Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Blogger and The Scholar

BYU's Institutional Objectives are listed to help students establish identity and purpose through their classes offered at the University. The objectives include:
  • Educating the minds and spirits of students
  • Advance truth and knowledge
  • Extend the blessings of learning
  • Develop friends for the University and for the Church
As I, both a blogger and a scholar in the making, I feel that my English 295 class: Writing Literary Criticism under the teaching of Dr. Gideon Burton fulfilled BYU's overall objectives for me as a student.

This course differs from others in the sense that we did our expository writings through a blog. Regular posting allowed the class to peer review each others work and provide useful feedback. As an author, I used my peer's feedback to channel new thoughts and ideas that allowed me to further my thought process and expand upon my research and knowledge.

Educating the Minds and Spirits of Students

Educate the minds and spirits of students within a learning environment that

  • increases faith in God and the Restored Gospel,
  • is intellectually enlarging,
  • is character building, and
  • leads to a life of learning and service.
Not only have I been able to learn immense new information, as I have mentioned in my posting, I had no clue what Electronic Civil Disobedience (ECD) was before I started learning about it. It is an incredible field with so much studying and analyzing in the future. Through writing on a blog post, having social media discussion, and in-class discussion, I feel my character has been strengthened. I have so much more confidence in my writing and where I stand as a major. I see so much personal potential in the future ahead. I plan on dedicating my blogging to a place of learning where I in turn become the student learning from my research and findings.

Advance Truth and Knowledge
Advance truth and knowledge to enhance the education of students, enrich the quality of life and contribute to a resolution of world problems
Have I been advancing personal knowledge in my blog? Yes. Have I enriched the quality of my life by learning and developing new ways to analyze and expound upon my ideas? Yes. Have I contributed to a resolution of world problems? Civil Disobedience can speak for itself. The purpose of Civil disobedience and ECD is to non-violently send messages and actions of reform. Speaking up for change, standing up for what activists believe to be true, just, and fair. Securing the liberties of humanity and calling out the evils of government. Politicized action through knowledge and communicating that knowledge is assisting in attempting to resolve the world problems.

Extend the Blessings of Learning
Extend the blessings of learning to members of the Church in all parts of the world.
President Gordon B. Hinckley, former President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, asked the members of the Church to "Be Smart".
The Lord wants you to educate your minds and hands, whatever your chose field. Whether it be repairing refrigerators, or the work of a skilled surgeon, you must train yourselves. Seek for the best schooling available. Become a workman of integrity in the world that lies ahead of you. I repeat, you will bring honor to the Church and you will be generously blessed because of that training.
As a member of the Church, I know that by attending a prestigious University, having the blessing of attending stimulating classes, and having the opportunities to "Become Smarter" in my field of study has allowed me to extend the knowledge and blessings of my learning. Knowledge as we know is power in that it allows change in thinking and action. By posting my knowledge on my blog posts, I feel I am sharing the extent of my learning with others both members of the Church and not.

Develop Friends for the University and for the Church
By extending my learning on the internet, I am forming connections and networking with other scholars. They see that I am a student at BYU and through forming these connections, I am forming friends for both the University and the Church.

Conventional Writing versus Research Blogging
Detracting from the BYU Institution Outcomes, there are two writing forms that were presented in this class, that of conventional writing and research blog writing.
What are the advantages and limits of each type?
The main advantage to Research Blogging is the social networking that goes on. Everything I post is commented on (peer reviewed) by my classmates. I am capable of writing about my process and brainstorm the many thoughts going on in my head. I can upload images and video to support my writing and I can communicate with others all over the World Wide Web. The limit to research blogging is that it isn't as formal and I had a difficult time with keeping my work focused. Between postings I would list my thinking, my processing. I don't know if this got confusing for my readers.

In conventional writing, advantages include being able to solidify research into a format that clearly rotates around the thesis and has complete structure. Limits to this form of writing include isolation. The only thing seen and read by a professor is the final copy (unless of course they have read other rough drafts). Where is the overall knowledge gained by the author? Where is the process? Where is the brainstorming of ideas? Where is the peer review within the craftsmanship of the work?

Goals for Learning
As a class, some of our goals for learning by using our blogs was to expand our network and connect with others. I know my classmates Ben, Heather, and Neal, among others, all had success in doing this. E-mails, blog post comments, and direction were received between student and scholar or blogger. We processed our learning and produced expository writing that allowed for further insight and then the whole process over again. In my blog postings I often recorded my process and progress to let my readers see what was going on in my brain and allow them to view my process.

Looking at Literature within the Forms of Writing
My main literary source is Henry David Thoreau's essay "Civil Disobedience". Writing about literature on a blog post is very similar to performing the analysis in conventional writing. The main difference is that I can link a full text of "Civil Disobedience" to my post so that my readers can read it for themselves or view the connection. I can also link other scholarly work that has analyzed the essay too that may be useful for my readers in their own research. In conventional writing, I am capable of fully analyzing a text without linking. I think that analysis of text can be effective in both forms of writing.

