CC.3: Intro week

What brings you to LFP? What are your personal goals for this course?

What takeaways do you have from the week 1 readings?

I heard about LFP from a coworker who was in a previous cohort. She said that it was a very helpful course. My personal goals for this course is to learn about what my branch can do to protect our patrons, and to learn about what gathered information is used for. I know that we track lots of different stats, but have no idea how some of them are actually used. The week 1 readings were at sometimes reminiscent of my political science readings. I agreed with some of the points. I don’t think the authors necessarily could have foreseen how the internet community would evolve and how damaging the internet could become from a mental health standpoint.

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So this is a bit silly, but I couldn’t remember how (or even when) I had first learned about LFP and these courses. It was annoying me greatly, so I searched my sent emails for LFP and found the answer. I first learned about this during a webinar I took in April 2021 called On Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Surveillance through Digital Library Tools. It was a very good webinar, and LFP (and I believe the courses too) was mentioned.

Part of my expertise is in misinformation and how to combat it, so I’m fairly well-versed in things like how to adjust certain social media settings for privacy, and I’ve taught many public classes in protecting your personal information, avoiding scams, how to be safe on the internet, etc. I figured the next step to learning more would be the LFP Crash Courses. So I’m very excited to use what I learn here to adjust (or even create) policies at my current library. While I know certain things that I already want to change, I’m hoping to get better arguments for why we will be making these changes going forward (aside from because I said so).

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I realized I didn’t answer about the readings. The Surveillant Assemblage is particularly interesting to me because it’s from 2000, so the technology that seemed amazing then has come and gone and been replaced with even more alarming tech. The most interesting thing, to me, is our own assistance in the surveillance. Not just consent, not just willingness… but our own actions towards compiling this data. If you ever watched Person of Interest, this was a fascinating point made in the show. That the creation of social media was all it took for people to share every detail of their lives with the computer in the show. And we do it everyday… with membership cards, credit cards, site cookies, social media. And the question becomes… can you have that on your own terms, or must you keep yourself completely isolated from it in order to maintain your privacy? More importantly, is this something that everyone must be aware of in order to protect anyone? Not posting on social media doesn’t mean a friend won’t post a picture of you… or even a stranger who catches you in the back of their selfie. So is this like the concept of Universal Healthcare? Except, instead of everyone having to opt in to make it work… does everyone need to opt out in order for anyone to have privacy (without going to extremes)?

My personal goals for this course are gaining an understanding of the landscape of privacy in technology currently to the point where I am confident discussing it and making recommendations about its use as well as writing responsible policy. Specifically though, I am hopeful about the opportunity to learn for some solutions to the issues surrounding using technology to aid in communication within bodymind-diverse, multilingual workplaces made up of people who may use any number of assistive technologies, and organizing when these technologies are not very secure.

My main takeaways from the readings:

The Surveillant Assemblage, Kevin D. Haggerty and Richard V. Ericson.
What an interesting piece full of terrifying ideas (e.g. the dystopian thought of microchipping employees). I thought that is was very useful in explaining the fundamental complexity of the surveillance right now.

We are only now beginning to appreciate that surveillance is driven by the desire to bring systems together, to combine practices and technologies and integrate them into a larger whole. It is this tendency which allows us to speak of surveillance as an assemblage, with such combinations providing for exponential increases in the degree of surveillance capacity.

Three key ideas from this piece that are worth mentioning to me are:

  1. The surveillant assemblage, which “cannot be dismantled by prohibiting a particularly unpalatable technology. Nor can it be attacked by focusing criticism on a single bureaucracy or institution.”
  2. The focus of surveillance in observing, tracking, controlling, policing, and profiting off of the body, the creation of the “data double,” and the commodification of the self.
  3. The role that surveillance assemblages play in the expansion of the prison industrial complex (PIC), “for example, police organizations have secured routine, and often informal, access to a host of non-police databases, such as those from insurance companies and financial institutions.”

pandora’s vox: on community in cyberspace
Thought this was an interesting reflection on the ways in which neoliberalism has influenced the ways in which we “package” and “commodify” ourselves and our always-observed interactions within that online space. And the ways in which the structure of these spaces influence the ways in which we collectively dehumanize ourselves and others within them in various ways and to various degrees.

