Reading Response – Code is Speech

To be honest, I haven’t perceived code as a method of free speech before. I have always viewed it as either intellectual property or open source software. I like the analogy of code to law, in that the misplacement of a single comma can be extremely detrimental to the system. With so much of our lives dependent on the placement of these commas (both in legal infrastructure and in the wide domain of technology) it seems inherently correct that we are given the same freedoms and rights in exploring code as we do speech. As the times change, so do methods of what speech is. Whether its the literal translation, of words coming out of someone’s mouth, or actions, we must adapt and react based on individual situations.

Reading Response – Ethan Zuckerman


My first response to this reading is that this guy is hilarious and I’m so sad that I missed his talk in person! It’s true though, lolcats and porn rule the interwebs; at least the US interwebs. It’s also interesting that Zuckerman uses porn & activists as tools of success for internet platforms, being that porn & social activism are probably the areas that are most likely to be censored in the first place. I really liked Zuckerman’s quote that “our job as online advocates is to raise that cost of censorship as high as possible.”


Facebook in activism. It’s a funny thing, that facebook. It’s extremely easy to start a group, and then to gain a following of supporters. What’s unclear is how the activity on a space such as facebook translates into everyday life. Jamal’s comment about facebook being a glorified petition is definitely something that I would agree with. As with any online site, activity from users is easy to attract and generate, but its how to evoke direct action from these users that is interesting. In that respect, facebook is probably most best served, in terms of activism, as an organizing tool, rather than a space to affect change.

9.14 Cute Cats and Civic Society

9.14 Cute Cats and Civic Society

Ethan Zuckerman’s Cute Cat theory of digital activism

Pros and cons of Facebook activism

Clay Sharky Political Power of Social Media


Zuckerman’s article aims to prove that is is harder to shutdown websites that people use to share pictures of their cute cats then just proxy servers because  those websites are representative of large social networks like facebook, tumblr, and twitter which are open to everyone regardless of political or social persuasion. When a government shuts down these huge networks, it is a very authoritarian act and seems much worse than shutting down just one blog. For instance, when Egypt blocks twitter, they shutting down everyone’s voice not just one voice.

“The Political Power of Social Media” discussed how the opinions that are transmitted through media help form social opinions. The article briefly touched on the history of spreading social opinion within social media. For instance, it discussed smuggling xerox machines behind the iron curtain to aid in underground press or “samizdat”;  in Belarus, Lukasenko’s 2006 attempt to control social media,  in Iran 2009, the Green movement protests against Mr. Hussein Mousavi’s revolution; the Red Shirt uprising in Thailand; and in Phillippines, 2001, the 7 million text messages that forced people to gather in support against their government.

Do digital tools enhance democracy, yes?

Yes, but here are some of the arguments for facebook not being those most democratic tool for social activists.

  1. Administrators get limited control
  2. Messages get lost
  3. Key arguments can be lost
  4. Serial activists on Facebook weaken the cause by moving onto whatever cause is next.
  5. Facebok doesn’t really incorporate the ladder of engagement that say something like people’s mike at occupy wall street does.
  6. Repressive governments are using Facebook to squash dissent.
  7. Governments are gaining increasingly sophisticated means of monitoring, interdicting, and coopting tools
  8. its a passive way of getting involved

My rambling:

I believe that an efficient system is one that accepts diverse opinions but is also driven by common purposes and values. I think that most efficient systems have a mediator. In other words, I do not think its efficient for everyone to talk about all of their problems all at once otherwise it turns into a situation where everyones talking at the dinner table and all that is heard is noise not discussion. I know enough about everyone talking at once at the dinner table to know that it is incredibly frustrating and that its difficult to make sense of the conversations.

The author mentioned in the article that  “disciplined and coordinated groups have always had the advantage over undisciplined” . I vehemently agree with this idea.

This is my opinion of the face book environment for debate:

Sometimes its makes me really uncomfortable when people start debates about very private issues on Facebook. Earlier in the year, there was a court case of a young women raped by New York City police officers that many friends commented on which lead to massive threads on their walls. It just made me cringe a little when I saw people debating such a sensitive, sexual assault crime. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be allowed to, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable debating about it on Facebook.