Personal Reflection
I have grown more as a student and as a writer through this class. My confidence has strengthened and my love for seeking knowledge and learning has deepened. I am grateful to attend an institution that places value on the individual's identity and success as a student. I hope that as I continue to write and add on to this blog that I will deepen my understanding of the essence of knowledge and education.

Neal's New Media Blog

My classmate and colleague Neal has offered me great feedback on many of my posts and in return I will be analyzing his blog from the criteria laid out by our professor, Dr. Gideon Burton.

From the beginning of Neal's blog posts to the concluding post on landscape functions in film, his thought process as a writer has flourished. He has done extensive research and has had come across difficulties, not being able to get certain scenes from his Sjostrom DVD and others but he has been able to communicate with people outside of our classroom including Tom Gunning,
the Chair for the Department of Cinema and Media Studies at The University of Chicago. His blog postings are frequent and not only does Neal responds well to peers blogs and his peers respond on his blog postings too which I think have helped him in his writing craftsmanship. Neal even dedicates a post where he includes comments from fellow classmates, Allison, Chris, and Heather and responds to their feedback. He is in touch with his readers.

The overall research of Neal's blog clearly focuses on landscape in film. He offers several different videos to show readers/viewers the impact that landscape has on film. Each blog post has sub headings that are easy for the reader to understand what he is about to discuss. One thing I have noticed from reading Neal's blog is that there is a clear thought pattern. He asks himself questions and then will answer them in future blog postings. He, in a way, posts his brainstorming which allows him to progress in his writing.

The posts relate well with each other and there is an overall flow of posting.

Post Variety
Neal narrates his writing process well in his postings as I have mentioned before. His main source of literature
Victor Sjostrom's Terje Vigen is linked well with his writing process and he refers back to it throughout his postings. He profiles Tom Gunning in a post where he displays their e-mail conversations and how Gunning has helped shaped his project. Neal frequently in each post refers his readers back to his hub post and reformulated hub post which lead to the overall creation of his concluding post. He includes current event posts and even examined copyright laws on uploading film found in this post.

Neal does not separate himself from his writing. His thought processes are laid out well within his posts and he even in one post expresses his personal love for landscape and the outdoors. As a reader, he comes off as a person that I could have both scholarly and informal conversations with which gives the author more appeal.

Currency and History
Neal had the challenge of being the only one in our class to look at landscape and film and literature. Other classmates focused on civil disobedience, the sublime, and online identity, or a mixture of the three. I think that Neal accomplished this task of grounding his writings in historical film.

The main literary source is well analyzed throughout Neal's blog postings and he makes connections to it and his personal research. He takes his sources from all different areas: scholars, literature, and youtube to display a variety of context.

Neal engages scholars who are familiar with his topic and classmates are interested in his research and provide useful feedback for him to continue in his studies. I have linked Neal in some of my previous blog posts for the useful feedback he has given me and as mentioned previously, Neal responds well with his classmates. He has a very high level of interactivity.

A link to Diigo and other bookmark tabs are listed on Neal's sidebars. He also has avoided isolated work by demonstrating connectivity with readers.

Throughout Neal's posts he provides firm analysis on film and literature. In his post on "The landscape of landscape and film", Neal analyzes a text entitled Cinema by Tom Gunning. He provides quotes from the literature, provides his own feedback and then links his findings in Cinema to other research he has accumulated.

I think that some of Neal's blog posts seem long but only because of the font size. I think that they will draw readers in because of the media content, the way he forms his quotes and analysis. The format of his blog postings allows readers to easily read through his thoughts and writings.

There are links everywhere in the post! This can be a bad thing and a good thing. In ways I see so many links that I don't know which ones I should click on and then I end up overlooking many of them. It is important to link previous posts and research but I do think that Neal links extensively throughout his postings.

Media? Oh no media on this blog post! Absolute sarcasm right there. Neal uses media as his main source for each post. Media, film, drives his research and he frequently embeds videos for his viewers to watch in order to let them visualize and understand what he is aiming at in his writing. His blog posting on June 1 links four videos for viewers to watch linking the landscape to the narrative using Victor Sjostrom's early films as his case study.

I would have liked to see Neal's blog with more of a landscape and new media feel. Maybe have a piece of landscape as his background. I also think his pictures illustrated his topics of discussion.

Neal definitely has enough blog posts that have allowed the reader to regularly follow the blog.

Overall I think Neal did a wonderful job at fulfilling our assignment to take a topic and discuss it in a new media aspect. I have enjoyed reading his thoughts and as a reader of his work, I have been offered new insight into the importance of landscape in film.

A Thoreauvian Vision Coming to Pass

As my fifth and final post to follow my four formal posts (link to those four provided here), I would like to expose the literature, Henry David Thoreau's essay "Civil Disobedience" in a comparison with Electronic Civil Disobedience (ECD) as we know it.

In my research and readings, I haven't found much on the topic other than ECD articles and websites simply saying that Thoureau's essay was the primary text or that it pioneered ECD. Something I believe but I could never find evidence or support for this philosophy. In a close reading of the literary, I have found many comparisons that can be applied to ECD and establish the text as a true primary source for the virtual method of protest.

