May Day: A List of Live-Streamed Activities

mayday

Today is May Day, a holiday where workers alike across the globe both celebrate solidarity and go out into the streets in protest of workers rights. In cities everywhere, from the U.S. to Japan, activities including general strikes are held through out the day, some lasting late into the night. The list provided in this post contains links to live streams of activities from across the globe, in order for you to gain some insight on what the holiday looks like in different regions. The list will hopefully be expanded as the day goes on.

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@TimCast is broadcasting live from Brooklyn, New York, where a large group of general protesters and celebrators are out & about: http://www.ustream.tv/timcast

@StopMotionSolo also has a live stream of the New York events: http://www.ustream.tv/stopmotionsolo

@subverso broadcasting from Chicago, where there is a large presence of both protesters and police: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/guy-in-the-crowd

– Another Chicago stream from an unknown user: http://www.ustream.tv/new/search?q=occupytruth99

http://www.livestream.com/globalrevolution has a stream capturing scenes from multiple cities in the U.S. at times, mostly Chicago and NYC so far.

– Live broadcast of action in Portland, Oregon: http://www.livestream.com/opdxlive [going off air very frequently] — A local news affiliate is apparently keeping track on a reportedly “unpermitted march”, which their daily broadcast should be including here: http://www.kgw.com/live-stream

@organizerx plans to provide a live stream of activities from Washington DC in the late afternoon, viewable here: http://www.ustream.tv/rootsmedia

– A May Day event, heavy on immigration reform protests in Portland, Maine: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/mayday-portland-maine—livestream-by-seekveracity

– A May Day livestream from Occupy Idaho: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/occupytoday

– A live stream from Mexico City, Mexico: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nickops

– Protests looking extremely large in Madrid, Spain: http://bambuser.com/v/3556312

– Activities in Cairo, Egypt can be seen from one of the following links: http://bambuser.com/v/3556038 | http://www.livestream.com/ontveglive

– An anti-fascist group  is attempting to block a Neo-Nazi march in Berlin, Germany: http://bambuser.com/v/3555172

– A quaint protest in Dublin, Ireland: http://www.livestream.com/occupylsx

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Follow Up: Iceland’s “Crowdsourced” Constitution – An Obituary.

iceland protest

Icelanders protest at Parliament (from https://www.dv.is/frettir/2013/3/27/maettu-med-busaholdin/)

In one of my earliest posts, I briefly speculated on the method of crowd-sourcing being used in the construction of Iceland’s latest constitution. I shared my thoughts on the system of contribution from the general public, and how I hoped the direct-democractic route would be successful in the end. I hadn’t been keeping track of the project lately, to be honest, but I was saddened today while scrolling through my twitter feed to find that the experiment has come to a standstill. So, what happened?

With Iceland’s elections closing in (they start on April 27th), The Althing closed without approving the constitution in question, that is, after lawmakers made key changes to the already agreed upon system.

Now, once the new parliament approves the constitution with a super-majority, it will be put out in a referendum and Iceland’s people will have to pass it with at least 40% of eligible voters approving it, implying an 80% voter turnout. The same parliament can then put the constitution into effect, without having to be dissolved. [source]

The process was changed non-unanimously, and many of the members involved in the original project are very disgruntled with this outcome. Icelandic blogger Baldur Bjarnason, after criticizing recent foreign misreports of Iceland’s crowsourcing project, had this to say:

The problems began with the election for a constitutional parliament. First, those running weren’t given nearly enough time to promote and canvass, meaning that the list tat voters could choose from consisted mostly of strangers. Second, the ballot itself was extremely confusing, requiring extensive explanations. Thirdly, and most importantly, a lot of people didn’t believe any of it mattered. [source]

After looking at how low the participation to the general assembly in late 2012 was reported to be (36.77% participation), its clear that the allegations of lack of interest from the general public are, unfortunately, very real ones. Bjarnason also had some colorful remarks about how the Icelandic Government was at fault as well:

One thing that most foreign reporters omit is that there is considerable resistance to constitutional reform by a lot of influential groups in Iceland. Another thing omitted is the fact that the government at the time was a mess and couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery. So, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that the election was challenged in the courts and that Iceland’s High Court declared the election, and its results, null and void because of serious issues with voter privacy—that the secrecy of the individual vote had been compromised. (You can get more details at the Icelandic Wikipedia page on the election which is pretty accurate. Of course, as with most data and references on the subject, it’s in Icelandic.)

