OpenCUNY Workshop: Fri 4/29

From OpenCUNY:

OpenCUNY is hosting its first site-building workshop for the CUNY Graduate Center community on Friday, April 29, from 1-3pm in 5409. This free, hands-on workshop is open to all levels of participants and will cover both basic WordPress questions and more advanced topics according to the needs of workshop attendees … plus … free pizza!

Walk-ins are welcome, but we strongly encourage registering for the workshop so we know how many to plan for:

Welcome to Personhood: SCOTUS Rules No Personal Privacy for AT&T

The Supreme Court, after recognizing corporations as legal persons in their Citizens United decision, has now ruled that AT&T does not have a right to personal privacy. Welcome to personhood, AT&T!

Here’s some background: AT&T over-prices some of the equipment it was selling to schools (schools!). The FCC investigates. AT&T’s competitors file a FoIA to make the investigation’s findings public. AT&T claims the FoIA request is a violation of their personal privacy. The SCOTUS denies their right to personal privacy. AT&T and other corporations join the ranks of the rest of us “persons” who are given no right to personal privacy in the US.

It’s worth remembering that this is the very same AT&T that denies their own customers a right to personal privacy. From SFGate.comwaaaaaay back in 2006:

AT&T has issued an updated privacy policy that takes effect Friday … The new policy says that AT&T — not customers — owns customers’ confidential info and can use it “to protect its legitimate business interests, safeguard others, or respond to legal process.”

The policy also indicates that AT&T will track the viewing habits of customers of its new video service — something that cable and satellite providers are prohibited from doing … The company’s policy overhaul follows recent reports that AT&T was one of several leading telecom providers that allowed the National Security Agency warrantless access to its voice and data networks as part of the Bush administration’s war on terror.

Irony abounds.

AAG Presentation: iLearn

I’ll be presenting “iLearn: Space, Time and Social (Re)Production in Young People’s Informational Environments” tomorrow at the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers in Seattle. If you’re attending the AAG, stop on by!

Beyond School: Geographies of Informal and Alternative Learning Practices II

Grand Ballroom C – Sheraton Hotel, Second Floor

Tuesday, 4/12/2011, from 2:40 PM – 4:20 PM

Presentation Title/Abstract:
iLearn: Space, Time and Social (Re)Production in Young People’s Informational Environments

This presentation will draw on, a participatory action research project with New York City youth ages 14-19, to unpack the reciprocity between informational development and contemporary geographies of education. The near ubiquitous presence of cyberspace in young people’s everyday life has both compressed and expanded the space of the ‘traditional’ school and the time in which ‘formal’ learning occurs. Amidst the current transition from industrial to informational capitalism within the U.S., this space-time compression and expansion provides both opportunities for youth empowerment as well as domination. How contemporary spatialities, materialities, and practices of informationalism become produced and reproduced in young people’s everyday learning will be discussed as will the role of securitization in formalizing the boundaries, relationships, and flows that operate between ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ spaces of education. This presentation will conclude with a discussion of the participatory action research methods developed to investigate such (re)production as well as strategies for reworking educational boundaries, relationships, and flows towards young people’s situated interests and concerns.

GEMA to Preschoolers: Pay Up or Shut Up

GEMA (Germany’s version of the RIAA) is now demanding that preschools pay corporate giants for the right to sing along. They’re not just talking about sharing music files anymore, now they’re policing preschools for making copies of sheet music for sing-along time.

According to Deutsche Welle:

A tightening of copyright rules means kindergartens now have to pay fees to Germany’s music licensing agency, GEMA, to use songs that they reproduce and perform. The organization has begun notifying creches and other daycare facilities that if they reproduce music to be sung or performed, they must pay for a license.

“If a preschool wants to make its own copy of certain music – if the words of a song or the musical score is copied – then they need to buy a license,” GEMA spokesperson Peter Hempel told Deutsche Welle . . .

. . . Fees start at 56 euros ($74) for 500 copies of a song, a rate charged annually, not per child.

If you think this sort of extreme copyright enforcement is unique to Germany, think again. The same sort of thing is happening in the US, in France, and elsewhere.

AAG Session: Democracy and the Public Sphere In a Web 2.0 World

WHEN: Thursday, April 15, 2:40-4:20 pm

WHERE: Senate, Omni Shorham

WHAT: What do the much-critiqued ‘classics’ on democracy, civic engagement, the public sphere, and education (by scholars such as Habermas, Dewey, Putnam and others) have to offer critical urban geographers? The urban spaces, forms of social interaction, and modes of education that these scholars theorized are quite different than those that many urban geographers seek to understand today. Public life increasingly plays out in both material and virtual/digital spaces, with interactions and deliberations mediated through purportedly interactive ‘web 2.0’ media, including social networking technologies and interactive mapping technologies. Past geographical critiques of the public sphere emphasized the exclusionary nature of abstract liberal visions, drawing on empirical and embodied accounts of spatial life. In the disembodied world of the digital age, how do we bring our empirical research to bear on these new/old questions of collaboration, civic engagement and democratic space? What is geography’s contribution to democratic theory in the age of web 2.0?

