hacktivism

blackspot shoes, the sole of a new company

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there are a few things that get me miffed about society - one of them is the concept of sustainable consumption. and for the past seven months, i've constantly thought about my foot print. oh sure i've taken planes, trains and automobiles and find myself considering the purchase of carbon credits... time and time again, i know i've taken my fare share of dead dinosaurs. too boot, i've used plastic bags, purchased things made of Styrofoam and consumed inorganically substances that will duly destroy the planet in a smattering of centuries. nonetheless, i've been mentally wrestling with the issue of consumption. for the past seven months, i've consumed less than i have ever consumed. honestly, it feels a bit weird.... all of this is beside the point of me writing this longwinded trite, hippopotamus prose.

over the past week, i've had a bit of time to rifle through some old issues of adbusters. if you're a neo-liberal hippy hipster like me, without a doubt you've picked up this Vancouver based mag, torpedoed though the articles in ecstasy exclaiming "i will never consume again" while your chuck taylor's wrap your feet and ben davis wipe your behind.

after taking note of the questionable eco-friendly paper quality, i stumbled upon adbusters #73 (september/october 2007) issue. smack dab in the center of their social commentary, i found a letter from paul cooper on the subject of branding blackspot shoes. it's a short and notable letter. paul's oration foretells the expansion of "blackspot" as a brand.

according to Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island a "blackspot" is given to a pirate as a verdict of guilt. in this case, "blackspot" is the name of the three year old shoe brand (youtube video). (does anyone else see the self deprecating irony of putting on a pair of blackspots? by wearing the shoes one extolls the virtue of hiprococy - "as an activist, i am also a slave to fashion and a slave to brands.")

so back to the shoes... after building the concept, signing deals to outsource construction and selling 25,000 pairs of shoes, adbusters wants to diversify the brand by building alternative centers of mass market consumption. from starbucks to mcdonalds, mr. cooper sees blackspot as the "go-to" brand of alternative conception. (somewhere deep inside of my peon brain, i'm having a hard time rectifying the fact that adbusters is comparing itself to the "evil" demons of mcd and starbucks while seeking to compete with them on the global market.)

there are four reasons why i am writing this article. each one is based around the essential attributes of blackspot's brand that according to paul, "this time the rule of the game have changed."

1. customer = participant, the passive consumer becomes an active participant in shaping the social enterprises of the future.
2. grassroots capitalism, people support the efforts of small-scale entrepreneurs to capture market share from faceless megacorporations.
3. open-source, anyone can brand or co-brand their products or service with the blackspot, joining a loose alliance of thousands of other indie blackspotters.
4. jiu-jitsu marketing, blackspotters will go head-to-head with the dominate companies in the industry, using the power of the world's biggest brands to drive their success.

while i genuinely think that blackspot is onto a good thing, i don't see these rules as earth shattering. they represent nothing more than the long standing fight between small business and big business.

#1 speaks about a passive consumer becoming active. yet, if you are like the millions of americans who care about the bottom line, we just want the cheapest product we can afford. i'm not an idiot (despite by bad grammar and poor spelling) i know economic theory states we must consume to exist. yet, since the dawn of towns and cities, convenience and passivity are the #1 and #2 creature comforts of humanity. nothing in this theory states why i should give a damn.

#2 is nothing more than telling people to buy local. as we move into cities, most items are produced globally. we sit with a painful realization that the world we live within is unsustainable. my ipod, my notebook, my pen, my shoes, my clothing... everything i own was not made in the city of it's acquisition. ok, most of the food i try to buy is local... but in the long run, telling people to purchase localy is not going to change the fact that north americans consume %80 of the world's resources.

#3 is novel in the sense that i can place a "blackspot" product into an advertisement and then do a bit of cross promotion. then again, the more i think about it, the more i come to understand that this is called marketing and branding. maybe #3 speaks concept that in the near future, service providers must join forces and marginalize our individual brands to compete against faceless megacorperations.

