Technology

The suffering of technology users

The suffering of technology users

I love this paragraph because I think it distills and represents the pain and suffering so many people now feel around the role of technology in their lives: I like technology just as much as the next person, but sometimes I find myself feeling overwhelmed with it...
The next tech revolution is here and now

The next tech revolution is here and now

The next tech revolution is underway. It’s not the dawn of the semantic web, or the mobile web, or web 3.0 or any of these buzzwords. This revolution is about the people using technology, not the technology itself. It seems like the tech industry is finally...
The geek’s guide to child-proofing: how to keep your tech safe from baby

The geek’s guide to child-proofing: how to keep your tech safe from baby

With the wisdom earned from six years’ of childraising, two destructive children and four or five figures’ worth of maimed technology, I’d like to weigh in on the neglected side of childproofing. Because once you’ve figured out how to keep your baby safe from your stuff, it’s time to figure out how to keep your stuff safe from baby.

Making technology vs. using technology

Making technology vs. using technology

I had a great conversation today with Glen Lowry about making: you know, making actual stuff, like objects or art, as opposed to quasi-making (like writing or thinking). I found myself replaying our conversation this evening when my attempt to write a blog post turned...
5 reasons to send Direct Messages on Twitter

5 reasons to send Direct Messages on Twitter

In answer to a question posted in LinkedIn, I’ve offered five reasons to use Twitter’s DM function — including to communicate something that is too short to be worth emailing.

Kris Krug on Web 2.0 at STT

Kris Krug on Web 2.0 at STT

Technology and copyright

Technology is obsoleting copyright law. Encourages people to use Creative Commons for all their work.

» bonus tip: When publishing with Creative Commons, use the attribution noncommercial license, which means that any non-profit can republish your content, as long as they credit you as the original author (or photographer). But businesses won’t be allowed to take your content and make money with it.

Promote ownership of your brand

Let people remix your content. Give them creative assets to work with.

Let go of control. Don’t make the mistake the music industry made — trying to loc down their content, and alienating their fans.

Document everything

If it didn’t happen on the Internet, it didn’t happen.

The power of open source

Open source software development is inherently tied to social change. They are building things for the common grood while working around traditional power models.

Every Human Has Rights makes human rights personal

Every Human Has Rights makes human rights personal

For the past two months, I've been part of the digital strategy team for The Elders, an extraordinary NGO that was launched last year by Richard Branson and Peter Gabriel. The vision is to convene a council of elders for the global village; the founding elders include Desmond Tutu, Aung San Suu Kyi, Mary Robinson and Kofi Annan.

As part of this work, I've been supporting the web team for Every Human Has Rights, a campaign to spread awareness and support for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This year is the sixtieth anniversary of UDHR, and being part of its celebration is a wonderful echo of one of the first pieces of work I did as a grad student at Harvard, thirteen years ago. (Ouch!) At that time I was a research assistant for Andrew Moravcsik, helping him research an article on international human rights regimes (PDF) that he published in time to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the UDHR.

Moravcsik's article focused particularly on the creation of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR), which, unlike the UNDHR, was designed to be an enforceable document that would give individuals the legal standing to pursue human rights issues in an international court of law. What the ECHR advanced was the idea of personal, individual-level responsibility for human rights advocacy; what it lost was the boldness and breadth of vision of the UDHR.

The EHHR project recognizes that online networks provide a way to have your human rights cake, and eat it too. EHHR is focusing on each of the core themes of the UN Declaration, a sweeping document that addresses basic rights in areas from religion to employement, and from freedom of expression to healthcare. But by asking people around the world to sign on personally — over the web — as supporters of that Declaration, it's reawakening the idea that each and every one of us has a role to play in supporting human rights.

And that role doesn't need to be limited to a courtroom. One of the key partners on the EHHR project is Witness, an online NGO that uses video and web technology to tackle human rights abuses around the world. Through EHHR and Witness's user-driven site, The Hub, anyone in the world can be an active advocate for human rights — a personal witness — by contributing a video or online story.

EHHR and Witness are just two pieces of a large and growing online ecosystem for supporting human rights worldwide. Global Voices Online gathers bloggers from around the world, including many who are writing under adverse — even life-threatening — conditions in their home countries. Ushahidi and the Tunisian Prison Map are putting human rights abuses in Kenya and Tunisia on the map (literally). The Martus project provides digital security tools to protect the effectiveness and safety of people working on the front lines of human rights protection.

The growing online human rights ecosystem of which EHHR is a part didn't exist when Moravcsik wrote his article. At the time, the courts were the best option — really, the only meaningful option — for individuals to engage in the public sphere of human rights. What made that interesting to Moravcsik was the way that human rights agreements allowed governments to dig themselves into structural commitments to human rights, with citizens serving as the hypothetical watchdogs.

Today there's a whole new set of tools to give those hypothetical watchdogs real teeth. But now, citizens don't have to wait to be invited into that role, nor do they have to find their way into a courtroom. They just have to pick up a cell phone, a camera, or a keyboard, and they can hold human rights violations accountable in the court of global public opinion.

The technologies are all there….all that's missing is the recognition of meaningful personal accountability for human rights. That's what EHHR puts back in the picture, by asking and every one of us to sign a personal commitment to the bold vision the UN set forth sixty years ago.

Of course, when the Declaration was written, most UN members would not have envisioned a world in which access to global communications could be virtually universal. Now that we have it, it's time to make human rights universal, too.