Generation Serf, part 1

The growth of virtual communities and new models of collaboration ties in directly with Generation C – the generation that wants an active hand in creating its own future. First identified by Trendwatching.com in 2004, Generation C refers to a generation of content creators who are just as comfortable creating content (blogs, videos, wiki entries) as they are consuming it.

Trendwatching said the C stood for content; Oxford-trained anthropologist Jake Pearce (www.jakepearce.com) disagreed. He saw content as the symptom, not the cause, and sought to explain Generation C by their motivation. His hypothesis: it’s about control.

In this light the icon of Generation C is the iPod, with its ability to create your own playlist. Why, Gen C asks, can we create our own playlist of music, but not our own playlist of other parts of our lives? For example, careers, education, government, banking. Why can’t these services by customized and tweaked to an individual’s specific preferences?

Simon Young, “Power of Integration” in The Social Media MBA, ed Christer Holloman (West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons, 2012)

There’s so much wrong with this that it’s hard to know where to begin…

All generations want an active hand in creating their own future. Generation C is no different in this regard.  Everyone wants to be able to shape their destiny.  Where Generation C differs – if and to the extent that it does differ – is in how precisely it views that activity of shaping its own future.  And the answer that is offered up is basically… the iPod.  Shaping their own future is, for Generation C, equivalent to creating a playlist for their iPod.  To making a list of commercial music, either bought online from an extremely wealthy company, or perhaps illegally pirated from an overpriced CD, and listening to that list on an overpriced, heavily restricted piece of hardware, assembled under undersafe conditions by underpaid overseas workers in a globalized economic order designed to minimize workers’ rights while maximizing corporate profits. Shaping your future means consuming this as opposed to that.  Lady Gaga or Mumford & Sons.  Or maybe just which you consume first, which you consume second.

Playlists are an excellent example of the false freedoms and choices that are meant to substitute for genuine choice, to distract people from their increasing lack of ability to shape their future, their increasing lack of freedom. To be clear, for most people throughout history, freedom, choice, the ability to shape their own future, to have control over their own destiny, have been severely constrained. But… in the conditions that arose, in the United States and elsewhere in the developed world in the years after the start of the Great Depression, and especially after World War II, we grew accustomed to a different state of affairs.

Part of that new state of affairs was a massive expansion of consumption. And over time, we’ve become more a consumer society than a producer society. An immensely wealthy consumer society, awash in goods. The rise in consumption was part of a general rise in quality of life and economic well-being in the years from the end of WWII until 1979: a major expansion of the middle class, very high levels of college education and home ownership, health insurance and health care, literacy, declines in infant mortality, stable employment. To people coming out of the shtetls, out of the Great Depression, out of the rural post-slavery of the south, all of that look like freedom, felt like freedom.

Peace and prosperity – for most, particularly white males, and leaving aside such blips as the Korean War and various police actions and armed foreign policy adventures. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (or property, if you prefer the older, original formulation).

This was the heyday of the American Dream. People moved out of tenements and into suburban homes with lawns and washing machines. They bought cars. Everyone’s kids went to high school, and huge numbers went to university, often the first in their families to do so.  Those kids graduated, got jobs, and started doing better than their parents.  And they expected it to last. We all expected it to last. This was foolish, and quiescent. We were wrong.

Digital Sweatshop: Web Content Editors

Craigslist has it all: shared apartments, casual hook-ups, a decent used (possibly stolen) bike, belay buddys for the local indoor climbing gym.  And jobs, maybe especially jobs.

But some of the jobs are almost as exploitative as some of the sex trade posts. Check out this one—text given in full:

Web Content Editors: “Web Content Editors (Telecommuting okay)

A personal PR firm is seeking skilled, detailed editors experienced in editing web copy. This is a remote contract position with flexible hours, but we do require that you edit a minimum of five pieces per week.

As an editor, you will work directly with the firm’s team of editors and writers on polishing professional biographies for executives and high-profile clients.