#4 is flat out about "marketing." but when i think about going "head-to-head" with megacorperations, i only see the concept of the "anti" brand. in other words, the "blackspot" brand says, "you are a smart, educated consumer. you like brands and love fashion. you know that i am not like them. instead of doing more with less, BUY ME!"

the only thing me thinks is a "revolution," is the fact that adbusters is changing.

if a company really wants to change the way the world works, let's not "sell out" or "buy in." let us find a new way to do business. yet, the more i think about how we can move swiftly into the future, i see that adbusters' alternatives are the only way to "safely consume" in hedonist material world.

as my mental tumblers roll, my mind is still locked into the concept that nothing has changed. if blackspot seeks to radically change the face of consumption, shouldn't they listen to Rev. Billy and the church of stop shopping or better yet, take a page of their own campaigns and educate the consumer and reduce the world's consumption?

ps - the more i touch an iphone, the more i want one. :P

day 175. a rough passage to antarctica

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the end of the road

it is day 13 at the end of the earth.

for the past 13 days, i've documented my story via video. so far, i've kicked out 8 videos and wake up every morning staring south at my last challenge. check out my holiday request and repost it to the rest of the world.

every door that has opened has not opened to antarctica. instead, i find myself in a small town with a few new friends and a long list of admirers. i really haven't had a day to myself, and the constant challenges have tested every level of my being. i am now up against a brick wall fighting through negative thoughts and working hard to keep my spirt up.

i have made it to the end of the earth and very few make it past this point. as of today, it is unlikely that i will find a commercial voyage that i can barter. despite that everyone says the same thing - i will not give up holding up my sign - "will work for antarctica." i know there are still untested door knobs (or if you are on a boat, latches). nonetheless, it's time to explore the last foreseeable option.

voyaging on a cruse is not cheap. if you make it to ushuaia, a last min ticket costs in the vicinity of $7,000 USD. fuel will cost another $200 USD, and then one is forced to purchase emergency medical and evacuation insurance at $200 USD. with taxes and jazz, i'm looking at almost $8,000 USD.

i have traveled around the world on the trust and hospitality of the world! i have traveled to the end of the earth exploring our social networks. i have placed my life into the hands of the internet, and you have carried me to the end of the earth. no longer is this one man's dream; i know the world is watching.

by the end of next year, i promise you an inspiring movie that will rock your socks and bring you to tears. if you contribute, i promise you a children's book. i promise your faith, your trust, your love will be rewarded! just as the world has given me it's love, all content will be given freely for the world to view. i have trusted the world and together we stand strong.

i know to some it might sound absurd to make it to the end of the earth and not try what i've tried all along... so i'm going to do what i've done best: asking you, mr and ms internet to help. so here's kick... link to chipin widget for $8000. if you have the chance to give, please do... if you are a corporation and want to sponsor the rest of the journey, feel free... contact me.

if you have cruse contacts or an ace up your sleeve, help a brother out. :)

ps - if you feel that this is a frivilous cause and one shouldn't spend a single cent on this exploration - consider contributing to Alive in Baghdad (community journalism) or The Frozen Pea Fund (breast cancer awareness).

day 126. scott, boris, free geek vancouver/pedal revolutionary show & michael tippet

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the pedal power!

(click on your fav gender for more pictures from vangroovy.)

like a jewel in a crown, vancouver sits atop north america's granola coast. this glisting gem hold the sparkle of many a geeks eye - a political party that incorporates FLOSS into it's charter, an organic network of evangelists building an 802.11b mesh network to blanket the city, a drupal/barcamp revolutionary, a computer recycling organization which harvests discarded computers for environmentally friendly recycling and helps homeless people connect to the internet... as if that wasn't enough, vangroovy is home to the worlds most popular citizen journalism news site - nowpublic.com

my friends, that's just the beginning... i wasn't able to meetup with workspace (one of the original coworking locations) nor the countless other drupal nor linux geeks who inhabit canada's most temperate climate. oh and did i forget to mention that vancouver had a very "healthy" merry-jane community? not that i'm into it, but the vangroovyites seem to be proud. combine the fact that the restaurants are delicious, the night life / arts community thriving, there's abundant coffee strong and a growing culture of brew pubs... vangroovy got's a groovy thing going on...

it's not like all of this fell into place. each one of the individuals whom i met spent years working with others to building their ideal city. the city isn't perfect. there's quite a bit of homelessness, drug abuse, displacement of affordable housing and gentrification.

through each of my interviews, everyone paraphrased the same statement "we're here, we're not moving away and we want to make a difference."

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day 125 photos. free geek vancouver

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the tech support
click on tech support for more photos.

i had an awesome time hanging out with ifny and david from free geek vancouver and pedal revolutionary radio show.

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Episode 17 - Mobile Activism in Egypt

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Recoded: 14 aug 2007
Locations: cairo, egypt
Tags: mobileactive, hacktivisim
Music: Recommencer (mosquitomix in G) by ditto ditto
About: through the heat and stomach pains, i found sometime to interview Noria Younis. while not originally an activist, she attend a protest where the government sexually harassed protesters and that convinced her it was time to make a difference.

day 89. i'm jetsetting to couchsurf.

