Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Seminar 4 Position Statement: Dr. Yuwei Lin, University for the Creative Arts

Grassroots Online Activism for shaping the public’s views on privacy and surveillance
By Dr. Yuwei Lin
University for the Creative Arts

My long term research interests in free/open source software communities have allowed me to observe grassroots community-driven approaches to addressing contemporary issues such as privacy, surveillance, censorship and transparency. A number of free/open source software have been developed for protecting user anonymity on the Internet. A popular tool for journalists and activists is 'Tor' - “free software and an open network that protects users privacy and helps users defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security”. The success of the Tor project relies on a network of volunteers who operate servers to form a series of virtual tunnels for users around the world to access. Croeser (2012) has coined the term 'the digital liberties movement' to describe how communities and social movements use the Internet to build a sense of a collective identity and a master frame that ties together issues around online censorship and surveillance, free/libre and open source software, and intellectual property. Activists perform various activities on the Internet including blogging, campaigning, distributing messages within or beyond their social circles, strategically gathering collective force to tackle landmark issues at a specific time. Along this line, I am interested in understanding how human actors from different backgrounds (free/libre open source software developers, journalists, NGO workers) work together to tackle their shared concerns (privacy, surveillance) through forming networks of activisms, and how internet activism serves as cultural resources for informing the public’s views on privacy and surveillance.

Croeser, Sky (2012). 'Contested technologies: The emergence of the digital liberties movement'. First Monday 17(8). URL: http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/4162/3282

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