A river that needs crossing political and tech blogs - On the political side, the is arrogance and ignorance, on the geek side the is naivety and over- complexity

My videos are on these two youtube channals visionontv (2,622,479 views) and undercurrents (21,576,123 views)

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Hamish Campbell
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Entries with tag trust .

Trust and control and the role of gatekeepers in blocking

Everyone understands the role of “gatekeepers” in traditional media. I want to look at how there are very similar issues with radical and progressive media. Most blocking and authoritarianism in activist organising is not conscious, rather its roots lie in psychological traits rather than ideological thinking. Everyone might be a professed horizontalist, but some are clearly not acting in the accordance with the way they think/speak.

An example of this is when the are two clear points of view, both valid and valuable, in a group. Typically, the horizontalist view is blocked procedurally until there is no time left in the process. Then the more vertical view is pushed through at the last moment to “save the process”. The outcome is very bad feeling between the groups/indiviuals and the more (dysfunctional) authoritarian view is implemented. This is problematic as it gives a clear signal to everyone involved that progressive ways of working cannot work, which feedbacks to the next process and left/progressive project stagnates. 
 
In general, building radical media needs to have no gatekeepers to the overall structure (just like that hugely successful progressive, horizontalist project, the internet). We need ideas of how we can work our way out of this progressive cul-de-sac and we need them soon. It seems to me that progressive organising is based on trust, and authoritarian organising is based on a need for control (and the distrust that this breeds). So does the answer lie in leaving enough time for trust-building in progressive organising as a core part of the process?

Control freak's (DRAFT)

(Psychology) an obsessive need to be in control of what is happening http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Control_freak This has been an issue with many groups and individuals I have been involved with in activist organising.

It was key to the decline of the http://indymedia.org.uk project and the ossification the climate camp process and static nature of the climate camp website http://climatecamp.org.uk My most destructive experience of this till recently was the organising of the London European Social Forum, and the central role of the SWP and Ken Livingston's office in this. Currently I am involved in the organizing of the http://rebelliousmediaconference.org and I would like to highlight how this process is being damaged by Control Freakery during the on going process.

RMC (Peacenews) process and “pushing the agenda”

During the first meeting I attended a single speaker talked continuously for ¾ of the meeting, constantly expressing the lack of time and the need to move on – this is called “pushing the agenda”.

Taking charge of the minutes – and constantly not reporting the views in the record of people who do not fit into this pushed agenda.

Packing and controlling the agenda of each meeting, then pushing through this agenda, leaving no time or space for differing views.

Then when the inevitable rebellion happens blocking this procedurally in till it becomes irrelevant to the outcome of the project. Nitpicking might be a good way of describing this blocking. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micromanagement is used as weapon to stop productive open organising and to shut down process outside of the “pushed agenda”. 

Its hard to put your finger on what is wrong at the start of this process but as you go along it is soon made clear that it is a deep intolerance, a lack of trust and narrowness of vision that verges on stupidity.

As one of the core organisers of the RMC conference highlighted it is very hard to change this behaver, some back ground reading on the problems http://www.ec-online.net/knowledge/articles/control.html 

Issues that make this behaver more of a problem:

* Lack of solidarity among the organising group

* Unbalance of knowledge of the core differencet approaches in the RMC this has manifested as lack of understanding of technological change.

...

The recent police violences at the student demo's is nothing new - rather a new group of people are experiencing systematic police abuses.

The recent police violences at the student demo's is nothing new - rather a new group of people are experiencing systematic police abuses. This film is about what happened at the Kingsnoth Climatecamp 2008, at the big G20 demo after this they killed a man.

The harassment and exclusion of legal observers, the violent arrest of women refusing to be searched, the aggressive interrogation of local residents, the threatening of journalists with arrest for doing their job, the confiscation of 100s of items such as childrens' costumes and crayons, attempted dawn raids on the camp, the use of batons and CS gas against peaceful protesters, and the forced search of 1000s of people and the adding of their personal data to a secret database. This type of political policing has to stop, and the right to legitimate protest re-established. 

http://visionon.tv

ClimateCamp Media

The Ratcliffe Swoop prosecutions caused a backlash against activist media that reverberated around the Edinburgh climate camp. We were not present at the Ratcliife Swoop, and played no part in the gathering of video there. When we saw footage posted of identifiable activists doing criminal damage, we were astonished, as throughout the history of video activism this has been an absolute "no no", without the express consent of the activists pictured. We immediately took this material down from visionOntv accounts where it had been posted, and told the Ratclifffe media team why we did so. Regrettably the footage was later re-posted by the producers to accounts outside of our control.  Having said that, as of writing, we have been unable to find out any details of the prosecutions and exactly which footage was used.