And finally, in his most important point, he argued that the constitution was never a ‘crowdsourced’ project to begin with:

The government responded by ignoring the High Court and passed a law establishing a constitutional council composed of the exact same people as those who would have been members of the constitutional parliament. That council then decided to do what most bloggers do: post their ideas online; listen to feedback on twitter, facebook, and in comments; and make sure that changes, drafts, and edits were noted online as they went along.

This is what the news outlets labelled crowd-sourcing. It’s no more crowd-sourced than boing boing is. Open, sure. Transparent, absolutely. But, crowd-sourced? No. Not by a long shot. If the draft constitution was crowd-sourced then this blog is crowd-sourced as well and the term is meaningless. The draft constitution was written by a committee using a transparent process. It was a good thing that didn’t need to be spun into something it wasn’t.

Through all his cheekiness, Bjarnason is correct. Its possible that there was never even a fleeting moment where the politicians took the feedback from the citizens seriously, and there is surely nothing now that makes the project remotely crowdsourced.

When it comes down to it, I was one of the foreigners Bjarnason warned about. I was duped into following the story that the rest of the papers in the states plastered into their world news sections. I was too intrigued by the idea of group-think being involved in such a paramount document. While the drafting of the constitution was put in the hands of citizens on Facebook and other social media platforms, I as many failed to internalize and stress that it would just end up back in the hands of parliament afterwords. That’s not a crowdsourced constitution, its a democratic one, with a little input here and there from you’re average Icelander.

Journalists and activists alike, we need to make sure that we clearly define the processees behind legislations and law. We need to learn to differentiate actual shaping of law by a majority of the population occurring from a parliament or other institutional body telling us that’s the case. As a former reporting professor used to say to the class I attended every week, “If your mother says she loves you, you better look into it.” Affirmation is key.

So as many rightfully angry Icelanders continue to protest this week over the death of what could have been massive progress in direct democracy, don’t let that idea die in vein. Instead, bury the jumping to conclusions in the ground, right next to the use of that empty buzzword. Do not mourn them. Let lay false examples of crowdsourcing, and maybe go read some Evgeny Morozov over a cup of tea.

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Bipartisanism Bytes – A Digital Outcry for Transparency in Outside Political Spending

ProPublica’s “Free The Files” Map. (Screengrab from 10/18/12)

It speaks volumes about our the state of bipartisan politics when a Green Party presidential candidate is arrested outside of a debate , peacefully attempting to enter the building where two main candidates were answering cherrypicked questions and arguing about who’s pension is bigger. Not to mention the fact that a majority of the Presidential Debate Commission is chaired by corporate lobbyists and funded by wealthy corporations. Yes, every next election year it becomes more and more apparent just how much money talks.

As I watched Obama and Romney jab at each other’s policies in each debate, each time my twitter feed (as it so commonly is during election events) was flooded with quirky responses, jokes, and general knee-jerk tweets geared toward both candidates’ monologues. But amongst a sea of puns and bad memes, there swam several journalistic groups who trickled bits of noteworthy information on the election, and more specifically, campaign finances. From their mobile phones and computers, these groups have slowly helped shape the way weary voters looked at the campaigns this year. Turning to a more constructive way of conveying the information being dispersed, they’ve sought to unearth both the facts and the flow of cash beneath the bipartisan rhetoric.

Back in late September, non-profit investigative journalism site Propublica announced their election outside spending project, “Free the Files“, geared towards compiling specific data from recently released FCC political ad buyer files:

This summer, the Federal Communications Commission ordered TV stations to pull back the curtain a bit, requiring them to publish online detailed records of political ad buys. Before, these records were only available by visiting stations in person, an issue ProPublica spotlighted in our Free The Files coverage. So far the new rule only covers the top 50 markets, and it’s impossible to search these files by candidate or political group—meaning it’s impossible to get a full picture of the spending.

