All posts by Ricardo Muñoz

Posts to the Wiki

Just in case, I’d like to share my posts to the Building Speech Wiki here as well:

Persepolis and Speech

Persepolis
Persepolis

 

Persepolis is a 2007 French animated film written and directed by Marjane Satrapi with Vincent Paronnaud. The film is based on Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic novel of the same name. The story is a memoir about Satrapi’s childhood in Tehran during the Iranian Revolution and adolescent exile in Vienna.

Persepolis and its relation with Speech

Persepolis examines the self-policing nature of patriarchy. Living under the Islamist regime in Iran, Marjane states: “The regime had understood that one person leaving her house while asking herself: ‘Are my trousers long enough?’ ‘Is my veil in place?’ ‘Can my makeup be seen?’ ‘Are they going to whip me?’ no longer asks herself: ‘Where is my freedom of thought?’ ‘Where is my freedom of speech?’ ‘My life, is it livable?’ ‘What’s going on in the political prisons?’…When we’re afraid, we lose all sense of analysis and reflection. Our fear paralyzes us.”

Fear is a great obstacle towards freedom of speech. Fear, e.g. of being called “fat” in America or “amoral” in Iran, makes women monitor their physical looks and behavior. Thus, patriarchic systems minimize an important threat to their regime: a free female mind.

Western vs Iran Feminism

“Wearing the veil is synonymous with emancipation” (Persepolis 2, 144).

While Western feminists see wearing the veil as a form of repression, some Iranian feminists do see the veil as pro-woman act . They believe that using the veil protects them from being commoditized as sex objects and enables them to act and move freely in the public sphere. In “Islam and Feminisms: An Iranian Case-Study”, author Haleh Afshar says that “once women have freed themselves from the shackles of femininity and its demands for sexuality, they become human beings; they can gain the gaze and cease to be the object of attention.”

In Marjane’s Persepolis, sex seems to be primarily liberating and a way to express her rebellion against norms (e.g. proudly declaring she is no longer a virgin to her friends, etc.). At the same time, in order to have an acceptable sexual relationship in Iran, the main character enters into an early marriage. Persepolis doesn’t choose sides on “who is to say that women definitively do or do not want Iran’s moral codes?” Both the comic and the film rather advocate women’s self determination and individual voices.

Awards

Persepolis won the Jury Prize at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival. In her acceptance speech, Satrapi said “Although this film is universal, I wish to dedicate the prize to all Iranians.” The film also won Best First Work (Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi) and Best Writing – Adaptation (Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi) at the César Awards (France). Other honors include Best Foreign Language Film at São Paulo International Film Festival, Rogers People’s Choice Award for Most Popular International Film at the Vancouver International Film Festival, Grand Prize at the London Film Festival, and Special Jury Prize at Cinemanila International Film Festival.

Critical Reception

Although the film was critically acclaimed by a number of sources, such as Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic, Time magazine, Empire magazine, among others, Persepolis also received complaints from a number of countries.

Iran Farabi Foundation, a government-connected organization, sent a letter to the French embassy in Tehran saying, “This year the Cannes Film Festival, in an unconventional and unsuitable act, has chosen a movie about Iran that has presented an unrealistic face of the achievements and results of the glorious Islamic Revolution in some of its parts”. However, the Iranian cultural authorities allowed limited screening in Tehran.

The film was also dropped from the Bangkok International Film Festival, when Festival director Chattan Kunjara na Ayudhya agreed with the Iranian Embassy that it would be beneficial if the film was not shown. Lebanon initially banned the film because it was “offensive to Iran and Islam.” In Tunisia, there was a demonstration the day after the private television station Nessma showed the film.

Links

Scatter Chat (by Hacktivismo)

Hacktivismo Skullreporter
Hacktivismo Skullreporter

Scatter Chat is “a free, open source application designed to facilitate secure and private real-time communication over the Internet. ” Scatter Chat is an instant messaging client based on Gaim (now known as Pidgin), written by J. Salvatore Testa II, and released at the H.O.P.E. Number Six conference in New York City on July 22, 2006.