Discussant – Robert Lake, Rutgers University


YouTube Nation
Bruce D’Arcus – Miami University of Ohio

Dominant theories on the intersections of democracy and the public sphere were the product of a media environment dominated first by print media, and later by radio and television typically produced by large multinational capital for the largely passive consumption of viewers and listeners. Indeed, Habermas’ historical narrative of the evolution of the public sphere suggests its gradual demise in the face of the pressures of corporate concentration. Even more recent critics of this thesis have often based their arguments on the role that alternative media may play in constituting the dialog that is understood to be at the heart of a vibrant public sphere. In each case, however, the cultural product of this media is largely read-only. Yet, some commentators have argued, new media forms associated with the internet complicate the relation between the production and consumption of mediated meanings.

This paper considers this argument by way of an examination of connections between new media, social networking technologies, and concrete space. I examine how conservative activists in the United States have used new media such as online video website YouTube to present particular representations of a resurgent political movement. On one hand, I argue, these new media do change the content and character of political representation and dialog by complexifying the relation between the production of space, and the production of mediated political representations. On the other hand, I suggest the challenge they present is as much to theory and methodology as it is to our understanding of changing empirical circumstances.

Cyberdominance and the Digital Footprint: Young People as Objects of Domination and Subjects of Power in the Cybercity
Gregory Donovan – CUNY Graduate Center

This paper aims to unpack the material forms and practices of the U.S. war doctrine of “cyberdominance,” and its entailments with urban youth at multiple scales. This paper will argue that through decentralized information flows, the cybercity affords new environments for education, self-expression, and civic engagement as well as new environments for surveillance and control — simultaneously challenging and enabling the realization of cyberdominance. As young people’s urban geographies blend with cyberspatial mediums, specifically the Semantic Web (SW), their digital footprints are increasingly recorded, commodified, and aggregated by state and non-state actors. Enabled by the increasing propertization of cyberspace, the SW in part symbolizes a neoliberal restructuring of cyberspace through its privileging of informational control over informational literacy. Under this restructuring, information is semantically coded and mapped for “automatic” circulation across various proprietary environments. Intertwined with the privatization and segregation of urban environments through “gating” and private governance practices, the SW affords the contradictory prospect of a mass public conducive to cyber-dominance, alongside a cascade of publics organized around situated interests that challenge cyber-dominance. This paper will conclude with a discussion of a PAR project, in progress, that engages NYC youth in producing their own social network site as a means of enhancing informational literacy and cyber-environmental consciousness. Through their participation, young people investigate how cyberdominance shapes, and is shaped by, their experiences with property, privacy, and security in the cybercity — and propose strategies for re-imagining such dominance according to their situated interests.

Situated GeoWeb Participation: A Qualitative Assessment of OpenStreetMap Contributors
Josef (“Joe”) Eckert – University of Washington (OSM) is a widely cited example of the burgeoning geoweb 2.0 movement, seeking to spatially crowdsource street-level geographic information for the globe. The recent State of the Map conference for OSM participants held this year in Amsterdam was the first annual meeting that dedicated a day to emergent business interests in relation to the project. Recent literature on volunteered geographic information calls for an understanding of how user participation functions in these practices. While some research has been done on the nature of open-source software projects, the emerging neogeography literature to date has been largely devoid of economic consideration. However, there is a lack of attention to the political economies localized to a single project in neo-geography literature. This paper utilizes participant observation fieldwork from the conference as well as in-depth interviews to understand the resulting subjectivities created by the complex interplay between members of non-profit foundation at the helm of the OSM project, the business interests of for-profit companies utilizing OSM data, and those participants that simply want to “get on with the mapping.” I argue that treating participants as situated within specific economic networks is essential to our understanding of user participation in geoweb based projects. I suggest that while mapping within this project is actualized at the scale of the individual, user participation in practice is shaped by the fiscal networks required to power a transnational geoweb project and that attention to unique networks may provide a more in-depth understanding of differences in participant motivation.

Desperately seeking the public sphere: After school programs and civic life
Sarah Elwood & Katharyne Mitchell – University of Washington

In this paper we rethink notions of the public sphere, in relation to schools and after-school programs in the United States. Habermasian notions of the ideal public sphere as a site where rational individuals can freely deliberate issues of the common good have been strongly critiqued by many scholars. Much of this discussion, however, has focused on existing sites and on adults. Liberal democratic accounts of schools as sites for subject formation have offered a similarly idealistic view of schools as a public sphere, and tended to theorize young people as unformed subjects within these spaces. Drawing from research at a YMCA-sponsored after school program with young teens in South Seattle, we investigate the types of power relations, hegemonic assumptions, inclusions and exclusions that emerge when young people form their own deliberative publics, as part of a collaborative map-making project. We suggest that these deliberative spaces provide an important opportunity for young people to share, examine, and rethink their own knowledge, but that these spaces are also limited in significant ways.

