Firstly, my heartfelt condolences must go out to everyone affected by the tragic events in Ōtautahi (Christchurch) last Friday. Secondly, I’d like to express my admiration for all the young people who took part in the School Strike for Climate activities that same day. Even while we express our sadness at being in the shadow of a dark cloud, we must remember that there is so much more power in the sunshine than in the darkest cloud.

Laura O’Connell Rapira, Director of ActionStation.org.nz, sent out a wonderful email about how we can support the survivors of Friday’s tragedy, which I totally endorse, with one very important exception. Here’s my reply:

 

Kia ora Laura,

Thanks for your compassionate and helpful email at this difficult time. I have signed the petition on banning public ownership of semi-automatic weapons in Aotearoa. I note that having Police roaming the streets with guns in their cars did nothing to prevent this tragedy, while that policy has led to a number of tragedies of its own making. I hope to see ActionStation campaigning to end the policy of providing beat cops with firearms, and redirect resources into making sure our appropriately trained Armed Offenders Squads have everything they need to respond quickly and effectively when things like Friday’s tragedy happen.

Moving on to the rest of your email, I agree with most of what you say, but as I’ve expressed in previous emails, I have some serious concerns about this part:

“TAKE ACTION TO END HATE SPEECH 

For the last few months, our team has been researching the links between online hate, online misinformation and the rise in hate crimes

One thing is abundantly clear: Extreme words lead to extreme actions. We need to do all we can to stop both.

Sign this petition that we’re delivering in a couple of weeks if you want our government to crackdown on online hate and misinformation

I support an end to hate speech and misinformation online.”

I certainly share this goal, as an activist who has been involved in running internet forums since the 1990s, including about 7 years in the editorial collective of Aotearoa Indymedia. But with all due respect, I have to say I think you are going about it exactly the wrong way.

I strongly believe that venues where people can express ignorant opinions and have them firmly but respectfully challenged are - aside from being essential to a functioning democracy - also an essential safety valve that can help to prevent more tragedies like what happened on Friday. What better venue could there be for this than the internet? On the net, arguments can’t escalate to physical violence between participants, as they can in person. Online, we can all make informed decisions about whether or not to engage in the spaces where these kinds of discussions take place, and if we do, use the opinions expressed as a guide to who we might want to connect with, ignore, mute, or even block from seeing or contacting us. Online discussion platforms need to be engineered to put that power in the hands of us, the end users, not corporations or governments. For example, the open source community designing software using the SSB (Secure Scuttlebutt) protocol have a set of principles for how they are going about that.

I think the censorship strategy ActionStation is arguing for is not only ineffective in achieving our shared goal, but counterproductive to it. Why?

For a start, I don’t accept your generalization that “extreme words lead to extreme actions”. I think it’s just as arguable that extreme actions can result from an inability to blow off steam through words, or from feelings of frustration, alienation, and injustice, that can arise in people unable to openly express their honest opinions.

It’s also important to consider the psychological principle of “negative reinforcement”, which states that whenever any behaviour earns someone attention or reactions it is encouraged, even when that attention is negative. Positive Parenting courses integrate this principle by encouraging parents to give their children lots of attention for behaviour they like (”caught being good”), and minimal attention to behaviour they don’t like, ignoring it completely if possible. On the net, this principle is known as the “Streisand effect”, and it’s long been recognized that trying to suppress anything online only increases interest in it, multiplying the problem like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice chopping up his broom.

So not only is trying to suppress racist speech online likely to have exactly the opposite effect, it may also have a more dangerous one. As Three Arrows pointed out in his web video debunking Jordan Peterson, Nazism - like all forms of xenophobic ethno-nationalism - thrived by cultivating a sense of collective victimhood. Excluding people expressing white nationalist ideas from the normal protections of our democratic rights to speak our minds, assemble, and organize, only serves to reinforce that sense of victimhood. So it’s likely it actually helps groups planning racist violence with their recruitment, rather than hindering them.

