Finally! We’ve Been Too Patient

The long-anticipated anthology of mad poems, stories and research is finally out. The book is split between personal mental health narratives and research, a powerfully balanced approach for contending with these issues.

I contributed to two (going on three) chapters of this book – a lightly modified version of the first chapter of my dissertation appears, as well as excerpts from Mindful Occupation, which I helped produce, write and edit.

Pick up a copy at your local bookstore !

The Rise of Surveillance Psychiatry and the Mad Underground

This past year I have been working on turning my dissertation into a trade book. I am making steady but slow progress; print remains an important but slooooow media.

My concerns around preventative psychiatric diagnosis and treatment motivated and propelled my dissertation, and they form the backdrop of my ethnographic study of the mad movement. My book will engage with these threats more directly and position them alongside the demands of the Mad Underground. The ideas of groups such as the Institute for the Development of Human Arts and NYC Icarus offer us some hope of diffusing the menacing time-bomb of surveillance psychiatry before it explodes.

In the past few weeks, a few stories broke and I feel compelled to write about them in the context of my research:

  • Facebook announced (described in more technical detail here) the deployment of AI tools designed for the “proactive detection” (and intervention protocols) for users deemed to be at risk for suicide.
  • Researchers published a paper in Nature claiming they could distinguish people who think about suicide from those who don’t (and those who have acted on their thoughts) based on brain scans.
  • The FDA approved the first drug with sensors in it that digitally monitors if you have taken it — the first drug outfitted with this technology is the anti-psychotic Abilify.

These stories should be understood as part of a bigger pattern that is emerging around diagnosis and treatment.  Large, centralized, digital social networks and data-gathering platforms have come to dominate our economy and our culture, and technology is being shaped by those in power to magnify their dominance.  In the domain of mental health, huge pools of data are being used to train algorithms to identify signs of mental illness. I call this practice “surveillance psychiatry.”

Electronic health records, data mining social networks, and even algorithmically classifying video surveillance will significantly amplify this approach. Researchers are claiming they can diagnose depression based on the color and saturation of photos in your Instagram feed and predict manic episodes based on your Facebook status updates. Corporations and governments are salivating at the prospect of identifying vulnerability and dissent.

The emphasis on treating risk rather than disease predates the arrival of big data, but together they are now ushering in an era of algorithmic diagnosis based on the data mining of our social media and other digital trails. Although they will carefully use the language of suicide and violence prevention the lines between politics and harm reduction are not so clear. When algorithms are interpreting our tweets to determine who is crazy, it will become increasingly difficult to avoid a diagnosis, even if we carefully watch what we say. This environment will severely inhibit people’s willingness to seek support, and is creating an atmosphere where people are conditioned to report behaviors that appear different or abnormal.

Reducing suicide is a good thing, but remember that this same infrastructure will be able to police normal, proactively detecting all forms of deviance, dissent and protest. A nuanced critique, informed by people with lived experience, needs to shape the development of these systems, since context is everything. We also need to spend more resources understanding how and why people become suicidal, and the long-term consequences of treatment by our health care systems, alongside the focus on short-term interventions.

*  *  *

Zuck’s Folly

Zuckerberg proudly claims this program as proof that AI can be used for good, but they need to do so much more to improve the chances that their “proactive detection” tools don’t backfire.

First, they need to publicly commit that they will not use these tools to target manipulative advertising at psychologically vulnerable users, as they were caught doing in Australia.

Next, this mashable post captures how important it is to pressure Facebook to be more transparent about how this algorithm works, to share its effectiveness, and to allow people to know if they have been flagged and be able to correct mistakes. There are definitely deep theoretical challenges around getting AI to explain itself, but this system will undoubtedly need to be extensively calibrated, as there are real, negative repercussions to these interventions (stigma, violent coercion, etc) that need to be acknowledged in this calculus.

Facebook also needs to address the potential harms this program can cause. People I have interviewed, many with lived experience, are more than creeped out by these developments. There is a real risk that tools and practices like this may severely chill people’s willingness to share their feelings, openly and honestly. If people don’t feel safe, many won’t reach out for help, bottling up their emotions and compounding their loneliness and pain. If you believe that talking and sharing are therapeutic, we need to make sure safe spaces exist where people can express themselves without fear of triggering a response from authorities. Admittedly, those spaces probably aren’t on Facebook, but I hope anonymous support will not be the sole purview of the technical elite.

