I’ve just seen a tweet (via @miskellaneous) asking about the earliest online activism. Of course, this depends on what we mean by online, but significant early dates, I think, include:
- Interdoc Velletri agreement on the importance of global online communication for grassroots NGOs (agreed in 1984, after a 1982 initiative of the Canadian IDRC in 1982). Brian Murphy’s (2005) wrote an article in First Monday article: Interdoc: the first international non-governmental computer network, which includes a copy of the agreement.
- In 1982, the British Colombian Teachers’ Federation began using online terminals to organise distributed meeting (this was reported at the 1992 Labour Telematics Conference; I have the papers from this conference and keep meaning to post the somewhere. Among the fascinating papers is one about the S. African WorkNet bulletin board system; and one about the (then) International Chemical, Energy and General Workers’ Unions use of online databases and email in supporting their affiliates’ campaigns around the world. Contact me if you’re interested, but I will try to get these posted, along with the conference report, in the next week or two.
- Earlier, according to Lucore (2002) in the Journal of Labour Research, the Teamsters were using email to co-ordinate their locals by the late 1970s (following a pilot in the late 1960s). In 1972, Charles Levinson’s ‘International Trade Unionism’ refers to the potential of telex in global online labour education.
- But my favourite, and winner by a long way if we’re allowed to include telegraphy is the 1908 (yes, 1908) use by Indian telegraph workers of the telegraph network to co-ordinate a trans-regional strike (Choudhury, 2003 in the International Review of Social History).
I just posted the following over on the IBZL blog and am posting a copy here because I can (well, actually I tried the WordPress reblog but it screwed up the formatting of the photo)….
Last month, I presented a paper (written with OU colleagues Simon Bell and Adrian Jackson, and Daniel Heery of Alston Cybermoor) to PDC 2012 reporting on the IBZL project, and more specifically on the ‘Real Avatars’ and ‘Flying Shepherd’ prototypes that Daniel Heery at Alston Cybermoor followed up on with support from the Technology Strategy Board. The paper particularly highlighted two things.
Firstly, we discussed how the Imagine method that we used in the workshops can be seen as a form of ‘Future Workshop’ that involved stakeholders in thinking about novel futures. The participatory design (PD) community has long been concerned with users exercising control over technological and other systems that affect their lives. In IBZL we haven’t used Imagine to engage users since we are concerned with novel ideas for whom a potential user audience has not even been defined; indeed that is one of the things we might think about in a workshop. So, Imagine is a technique for engaging people to think about the future at an earlier stage in the process than in many PD interventions.
Secondly, and following on from the above, the paper reflects on who we involve. PD has its roots in Scandinavian trade unions in the 1970s, and in parts of the US civil rights movement of the 1960s, and historically at least is concerned with the politics of control of technology. While these concerns about emancipation seem rather less prominent in the PD community than they were (which personally I found disappointing about PDC2012),we used the paper to reflect on this aspect of PD in the context of IBZL. After all, the case study we reported was led by a social enterprise, and initial discussions around possible business models for a ‘flying shepherd’ owned by a co-operative of farmers were inherently mutualist. This is not a necessary outcome of the IBZL/Imagine method, but is a reflection of the sort of idea that would follow from the sort of participants we invited to the workshop. Of course, we can’t claim that this was in any sense representative, and as we work with local authorities and others who need to demonstrate a clearer democratic legitimacy for the work they do, this is likely to be an issue that will need further thought.
These ideas are examined in more detailed in the paper. A draft of the paper is available here, in the OU Open Research Online. The final version is available only to those with access to the ACM Digital Library. I believe a video of my presentation will be available at some point, and I’ll post the link here.
And the photo? The conference dinner was held at replica Viking village to demonstrate some of Scandinavia’s communal and participatory heritage….
Yesterday, I listened to a podcast from Radio 3′s ‘Free Thinking’ festival. Jimmy Wales was talking about Wikipedia. A member of the audience asked when Wales thought that Wikipedia would be accepted as an appropriate reference for (in the question) a first year undergraduate paper. I was astonished to hear his answer, which from memory was something like: ‘Wikipedia won’t become a source. If I’d cited the Encyclopedia Britannica as an undergraduate I’d have been laughed at. Encyclopedias are good for helping you orient yourself to a new topic, not provide the last word.’ Which is, I suspect, exactly how a lot of academics use it - as the first word on an unfamiliar subject, but certainly not the last.
Good to see our IBZL partners Manchester Digital getting some national coverage from the Guardian for their Big Chip awards. It’s a bit of a shame, though, to see it under the ‘Northerner Blog’ headline. Maybe they’ll need follow the Guardian and drop the ‘Manchester’ before they’re thought of as sigificant to those in the South East. ‘The Digital’ does have a certain ring to it, though.
Seen today at the Museum of Science and Industry’s cafe during the excellent Future Everything… I hope it’s intended as social commentary/performance art more than it’s a strategic contribution to future generations of engineers and scientists or we’re in deeper trouble than I’d thought.
I was at Future Everything as part of an IBZL workshop we ran there and which is briefly blogged here.