The ideal candidate will demonstrate the ability to catch minute grammatical errors as well as possess excellent editorial skills. As a an important gatekeeper of quality, candidates will edit content for organization, language and word choice, tone, quality of content, length, spelling, punctuation, and syntax. All candidates must have prior editing experience as well as possess a proficiency in The Chicago Manual of Style and MS Word. An undergraduate or graduate degree in English, or a certificate in editing, is preferred but not required. Experience editing finance, legal, or medical copy is a plus.

We manage and pay our team on the oDesk platform. Editors receive $5.00 per piece edited (this is the net amount to you after the 10% oDesk fee). Each piece is 250-350 words. Our editors average about three pieces per hour.

Please respond with a succinct cover letter and ensure that you have completed the Education and Employment History sections on the Resume tab of your oDesk contractor profile. Please apply online at https://url.odesk.com/ijalxm. If you do not have an oDesk contractor account, please create one first at http://www.odesk.com. Applicants must also take the U.S. English Chicago Style Editing Skills Test (#505) on oDesk prior to applying.

In other words, they want experienced copyeditors with college degrees to work for $15/hour – with no benefits, job security or guarantee of work… Okay, maybe not quite as bad as a sex trade ad, but still…

According to Payscale, the hourly salary for copyeditors with 1-4 years of experience ranges from $10-25. So the pay here would be within the range, albeit a bit low—but that range is based on a steady job with benefits.  And Payscale’s estimate seems low.

Robert Half International lists a salary range for proofreaders of $35,000 to $51,000—or around $17 to 25/hour, for a fulltime position with benefits—and for a copyeditor with 1-3 years experience the salary range is $36,750-49,750. In San Francisco, according to GlassDoor, the median salary for a copyeditor is $50,000 (around $25/hour – with benefits).

And remember, if you earn much from freelance work, you’ll have to pay taxes and social security, etc. on it, just like you would if you had a real job. That can come as a real stock on April 15th, even if you only earned a couple thousand dollars.

Want health insurance to go with your sweated labor? According to eHealthInsurance, “the average premium paid for individual health insurance coverage in the United States in 2011 was $2,196 per year ($183 per month).”

The future, or really the present, of work in the United States may be flexible—read, deeply uncertain and precarious—work such as this, but right now, the system is geared toward maximum exploitation, and is really only viable through forms of externalization.

In San Francisco, many people I know trying to make a living this way can only do so by relying on all sorts of help and support: from the free internet at cafés to the city’s low cost health plan—or even by using the free cost, high time and stress options available around town (public ER at SFGH or the awesome Haight Ashbury Free Medical Clinic). Along with occasional, free meals and food handouts from local charitable organizations. And dumpster diving.

When web content is being produced, edited, maintained by people using café’s wifi, eating out of soup kitchens, with no health protection or retirement savings… That’s called exploited labor, and is not sustainable even in the medium term. Some try to romanticize it by celebrating their dumpster diving for survival as living a freegan lifestyle (something I generally support, as a challenge to capitalism and consumerism) and going on about their freedom to work when and where they want.

But mostly what it is is the freedom to live in insecurity.

And only until they’re old. Because they’ll have no retirement savings. And this country will have no social security or medicare for the elderly. They will starve and die on the streets.

What we need is a new Processed World to attack these practices. What we need is what takes shape in Cory Doctorow’s amazing, insightful For the Win.

Refuse to produce content for free – like reviews on Amazon – and refuse to work for anything less than a living wage.

What we need is a WILDCAT STRIKE on teh interwebs.

Sweden Wants Your Trash

One of Many Trash Piles_4467c

Sweden Wants Your Trash : Move over Abba, Sweden has found new fame. The small Nordic country is breaking records — in waste. Sweden’s program of generating energy from garbage is wildly successful, but recently its success has also generated a surprising issue: There is simply not enough trash.