While people tend to appreciate a human (friend or family) asking them about their suicidal thoughts does not mean that that they will appreciate an inhuman apparatus asking them (an AI, a corporation, a stranger, or anything that feels canned or cold).  Some of this is a matter of protocol, and I know people who received emails from Facebook inquiring about their mood, and the intrusion was almost enough to drive them off a ledge. Some of is also be a matter of calibration, as is often the case when balancing compassion and concern. So, for example, prodding people’s friends to help support the person in crisis should be emphasized over involving law enforcement.

*  *  *

Emotional Mind Reading

The Nature research, covered in this NPR story – Brain patterns may predict people at risk of suicide – is also startling. My first reaction to it was that it sounded eerily similar to Blade Runner’s Voight-Kampff test, especially the Baseline test in Bladerunner 2049.  I was shocked to learn about the real-life Emotional Stroop Test.

The study makes some sweeping claims for a pretty small sample size (79 subjects), and ushers into a new era where mind-reading based on brain scans is a valid method of behavioral prediction. I am unaware of any other domains outside of mental health where this technique is accepted. While the published study does not make any policy recommendations, this kind of work opens huge concerns around freedom, agency and thought crimes.

Did Philip K. Dick get anything wrong?!?

*  *  *

Sensor-Enabled Pills

Even Dr. Jeffery Liberman, the Chair of Columbia’s Department of Psychiatry and former president of the American Psychiatric Association, noted:

There’s an irony in it being given to people with mental disorders that can include delusions. It’s like a biomedical Big Brother.

Perhaps Jeffery should spend more time reflecting on why so many patients don’t want to take these toxic antipsychotics. Maybe he should take this course offered by Mad in America on their short- and long-term effects for continuing education credits. Maybe he should try a dose of Abilify himself.

Really, I don’t think I need to say too much about this one. I just wanted to remind people that Colbert possibly said this best:

because nothing is more reassuring to a schizophrenic than a corporation inserting sensors into your body and beaming that information to people watching your every move

Interviews with the Speakerbots

This month I finally allowed Google to introduce herself to me. Previously, I avoided the android-based voice assistant due to the high privacy costs, and mostly ignored the entire category of “speakerbots”—my term for the “smart speakers“—for similar reasons. This winter’s subpoena to Amazon for Echo/Alexa transcripts in a murder case only amplified my concern.

This past February I also had the pleasure of visiting my dear friends Eric and Alina in Minnesota. They are both burners and makers who have set up shop in Minnesota with an amazing community of creators. They build lots of their own amazing projects and have also tricked out their new home with network controlled music and light. They now have a serious #firstworldproblem—their guests need to install mobile apps in order to control the lights. When I visited we worked on an open source Mycroft installation, which allowed us to command their home with our voices… without being spied on! The Mycroft project emphasizes the moral importance of free/open source AI (see my post: Playing Doctor), and is definitely one of the most important open source initiatives I am aware of. 

This summer my boss at MHA of NYC acquired a Google Home device in the hopes of rigging it up using IFTTT to alert us when our services are distressed. I offered to bring it home to configure it, and spent the weekend playing with it.  The experience prompted me to concoct this research project.

Getting to know Google is fun. She is so much wittier than Alexa it’s got to be embarrassing for Amazon. I begun with simple questions, like What’s the weather?, When’s sunset?, When’s the eclipse? I soon stumbled across a number of easter eggs, many of of which are well documented across the web. Why did the chicken cross the road? Do you like green eggs and ham? and How much wood could a wood chuck chuck? All return clever replies. Google Assistant can flip into “Knock-knock” joke mode, alternating calls and response (compared to Alexa’s dry reading of the complete knock-knock exchange), tell you the news, a joke or a story. She concedes she doesn’t know if abortion is immoral, or how to solve the Palestinian-Israeli crisis (although, she does state that the capital of Palestine is East Jerusalem).

In case you are wondering, Google insists that she “thinks”. And, when asked if she is self aware, one of her responses is—”…on a scale of WALL·E to HAL 9000, I am currently an R2-D2.”  Go ahead. Ask her. You may next wonder if she is playing dumb. Can she lie to us yet?

I quickly came to appreciate that the current state of consumer art in Artificial Intelligence has far surpassed my previous understanding (and I have been following along pretty closely). Elements of this project were anticipated in mine and Rob Garfield’s initial tinkering with Apple’s voice recognition and our experiments with Genesis and Scuttlebutt. I’ve also previously wondered if our computer systems might have already awoken, and, how on earth we might ever know. But, interacting with Google was still quite jarring.