This author makes some good points, but sometimes misses deeper interrogation of an issue with the chance to make a quick quip. For example, the throwaway line “i have a quaint view that makes me think that discussing the ability to write “fuck” or worrying about the ability to look at pictures of sexual acts constitutes The Least Of Our Problems surrounding freedom of expression.” The latter example is honestly foreshadowing one of the biggest threats to online privacy–the targeting of sex workers, which always later hits LGBTQ+ people more broadly, and eventually most everyone else online. This was written in the 90s so of course cannot predict SESTA/FOSTA or the EARN IT Act, but reading that line in the 2020s I’m left cringing.

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Ah! You’re so right to note how humdog absolutely missed the ways the internet would be weaponized against sex worker freedoms and livelihood and how the targeting of sex workers is the beginning of the targeting of all internet users. Yes this was written in the nineties without the benefit of knowing what would come, but interesting (and frightening) to read the similar logic that would later be used against sex workers, LGBTQ people, and young people (then everyone else!), under the guise of protecting young internet users but with the aftermath of eviscerating freedoms and increasing surveillance. I read right over that without making that very smart connection. Thanks.

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Before returning to work in librarianship, I worked as the Michigan Department of Corrections Outreach Specialist for a nonprofit in Detroit that works with people living with HIV. My role specifically was to go into prisons and meet with people living with HIV who are incarcerated to make sure they have information about their meds, rights, and to conduct general sex ed and harm reduction while using drugs chats. Another of my tasks was taking some of our clients to their parole meetings. Working in prisons and learning more about the parole process was a crash course in surveillance and policing. When I took a job at Detroit Public Library, I was increasingly interested in how to advocate for better privacy policies with and for our patrons, while also still very focused on surveillance policing. So! I think I found LFP through their advocacy on getting police and security out of libraries and followed their work from there. My personal goals are to better understand the bigger picture of surveillance architecture to then be able to more effectively advocate for policies that better protect our patrons and limit our participation in the surveillance economy.

Regarding Surveillance Assemblage - their note of increasing surveillance of private citizens by state and non-state entities was a good reminder that I need to pick Surveillance Capitalism back up and finish reading it. I was particularly struck by their quote, “Surveillance is driven by the desire to bring systems together, to combine practices and technologies and integrate them into a larger whole.” Thinking here about the use of voluntary submission DNA/ancestry databases then being used to identify people who are wanted for crimes, surveillance of people seeking one thing (ancestry results) being used to incarcerate people in a wholly different system. big yikes.

In Pandora’s Vox, humdog argues, “the rhetoric in cyberspace is liberation-speak. the reality is that cyberspace is an increasingly efficient tool of surveillance with which people have a voluntary relationship.” I wound up really stuck on her use of voluntary here and how internet use has increasingly and irrevocably weaved its way into our lives since this was written. How much of our use is truly voluntary? How does that shift when we consider banking, bill paying, keeping in touch with loved ones, the internet as necessary infrastructure for disabled people, people who work remotely, A PANDEMIC, and on and on. Obviously there are an infinite number of possibilities where participation actually isn’t voluntary. My point here is that this shift in voluntary to compulsory use is even more of a call to reconfigure our use to better protect ourselves and others, and advocate against both state and non-state surveillance.

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Sarah Lamdan must have been involved with that talk! She’s awesome, and we work with her a lot in LFP.

I love these three takeaways, especially when you consider how prescient these authors were in 2000!

It’s so true. She really predicted so much but that part really missed the mark. I have a feeling she was thinking only of the concerns of free speech bros on the early internet forums.

Anyone who claims to have finished this is a liar!!! :joy:

Such a good point, and so interesting to think about how someone who was pretty clued in during the mid-90s wouldn’t have considered this. I guess this is in part because humdog pre-dates the massive commercialization of the internet. But it’s outdated thinking. Even things like social media can’t be considered truly voluntary when we take into account the social and professional pressures to be that online.

It was early pandemic, during the uprisings of 2020. I was brainstorming/reaching out in the queer activist community to see what I could do, and an acquaintance brought up LFP.