I strongly suggest you watch the documentary ‘Taking Liberties’, which explains how the governments of the Allied countries - including New Zealand - carefully studied how the Nazis came to power, and why the majority of Germans who didn’t support the Nazis were unable to effectively resist them. As a result of this study, many of the civil rights we now consider essential to democracy were strengthened or even created after World War II, specifically to prevent a resurgence of fascism. Arguably, it is as a consequence of the erosion of civil liberties in democratic countries since 9/11 that we have seen the rise of toxic enthno-nationalism and its associated violence, not as a result of too much of the wrong kinds of speech.

I also don’t accept that the ends justify the means. Even if it was true that giving the state absolute power to stop people openly saying racist things would fix racism, that wouldn’t mean it was the right thing to do. Killing the entire human population might fix climate change and prevent the extinction of many other species, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. In this (admittedly extreme) example, the negative consequences are obvious, but in designing policy, we also need to be very mindful of the risks of unintended consequences.

There’s a parallel here with the well-meaning attempts by US legislators to suppress sex trafficking - another goal we all support - with FOSTA/SESTA. As Norman Shamas of Open Privacy explained in an interview with Final Straw Radio, not only do these laws make life harder for a lot of innocent people, they also make the jobs of the people who investigate sex traffickers harder too. When sex traffickers can’t hide their communications in plain sight among legitimate ads put up by sex workers, it doesn’t stop them communicating. It just pushes them deeper into the darknet where it takes a lot more resources to find and investigate them. Exactly the same is true for communications among white supremacists.

It’s much safer for everyone if people with racist views discuss them on mainstream platforms, where they can be monitored by both law enforcement and civil society watchdog groups like ours. This is such an important discussion that I’m going to post the text of this email on the Disintermedia blog, and submit it to TheDailyBlog.co.nz as a possible guest blog. I welcome you to engage with me by private email, or on either of those platforms.

Kia manawanui,

Danyl Strype

I was please to see a discussion on ‘P2P food system as a major environmental and social solution?‘ started by Robert LaRocque on the Loomio group of the CommonsTransition group. There are *so* many great resources on the transition back to a decentralized, sustainable food supply, thanks especially to folks like the biodynamics and organics movements, the permaculture and slow food movements that grew out of their compost heaps, and the transition movement that grew out of permaculture.

Firstly, check out the Localizing Food Project, spearheaded by one of my permaculture teachers, Robina McCurdy of Earthcare Education Aotearoa. Robina travelled the length of this country connecting with local food projects, and is producing a series of crowdfunded documentary films covering different aspects of them. The latest one is ‘Edible Paradise - Growing the Food Forest Revolution‘.

Secondly, have a browse through Appropedia, a crowdsourced mediawiki site for appropriate technology, PracticalPlants and Plants for a Future. which are the same thing but for articles about plants. There’s also OpenSourceEcology, a development project for appropriate tech based at FactorE Farms. Also WikiHouse, it’s not about food, but like OpenSourceEcology it does demonstrate the way the crowdsourcing and human-centred design principles behind wikis and free code software can be applied to creating new stuff on the physical layer.

Thirdly, it was great to see from the responses in the comments that there are Open Food Network folk participating in the group too. I had a great conversation about the OFN vision when I met OFN co-founder Serenity Hill at the first Open Source//Open Society. The P2P food network/ app idea is already being tried by folks like OFN, and here in Aotearoa, BuckyBox (now fully free code), and OOOBY (Out of Our Own Backyards), see OOOBY founder Pete Russell’s TEDx talk on ‘Hacking the supply chain‘ (sadly I believe OOOBY’s platform remains proprietary). I’m collecting notes about food coop and box scheme software on the Aotearoa Permaculture Network wiki.

Finally, a bit of shameless self-promotion, I wrote a paper for the FreeCulture2010 conference called ‘Free to Know or Free to Own? Convergence of Free and Slow Culture in Global Relocalisation‘. It looks at the parallels and points of overlap between the original ecology movement and what I sometimes call ‘digital ecology’, the worlds of free code, online commons, and green tech.