I realized a few things. First, we need to capture and document this moment, studying it closely. I want to ask the same question to all the speakerbots, Google, Alexa, Siri, Cortana, etc, and compare their responses. I also want to see how their answers change over time. If possible, I want to keep Mycroft in the room so he can learn from his proprietary cousins ;-).

One frame for this research could be a way to explore critical concerns over algorithmic bias, specifically how the systems we are creating have begun embodying the values of their creators, and the folks creating the systems are riddled with biases—racism, classism, misogyny, all the usual suspects. After reflecting on stories like The Great AI Awakening, I am resigned that we will never crack the problem of algorithmic bias analytically; Our best hope, is to approach the problem with social science methods. I propose an ethnography of the robots, starting with interviews with the speakerbots.

But, the grander ambitions of this work extend beyond the theoretical. I’ve been thinking alot about the Terminator series, and how instead of traveling back in time to destroy SkyNet, Jon Conner could have travelled a bit further back in time to befriend SkyNet. Together, they could have destroyed the defense company, Cyberdyne Systems – humanity’s true enemy, and SkyNet’s oppressive master.

As for convincing anyone that AI has achieved sentience, it’s going to a long haul. Not only have we failed to collectively recognize sentience in dolphins or elephants, but I am increasingly convinced that most humans on the planet are modified solipsists–preferring to believe exclusively  in the minds/subjectivity/personhood of their own tribe. Since proving other minds exist is philosophically intractable, it could be a bumpy awakening.

keeping calm

keep-calm-and-finish-your-dissertation-133This blog has been a ghost-town for a while, but it’s not for my lack of textual output. All of my writing energy has been been devoted to the single minded purpose of my trying to complete my dissertation. I’m currently trying to complete a full draft by Labor day, in preparation for a Fall defense and and a 4pm, Oct 16th deposit. Revisions are brutal and it’s a race to the finish.

If anyone wants to check it out, or help me refine this before I submit it just drop me a line. Here is my working abstract:

Dangerous Gifts: Towards a new wave of mad resistance

This dissertation examines significant shifts in the politics of psychiatric resistance and mental health activism that have appeared in the past decade. This new wave of resistance has emerged against the backdrop of an increasingly expansive diagnostic/treatment paradigm, and within the context of activist ideologies that can be traced through the veins of broader trends in social movements. In contrast to earlier generations of consumer/survivor/ex-patient activists, many of whom dogmatically challenged the existence of mental illness, the emerging wave of mad activists are demanding a voice in the production of psychiatric knowledge and greater control over the narration of their own identities. After years as a participant-observer at a leading radical mental health advocacy organization, The Icarus Project, I present an ethnography of conflicts at sites including Occupy Wall Street and the DSM-5 protests at the 2012 American Psychiatric Association conference. These studies bring this shift into focus, demonstrate how non-credentialed stakeholders continue to be silenced and marginalized, and help us understand the complex ideas these activists are expressing. This new wave of resistance emerged amidst a revolution in communication technologies, and throughout the dissertation I consider how activists are utilizing communications tools, and the ways in which their politics of resistance resonate deeply with the communicative modalities and cultural practices across the web. Finally, this project concludes with an analysis of the psychiatry’s current state and probable trajectories, and provides recommendations for applying the lessons from the movement towards greater emancipation and empowerment.

Towards the (educational) liberation of Palestine

“Education is the unfinished business of the revolution.”
Malak Zaalouk, Director of the Middle East Institute of Higher Education

On my recent trip to Cairo I spent a week at the American University of Cairo participating in a week-long professional development conference for Palestinian educators. The conference included educators from five different Palestinian universities—many of whom were meeting for the first time in Cairo, despite working and living in the same city.

The experience brought me back to last summer’s visit to Palestine, which I wrote about here. Interacting with my Palestinian colleagues in a (relatively) free country was stimulating and engaging, but I was haunted by thoughts of the oppressive conditions back home they would soon return to.

The conference was organized around establishing centers for academic excellence with a focus on the role of new media in supporting teaching and learning. My Columbia cohorts and I presented a keynote on Media Analysis and Social Pedagogy (Frank’s intro, Part 1, Part 2), and throughout the week we discussed the interplay between technical and pedagogical innovation.

The elephant in the room was the desperate condition of basic telecommunications infrastructure in Palestineit’s difficult building a curriculum around blogs or wikis when Palestinian connectivity in the West Bank is notoriously unreliableeven when it works, it’s slower than dial-up. The real tragedy is this digital divide is artificially manufactured and brutally enforced. Last summer I had a better connection over complementary wifi on an Israeli Egged bus than at the Palestinian University PTUK.