Scatter Chat lets users connect to messaging networks such as AIM and Yahoo, but also allows to communicate with others using Scatter Chat over these networks under the veil of encryption.

The software is intended for non-technical activists and dissidents communicating through Internet servers subverted by oppressive governments. It is also useful in free countries whose governments are trying to better national security by spying on its citizens.

Hacktivismo

Hacktivismo is an offshoot of CULT OF THE DEAD COW (cDc), whose beliefs include access to information as a basic human right. It was founded in 1999. The group’s beliefs are described fully in The Hacktivismo Declaration, which seeks to apply the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to the Internet. Oxblood Ruffin, the director of Hacktivismo, has argued forcefully against definitions of hacktivism that include web defacements or denial-of-service attacks. Hacktivismo has also authored its own software license agreement, the Hacktivismo Enhanced-Source Software License Agreement (HESSLA). The HESSLA prohibits use or modification that would violate human rights or introduce features that spy on the user.

Reviews

Its security features include “perfect forward secrecy, immunity from replay attacks, and limited resistance to traffic analysis, ” all armored through a pro-actively secure design. According to lead developer J. Salvatore Testa II, “the anonymity and encryption that Scatter Chat provides ensures that both the identities and messages of activists remain a mystery, even to well-funded totalitarian governments.” James Thornton in his review at Softonic affirms that Scatter Chat, although it “drains more bandwidth than most IM clients and takes a while to set up”, “represents a great way to make sure that your private conversations stay private, by allowing you to connect securely through Gaim encryption technology” .

On the other hand, Steven J. Murdoch in his article “Protocol design is hard — Flaws in Scatter Chat “ identified several non-critical protocol flaws that introduce a vulnerability within certain threat models, which are capability probing and spoofing attack, lack of forward secrecy, and collision attacks. Murdoch suggests that, while the new OTR-protocol –based version arrives, “a similar result can be achieved with GAIM, and official OTR plugin then configuring them to use Tor, albeit without secure file transfer.”

Links

Gabriella Coleman: Anonymous

At first, it sounded implausible that something like 4chan, which was described by The Guardian as “lunatic, juvenile… brilliant, ridiculous and alarming,” could eventually serve as the platform to something as the Anonymous. But, hearing Gabriella Coleman’s words, the leap was not that big of a stretch. It is nothing less than remarkable how a group of people can start creating things, from a lolcat or a rickroll to civil activism. That’s surely a way to invalidate the old thought that money is the biggest if not the only motivator.

Anonymous Flag
Anonymous Flag

I began to read a bit about Anonymous and I found their flag. It is a statement of power, big (global) goals, and anonymity. And it could only come from the neighborhood where “pedobears” and “chocolate rain” became famous.

I am especially interested in “Project Chanology” because it deals with religious practices that are detrimental to civil progress. I also believe that Knowledge is free (or at least, should be) and my personal project in the class also addresses misinformation practices. The tone, strategies, and tactics from Anonymous and Project Chanology are radically different from mine but I feel there’s a common dissatisfaction.

Hardware in the Field

FabFi is an exciting project that it’s not only low-tech and simple, it also works. “FabFi is an open-source, FabLab-grown system using common building materials and off-the-shelf electronics to transmit wireless ethernet signals across distances of up to several miles. “
(http://fabfi.fablab.af) Furthermore, “With Fabfi, communities can build their own wireless networks to gain high-speed internet connectivity—thus enabling them to access online educational, medical, and other resources.”
It’s success can easily be seen in the Afghan city of Jalalabad. They now have high-speed Internet using components out of everyday items, even trash. FabFi is a great precedent in one of the most affected regions by war in the world; it’s a project operated independently of the government and can be put into practice by local people with local talent using local materials.
FabFi is not the only interesting happening in Afganistan these days. “The (US) State Department and Pentagon have spent at least $50 million to create an independent cellphone network in Afghanistan using towers on protected military bases inside the country. It is intended to offset the Taliban’s ability to shut down the official Afghan services, seemingly at will.” (US Underwrites Internet Detour Around Censors. The New York Times)
It is very question-rising to compare this two phonomena, especially if we check out the dollars invested. There’s a huge difference from the “$60 worth of everyday items” needed to install a FabFi node to the more than $50 million of the US cellphone network. What are the interests behind each project? Is it just the good deed of spreading freedom of speech? I can only be a little skeptical and cynical about the Pentagon uninterested initiative and good intentions. On the other hand, I applaud FabFi’s goals and means.

