Blog Readability Test

This post was edited since it contained a spam application

Here is a cute little application that measures the readability of a blog. My blog made it to post grad level. I am part of the Resistance Studies network and the blog over there is Genius level – but it is obviously the other contributors who lift the blog above postgrad level 🙂

Bad Planning

Most annoying. Here is a list of events I have been invited to attend. I want to attend but I will miss them all. Basically this is the worst case of bad planning I have ever experienced. But if you happen to be in the right place (as opposed to me) then I would recommend that you attend.

November 8th Makt och motstånd i den digitala tidsåldern, (Swedish text by Christopher Kullenberg can be downloaded here), Room 325, Annedalsseminariet. A text seminar at the Resistance Studies Network, Annedalsseminariet, Göteborg. This seminar will focus on the question concerning the conditions for resistance in the digital era of information technologies and surveillance. The seminar will discuss the shift from disciplinary societies to societies of control, and explore the relationships between power and resistance. I will be in Stockholm.

On 17 November: Who Makes and Owns Your Work? A multipart event in Stockholm addressing sharing, distribution and intellectual propert, Årsta Folkets Hus in Stockholm. I will be in Göteborg.

On the 5th December there will be a Surveillance seminar in Göteborg (room C430, Humanisten) but I will be in Norway.

Congratulations Dr Lilja

Today my friend Dr Lilja successfully defended her PhD thesis “Speakings” of Resistance. Women Politicians Negotiating Discursive Power in Cambodja.


About time too…

Via the Resistance Studies blog:

The Alabama Legislature on Monday approved a bill that would pardon Rosa Parks, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights activists convicted of violating Jim Crow laws in the state. During the â??second Civil Warâ?? in the 1950s and 1960s against desegregation, thousands of African-Americans and white people were arrested while standing up for freedom.

The protesters were arrested on charges of disorderly conduct, criminal trespass, inciting riots, loitering and more, as they peacefully marched, staged sit-ins and protested to bring an end to the Southâ??s oppressive Jim Crow laws.

For exercising their rights as American citizens, they unjustly ended up with criminal records.

Recently, some Southern states, including Tennessee and Alabama, have moved to offer pardons to those convicted of acts of civil disobedience during the civil rights movement.

The House and Senate this week passed the Rosa Parks Act, named after the mother of the civil rights movement that would grant pardons to individuals who sought them.

The full text of the legislation is here:

About time too…

Scotland this Summer

Why not come to Scotland this summer and attend an unusual seminar? The seminar will be held outdoors between Wednesday 27th June (Start 00:00) until Thursday 28th June 2007 (22:59).

Besides being such an exotic thing as an outdoor seminar lasting almost 23 hours the location of the event will be outside the gates of the Faslane Trident base.

The first Academic Seminar Blockade was held on the 7th January and was a great success (press release and BBC report). Some of the papers and statements delivered at Faslane on the 7th are available here. To my annoyance I was unable to attend this event. So I am really looking forward to the 27th June also I suspect that the weather will be better!

So how do you join in? Well the Faslane site has information and email contacts. But if you prefer then you can contact Stellan Vinthagen the organisor of the last academic seminar at Faslane.

For more information about the Faslane 365 blockade and about the Faslane base there is a resource pack.

Activists and Technology

This term has the main load of my teaching which means that I spend lots of time close to the students discussing and attempting to capture their attention for subjects ranging from eCommerce to Computer Ethics. It is very difficult to conduct larger research work in between teaching so most of the extra time is spent attempting to plan future work. This entails discussions of future work: meeting other researchers, planning projects, writing research applications and doing basic reading to cover the groundwork. This is useful in the sense that it lays the foundations for future work but it is also very frustrating since it is not real research work (some of you may disagree â?? but then thatâ??s the point of blogging).

One of my larger planned projects is developing well. No real results as yet (funding, publisher contacts etc) but it is still promising in that the basic reading reveals a good field ripe for additional research which may reveal very interesting results. The people around are enthusiastic, open and friendly.

The basic project idea is to gather empirical data on the use of technology in political resistance. To do this I intend to spend time interviewing activists to understand the way in which they use technology. The hope of this project is to understand both their mundane usage and the more â??exoticâ?? technology use. The point of this work is to first collect data on actual use and then hopefully penetrate the reasons for their use or lack of use of technology.