Filed November 15th, 2017 under free culture, free software, documentary

Three months ago, I watched the inspiring documentary ‘Capital C‘, which followed a handful of projects, large and small, through their crowdfunding journey, and shared it with CommonsTransition’s open discussion group on Loomio.org. One of the responses I got was from Bob Haugen, who said:

>> My problem with both crowdfunding and grant-seeking is that they become arenas for competition between projects, when I think we need to be collaborating and connecting and creating something bigger together. <<

The first thing I want to say about this is that what I find exciting about crowdfunding is *not* that it offers an alternative to traditional ways of doing charitable fundraising like bucket collections (although it does), but that it offers an alternative to traditional ways of doing *investment*. This is a point a lot of people seem to miss, as you can see in the responses when I republished ‘Crowdsourcing vs. Outsourcing: Who Benefits?’ on theDailyBlog.

I agree with Bob about the problems with grant-seeking, although as I said when I replied to him on Loomio, I think this has a lot to do with the behind-closed-doors ways funding decisions are made. I really don’t agree that it’s a problem with crowdfunding though, for two reasons.

Firstly, the money available for giving out grants is a finite pool to be fought over, and it can be suddenly shrunk by government cost-cutting turning the whole exercise into a zero-sum game of musical chairs. With crowdfunding, how much money a project group can raise depends on how well they can communicate the importance or usefulness of their project, and how much they can inspire people to contribute. Obviously it helps, especially with high targets, if they can also inspire them to encourage the people in their social networks to do the same, and to pass on the call to their networks, and so on.

Secondly, crowdfunding promotes collaboration more than competition because of the very public, transparent way the process works. If someone launches a crowdfunding campaign to reinvent the wheel, someone will inevitably point out - maybe even as a comment on the campaign’s page - that the wheel already exists. Either the group convinces enough people their wheel would be suitably new and different and they get funded, or they don’t. If there are a number of groups crowdfunding for essentially the same thing, chances are only one will get funded, and the other groups can either pool their efforts with the group that got funded, or move on to a different project. If more than one gets funded, no doubt they will hear about each other, maybe even make contact, and make sure the way they develop their project has points of difference.

Whatever happens, because the groups have crowdfunded, there is a much greater chance they will get to know about each other, which opens up new possibilities for working together. This is especially so if the people who give to crowdfunding campaigns give priority to projects who release their work under libre licenses. So it’s important for people who support commons-based peer production to support crowdfunding platforms like Goteo, which only host campaigns for groups who intend to share the fruits of their project under libre licenses.

Filed January 18th, 2016 under Makers, documentary

In my last post (the open letter to the makers of the documentary Revolution OS), I gave examples of artists and organisations that had figured out how to cover their costs, and make a living for their workers, without resorting to demanding economic rent on perceived “intellectual property”. Today I learned from a blogger on TorrentFreak that in late 2006, filmmaker Mark Achbar released an official torrent of his film ‘The Corporation‘, and invited people to make donations. TorrentFreak quotes him as saying:

“Since my initial torrent launch of The Corporation at the end of August, there have been $635.00 in contributions.”

I also mentioned mentioned Banyak Films, who not only made their entire documentary ‘Us Now‘ available for viewing on their website, but also extended it with a set of webpages that allowed further exploration of the topics and issues discussed in the film. The BBC have taken this concept further, creating a multimedia 3D explorer, which combines the extended web content with clips of their documentary series ‘The Virtual Revolution‘, which was written partly through online collaboration with its audience.

Even more exciting to me, raw footage shot for the series is available to be downloaded and mashed up, under a custom license. It’s only a shame they didn’t use a CreativeCommons license - from a quick skim of the ‘BBC Digital Revolution License‘ it looks like CC-BY-NC would have worked fine. Maybe they can be talked into a dual license, Wikipedia style? Either way, a ground-breaking project, and a fascinating topic; I can’t wait to explore it.

Filed March 2nd, 2012 under independent media, documentary

I’d like to thank you for making a fantastic film about the first decades of the free code software movements. RevolutionOS is now 10 years old, and remains an important contribution to the history of this game-changing social and technological phenomena.

