Radical Instrument

IT is changing the exercise of power. Radical Instrument is picking up the signals.

Archive for the ‘Random’ Category

Monday reads: Internet activists’ limits in Iran; a middle ground for cyberwar; protests we saw coming

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1.   Internet activism running into its limits in Iran. Can a virtual movement survive without developing real-world institutions? (Foreign Policy)

2.  Finding the sensible middle ground when it comes to cyberwar. Is there such a thing? (O’Reilly Radar)

3.  Australian hackers rebel against content filtering. The sad thing is, government IT staff probably saw this coming, even if the Prime Minister didn’t. (The Canberra Times)


Written by Mark

February 15, 2010 at 10:48 pm

Journos, poseurs, and spies

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Seems like the Defcon and Black Hat conferences are ground-zero for spies with an information-warfare bent:  this report from Computerworld discusses the ejection of four South Koreans apparently posing as journalists at Defcon. Any article that name-checks the Mossad and the French Foreign Legion in the same paragraph is worth reading.

Written by Mark

August 3, 2009 at 9:08 pm

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Three for Tuesday

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Seen around the cyber-halls on a Tuesday afternoon:

1.  Courtesy of Slashdot and Spiegel Online:  SWIFT, which handles transfers between financial institutions, is moving its servers and database from the U.S. to Europe. The EU is likely to let the U.S. to continue to monitor SWIFT transactions for anti-terrorism purposes…at least for now. How likely would approval have been if this move had been made during the Bush years? Will a change of…well, tone on the part of the Obama Adminstration be enough to mollify opposition to activities that arguably encroach on European privacy measures?

2.  Over at Wired’s Dual Perspectives, Kim Zetter has an article that sort of makes the right point…that we need much improved definition around terms like “cyber war” and “cyber attack”…but then muddles that point with language like this:   “In a battle where the militarized zone exists solely in the ether(net) and where anyone can wield the cyber-equivalent of a 10-ton bomb, how do we fight, let alone find, the enemy?” To illustrate the point, there’s a reference to the infamous Homeland Security video from 2007 about the U.S. power grid, and a story from 1982 (!) about a logic bomb that literally detonated a Siberian pipeline. I’m not convinced that you get anywhere close to un-muddling terms like “cyber war” until we stop using military metaphors that don’t really mean much, viz. cyber-equivalent of a 10-ton bomb.

3.  Courtesy of North Korean Economy Watch:   somebody put KCNA on Twitter. Which means that Twitter might just be pure entertainment.

Written by Mark

July 28, 2009 at 2:04 pm

Hiatus over

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Sometime around April Fool’s Day, I took a break from Radical Instrument. I missed a lot:  Iran and #neda; the start of a real (and badly needed) debate over “cyberwar”; China’s “Green Dam” filter and technology companies’ response.

More than I thought might happen in four months.

So if you’re reading this, thank you for hanging around. Let’s start things back up.

Written by Mark

July 27, 2009 at 10:22 pm

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Midweek roundup…watching the watchmen, Allende’s Internet, and terrorist surveillance-dodging

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Three midweek reads:

1.  Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Via Wired’s Threat Level, the senior official for Beijing’s municipal Internet monitoring program is arrested for corruption.

2.  Over at iRevolution, Patrick Philippe Meier summarizes a fascinating paper on cybernetics under the Allende presidency in Chile. Interesting commentary at the end on the symbiotic nature of human as well as machine networks…similar to this presentation on the failure of the “Soviet internet.” If you have time, also recommend his recent post from Mobile Tech for Social Change Barcamp.

3.  Speaking of mobile tech…Italian press is reporting that the cell phones used in last year’s Mumbai terror attack were activated in the U.S. with Austrian country codes, registered to a man identifying himself as an Indian citizen, using funds wired from Italy. The alternative for avoiding surveillance? Skype, according to this Register piece, which cites an unnamed “industry source” disclosing an NSA offer of “billions.” (via Schneier)

Written by Mark

February 24, 2009 at 9:17 pm

Khatami vs. Ahmadinejad

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Via Reuters and every other source – former Iranian President Khatami has announced he’ll run against incumbent Ahmadinejad this June. John Kelly and Bruce Etling produced this nice visualization of the Iranian blogosphere last April, depicting secular/reformist and conservative network clusters.

Written by Mark

February 8, 2009 at 11:42 pm

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Cyber-hedonism vs. cyber-activism

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In its most recent edition, The Economist frets that “pleasure-seeking” will outweigh political activism in the activities “young surfers” pursue online, particularly in authoritarian countries.

It’s an exposition of a theme laid out in December by Evgeny Morozov, who’s writing a book on the effects of the Internet on civic engagement, under the auspices of George Soros’ Open Society Institute.

I’m not (yet) convinced. To start, I’d assume that political activism is a minority pursuit no matter where it’s pursued, from contested states in the U.S. Presidential election (where 28% of young voters reported attending a campaign event) to the most repressive autocracies. Certainly, it becomes even more of a minority pursuit where repression’s involved, but should we assume that “hedonism,” whether represented by video gaming, online dating, gambling, pornography, or media will be free of any political color? Or that activism is (or should remain) a completely puritanical business?

As more content becomes user-generated (or user-participative) – and as formerly distinct channels for media consumption and social interaction blur – it’ll be harder to draw bright lines between domains like activism and hedonism (and commerce, for that matter). The smarter activist movements will look to inject politics into entertainment channels like a virus, in ways that will likely be a few steps ahead of any autocrat’s inoculation measures. And as I’m sure Morozov would agree, the smarter autocracies will look to exploit entertainment channels in their own way. I suspect we’re still in for some surprises over the next decade.

P.S. – You can find Morozov’s blog here, now also featured in the blogroll.

Written by Mark

February 8, 2009 at 9:41 pm

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