by Aslı Telli Aydemir/İstanbul Şehir University
September 2014, Istanbul
What do we do when we do nothing, what do we hear when we hear nothing, what happens when nothing happens?
Is this an exercise of nihilism or rather a sheer ethnographic excitement about who is to appear in the infra-ordinary screen at that very instant? That screen is within my pivotal attention, a social space of action, sort of designed to connect what is separated… In technological and textual form…
There I’m flowing in the interstices of the information superhighway listening to Snowden’s text being communicated as some closing shot over Internet Ungovernance For(u)m(ations) in Istanbul(2) . He delivers no recipe for how to ‘Be the next Snowden’ in Appelbaum’s narrative, but he diligently stitches his adventure and courage as a leaker into a highly appreciated and well-received desire for freedom of speech, transparency and open net for all people.
I <screen> the semi-luminous room for the next action. The white square hanging high-up clings to the edge of my sight. Darkness in whispers of the crowd turns to the usual buzz as if looking for the right channel to pop up. Like the giant floating head of Zardoz (thanks @normative), Assange addresses #ungovforum…Another special guest of our incessantly surveilled life of networks. Though ephemeral and slight in his screen-appearance, he says, “I’m a human-being, flesh and blood.” As he starts commenting on internet rights that went wrong in Turkey(3) and elsewhere, we can’t keep ourselves from catching a scent of the wonder in his eyes about the women netizens in the crowd. Surprise beheads him as he confronts an initial question from an Istanbul Hackerspace(4) frequenter related to his take on Free Culture. Committed member of the free software movement, he surely criticizes the organizational logics of the post-industrial system and prescribes the possible channels for creation and distribution of free online content. This reminds me of how children, as another disadvantaged group, have been one of the most politically charged topics of internet debate. Our collaborative awareness campaign at grassroots level against Netclean(5) that aims to divert attention to the government making use of child-protection concerns for censorship and surveillance activities will have to take a stronger hold from now on.
It is as clear as day that Assange is on similar grounds with @altbilisim (Alternative Informatics Association)(6) in that he did pursue the former IGF(s) until he was isolated. Now he has every right to call it “The Internet Censorship Forum” as he refers to how IGF 2014 rejected several workshops on burning issues proposed by internet activists in Turkey.
The Googleization and social mediatization of the globe with the advancement of huge companies create greater concerns regarding net neutrality, surveillance and censorship now that the internet proves itself as a Fifth Estate that transcends the boundaries of state governance. As such, the Fifth estate is not simply new media, such as an adjunct to the news media, but a distributed array of networked individuals who use the Internet as a platform to source and distribute information to be used to challenge the media and play a potentially important political role, without the institutional foundations of the Fourth Estate. Towards the end of his online Q&A, Assange announces his new book, “When Google met Wikileaks” of which his opinion piece already appeared in NY Times under the flashing title: “The Banality of Don’t be evil”(7). There, he winks an eye on the highly contestable motto of Google with its disproportionate commercialized size and power.
Did we say, #ungovforum is the meeting point for those seeking open, secure and free internet and that we pledge to work together to solve the 3 significant divides before us?(8) Let’s turn the other side of the coin. Digital rights is not an issue anymore by itself; demanding for fundamental rights and justice for all, keeping in solidarity with all movements fighting against corporate monopolies and their governmental collaborators escalate to the top of the agenda. Hence, it is time developers and policy makers of technology better stop complaining and negotiate for an internet of the people without falling into tecnocratic solutionism.
I’m more inclined towards an optimistic view of netizens’ solidarity when it comes to solving the paradox of multistakeholder engagement. However, DeCerteau’s life saving tactics should always remain on that post-it nearby and remind each one of us of sousveillance against Brothers of all sizes (9).
Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.
1. Perec, G. (1997) Species of Spaces and other Pieces. London: Penguin Books
8. Pls. refer to https://iuf.alternatifbilisim.org/Internet-Ungovernance-Forum-Welcome-Speech-ALTERNATIVE-INFORMATICS-ASSOCIATION-04.09.2014.pdf for the 3 divides.
9. For developing special insight on the issue, I highly recommend: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0736585312000275