Tag Archives: communications

Platform JMC 5.1- Automating Conduct: Autonomy in Control (and Obamacare)

Quick post to pitch Platform JMC’s newest issue, edited by Suneel Jethani and myself.

PJMC front weboptimised copySpecial thanks to Paul Slocum for the awesome (CC-BY-NC 3.0) artwork! It shows a partial render of cellular automatons playing by Conway’s game of life and extruded into three dimensions: the design openly visible into the distance.

A timely example of new automation influencing autonomy in politics was the DDoS software in the wild that targets healthcare.gov. It’s authors suggested their tool to ‘destroy ObamaCare’ was to be used in the name of the “affront to the Constitutional rights of the people”. The designer of this specific software package goes on to claim “We HAVE the right to CIVIL disobedience!” (emphasis theirs). Putting aside the Thoreau and Rawl’s possible problems with actively sabotaging the the ability of other citizens to engage their government in the name of ‘civil disobedience’, the case is interesting for other reasons.

In essence, the tool is designed to let users DDoS a policy outcome. Whither the digital-real divide? Is this “Cyber warfare” any different than ‘terrorists’ hacking the the electric grid? Are the architects of this software helping create new forms of autonomy for those that do not want to partake in the mandated healthcare market? Suneel Jethani and I asked a few similar questions when editing issue 5.1 of Platform JMC.

We wanted to push how the freedoms of control that circulate in the digital networked society imbue modalities of both transparency and automation. The coupling of high technological automation with a heightened sense of surveillance implies certain forms of automated conduct as necessary, but not sufficient, for autonomy. As such, locating autonomy, automation and transparency in the network becomes a critical project in both respects of the word. Is autonomy found in the multiples of the open or in the hidden and unique? A new cadre of researchers helped us find out, so check out the issue!


Participating in Transparency

The plenary panel of a recent Media, Communications and Democracy Conference revisited WikiLeaks, and I was honoured to sit next to two inquisitive thinkers on media and journalism to present some thoughts.

My paper gave a theoretical double take on the participatory transparency that wikileaks had, has, and may inspire in future. Too often political transparency is discussed in a spectrum strung between two poles (transparency v. secrecy – or even, less helpfully, v. ‘privacy’). The paper I gave attempts to act as a prism that refracts a spectrum of transparency across a multiplicity of iterative colours.

Thinking this way allows us to understand how each iteration de-forms to offer unique affordances through the constraints of medium and design with regards to its politics, transparency, and even radical democracy.

Where will this go? Recently, Anonymous claimed it will deploy radical participatory transparency as a weapon against drug lords, where institutional centers of power such as broadcast/print media and the state seem incapable of protecting citizens let alone providing a transparent account of failures of sovereign responsibilities.