I enjoyed the readings and was curious what the latest updates were to some of the research projects cited in Surveillant Assemblage. I was particularly interested in the following:

Research by Northrop, Kramer and King (1995) indicates that the police have become the primary users of many systems originally established for other governmental purposes, and Gordon (1990) reports on proposals to link the US federal NCIC police database to computers from Social Security, Internal Revenue, Passport, Securities and Exchange and the State Department.

Is this still true? I’m assuming it’s gotten even worse due to the Patriot Act?

I’m also generally trying to place the readings in the history of the internet and its consciousness. I guess Silicon Valley is saying we are on the precipice of the Third Wave of the internet, where the internet no longer belongs to internet companies. What can we predict about the fallacies and shortcomings of this new movement, as we equip ourselves with the hindsight of having lived through (been tricked by) the First and the Second Waves?

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Yeah, most of the research on this is about police using counterterrorism tools developed around that time. Here’s one article about the NYPD: How the N.Y.P.D. Is Using Post-9/11 Tools on Everyday New Yorkers - The New York Times

Well for one, that we shouldn’t believe anything they say. :joy: Especially the idea that the internet would somehow belong to the people, and not the companies, without the people fighting for that power.

I’m wondering if anyone got around to reading “The Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace” and the accompanying reading “The Californian Ideology” (I don’t recommend reading the first without reading the second!

I did, and it was interesting… though I likely didn’t understand as much of it as I would have liked. It is very interesting to read these older pieces and think about how much has changed. In some ways, I see the point about the internet belonging to the people (just looking at how social media has erupted since then… and how now almost anyone can have a basis for a FOIA request because anyone can be a “journalist” thanks to blogs, vlogs, etc.), but I think companies found a way to monetize it. If you look at Twitter and Facebook when they first started, it did feel more revolutionary… but it’s become a lot like the gentrification of a neighborhood. Now the corporations and the people who want to make money have moved in, and now it’s less real.

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Belated joining in the first week’s discussion. It must have been one of those casual surfings of the net. It was very intriguing to find the LFP website. I have been reading books and articles, watching presentations, raising concerns about digital surveillance and threats to privacy associated with the world of GAFA and AI, in which we are all heavily engaging. Sadly, no professional group concerns have been raised from any librarian associations until I came across the information about the LFP. I was attracted to the LFP’s social justice language and articulations. My goals are to digest the social justice discourse around surveillance and privacy issues and to be able to articular the connections to our democratic or community values and how we choose to live and develop the digital ecosystem and society.

I have lived through the Internet euphoria and optimism during the early stage of my librarianship career. I also engaged in the education reform movement called Connectivism. But, looking back, it was all technocratic talk with an aspiration for democratic community building. I suppose connecting to the Internet surely enhanced my professional development as a librarian. But, when we look at the society at large, without a real community and people cultivating the relationships in physical living space ad environment, the new technology dream is fake. As Haggerty & Ericson quotes Bauman, " modernity
transformed ‘identity from the matter of ascription into the achievement [sic] – thus making it an individual task and the individual’s responsibility,’ and these ‘individual life-projects find no stable ground in which to lodge an anchor’". What we have created and where do we go from here? The main takeaway is a firm conviction that the hopeful technology ideology alone is dangerous. More ordinary people’s engagement and influence are required to make it more democratic and harmless. The next shining technology of cryptocurrency is a case in point.

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I loved reading The California Idealogy! Considering the depicted environment was not too far from where she was writing the Cyborg Manifesto, it made me appreciate Donna Haraway even more, which I didn’t realize was possible.

I’ve been reading about how Silicon Valley actually tends to vote very Democratic, but supports a mix of progressive, liberal, and right-wing libertarian issues. For example, they want universal healthcare and cancellation of student debt, but want laissez-faire policies that apply only to the tech industry, and are anti-labor organization. These same articles are stating that the technocratic libertarianism that I associate with John Perry Barlowesque rugged cyber individualism reflects the politics of a small elite group of the tech industry, namely Thiel and Zuckerberg. I was a bit surprised to hear that not all of Silicon Valley was fully politically or ideologically libertarian, even if they might pursue libertarian culture or aesthetics. Another interesting point I came across was:

Fittingly, one of the first official advocacy groups born of the tech sector—the Electronic Frontier Foundation—focused on privacy and free-speech issues. It fought government overreach in communications but was largely agnostic about Big Government in other domains of society.
(from The Political Education of Silicon Valley )

Not sure if anyone will be coming back to read this post, but I’m super interested in the politics and political divides in the tech industry and am always looking for pertinent reads :slight_smile:

Love that comparison!

