[iDC] JZ introduction

Gabriella Coleman biella at nyu.edu
Wed Oct 7 19:50:53 UTC 2009

Christopher Kelty wrote:

> I say this because I have heard many legal folks (JZ included, but
> also Lessig, Boyle, Tim Wu and others) on several occasions say
> something like: techies and geeks are apolitical and disengaged and
> think technology will solve the problem.  I think they are not talking
> to the right geeks--just because some iPhone loving, MIT-trained,
> loudmouthed techno-boosters are apolitical does not mean that the
> people most deeply committed to a free relation to technology (like
> those in debian, ubuntu, autonomo.us, and indeed, the FSF) are too.
> These groups are more often ignored, both by politicians and by
> researchers, or denigrated as dogmatic ideologues when what they are
> is politically committed.  Continuing to insist that they need to do
> more strikes me as a kind of torture.  Maybe legal scholars need to do
> more? Maybe it's up to them to move beyond the effervescent,
> techcrunch-reading, i-can't-wait-to-unbox-my-new-tethered-toy crowd
> and start raising the level of discussion to where it becomes simply
> impossible to say that technology is not political?  As much as I love
> JZ and Lessig (and I do, I have posters of both above my bed), at a
> certain point the straight-shooting, simplify-it-for-the-masses
> approach they are so good at seems to get in the way...

I have noticed this same tendency to exaggerate the libertarian strain 
among geeks. One might also note that it was in part geek 
action/politics (that albeit is rarely coded in political language, 
which I have written about in terms of political disavowal) that 
inspired a cadre of lawyers and academics to care about these issues in 
the first place. It was social practice that inspired a serious 
rethinking of all sorts of issues, especially at the turn of the century.

I have also been intrigued by the fact that the legal literature, which 
has wielded significant public attention has rarely given attention to 
the small but nonetheless influential cadre of radical, political geeks 
who have systematically not only through through the implications of 
surveillance and corporate abuse but have also built all sorts of 
alternatives to these systems.

One of the reasons I am  excited about this conference is because Trebor 
will be brining together folks, from activists to lawyers, who tend not 
to swim in the same sea.


Then directly to Frank's question,
> ck
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Gabriella Coleman, Assistant Professor
Department of Media, Culture, & Communication
New York University
239 Greene St, 7th floor
NY NY 10003

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