The Analysis
"I heartily accept the motto, 'That government is best which governs least'...and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have." Thoreau begins the text by arguing that government is subject to the people. This sets a foundation which allows the people the right to stand up to their government, protest, and standing for what they believe is to be true. "Government" he says has "lost some of its [imposes upon man] does not keep the country free, it does not educate." Thoreau mentions the Mexican War, something he was greatly opposed to. The Mexican people would not have "consented to this measure" to which the Mexican government imposes upon them.

"Civil Disobedience" and the Zapatistas
The Zapaitsta Army of National Liberation have been fighting a battle against the Mexican Government for its implentation of NAFTA, which they believe increases neo-liberalism and capitalism which oppress the indigenous people and Working class in the state of Chiapas. The Zapatista Army is not demanding a government to cease governing the people at all but "at once a better government." This battle began in 1994 and is still continuing 16 years later. Thoreau admonishes "every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step toward obtaining it." A battle that has prolonged 16 years and is not over yet has definitely posed as a threat to the Mexican government. A battle for the equal rights and liberation of the indigenous people in Chiapas.

Thoreau was not only an abolitionist but also went to jail for refusing to pay his poll tax under President James K. Polk's term in office in protest that it would support the Mexican War. He says:
I cannot for an instant recognize that political organization as my government which is the slave's government also. All men recognize the right of revolution...the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist, the government when its tyranny or its inefficient are great and unendurable.
The Zapatistas recognize the right and freedom of all mankind. They believe that Everything is for Everyone and Everyone has the right to Freedom. This video clip below shows two travelers visit to Chiapas and their interview with Zapatista leaders. In Zapatista territory, the Zapatistas rule the government and the government is subject to the people. This illuminates a society in which Thoreau imagined.

Thoreau wrote this text for all people in all places. The Zapatista battle has also been a battle of peaceful protest. A "peaceable revolution," Thoreau states, is "if a thousand men were not to pay their tax bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood." The Zapatistas have partaken in Thoreau's ideology of peaceful revolution. Since 1994, the Zapatista army has abstained from using their weapons for violence. Instead, they have been determined to fight their war through words. Words relaying their actions and messages. The Electronic Disturbance Theater (EDT) has greatly assisted in spreading the Zapatista message through using FloodNet software and other forms of ECD like Virtual Sit-Ins and Hacktivism.

"Civil Disobedience" and Professor Ricardo Dominguez
Ricardo Dominguez, co-founder of EDT and professor on ECD at University of California-San Diego, recently led a protest along with his students against the UCOP (University of California Office of the President) in the increased college fees. The protests took place on the internet through Virtual Sit-Ins. "The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right." Dominguez and his students thought this to be right and a cause for a Virtual Sit-In, "[letting] every [student and professor] make known what kind of [UCOP] would command [their] respect, and that will be one step toward obtaining it." As the UCOP websites were hacktivated and the reload button was clicked by over 400 students every 1 to 6 seconds, creating a feel for thousands of computers trying to access, messages were sent out and students felt their academic freedom was being violated.

Shortly after the attacks, Dominguez was brought into questioning, UCSD placing him under surveillance to see if any criminal charges could be placed for a professor that had just recently given tenure. Placed under scrutiny by his own "government", Dominguez "educated" his students and others by "serving the state with [his] conscience, and so necessarily [resisting] it for the most part" to be "commonly treated as [an enemy]." Through their protest, they "[refused] allegiance to, and [resisted], the government [UCOP]." Letters were written all over the globe in support for Dominguez's actions. Students and faculty performed a silent protest on campus in support of Dominguez and protesting the right to academic freedom, declaring their virtual protest as a new media form of art.

"A wise man will not leave the right to ther mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority." What if Dominguez didn't protest the increased college fee? The vote would go to the California people and the majority vote might be a "yes". Through protesting and standing for justice, Dominguez raised awareness, sparked thought, and possibly created change through sending artistic messages across the Internet medium. As Thoreau ceased to pay his poll tax, he said "it costs me less in every sense to incur the penalty of disobedience to the State than it would to obey." Pay the highway tax yes he would but "as for supporting schools," Thoreau is "doing [his] part to educate [his] fellow countrymen now." Would Dominguez pay the increased college fee if he were subject to? I do not believe he would. As the "Government" fails "to educate," Dominguez succeeds through his actions.

Thoreauvian Vision
"I please myself with imagining a State at last which can afford to be just to all men, and to treat the individual with respect as a neighbor...A State which bore this kind of fruit, and suffered it to drop off as fast as it ripened, would prepare the way for a still more perfect and glorious State, which I have also imagined, but not yet anywhere seen."

The Zapatistas in Chiapas, Ricardo Dominguez's protests in San Diego, and Virtual Sit-Ins and other forms of protest provided by the Internet allow for this State to be visualized. Activists exposing the truth, defending causes for truth, justice, and equality, and standing up against the "evils" and "machines" of government, have pushed Thoreau's philosophy further. Thoreau applauds a Chinese philosophers wisdom "to regard the individual as the basis of the empire"

The Internet provides a means of freedom. As Thoreau sat in his jail cell, he recognized the freedom he had and in no sense a feeling of confinement. The World Wide Web provides a means of open access, communication over the globe, and endless opportunities to spread messages of activism and protest. There are no "walls of climb or break through" to become free. A vision and a means becoming fulfilled one activist at a time.

