Planet Webmaker

Facebook Live, BLM, and the Nature of Rights in Virtual Space

Geoffrey MacDougall

Thu Aug 04 2016 13:59:41 GMT+0000 (UTC)

My first start-up was an MMO company. My role was to design the socioeconomic and governance structures for an online world. It was wonderfully geeky opportunity for a 20-year-old political theory major and gamer.

As Raph Koster has written, the advent of many-to-many live video (Facebook Live; Periscope) and augmented reality gaming (Pokemon Go) has brought new relevance to that work, highlighting the challenges of having vital communication controlled by private interests and the resulting importance of civic tech projects.

One of the big questions we grappled with was whether participants in mediated space (games, social media, chat rooms, etc.) could claim to have rights. (See this fun and earnest declaration.)

In political theory, rights — as in civil rights — have one of three points of origin that place them above government, laws, and other forms of human decision-making.

  • Natural: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident.’ You are human, you have rights.
  • Divine: They are granted and flow from a god.
  • Social: We grant them to each other.

The question was whether any of these premises could hold true in a mediated environment. It boiled down to whether participant(s) could use their rights to overrule the will of the the mediator — the game maker, social media company, etc. And, in each instance, they couldn’t.

  • Natural: The mediator invents and controls the laws of nature. “Right to free speech? You’re no longer able to talk.”
  • Divine: The mediator is, functionally, god. What they grant they can take away.
  • Social: This works as long as the mediator sees themselves as part of the community. But is a choice they can reverse at any time. (Today? Today I’m a god.)

Our concept of inalienable rights assumes the basis for those rights is inaccessible and immutable. Even (most) religious people assume their god isn’t going to show up and change their mind.

In a mediated environment, the mediator is an active participant, accessible to the participants, and most definitely mutable. They can change or pull the plug on the whole thing at any time, ending you, your world, and your rights.

Conclusion: Our concept of rights cannot apply in mediated, or virtual, space.

So, can you have rights in Facebook? Can they be obligated to broadcast your side of an interaction with the police?

Facebook exists as a private entity in meatspace. They are subject to the laws and regulations of government, which means they can’t be the origin point for rights. Further, nothing prevents Zuckerberg from shutting the whole thing down tomorrow, or simply removing live streaming as a feature.

So, no, you can’t have rights in Facebook, either. The best case scenario is where they choose to use their power to defend your rights. But they don’t have to. And this is a huge problem when Facebook (and other mediated technologies) are our central means of exposing and communicating injustice and the abuse of state power.


Filed under: Uncategorized

Mozilla Clubs end of year goals

Julia Vallera

Wed Jul 20 2016 19:42:20 GMT+0000 (UTC)

Mozilla Clubs are excited to share our goals for the rest of 2016. We’ve come a long way since the program’s launch in 2015. What lies ahead for us is exciting and challenging. Below is what we will be working on and information about how you can join in the fun.

Curious to learn more about Mozilla Clubs? Check out our website, facebook page, event gallery, and discussion forum.

Mozilla Club leaders come together in June 2016 at Mozilla all-hands. Photo by Randy Macdonald

Mozilla Club leaders came together in June 2016 at Mozilla all-hands. Photo by Randy Macdonald

Our process

In June 2016, eight Mozilla Club leaders came together in London, UK for Mozilla’s bi-annual All Hands gathering. They participated in many conversations, one of which was a 90 minute deep dive session to identify objectives for clubs over the next six months. During the session we brainstormed topics, ideated in pairs and had a group share out. In addition to informing our goals for the rest of 2016, this session gave club leaders the opportunity to learn more about each other’s work and regional challenges.

In July, we shared the results of our deep dive session more broadly during our monthly call for club leaders and internal clubs info session. This allowed us to gather more feedback and ultimately votes on what goals we should focus on for Mozilla Clubs between now and January 2017.

Here is the list of goals that resulted, why they are important to our work how we plan to approach them.