Power from the Bottom Up

The First Recorded Internet War started in Estonia in 2007 because a bronze statue of a Soviet soldier from World War II was going to be moved to the outskirts of the city. This statue serves as a symbol of the Soviet power and moving this statue would be considered an “insult and a sign of disrespect (Storming the Servers).”

“Individuals are often unwilling to give up things that they possess and they will value such possessions more highly than markets would dictate.” The idea of blogging on the internet is more convenient for individuals since the posts are anonymous; this helps people express their true feelings. It is aso socially valid: people are more likely to say their ideas when they have support. “Memes with an emotional component are likely to be more contagious.”

In the end, the statue remained in the same place, but because so many people were involved in this attack to the infrastructure of Estonia’s internet, countless losses took place. So it not only was about the statue, it was also about fighting for speech and its freedom, something that in the long run is a lot more important. “For those countries and for a host of other authoritarian regimes, Internet freedom is a threat, to be countered by censorship, the imprisonment of bloggers and domestic spying (Washington Post, January 25th, 2010).”

Internet is a powerful tool for communication and we won’t stop hearing about Internet Wars. The Estonia case is the first of many, another interesting example is the 2008 South Ossetia War. And what about the Holy Internet Wars e.g. Project Chanology vs Scientology? Now we can talk about iWar, which ” is distinct from cyber-warfarecyber-terrorism and information warfare (Wikipedia).” It seems we’re mirroring the non-digital world, including the War of Internet Addiction, a parallel to the World on Drugs. We just love the word WAR, don’t we?

Intervention & Detournement

Political art is generally perceived as a collection of “refugee photographs” and visual messages that attack “the viewer for ignorant complicity.” The Interventionists, are aware of a broader range of cultural experiences and recognize that the streets can be a forum, a place to express oneself. I really like Krzysztof Wodiczko’s approach on “interrogative design,” a shift towards use rather than decoration. I used the “pizza maker” reference to describe design: as designers, our “pizza” should always be tasty, satisfying, and delivered on time (if not faster). That was especially true in the commercial realm.

However, being exposed to the readings of last weeks, I was very excited when I read Wodiczko’s reference: “The oldest and most common reference to this kind of design is the bandage. A bandage covers and treats a wound while at the same time exposing its presence, signifying both the experience of pain and the hope of recovery.”

I want to share something I found on the FAQ section in the Yes Men website:

When people ask us whether what we’re doing makes a difference, or ask what we accomplish, we say that mainly, we see our work as a contributing to a cumulative movement that does effect change. If it weren’t for decades of struggle by all kinds of people in all kinds of movements, we’d be in far, far worse shape than we are.

More specifically: People in Bhopal have been fighting for 25 years to hold Dow accountable, and set a global precedent. When 600 articles in the were published in the US press connecting Dow and Bhopal in the wake of our BBC appearance as Dow, we felt like we’d contributed a little bit to their struggle – which will, incidentally, succeed in the long run.

In any case, it’s certainly better than sitting on our asses waiting for the world to change on its own. Don’t you think?

Nothing short of inspiring.

Ethical Spectacle and Performativity

I just love page 12 of the “A User’s Guide to Demanding the Impossible”.

 To dismantle and reinvent institutions or systems

we have to start at the roots, with the culture that

supports them. Culture is the material substratum of

politics, the muddy foundations upon which it is built,

but these foundations can’t be changed in the same

way that you can undo a law – they are transformed

by in! ltrating them at the molecular level, through

the fault lines, pores and gaps, burrowing away like

an old mole opening up millions of potential northwest

passages. Luckily for you, that’s where you are

already.