Only 4 percent of Swedish garbage ends up in a landfill, according to Swedish Waste Management. Due to its efficiency in converting waste to renewable energy, Sweden has recently begun importing around 800,000 tons of trash annually from other countries. (via NPR.)

This is nice. Awesome even.  But only for now, as a kind of stopgap.  There is simply no way that the energy which Sweden gets from the waste comes anywhere close to the energy used in making that trash (and transporting it to Sweden).

Sweden’s trash importing only makes sense in a world where too much trash is produced, and countries are running out of landfill and other disposal options.

There are – or should be – concerns about pollution and toxics, though Sweden being Sweden I’m sure they’ve addressed this fairly adequately.

But even so, no one should be lulled into thinking this is anything other than an emergency measure for a crazy, unsustainable time.

I wonder what it will take for my city to rise

Ani DiFranco, “Subdivision” – from Revelling/Reckoning

For more…

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zerode:

Don’t those two kids look sweet? But they read “anarchist literature” so, you know, clearly evil. Honestly, shit like this is so unbelievable. How does the FBI get away with it? And with statements like “anarchists are criminals seeking an ideology to justify their actions,” which clearly refers to right-wing Republicans, not anarchists.

Originally posted on Sound + Noise:

Just a few weeks ago, an FBI task force raided a home* in Portland, Oregon very early in the morning. They broke down the front door with a battering ram and threw in a stun grenade, which is non-lethal but produces a very loud and disorienting noise and a blinding bright light. The team locked down the building and secured the sleepy, compliant occupants. The operation was one of several which also occurred in Olympia, WA and Seattle, WA, involving some 60-80 officers.

Just who were these dangerous criminals, these domestic terrorists whose threat level is so high that an FBI team with stun grenades, battering rams, and assault rifles needed to burst into their homes in the wee hours of the morning?

Why, it’s these two young folks,

Leah-Lynn Plante:

and Matt Duran:

Reportedly, the FBI search warrant was for black clothing, paint, sticks, computers and cell…

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Innovations to make future cities far more livable?

From folding cars to robotic walls: 5 innovations to make future cities far more livable

Big cities across the globe will soon be getting much, much bigger. As architect Kent Larson shares in this future-focused talk from TEDxBoston, 90 percent of the world’s population growth is expected to happen in cities. But while newly established cities tend to sprawl to accommodate growth, Larson envisions that the metropolises of the future will look more like cities of the past — for example, Paris — with tight-knit neighborhoods offering residents everything they need within the radius of a 20-minute walk.So how will we live comfortably with even more people crammed into even smaller areas?

(via TED Blog.)

I love the idea of cities becoming more like what they were in the past, but it is clear that there is a struggle being waged – albeit subtly and even at times subconsciously – between different visions of what the city of the future will be, and this TED Talk is an example…

The talk outlines several innovations to make city dwelling far more livable that architect Kent Larson and colleagues at the MIT Media Lab are working on, though their Changing Places research group and City Science Initiative.  But the 5 innovative research projects looked at in the blog post have little to do with creating a city “more like cities of the past — for example, Paris — with tight-knit neighborhoods.” Instead, they seem to focus on maintaining a city much like cities of today — or maybe 1980 — and in particular on maintaining the whole structure of private, individual ownership, of already existing capitalism, as much as possible:

  • A tiny car that can be parked anywhere
  • Headlights that communicate with pedestrians for the ubiquitous autonomous cars
  • Bikes for elderly and disabled: Persuasive Electric Vehicle (PEV)
  • An apartment that changes, thanks to robotic walls
  • Do-it-yourself sunlight for tiny apartments

Don’t get me wrong — all of these sound cool and interesting, particularly to a techno-nerd like me. And they sound like positive developments.  But they are all innovations designed to improve or ameliorate conditions produced by the all-conquering private automobile/mode of transport and a notion of living space that emphasizes private space for individuals and nuclear families above all else.

