Civil Society 2.0 Under Construction. Social/Political Activism on Share Conference 2012.


Occupy Boston.

Share Conference 2 covered a great variety of themes, but maybe the central one were new forms of social/political action. There was an impressive number of single persons, groups, parties, collectives, associations, initiatives, operating online and/or offline, that presented their particular strategies and tactics, their objectives, whom they contend or battle etc. All the talks were physically impossible to attend to all, but, fortunately, all talks are in the process of publication on the official web site of the conference. I will attempt a brief wrap-up, a sketch of an infinitely vaster landscape which took its contours in the last three days in Belgrade. I will cite them in order of their appearance at the conference. If I omit someone, and I most probably will, it is because I either did not manage to attend to the speech and/or I did not find sufficient information on the web to be able to recount their talks.

Share 2 was opened by Peter Sunde, the author and implementor of an alternative vision of intellectual property in the 2000s. His most representative and most famous work is the Pirate Bay. With Rasmus Fleischer, he formed Piratbyrån (Pirate Bureau), which majorly contributed to bring to the fore the question of copyright in Sweden. Their actual work is centered on the diffusion of Kopimi, a yet newer version of the right to copy. On the second day of Share 2, Rasmus Fleischer presented the work of Piratbyrån in a historical perspective, starting on their failures to build a new vision for file sharing of tomorrow. Although Sunde and Fleischer did not engage in politics in the traditional way, their work was the spark which led to the diffusion of Pirate Parties all over Europe now. Intellectual properties may have not been a political question, but only before the Pirate Bay.
To be noted was the presence of the co-founder and former president of PiratenpartijNederland Samir Allioui, a.k.a. „Coretx“. He was followed closely by the very young Serbian Piratskapartija which has recently begun the process of official party registration.

In the information rights line, Tamara Atanaoska and Igor Stamatovski presented their work in Free Software Macedonia. Significantly, they are celebrating their tenth birthday this year.

Jérémie Zimmerman, one of the cofounders of La Quadrature du Net, is one of the very active fighters for the liberty of Internet. His association has multiple enemies of esoteric names, to name just a couple of these monsters, ACTA, IPRED (Anti-sharing directive), and net filtering. Personally, I cannot help but noting the firm belief with which Zimmerman speaks about these struggles, combined with his charm and eloquence, should worry various European commissions which will have to deal with him in years to come. 
 
Leo Lahti is professionaly, in his own words, data miner, that is to say, writer of codes for visualisation of data. He works in scientific visualisation, and paralelly, he dedicates himself to the project Louhos of rendering the governmental data available to public in Finland, his country of origin. Although he is not politically active strictly speaking, his intent is to translate the data which is published by Finnish government agencies into information, to visualise it, and “give it back” to the community. 

The title of Quinn Norton's talk is telling in itself: Anonymous and other stochastic revolutionary network collectives. Besides speaking about the Anonymous collective and their actions, she emphasised the role of the Occupy movement in the U.S.A. She recounted her personal experience at the Occupy Boston, from which the image above is drawn. With great emotion she told us the story about a drug addict actively participating in the practical chores in the Occupy camp, a moving example of inclusivity of the movement. I would stress here that maybe the most groundbreaking aspect of the Occupy movement, common to all of its manifestations, is the difficulty to classify it into more traditional political categories. It is not organised by any party or established association of any kind, it is a “self-organising network”. In it, everyone is free to act as he believes to, there is no ground common to all, it is in constant making and remaking. Lastly, all Occupy actions are more or less just that, a group of persons using a portion of public space, either by just standing there and discussing, or making a more permanent stand such as a camp.
After Norton's speech I went out of the building to eat something. What I saw was a great crowd of persons who were standing on the nearby Republic Square, the central square of Belgrade. They were all gazing at the stage on which the representatives of a political party were speaking to their supporters. This was one of political meetings the parties are giving in this period as a part of electoral campaign. A crowning moment, a gala event (or sometimes disastrous proof of the lack of support) of any political party's campaign in Serbia is their the public appearance in the capital's main square. Broadly speaking, even in many other European countries organise pre-elections public square meetings. So, this is the way politics is still being done.