I also agree that more information is not going to make us act. It’s a great start but it will never be the only thing. Imagination is key to design strategies of speech and dissent. That should be one of our goals for our class project. If “when we look back at history we see that every movement, every single shift in society began with a small group of friends having an idea that seemed impossible at the time”, then we should aim for a great goal.

I always knew how strong one’s voice in design can be but I didn’t realize the power of the creative work to “disrupt the mechanisms of power and show us our own power, our own potential to connect and create” and I feel that very empowering. I hope the outcome of my class project reflects this new interest I have.

Cultural Resistance

When I read the Introduction from Cultural Resistance Reader by Stephen Duncombe, where he mentions his first contact with political activism through punk music, I thought of a bunch of my friends, the ones with punk bands. I always thought the attitude was cool, the lyrics were relevant (though not always too smart), and the energy was great. However, it always missed something (an objective, perhaps?) I called my punk-rock-friends “Runway Punks”.

So I thought of Duncombe as another rich kid full of boredom, just like my friends. I mean this with no derision, I thought like that of myself too. But, when Duncombe keeps developing his point, especially when he addresses the spectrum of political engagement and its stages (political self-consciousness, social unit engaged in cultural resistance, and the results of cultural resistance) I began to understand how flexible the word culture is and, therefore, how broad cultural resistance can be.

And maybe the huge realm of what cultural resistance can be is overwhelming or just too big to grasp. So much that it is often overlooked not only by people outside the circle but by participants who are comfortable with keep being “Runway Punks” and don’t want to risk it by going deeper in the stages of cultural resistance.

 

Project Idea

What thoughts can be provoked by showing different interpretations of a single passage of the Bible?

Based on “99 Ways To Tell a Story: Exercises in Style” by Raymond Queneauhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exercises_in_Style (thanks Haitham for the awesome information!), my project will start by choosing a controversial passage of the Bible and exploring different ways of telling the same event.

The story will be told in different formats: as a newspaper headline, a horror comic, a poem, a soap opera script, a legal demand, a protest pamphlet, a facebook post (with comments), a twitt, a chain letter, etc. These stories wil be narrated by writers, poets, lawyers, reporters, religious people (not only Christians), non religious people, activists, etc.

My objective is to show that even documents that axiomatically won’t accept interpretations can be told in a number of ways that can generate discussion and debate.

Theater of the Oppressed

I find the whole notion of the Theater of the Oppressed fascinating, elaborated by Augusto Boal, a man who suffered his share of oppression by the Brazilian, Argentinean and Chilean governments. Although he was living in exile in Europe, Boal decided to return to Brazil after the fall of the military dictatorship. I admire his stand and his refusal to being passive.

How clever was Boal to develop interactive techniques and use theater promote knowledge of reality in the social field. I love the phrase “Spectator is a bad word”, it really is. We all want changes but we hardly ever really do something, we are all great commentators but we all should stop delegating our power.

I didn’t know that in fact “Code is Speech”

I must confess how little aware I was about how broad the concept of free speech really is. Perhaps, it’s because I come from a place where did discussions are not common or maybe free speech is not a big concern. In fact in my country and most countries, I assume, our concepts of free speech and copyrights are adopted from whatever people discuss here in the United States. So, we wait until you finish your talkings and then we made them fit in our constitution. Isn’t that neat?

So, I was surprised than at the same time there’s people, like me, with very little awareness of law, there’s other groups that not only understand law but they kind of enjoy it. It is great that programmers have the “skills, mental dispositions, and forms of reasoning necessary to read and analyze a formal, rule-based system like the law parallel the operations necessary to code software” and with that knowledge they’re able to challenge the system and change ideas. I applaud that!

It’s also very interesting that the whole Free Source Code discussion actually started when MIT hacker Richard Stallman tried to circumvent the law. I guess going around the law is really not possible and since it’s inevitable it makes total sense to a structured understanding  of how “heavily inscribed in the language of law” our artificial world really is.