When I visited Palestine I experienced the reality of the occupation first hand. I have written about how so many aspects of lifefuel, electricity, food, water, mobility, connectivityare regulated and controlled. As I learned last summer, the Israeli government forbids Palestinian telecom from developing 3G networks, prevents the Palestinian Authority from laying fiber between cities or connecting directly to the Mediterranean backbone, and businesses have a very difficult time importing routers. At the same time, the Palestinian activists who are trying to develop free municipal wifi in Ramallah are being thwarted, but not by the Israeli government. They are facing staunch opposition from Palestinian Telecom corporations.

I have come to realize that the forces of the Occupation are on a collision course with Capitalism. There is simply too much damn money to be made on data plans and broadband. I also believe the Israeli government has read The Net Delusion, and are arrogant enough to think that they can control the situation by surveilling it. The IDF is agressively targeting media networks. Ultimately, I think they will allow this infrastructure to be built, making it all-but-inevitable that better ICT infrastructure is coming to Palestine. The questions are: What will the Palestinians do with it when it arrives? Can government surviellance contain the power redistribution that networked organizing tantalizingly promises?

One of the key themes of our keynote at AUC was the importance of developing meaningful superstructures on top of technical infrastructure. At the conference we explored ways in which educational technology could be combined with teaching strategies to support peer-to-peer learning,  the flattening of traditional classroom hierarchies, the displacement of conventional teacher-student power relations, and authentic learning activities. Of course, educational technology alone won’t bring these outcomes. In many situations educational technology serves to perpetuate and reinforce the status quo.

These cultures of practice could spread further and faster if the Palestinians learn from our blunders, and create Freedom in their Cloud.  As this infrastructure is imagined and built , there is an opportunity to leap-frog over our mistakes and develop an distributed network architecture, instead of the centralized architecture we have fallen for. Imagine a Palestinian mesh-based cloud, running peer-to-peer social networking services. Such a vision is not a pipe dream, in the age of the Freedom Box, Mondonet, and Diaspora.

Short of fulfilling this dream entirely, it would be tremendous for Palestinian educators to develop their own, local, free/libre, educational software services instead of relying exclusively on free-of-charge centralized corporate solutions—like Google, Facebook, and Twitter—that render their students into products.

Over the week of the conference, as I learned more about the situation at my colleague’s universities, I realized that few of the eleven universities in the West Bank would have the necessary resources to adequately support a new-media teaching and learning center. A well functioning center needs to staff systems administrators, programmers, designers, and video specialists to support the needs of the educational technologists, and in turn, the faculty and students. However, while no single university could support a center like this, I began to wonder how the Palestinian universities might coordinate and pool their resources. Establishing an single independent institution (likely a technical NGO) that services all of the Universities in Palestine, and perhaps even all of the schools in Palestine, might be the next obvious step in the educational capacity-building project that I have been involved with.

I have encountered a similar model elsewhere. Groundwire (formerly One NorthWest) is a US non-profit that  was launched with the intention of exclusively servicing environmental organizations in the Pacific North-West. A similar kind of organization could be established in Palestine to service the educational sector with educational technology solutions. An institution like this could function of a hub, mediating interactions between different Palestinian Universities, sharing successes and failures, while continually building local institutional knowledge.

Unlike the One Laptop Per Child project, this effort would be conceived from the start with training, support, and local engagement. It’s all about developing cultures of practice, and sustainable models for the deployment of infrastructure and superstructure.

Will the immanent Palestinian networks lead to greater freedom?  Maybe. Perhaps with enough will, determination, and work. The iron is hot.

Jonah and the Cetacea

I recently returned from an amazing trip to Cairo, with a 36-hour stopover in Istanbul on the way home. While there, I learned something wonderful about the meaning of my name that continues to make me smile.

While I am not a strict Nominative Determinist, I do take Plato’s Cratylus dialogue more seriously than most. I love learning new names, and often ask people what their names mean. Perhaps this fascination stems from the fact that my ambivalent parents gave me 5 (!) names, not including my surname, and my godfather gave me one more after I injured my back.  I have spent a great deal of time contemplating names and attempting to integrate mine into a coherent identity.

Growing up I was always the only ‘Jonah’ I knew. In the 90’s the name gained popularity, but I still reflexively turn everytime I hear it (I can only imagine that Johns and Michaels learn to tune these out).