Reflecting & Moving Forward

A reflection of the beautiful Fall trees at Walden Pond.

As I continue my focus on writing about Electronic Civil Disobedience (ECD) and tying it into Henry David Thoreau’s essay on “Civil Disobedience”, it has somewhat come to my attention that my more formal blog postings that I have somewhat failed at completely linking my primary text with my primary focus.

The beginning of my blog postings centered around Thoreau and his relation to social networking like Twitter and what his views would be today as technology has progressed. I then ventured on to discuss more about how civil disobedience has been seen throughout American history since the writing of “Civil Disobedience” and since then my main focus has been discussing the formation, background, and ins and outs of ECD and the Electronic Disturbance Theater (EDT). Mentioning Thoreau here and there to try to maintain somewhat of a connection, my literary focus has not been as demonstrated through my postings. I have been faced with the challenge of introducing my readers to an unpopular subject matter, electronic civil disobedience, and defining the terms and background. In doing so that my readers are capable of learning and understanding all that I have come to learn and understand through my research. Action is absolutely apparent in all context of writing. Activists are modernizing the traditional.

Whether action is taken in the traditional civilly disobedient way or by a virtual aspect, the point is that action IS being taken. Stefan Wray said in his essay that “The Internet infrastructure [now] is not only a means toward or a site for communication, but the Internet infrastructure itself becomes an object or site for action.” A site for action, an opportunity to display protest and voice. Taking advantage of this action provides activists with the literal feel that ONE person certainly can make a difference and can have their views heard and seen within a new medium.

The information I have given you will act as a source of reference as in my next post I solely analyze and compare Henry David Thoreau’s essay “Civil Disobedience” with the EDT and ECD. Below I have included my more formalized blog postings that ought to act as a guide:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Rise of the Digital Zapatista

Electronic Civil Disobedience (ECD) involves powerful “symbolic gestures” that enhance protest and relay messages for equality, rights of the people, and other liberties. ECD was first proposed in 1994 by the Critical Art Ensemble (CAE), which some reformers used to transition to the Electronic Disturbance Theater (EDT). The CAE gave the proposed practice of ECD its name aligning the concept of electronic civil disobedience with that of civil disobedience, in an effort to draw legitimacy from the legendary leaders such as Henry David Thoreau, author of “Civil Disobedience”. Civil disobedience involves trespassing and blockading as tactics for protest. ECD involves itself in these tactics by conforming them in a new setting and in a slightly different aspect. Hacktivism, virtual sit-ins, and the use of the software FloodNet are tactics used by the EDT in sending messages of ECD protest. I have spoken about these forms in my previous blog posts: The Zapatistas and Electronic Disturbance Theater and An Info-War, a Virtual Sit-In, and Hacktivists...United for a Cause.

ECD in Recent Times
As I have mentioned before, ECD first arose in assisting in the battle in Chiapas, Mexico and the Zapatistas fighting for equality and the sanctification for human rights. In recent news, there have been recent publicized forms of ECD within the school systems in California. Dr. Ricardo Dominguez, a professor of electronic civil disobedience at University of California-San Diego, as mentioned in earlier posts as a co-founder of EDT and assisting the battle in Chiapas, Mexico, posed a virtual sit-in with his students towards the president of the university. Dominguez and students on March 4 utilized both traditional forms of civil disobedience and ECD to demonstrate protest towards the increased college tuition fee at UCSD. Students, interviewed by the school’s newspaper, The Guardian, examined the relationship between physical and virtual protest. Holly Eskew, a student of Dominguez said, “On March 4, when about 400 of us and then some did the virtual sit-in, at the same time we had our real bodies protesting. We are reaching the time when we can compare our real bodies to our digital bodies and online environment.” The term "digital bodies" suggests different digital identities, evolving our physical bodies to the cyber world, something my colleagues Becca and Heather are interested in writing about. The body in relation to technology like bodies to machines, EDT has placed a notion of "embodiment" under question. They have sought to understand specific possibilities for establishing presence in the cyber world that is both politicized and collective.

The goal of EDT is to take known forms and then subvert their message in order provoke thought, discussion, and emotion. The utilizing of new media and art allows EDT to take on a more modern form of Thoreau’s more traditional “Civil Disobedience”. Dominguez and other EDT members contributed to the EZLN’s fight for the indigenous people of Mexico. Crafting themselves as Digital Zapatistas, they “attacked” websites of the Mexican government and US governments. These “attacks” were never effective…only affective—something Dominguez stresses in interviews. By digitalizing the message of the EZLN, harm was never physically seen even though the government posed threats against them. FloodNet and Virtual Sit-Ins such as the one executed against the UC system for which Dominguez is under investigation for are ways of protest that send forth messages. The key difference between a virtual sit-in and a sit-in is that a virtual sit-in must be open and transparent. My previous post has discussed this in relation to “Distrubed Denial of Service Attack” (DDoS) that Dominguez has been accused of launching.

