What exactly is the Internet and what role does it play in our movement for social change?
In this collection of essays, May First/People Link techie-organizers explore this remarkable social movement:
- analyzing its growth and character as an expression of humanity’s resistance and resilience;
- offering an analysis of how it impacts the progressive movement and how we should impact it;
- taking up Internet issues like access, race and gender, threats to the Internet’s independence and freedom, free and open source software, spam, email, security and privacy, dns and other Internet protocols;
- and suggesting strategies for the use, protection and expansion of the Internet’s technology.
It’s a must-read for every progressive activist who participates in the Internet and a good starting point for the movement-wide discussion that has become essential.
The book features:
- The Organic Internet by Alfredo López
- The Political Techie by Jamie McClelland
- Domain Names by Alfredo López
- The Internet Protocol by Eric Goldhagen
- Technical Architecture Shapes Social Structure by Daniel Kahn Gillmor
- The Email Crisis by Jamie McClelland
- FOSS and Proprietary Software by Amanda B. Hickman
The important thing is to read it and start discussing the points it raises. With a billion people participating in the Internet, our movement can’t afford to ignore it.
Here’s a review, published in the Tech ‘Zine distributed at the recent U.S. Social Forum by veteran techie-activist Ana Willem.
Mayfirst / People Link collective has been doing exciting work creating community and infrastructure for progressive organizations and organizers. Emblematic of their commitment to this work, “The Organic Internet”, a book recently written by some of the leading technologists employed by Mayfirst / People Link, and published through a creative commons license, clearly demonstrates their dedication to supporting the building of progressive social movements through the responsible use of technology.
We are not a culture that is accustomed to looking under the hood (or even inside the glove compartment at the manual) to better understand the tools we use in our daily lives. And for a good reason. Try to get through the owners manual for your phone, refrigerator, car or microwave, and you will no doubt find yourself immediately dissociating into remembering the shoes that lady was wearing on the subway 2 days ago.
Not so with this read. Perhaps because it is so gracefully anchored in a greater cultural and historic context, the writing here reads more like a collection of essays than it does a textbook or manual. This is a must read for anyone who is wanting to organize meaningful social and political movements.
Not only does it provide a solid foundation for understanding the cultural and sociological ramifications of employing different information technologies in this work, it also creates a solid argument for how technology can be used responsibly by folks actively engaged in wanting to create positive and meaningful change in the world.
As organizers and activists, we all would agree that the way we go about our work and our lives is as important as the results we produce. A movement for social and environmental justice will not be as productive if it’s organizers membership continue to patronize businesses like Nike, Walmart, McDonald’s or Coca-Cola, whose policies actively contribute to global social injustice and environmental degradation.
While we all can understand the implications these decisions have in the course of the work we do, we seldom realize that there is an important technological component of this movement, and that the decisions we make regarding the types of technology we use, and how we use them, are important in the same way. This book engages the reader in understanding the nature of these decisions, and what the alternatives are, in a way that is instructive, compelling, and interesting.
Now, lets be honest. The elements that make up internet technology mystify the majority of us. To make matters worse, the endearing terms we refer to them by are rendered incomprehensible by the fact that they are all acronyms. Not that saying the words ‘Uniform Resource Locater’ instead of ‘URL’ would be any more meaningful (they need to fire the guy in charge of naming these things).
This book not only explains what a URL is, REALLY, in language that made sense to me, but it also put it in a context that made me say ‘Ohh!’ instead of ‘Huh?’. In the course of reading this book, even the more technologically timid readers among us will find ourselves finally understanding different facets of the internet that we always wondered about but were afraid to ask.
And it doesn’t stop there.
It goes a step further by making this stuff feel relevant and interesting. Part owners manual, part how-to, part manifesto, this guide gently takes the reader through the salient political social issues surrounding information technology and the internet in a way that is easily digested, and thorough. That’s a big accomplishment for a book about technology.