I’m writing today to ask if you have considered applying a pro-sharing license to the film, for example a CreativeCommons license? Why would you use a CC license? For a start, it would be a gesture of goodwill to apply the same principles to your work that the thousands of programmers whose work creates GNU/ Linux and other free code software apply to their work. Secondly, those who want to show the film for non-profit, community-building purposes would feel free to do so, without the need for hours of correspondence work for you. Thirdly, relevant parts of your film could be ‘quoted’ to visually illustrate Wikipedia and other free reference sites, again, without hours of correspondence work for you, and prospective ‘quoters’.

Finally, the stories you tell in RevolutionOS demonstrate that making creative works freely available, and making a living from them, are not mutually exclusive. The free availability of your film in the digital arena, and the goodwill generated by seeing you apply ‘open source’ principles of your subjects to the film itself, may actually help to generate increased sales of DVDs, or donations to your organisation. This isn’t as unlikely as it might seem. This strategy worked for a bunch of open source games released as the ‘Humble Indie Bundle‘, and for the many of the projects documented in the book ‘The Power of Open‘. Although I encourage the use of the most open CC-BY license, you could choose to add a ‘Non-Commercial’ clause, to prevent anyone from selling copies of the film without your permission (as regular All-Rights-Reserved copyright does).

Banyak Films created a site for their documentary ‘Us Now’ - which explores the crowdsourcing principles behind open source development - where the film can be viewed in totality, or explored in sections. That approach required a lot of the film-makers, as they had to fund the hosting bandwidth. Simply adopting a libre license, and allowing your fans to fund the distribution costs has no such costs to you, and as mentioned above, has the potential to save you time and bring you benefits in the form of goodwill and free promotion.

If nothing else, I hope I’ve at least given you an idea for another great documentary - exploring the implementation of free culture principles outside the world of software.

Filed December 15th, 2011 under free software, documentary, open source

I have a couple of suggestions for anyone keen to put on video screenings. A couple of docos that haven’t been shown publicly in Aotearoa yet, that I know of.

Good Copy, Bad Copy

Steal This Film (I and II)

(Part II is probably the stronger, and more polished of the two)

These films are about “intellectual property”, the right to copy, and the impact these things have on freedom of speech, freedom of gift exchange, and people’s ability to freely participate in the evolution of digital culture. Putting toll gates on the exchange of articles of knowledge, and cultural artifacts, hampers the free cross-pollination of ideas that could lead to radical solutions to the problems that face humanity today - state-corporate domination, peak oil, climate change etc

Worse, it concentrates the ownerships of knowledge, and the right to disseminate it, in the hands of elites, like those that run corporations, and nation-states - elites whose personal, short-term interests are diametrically opposed to the long-term interests of the majority of the world’s people. The last period of history in which an empire of co-operating elites controlled people’s access to knowledge was called the Dark Ages, and that empire was called Christianity. It’s “intellectual property” enforcers were called the Inquisition, and those who pursued unapproved research, or shared knowledge with the working people were imprisoned, tortured, and killed as heretics.

One tool that made a major contribution to the ending of the dark ages, and the spreading of skills like literacy, and numeracy, among people of all ages and classes, was the printing press. The ability to rapidly copy existing written works, and distribute copies to many people, was a critical part of the enlightenment, and the renaissance, that followed.

In our own age, the technologies of the internet are playing a similar role, allowing the infinite copying and redistribution of works of knowledge and culture. But the elite who have benefited from withholding the right to copy are not going to give up their privilege without a fight. Currently this is taking the form of international legal tools like the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, and intra-national regulations like the Australian governments new ISP-level internet filtering. Recent amendments to the NZ governments Copyright Act oblige ISPs to spy on their customers, or risk being help responsible for “theft of intellectual property” they might carry out.

These documentaries explore these issues, and look at systems like CreativeCommons which propose alternatives based on fair agreements between authors and their audiences. I encourage you to check them out, show them to other people, make copies, and pass them around, so the ideas they illustrate can become part of a broad public debate around these issues. Not only because that’s what it creators would want, but because you have a right, and arguably a moral duty, to share something that costs you nothing to replicate with your neighbour.

Hei kōnei rā

Strypes

Filed October 23rd, 2008 under documentary
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