We want to change that.

The project has been quite a successful case of crowdsourcing. Promoted across social media platforms, the moderators encouraged anyone interested in following the trail of outside campaign money to contribute to the cause by simply copying required information presented in the files they chose to a simple interface on the same page and submitting them when finished. Only a few blanks to fill in, ending with the click of a button, and voilà.

The Layout of a File’s Page from Propublica’s “Free The Files” Project.

As of November 3rd, 8,846 files have been ‘freed’ (out of the total 22,800), totaling to $516 million so far. The trove of data that has been revealed has revealed that the top committee buying ads was Obama For America, with a 1,045 ads purchased for a grand total $94.1 million. The Committee that placed second was Romney For President, with 353 ads purchased to total $32 million. The data retrieved from the project also paints a geographical picture of where each buyer’s ads were being targeted in the country. It is no surprise that a majority of both of the top two committees’ ads were purchased to be aired in Ohio, arguably the most important swing state. In Cleveland, Akron, and Canton a total $102 million has been logged from ads so far. That’s 19.88% of the current total from all ads logged across the nation.

Keep in mind, this project has been as successful as it is due to the contributions of volunteers; ‘citizen journalists’, twitter users, and political junkies from across the internet. It’s quite impressive how many files certain individuals have logged according to the leaderboard. Having participated in in the data crunching myself, I thought the leaderbaord was a great concept for encouraging friendly competition geared towards exposing the money flow.

Besides ProPublica, there are other important examples of investigative journalism geared towards exposing influence behind the campaigns. The Sunlight Foundation is another nonprofit, nonpartisan organization pushing for government transparency which has been educating the general public during this year’s election with their ‘Dark Money’ and other ‘Track the Influence’ projects

OpenSecrets (The Center for Responsive Politics) has been doing their part during the elections, piling up data on outside spending and create several well-crafted infographics highlighting the contrast between the candidates and their campaigns.

OpenSecret’s list of top contributing organizations to the Obama and Romney campaigns.

The very same Center for Responsive Politics has predicted that the total spending amount could top a record-breaking $6 billion, setting a record in overall election spending. If it wasn’t clear before now how much outside spending and the creation of Super-PACs has shaped the influence of candidates, it’s become more and more obvious as we near election day.

So why is this information so important? Why should we care where the money is coming from when we know it’s been deemed legal? It is very easy to get bogged down by the harsh realities of plutocratic funding of campaigns, and feel completely helpless. With investigative journalism sifting through piles and piles of data, at least we know who to hold accountable for the funding, which I would argue is a first step in encouraging a more democratically based mode of influence. What it boils down to is that many times when these comittees and donors contribute to a campaign, they are doing so assuming or hoping their needs will be served by the candidate they are pandering to. Through careful analysis of the data presented, these investigative reporters can convey to the general public which organizations are shaping each campaign with a heavy flow of cash.  In other words, they expose to us which side some of the weathiest organizations stand on in the parted sea of red and blue.

Consider donations in this case to be a powerful networking tool for groups to attain a possibly incredibly beneficial ‘relationship’ with a politician or political party. Using this logic, it’s easy to understand why voters and the public in general might want to know just who is monetarily supporting each candidate before they fill out their ballot in the fall. I consider such forementioned investigative journalism groups to be of the utmost importance in terms of progression for a democratic system. The more factual information the citizens of a country are given about outside campaign spending and money trails, the better. Transparency by the people, for the people as a product of non partisan/non for profit groups is truly an exciting venture with a pure nonpartisan intention.

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WikiLeaks and the Tunisian Revolution – A Case Study

Through my last semester at Roosevelt University, I was lucky enough to take a class on Digital Activism with Political Science professor and Writer David Faris. The final assignment for the class was a research paper on a topic of our choice pertaining to digital activism. The following is the result of a few weeks of research (and many days of changing/tweaking my topic) and offers a glimpse at the importance of WikiLeaks in the Tunisian Revolutions of 2010-2011.

