Category Archives: rhetoric of computation

Race, Technology, and the Word “Traditional” in the World-System

Wallerstein, Historical Capitalism (Verso, 1982)

“Traditional” is one of the more interesting words to keep track of in contemporary discourse, particularly when it comes up in discussions of technology. For the most part, it is used as a slur. It is a word used to disparage an object or practice, to compare it to whatever one wants to posit as […]

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Trump, Clinton, and the Electoral Politics of Bitcoin

blockchain transformation CGI

My new book, The Politics of Bitcoin, is not directly about electoral politics, but rather the political and political-economic theories that inform the development of Bitcoin and its underlying blockchain software. My argument does not require that there be direct connections between promoting Bitcoin and supporting one candidate or party or another. Rather, what concerns […]

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Code Is Not Speech

code is speech

Brief version Advocates understand the idea that “code is speech” to create an impenetrable legal shield around anything built of programming code. When they do this they misunderstand, or misrepresent, free speech law (and rights law in general), which rarely creates such impenetrable shields, the principles that underlie that law, and the ways those principles […]

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Right Reaction and the Digital Humanities

UKIP

A while back, I had an encounter that struck me at the time, and continues to strike me, as perfectly emblematic of the Digital Humanities as an ideological formation. While it includes a kind of brutal incivility that I associate with much of the politics that persists very near the “nice” surface of DH (of […]

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Crowdforcing: When What I “Share” Is Yours

a crowd

Among the many default, background, often unexamined assumptions of the digital revolution is that sharing is good. A major part of the digital revolution in rhetoric is to repurpose existing language in ways that advantage the promoters of one scheme or another. It is no surprise that while it may well have been the case […]

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Tor, Technocracy, Democracy

freedom is slavery

As important as the technical issues regarding Tor are, at least as important—probably more important—is the political worldview that Tor promotes (as do other projects like it). While it is useful and relevant to talk about formations that capture large parts of the Tor community, like “geek culture” and “cypherpunks” and libertarianism and anarchism, one […]

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‘Is It Compromised?’ Is the Wrong Question about US Government Funding of Tor

cia dissemination of propaganda

In many ways, the most surprising thing about Yasha Levine’s powerful reporting on US government funding of Tor at Pando Daily has been the response to it. From the trolling attacks and ad hominem insults by apparently respectable, senior digital privacy activists and journalists, to repeated, climate-denialist-style “I’m rubber you’re glue”-type (or, as I like […]

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Wikipedia and the Oligarchy of Ignorance

wikipedia

In a recent story on Medium called “One Man’s Quest to Rid Wikipedia of Exactly One Grammatical Mistake: Meet the Ultimate WikiGnome,” Andrew McMillen tells the story of Wikipedia editor “Giraffedata”—beyond the world of Wikipedia, a software engineer named Bryan Henderson—who has edited thousands of Wikipedia pages to correct a single grammatical error and is […]

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Tor Is Not a “Fundamental Law of the Universe”

Tor for freedom

In what I consider a very welcome act of journalistic open-mindedness, Pando Daily recently published a piece by Quinn Norton that responded both to Yasha Levine’s excellent and necessary piece on the US Government’s funding of the Tor Project, and perhaps even more so his even more necessary piece on the amazing attacks his piece […]

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All Cybersecurity Technology Is Dual-Use

geer at black hat

Dan Geer is one of the more interesting thinkers about digital security and privacy around. Geer is a sophisticated technologist with an extremely varied and rich background who has also, fairly recently, become a spook of some kind. Geer is currently the Chief Information Security Officer for In-Q-Tel, the technology investment subsidiary of the CIA, […]

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