Control and Freedom in Geographic Information Systems

Like the Internet, the Global Positioning System (GPS) was developed first with military applications in mind.  GPS enabled a precise, autonomous, and facile location of any point on the globe.  The development of this technology was critical to the broad merger of cartography with database technology and statistical analysis in the second half of the 20th century.  This new science, termed Geographic Information Systems (GIS), has profoundly changed our views and interactions with physical reality at both continental and minute scales.  The potential for highly detailed monitoring is exhilarating for scientists, but often terrifying for divergent or contestational voices.  At the same time access to these technologies is not highly controlled, which has thrown open the door for popular participation in map creation and publishing.  Through GIS and GPS, cartography has become a crucial new media for expression and critique.  How we choose to map reality is a cornerstone of our consensus on what exists, has existed, or will be created in a place.
The science of cartography has always had deep implications for increased control.  Creation of useable world maps in the colonial period was essential to developing global shipping routes.  Better maps facilitated the massive transport of resources from less technologically developed regions to those holding the most accurate picture of the world.  Among the most famous are the transfer of precious metals from Central and South America to Europe, and the middle passage of African slaves to North America.  Maps have historically empowered control on much smaller scales as well.  Violently enforced consensus on terrestrial boundaries is the defining ingredient enabling land ownership and regulatory extents.  On the other hand, iterative improvement of maps has hugely augmented our concepts of physical reality.  Without a  ‘birds eye view’ our notions of Earth extend only so far as we have seen, perhaps a small area only reaching the borders of town.  Without a map, all the rest is unknown, the other.  Early maps highlight precisely this erroneous notion, placing a given civilization at the center of the world and filling the unknown space with nothing [Figure 1].  In modern times we can view the entire globe, explore its topology, civic organization, and boundaries without leaving the house.  This constitutes a major widening of perception for the human race.
Still, greatly enhanced apprehension of geographic space has been a hotly contested arena.  [Read more →]

Neo-Nazi Terror and the Office for the Protection of the Constitution in Germany

Despite the fact that at least 140 people (AIB 89) were killed by Neo-Nazis in Germany since re-unification in 1990, officially there was no such thing as Nazi terrorism in the Federal Republic. Indeed, if one looks at the book “Extremismus in Deutschland” (Extremism in Germany), published by the Ministry of the Interior in 2004, one could conclude that there is no such thing as violence from the extreme right, let alone murder and terrorism.
The yearly report of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Verfassungsschutz) for 2010 categorically states that “in Germany no right wing terrorist structures can be detected” (Verfassungsschutzbericht 2010, p.57). The report describes far right violence as “predominantly spontaneous”, and claims it occurs mainly between right and left wing “extremists”.

This view in mainstream politics and media forcibly changed on November 4, 2011, when the dead bodies of Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos were found in a burning trailer in Eisenach, Thuringia. After a initially successful bank robbery by the suspects, police found their trailer and approached it, and then to avoid arrest, Böhnhardt apparently shot Mundlos, set the trailer on fire and then shot himself in the head. Meanwhile in Zwickau, the third of the terror trio, Beate Zschäpe (who had earlier taken part of the bank heist), was busy burning down their safehouse to destroy evidence. A few days later she gave herself up, and has since refused to make any statements.
The murder weapons used in a series of killings between 2000 and 2007 were found in the burned house along with other weapons.

The three right wing militants formed a cell called National Socialist Underground (NSU), and murdered nine men, who were small business owners (eight of Turkish and one of Greek origin), and one police woman in the course of those years. They were also responsible for a bombing in 2001 that severly wounded one woman, a nailbomb attack that wounded 22 people in Cologne in 2004, and for 14 bank robberies between 1999 and 2011.