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I really can’t remember when I first learned about the LFP, although I’ve been aware of Alison’s library activism for years. Privacy is such an important aspect of librarianship, but efforts to safeguard and ensure the privacy of users and library staff never seem to be prioritized. The “Alaskan Triple Threat” (my new favorite name for our group) were looking for a project to work on together, and we realized privacy literacy was an area that nobody in our library was addressing. We came to this class together to learn more and complete a privacy guide for our library.

The week one readings were simultaneously prescient and naive. It has been so long since I’ve heard the term hypermedia or thought of those early newsgroups. It all reminds me of the Internet I first encountered in library school, text-based and non-commercial. I never heard of the Californian Ideology before, but Barlow’s declaration exemplifies it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how much the world has changed since the mid-90s when these articles were written. There were no smart phones, and cell phones were rare. There was no social media, but there was a lot of tabloid tv and early “viral videos” on television. Fox News was just starting out, but right wing talk radio had been around for a while. Grocery store discount cards (and shopping habit databases) were new. The rhizomatic expansion of surveillance was in its infancy, and it has become so much more sophisticated in the intervening decades, hastened by 9/11 and the PATRIOT Act. It was also interesting to see Barbrook and Cameron predict social media echo chambers and the digital divide, long before those terms were coined.

And it continues to be shocking how much we find this kind of discourse in librarianship. The “fear of missing out” on some shiny new tech leads to a lack of critical engagement. We still see all that euphoria and optimism at our professional conferences, on the exhibit hall floors, etc.

We have a little LFP book group and we read Cyborg Manifesto as our first pick, way at the beginning of the pandemic.

There’s a great book called From Counterculture to Cyberculture that gets more into this. There’s a lot of naive and incoherent politics out there, and when you add to it the SV attitude of “we’re gonna save the world with [insert new tech]” it gets very dangerous.

EFF is now a mix of the old-guard libertarians who started it, and the new guard of social justice, anti-capitalist folks. There’s a constant internal political struggle in that org! (In LFP, we do a lot of work with the latter group)

My friend Jessa Lingel, a professor at UPenn, has actually just written a book on this EXACT idea called, you guessed it, The Gentrification of the Internet!

Something else to mention - the Barlow piece has been INCREDIBLY influential in the tech space, from Silicon Valley startup types to early digital rights pioneers. Just incredibly influential. So it’s no wonder that we see so much of a libertarian ethos in how the internet has been shaped and regulated (or not regulated).

And the start of the 24 hour news cycle! Another terrible thing that resulted from the OJ trial, the other being the Kardashians. :joy:

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Very cool! I’ll have to track that down and read it. It’s something we don’t think about, but the internet was way more anonymous back then. I’m not even sure my MySpace had my real name on it… My LiveJournal definitely didn’t… but now you have FB where they insist on having your real identity (not that that stops people from using aliases). And now with so many platforms focused on images… even aliases don’t provide that much privacy. In fact, people can use a photo you used under an alias to connect to your real name if you aren’t careful.

Please forgive my tardiness in posting and thank you all for the thoughtful posts and new ideas. I had never heard of the term, “privacy nihilist,” until our chat, but that was definitely me as a kid. I never thought I had anything worth protecting, never getting the very, very obvious hint that, as a highly traded/visible commodity, my privacy was the very thing worth protecting. I still struggle with this, but hope to continue to grow.

Issues of “virtual class” are played out all around us in our digital time; I have been watching the cryptocurrency world for a couple of years now, and it is so ugly in there. As in the street, there are so many jerks preying on what have to be record numbers (in terms of both volume and socioeconomic diversity) of folks desperate for their nickle investment to make them kajillionaires. I will be curious to see how this proceeds.

I can’t exactly remember how I found out about LFP, but once I did, I had to learn more. I am excited to be here with you all and soak up as much of your delicious radical juice as you will allow. I am in the fortunate position of not knowing what I want to know more about yet–right now, give me everything!