– I went to a rally for Planned Parenthood last year and posted controversial pictures of vaginas signs promoting women’s sexual rights to Facebook. I got a lot of likes from people who supported the issue but I never really got a taste of those didn’t support the issue. I’m trying to point out that it is easy to see  those who support the issue, which is a biased perspective.

– Sometimes it becomes a tiring exercise to debate about topics on facebook and debates on Facebook come off as more threatening than productive.

For example, I have a friend who was was lashing out at someone who was complaining about occupy-wall street movement. The person removed her comments which were somewhat pushy. This turned into a passive aggressive, katty fight.


– Also its sometimes nice when people open up issues to discuss on facebook.

But I think people go out of their way to say things that they wouldn’t say in real life because they can, and plus they have a computer to hide behind, this can open a lot of ground for anger and resentment.

– Finally, this is my opinion but I think that in the Facebook  platform, its harder to admit to someone “ yeah, I was wrong, I’m open to hearing your points”  because you’re put on public display. The psychology is sort of like you don’t want to show weakness or indecision or admit defeat.


Theatre of the oppressed

this was one of my favorite readings and also one of my favorite classes.

I interpret “Theatre of the oppressed” as a method of acting that helps exploited groups reverse their situation with role playing techniques to “take the power back”. The method offers DIY maneuvers that participants can apply to everyday life circumstances. The audience writes the work and actors perform it simultaneously. Then the action is interrupted and an audience member assumes the role of the subject. Steven Metz also describes it as way of sending a message to a larger audience through politicized theatre. It represents the feasibility of change, and the means by which all possible paths can be examined. The idea is that when people go back to their ordinary lives outside of the theatre, they can pull from the experiences they  acted out on in the theatre. So, the actors are carrying out in fiction what they may do in reality to curtail cultural and ideological domination.

It’s a cool idea. Overall, I think that making thought visible and doing it physically is very appealing. Maybe that’s why I enjoy dance or even sports so much?

I feel like without even knowing it I’ve used this method in my own life  to point out what someone was doing wrong to me and it definitely helped get the point across. When you enact the method, it makes you feel more empowered than it would if you stayed silent and did nothing even if enacting it was uncomfortable or didn’t go anywhere

One of the things I like about this method is that I think it is very relatable because of its visual, physical, and participatory element. I think that the main element that demolishes the wall between spectators and actors is definitely the participation element. I love that this method helps people solve problems by giving them a tool that helps them express themselves through physical change. I think that if you can physically do something, you can do it again. So that’s a powerful tool!

Reading the article was helpful, especially when reading about how the town in South America responded to the acting method. The success of the method was conveyed in the situation where the town purposed different solution to the woman whose husband was cheating on her. I can see how that would empower someone on both the stage and the back in her real life.

I think it would be really interesting if a business hired the people form the Theatre of the Oppressed to come in and give a lesson once a month. This would be a very useful teaching instrument to a business, which is an environment with a whole sleuth of power complexes. This is what I’ll do if I ever own my own company.

responding to “Disciplining the Avant Garde” By Gregory Scholette

“The times were dark, why were their poets silent?”


“Discipling the Avant Garde” reminded us about the openness that was annihilated during the Bush era. Come to think of it, it was a very oppressive and scary time! I can’t believe that people were actually arrested for creating anti Bush statements? This article also discussed contemoprary visual culture in Ireland. When I lived in Ireland in 2007, I was lucky enough to visit Belfast, in Northern Ireland, which has a very violent political history. In Belfast, I saw political murals discussed in this article, which were quite beautiful but they were definitely creepy and damning.

For instance, I remember seeing murals that reminded people that babies could be killed in car bombings so don’t bomb your car.

These are some pictures I took of the murals I saw:

This is the famous mural of Bobby Sandy, an Irish activist who starved himself in jail to make his point.