That is not the Paris — or New York — of the past, more like the LA or Chicago of the present (or maybe 1980, before the problems of urbanism really started cross-fertilizing with neoliberal policies to produce the situation in which we now find ourselves).

Not tiny cars nor autonomous cars with smart and sexy headlines, but effective public transit solutions are what we need, along with a return to a mode of living in which work, consumption and living spaces were not separated by such distances, where people could easily walk to most things.

Having robot walls and the ability “to program a personalized sunlight plan for their apartment, using their cell phone” sounds okay.  But consider the solutions of the past to the tiny, crowded living spaces and lack of sunlight for the majority of urban dwellers in New York and Paris and elsewhere — like Central Park.  Public space, shared space, communal space to provide the room to stretch out, and to enjoy the sunlight, which private quarters didn’t and couldn’t provide.  I’d rather have my city parks refurbished and maintained, and expanding in number, size and variety, than have “programmable sunlight” in my apartment, as its walls shift to give me some sense of space in the property I rent (because, let’s face it, you are I are not going to be able to buy a place to live in the City of Tomorrow).

As cities grow, as the number of people living in urban spaces increases, and as environmental issues weigh ever more heavily, the only way to accomodate those numbers in anything remotely pleasant and healthy is going to be to recreate all those shared, communal and public solutions that have been disappearing: laundromats instead of a private washing machine and dryer in every apartment; large, effective public parks.  Cafes and bars that function as de facto living rooms and meeting halls (very common, for example, in NYC at the beginning of the 20th Century). Cheap and healthy dining halls for walking people. Public baths.

And that electric bicycle for the elderly and disabled? I suspect most elderly and disabled would rather have effective public transit, though they might welcome the bicycle as an addition.  The real market for that PEV: “the businesswoman who has to wear a suit to the office, but wants a workout on her way home.”  And don’t make any mistake:

these innovations are all about the market, for developing new products for the City of Tomorrow rather than innovating for real livable cities that combine the best of modern technology with the best of the “cities of the past.”

LaborFest 2012 on now in San Francisco

 

LaborFest 2012
July 1 – July 31

Occupy, Past Present and Future – Lessons of The Past for Labor Today

Additional thoughts on George Tiller, on the anniversary of his murder

What Would George Tiller Do?
Today is the third anniversary of Dr. George Tiller’s assassination. On May 31, 2009, Tiller was shot and killed by Scott Roeder while he served as an usher in his Wichita church. Tiller was one of the only abortion providers in the country to provide late-term abortions. He often wore a button that said “Trust Women.”

I wonder, if Dr. Tiller were alive today, what he would think about the unwavering attack against women’s reproductive freedom and bodily integrity—if he could ever of imagined that American women would still not just be fighting for the right to abortion but for birth control. Or that there would be a national debate on whether or not it’s appropriate to call a woman who wants contraception coverage a “prostitute.” I imagine that even for a man who had seen a lot of misogyny in his life, the current climate against women would be shocking.

Since Tiller’s murder, the legislative agenda against reproductive justice—and common-sense decency—has been staggering. (via The Nation.)

Here’s something I wrote about the murder of George Tiller, back at the time it happened:

Well, I will probably continue to think about the murder of Dr. Tiller and the issues it raises, but there’s only so much I want to say about it here. A friend of mine cautioned me against saying anything at all, pointing out that, the way things are, no one ever changes their mind on the topic of abortion anyway. But as I said in my first post, it had more to do with standing up and being counted, registering my anger, than with any notion of changing any anti-abortion fundamentalist’s point of view. That being said…

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New Forms of Hacktivism: Pinterest, Twitter and IFTTT

With the various successes – and antics – of hackers identifying as “Anonymous,” hacktivism is very much on people’s minds these days. I’ve written before about Hacktivism (here, here, and here). Hacking is widely associated with breaking into computer systems (illegal), and more recently also with various forms of modifying or altering physical objects, particularly electronics, to get them to do non-standard things.  But as Wikipedia makes clear, “hacktivism” is a more general concept than just activist-oriented hacking of these kinds:

