April 6, 2012. 09:30a–12:30p
The tour explored the history of community gardens in Boston as sites of resistance against the increasing privatization of resources in the city. Many of Boston’s gardens are the result of grassroots struggles for community land control and food security. As sites of intense cooperation, community gardens can be seen as a training ground for new forms of social solidarity, political self-organization, and ecological consciousness.
The tour of Boston’s community gardens is a component of the thesis project of Scott Berzofsky (SMACT 2012).
April 6, 2012. 09:30a–12:30p
FreeSWSong New track recomended by Richard Stallman
Sleeping with Stallman – Digital Disobedience Project
Mattress, wood, curtains, MP3 players, headphones, LP envelopes, assorted reading materials downloaded from the Internet. Courtesy of the artist.
This project is made possible thanks to a CAMIT Grant and to a Director’s Grant, MIT
“Civil disobedience thus conceived must be viewed as an exercise in public moral education, as a tactic to achieve law reform. Hence the disobedience is properly called ‘civil’ because it is part of the civic life of the society. But no such appeal to the public conscience can be made unless the illegal conduct is done openly, in the public forum, as a political act.”[i]
Hugo Adam Bedau
Sleeping with Stallman - Digital Disobedience Project began as research for cases of civic disobedience in the Greater Boston area and at the MIT campus. The project started as an investigation into the control imposed on informal settlement at the tent city at Dewey Square in Occupy Boston—a peaceful protest that uses dwelling as the main tactic. The Occupy Boston settlement uses land occupation, inhabitation, and sleeping in public space as a political tactic to disrupt the existing economic and political system. The ideas generated by “sleeping in public” as a form of social critique led me to an article on Richard Stallman by K.C. Jones in InformationWeek, that notes: “until around 1998, his office at MIT’s AI Lab was also his residence. He was registered to vote from there.” In other words, Stallman was sleeping on campus.
In 1984, Richard Stallman launched the GNU Project, to develop, the words of its founder, “a sufficient body of free software […] to get along without any software that is not free.”[ii] GNU is a complete, Unix-Like operating system created through mass collaboration and available to all, in order to make possible for anyone to use a computer with complete freedom. Stallman formulated the GNU Project as an act of civic digital disobedience in reaction to the increasing control of MIT’s software’s sources which were developed as private capital of knowledge for corporate profits. He proposed GNU and the free software movement as an act of political digital activism and a critique of the capitalization of culture and knowledge within universities in the United States. Stallman’s foundational principle is that “free software” is not “free” because it does not have a price, but rather, it is free in the sense of liberty, as a concept aligned to free speech and liberty “free software is a matter of the users’ freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software.”[iii]
Sleeping is then a powerful form of resistance, paralleling what the Italian Autonomism and Operaismo group from the 1970’s define as a “subtraction of time—an activity invested in the refusal to work, and of high performance and production. Sleeping is a behavior that happens all the time in hidden corners and library couches throughout MIT, and I am interested in accommodating a space for that “non conforming” activity in order not to represent civic disobedience only, but to actually embody it within the project. Sleeping with Stallman is a “hack” into the exhibition space with the simple activity of sleep or rest. “Hack” is another MIT-coined word: “A hack is a parodic, practical joke designed to debunk authority.”[iv] As Stallman says, “hacking means exploring the limits of what is possible, in a spirit of playful cleverness.”[v]
Sleeping with Stallman consists of a soft platform that will host three sound compilations and three reading sections. Section 1 will have different versions of the free software songs by Stallman with covers by various artists plus text. Section 2 will have a piece by John Cage (4’33, a silence piece) and the palindromic three-part piece written by Guillaume de Machaut in the 1300s, Ma Fin Est Mon Commencement, both consider by Stallman to be hacks; this will also have a text component on the legal history of “Sleeping at MIT,” which is itself also a “hack.” The 3rd compilation will have texts and an audio lecture by Richard Stallman talking about the free software movement, copyright/copyleft, software monopoly, and other topics related to the capitalization of knowledge in the digital age.
[i] Hugo Adam Bedau, “Introduction,” Civil Disobedience in Focus, London and New York: Routledge, 1991, p.7.
[ii] The GNU Manifesto”. Free Software Foundation. http://www.gnu.org/gnu/manifesto.html
[iii] Ibid., http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/philosophy.html
[iv] Samuel J. Keyser, “Hacking at MIT,” The Tech, February 6, 1999, p. 6.
Caleb Benjamin Harper, Ali Khalid Qureshi, Summer Stephanie Sutton, students of ACT course Introduction to Networked Cultures and Participatory Media presented their collaborative project iHuman for the Boston chapter of the Disobedience exhibition.
iHuman is a platform for anonymous manipulation of the physical environment. Our avatar has the capacity to walk, touch and engage in any global environment. By reconfiguring the FaceTime platform, along with the development of a prosthetic apparatus, iHuman hopes to re-conceive and expand the affordance of an existing technology.
The art piece allows users to experience physical environments in a manner which has previously been inconceivable. By allowing the controller to be both anonymous and remote, communication is no longer bound by moral/ethical or social constraints.
