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Reading Response: Steve Kurtz

The interview with Steve Kurtz and the article for the Critical Art Ensemble both detailed speech as having this difficult relationship between the legality and issues of free speech. The way Kurtz articulates his views on speech is rather interesting in that he makes it sound like speech is almost a battle in which someone is always going against this fine line with authority. How far should we push the envelope? Does the government know best? I feel that although it is good to be strong and vocal of my opinions, there is always this thought of precaution. The desire to be cautious has very much to do with the government’s involvement in questioning these acts we consider free speech as possible threats or acts of terrorism. More so now than before the 9/11 attacks has big brother been watching us, so how can we protect our civil liberties?

Kurtz viewing speech in terms of semiotics really resonated with as I am currently taking a semiotics seminar class. The fact that he sees speech as not just words or sounds, but images as well is very much in the perspective of semiotics. There are so many levels to both speech and semiotics.  We are surrounded by signs, even are own individual bodies are such signs that represent a certain mood and feeling about our lifestyle and personality. I personally feel that our voices through speech can be heard in a myriad of ways and is a guide to real action.

A few links

Hi Folks, these are a few links relevant to some of the projects that people are talking about:

First, this is the chart that I was trying to find in reference to Sue’s project. Like the other graphs that I showed in class, it’s not bad, but could use help from talented graphic designers that know their typography!

Transportation Alternatives for Brian’s project. The interview with the police officer (who bikes) about why cops hate cyclists. And here’s the Gothamist, which has tons of articles on biking and the policing of bikers in the city. [Can you tell that I like bikes? I like bikes.]

For Hirumi: Just Seeds, The Greenhorns, Brooklyn Grange, Hudson Valley Seed Library. There are a ton more, but these have been very active and influential in the city over the last few years.

Ricardo, here’s an interesting NPR series on religion in China.

There are probably more, but just a few links off the top of my head.

Also, to get a better grip on Sholette’s argument of the concurrent eroding of civil liberties alongside neo-liberal policies, you might want to watch/listen to this short Slavoj Zizek lecture and here is a short intro to the David Harvey text he mentions.

Hope that helps! -Huong

ps. Here’s a link (that Jonathan or Melanie found) to a chapter from the Critical Art Ensemble’s really fantastic book, Electronic Civil Disobedience. I thought it might be worth reposting in case anyone wants to be more familiar. Enjoy!

pps. Also, Toywar, another really interesting case that merges issues of speech, digital freedom, litigation, and power.

A thought on Steve Kurtz

The Patriot Act was created to “deter and punish American terrorists in the United States and around the world, to enhance law enforcement investigatory tools, and for other purposes.” It is interesting to see how willing we are to negotiate freedom vs safety.

Kurtz’s 2004 incident is intimidating to say the least. He is first a suspect of bioterrorism and federal agents in hazardous material suits inspect his house. Not finding anything else than harmless bacteria, they decide to charge him of mail and wire fraud, an accusation very distant from the initial bioterrorism starting point of this case.

We can see that the government is not at all timid to make an example of a published and awarded college professor as Steve Kurtz. This sets a very frightening precedent for scientists and artists. As Kurtz said in his interview by Melanie, “scientists are scared to death. They are completely beholden to their institutions. They are completely reliant on their funding…” Regardless of the sentence, the biggest punishment for someone whose work and research depends on public funding is to have his or her reputation harmed.

I applaud Steve Kurtz for staying truthful to his goals and that after he was arrested he became even more vigorous towards social criticism.