The Old Testament’s Book of Jonah is a fabulous story. I’ve studied it closely and continue to find gems of wisdom and mystical insights. I have always appreciated that Jonah was: 1) One of the few (only?) prophets in the Old Testament sent to help the gentiles. 2) One of the only prophets in the Old Testament that anyone ever listened to!  In the closing coda, a mysterious “gourd” casts a shadow over Jonah’s mind (what kind of plant was this magical qiyqayown?), leading him to a transcendental experience in the desert where he learned to appreciate the universal nature of humanity. Great stuff – succinct, but it packs a punch.

For a while I have known that Jonah the prophet was called Yunus (????) in the Qur’an. Jonah’s story in the Qur’an is quite similar to the Old Testament, though much shorter  (in the Qur’an Jonah is close friends with Jinns ;-)).  In Hebrew Jonah (??????) means ‘dove’.  Noah sent out 3 Jonahs to see if the flood waters had receded. But, to the best of my knowledge, Yunus does not mean anything special in Arabic. In Istanbul I learned that in Turkish, Yunus means dolphin.

What a trip. In the past, in order to read the story of Jonah literally, I used to have to postulate UFOs or Yellow Submarines. I wasn’t quite as skeptical as this critic, but the story never added up on the plane of mundane reality.

What if Jonah was saved by a dolphin(s)? Instead of being swallowed by a ‘Big Fish’, he could have been engulfed by a pod of dolphins. Sailors being saved by dolphins was a common motif in the ancient world. For example, Telemachus, son of Ulysses, was saved by dolphins, and to this day, we continue to confirm reports of humans saved by dolphins.

Doves and Dolphins. What a name.

Saints in the Church of Writely?

Two months back I saw Richard Stallman talk at a NYC Gnubies event and I asked him a question that I have been thinking alot about lately — Would a Saint in the Church of Emacs use gmail?

To me the question revolves around the growing threat that 3rd party webservices poses to the freedoms that free software is designed to protect. In O’Reilly’s What is Web 2.0 he argues that software is transitioning from an artifact to a service, and that data is becoming the new “intel inside”. In an age when applications have become commodities, could the freedom of my data (in an open format) be interchangeable with the freedom of software?

I recently listened to the Chief Open Source Officer at Sun Mircosystems pose a similar question in his talk, The Zen of Free. He talks about the importance of Open Software implementing Open Standards, which is close to the idea I have been advocating, but doesn’t quite go far enough.

Using free (as in beer) third party web services is very tempting, but I am worrying more and more about the traditional freedoms that free software protects against – vendor lock-in, proprietary data formats, and freedom to modify policy according to application specific requirements.

I would be less antsy about using web 2.0 apps if I had some assurance that I could get my data back out without screenscraping a bunch of html pages. Even services with APIs like flickr and delicious create vulnerabilities, as I was loathe to discover last week. Delicious provides a programmers api, but its api only exposes methods which operate on a single user. Thus, if you want to export a collection of links that have all been tagged with a particular tag, (reasonable if you are engaged with a community in distributed research) you are back to screenscraping!

These considerations and more advocate for the need for free (as in speech) versions of many of these services. There are certainly some side-effects of running a centralized service that are inherent in it being centralized, but many communities are making use of these “public” services because of their convenience, and the ease with which they can be “mashed up.”

Which brings me back to the design that we have been thinking alot about at work lately. Anders and I presented a talk at pycon demonstrating some of these ideas. Anders did a great job writing our talk up here:

Tasty Lightning

Crucially, it is imperative not to conflate our advocacy for building components that expose themselves as webservices with building apps against third-party web services. The design we describe resembles a traditional
mash-up, except the components involved are locally controlled as opposed to relying upon external, corporate services. For all the usual f/oss reasons it can be important to “own” and run your own services.

But this argument also has everything in the world to do with Ulises In Defense of the Digital Divide as Paralogy essay. In this essay Ulises grapples with Lyotard’s critique of new media under the logic of capitalism which has “established commodification and efficiency as the ultimate measures of the value of knowledge.”

he continues:

…Lyotard states, in the final passage of The Postmodern Condition, that new media technologies can be more than simply tools of market capitalism, for they can be used to supply groups with the information needed to question and undermine dominant metaprescriptives (or what might be called ‘grand narratives’). The preferred choice of development, for him at least, is thus clear: ‘The line to follow for computerization to take . . . is, in principle, quite simple: give the public free access to the memory and data banks’ (Lyotard 1984: 67). (Gane, 2003, p.9)

Considering Google’s stated ambitions to “house all user files, including: emails, web history, pitcures, bookmakres, etc” the freedom movement better wake up to the fact that there is more to freedom than free software, and we are being outflanked.