Jake_Ader-WikiLeaks__Tunisia_A_Case_Study


Creative Commons License
Tunisia and Wikileaks: A Case Study by https://vivalageeks.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/jake_ader-wikileaks__tunisia_a_case_study.pdf is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://vivalageeks.com.

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Iceland’s Crowdsourced Constitution

The 25 elected members of Iceland's new-found Constitutional Council.

In a country still recovering from the recent economic global crisis, the rules are changing. Not just what they entail, but how they are mandated. For the first time in the humble country’s history, a draft of an original constitution is being created, and its being  done so with input from the general public using the internet and social media platforms.

When planning for writing up the new constitution began last year, members of Iceland’s government invited 950 randomly selected members of the general public in to come and brainstorm what the new constitution would include and how it would be planned out. The conclusion made through that meeting was that the citizens of Iceland should be involved through the entire the process rather than just functioning as voters to the end-product.

This meeting led to the conception of a webpage dedicated to the new constitution, and the decision made last November which resulted in the electing of 25 individuals to run a new process whereby the mandating would be run as an open crowdsourced project across a large digital spectrum including several social media platforms, with Facebook being a key component.

The facebook page used to document the process of mandating the new constitution.

One member of of Iceland’s constitutional council, Thorvaldur Gylfason, commented on the historical political change.

“I believe this is the first time a constitution is being drafted basically on the internet. The public sees the constitution come into being before their eyes … This is very different from old times where constitution makers sometimes found it better to find themselves a remote spot out of sight, out of touch.”

There are others, however, that do not share such sentiments of optimism, and believe that the process is of ill intentions. Benedikt Jóhannesson, a writer for the Iceland Review, considers himself to be one of these individuals, as he stated in an opinion article from the publication titled ‘Why Iceland Has No Hope’:

“The Icelandic constitution is old and needs mending. However, I have very deep doubts that the constitution had anything to do with Iceland getting into trouble. The proposed new constitution is flawed. The fact that it was passed unanimously by 25 people raises serious doubts on the process. Now, our beloved President says the proposed changes will increase the power of the President, while members of the constitutional conference say that it is not so. The text cannot be clear if such a dispute comes up.”

One of the heated issues that has recently surfaced in the process is the debates concerning the the laws on fisheries and quotas, something Iceland has and continues to take very seriously (and reasonably so given the countries history with confrontations over fishing rights). Jóhannesson and others skeptical of the way the process for the new constitution is being planned out argue that the countries fishing industry is one of the few things ‘going well’ for Iceland.

Regardless of stances taken on the event, it is very interesting to see how Iceland is willing to go this far to create a digitally tuned direct democracy for building their historical document. However, this should not come as too much of a surprise. After the country suffered from the global economic meltdown of 2008, they have made it a habit to become quite transparent in regards to the inner workings of their parliament and law-making by becoming a country with such a strong digital data compound.

It will be interesting to keep tabs on the use of social media platforms at such a national level. Will the people’s voice be successfully implemented into the country’s new law of the land, or will the process prove futile due to slacktivism and a general lack of constructiveness? Time will tell.

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The U.K. Riots – A Look at Claims Against Social Media as a Violent Tool for Organization

Early this August, amidst widespread rioting in the UK, British officials including Prime Minister David Cameron met with representatives from Twitter, Facebook, and Blackberry to discuss ways to limit or restrict the use of social media to combat crime in periods of civil unrest. Cameron spoke to Parliament mid August, promoting the stranglehold on social media connectivity in times of trouble:

“Everyone watching these horrific actions will be struck by how they were organized via social media… Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill… And when people are using social media for violence we need to stop them. So we are working with the police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these Web sites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality.”

At the end of August, Al Jazeera reported the following  statement made by the UK’s Home Office concerning the probe on social media’s role in the violence:

“Social networking is not a cause of the recent disturbances but a means of enabling criminals to communicate. We are working with the police to see what action can be taken to prevent access to those services  by customers identified as perpetrators of disorder or other criminal action.”

David Cameron meets with high ranking police officers in the aftermath of early rioting.

The news has struck a sense of anger and nervousness into those involved in civil liberties organizations around Western Europe. In the same AJ broadcast, Index on Censorship member Emily Butselaar expressed her disgust with the plans for widespread social media lock-downs.