But as a response I (perhaps naively) thought it might be helpful to try to do consensus/affinity group process with activist film at the Edinburgh climate camp. To kick this off, we showed a sneak preview of END:CIV on the Saturday to a crowd of around 50-70 people which sparked off a good and respectful debate about aesthetic of activist film and the old spiky/fluffy debate about effective action. People came away challenged and thoughtful.

The next day after the action on the RBS HQ we showed the rough edit of it to get feedback and make sure it was OK to put out. It was enthusiastically received but there was also a very forceful verbal attack of “you must do this” “do it now, or you are endangering activists” and a refusal to answer simple questions about “why” in exchanges with one person. Finally, after some bad feeling, I found out that she had seen an “object for causing criminal damage” being held by one person in the film. OK, that is a genuine issue, so I agreed to look at it again. I asked her to show me where it was in the film but instead she rushed off to tell everyone that climatecamptv had refused to remove the “weapon” and that we were putting out films that were endangering activists. This led later to many different groups and individuals coming along to have their say over the next day about how the film should made.

See later where this led.

I had watched the film 3 times during editing for legals, and had shown it to to a number of other trusted people. After we had packed up the screening we looked at the “object” on the video and found it to be a plastic horn not an “object to cause criminal damage” at all. Humm... a storm in a teacup you would think, but read on.

Let's briefly go through it - the film of the action had a few legal issues.

* The pushing on the bridge (possibly assault) leading to the earlier dressing-up sections (unmasked) being possibly incriminating of this possible assault.

* We had no video of the breaking of windows (criminal damage) thus this was less of an issue in the film. Nor did we have film of any identifiable possible perpetrators.

* There was one additional shot which could potentially have been "creatively" used by police to prosecute an activist.

* The bridge-pushing was problematic as all the activists were unmasked, with all the FIT team on the roof and 3-4 corporate media TV/photo actively filming. Many photos/images would be available so on the one hand it was clearly done in the open, and therefore accountable. On the other, if they were charged, our video would likely be used in the prosecution, both for and against the activists. It's an issue we face many times and it unless we know otherwise we have to have to err on the side of caution. Without the opportunity to ask them whether they were accountable thus OK to show it or not, we decided to blur this section – rendering the need to blur the early stuff irrelevant as we now had no incriminating video of this “crowd” action.

The other potentially incriminating shot was removed, at the request of the individual filmed.

After running it past the affinity group made up of CCTV/visionontv crew and some trusted legal support we left it to a volunteer to polish the final edit for showing that evening before putting out to the web. In my experience you can never run a film past an audience too many times before it's finished from both a legal and an aesthetic point of view.

The day of action was very busy, and we were all running around filming. While we were out and about a number of people came in to look at the earlier action video being edited and asked the editor to make changes – he responede to their requests and made a lot of changes to hide and obscure many details throughout the film.

When we saw the film in the evening just before the screening we were shocked. Editing a film by committee is always a disaster and the film was now an incoherent and sinister mess making climatecamp look like a bunch of criminals. We now had a film we couldn't put out. This wasn't our volunteer editor's fault, it was a problem with the process we had begun but were not around to control. To top this, at the end of the day the editor had found the people who were at the front of the bridge-push and they had made it clear that they were unhappy being blurred out as it was the best thing they had done in ages. They were willing to be accountable for their actions, so we didn't need to thus put any obscuring in the finished film.

We now had to re-do the film from an earlier version. It was dark and we were late for the nightly screening, we had one computer to gather all the films up and convert then to the right format and re-edit this film – we decided it wasn't possible to screen the action film and concentrated on showing the other 9 finished but less exciting films we had ready. We started the screening with non-action films to cries of "we want to see the action". So an old version of the action film was rush-encoded and was ready half-way through the screening. Unfortunately this contained the ptoentially incriminating shot we had earlier taken out, and was screened to about 40 climatecampers. NOT good. Another person had a very solid go at us...

What did we learn from this?

Should protesters never trust any video/photo on an action OR should they trust video activists as THEY know what they are doing?

For me, not trusting experienced video activists leads to the very real danger that through bureaucratisation it pushes the working affinity group structure underground and renders it ineffective – the option of bureaucratic/consensus process isn't an option with film which is at its best a skilled creative story-based process.

But now we have to deal with the rumour mill which quickly churned around the "weapon" / plastic horn issue. Rumour has more power than truth when there isn't a functioning media. I heard the misinformation that we had put out footage of window-smashing weapons three times while leaving the camp to get home. And that's why I wrote this post as this rumour could distort the very real pro/anti-media debate in activism which needs to happen in a constructive way.