Hacktivism (a portmanteau of hack and activism) is the use of computers and computer networks as a means of protest to promote political ends. The term was first coined in 1996 by a member of the Cult of the Dead Cow hacker collective named Omega. If hacking as “illegally breaking into computers” is assumed, then hacktivism could be defined as “the use of legal and/or illegal digital tools in pursuit of political ends”. These tools include web site defacements, redirects, denial-of-service attacks, information theft, web site parodies, virtual sit-ins, typosquatting and virtual sabotage. If hacking as “clever computer usage/programming” is assumed, then hacktivism could be understood as the writing of code to promote political ideology: promoting expressive politics, free speech, human rights, and information ethics through software development. Acts of hacktivism are carried out in the belief that proper use of code will be able to produce similar results to those produced by regular activism or civil disobedience. (via Hacktivism – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

I’ve been thinking about – and acting on – that wider definition of hacktivism as “the use of computers and computer networks as a means of protest to promote political ends” and I wanted to share with you some of my ideas and actions.

Pinterest seems to me to be, mostly, little more than a huge catalog with ads. Lots of images of things to buy; it’s no mistake that one of the default categories is “Products I Love”.  The whole category list is built primarily around selling and advertising. Where is the category for news? for politics or current events?

And of course a huge percentage of the pins are just pictures of products with links to where they can be bought.  When they aren’t essentially catalog entries (this beautiful dress, that pair of shoes), they are ads (“lose weight now”) or perhaps links to recipes; I haven’t followed that many pins as it gets depressing.  It’s like one big supermarket checkout magazine – though thankfully with fewer pictures of Jennifer Aniston and Kim Kardashian.

Admittedly, there is a growing trend of pining images of nature, art, inspirational quotes, humor and photography on Pinterest that is most welcome (unlike the persistent internet meme of “cute cats” which also has a growing pin presence), but I think we can do more with the site.  I think we can hack Pinterest – or at least engage in some hacktivism there.

Post pictures of Occupy protests. Make and post text images with facts on injustice and inequality, on the threat of climate change, on corruption, or with your favorite quotes from Malcolm X or Emma Goldman or Marx or Noami Wolf or Noam Chomsky.  Take pictures of your squat or community garden and start a Pinterest board called “Squats” or “Collectivism” or “A Better Way of Life” or “Another World is Possible.”

Make and “pin” composite photos showing slums on one side and Rodeo Drive on the other, or garbage dumps and Walmart, or a homeless person and a banker.  You get the idea.

Apart from its conspicuous consumption, Pinterest is also overwhelming white, middle-class, able bodied and heterosexual. Diversify!  The first time I posted an image of two women kissing, I got a complaining comment from a woman who said her granddaughter used the site and she didn’t want her exposed to things like that. Expose! Be there, be queer, help them get used to it.  Even Mitt Romney’s political advisers are backing down on the gay issue.

Twitter is also fertile ground for hacktivism of this sort. Recently, a progressive group posted a petition on one of those Change/Move/etc. petition sites concerning some minor reform at Domino’s Pizza. But even leaving aside how awful their pizza is, Domino’s is a nightmare.  The founder is notoriously anti-choice and anti-gay, and the company is now almost wholely owned by your friendly neighborhood vulture capitalists, Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital, which bought 93% of the company in 1998. And it is rabidly Republican:

The Domino’s Pizza political action committee gave $26,500 to federal candidates in the 05/06 election period – 0% to Democrats and 100% to Republicans. David A. Brandon, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Domino’s personally gave $37,265 to Republicans ($0 to Democrats) in this same period. (via Domino’s Pizza – SourceWatch.)