A political meeting in Belgrade's Republic Square.

Thereafter, back on Share 2, Bojana Šekeljević saved the day by presenting the activity of Dokukino. She spoke about the impressive CivilSociety against Violence 2.0 project which employs new media to raise the awareness on the question of violence in the society. At the moment, ten municipalities in Serbia are actively engaged, and Dokukino travels around the country organising workshops and local campaigns, so, hopefully, the project will grow. Given my personal predilection with maps, I was very impressed with a part of the project called Supergrađanin (Supercitizen), an interactive online platform whose function is to report and map violence in all its sad manifestations: domestic, against women, on ethnical basis, on LGBT persons, bullying, in public, on work, on animals. The project is active since September 2011. Moreover, Bojana introduced a fresh new Dokukino's project – Net2Belgrade, Belgrade's participation in the global NetSquared platform. It is a monthly meeting in Belgrade about social activism where new non-profits will be adviced how to start or improve their work, speakers from different social spheres will hold presentations, there will be help-desks and tool-focused workshops on socially-oriented technologies.


 On day two, Dušan Čavić, Dušan Šaponja and Bojana Šekeljić presented the programmaticaly titled UradiNešto (Do Something) project. It is a web portal which incites Serbian citizens to propose ideas how to improve public space. It has been founded very recently, and soon they will be closing the first round of proposals. The idea is simple and nicely described on their web site. The passages are following: Spot (something that you would like to change) – Wish (for it) – Share (make a video or a slideshow presentation of the problem, the budget, with a maximum of 500,000 dinars, and the solution) – Send – (Vote) – Win.
Lea Baroudi is an activist in Lebanon, fighting against "cultural terrorism" in her country. Besides, she is an active member of the March civil movement. Unfortunately, I did not manage to hear to her talk, but will link it as soon as it is out on the Share's web site.
Elizabeth Stark is based in the U.S.A., but her range of action is the Internet. She is a proponent of free culture, “a movement to promote access and sharing of culture and knowledge”. Among other activites, she was a fierce opponent of SOPA. One of her main fields of concern is the struggle for the liberty of video online, and for that cause, she is a cofounder of Open Video Alliance.
Tony Bowden is the founder of mysociety.org. Having said that, one should really try to hop on this web site and explore the initiatives he has founded, aided or promoted. His main concern is transparency and bridging the gap between citizens and public administration. FixMyStreet, TheyWorkForYou, WriteToThem, WhatDoTheyKnow, FixMyTransport are only the most prominent projects among many others. They are radically redefining and amplifying citizenship today in United Kingdom, and they are an endless source of inspiration for social action all over the world.
Daniel Domscheit-Berg is best known for his position of spokersperson at WikiLeaks. The project needs no description. In 2010, he and other collaborators split from Julian Assange and they are launching a new project OpenLeaks which begins operation very soon. The organisation's main concern is the development of a reliable procedure for whistle-blowing, a model which could be afterwards shared with non-governmental associations worldwide. Needless to stress, Domscheit-Berg main concern is political transparency.
Unfortunately, due to the overlapping in schedule, I could not attend to Sawor Mon's conference but I have to mention him. Sawor works for HURFOM, a non-government local human rights organization formed in mid-1994. This organization deals with the restoration of democracy, human rights and peace in Burma. “ LiceUlice will be publishing an interview with him soon, so I will update this."

Belgrade-based organisation 99 posto (99 percent) are inspired by the Spain movement of the last year, and they are fighting for most diverse objectives. Up to this moment, 99% have organised protests against ACTA, campaigns to free public transportation in Belgrade, and a Facebook public discussion page People Have the Power. The objective of the page is mostly educational, it is a platform for sharing knowledge on legal rights of citizens in Serbia. 99% declare themselves anti-politician, they are against all the parties. 
 
Ana i Vlada Divac is a humanitarian organisation operative since 2007. At Share 2 they presented Stvarno Važno ('Really important') campaign which aims to promote “positive human values” in young people and their environment.


