Chelsea Manning has been summoned to appear and give testimony before a federal grand jury. While the exact nature of the grand jury is unknown, signs indicate it is related to her 2010 disclosures of information about the nature of asymmetric warfare to the public. Following in the footsteps of scores of other activists, Chelsea is challenging the grand jury subpoena, and therefore risks being placed in jail for for up to 18 months if she is found “in contempt” of court.
Chelsea risked so much for public good, and has been through a lot of hardship. Let’s show her solidarity together and let the State know their punitive harassment won’t be tolerated.
What are grand juries?
Grand juries are used to establish “probable cause” that a felony offense has been committed. Prosecutors run the proceedings behind closed doors, without a judge or defense attorney present. Basically, the whole process is rigged to favor indictment of the individual accused of a crime. They have also been used historically to oppress and frighten targeted groups, in particular, people perceived as dissidents and activists.
Why Resist a grand jury?
Due to their secretive nature and limitless subpoena power, the government has utilized grand jury processes as tools for garnering information about movements by questioning witnesses behind closed doors. Since testimony before grand juries is secret, grand juries can create fear by suggesting that some members of a political community may be secretly cooperating with the government. In this way, grand juries can seed suspicion and fear in activist communities.
Projekt Seahorse a.k.a. Aaron Moun10 is known for his analog mixed-media art, which he performs live in real time. We interviewed him about his techniques and process in creating his real time masterpieces.
Lisa Rein: So how do you make your visuals? Is everything analog? Are there any digital components? How does it work?
Projekt Seahorse: I’m like a live band. I’m running everything from 4-6 different VHS players and two DVD players and two laptops, all into a video mixer, and then I’m sequencing all of it live.
LR: So your using that old video mixer?
PS: Yes I’m mixing it all live to the energy of whatever music artist I’m working with.
LR: So it’s still analog mixing then, when you are using that video mixing board?
PS: Yes. Analog mixing in real time.
LR: Neato. What kind of video mixing board is it?
PS: Well, right now I’m using an Edirol V-4. But normally, what I’m used to using is this old Panasonic from like 1982. It’s called the “MX 50” – and this is how ABC, CBS, NBC, ESPN all used to edit their videos. Before digital came in.
PS: So, I coordinate and sequence everything in a live atmosphere.
LR: How do the laptops fit in then? I see them there as you are working.
PS: I use a 2006 or 2007 Dell, which is actually the first laptop that I’ve ever owned. I still use that. It’s only ever been online like two or three times so it still works great. That runs like the very first version of Resolume on it. And then I also run this 2013 Macbook Air. That’s just begging to be put down – but I can’t put it to rest yet.
LR: Are there some digital clips that you are running from the computer? What’s the computer doing then, if you’re doing all of the mixing with the video mixer?
PS: I’ll use this software called “Arena.” And then a I have a bunch of clips stored on my computer. Some of them are VHS clips and some of them are digital clips.
LR: So, these are good clips that are good to mix in with everything. As opposed to clips you que up on VHS or DVD? So there ARE some digital clips. But they are still being mixed in with the analog mixer.
PS: The digital portions appease promoters. If it were up to me I wouldn’t use them at all.
LR: Are you saying the computers are partly for show? Because people freak out when there’s no computer?
LR: And that is still analog output to the projector, right? From the mixer – even if you are blending in digital sources?
PS: From the computer to my mixer is digital to analog conversion. And then, from the mixer – coming out of the mixer, I go analog back to digital. (Since the projectors prefer digital input.)
LR: So Lael Marie will be performing with you for the first time at our Raw Thought show on March 11. I’ve seen you guys perform together during a practice session and she’s absolutely amazing; and the two of you together are quite impressive. How did you ever find her?
PS: We met at a party and she’s always looking for new progressive projects and events where she can dance, so I told her about Raw Thought.
LR: Yes she mentioned she was always looking for interesting collaborations, and said this was a dream come true for her, as she had been looking for a projectionist to collaborate with for a while. (I’ll have an interview with her up later this week!)