So rather than sign some no doubt well-intentioned petition to reform some aspect of this company, I went onto TweetDeck and created a quick list for any tweet mentioning Domino’s, and then replied to those tweets with my own, saying things like “Dominos is anti-choice, anti-gay and 100% Republican” and linking to the SourceWatch article.

In fact, one could automate this kind of hacktivist tweet – and other online / social media hactivist actions – through the new IFTTT service (“If This Then That”). Using something like this “recipe”, you could set up an automated response to tweets mentioning Domino’s, or whatever.  Set up a new target every day, or week.

If you can get a whole group on board, you might add some sort of hashtag hacktivism as well, and try to get something positive and/or provocative trending. Be creative. Would #JustinBeiberHatesDominos trend?  You’ll never know until you try.

Greek Elections – and photos of the protests that drove the change

With the Greek election results heralding a massive rejection of the current EU/ECB/IMF austerity plans for that country, and of the two parties that have run Greece for the last two decades, I figured I’d post some photos of the clashes that contributed to this result.

The downside of the election results is a massive surge in popularity for the far-right, anti-immigrant, neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party.  The upside is that the dominant parties to emerge from the election are all progressive and leftist.

Back in  February, Greeks battled police in central Athens to protest harsh austerity measures. Parliament members had approved an austerity plan in an effort to get $170 billion in bailout money from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund as part of a deal in which private creditors will take loses of up to 70 percent on the debt they hold.

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Berlin ACTA Protest, February 25, 2012

Activists protest from inside the Neptune fountain at Alexanderplatz during a demonstration against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) on February 25, 2012 in Berlin, Germany.

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International Worker’s Day!

Some rights reserved by hughillustration. From Flickr.

Ivy: Homeless in San Francisco – a YA novel

In this empathetic tale of hope, understanding, and the importance of family, readers face the difficult issue of poverty and the many hardships of being homeless through an inspiring young heroine named Ivy. Ivy is the story of a young girl who finds herself homeless on the streets of San Francisco when she and her father, Poppy, are evicted from his artist loft.

Struggling to survive day to day, Ivy and Poppy befriend a dog who takes them to the ramshackle home of quirky siblings Eugenia and Oscar Orr, marking the start of some amazing adventures. Blending a spoonful of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist with a dash of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City and a few pinches of the Adventures of Lassie, Ivy’s tale will appeal to young readers as well as give adults material to discuss with children.

“Lolitas, Oliver Twists and Huckleberry Finns live on, and now, Ivy’s tale of hope lives right alongside them.” —Robin Clewly, San Francisco Chronicle

Available from PM Press, Powell’s or Amazon.com.

An Alternative to Amazon.com’s Occupy Hoodie

 As an alternative to the #Occupy hoodie from Amazon.com that I wrote about previously

(Image from Not All Occupy Protestors Are Anarchists; Just the Cool Ones | Neon Tommy.)

Just take your basic black hoodie – bought from some nice, non-corporate capitalist exploiter and not made in a sweatshop (and when you find that shop let me know) – and then tape any slogan you want to it.

You’ll still run the risk of being shot, beaten or pepper-sprayed, but you won’t have contributed to Amazon.com’s bottom line along the way.

On the other hand, there’s still this…

Frank Kozik limited edtion black Anarchy Cat Qee 8″ vinyl figure

Montreal Anarchist Bookfair – May 19-20, 2012

MONTREAL ANARCHIST BOOKFAIR 2012

Two days: Saturday, May 19 & Sunday, May 20
10am-5pm on both days

The Anarchist Bookfair will take place in two buildings across from each other in Parc Vinet, a short walk from Lionel-Groulx metro:
– Centre d’éducation populaire de la Petite-Bourgogne et de St-Henri (CEDA), 2515 rue Delisle
– Centre Culturel Georges-Vanier (CCGV), 2450 rue Workman

Anarchist Bookfair » The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair will be May 19-20 at two buildings in Parc Vinet (CEDA & CCGV).