The “Döner-killings” as they were called derogatorily in the press were heavily investigated by the police, but they did not follow any leads that suggested that the motives could have been racist and from a far right background. Instead the police assumed that the killers were from the migrant community, which often went along with the racist insinuation that the murdered men were somehow involved with criminal networks. This of course added insult to injury to the families and friends. Similarly in the case of the murdered policewoman, the suspicion was directed onto a “clan” of Roma that had parked near-by. The Bavarian police even opened a döner kebab shop in Nuremberg in the course of their “investigation”, while other police units went to consult two different fortune tellers who “contacted” victims and told the investigators completely bogus stories. So not only were the killings racist, the police operations to solve them were as well! [Read more →]

Datacide 12 – News Pt.1 – Surveillance, Control and Repression

Surveillance, Control and Repression
The UK based surveillance technology manufacturing company, Gamma Group, was uncovered in July 2012 to have created spyware called FinSpy Moblie that monitors and retains all mobile phone data of a particular target. (They also produced FinSpy for other e-devices.) Gamma Group sells the surveillance spyware to governments, including repressive regimes from Turkmenistan to Bahrain, which in turn monitor activists.  The spyware is a Trojan, which thus requires the target to unknowingly download the program, disguised as some innocuous file, onto a phone. The spyware has many capabilities including documenting an address book, intercepting, recording and storing all voice calls, phone call logs, SMS and GPS locations. There are many stories of anti-government activists in Bahrain, UAE, and elsewhere having been violently attacked and detained after the governments uncovered information about the individuals through FinSpy, Remote Control System developed by Milan Based HackingTeam, and other spyware programs.
Security and privacy researcher Christopher Soghoian and others have gathered more information demonstrating that Skype misleads its customers by not countering the general erroneous public perception that the platform is impenetrable to government, police, and judicial spying and monitoring.  Skype is proven to have given upon request by government agencies online chats, user information (billing, IP address, email address, account info), private encryption keys, and phone call numbers of individuals. Skype’s management of passwords and encryption keys demonstrates that Skype or government agencies have the ability to impersonate customers or individuals through man in the middle attacks (also with assistance from telecom companies), thus demonstrating that the service is an unsafe and insecure method of communication. [Read more →]

Beat Blasted Planet an interview with Steve Goodman on “Sonic Warfare”

Steve Goodman is author of “Sonic Warfare, sound, affect and the ecology of fear”, a book just published by MIT Press. Tracing the politics of sound in ways that develop some of the arguments made in certain branches of Industrial Music and in the darker waves of Techno and Jungle, Sonic Warfare proposes a vivid and demanding cosmology of sound in the present day, written in a style that mixes reflections on music, philosophy, technology, dance, media, politics in a way that is both speculative and in the thick of it.
Aside from writing Steve produces and DJs under the name Kode9 and runs the Hyperdub label [Read more →]

Dance before the Police come

Shut Up and Dance’s 1991 hardcore LP ‘Dance Before the Police Come’ was released at a time when the UK authorities were struggling to contain the massive explosion of raves. Thousands of people each weekend were playing a cat and mouse game with the police to party in fields and warehouses, and if the state was often outwitted by meeting points in motorway service stations and convoys of cars, it tried to keep the lid on the phenomenon by staging high  profile raids. In 1990, for instance, an incredible 836 people were arrested at a Love Decade party in Gildersome near Leeds in the north of England.

Since then the global spread of Electronic Dance Music has generally been  accompanied by the flashing blue light, the siren, and that moment when the music is abruptly turned off and the order given to clear the building. Indeed, let’s face it, the frisson of illegality has sometimes added a pleasurable edge to partying – the thrill of overcoming official obstacles just to get there, of getting one over on the authorities. And even the most mainstream of commercial club promoters like to pose as underground outlaws because they once got told to turn the music down by a man in uniform.

But police raids are serious business – often involving arrests which can lead to imprisonment, people losing their livelihoods and, in some parts of the world, social ostracism. People get injured, beaten and sometimes even killed. This article looks at a sample of police raids in recent times to get a sense of the current state of play between cops and dancers in different parts of the world. [Read more →]

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