Tracy Rosenberg & Lisa Rein will be discussing the Aaron Swartz Day Police Surveillance Project, its templates, latest results from Sacramento & many other cities in California at this month’s Raw Thought Salon on March 8th – from 7-9pm.
Facial recognition software allows cops to feed in images of people and look them up in real time. For instance at a protest or any kind of public gathering. One of the new planned technical innovations is to put the software onto the body cameras many police now carry, turning cops into walking facial recognition programs.
Lisa Rein: Hi Tracy! Thanks for helping me give folks an update about what we know now about facial recognition.
Tracy Rosenberg: No problem.
LR: So, you were telling me that, currently, to your knowledge, no city has yet to put body cameras with facial rec out on “the street?”
TR: That’s right. So far, it’s just an idea being talked about and explored. As with much of law enforcement use of facial recognition software, it is isolated and spotty, but we are seeing more and more. The threat is very real.
For body cameras carrying the software, there is no police department yet doing it. However, Axon-Taser, which dominates the police body camera market after acquiring their primary competitor VieVu last year, says they are exploring and proactively put in place a new corporate ethics board in the hopes of stemming the expected public uproar.
And when SF-based Assembly member Phil Ting tried to include a ban on facial recognition software being attached to police body cameras in his legislation (AB748) to make body camera videos available as public records, law enforcement fought very hard and was eventually able to force the removal of that clause from what eventually became law. That was virtually unreported by the press in their coverage of the law and it was a big deal.
The most prominent facial recognition software producer, of course, is Amazon with their “Rekognition” product, which they have been shopping around to municipal police departments and to ICE. A public records act request by the ACLU revealed that two police departments were takers, the Orlando PD and the Washington County Sheriffs Department in Oregon.
Aha! Great opportunity for me: “Hey if that’s garbage to you now would you please sign it and give it to me?” They promise to sign it and let me take it with me. It’s the creature in black, above, at the beginning of this article.)
Lisa Rein: So tell me about your radio show.
Grumpy Green: It’s on S.P.A.Z. radio.
LR: That’s an Internet Station?
GG: Yeah it’s on SPAZ.org, it’s an anarchist collective and they stream radio from Guadalajara, from Portland, from Amsterdam, and from all over the world. Every broadcast comes from a different location. It’s also available via pirate radio in San Francisco, but not yet in Oakland. (Coming soon.) In San Francisco it’s at 103.5.
LR: Awesome. And this will be your first show this Sunday?
GG: Yes! Our show is called #LiveAmmunition and it’s every Sunday from 2pm to 5pm.
LR: Are your shows recorded if folks miss the live ones?
GG: It’s me (Grumpy) my other friend Traveiza and our other friend Chi Hai. They are all DJs and really incredible artists, and we all bring a little bit different flavor to club music.
We started recently, just in the underground music scene, playing shows together. And we started tag teaming DJ sets. Like we’ll do back to back and each do two songs. We started doing it just for fun a few months ago and we just all worked so well together. This opportunity came up to do the radio show and we decided to do it altogether, and bring on local queer and trans and really give a platform to the Oakland underground scene, specifically the queer underground scene.
LR: Is there an instagram just for the show?
GG: Yes. It’s just the name of our show is “@LiveAmmunition” We also do an advice segment for people that wanna call in.
LR: How did you come up with “Grumpy Green?”
GG: Well my last name is “Green.” And “Grumpy” is something that my ex-partner – I guess my first real relationship – they would always call me “Grumpy,” but as a way to kind of point out when my mental illness was acting up. Because I have Borderline Personality Disorder and I have really intense mood swings, which is why I smoke so much weed, because it really helps me stay like baseline. Otherwise I feel like 50 things a day and I’ll be like crying and then I’ll be like “ha ha ha ha” – just like really crazy. But we would fight a lot, and whenever I’d get upset he would try to be like “da da da, you’re being Grumpy.”