UCSD hired Dominguez on the basis of his work in ECD in 2005. He teaches his students about ECD, having them regulate and utilize an online lab called b.a.n.g. lab, a place for numerous art projects and discussion among the UC system. He was granted tenure in 2009. Those threatening to take away his job are the same who granted him tenure. He was granted tenure for his usage of FloodNet and the usage of Virtual Sit-Ins. They hired Dr. Dominguez because of his familiarity with ECD and EDT and clearly found so much interest in his research and studies to have a class dedicated solely to ECD and a speacilist to teach it. They clearly knew what he was capable of--launching virtual "attacks", hacktivism, utilizing the internet for protest. So when these virtual sit-ins and software like FloodNet are being utilized by Dominguez and his students to send across an important message, the UCOP decides to shut down Dominguez's computer and internet connection, accuse him of a DDoS attack, and see if they can press criminal charges against him. These previous sit-ins were praised and yet what makes this one so different? This is a question that I asked The Guardian newspaper and have yet to receive a response from the author. A professor and students protesting an increase in college fees. When stated like that, it seems commendable, understandable. So why is it that protesting against the fee increase lands a professor under criminal watch? Dominguez asks the same question, “[It would be] an unwise choice for them to attempt to stop academic research and artistic research that I was awarded for in past years,” he said. “Why now? What is different and what does the administration want?” UCSD administrators say they honor academic freedom, but need to look into any potential criminal activity.

Questioning and Support
As Dominguez was attended a meeting on campus to be questioned, students and several other supporters gathered by the Silent Tree on library walk at the unviersity. Dominguez, void of legal representation, fielded questions and chose to postpone the meeting. Students and supporters wore white masks with X's on them to represent the university's attempt to silence academic freedom. Something UCSD administrators said they honored... Dominguez rejoined the supporters, giving them thanks and listened as they read letters that spanned the globe, which voiced solidarity, alliance, and outrage at the administration’s criminalization of his work.

The digital Zapatista rose again and along the way educated this generation's youth of the importance of ECD, letting voices be heard and teaching students artistic ways to politicize using new media. As Thoreau once said:
The law will never make men free. It is men who have got to make the law free.

...and that is exactly what Dominguez, the Zapatistas, EDT, students, and virtual sit-in activists are trying to do.

Monday, June 14, 2010

An Info-War, a Virtual Sit-In, and Hacktivists…United for a Cause

Henry David Thoreau once said "That government is best which governs least". He then changes ground and asks “not at once” to be rid of government “but at once a better government. Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step towards obtaining it”. Organizations like the Electronic Disturbance Theater who take action through electronic civil disobedience are in different forms of protest making the government know what kind of government it ought to be--delegated by the people who command respect and equality.

As mentioned in “The Zapatistas and Electronic Disturbance Theater” post last week, I viewed the birth of the Electronic Disturbance Theater (EDT) in relation to the Mexican Zapatistas and discussed a few of the technicalities of protest they demonstrate including their software FloodNet which allows activists to form some sort of electronic artistic way to send across messages of protest/disturbance. FloodNet has been the source of virtual sit-ins practiced by EDT members and participants all over cyberspace. A virtual sit-in is another form of electronic civil disobedience (ECD) created by the EDT.

Before I begin, please view the two videos which will discuss the information war, virtual sit-ins, and hacktivism—the main three topics of this post. Keep in mind that it is difficult to separate each topic into a category of its own because they are interlaced and cannot exist without the other. In these videos, you will see the uniting of the three…

Information Warfare

An infowar is a war of words, a form of propaganda, a desire to push words for action. The internet has allowed a pathway for a cyber infowar to take place. The internet allows activists to incite action as opposed to simply describing the information. Information Warfare was involved in the Zapatistas action for equality from the Mexican government in Chiapas, MX. The Zapatista experience has been a war of words instead of a prolonged military conflict. Of course there is still a strong Mexican military presence in Chiapas, however as mentioned in my earlier post, there was no way for the Zapatistas to battle alone. In no way could they take down the Mexican and US governments and so EDT joined with the Zapatistas to create an Information War that led to virtual sit-ins and hacktvism using the FloodNet software. The fighting technically ended on January 12, 1994 and since then there has been a ceasefire and numerous attempts at negotiation. Scholars, activists, and journalists have said that the Zapatistas owe their survival to this war of words. It is the propaganda that has been unleashed by the Zap leaders like Subcommandante Marcos and non-Zapatista supporters throughout the world. Communication and information has been spread through the famous Mexican newspaper, La Jornada, a more traditional way of sending out information but it has also been distributed through e-mail since the digital Zapatista took rise January 1, 1994 with the aid of Ricardo Dominguez and the Electronic Disturbance Theater (Wray). The infowar provides a way to not only incite action but to do so on a global level. After the Acteal Massacre of 1997, the word spread all over the internet and within days, protests and actions were going on at the Mexican consulates and embassies all over the world. The internet has been seen as a source for activists to communicate and take action. In order for an infowar to take root, electronic civil disobedience comes into play exposing new varieties of protest including virtual sit-ins.

