One time, at BarCamp…

These are notes from my BarCamp Vancouver presentation, which was fun to do, and well attended (to my surprise). I don’t have upload functionality yet (some problem I need help to fix) so my captivating powerpoint presentation is still on my desktop.

Changing the world one line of code at a time

What is tech activism?

• Tech activism combines the free software ethos derived from geek culture with concerns for social justice on a planetary scale.
• Tech activists are the computer programmers who write, develop and deploy software for the online projects of activist groups. They also develop and maintain activist Websites and provide technical support, largely on a volunteer basis.
• The novelty of tech activism moves beyond the political alliance of social justice activists and computer geeks, however. Rather, it lies in the way tech activists incorporate the democratic goals of the GJM into the very technology used to pursue those goals.
• That is to say, tech activists recode software intended for use by activists in a way that anticipates the progressive social change they pursue. In this way, tech activists produce both an alternative version of the technology that is accessible, participatory, and non-hierarchical, and an alternate vision of society based on those same ideals.

Free Software

• Integral aspect of this activism (in addition to creating/maintaining digital infrastructure) – developing, appropriating and redeploying software in order to achieve social justice goals
• e.g. Active (CAT’s open publishing platform, used for Indymedia); IMC geeks’ hack of TWiki

Democratic rationalization

• In this process, the constitution of the Internet is altered; that is, by carving out space for non-commercial activities (e.g. social justice groups and organizations, which embody notions of participatory democracy, equality, freedom etc.), creating online communities and producing software with other motives than profit or social control, tech activists have changed not only the way people “do” activism, but the face of the Internet itself (www)
• This has profound implications for the deepening of democracy offline, through altering the way society is organized


• Digital divide: is this really an issue?
• Gender divide: what barriers do women face in the technical sphere?
• Is the global justice movement dead?

Whys and wherefores

• Why do these geeks do what they do: motivations?
• What do they do, actually: case study
• How do they define their role in the new global justice activism?
• What are the main issues facing digital struggles today

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