Liked Reading on the Nova2 by Ton Zijlstra

I have now read several non-fiction books on my Nova2 reader. This is a marked improvement from before. I dislike reading non-fiction on my Kindle. Part of it is in the slightly bigger screen of the Nova2, and easier flipping back and forth between parts of a book. Part of it is that it’s a separa…

Via @pfrazee‘s article on information civics, came across this old article of Bruce Schneier‘s on what he calls the feudal internet.

In his analogy, we’re the peasants who have traded in freedom for some convenience and protection.

Users pledge allegiance to more powerful companies who, in turn, promise to protect them from both sysadmin duties and security threats.

He sees the two big power centres of the feudal lords as data and devices.

On the corporate side, power is consolidating around both vendor-managed user devices and large personal-data aggregators.

We no longer have control of our data:

Our e-mail, photos, calendar, address book, messages, and documents are on servers belonging to Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and so on.

I see the IndieWeb, Beaker, etc as means of resisting this.

And we’re no longer in control of our devices:

And second, the rise of vendor-managed platforms means that we no longer have control of our computing devices. We’re increasingly accessing our data using iPhones, iPads, Android phones, Kindles, ChromeBooks, and so on.

I see the right to repair as a means of resisting this. Allowing us to do what we wish with our own devices – including putting whatever software on them that we want.

One big omission from the article I find is that Schneier focuses on the disbenefits to the users of these devices and platforms – the manufactured iSlaves, in Jack Qiu’s terminology. He doesn’t mention (at least in this particular article) those exploited in the creation and upkeep of these – the manufacturing iSlaves. That’s just as big, if not bigger, a reason for challenging these power structures.

I had not really thought much about the tech firms in this light before – of the undue control they have on computing infrastructure. (I think the author here including both hardware and software platforms in ‘infrastructure’).

In all the global crises, pandemics and social upheavals that may yet come, those in control of the computers, not those with the largest datasets, have the best visibility and the best – and perhaps the scariest — ability to change the world.

Privacy is not the problem with the Apple-Google contact-tracing toolkit

I don’t know if it’s a bigger problem or not than surveillance capitalism though. They both seem like big problems, in tandem.

The distinction between harvesting data and running the platform seems pretty neglible, too. Unless maybe he’s talking about things like Amazon Web Services more than things like Facebook?

Dunno. Regardless, cool to see both right to repair and IndieWeb-adjacent stuff mentioned together as modes of resistance against big tech.

I find this little nugget fascinating:

The history of passports – which were introduced as a seemingly temporary measure during the first world war, but were retained in response to fears about spreading the Spanish flu – shows that pandemics can significantly influence our social infrastructure.

Privacy is not the problem with the Apple-Google contact-tracing toolkit

The temporary becomes the norm.

Reading Hello World at the moment. Subtitled “being human in the age of algorithms”.

It’s good so far. Clear and making its point well, drawing on plenty of examples of the problems with some present uses of decision-making algorithms. It’s being framed as ‘dilemmas’, so, the idea that there’s good as well as bad in what’s going on.

I wonder what the overall thesis will be though. Will there be some call to action as to what needs to be done? Or will it just be left that there is good and bad, and we need to be aware of that. Hoping for the former, something with some teeth.

Facebook will make some changes around its policy on hateful content, but only from the threat of lost ad revenue. Not from actually caring about the victims of it.

“Let’s be honest,” said Moghal, “these tech platforms have generated income and interest from this divisive content; they won’t change their practices until they begin to see a significant cut to their revenue.”

Sucks that only big companies pulling out can have an effect on FB. But props to Stop Hate for Profit for putting pressure on companies.

www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/jun/29/how-hate-speech-campaigners-found-facebooks-weak-spot (thanks Ellie for the link!)

Read Shackles of Digital Freedom (Review of Qiu, Goodbye iSlave) by Zachary Loeb (boundary 2)

a review of Jack Linchuan Qiu, Goodbye iSlave: a Manifesto for Digital Abolition.

Really good review of Goodbye iSlave. iSlavery is Jack Qiu’s framing of the manufacture and demand for modern devices as akin to a modern international slave trade. With exploitation in the material manufacture of these devices, as well as exploitation in the deliberate addiction of people to these devices to drive their sales. With parallels between the pushing of sugar and other commodities to drive their production, all done through the exploitation in the slave trade.

That parallel linkage of these two parts of the system is really interesting to me, interested as I am in both the right to repair and the IndieWeb. In right to repair we try to counter the rampant consumption of devices, and in the IndieWeb we try to counter the pushers of these technologies.

The review highly rates the book for giving an unflinching look at the exploitation rife in the manufacture of modern devices. Not without caveats though – particular the problems of framing these modern practices as slavery in comparison to historic slavery. And also some of the modes of resistance suggested to iSlavery falling under the brackets of simply ethical consumerism, and also perhaps an uncritical assumption that all technology can be liberatory if harnessed right.


Read A creative multiplicity: the philosophy of Deleuze and Guattari (Aeon)

Zany and earnest, political yet puckish, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari were philosophy’s most improbable duo.

I really enjoyed this article.

It gives a bit of back story to Deleuze & Guattari. I find that helps give me a grounding, much like with A Short History of Nearly Everything.

They met during May 68. Sounds like Guattari was the more political of the two. I am fully on-board with a description of their work as “a progressive, Marxist-inspired, anti-capitalist politics of joy”.

It’s quite interesting though. There seems to be an obvious leaning towards a more anarchist than Marxist approach. Very much anti-hierarchy, at least.

Yet, at the same time, anti-individual:

Deleuze and Guattari were both resolutely anti-individualist: whether in the realm of politics, psychotherapy or philosophy, they strived to show that the individual was a deception, summoned up to obscure the nature of reality.

I like how D&G seem to sit somewhere between the horizontal and the vertical.