In particular I want to find out if the recent changes in attitudes towards activists has encouraged them to use more secretive technologies such as encryption and covert messaging. Ideally the project would like to understand what it is they believe to be threats to their activities and how they set about countering such threats. Alternatively the work will look at the reasons for their non-use of different technologies.

In order to do this I need to get into contact with diverse groups of political activists. In order to limit the study I will also be focusing on groups which primarily deal in non-violent methods within the participatory democracy ideal.

To me this is very exciting and I hope to begin data collection this summer and continue with this until February. In parallel with this will be data analysis and writing. The chance to do more detailed empirical work and connect it to my analytical background is an exciting prospect.

As I write this the train (yes another trip â?? but short this time) is speeding through a foggy landscape and two deer were walking slowly through a field itâ??s a mystical uplifting experience looking at nature â?? even if it is through the window of a speeding train.

Back in Sweden

Just returned from the London trip which went very well. I gave two lectures and a seminar at the London School of Economics. The first and second (same lecture on two different days) was on Internet Civil Disobedience. The focus was on the use of Internet technology in acts of civil disobedience with a focus on  denial of service attacks. The seminar was on the Democratic Effects of Attempts to Regulate Internet Technology – this is basically my thesis work and the discussion is on the negative effects that attempts to regulate the Internet have on democratic participation via the Internet. Both lectures and the seminar went very well.

The rest of the time was spent both in meetings and in a well deserved relaxation. As usual London offered the opportunity for lots of interesting new additions to my reading list. Besides the two mentioned earlier (Peter Singerâ??s One World: The ethics of globalization and a book edited by Roth, Worden and Bernstein called Torture: Does it make us safer? Is it ever OK? A Human Rights Perspective). I came across John Pilger Freedom Next Time (a fantastic book I have already read half of it – it is a wake up call for anyone who wants to see the way in which mainstream media stifles important stories relevant to human rights.

Insurrection: Citizen Challenges to Corporate Power (by Kevin Danaher and Jason Mark), From ACT UP to the WTO: Urban Protest and Community Building in the Era of Globalization (Benjamin Shepard and Ronald Hayduk Eds) and Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts (James C. Scott) are three books which are highly relevant to my resistance work.

The list is nicely rounded up by Peer-to-Peer: Harnessing the Power of Disruptive Technologies (Andy Oram editor) and Computer Ethics and Professional Responsibility (edited by Terrell Ward Bynum and Simon Rogerson).

To me this is a very exciting list of books the only problem is to find the time they deserve to be able to read the properly. To me book shopping in London is not really about the large and wonderful bookstores that contain everything. I tend to get lost among so many books, become indecisive and leave empty handed. I much prefer the eclectic mix to be found in good second hand or remainder bookstores.  These also have the additional benefit of being really cheap. The most expensive among this list was Pilger’s book which cost only 8 pounds for a new hardback.

An Inconvenient Truth

The global warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth has not only got a powerful message but it has now also managed to win an Oscar. Naturally being a politician Al Gore must expect to see this bring new attacks. I came across this Gary Varvel cartoon which is a brilliant example of balancing ideology and strategy (more on this below but first the cartoon). Don’t get me wrong – An Inconvenient Truth is an important documentary and the recognition of an Oscar only helps to promote it’s important message on global warming.

On ideologies and strategies

A few days ago Stellan Vinthagen were discussing the problem of awareness, activism and the need to travel to meet people. The crunch of the dilemma is this:

Most activists are concerned about the environment (not only environmentalists). Yet to be able to carry out effective activism international cooperation is necessary. International cooperation requires travel (despite the Internet and its ilk). Therefore people who are concerned about the environment need to travel.

So how does one reconcile ones ideologies and strategies? In other words if the ideology is about making the world a better place (and travel has a negative impact on this – especially air travel), and the strategy requires international collaboration (which requires travel).

In addition to this is it worse to harm the environment intentionally or unintentionally? Causing intentional harm is most often seen as being far more wrong than unintentional harm (but not always).