And a while after we broke up and decided I didn’t want to go by my birth name any more, and it started out just for my art. But I don’t go by my birth name ever ever now. Because I feel very dysphoric about it. So it started out as just like a pseudonym for my artwork, but it was sort of a reclamation and acknowledgement of my mood disorder and mental illness, but being like “I’m fucked up, but that is beautiful.”
Annalee Newitz: “When discussing Social Justice Issues, Corporate Malfesence, The Government Breaking the Law to Look Into Our Private Lives, and I know that at EFF, one of the main responses to these kinds of problems has been litigation. It has been to go to the courts. And I’m curious to hear why you think that is a good tactic because we have many tactics at our disposal. There’s direct action. There’s calling our congress critters. There’s all sorts of ways that we can influence the political process. So, why the law. Why the courts? And how can ordinary people participate?”
Cindy Cohn: “The first reason is that there’s a fundamental constitutional question at the centerpiece regarding how we are going to interact with our technology, that can make all the other questions easier.
The second reason is that all of the direct actions that you might want to take in order to exercise your self-governance and have your voice heard, requires some kind of legal protection, right? And when we talk about “direct action,” the reason that you can do direct action and not end up with a very long jail sentence is because, in the United States, compared to other places around the world, is because the Constitution says you can. All the hackers who EFF represents, who tell us all the things about the security problems and the surveillance – if we don’t get the law right, they’re not going to be able to do that. So, I often say that about EFF that we’re kind of the plumbers of freedom. We’re trying to get the obstacles out of the way, so that all the other things you can do to exercise your rights in the digital world can really flow freely.
And so, I think for both of those reasons, EFF was grounded in the law. But also, at this point, we build technology. We have an action center. We support a lot of people that do a lot of direct action. We support a lot of people that need to protect themselves, that do direct action, and all sorts of other things. So although we are firmly grounded in the law, and that’s my background, the organization has really trying to grown to build a lot of different tools in our toolbox to deal with these problems.
Cory Doctorow: “Yeah. I think it’s easy to forget just how powerful states are. They have a lot of resources. And in a fight where you are trying to say, use cryptography to be free, in a state that is illegitimate. You have to use cryptography and the privacy tools associated with it absolutely perfectly, as do, everyone you communicate with, and never make a mistake.
And when you get tired or distracted, you don’t get to call in another you to spell you off and manage your operational security for you. While you’re distracted or taking care of your kids or dealing with the flu. And your adversary from the state, has three shifts of people that can watch you. Right? And when one of them gets a little tired, and gets screen burn and needs to take 15 minutes off to go to the bathroom, they can swap someone else in.
So in the long run, your ability to use cryptographic tools to defend yourself against an illegitimate state. You’ll always lose, right? Because you need to make one mistake. They have to find one mistake you made. They get to make lots of mistakes provided they can still catch that one mistake you made. And then they get to roll up you and all your friends and take you to jail and torture you and so on.
And so, without a legitimate state, the utility of cryptography is to allow you to just have a space in which you can organize to make your state legitimate. But unless you can attain that kind of democratic accountability. Unless you can attain that kind of legitimacy, you’re always gonna lose…
Larry Lessig, take a drink (audience laughs), is one of the great cyber lawyers, and he devised all the areas in which we can act to change the world into four categories. Four directions. We can do code. We can do law. We can do norms, and we can do markets. And they all feed back into each other. And EFF does all of these things. We sometimes advise businesses who are building up stakeholders for good policy. We sometimes do activist intervention where we try to convince people that they should expect more and demand better.
Edward F. Loomis
CW: It was great. I worked on a whole new DJ set for four months straight leading up to the show. So playing that for the crowd and seeing how they reacted to what I put together was really awesome.
For each set I do, I have kind of a specific theme in mind usually. I put together a whole new theme for that performance. I hadn’t played it in a club yet, and when I put things together in my, mind it’s different from actually playing it for people out on the dance floor.