Virtual Sit-Ins

Virtual sit-ins began in 1998 as an online activist tool created by Dr. Ricardo Dominguez which allows activists, using FloodNet, to potentially flood and take down a website. They use an HTML-based program that targets a specific website and allows other activists to join and participate. As each individual joins in the protest, the website is forced to refresh the page which draws in more traffic and eventually leads to a prevention of use. This form of technology reveals the reasons as to why individuals participate in the protest and tells how long it will last thus giving it far more meaning. But how?..

Stefan Wray, who has been mentioned in earlier posts, sees the form of virtual sit-ins, a new form of civil disobedience, when compared to the traditional form of civil disobedience, allows an ECD actor the ability to participate in virtual blockades and sit-ins from home, work, school, and virtually any location where there is access to the Net. Dominguez says in regards to electronic civil disobedience that it:
allows us to think about the question of art becoming a social manifestation, allows us to think about art allowing communities who do not have access to power to make themselves present, that allows the unbearable weight of human beings to put a stop to the crisis that is around us—especially the juicy crisis of education. It allows us to see that art is an active space in public culture and that it cannot be disregarded.
Dominguez views virtual sit-ins from an active EDT member viewpoint. The art assimilated with cyberspace allows activists to voice their message of protest in a different and unique way.

The goal of the Electronic Disturbance Theater is to take the traditional and respected form of civil disobedience and attach it to the cyber world. A virtual sit-in on an internet website allows for the same purpose of protest in a different form. Just like an embodied traditional physical sit-in, in order to be effective, a virtual sit-in also needs a lot of people in order to make a purpose clear. Participants are noticed and seen as a force. For a virtual sit-in to be effective, it must be transparent and open access.

There is a difference between a virtual sit-in and a “Distributed denial of Service” (DDoS) attack. With a DDoS attack, unknown individuals become channels in increasing traffic to certain internet addresses, making it inoperable and threatening a crash of the system. In a DDoS attack, identity is obscured and there are extended assaults motivated by retribution, financial gain, and an attempt to censor freedom of speech. A virtual sit-in differs greatly in that the individuals participating in the sit-in have a goal, a reason, for protest and they make that known. Actions are stated, grievances are described, participants are known, and once it is over, there is no physical damage done. Participants use the FloodNet software and the reload/refresh button on a webpage that eventually sends a cross a message in the URL. The message is a digital artistic form of speech in protest. In order for these virtual sit-ins to uprise, hacking must occur and in an activist form, Hacktivism, comes to rise.

Hacktivism: “Words AS War, Not Words FOR War”—Ricardo Dominguez

Hacktivism, according to the Electrohippies, is a function that combines hacking and activism in a technological sense to provide “Hacktivism”. Hacktivism is a legal “tool for open and focused action against injustice and human subjugation.” Hacktivism uses creative ways as have been previously mentioned to send forth messages. Hacktivists take a piece of technology, a URL code, a website, and envision a use for it beyond what it was designed for. This innovative thinking combined with a hacktivist’s desire for truth and rights in a social or political context allows for progressive movements in digital protest.

Hacktivism has already been mentioned in my previous post and throughout this one. Using FloodNet, participants would visit a website and then download the Java Applet software which would access the target site and reload or refresh every couple of seconds. The protests allow protestors to leave personal statements on the targeted server error logs. With the Zapatistas, for example, browsers were pointed to non-existent files which included the names of those murdered in the Acteal Massacre on the target server. The server would return and log the message “[murdered victim’s name] not found on this server.” This was a creative form of protest with the intentions to send out a message of non-violent awareness, protest, and a re-visitation and reminder to the murderers. Brett Stalbaum, the creator of FloodNet characterizes the software as “conceptual net art that empowers people through active/artistic expression.”

Hacktivism is a peaceful form of protest that organizes a mass amount of people with using FloodNet to create a “symbolic gesture”. Digital activism and hacktivism allows people in different parts of the world to view things that have been censored by their government. Hacktivism exposes truth in an artistic and meaningful way. The video below shows the political exposure which raises awareness to citizens in several different countries. The traditional ways of protest are also viewed in this video. The concensus is that cyber-activism provides a platform for several more people to take a virtual stand to relay the same message across.

Electronic Civil Disobedience combining FloodNet software, the information war, virtual sit-ins, and hacktivism allows for an undoubted measure of activism and protest to come about through a mass load of messages and participants. But are these methods of protest even effective? Stefan Wray analyzes the word effective and defines it in the light of hacktivism in that "if hacktivism is to draw attention to particular issues by engaging in actions that are unusual and will attract some degree of media coverage, then the effectiveness can be seen as high...hactktivism appears to be a means to augment or supplement existing organizing efforts, a way to make some noise and focus attention."

Wray describes this generation as a period of expansion and not contraction. "The nature of cyberspace is extraterritorial. People can easily act across geographic political borders." Hacktivism on the rise provides for endless opportunities that exist in some combination of word and deed. Where is hacktivism going? In my up and coming posts I will be discussing modern forms of hacktivism in current events, its effectiveness and the frontier ahead.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ode to the Process

Brainstorm....... Organize.......... Process..........