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"bling, bling, who's dis? oh it's jetset let me call you right back."

attached to this post, you'll find my jetset interview in MOV format... i've you're just tuning in. there are few things you should know...
1. i still need contributions of $11.11
2. i hope some auzzies see this video. on friday, i'll start hitchhiking across the continent. no seriously! i'm going to stick my thumb out and see how far it takes me. if i'm lucky, i should only need my towel.
3. i'm looking on bringing my insanity to the US. if you're hot to trot, join me on this venture.

in the meantime, i'm tanking up on my last few hours of internet uploading flickr photos before moving out of my plush air conditioned & hot water shower hotel room.

today, i had a great interview with Javier from Khmer OS. his story is amazing! with a wondering soul and a dream, Javier is helping create a society educated, trained and technology proficient in their OWN language. after today, i know damn well i'm blessed to have an education and tools i can use without ANY translation.

this evening, hui (a couchsurfer) and i sketched out a quick action plan of activities. tomorrow, breakfast, palace of decadence, morning market, a monument or two to genocide, home cooked lunch and then she'll depart to home school a kid, and i'll fend off the throbbing men becking me into their motorcycle/basket contraptions. (i'm sexy - aka rich - in cambodia!)

tomorrow morning when i shlep my load down the street to huixian's apartment, once again i won't have electricity nor hot water. on the other hand, i'll be chillin with a leo from '78 who's traveled quite a bit, and knows a thing or two about the cheap underbelly of da' Phen.

btw, you should know this country is twisted - it's as if everything is for sale. oh wait, everything is for sale! tonight, i saw a local man get slapped, punched, kicked and thrown into a busy street. this was done by a cambodian military guy in uniform and AK-47 over his shoulder. while at times this country might seem like disney land, the reality is more painful.

i'll regroup in bangkok, but for the next few days i'm going to be off-line. in the meantime...

- i hope you enjoy my videos
- kick me some cash
- find me a place to sleep
- look at my photos and help me selected images to be exhibited!!! YES, my photos will be exhibited!

day 87. reflections of thailand

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food great!
people awesome!
weather nice!
cost of living affordable.

if the kids in bangkok decide to put on a barcamp, i'll be there to help. i've discovered that thailand is very much a developing to be a jewel of south east asia. despite the one year old coup, open source and the geek community has a foot hold - thailand drupal, duocore, zickr, umbutu, and thai creative commons represent the rockin nature of our global conversation.

many thanks to sugree phatanapherom for cooking me dinner and let me stay at his house. sugree, can you tell your mother thanks for this morning's conversation!?! she kept talking to me in thai and i just nodded my head as if i understood. man, i can only guess what questions i answered. :P

...more to come later, but for now i'm off to Cambodia to interview the cats at the khmer software initiative.

as for a personal update, i feel fit and overfed but developed a sinus infection. i feel horrible that i haven't taken the time to hammer several blog posts and more horrible for the fact that i'm tied to a monstrosity of a video editing machine.

what keeps mankind alive

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moon in bloom

with a bit of tung and cheek, joe strummer sung the following immortal words...

"Number 1, You have the right not to be killed...
... Number 2, You have the right to food money...
... Number 3, You have the right to free speech as long as you're not dumb enough to actually try it.
"

as last night's waning hours worked their fury into a insatiable quest for entertainment, i found my self immersed in "seize the time" and thinking about my conversations with mardini, alaa, amr and nora.

back in nyc, i would have read their stories on global voices and thought of their story to be a novel use of social technology. after visiting them, hearing them, watching them with friends and conversing with a room full of geeks, i no longer viewed them as just a story. i no longer saw novelty, but the reality we are locked in a long struggle.

this struggle is not just about technology, but providing localized technology... without adequate translation, a computer, iphone, ipod, etc is no different than a hammer. (this will be addressed in a video interview... but hopefully you can understand that english internet superpower is not the "end all be all" of intellectual prowess... then again the hole-in-the-wall project would disagree with me.)

humanity has many faces. a majority of them are pleasant. (i am fortunate to see these faces across the globe - from the cairo subway to the streets of the bronx.) when it comes to the minority, this struggle works it way to be a battle over power. my visit to the pyramids reinfoced this fact.