My most successful set I’ve ever put together was my Ibiza set. I did that for a club – it’s up on my mixcloud and it has almost 9,000 plays. So that’s very heavy minimal techno and house set. So that’s what this set will be: minimal techno and house. Mainly for me, Pig & Dan – every time I hear a new Pig & Dan track it’s like “oh that’s such a good song.” They hardly ever have a song I don’t like. They actually produce dance tracks; minimal techno. They would probably label themselves just as “techno” – that’s usually how they label themselves, but every time they put out a new track, it’s just awesome to me.
LR: Aha! I’ve been looking for a descriptive term for your music: “minimal techno.” It’s been killing me trying to describe it; but it was definitely a thing. I’ve been saying “it’s percussion heavy without heavy percussion.”
CW: I don’t even know how to classify what I produce. It’s all over the map. But as far as my DJ sets go – that’s minimal techno. And that one I did, my Ibiza set.
LR: At our show, your set will be “minimal techno?”
CW: Yes. Most of the dancier tracks on Kompakt Records – do you know that label? They are out of Cologne, Germany.
They’re actually the biggest label in Europe right now. They’re bigger than Warner Brothers or anything like that, out there. They have all sorts of genres – they got their start putting out these compilations of minimal techno and house. They called it “The Kompact Total Collection” – every year, starting in 1999, they put one out at the end of the year. So we’re up to Compact 17 or 18 or whatever it is now.
LR: Techno is a lot more popular in Europe generally. Wouldn’t you say? I remember hearing it on the AM radio when I was there.
CW: Oh yeah. If you are a techno and house DJ, you usually don’t work in the states. You work in Europe usually. One of my favorite DJs here, Loco Dice. He’s from New York City, but he works in Europe. He’s probably my favorite current American DJ.
LR: So what does “minimal techno” really mean?
CW: Minimal techno and house. Most people are pretty familiar with how techno and house sounds, right? So you take the techo elements and just strip them way down, to like the rawest elements. And then you add in like an interesting sound here or interesting sound there, but it’s not like, super over done with the production. So it’s just like super stripped down to the beat, right? Like for dance music, the beat’s the main thing, right? And then, any element you put right on top of the beat, you really think long and hard about. How is this gonna sound? Is it too much? As little as you can put on top of the beat and still make it interesting to listen to. That’s basically how I would describe it.
LR: Aha! So my previous description still works: “it’s percussion heavy, without any heavy percussion.” — hehe. And you do everything with your computer — when you perform your show live. Are there any prerecorded elements. Are you playing along with prerecorded elements or is it all prerecorded.
CW: For a DJ set I am just mixing prerecorded songs. I’m not doing a live set of original material – that would be a whole other thing. It’s interesting to me that you picked up that my original stuff is very percussive because I’m trained as a drummer since I was 8.
LR: Aha! No coincidence. 🙂
How long would you say this “minimal techno” stuff has been around?
CW: Since the late 90s. Since about 1999. It really kind of peaked in Europe in 2010-2012
Here’s “Its” from Cain Macwitish:
LR: How ’bout a few more examples of this genre so I can link to them 🙂
CW: Yes it’s interesting how many producers might do a minimal techno track or two, even if it isn’t their main thing. Gui Perano. Pretty much everything that Kompact used to put out is minimal techo. Their big artists areVoight and Voight. They have some really good tracks.Rex the Dog.
LR: You said it has been three years since you performed because you were in a motorcycle accident?
Is this like a “lucky to be alive” kind of thing?
CW: Yes very “lucky to be alive.” I spent a month in the hospital after the accident. I was in a coma for two weeks. The whole right side of my body got trashed pretty much. My lungs were collapsed. They had to reconstruct my face. Just minor things… (Laughs.)
LR: (Laughs.) Just a few scratches.
CW: For me, it’s been about two years of physical therapy. To get back to as good as I’m going to be. So, it wasn’t till the beginning of this year that I really started to feel like I could go out and be a regular person again.
If “Raw Thought” sounds familiar, it should. It was the name of Aaron’s prolific blog – and one of the main goals of these events – besides providing a great place to meet people and dance – is to continue to spread Aaron’s knowledge and ideas to a larger audience.