In the process of researching and writing my expository blogs on electronic civil disobedience and the connection with Thoreau's revolutionary essay, "Civil Disobedience", I have found myself swarmed (in a good and brilliant way) by so much useful information. I have literally been introduced as an outsider to a topic. All of the information I am accumulating is incredible! I have been searching the web, blog posts, using search engines like google and googlescholar, searching social network sites like twitter and facebook, and a plethora of so much more.

In recording my information, I have been using Diigo, a website dedicated to research and sharing that knowledge within a community. Building networks and collaborating with colleagues using Diigo has allowed me to build my own personal library where I store most of all the research I have been using. I am a big fan of Diigo and the tools it allows me to use (like hi-lighting web pages and even adding "sticky" notes) and encourage others to participate in the research world!

All of this research has allowed me to organize, process, and sort information. I am so interested in my topic and I feel it is so important to share to the world which gives me the responsibility of sorting my research into how I wish to explain it. In working with my topic of Electronic Civil Disobedience (ECD) and relating it back to my main focus of literature, "Civil Disobedience", I need to first explain the history of ECD. How it was organized, what it does, and where it is headed.

In my introductory blog post, I discussed civil disobedience and its history here in America and discussed the building up to a new form of civil disobedience found in the cyber world. All in all, linking back to Thoreau's theology that that “unjust laws exist” and asks fellow citizens “shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded or shall we transgress them at once?”

The posts following discussed discoveries I found on the internet of another piece of literature (I have yet to look more deeply into) and an upcoming event on peace and non-violence to be held in Australia.

My last post ties into the history of Electronic Civil Disobedience and a few of the technicalities that go along with it including its roots, relationship with the Mexican Zapatistas, its founding, and the FloodNet software. There is still so much more they are involved in: virtual sit-ins, hacking, the infowar going on around cyberspace, and current issues that the Electronic Disturbance Theater is apart of.

My plan for blogging is to lead up to ECD practiced in modern times, tying it into Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience" and to be honest arriving at a conclusion I'm not exactly sure what is just yet. Electronic Civil Disobedience is absolutely present in the world's society and politics. What will this mean for the future? Where is this headed? Well as I discover the answers to these questions and express my ideas I hope to deliver a message that provokes thought and a platform for new ideas and thinking.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Zapatistas and Electronic Disturbance Theater

The Background

On January 1, 1994 as NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) came into effect, the EZLN (Zapatista Army of National Liberation—Ej√©rcito Zapatista de Liberaci√≥n Nacional), a revolutionary group based in Chiapas, MX, reformed as a revolutionary movement. Chiapas, the southernmost state of Mexico, is one of Mexico’s richest states yet it suffers from a massive array of inequality and poverty. January 1, 1994, people have declared a war against the Mexican state. In declared opposition to the Mexican government, the EZLN believe that their wishes, needs, and desires of the (largely indigenous) Zapatistas and the supporting communities. They released their declaration of war and issued a First Declaration from the Lacandon Jungle. The Zapatistas gained power from the lack thereof. It would be impossible for them to defeat the Mexican (and US) army directly in armed conflict, so they attacked their oppressors with public democratic activity…and art. Resorting to the internet, the self-proclaimed libertarians have used nonviolent avenues like the internet to spread their messages.

A New Experimentation with Civil Disobedience

Ricardo Dominguez, a current professor of electronic civil disobedience at University of California-San Diego (UCSD), partnered with the Zapatistas in 1994 to “[develop] an intercontinental network of struggle and resistance.” (Dominguez) Dominguez along with others in 1998 co-founded the Electronic Disturbance Theater (EDT). The EDT is composed of “a group of four net.artists and net.activists engaged in developing the theory and practice of Electronic Civil Disobedience.” At this time, EDT pushed for new experimentation with electronic civil disobedience actions aimed mostly at the Mexican government. EDT drew attention to the world through usage of the internet to show the war waged against the Zapatistas and others in Mexico. Since 1998, the Electronic Disturbance Theater has been working at the intersections of radical politics, recombinant activism, performance art, and software design.

In a lecture given by Stefan Wray on Electronic Civil Disobedience and the World Wide Web of Hacktivism, before 1998, Electronic Civil Disobedience remained in a large part a theory, a concept. However, after the Acteal Massacre of 1997 in Chiapas, a shift occurred into a more crossbreed position viewing the Internet infrastructure as both a means for communication and a site for direct action.


EDT produced Electronic Civil Disobedient software called FloodNet, created by co-foundersCarmin Karasic and Brett Stalbaum. FloodNet is a java applet that is the code equivalent of going to the target website and constantly clicking the reload button. Stalbaum discusses FloodNet on the ECD website. FloodNet functions by reloading a targeted web page several times per minute which “disturbs” the webpages. It is also used to function for the conceptual-artistic spamming of targeted server error logs. FloodNet performs automatic reloads of the targeted server and encourages interaction of the individual protestors. Voicing political concerns and the uniting of Netsurfers allows FloodNet to post a public call for participation in a tactical strike.

FloodNet has been the source of virtual sit-ins practiced by EDT members and participants all over cyberspace. The FloodNet software allowed EDT to invite participation to artists, digerati, and political activists in order to make a “symbolic gesture” in support of the Mexican Zapatistas (Wray).