9.7 Speech Rights in Post 9/11 US, Steven Kutz

First of all , this is a crazy story. Can we all agree? I can’t believe that his wife died of a heart attack on the same day that he was busted by the FEDS. Is that bad luck or what! Also there just seem to be a lot of holes in the story. What ever happened to those samples of the bubonic plague that were taken from the lab? Also I didn’t catch this- is Kutz’s work still in custody by the FBI?

To summarize:

Kutz  is an artist who works at the University of Buffalo in NYC who developed the critical art ensemble for activists. His artwork is essentially civil disobedience to social and political realities. He is interested in democratic sciences and in social networks. In the project that lead to his arrest, I think  he was trying to make a statement again biotechnology being misused by corporations by using bacteria form the lab to strengthen an art project.

When Kutz was arrested, the FBI took his passport, books, computer, and put him up in a hotel for 22 hours. Kutz was charged with 69 criminal courts, tax evasion, and bio terrorism. He was also charged with mail fraud and wire fraud.

(This is a little side note: but I feel like governments always pull the tax evasion card when anyone’s in trouble and they can’t think of how to tell the public. I mean when the government says that a citizen is being marshaled for tax evasion, you know it means something screwy. )

The other side of the story involves the scientists who were helping Kutz with the project. I’m very pro-scientist mainly because my mom is a scientist who runs at lab at a major university. Basically, when I hear any story about the government taking away a scientist’s rights, it is terrifying. Also, (just a little more background on my opinions), when the US government attacks scientific research, for instance,  when the bush administration put a stop on stem cell research, I get livid.

Anyway, as a product of an amazing scientist, I know that scientists will get crucified if anything goes wrong. It is true: scientists have to be really careful because they are completely beholden to their institutions for funding. I feel really felt bad for the scientist Dr. Thomas Butler, who reported that samples of the bubonic plague missing. For doing the right thing, he faced several years in prison ! Bob Ferrel, his colleague, didn’t even volunteer to testify for his friend because it could have jeopardized his career. I’ve heard so many stories like this from my parents that I can’t say I’m surprised.

(Sidenote 2: In the interview, Kutz mentioned, “ the National Lawyer’s Guild, Primers on what to do on what if you’re arrested”. Now that I think about it, that would have been an excellent manual to make for the final. )

To conclude, it was so great that Steven came to speak to our class. I think that what happened to him was a real tragedy. It was so nice to see that he was going on a boat trip with his new wife. etc : ) A huge message I got from reading Kutzs interview with Melanie was this — when the government gets involved, they will “F” you over, so try not to piss off the government (sorry if that was crude). Also never sign away your rights to a legal defense. The scary thing is that this man practically lost all of his rights as a human being when the government got involved.  I can see this event affecting him in two ways: either he could just tone done his influence as an activist or either carry on more carefully. Obviously, he’s a badass, and doing the latter, carrying on with more knowledge from his experience

Kutz’s story reminds me of this movie called “ Fair Game”, it definitely something worth putting on your netflix queue.

In fair game is based on the tell all memories of ex CIA operative Valerie Plame (played by Namoi Watts) who was publicly exposed by the US government after her husband (Sean Penn) ruffled feathers in Washington by accusing the Bush administration of bending the truth in regards to weapons  of mass destruction in Iraq. She didn’t undergo what Kutz did  but the government really messed with her. True story too!

Is our government like China or something, because they act like it sometimes…?



cute cats

Platforms are become the way we connect on things that interest us and the once these platforms reach a critical mass it becomes harder to try to control which is the beauty of tools like this for activists. These platform also become a platform of speech. This critical mass of people using the internet to post pictures of cats doing cute things, I for one have enjoyed every second wasted looking at cats all day, but that has also sparked a new movement of free speech. When we have something like the internet and so many people use it the government cannot completely shut down the internet because not only will those using this tool for activism be outraged, but so will people using this for cute cat pictures as well.

