Wikileaks making the news rather than breaking it

Paul Raven @ 15-07-2010

Everywhere I look, I seem to see Wikileaks. The site’s founder, Julian Assange, appears at The Guardian and delivers a cautious guess at the shape of world media after another decade:

Is WikiLeaks the journalistic model for the future? He gives a characteristically lateral answer. “All over the world the barriers between what is inside an organisation and outside an organisation are being smoothed out. In the military, the use of contractors means that what is the military and what is not the military is smoothed out. Newswise, you see the same trend – what is the newspaper and what is not the newspaper? Comments on websites from the general public and supporters . . . ” His point trails away, so I press him to make a prediction about the shape of the media in a decade or so from now. “For the financial and specialist press, it’ll still look mostly the same – your daily briefing about what you need to know to run your business. But for political and social analysis, that’s going to be movements and networks. You can already see this happening.”

An insight into his stated political stance (or lack thereof):

In his talk, Assange had said that he is neither of the right nor the left – his enemies are forever trying to pin labels on him in order to undermine his organisation. What matters first and foremost is getting the information out. “First the facts, ma’am,” is how he summarises his philosophy to me. “Then we’ll get down to what we want to do about it. You can’t do anything sensible until you know what the situation is that you’re in.” But while he rejects political labels, he says WikiLeaks does have its own ethical code. “We have values. I am an information activist. You get the information out to the people. We believe a richer intellectual and historical record that is fuller and more accurate is in itself intrinsically good, and gives people the tools to make intelligent decisions.” He says an explicit part of their purpose is to highlight human rights abuses, no matter where they are carried out or who perpetrates them.

And some sidebar from Wired UKWikileaks runs pretty frugal for what is, in some respects, a new media non-profit startup:

Wikileaks has received 400,000 euros (£333,000) through PayPal or bank money transfers since late December, and spent only 30,000 euros (£25,000) from that funding, says Hendrik Fulda, vice president of the Berlin-based Wau Holland Foundation.

[…]

The money has gone to pay the travel expenses of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and spokesman Daniel Schmitt, as well as to cover the costs of computer hardware, such as servers, and leasing data lines, says Fulda. Wikileaks does not currently pay a salary to Assange or other volunteers from this funding, though there have been discussions about doing so in the future, Fulda adds. The details have not yet been worked out.

“If you are drawing from volunteers who are basically doing stuff for free and if you start paying money, the question is to whom, and to whom not, do you pay, and how much?” Fulda said. “It’s almost a moral question: How much money do you pay?”

The big question here is whether the organisation can keep itself small enough to stay free of spook infiltration, and keep close enough to its core ethics that they don’t suffer a serious case of mission slippage or internal fraud. It’ll never be a big-bucks business, I’d guess, but the accrued counter-authority power and kudos will appeal to a lot of people with axes to grind. But what if they manage to make it an open-source process, so that the same work could be done by anyone even if Wikileaks sank or blew up? An amorphous and perpetual revolving-door flashmob, like Anonymous without the LOLcats and V masks? It’s essentially just a protocol, albeit one that runs on human and electronic networks in parallel.

That Assange is a real character, though; wonder how much he’s playing on the Warhol similarities deliberately? Strikes me as the sort canny enough to play the media on the symbolic level, that’s for sure. Definitely a name to watch out for.


Mirror’s Edge – The Emptiness of the Short-distance Runner

Jonathan McCalmont @ 24-06-2009

Blasphemous Geometries sees Jonathan McCalmont taking a run with Mirror’s Edge, a game whose hipster near-future dystopian stylings fail to disguise its underlying theme – freedom is illusory.

Blasphemous Geometries by Jonathan McCalmont

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After reading my previous column, you could be mistaken for thinking that only great games have themes and subtexts, and that those themes and subtexts only emerge when designers manage to work together and combine the various elements that make up a game into one shining image such as GTA IV’s initial depiction of the isolation and alienation that pervade 21st Century life. This is not in the least bit true.

Many crap games have themes, too. They have themes because every line of stilted absurd dialogue, every frustrating control mechanism, every poorly-designed level and every generic character all support one idea – an idea that the game designers almost certainly never had in mind when they started work on the title. Mirror’s Edge – from EA Design Illusions CE – is not only a terrible game, it is also a game with a clear thematic message: Freedom is an illusion, and all those who would claim to champion it are hypocritical and deluded fools. Continue reading “Mirror’s Edge – The Emptiness of the Short-distance Runner”


Friday Free Fiction for 21 December

Paul Raven @ 21-12-2007

Looks like things are winding down for the holidays – I know I certainly am! But there’s still free fiction to be had …

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Much of the following comes courtesy of the SF Signal gang.

Recently-free fiction at ManyBooks.net:

Jeff Patterson continues his tradition of Christmas stories with “The Harbinger of All Things Glorious“.

Bonus! Free audio fiction: SFF Audio has a reading of “Trunk And Disorderly” by Charles Stross.

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Chris Roberson rolls out a festive re-run: “Timmy Gromp Saves Christmas“.

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Oh, so you’d like some non-fiction, would you? Well, thank MetaFilter for this little pointer:

Gutenberg-e now offers open access to Columbia University Press history ebooks.

“These award winning monographs, coordinated with the American Historical Association, afford emerging scholars new possibilities for online publications, weaving traditional narrative with digitized primary sources, including maps, photographs, and oral histories.”

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Make way for the Friday Flash Fiction crew … a few troops short, but still soldiering on despite the weather!

Somewhat appropriately for the season, Dan Pawley has “A Kind Of Homecoming“.

Neil Beynon has either been at the funny mushrooms, or he’s visited a different “Centre Point” to the one in London.

Gareth L Powell will twist your head with “The Red King’s Nursery“.

Very appropriately for the season, Gareth D Jones is “Frozen“.

And yours truly chronicles the adventures of “Alex in Hinterland“.

Flash fiction bonus! As noted by Gareth D Jones, Guy Hogan doesn’t just post flash fiction at his blog, but provides tips and advice on writing the stuff too.

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Looks like that’s your lot for this week – but then I expect you’ll have plenty of other stuff to keep you busy, too.

From me (and on behalf of the whole Futurismic gang) have the best holiday you possibly can, whatever you may call it in your household! Take care, folks.

[tags]freedom, fiction, stories, online[/tags]

Information wants to be free

Paul Raven @ 18-12-2007

As the oft-quoted John Gilmore aphorism goes, the internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it. Looks like the Communist government of China is finding that to be a truism.

[tags]internet, censorship, China, freedom[/tags]

R.P.M. by Chris Nakashima-Brown

Jeremy Lyon @ 01-02-2007

February’s story is now available; Chris Nakashima-Brown spins us a near-future post-mediapocalyptic mind-bender about celebrity, freedom, America and meaning in “R.P.M.”.

R.P.M.

by Chris Nakashima-Brown

The 1994 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS hurtles south down Cahuenga after midnight, jury-rigged engine exhaling the throaty rasp of an emphysemic Olympian. Urban interceptor, an abandoned rental reclaimed as instrument of revolution.

Or at least that’s what 0z0 said the night before as he drilled holes in the muffler to amplify the effect.

“We’re gonna free the monster,” he smiled, lighting the welding torch. Continue reading “R.P.M. by Chris Nakashima-Brown”