FDR on Security

A good deal of my dissertation is concerned with notions of security, and insecurity, in informational environments. While my primary concern is with young people’s experiences and understandings of cyber(in)security, I’ve also taken an interest in contemporary and historical discourses of security (e.g. Seven Takes on Security). So, I was excited to see Michael Moore discuss Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Economic Bill of Rights” in his new documentary. In his final 1944 State of the Union speech, with the U.S. near the end of WWII, FDR called for “a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all.” What’s more, the focus on security is often related to “our children” — he describes “a sacred obligation to see to it that out of this war we and our children will gain something better than mere survival” in the 4th sentence.

In summarizing his diplomatic discussions with “Mr. Hull,” “the Generalissimo,” “Marshal Stalin,” and “Prime Minister Churchill,” FDR defines a new supreme objective for the future:

The one supreme objective for the future, which we discussed for each Nation individually, and for all the United Nations, can be summed up in one word: Security.

And that means not only physical security which provides safety from attacks by aggressors. It means also economic security, social security, moral security—in a family of Nations. (emphasis added)

The speech, which you can read in full at, concludes with a call for a “second Bill of Rights” to ensure such economic, social, and moral security:

It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.

This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.

As our nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

  1. The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
  2. The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
  3. The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
  4. The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
  5. The right of every family to a decent home;
  6. The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
  7. The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
  8. The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being. (emphasis added)

It’s notable that he links the expansion of our industrial economy with a need for new rights to ensure equality in the pursuit of happiness. I rarely hear “security” discussed in terms of ensuring happiness. I also find his “Necessitous men” quote notable (4th paragraph above). The FDR American Heritage Center includes a footnote for this quote, from The Public Papers & Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt Vol XIII, that states:

“Necessitous men,” says the Lord Chancellor, in Vernon v Bethell, 2 Eden 113 (1762), “are not, truly speaking, free men; but, to answer a present emergency, will submit to any terms that the crafty may impose on them.”

Security, to FDR, is thus physical, economic, social, and moral. It is necessary for the equal pursuit of happiness in an industrial economy. And, it affords citizens the freedom to resist terms imposed on them from the “crafty” during emergencies.

Of course, FDR’s “Economic Bill of Rights” never materialized in America and his declaration that “we shall not repeat the excesses of the wild twenties when this Nation went for a joy ride on a roller coaster which ended in a tragic crash” was unfortunately proven false. America – Fuck Yeah!

the great irony of informationalism

On May 29, 2009, Obama announced his intention to appoint a “cyber czar” to coordinate cybersecurity policy for private and government computer networks in the US. Obama also argued the importance of educating the public about cybersecurity while highlighting the dialectical reality of cyberspace:

Cyberspace is real and so are the risks that come with it. It is the great irony of our information age [that] the very technologies that empower us to create and to build also empower those who would disrupt and destroy…

It’s encouraging to hear Obama talk about education as a necessary component of cybersecurity. If an actual education initiative does emerge from this, I hope it will focus on both the empowering and threatening aspects of cyberspace.

Obama also noted that national cyber security policy would not entail the surveillance of Internet traffic or private networks, citing privacy concerns and a committment to net neutrality. So far, so good…

Cookie Monsters published in CYE

Cindi Katz and I just published an article in a special issue of Children, Youth and Environments that focuses on Children and Technological Environments. CYE is an open access journal so you can read our article for free through their website (FYI – they ask you to create an account before providing access to the articles).

Here’s the article’s abstract:

Cookie Monsters: Seeing Young People’s Hacking as Creative Practice

This paper examines the benefits and obstacles to young people’s open-ended and unrestricted access to technological environments.  While children and youth are frequently seen as threatened or threatening in this realm, their playful engagements suggest that they are self-possessed social actors, able to negotiate most of its challenges effectively. Whether it is proprietary software, the business practices of some technology providers, or the separation of play, work, and learning in most classrooms, the spatial-temporality of young people’s access to and use of technology is often configured to restrict their freedom of choice and behavior.  We focus on these issues through the lens of technological interactions known as “hacking,” wherein people playfully engage computer technologies for the intrinsic pleasure of seeing what they can do.  We argue for an approach to technology that welcomes rather than constrains young people’s explorations, suggesting that it will not only help them to better understand and manage their technological environments, but also foster their critical capacities and creativity.

Keywords: children, youth, Internet, cyberspace, security, hacking

And here is some background on the Children and Technological Environments special issue:

Children, Youth and Environments has just published a special issue on “Children and Technological Environments.” It features a substantive introduction by the guest editors, Nathan G. Freier and Peter H. Kahn, Jr., and 14 high-quality, peer-reviewed articles on such topics as interactive humanoid robots, digital libraries, virtual natural environments, video and online games, hacking, assistive technologies for children with learning disabilities, and learning by doing with shareable interfaces. The authors include leading researchers from the U.S., Britain and Japan.

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