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Should we be suspicious of the Anthropocene? – Jedediah Purdy – Aeon

Should we be suspicious of the Anthropocene? – Jedediah Purdy – Aeon | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
The Anthropocene idea has been embraced by Earth scientists and English professors alike. But how useful is it?
Artur Alves's insight:

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The shape of the Anthropocene is a political, ethical and aesthetic question. It will answer questions about what life is worth, what people owe one another, and what in the world is awesome or beautiful enough to preserve or (re)create. Either the answers will reproduce and amplify existing inequality or they will set in motion a different logic of power. Either the Anthropocene will be democratic or it will be horrible.

A democratic Anthropocene would start from a famous observation of the economics Nobel Prize laureate Amartya Sen: no minimally democratic society has ever suffered a famine. Natural catastrophes are the joint products of natural and human systems. Your vulnerability to disaster is often a direct expression of your standing in a political (and economic) order. The Anthropocene stands for the intensifying merger of ecology, economics and politics, and one’s standing in those systems will increasingly be a single question.

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Gathering clouds over digital freedom? | Index on Censorship

Gathering clouds over digital freedom? | Index on Censorship | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
Artur Alves's insight:

"In democracies such as the US, UK, Sweden, India or Brazil, governments and politicians will often make stirring calls to defend digital freedom, emphasising that fundamental rights to freedom of expression and privacy apply online as much as off. But faced with temptations, such as the growing technological ease of mass population surveillance — from mobile phones to internet usage, web searches and social media chat — too many governments in democracies are starting to look at the sort of mass gathering of communications data that previously only authoritarian regimes would consider."

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Digital rights and freedoms: Part 1

Digital rights and freedoms: Part 1 | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
Under the rubric of state security on
the one hand and commercial openness on the other, we are being lulled into an
online world of fear and control where our every move is monitored in order to
more efficiently manage us. See Part 2.
Artur Alves's insight:

«

The rapidity of technological change has vastly outpaced the development of our laws, institutions and regulatory systems, along with the articulation of the ethical categories and principles with which to understand and evaluate them. Under the rubric of state security on the one hand and commercial openness on the other, we are being lulled into an online world of fear and control where our every move is monitored in order to more efficiently manage us.

It is a far cry from the utopianism of the early internet era. The open architecture of the internet still offers fantastic possibilities for human liberation. It has provided new tools with which citizens can organize to contest power and challenge official narratives. 

As with any new technology however the internet was introduced into a society already marked by economic and social hierarchies. In the absence of countervailing forces, dominant groups have largely determined the direction in which the technology has developed and as a result it has reinforced the dominant neoliberal paradigm of unfettered markets and property rights buttressed by increasingly authoritarian states.

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Digital rights and freedoms: Part 1Guy Aitchison 31 March 2015

Under the rubric of state security on the one hand and commercial openness on the other, we are being lulled into an online world of fear and control where our every move is monitored in order to more efficiently manage us. See Part 2.

Anti-CCTV graffiti on the wall of the British Library. Wikicommons/ Oxyman. Some rights reserved.

This article launches a new section of the Great Charter Convention dedicated to debate and analysis of democracy, politics and freedom in the digital age. It is clear that we are at a crucial historical juncture. The issues around state power and surveillance raised by Edward Snowden’s revelations should be an important theme in the upcoming general election, while the symbolic double anniversary of Magna Carta (aged 800) and the web (aged 25) offers an opportunity for critical reflection on how to upgrade fundamental liberties in response to new threats and re-imagine how technology can serve the common good.

We are to a great extent playing catch-up. The rapidity of technological change has vastly outpaced the development of our laws, institutions and regulatory systems, along with the articulation of the ethical categories and principles with which to understand and evaluate them. Under the rubric of state security on the one hand and commercial openness on the other, we are being lulled into an online world of fear and control where our every move is monitored in order to more efficiently manage us.

It is a far cry from the utopianism of the early internet era. The open architecture of the internet still offers fantastic possibilities for human liberation. It has provided new tools with which citizens can organize to contest power and challenge official narratives. 

As with any new technology however the internet was introduced into a society already marked by economic and social hierarchies. In the absence of countervailing forces, dominant groups have largely determined the direction in which the technology has developed and as a result it has reinforced the dominant neoliberal paradigm of unfettered markets and property rights buttressed by increasingly authoritarian states.

