily identifiable "activist" way. If that's an activist, I'm not an activist. But neither would it describe the geek activists I have seen. (Which is why I went to check them out, visually, in real life. I thought maybe that is some tribe I might have more affinity with in terms of activism. I now think "not", because of their trust in technology ). But surely the measure of activism should be its effectiveness?.....in which case the non-geek, old, religious, letter writing, share holding, lobbying, donating, employed, retired, aging hippy people I can think of are better, as in more effective, activists. The sense in which I eventually  decided I am in fact an activist is that I pass on to others my "research" into various issues, and they kind of process it into groups I am not part of. I am an interface between "readily identifiable activist" and other groups who don't even call themselves "activist" but who do effect change. You can dismiss that as useless activism on my part, or passivity dressed up as activism.......and yet, why am I then bothering to read info and watch videos on your site, and most of all, why am I bothering to try to give constructive feedback?

I came to the site via Hamish's G8 video (and I remember purchasing undercurrent vids). I find the meatball type of thing alienating and possibly not relevant, though I will persist longer with looking at it, but I won't recommend it to anyone in my non-geek league, because I know they won't wear it. I found the look ups from your post hard to understand Hamish. I think difficulty level and style are barriers to entry. I will read stuff that's above my head and try to understand it, my friends won't. Also a mystifying thing to me is why you don't use a spell check? I considered that it is possible that you are doing it on purpose to prevent machine word searching ....but it doesn't seem key word oriented. It is however giving me a problem understanding what you mean in many places eg "syes" in the sentence that says if you wanted to be a police spy you would ...   It seems perverse to not use a simple computer thing when you are a technical person and at the same time "ask" me to look at that difficult retro thing. I don't mean to be offensive - please find  mistakes in what I have just not checked myself!  - but when other dyslexic people email me without spell checking, I have never had so much difficulty guessing their meaning.

My initlal reaction to the hard/soft security post is that you (frustratingly for me) have returned straight into how to solve the brokennesses you identified, but solve them online or in technical world. I would have said "come off line" is the most important step to fixing the brokenness. I hear you that you are saying much does happen offline. But I think online activism is a trap, in at least two senses: that it is only attractive to those who have invested themselves in that sub culture (thus cannot recruit outside that subculture), and that it is transparent rather than secure. Did activism pre-date the web? yes it did. Will it survive the web. Not if it is structurally or socially on the web.

continuing from Hamish's...

Moving on from some agreement that there is brokenness in the areas of activists' media use, and activists' use of tools for organising, and in the process by which they interact with supporters....

This TED talk is about cognitive biases, and then uses the notion of security as an example. Near the beginning of the talk, he lists 5 types of cog. bias, which are relevant to the above mentionned activism brokennesses. The 5 types of cog bias are:

1.we respond to the feeling of security not the reality of security

2. we exaggerate risks that are rare to be greater than risks that are familar, but nevertheless more deadly (flying vs driving)

3. personalised threat  eg to oneself from a named person, is perceived to be more scary than a generalized threat, eg from an organization to everyone of your nationality

4. we perceive unknown risks to be scarier than known risks

5. we underestimate risk in a situation which we believe we control, and overestimate risk in a situation we don't have control over.

(If it is true that) activists who believe themselves to be technically competent to establish a secure site end up being the people who (A) run such sites and (B) also instruct other less technically capable people how best to organize online.....then the 5 above  cognitive biases will come into play to adverse effect: Technical competence = familiarity, sense of control > (false) sense of security. The risk that communications are insecure is vague, non-personalized  and also everyday real, as in points 3 & 2. Futhermore, when techy people mediate the anxiety of non-techy people (anxiety induced by THEIR cognitive biases to find the unknown etc scary) and soothe their fears away with 'how to' instruction, it is probable that they are removing the only questioning mechanism about security within an activist group - anxiety. It is also not necessarily the case that the person setting themselves up as reassuring expert, has in fact got expertise .

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