Field Communications at OWS and Freedom Network at Eyebeam

This past fall I was slightly active – like many of us – at OWS. I frequented OccupyMedia meetings when they were back at Zuccotti, and stayed for a few at 60 Wall Street. Eventually, I found my internship more fulfilling at WITNESS and that I could use those relationships for some optimal outcomes (rather than pull my hair out at meetings, this was a good median considering my busy schedule).

Around N17, I tagged along with my boss to co facilitate a training at 60 Wall St on best practices for filmmakers at protests. It was a chance for us to test out our top 10 tips for practices that were in development (now going into a video for Syrian activists, protestors at OWS and Egypt alike). At that time, I got into livestreaming. I met Josh B, with global revolution as WITNESS and I were trying to include tips for livestreamers in our best practices. I would head out to a few demonstrations with my iphone and bambuser app, an extra battery pack and 4g router. I found it really rewarding to stick my iphone in a cops face and ask for his badge number. You know the drill. Anyhow… Josh and I became sort of colleagues.

Before D17 I downloaded this app called Voxer. It’s basically an application that shares, records and stores short audio clips that are used as a walkie talkie. I thought this was a good idea after getting some feedback from others on the Global Rev listserve, so I wanted to test it out. Anyhow, I never did because no one had it. Then yesterday, a few days after the eyebeam demo day (no relevancy other than I’ve just been thinking a lot about tactical media and using whichever technologies are at our disposal for these political purposes) i get a message on Voxer that Josh B signed up. So i texted him. We communicated for awhile. Tested it out. He’s considering using this with other livestreamers as they’ve been challenged by their current field communications.

Shifting gears slightly, it’s also interesting to think about how technologies can interface with one another in order to achieve our aims. For instance, using the bambuser app while using voxer will require the internet right? And a livestreamer, in order to capture in high quality needs a strong internet signal. I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve been able to livestream at a protest using wifi. That would just blow my mind. Instead, I’m always recording the lowest quality on 3g to insure a strong signal, meaning, I have to be mindful of moving my device too quickly for a live audience to recognize what’s happening. Side note: the cool thing about these livestreaming applications is that my audience can communicate directly with me via chat, for instance, on bambuser, prompting me when it’s not clear, or if I need to get closer for details, etc. For these reasons, one of the most valuable tables at eyebeam Saturday was the Freedom Network. Having a sustainable, high quality internet connection at protests is paramount. And mesh networking strives to do just that. I eagerly await the day when point demonstrators anonymously carry hot spots in their backpacks to feed signals to livestreamers. (It’s worth mentioning here, cooperation is as crucial as the technology itself.)

The Freedom Network table had lots of incredible knowledge. However, that mesh networks still rely on providers to a large extent is an issue even in America, but this issue has more implications in closed societies like Cambodia, where the gov’t is outrightly targeting activists and is able to do so because they control any information attained by providers. I think if the internet is going to be free, it’s going to have to happen in the belly of the beast. So their work is incredibly valuable.

I look forward to everyone’s projects this semester. I hope eyebeam was an inspiration for everyone along with the reading.

Categories: Reflective Posts


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