We spoke to Tha Spyryt briefly, in between flights…
LR: So how long have you been creating music?
Tha Spyryt: Creating music? Music is more of a translation or interpretation of creation.
Four years off and on learning production seriously, my friend Moda Graphik taught me Ableton in 15 minutes which got me into it, however stopped for awhile and now refocused on it as a means to harness all mediums of art I work on, or “create” / translate. Before that spent many years in the underground, club, and festival scene performing live visuals with major headliners, participating in tour life, or creating new media content and being immersed in music production/event culture.
I have always been surrounded by music growing up since kindergarten in school, or private lessons, and made some beats on Fruity Loops or GarageBand (PC) (Mac) around high school but nothing really of interest.
LR: Are you from San Francisco? How long have you been here?
TS: Tha Spyryt is from San Francisco, or rather outer space. It is a city that welcomes fresh sounds. Bay Area born, and raised, though it has been about 10 years in SF, or a touching transit connect away.
LR: What’s your favorite new piece of equipment?
TS: My friends :). Making noise with people seems to be one of the best parts about performing or playing instruments music what have you. Lately I have been learning to understand that we are all the best machines we will ever need.
Technology is just an extension, but implementing our strengths can be a place that new possibilities arise. + Along with new friends is new studios, new instruments, and new spaces to travel to. Experience, vision, & inspiration: equipment that is intangible yet crucial to the construction of any piece. Bliss random answers always serve hot meals, though a miracle is often the luck of decisive reaction.
LR: Describe your music with words…
TS: Hazey, Muddy, and Weird. #notnormal
Our definitions of genre only seem to be a current understanding of what is possible and not its true potential. To describe what you are creating would be to write history. We are our own makers; only the reflections resonate the halls of heroes. With the music the intention is to bring some type of healing vibes and heavy bass where one can dance furiously into the oblivion of the moment.
LR: You’ve been in the studio recently, right? Is your new stuff taking on any new sounds you weren’t expecting?
TS: Insanely profound. Revelations FOR SURE. Going further than I understand and learning on the go. Scaring the experienced and welcoming the new babes. Every moment we set out on our next task it seems to become the best work ever because it is the one that has always been there; our constant learning… and remembering who we are.
The below is an excerpt from Cyrus Farivar’s new book, Habeas Data.
Richard Nixon was voted into office in November 1968 by just half a million votes, just months after both Senator Robert Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., were assassinated. When he entered the White House in January 1969, President Nixon was met by a nation that was bitterly divided and viscerally hurting. By that point, the Vietnam War had been raging for nearly four years, with no end in sight. America had been paying the price in both treasure and blood: nearly 30,000 American lives had been lost from 1967 to 1968.
The dawn of the Nixon administration marked one of the high-water marks of mass surveillance in America. Even before Nixon, intelligence services were carrying out domestic surveillance operations dating back to the mid-1950s as a way to monitor and mitigate potential influence of communism or communist sympathizers. The intelligence community actively disrupted various civil rights groups through the Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO). Other snooping efforts with more colorful names, like Project Shamrock, were designed to indiscriminately capture postal mail and telegram traffic. Others, like Project Minaret, intercepted the electronic communications of thousands of Americans—initially it was limited to antiwar activists, but by the time Nixon entered the White House, the list had grown to include senators, journalists, and even Muhammad Ali.
Those lists—and the programs themselves—would expand tremendously under Nixon. On April 30, 1970, Nixon announced the Cambodian Campaign, a military effort to strengthen the position of the South Vietnamese and capture Viet Cong matériel. The following day, students began striking in protest of this new policy to ramp up the Vietnam War. On May 4, four students were killed by members of the Ohio National Guard while protesting at Kent State University. Suddenly, Nixon’s interest in what the various surveillance programs of the intelligence agencies were—and how they could be expanded for his use—became all the more urgent.
Not three months later, in July 1970, Nixon signed off on the Huston Plan, which formalized and legalized covert mail opening and increased electronic surveillance, among other tactics. The president quickly rescinded his approval, but that didn’t stop the intelligence agencies from continuing what they had already been doing.