through my eyes, i see this struggle to be a struggle over basic human rights. in the USA, we are "fortunate" to be "born" with "inalienable rights." incredibly, 40 years ago "the great experiment" failed in providing these rights to it's citizens. now at the dawn of the 21st century, through the use of digital technology, we have a unique opportunity to shape the way "inalienable rights" are passed along to the rest of the world.

without trying to be radical, a basic civics lesson will tell you "politics is war without bloodshed - and war is a continuation of politics, with bloodshed." huey p. newton & bobby seale built the black panther party to be THE vessel for the american black community to fight oppression, racism and murder and provide "Land, Bread, Housing, Education, Clothing, Justice And Peace." despite the fact their organization was criminalized and persecuted, the black panther party died to bring justice for all poor americans. (btw, did you know they created the "free breakfast for children program" and popularized medical research in sickle-cell disease?)

forty years later, the world continues to face these same problems. most of the people whom i've interviewed all see the same thing.

the technology we have at our disposal is not just a simple vessel of entertainment. our modern technology is a complex beast that crashes through the gates of oppression and gives us an opportunity to make the world a better place.

sadly and on a too frequent basis, i see many of us blinded by the shiny side of the iphone, the hue of a garment or worse the insatiable consumption for "sustainable consumption." yet, one can not separate the quest of basic human rights as the pit of peach. all of these issues are wrapped up on the third planet from the sun.

by creating "a bill of rights for users of the social web" it's great to see that smarr, canter, scoble and arrington hopping on the same chariot many political technologist championed last year through the integration proclamation. while i support both, i see these intellectual statements as one thing, and can't stop thinking of bertolt brecht and kurt weill's song "what keeps mankind alive"

You gentlemen who think you have a mission
To purge us of the seven deadly sins
Should first sort out the basic food position
Then start your preaching, that’s where it begins

You lot who preach restraint and watch your waist as well
Should learn, for once, the way the world is run
However much you twist or whatever lies that you tell
Food is the first thing, morals follow on

So first make sure that those who are now starving
Get proper helpings when we all start carving
What keeps mankind alive?

What keeps mankind alive?
The fact that millions are daily tortured
Stifled, punished, silenced and oppressed
Mankind can keep alive thanks to its brilliance
In keeping its humanity repressed
And for once you must try not to shriek the facts
Mankind is kept alive by bestial acts

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day 47. arab digital expression camps

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at the suggestion of alaa and manal, they are going to act as my translators at a arab digital expression camp. from what i've just been told, i'm not getting home till 1 am! i'm really looking forward to this little trip!

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Episode 12 - Christophe Aguiton, future coworking software and the barcamp/coworking community

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Recoded: 24 July 2007
Locations: Paris, France
Tags: documentary, coworking, barcamp, activist, paris, france, technology, luck of seven
Music: On the Carousel - The Hollies
About: Christophe Aguiton, Orange / France Telecom labs, lays out the plans for future coworking software. he also articulates why coworking and barcamps are so important to the nature of production and the protection of society.

episode 11 - Tactical Technology Collective

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Recoded: 20 July 2007
Locations: Angel, London; Brighton, England
Tags: erider, tactical technology collective, luck of seven, documentary, citizen journalism, hacktivism, non-profits, open source
Music: random band at moo.com party
About: on the worst possible day to travel, i decided it would be a smart idea to travel from london to brighton. with the tube flooded, freeway and surface trains submerged, i arrived in brighton a few hours later than expected. despite nature's attempt to thwart my meeting, dirk slater and i spent the afternoon talking about technology, hacktivism and non-profits.

Tactical Technology Collective
http://tacticaltech.org

GRO
http://www.gromo.org/

GRO Case Study
http://www.lincproject.org/toolkit/case_studies/ucan_linux/gro2_.shtml

NOSI
http://www.nosi.net/

Circuit Rider - the global eRider community
http://www.eriders.net

NPO Groups
Tech Rider Email list - http://npogroups.org/lists/info/riders-tech

LINC Project
http://www.lincproject.org/

Amanda Hickman
http://velociraptor.info/notes

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on the luck of seven was an open-source, around the world project by noel hidalgo, a new york city based activist, organizer, barcamper and coworker.

for seven months, he traversed the globe. using a new media voodo (blog, vlog, wiki, flickr, couchsurfing, twitter, myspace, dopplr, and facebook), noneck harnessed the collective knowledge of the internet, and report on seven topics of freedom. this trip was funded by 253 people and supported, house, fed, and loved by countless others.

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