On Dec. 6-8, 2012, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, together with seven international co-organizers, hosted a symposium at Harvard Law School titled Internet-Driven Developments: Structural Changes and Tipping Points, convening representatives from Internet and society research centers spanning 5 continents and 22 countries.
At the event, led by the Berkman Center’s Executive Director Urs Gasser LL.M. ’03 and with contributions from Professors Charles Nesson ’63, Terry Fisher ’82, and Jonathan Zittrain ’95, participants explored various methodologies and interdisciplinary lenses for investigating how the Internet is promoting shifts in the information ecosystem, and they also launched a nascent global network of interdisciplinary centers with a focus on Internet and society.
As I wrote earlier in raw emotional form, I adored Aaron for all his brilliance and flaws, his passion and stubbornness. Although I, and others, are still struggling to make sense of the loss, his suicide raises a host of significant issues that need to be publicly discussed.
Because like the other cases brought against hackers across the country, the case against Aaron isn’t just about technology providing new means for people to act independently and enact democracy. It isn’t even really about justice and national security. It’s about a broader, systemic battle.
Of course Aaron was a legendary prodigy of a hacker in the sense of someone who can build anything out of anything. But that’s not what the media mean when they call him a hacker. They’re talking about his downloading of millions of scholarly articles from JSTOR, and there’s a slight chance they’re also thinking about his making available millions of pages of federal legal material as part of the RECAP project.
Neither the JSTOR nor RECAP downloads were cases of hacking in the sense of forcing your way into a system by getting around technical barriers. Framing Aaron’s narrative — his life as those who didn’t know him will remember it — as that of a hacker is a convenient untruth.
It all started when I realized I wanted to find more people to follow on SoundCloud. My first impulse was to scroll through artists in my Rdio collection and then search for each name on SoundCloud in turn, but after a few minutes of rapid tapping, a realization kicked in: A computer could do this!
A quick skim of Rdio’s API documentation confirmed my hope that I’d be able to get the info I needed through their API. Meanwhile, past experience with the SoundCloud API reassured me that it would be smooth sailing on that end. Before long, it occurred to me: this had the potential to be a great final project for CS50, Harvard’s introductory computer science course (and one of my favorite classes last semester).
In honor of the late, great Aaron Swartz, pictured above, I’m making an overdue effort to get some of my own works out from behind walls of various sorts and into the open. (This is always my practice, but sometimes there’s more of a lag than I’d like.) I can’t say that I ever met Aaron, despite no doubt crossing paths in Cambridge over the years. But I have so many friends who counted him a friend, his loss resonates on a personal level as well as an intellectual one....
While there is a general effort, if not concerted movement, among academics to take the opportunity to make their own articles openly accessible in tribute to Aaron, aptly enough the PDFs I want to share here are in their own ways deeply concerned with the (un)fettered and often creative circulation of texts, files, media, ideas, riffs — whatever you want to call em. In these particular two cases, mashups and remixes.
On January 4, 2013, greatfire.org (a Herdict partner) broke the news that in early December 2012, Google quietly removed a feature that informed Chinese search users about which of their search terms may be subject to government censorship. Google implemented the feature in May 2012, and provided a notice to users when their search query contained sensitive terms that would likely cause government controls to temporarily sever their connection to Google. Users alerted to blocked terms could try to bypass government controls by modifying the terms of their search queries.
The year 2012 was marked by armed conflicts in Mali, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and in the Central African Republic (CAR). There were elections in Senegal, as well as in Quebec and France. Demonstrations for change took place in Chad as well as Madagascar and Togo. Debate raged on topics such as immigration, the economic crisis and equal marriage rights. All this took place against a backdrop of major changes in the ways of sharing information.
In the first part of our 2012 review, we recap what was an eventful year in Francophone countries with the help of Global Voices contributors.