One surveillance case that preceded Nixon, but was ultimately championed by his attorney general, involved the wiretapping of dissidents. In September 1968, just over three months after the Omnibus act was signed, a small bomb went off in the CIA recruitment office at 450 Main Street in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Overnight, someone had placed a few sticks of dynamite nearby, which blew a sizeable hole in the sidewalk and damaged furniture, but did little else. No one was injured. Eventually, three men affiliated with the White Panthers leftist group were arrested and prosecuted for the crime.
As the case moved ahead in 1969 and 1970, prosecutors disclosed during a hearing that a phone conversation involving one of the defendants and a California-based Black Panther had been captured over a warrantless wiretap. As a trial date approached, defense attorneys pushed the government to disclose any electronic surveillance that was used against their clients. In an affidavit, Attorney General John Mitchell (one of Nixon’s most trusted colleagues) wrote that one of the suspects, Robert “Pun” Plamondon, was overheard on a wiretap that was “employed to gather intelligence information deemed necessary to protect the nation from attempts of domestic organizations to attack and subvert the existing structure of government.”
In other words, while under normal circumstances law enforcement would have to present a super-warrant application for a judge to sign off on the wiretap, the attorney general claimed a power, under the presumed mandate of national security, to be able to wiretap anyone unilaterally based on the power that stemmed from the Title III law. Put another way, under this logic, if Charles Katz had been perceived as a threat to national security, the FBI could have wiretapped the phone booth’s line directly rather than going through all the gymnastics of rigging up a microphone atop the phone booth.
The Ann Arbor case ran right into a buzz saw, which came in the form of then US District Judge Damon Keith. By the time he had been randomly assigned the case, Judge Keith had been a judge for only a few years. In fact, when he was tapped for a judgeship by President Lyndon Johnson, he was just one of a handful of federal African-American judges nationwide. In January 1971, Judge Keith came out strongly against the government and Mitchell’s entire legal theory.
“An idea which seems to permeate much of the Government’s argument is that a dissident domestic organization is akin to an unfriendly foreign power that must be dealt with in the same fashion,” Judge Keith wrote in his decision. “There is a great danger in an argument of this nature, for it strikes at the very constitutional privileges and immunities that are inherent in United States citizenship.”
Reminding everyone of the language of the Katz decision, the judge recalled that “the Fourth Amendment protects a defendant from the evil of the uninvited ear.”
The Department of Justice appealed the case to the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld Judge Keith’s ruling. The appeals court famously found, in what came to be known as the Keith case (rather than its official and cumbersome name: United States v. United States District Court), that there was not “one written phrase” in the Constitution or statutes to support the Justice Department’s view. The government appealed up to the Supreme Court, which again, denied the government’s efforts.
“The price of lawful public dissent must not be a dread of subjection to an unchecked surveillance power,” Justice Lewis Powell wrote in the unanimous 8–0 opinion. One would think that would have closed the book on such wiretapping. But as we’ll see, the government continued to find innovative ways to circumvent the courts.
The Sixth Annual Aaron Swartz Day and International Hackathon is going on all over the world, November 10-11, 2018.
In this weird Trump Dystopian Bizarre Feverish Lunatic Dream of White Supremacy that we’re kind of trying to deprogram out of, these kinds of films, and these kinds of gatherings, are where people from different perspectives, races, classes, come together and think: “How does cinema change our vision of things?”
Don’t forget, most people in the Trump administration were involved with film. Whether it be Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin or the Mootch guy (Anthony Scaramucci).
Steve Bannon was also a producer, and of course Trump comes out of reality TV. So, we can easily see how they try to apply cinematic narrative to this nightmarish shitstorm of an administration. And you can see we can use film to deprogram and decolonize people’s perspective.”
– DJ Spooky, during his introduction for “Body and Soul,” at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, July 12, 2018.