Imagine two people (A and B) on a low-budget airplane bound for London. A is traveling to go shopping he/she is unaware of the effects of travel on the environment and is only vaguely aware of global warming. We do not know if A would care about the environment even if he/she was informed about the issues. B is traveling to an international meeting of environmental activists. He/she is greatly concerned about the effects of air travel on the environment but hopes that this meeting will provide an opportunity for more coordinated actions to bring about real changes to help the environment. A will also go shopping in his/her spare time in London.

A therefore is causing unintentional harm but traveling for frivolous reasons. B is causing intentional harm but hopes this is for a good cause. Is there a difference? Does the environment care about the intentions of its destroyers?

Stellan and I did not arrive at any real conclusions in our discussions we just recognized that it is a problem…

Cultural Relativism and Resistance

Itâ??s difficult to identify and define resistance but one basic feature (which is overlooked) is the fact that resistance can very rarely be unconscious. Resistance is a conscious act carried out for the purpose of resistance. This is usually not a problem since it is reasonably easy to see that those who resist have made a conscious decision to do so. The issue with conscious choice is usually discussed in situations where the courts believe that the act is criminal rather than activism.

But there is another side of the coin. Should resistance studies also advocate a normative approach? In other words should those studying resistance also advocate resistance? This question of the normative approach is actually not so unique. It stems from the discussion of cultural relativity. This discussion (simplified) is engaged in the argument whether a culture has the right to condemn or condone acts it finds abhorrent when these occur within another culture?

These thoughts are sparked off by a trip to India. Mumbai is an energetic city filled with young educated people looking for good, well-paid jobs â?? preferably with a multinational corporation. This in itself is not a problem. But within this modern culture they also manage to incorporate traditional values. In a discussion on marriage and relationships the young and educated all felt comfortable with traditional family life. This included, naturally, the role of the women as subservient to the man, the wife subservient to the mother-in-law etc.

India is a complex fascinating society. But it also challenges many of my values. In particular the family values and gender roles â?? but it also places demands on me. Should the Indians resist their traditional family roles? Or is my approach to family and frustration at the lack of resistance among them simply a western approach on steroids?

Should the resistance scholar advocate resistance? Is this a question of academic detachment or method?

Depiction of Resistance

Ever wondered who gets to be portrayed as a brave resistance fighter and why? The role of the media in bringing â??the storyâ?? to the attention of the public is crucial. Unfortunately the public (thatâ??s us) is too occupied to carry out real investigations so we generally tend to accept anything the media tells us. Naturally with varying degrees of skepticism.

The skepticism depends to a large degree on several factors: the trustworthiness of the source, the importance of what is being said, the personal impact on our lives, our beliefs and cultures. But mostly we (the public) tend to accept what is being presented before us. Sad, but true.

The first main barrier is the choice to tell the story or not. Certain stories get a great deal of press attention while others get little or none. The next barrier is the presentation of the story. Will those resisting be described as the white or the black hats? Will resistance be legitimized or criminalized? The third barrier is the reconstruction after the fact. What will the victor say of the vanquished? What will be the persistent historic truth once the conflict is over?

Julius Caesar vanquished all of Gaul. After the task he wrote his account of the wars. Generations of children have since then learned their basic Latin language by reading exciting excerpts from his book. Even if we no longer learn Latin Caesars version of the truth remains the dominant story. He was â??forcedâ?? to attack the Gaul in order to protect the Gallic friends of Rome. The fact that he achieved personal fame, an enormous fortune and eventually sole power of Rome was beside the point.

The ability to resist does not build upon the ability to control the dominant truth â?? but no resistance (from a local protest to outright war) can afford to ignore it.

An exciting example of this is the 1966 film The Battle of Algiers from wikipedia:

The film depicts an episode in the war of independence in the then French Algeria, in the capital city of Algiers. It is loosely based on the account of one of the military commanders of the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN), Saadi Yacef, in his memoir Souvenirs de la Bataille d’Alger. The book, written by Yacef while a prisoner of the French, was meant as propaganda to boost morale among FLN militants. After independence, Yacef was released and became a part of the new government. The Algerian government gave its backing to have a film of his memoirs made and he approached the Italian director Gillo Pontecorvo and screenwriter Franco Solinas with the project. The two dismissed Yacef’s initial treatment as biased toward the Algerian side. While sympathetic with the cause of Algerian nationalism, they insisted on dealing with the events from a distanced point-of-view.