Faced with this reality, how do we protect and enhance human freedom? Is it enough to apply earlier claims of rights to new circumstances? Or does the current regime of power and surveillance demand that earlier ethical categories have to be rethought or even entirely replaced? What are the collective institutions and structures required for an internet based not solely on profit but on human flourishing?

These are the broad questions we will explore. Though it would be foolish to pretend a document drawn up by feudal barons contains the answers, the Magna Carta furnishes a rich tradition of resistance to arbitrary power to inspire and orientate contemporary struggles. It has, as Peter Linebaugh reminds us, always been a ‘work in progress’ with a symbolic vitality that animated the later democratic demands of the Levellers in the English civil war, campaigns against slavery and anti-imperial struggles in America and elsewhere. Despite appeals to self-evident and timeless truths, rights have always been a historical project, expanded from below by political struggles that radicalised the core principle of human freedom and applied it to new political subjects in new domains.

Now the inventor of the web Tim Berners Lee has challenged digital citizens to help draft a ‘Magna Carta for the web’ as part of the wider Web we Want campaign. The group hopes to mobilise global public opinion around a set of core principles of free expression, accessibility, privacy, openness and network neutrality. They are showcasing their campaign with a series of festivals at London’s South Bank (with the next one in May), adding to the excellent work of Open Rights Group, Privacy International and other established campaign for digital rights and freedoms.

The call for a new set of safeguards is the very opposite of Tory proposals for a ‘British Bill of Rights’ to replace the Human Rights Act. The ruling party’s view is based on a reactionary and minimalist view of Magna Carta as ‘enough’. This is antithetical to the document’s radical historical tradition and the role it played in shaping the modern idea of human rights, including Article 8 on the right to privacy in the European Convention on Human Rights that can be traced back to the right for respect for one’s home in English law.

The parliamentary assembly of the European Court has called the scale of GCHQ’s spying ‘stunning’ and found it in violation of rights to privacy, free expression and a fair trial. If a future Tory government carries out its plan, and withdraws from the European Convention, the UK government would be embracing pariah status; the first worldwide to introduce a new bill of rights with the aim of providing fewer rights to its citizens. If a future Tory government carries out its plan, and withdraws from the European Convention, the UK government would be embracing pariah status; the first worldwide to introduce a new bill of rights with the aim of providing fewer rights to its citizens. Without the protection of European human rights law, UK citizens will be left systematically vulnerable. Ed Miliband has at least committed to retaining the ECHR yet he has typically fudged the issue of mass surveillance and failed to take a principled line, despite initial promises he made to reverse the authoritarian inheritance of New Labour.

Naturally, any debate about state power and the role of technology cannot be divorced from wider arguments about the kind of politics and society we wish to create.  The legal scholar Julie E. Cohen points out the parallels with the era of industrialisation where transformations in technology and the accompanying social upheavals brought with them new threats to human freedom. Violent processes of enclosure robbed peasants of their traditional way of life and subjected them to new humiliations and cruelties in the factories. It took years for workers to develop effective forms of organisation through trade unions and to name and diagnose the harms that underscored moral claims to limits on the working day, decent pay and conditions, and later to a social minimum from the surplus they produced. We now find ourselves in a new industrial revolution – the second machine age. We now find ourselves in a new industrial revolution – the second machine age.

The net offers novel threats and organisational challenges, as well as new possibilities for human flourishing. With the spying agencies and corporations pushing through a new infrastructure of social control in pursuit of state power and limitless accumulation, it is up to us, as digital citizens, to fight back and define a new regime of protections and entitlements. There are a number of themes to this debate that we aim to explore, drawing on the insight of the many excellent campaigns and experts working in these areas.

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How To Build A Revolutionary Political Social Network | TechCrunch

How To Build A Revolutionary Political Social Network | TechCrunch | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it

"Regardless of your views on our recent election, one thing that we can generally agree on is that our political system is broken. There are myriad contributors to our malaise, not the least of which is the voting system on which it’s all based. But apart from the intractable structural problems, there is one area that we in the web world are tantalizingly close to ameliorating: constituent opinion."

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