By Lisa Rein
I went to see Body and Soul at MOMA last July, as I was excited about DJ Spooky’s new score for this silent 1925 Paul Robeson movie directed by Oscar Micheaux. It is said to be Robeson’s first film.
Watching it was quite an experience. I have never had such a riveting time watching a silent film before. Not only was the acting was incredible, but DJ Spooky’s soundtrack was moving and suspenseful.
Even though “Body and Soul” was released in 1925, the subject matter is as timely as ever.
This film is just one of many on the The Pioneers of African-American Cinema DVD box set. These landmarks of early African-American film have been remastered in HD from archive elements and digitally restored, and are available as a box set or for streaming on Netflix.
DJ Spooky spoke to the audience a bit before the MOMA showing. Below is a complete transcription.
“Thanks to MOMA for putting together such a wonderful and hyper eclectic group of films.
It’s a roster that really goes all over the spectrum of African-American cinema, showing the last century as it sort of evolves into the 21st.
First, a little background. After reconstruction in the south, there was a tremendous amount of effort, systematically, to disenfranchise African-Americans. So, one of the more intriguing situations that ended up happening is that there was a huge migration. As a matter of fact, I’m working on another project, with Henry Louis Gates, of Harvard, based on this idea of the genetics of Reconstruction. I’m scoring that this summer, it’s called “Reconstruction.” It will be out soon. Read more “DJ Spooky Looks Deeper Into the Films of Cinema Pioneer Oscar Micheaux”
I originally contacted Danielle strictly on her professional reputation, after I asked Tracey Jaquith at the Internet Archive who would be a good person to explain why the distributed web is so important and in the public’s best interest.
During our email exchange, Danielle shared with me how much she had been influenced by Aaron and his work. It was all quite interesting, so I asked Danielle if she would share her story here.
Lisa Rein: Danielle, thank you so much for talking openly about this. I know these stories can be very personal. You mentioned that Aaron and his work meant a lot to you?
Danielle: Yes, I was a second year PhD student when he died. I was already disillusioned with academia and just beginning to see how I could put that energy to use. Aaron’s work had a big impact on my life and I would not be doing what I do today without his influence.
LR: Really? How did he influence you?
DR: Well, although I did not know Aaron Swartz personally, on a fundamental level, Aaron’s work on open access issues set the stage to grow the movement. I became a part of that movement and it changed my life. Aaron’s work impacted me and many of my colleagues at Dat (https://datproject.org/) the broader Code for Science & Society community, and in the open access movement.
Along with my colleague Joe Hand, I run Code for Science & Society, a nonprofit that supports public interest technology. We work with projects like Dat to build capacity, develop partnerships, and build software centered in the public’s interest.
Note that our next Code for Science & Society Community Call will be on Friday Sept 7 9am PST. Interested folks can join our mailing list or follow @codeforsociety on Twitter for more details about tuning in. These meetings are always super fun and newcomers are welcome to attend.
I’m a believer in the potential of P2P technologies and the decentralized web to change the way knowledge is disseminated. I consider open science/scholarship to include equity, justice, and opening the profession of scholarship to historically marginalized communities. Building offline-friendly tools, baking in free access, and creating decentralized communities can help open the profession of research and scholarship. A personal goal is to build systems that provide free access to knowledge.
Working with the open access movement via OpenCon, the Code for Science & Society community, and projects like Dat, ScienceFair, and the decentralized data sharing project – I am privileged to wake up everyday and work towards that goal.
LR: You mentioned that Aaron’s death happened at a time when you were becoming “disillusioned with academia.” Would you mind expanding on what you meant exactly?
DR: I started a PhD program in 2011, after working for about three years as a technician I thought I understood the system and rather naively imagined my PhD as a time of intellectual freedom. I am sure it is for some folks.
But the reality of my PhD was quite different, I was working on the grants of my advisor and didn’t have a lot of freedom. Rather than being empowered to pursue knowledge and share information, there was a competitive and secretive culture which extended from lab meetings (opportunities for intellectual take-downs) to keeping our work under wraps for fear of getting scooped.