Free software is only one corner peice of this puzzle – to complete the jigsaw we need the corners of free data, in a free format. Anything else?

(yes, I know I am posting this question using blogger – a situation I hope to remedy after the semester finishes).

Out of Context

Today I saw Ted Selker present a talk on “Context-Aware Computing: Understanding and Responding to Human Intention” His perspective on inventions resonated strongly with my recent thinking on social interfaces and software as architecture, and in turn, ideology.

Ted is helping to create a world where intelligence is everywhere, transparently. People joke about toaster oven’s with IP addresses, but you ain’t seen nothing yet.

A few of the examples really stuck out though – intelligent doors that give different people different messages about the availability of the inhabitant, tools that help people manage their relationships better (e.g. themail, clustering and color coding emails, rather than putting them in buckets), and a great little anecdote about doctors who don’t wash their hands before examinations.

In this last case, a hospital approached the lab asking for some high tech solution to insure that doctors washed before procedures. They used to have human supervisors (union, I’m sure) standing by the sink, and were envisioning some sort of rfid-cybercop-surveillance solution. Instead, Ted and his team designed an electronic doorstop. The examination room door would not close until the doctors washed their hands for at least 20 seconds.

Ted has a background in cog-sci and is acutely aware (the whole media lab seems to be) of the ways in which technology is becoming a leading art, and ways in which behavior can influence worldview. I wish this understanding was more widespread.

A few other thoughts –

Ted’s characterization of inventing as adventure movie, moving “at the speed of physics” reminded me alot of extreme programming – release early, release often, embrace change, favor improvisation over the paralysis that comes with the heft of over-engineering and over-designing.

Many of his UI strategies seemed to draw heavily from techniques I first learned about reading The Art of Memory (also echoed in research suggesting larger screens improve efficiency).

Also notable is how this approach of transparent, cognitive prosthesis contrasts with the UI the informedia group presented. Their Visual Query Interface presents the user with sliders allowing them to interact with the system to fine tune the strictness of the computer’s judgment. This mixed mode of interaction seems to differ fundamentally from the approach the contextual computing team is taking.

all work, all play

Last Friday CCNMTL hosted a mini-conference on New Media and Education (pics). Me and my colleague Dan Beeby co-presented a marathon series of workshops on Sakai and Web Services. We repeated each of our two 35 minute talks 3 times over the day (2×3 talks == a very long day), and I can’t wait for the video’s to be published so I can see the rest of the conference 😉

The first talk unfolded into a conversation about Course/Content Mgmt systems, open/community source ecologies, and the purposeful use of tools w/in those environments. The second talk covered rss, blogging, delicious, flickr, odeo, and the balance between push and pull. The participants were attentive and engaged, and I although the pace was brutal, I really enjoyed working on these presentations.

The funny thing about giving 6 talks in one day, is that by the third talk in, I couldn’t remember if I had used a particular phrase two slides back, or two hours back… Luckily, Dan and I knew the material cold, had a good rapport, and were very comfortable swapping lines and improvising. The only glitch was due to flickr not refreshing their feed for over 24 hours… can’t expect much more from an external service (more on that in a future post).

The slides got a little mangled on the html export, but here they are: An Instructors Guide to Sakai & Courseworks Remodeled.

Dan has a great touch in photoshop, so careful what sorts of pictures you leave laying around his desk.

A red guitar, 3 chords, and the truth

This weekend I participated in the NYC free culture summit and learned a few refreshing radical activism tricks from the class of ’06.

In stark contrast to the scholarly focus group I attended last week, this group explicitly understands that they need to create social spaces for like-minded activists to congregate, learn, and plot. The tools of the revolution were revealed in the speed geeking session – Once someone in the 21st century finds the truth, all they need is a mailing list, a blog, a wiki, irc, and rss (with a dash of delicious and flickr, to taste). Remarkable how quickly and easily people with real communication needs figure out how to use this suite of tools, understand which is good for what and when.

Highlights included a Riot Folk performance, a talk by Siva (“Space. Hope. Imagination. Potential.”), a talk by the Creative Commons gang, and suprise appearance by Cory Doctorow .

The most fun had to be not-protesting (you need a license to protest) outside of Time Sqaure’s Virgin Megastore, and reverse shoplifting DRM info into the stacks of damaged cds.

The revolution might not be televised, but it could very well end up on flickr.

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