On day three of the conference, Esraa Haidar Zayour presented her activity in Lebanon. She is fighting for woman rights in that country. Moreover, she is a consultant helping people to start their own small and medium enterprises. We may follow her work on her blog.

SmáriMcCarthy is originally an Icelandic information freedom activist, but, the political crisis in his country pushed him to engage in politics on the whole. In 2010 he founded a Shadow Parliament of Iceland based on crowdsourcing, which two years ago was certainly avant-garde. Moreover, he ran for the Constitutional Council of Iceland in the last elections, and eventually contributed to the new constitutional bill. 

Anke Domscheit-Berg coloured Belgrade with her practice of guerilla knitting. This tactic of embellishing urban and rural environment is gaining terrain in North America and Europe. Domscheit-Berg presented a series of projects of her own and of other fellow guerilla knitters. She spread contagious enthusiasm everywhere on the conference and its surroundings where she passed accompanied by her trolley which, in fact, conceals her atelier, full of yarns and needles. Anke was incredibly active in this couple of days, holding two workshops in knitting, one for adults and one for kids. Moreover, she decorated a lamp pole in front of the conference's seat, a handrail and a couple of tables in the building and she left a trace even in Republica Square. Her invitation to indulge in this ancient technique in their free time seems like an ingenious way to pass less time hooked online. Anke demonstrated, both practically and through her talk, how much this type of activity can be important on social level. Often guerilla knitting starts spontaneously with an individual's knitting, but eventually it may lead to grouply organised activities or even public administration sponsored events.
It comes as a surpise to learn that "yarnbombing" is, in fact, only Anke's hobby. She is engaged in a whole host of other activities centered around woman empowerment and open government. She is the founder of fempower.me, an agency which intends to improve the proportion of women on high management positions. Fempower.me trains woman managers through advisory work, workshops and lectures, showing "how barriers affect the performance of women in companies, and how to take down these barriers". Anke builds up on her previous rich personal experience as project leader in McKinsay and director in Microsoft Germany. From ten years now, she is specialised in eGovernment. She works actively towards spreading the ideas of open government through public talks, writings, lectures, and with her counselling opengov.me she founded in 2011. It is vertiginous to think about all these activities put together, but they are all spontaneously weaved together with Anke's in this magnificent textile of social, individual, and political activism extending seamlessly through digital, management, academic and public spheres.
 
Voina, an activist art group from Russia, have been impeded from coming by the Russian authorities. They would have been arrested in case they tried to cross the border. So, for now, we can visit their show in Venice.

Almost at the close of SHARE2, Internet Republika had their public launch. They are the youngest of Serbian activist strat-ups, aged only a couple of weeks, but already becoming very popular on social media and even appearing on traditional media. They held an eye-captivating conference where a pixelated decidedly New Aesthetic TV show presenter Snežana interviewed three party-leaders active on Internet Republika. The formatof the talk was original, but the essence of the project is truly online. The web site simply invites us to found a new party, create a policy and to participate in voting, both by being voted and voting for others. The idea of interactive voting online is of course not new, Pirates are using this method for years now, and Smári McCarthy founded a „shadow parliament“ in Finland, too. Nevertheless, the project seems fresh enough and the possibility of creating a universe of parties seems interesting. We will see in near future how the project will develop, namely, which real-life results will it produce. Funnily, a couple of days ago, in one of the political party meetings on the Republic Square I talked about supra, a leader of a „big“ political party urged the people not to vote for „small“ parties. He was not referring to the parties on Internet Republika, but, maybe, very soon, he might.

The symphonic play of presentations at the conference, with intermezzos given by the ongoing Serbian electoral campaign meters away from the conference, provided an invaluable insight in different "versions" of the social/political process in the 2010s
Sometimes it is difficult to grasp the whole, something I naively termed Civil Society 2.0, which is taking shape through synchronous work of initatives around the globe. At Share 2 we had a unique possibility to actually see, hear and touch nodes of this giant textile sewn together, even if for a moment. Some of the involved initiatives are struggling on their missions, others may be blocked and in course of restructuring, others still are making their first steps, but the globality of them is something profoundly magical. A magic made by persons for persons.

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