Tunisian Revolutionary Slim Amamou Breaks Down OS3 Culture

This morning I had the great fortune to tune into the latter part of a talk given in Stockholm by Tunisian web activist and revolutionary Slim Amamou, as part of the ambitious Net4Change conference being held there today. The live feed is available here: http://juliagruppen.se/lang/en/nyheter/

Slim Amamou is a programmer who was arrested in 2010 for organizing a street protest against Internet censorship and then again in 2011 during the Tunisian revolution in relation to a series of Anonymous attacks. He was appointed Secretary of State for Youth and Sports in the new Tunisian interim government 3 days after getting out of jail, but he resigned after the return of Internet censorship.

Amamou’s take on our emerging digital culture is extremely clear and potent. Although I am working from hastily scribbled notes and so I am paraphrasing, here are a few of his key points as I heard them:

The Internet enabled the Tunisian revolution by rebuilding trust. Amamou explained that prior to the revolution the government had turned all media into propaganda channels, which in turn poisoned the realm of private conversations, and destroyed trust. Not just trust in the government and the media but trust in communication itself. And thus it destroyed people’s trust in each other. Whereas he committed himself to trusting anonymous strangers online, and then took a very public stand at great risk to himself, and those anonymous strangers did indeed support him when he was arrested, flooding the police with emails and calls demanding his release. And this trust-building aspect of the peer-to-peer Internet was a huge factor in building solidarity across the country.

Individuals must be permitted to have both anonymous and transparent identities online because we are all made up of several identities. Thus Google’s insistence that individuals only have one ID on Google+ and that it be their real name is a threat to democracy. So rather than giving all our power and information to Google or Facebook we should be building, deploying and embracing open-source distributed non-corporate social networks that offer the same beneficial front-end functions without including all of nefarious backend surveillance and control features. Because, as one tweet during the conference said “A mobile phone is a personal tracking device that also makes phone calls.”

Representative democracy is broken and must be replaced by digitally-enabled participatory democracy. In a nutshell, rather than voting for people who are then given carte blanche to do what they want, we should use social tools to vote on solutions and make collective decisions. The technology is there. In Tunisia, however, the key issue is access. So the first thing to do is make the internet free and universally accessible, the same way the government provides roads, as a public service.

I completely agree with these points. I feel that all of them support my contention that digital culture (OS3) is aligned with oral culture (OS1) because both are dialogical by nature, and thus they share common values based on improvisation, relationships, experiences and iterative community-building rather than on the policies, standards, histories and fixed systems that are the hallmarks of literate (OS2) culture.

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