Six Month Goals

Curate and/or create new resources for running clubs offline

  • Why: We want to build and curate more web literacy curriculum that can be used without internet access so that club participants can learn offline.
  • How: We will make our current offline activities and curriculum easier to locate, curate new resources and build new ones.

Connect the community through a global gathering

  • Why: Club participants learn from each other and feel connected to a global community when they have the opportunity to see each other face-to-face.
  • How: We will draw from event models across Mozilla like global sprints, state of the Hive and Mozilla Festival to connect club participants (virtually and/or in person) to work on challenges, share experiences and exchange knowledge.

Continue to localize content and resources

  • Why: As we translate more curriculum, activities and club guides into languages other than English more people can access and learn from them.
  • How: We will work with Mozilla volunteers, staff and partners to build localization into the process of content creation and start with translating current activities and creating new location-specific resources.

Reward and recognize club leaders

  • Why: Club leaders need rewards and recognition for their work so that they feel empowered to grow and spread web literacy in their communities.
  • How: We will recognize club leaders for their work through a formal rewards process and develop an agreement policy to create more clarity around the responsibilities of being a club leader.

Strengthen clubs as an organizing model for Mozilla campaigns

  • Why: Mozilla Club participants should continue to have an active role in Mozilla campaigns like Maker Party, Copyright, Take back the Web, Encryption, etc.
  • How: We will leverage club calls, office hours, the discussion forum, etc. to get input from club participants as campaigns take shape and will share campaign related activities that can be incorporated into their offerings.

Connect club participants across Mozilla

  • Why: Mozilla program participants have a lot of expertise to share and they should be able to connect with each other easily and frequently.
  • How: Create opportunities for community members in Clubs, Hives, Open Science and Advocacy to share work with each other, get feedback, build networks and more.

Assess club activity

  • Why: It is important that we maintain an accurate and up-to-date list of active clubs so that we can provide support where it is needed most.
  • How: We will identify which clubs are active by holding individual meetings, checking in via email and reviewing the club event reporter.

Join in the fun!

Here are some ways you can contribute to our work over the next six months and beyond.

  1. Connect with a Mozilla Club in your area. Don’t see any clubs in your area? Apply to start your own!
  2. Help us translate one of our web literacy activities into your preferred language.
  3. Use our offline activities, tell us what you think and suggest new ones.
  4. Join our facebook group to get updates about upcoming events and campaigns.

Dilemmas in Connected Spaces: Your Ideas for Mozfest!

Michelle Thorne

Fri Jul 15 2016 11:56:33 GMT+0000 (UTC)

banyan tree

As our lives and physical environments become even more connected, we’re faced with dilemmas. How will I decide when and where my personal data can be used if it improves my daily life? Which of my everyday objects should be online? If my profession calls for me to make connected products or services, how can I advocate for ethical practices with user data?

This space will allow makers and learners to explore these dilemmas through a series of interactive experiences and mischievous interventions. Think connected and disconnected, public and private, privileged and disadvantaged, inclusive or exclusionary.

Participants might:

  • Arrive in a disorienting immigration queue like at an airport and make decisions about their identity and what they will declare.
  • Join a tour as seen through the eyes of dead scientists and poets.
  • Have a tea in a temporary camp and chat to nomadic algorithms.
  • Nap on a squishy chair sculpture that generates sleep data.
  • Cook a snack in a connected kitchen where appliances will only sometimes do as you say.
  • Hop on the gondola and learn magic tricks as you travel above the Thames.
  • Dig into oh-so-cool hardware to make and break the garage.
  • Stroll through a secret garden and see if you can make it out again…

We’re seeking fellow pranksters who want to create these kinds of memorable moments.

We’re less interested in sessions and more interested in experiences: dance-offs, exhibits, interactive comic books, newly invented sports, crazy sets and drama of all kinds.

In the Mozfest call for proposals, we invite you to describe how you would make these tales come to life, or share you suggestions for new ones. Submit your suggestions by August 1.

Many thanks to my fellow wranglers: Ian Forrester, Michael Saunby, George Roter, Dietrich Ayala and Jon Rogers!