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Centring those who have gone before

Discover and acknowledge activists who have changed the course of history, particularly those who are minoritised along lines or race or gender.
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It is important to recognise that our work builds on a long line of other practising activists and educators, and this legacy will also be a major theme of the course. There are many existing guides on how to undertake activism readily and freely available on the web. The niche we are trying to fill is about activism that specifically targets the tech sector.

People and groups in tech activism we’ve been inspired by include the Tech Workers Coalition [1], United Tech and Allied Workers (UTAW) [2], No Tech for Tyrants [3], May First Movement Technology [4], and Mechanism Design for Social Good [5]. Outside tech, our biggest influences are authors adrienne marie brown [6], Angela Davis [7], and Ursula Le Guin [8]. We will also draw significantly upon the positive vision for a more equitable and just web laid out in the Feminist Principles of the Internet [9].

The Feminist Principles of the Internet are “a series of statements that offer a gender and sexual rights lens on critical internet-related rights” drafted by an international collective of feminist internet rights advocates, which provide an expansive positive vision for change in internet technologies in the areas of: Access, Information, Usage, Resistance, Movement Building, Governance, Economy, Open source, Amplify, Expression, Pornography, Consent, Privacy & Data, Memory, Anonymity, and Children. We will visit a subset of these principles in more detail through our case studies later in the course.

We will also draw upon the Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [10] to emphasise how tech issues are human rights issues that intertwine with the work of familiar religious, moral, and political leaders who have fought for social change towards a more just world. Remember, you don’t have to be a tech expert to want to campaign for tech justice, because tech issues are social – i.e. they are not just technological problems, they are human problems.

Whenever we speak, write, research, make, design, imagine, interact, or otherwise engage with the world, we do so from our own unique perspective, identity, and position in society. It can be useful to reflect on this so that we recognise the ways these aspects of our “positionality” might be shaping how we see things, how we act, and how our actions impact others. In the rest of this step, we will reflect on our positionality in creating this course, and then ask you to think about your own.

The content for this course was structured by a diverse group of contributors. With the exception of one case study, the written content was authored by Dr Peaks Krafft and Dr Charlotte Webb. Dr Peaks is a US-born nonbinary queer White Muslim convert. Dr Webb is a White British straight cisgender woman. A majority of contributors to the course content benefit from some kind of economic or social class privilege, and all are UK-based. We expect that these aspects of our identities give us some strengths and some weaknesses in terms of approaching central topics in contemporary activism such as dismantling White supremacy, abolishing carceral states, striving towards universal accessibility, achieving economic justice through class war, and furthering the global project of territorial decolonisation. Many activists will find themselves in a similar situation, where you enjoy some kind of privilege or another, as well as facing some form of oppression or marginalisation—both of which will shape your politics and perspectives in specific ways. We invite you to consider whether there are ways you can engage in the activism that feels most true to yourself while taking steps towards mitigating the biases you and anyone you organise with inevitably will have.

Now you’ve heard a bit about our inspirations and values, it’s over to you! In the comment section below, please share your thoughts on the following question: What activists in tech or outside tech are you inspired by?

References

  1. Tech Workers Coalition
  2. United Tech and Allied Workers
  3. No Tech for Tyrants
  4. May First Movement Technology
  5. Mechanism Design for Social Good
  6. adrienne marie brown, 2017. adrienne marie brown writes on emergent strategy
  7. Angela Davis, 1981. Angela Davis writes on the complex interconnections between historical organised struggles for justice in gender, race, and class
  8. Ursula K. Le Guin, 1974. Ursula Le Guin imagines a science fiction world run as an anarcho-syndicalism, portrayed as an imperfect utopia
  9. Feminist Principles of the Internet
  10. Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Ibram X. Kendi, 2020. Ibram X. Kendi defines what it means to be an antiracist

Alex Hanna, 2022. On Racialized Tech Organizations and Complaint: A Goodbye to Google

Peggy McIntosh, 1989. White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

Kimberlé Crenshaw, 2017. Kimberlé Crenshaw: What is Intersectionality?

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Engaging in Activism for Social Change in Tech

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