8.31 Intro

In response to

  1. A counterpoint, Bart Cell Tower
  2. Counterpoint, Pair jailed for using Facebook to incite violence

A Counterpoint, Bart Cell Tower

“Counterpoint” talks about an situation that occurred this summer on the BART, the subway line that runs in San Francisco. BART was informed that the riders of the subway were organizing a petition and were informing people about it over their cell phones. Subsequently, Bart shutdown all the cellular service on their trains as people made their way in and out of the city. Many riders were outraged that BART would turn off cell service on the trains; they saw it as an attack on their civil liberties. BART stated that the reason that they shutdown the cellular access on the train was that the were worried about illegal behavior that could lead to violence and danger to the public. Bart also claimed that civil disturbance during commute times could lead to platform overcrowding and unsafe conditions.

BART’s mission is to provide a service that allows passengers to travel safely from one place to another in a timely fashion so I understand BART’s concern for the safety of its passengers. If BART hears about an event that will disturb the journey then they can act to prevent any foreseeable problems. Here’s an analogy: If Amtrak decided to turned off their wireless internet service during a train ride because there were suspicions of portending riots on the train, that is a perfectly legal and acceptable thing to do. Amtrak (although supported by the government) is a private company and their decisions about the services they provide are in their control and as it is with BART.

I think that it is very unreasonable that BART did not give the subway riders a fair warning before they shutdown service. BART has a responsibility as a company to inform its patrons of a major service change. If the people were warned that service would be shutoff because of threats to the safety of the passengers, a lot less people would have been angered.

If the US government (obviously not a private company) decided to shutdown internet service or cell service in a public landscape, then that would be a huge problem. It would also be a huge violation to constitutional rights. BART cell service technically exists in a private space although it is available in public property (San Francisco, the city) but BART shutdown the service on their own private property.

A important point in the article “Counterpoint” is that this time period in our lives is the golden age of the first amendment. Americans have the constitutional right to free speech, that means a lot in this day and age.  We have to reconsider how we define free speech because of the new forms of technology that have been invented to help facilitate speech such as the internet, skype, text messaging, and cell phones, etc. We need to be constantly examining the rapid developments (and the popularity) of online social communication and information technology systems and consider how the constitution affects the way we use these services and where we can use these services.

Response to: A pair jailed for using Facebook to incite violence

Interestingly enough, I was living in Savannah, Georgia during the time of this riot. For a New Yorker, Savannah is a very weird place to live in because the housing distribution illuminates the large gaps of wealth inequality in relation to race, particularly between Caussciuans and Black people. Very affluent white families live downtown in the fancy historical district, whereas, within a 10 block radius, Black families live in housing projects.

Right after the London riots, there was a big flash mobbing cases in Philadelphia, which is my hometown. Just like Savannah, Philadelphia has a very large Black population and the wealth inequality in relation to race is very apparent in Philadelphia as it is in Savannah, Georgia. It definitely worth pointing out that in the Philadelphia flash mobs this summer, there were very few White protesters as compared with the Black protesters.

This summer 2011, 1000s of young Black kids in Philadelphia organized a flash mobbing on South Street. The flash mob was arranged by users of Facebook.

Video clips on youtube show kids terrorizing store tenants and pretty much rough housing and creating a lot of hustle and bustle on the streets. The mayor of Philadelphia, Major Nutter, was really dismayed by this. He instigated a curfew on the youths of Philadelphia.


Although I agree with many of the things Nutter said, I don’t think that a curfew will solve any of the problems that caused this riot. (And anyway, the internet is a 24 hour service, kids are going to using it to do want they want, no matter the time of day.)

Personally, I think the riots in Philly started as a result of boredom. When kids are bored because of a lack of summer activities or lack of jobs or money, that leads to restlessness, which can result  in an event like this.

The story of the teenagers in London arranging riots over Facebook also make me think about an article that I had read on CNN. It was about how Facebook status updating leads to real life arrests. In this case, I thought the London boys sentence was a little harsh. C’mon, 4 years (or something), just make them do community service or something, poor anarchists! But at the same time, next time they think of putting up something something very attacky on the internet,  they will think twice about it rather than doing it on a whim. I say, if kids are status updating threats or inciting violence on Facebook then they deserve to be arrested if they are willing to post something like that and tie it back to their names.