On Friday afternoon, November 18 2011 Julie Kepes Stone took us to South Boston. There is great community garden on Berkeley Street that Julie was actively involved with for more than a decade.
On the same Friday November 18 2011 we visited several gardens in Roxbury where Julie Kepes Stone was involved in establishing them and contributing with her knowledge and enthusiasm.
On Friday November 18 2011 we met Julie Kepes Stone, daughter of the founder of CAVS at MIT, Georgy Kepes, to start our investigation into one category of occupied lands of Boston – community gardens. Julie is a true expert of the field as for many years she has been working on various social programs developing gardening and food cultures in the city among many other activities that she was part of. During years Julie was supervising more than a hundred gardens in greater Boston area.
We started at Clark-Cooper Community Garden at the grounds of the hospital in Roxbury.
On Monday, November 14 2011, we met with Mel King – an educator, youth worker, social activist, community organizer and developer, elected politician, author, and an Adjunct Professor at MIT. We recorded an interview with Mel at South End Technology Center on obedience, disobedience, peoples’ rights, the first Tent City, gardening and community leadership and more.
On Saturday, November 12, 2011 we met Paul E. Summit, who was a law student at Harvard at the time of the protests in ’69.
Our interview with Paul had been planned long in advance of our Saturday meeting which was to take place at 9 AM on the steps of Harvard’s Widener library. We hoped he would walk us through the events of the ’69 strike from a first-hand perspective.
Two days prior to our meeting, in an unexpected turn of events, Harvard yard was occupied by a group of protesters affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement. In response to the protesters the administration had put the campus on lockdown with officers at every gate requesting strict identification and admitting only Harvard students and faculty. As such, when we arrived for the interview the officers at the gate informed us that Harvard library cards and MIT ID’s were not adequate identification to gain access to the yard. After explaining that we were meeting with a Harvard alumni for a meeting at the library the police officers conferred with each other and gave us provisional access providing that we went directly to the library. As we made our way toward Widener and met Paul, he suggested that we conduct our meeting (which we were recording) on the steps of the library. There he narrated the events of ’69 gesturing to the different parts of the yard in which these events unfolded. In the meantime police officers in large vehicles were surveilling the yard to monitor all people therein and in particular to ensure that the ranks of the protesters would not grow. Upon seeing us on the steps with recording equipment the police immediately confronted us.
Unfortunately, due to these circumstances, we were put in the very awkward position of being accused of disobedience ourselves in order to fulfill a simple and relatively straight-forward historical interview. Because the police interpreted our activities as counter to our stated purpose of meeting an alumni at the library (which is what transpired), we have now been added to a list of those charged with trespassing. They informed us that we are no longer welcome on the Harvard campus in any of the facilities, for any purpose, without first having these charges rescinded by the university’s chief of police.
Joining the march after the interview.
On Friday, November 11, 2011 we met Hans Guggenheim, former Associate Professor of Anthropology at MIT, to talk about Richard Leacock.
On Friday evening November 11th, 2011 we visited Hans Guggenheim house and performed a joyful recording session supported with local pizza, chinese tea and delicious sorbet ice-cream.
Project Outline – Networked Cultures – Caleb Harper
1) Speaking Animal
a) A prosthetic for releasing our inner animal
i) Our “inner animal” is a common voice that is not subject to local, regional or global context. It is the true common voice that breaks down invisible dividing lines of class, religion, morality, culture, race, gender, education and geographic location
ii) Utilizing anonymity as a tool for expressing the innate animalistic qualities of being human that are often socially unacceptable or in opposition to prevalent social moralities or culture
iii) By “releasing the inner animal” it will serve to both unite and provoke. It will unite those that encounter the device by hearing messages that are relevant to everyone and provoke others to step out of the “herd” imbuing them with confidence to speak their inner animal and spark spontaneous physical interactions with others
iv) In a world of ever increasing virtual connectedness we face a critical lack of development of physical connectedness
(1) Tweeting, Blogging and face-booking facilitate building virtual relationships and allow the freedom to virtually “become animal” but only to others that are in our sphere of influence and provide for far greater silence in the physical world
i) The device is to be worn by a person in a public space
ii) The prosthetic will replace the users mouth and will speak messages of an unknown digital origin
iii) By displacing anonymity with an anonymous voice attached to a physical body messages are innately more “human” and associated with a physical person
iv) The physical person experiences the “freedom” of speaking out in public
v) The anonymous user experiences a physical public outlet
vi) The community gains a deeper insight in the collective thoughts of “animals” in their community
3) Research Objectives
i) The manifestation of the physical digital human
ii) Creating physical connectedness at a local, region and/or global level
(a) Test site -Roxbury
1. www.roxburyspeaks.com – creating a digital interface for the Roxbury community to enter messages to be disseminated in the public spaces
2. 10 Speaking animal prototypes deployed and traded among random members of the community
3. Anticipated interaction areas – homes, schools, subways, public green spaces, sidewalks, etc.