The Electronic Disturbance Theater uses art and other forms of media to politically take a stand and promote electronic civil disobedience. FloodNet is an example of that empowers people through activist/artistic expression. They look for unique ways to send their messages across the servers. For example, activists will select a phrase such as “human_rights” and using the “bad” url, the FloodNet software is able to upload messages to server error logs by intentionally asking for a non-existent url, causing the server to return a message like “human_rights not found on this server.” This imitates the way many http servers process requests for web pages that do not exist. In Stalbaum’s article, this concept of using FloodNet has been practiced during the Zapatista battle for equality and proper treatment by the Mexican government. On June 10 activists protested when the names of the Zapatista farmers killed by the Mexican Army in military attacks on the autonomous village of El Bosque were used in the construction of the “bad” urls. Using art as an asset of FloodNet and the EDT, this was a way of remembering and honoring those who gave their lives defending freedom. FloodNet’s performance “symbolically” returned the dead to the servers of those responsible for their murders.

Stalbaum describes the philosophy of FloodNet in its relation to the Mexican Zapatistas:

The Zaps FloodNet represents just such a collective weapon of presence. Designed as a collectively actuated weapon, inverting the logic of wide open propaganda pipes by flooding network connections with millions of hits from widely distributed, fully participatory nodes, the FloodNet enables a performance of presence which says to Mexico (and its close ally the United States): "We are numerous, alert, and watching carefully." After the initial design, the roles played by communications artists are best described as only the initial low-dimensional attractors upon which the critical tertiary projection of similarity in the dynamic net-system of cybernetics is articulated. This is not only evident in user participation with the FloodNet performances, but in other similarly directed mass actions. Instead of the return of the Renaissance artist/engineer or the sedentary seclusion of the fortress, we seek instead the self-organization of human-machinic networks of good conscious, visibility, and presence.

Electronic Civil Disobedience

This form of non-violent civil disobedience borrows the tactics of trespass and blockade from earlier social movements such as Gandhi’s Satyagraha, protests against the Vietnam War (post link) and Martin Luther King’s public and non-violent sit-ins. Utilizing the internet takes the typical concept of civil disobedience, people physically blockading official entranceways or physically occupying oppenent’s offices and transforms it. An ECD actor can participate in virtual blockades and sit-ins from home, work, university, or any other place where there is internet access. Eliminating travel time from a three hour plane ride to Washington D.C., to seconds and mouseclicks away from delivering the same unified message of protest.

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Conference for Peace

As I was searching for the next upcoming virtual sit-in, I instead came across the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict, an organization that works with like-minded educational institutions and nongovernmental organizations to educate the global public, influence media and and policies coverage, and educate activists and organizers. Their website includes a page of events for activists and learners to get involved.

An upcoming event listed for July 6-10, 2010 is the International Peace Research Association (IPRA) Conference in Sydney, Australia. Their website strives to battle a war for peace Every two years IPRA meets together to assess conflict and peace building in the world, discuss the state of the art of peace research, plan future research, and influence the practice and decision making of violence prevention and peace building.

The conference spans over a five day period. The fourth day, on Friday afternoon, peace journalism and media activism. The media activism part ties nicely into my research on nonviolent protests and media coverage. So here is my ticket to Sydney!

Friday, June 4, 2010


I've been searching blogs and Twitter trying to find people interested in social networking and discussing electronic civil disobedience and (if possible) in relation to Henry David Thoreau. I stumbled upon civil disobedience & nonviolence: Manuals for resistance with the help of Internet, a blog "on civil disobedience, innovative resistance without protest, direct action and plowshares disarmament". In this post that I have linked, the author (who I believe is Per Herngren, an author of several texts online that discuss non-violence and the practices of civil disobedience) provides links to websites that teach internet activists how to use Twitter in times of conflict (providing a variety of languages including Farsi) and mentions that "Quite a few of my postprotest hacker friends are involved in making the manuals." This sparked some interest in that in my last post I mentioned hackers on the internet (more in depth posting of hacktivism to come in future blog posts). Herngren is familiar with postprotest hackers and commemorates each blog posting to an act of civil disobedience or nonviolent action.

A recent article found in the NY Daily News speaks about an act of civil disobedience occurred this past Tuesday in Manhattan as a crowd of protestors gathered in front of the Federal Building protesting immigration laws. Ever since Arizona passed the SB1070 immigration law, incidents have occurred all over the country.
Arizona's new law has reawakened Latino and immigrant communities. They're not about to let Congress and Obama dodge the question any longer.

If they do, watch the number of people arrested for civil disobedience climb from a just few hundred into the tens of thousands.

Although this article discusses a physical form of civil disobedience, there are forms of ECD that are occuring along the same issue as well. Twitter users tag #Arizona and #immigration to discuss disturbances about Arizona's new law. Twitter users hate Arizona's new immigration law according to the Huffington Post. Activists are spreading the word about the Arizona anti-immigration law through social networking cites such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and blogs.

Online news articles discussing civil disobedience are getting several comments. By participating in some of the comment streams I think I'll be able to get my ideas out there and even form new ones as discussion allows.