“I’m actually appalled that the suggestion was even made. Immediately after David Cameron made that suggestion in Parliament, which two countries came out to offer their congratulations? China and Iran. Are we, in the democracy we see ourselves in, really wanting to give the impression to the world that autocracies and theocracies shutting our social media networks in times of crisis is okay? No we don’t.”

Index on Censorship’s news editor, Padraig Reidy, shared similar sentiments.

“It seems like a bizarre and kind of knee-jerk reaction by the government,… We’ve seen this kind of thing time and time again, especially with young people, when it comes to technology. Now it’s social networks and smartphones. A few years ago it was video games. Before that it was horror films. More recently, we’ve seen this kind of thing in Egypt,… just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should. These things weren’t caused by Twitter or BlackBerry.”

When members of Blackberry an Twitter met with British Officials last month, they  defended the public’s use of their services, and many argued that the opposite results had actually been achieved from social media, and that in fact the services were used as a ‘force of good’. Members of Blackberry’s Owner, telecommunications company Research In Motion, appeared before the Affairs Select Committee last month, where Stephen Bates, RIM”s UK managing director, insisted the technology had been used in not a violent matter but rather a positive one during the rioting. He told MP’s the following:

“On the whole the vast majority abide by the law and use social media systems as a force for good,… We saw many instances while the riots were happening where social media were used to check people were safe and they had got to places were they wanted to.”

Although the outcome of the attempts from Cameron and certain other officials to create a ‘kill switch’ have been to no avail, and the UK Government has now sought to not close access to social media during times of civil disobedience and violence, we still must examine the situation and ask ourselves why the response to the riots highlighted social media in the way it did. Why had David Cameron placed much of the blame on Twitter and Blackberry Instant Messaging without carefully examining the events?

There seems to be a large contrast between the way social media has been portrayed in the West as compared to the East in terms of activism. With the ongoing Arab Spring being the largest example of the possibility of social media as a huge tool for organization, the technology has been heralded as key to the accomplishments of protesters and  the overthrow of men as powerful as Hosni Mubarak. It seems in the west, or more specifically in this case the UK, that the media has ridiculed the use of social media as a tool for activists. When groups use the technology in the west for change, it is often portrayed as a ridiculous folly in the media, and the governments which praise those under authoritarian regimes for using the same technology to promote positive change believe the power should be in their hands to shut down social media in cases where it is used in the public sphere during rioting.

One must remember that correlation does not equal causation. Just because more individuals in the UK were tweeting during the riots doesn’t mean that the technology was the cause of the violence itself, or organization of violent groups for that matter. It is safer to assume that a majority of those tweeting were merely spectators, commenting on the actions occurring in their environment. Those guilty of promoting violence and committing violent acts should serve their due punishments, but crippling a useful tool for others to communicate with each other during such times would be a poor decision.

A more thorough examination of social media’s play in the UK riots is in order. British officials must be careful to analyze the situation in a way where they are not attacking a vital tool for activism and a convenience for general communication.

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U.S. Government to fund Internet Activism in authoritarian countries

According to a recent article in The Jerusalem Post, the Obama Administration  plans to distribute around $25 million to certain activist groups in authoritarian countries in order to encourage using the internet as a way of communication in places where the government commonly restricts access.

So far, there has not been mention of what countries and groups will receive the money. In the article mentioned earlier, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Michael Posner was quoted:

 “This administration believes that democratic change must be home-grown. That means empowering democratic activists to get their own messages out- and they need internet freedom to do that,”

The U.S. government has spent billions over decades trying to promote democracy – but the best way to do that is to support democracy activists and give them the tools they need to prevail. Allowing them to use the internet freely means they can continue to give voice to the kind of democratic future they want for their own societies,”

While many have rejoiced after hearing the news of a planned monetary support from the U.S. government, some are skeptical about the semantics involved. There is the possibility of a nit-picking involved with the process of choosing which countries or groups get what amount of money, which can make for a sticky situation.
Regardless, it will be interesting to see how this funding plays out in the future, and just how much it will effect the power these authoritarian countries have over the internet as a way of communication.

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