On the subject of social media and underground/wannabe mainstream film-makers/photographers, there are very real dangers that is the subject of another post.

Ethical aggregation and conversation - OMN

What is ethical aggregation?

Always link back to the original producer hosting site. The exception to this is when the site is a corporate hosting site such as YouTube, then linking to an embed on an OMN site is preferable linking to that site. The content should be consumed where the producer of the content likes it – this should be built into our open CMS's as far as possible.

Reactive permissioning: the producer of content should be empowered (as far as technically possible) to decide how their content is consumed on sites. Eg, via embedding a simple title link, excerpt, or full content. This is by trusted feed not by genearly ristricting the content of the RSS feed. 

Our databases should be open to exporting of content by simple RSS aggregation or by a XML export option.

Metadata should be synchronised across the networking to enrich all media content.

  • link back to the source
  • reactive permissioning
  • no reposting

It's OK to add additional hosting options for media files – but the original publishers hosting/views should be respected. In the RSS feed, add content file URLs as fallbacks rather than as default media sources. A good aim is to back up media sources tohttp://archive.org and as a torrent file. If new open hosting options come along then these can added. Then only fall back to the original host if the corporate hosting source errors or is censored (respect for producers hosting desion and for reasons of scaling).

Where is the conversation?

This is an unresolved issue that is looking for a good solution. Some key points:

  • Move it off corporate hosting and networking sites as much as you technically can such as FB, twitter and youtube. Use such sites to post links to OMN content and sites.
  • Can we move the conversations with the RSS feeds? So that the conversations happen across sites and

appear across sites in activity streams? This is probably technically possible within the RSS02 spec – let's implement it.

How do we organise from 19/09/2009

This was copied over from the visionontv process page:

This is the process of the visionOntv affinity group so far (an affinity group is a trust network)

 At the core of any affinity group is a core/periphery relationship and a usheraly unspoken way of moving between them.

 At base, the project is DIY for core crew:

 * For simple changes and improvements, just do it. If you think people should know, e-mail them.

 * For major changes (e.g. changing key text on the front-page), run it past people first, including those who may disagree.

 * There should generally be time to put up everything you can as a draft to the wiki page so others can have input. For really big changes, talk to everyone, and call a meeting if people feel it is needed.

 * If someone keeps fucking up and ignoring the process call a meeting.

 * When the project has grown start a weekly online meeting for people to update everyone on what they have been up to. And as a way into the affinity group.

 Do everything you can in public (ONLY stuff that needs to be is ADMIN only)

 If the trust network breaks down, and they do sometimes, then people should do different projects. And by doing well in their project re-build the trust based on common understandings. Trust is built by doing core things that need to be done and lost by talking about doing things or just taking up time and space with no outcome. If anyone is terminally annoying then in the end they will go away - it's best not to feed the trolls.

Open Media Network

is a human moderated discovery engine. If we decentralise this anufe then it should scale. Feeds (RSS) are used as a database metadata (and data backup/redundancy) exchange format. They are rated as well as media items, sources (websites, people) are also rated.

 

Spam is defeated by trust. It has to have a trusted way into the network.

 

Scaling is specializing aggregation.

 

By using a frountpage sidebar and subject pages every site becomes an aggregater of its subject. That is sites are both production AND distribution channales.

 

Why should people get involved?

 

* We need a FB app and twitter integration

* Being an influencer

* Having a voice

*Publish ones – appear many times

* Escape from the limits of facebook page algorithms.

 

For the project to work we have to encourage people to return to there blogs and websites as aposed to facebook.

 

- is this possible?

 

Problems

 

* why not just use FB as everyone is already on it?

 

* why use old tools like forums and wikies, blogs etc when the are much better dotcom tools available for free?

 

* why trust you guys?

 

* “this” project s better – I have a better idea/way of doing this.

 

Working examples of the network

 

* The newsflash! Is a perfect example of a OMN project that is resent. (top corner http://visionon.tv)

* The open-worlds site database is another example. (http://openworlds.info )

 

Both have been static because there value is not understood? Why?

Trust and control are real life issues in mainstream and radical media (DRAFT)

Need to wright a post about how this affects/blocks meany diffrent areas, here is a good link for academia http://www.masmithers.com/2011/09/26/blogging-and-trust-in-universities/

One way of building trust is to have offline social meetups

At undercurrents and now visionOntv we have a really nice tradition of cooking everyone dinner, this is some of the documenting crew for the Rebellious Media Conference.

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