kNOw Future Inc.

law, technology and cinema, washed down with wine

Codes is Written, The Future is Not…

So goes the legend of this year’s Italian Hackmeeting currently taking place in Pisa. Even before the official opening on thursday evening a large crowd of people had arrived at Social Center Rebeldia, right in the centre of the city and excellently self-managed; we knew it was going to be good….

A full schedule of seminars had been scheduled, with three sessions taking place concurrently. The majority were concerned with technical questions around practical security, distributed networks and anonymity. In addition however there was plenty of fare for those kore interested in the social and political aspects of network culture. A couple of discussions demand further comment. Armin Medosch, who truth to tell is an old accomplice, gav a very provocative tralk on the history of technology and how it relates to possibilities to change social relatiions. This was a whistlestop tour which began with the french revolution, sidestepped to haiti, tarversed the invention of the telegraph and the birth of photographt to finish up with the birth of distributed network topographies. He posited a tentative claim that the decentralised nature of these architectures reflected the ideas behind grassroots networking which were so conspicuous in the Bay area during the 1970s. The attitudes of Berkely hackers (who included the TCP stack in their BSD distribution) were contrasted with those of their counterparts in MIT, who embarassingly, had to build a steel door to keep protesters against the Vitnam war at bay. In addition he evoked the story of the Community Memory project in Berkeley, which was put together by leftist hackers such as Lee Feldstein. This lore is documented in Steven Levy’s fundamental work “Hackers“, and Armin is right to say that now is the moment to seek out and verify or disprove this possibility, these people still being alive. You can read a longer version of his talk here.

Another interesting discussion was tabled by Andy Muller from the Chaos Computer Club. His talk focussed on the increasing encroachment of data body by law enforcement, and the use of tools such as legal interception (tapping) and data retention. It must be said that this was a pretty dystopian talk, but what was most stimulating was his reflection on the current politial economy of lawmaking in the technological sphere. He was explicit that the diplomatic work undertaken in the last ten years has produced almost no dividends, that what privacy protections had been put in place were rendered dead letters post 9-11, and that a new approch was required. His intriguing proposal was for a renewed focus on building autonomus structures capable of delivering the privacy and data freedoms that we require, outside and beyond the nipple of the state. Coming from someone whose experience spans most of the moments of technological conflicts of the last fifteen years, who had previosuly believed that a more formal, presentable, approach would work best, his reflections provide important food for thought.

Lastly, I spent a lot of time talking with Emmanuel Goldstein of 2600 fame. The conversation was wide-ranging (and we discovered a shared passion for the TV series “The Wire“) but alas, I had to leave Pisa before his talk whichreports tell me was exhilirating. Hopefully audio files will soon be available.

Overall I was really happy to have made the trip, not only for these stimulating talks, but for all the small moments with hackers from all over Italy which have made my life so rich over the last years. Special thanks to phasa and the Rebeldia crew for their hospitality.


September 30, 2007 - Posted by | /, italy, social cooperation, technology

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