I am a scholar of social movements and surveillance studies, focusing on the newest social movements and democratic uprisings such as Occupy. I recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information, working on the New Transparency project, under the guidance of Dr. Andrew Clement.

In my work I am influenced by American philosopher of technology, Andrew Feenberg, particularly critical constructivism. My research looks to Marx and critical theory generally, as well as more recently “those French poststructuralists” and autonomous Marxism for theoretical grounding.

As a radical scholar, I am interested in conducting research that critiques the status quo, both within and outside the academy. I agree with Marx’s scathing assessment of intellectual labour, however: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.”

Evolution of a blog

This blog has evolved since its first implementation in 2006. It was originally conceived to document my doctoral research into how activists in the global justice movement appropriate technology to achieve their social justice goals. I identified three goals of tech activism, which are also simultaneous outcomes: it democratizes technology, it develops democratic practice and it produces an alternative vision of society.

In the spirit of the free software movement, this blog originated as an experiment in collaborative open knowledge production. It is licensed under the most strict copyleft license, Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike. It also sought input from the tech activists I was interviewing as part of my research, in the wiki way of co-producing knowledge. The most original part of my dissertation, to me, is the method I developed, something I call the open source method, which draws upon the methodologies of both free software developers and activist academics.

More about me…

I am a long time social justice advocate, having got a taste for it when I worked for the University of Toronto’s twice-weekly newspaper, The Varsity. There, it was baptism by fire, and I had my first real lessons in gender, economic and environmental injustice, under the editorial leadership of Naomi Klein. My political senses awakened, I went on to co-found ROOM Magazine, an alternative newsweekly in Windsor, Ontario, which published for seven years. In a blue-collar, industrial town, there was little information available on the local culture, but lots of interest, as it turned out. Journalism from the community’s perspective, from the grassroots, is a different creature than the profit monster produced by corporate mainstream media. I also got to meet some pretty rad folks during that time, including my all time favourite Wayne Coyne.

When we finally burned out, I did the only thing I could think of on short notice and returned to school. I completed a Master’s in Communication and Social Justice at the University of Windsor, writing my thesis on Indymedia. The idea was to continue with my activism, via a different medium. Instead of using journalism as a means for social justice advocacy, I would use the academy. That was the idea, anyway.

My Research

My research interests hover nervously at the intersection of several academic fields of inquiry: social movement theory, surveillance studies, social construction of technology, critical theory of technology, media and democracy theory, feminist technology studies, Internet studies and political communication. My interests overlap and inform each other as they continue to evolve. My vocational interest in social justice has fueled my ongoing study of the global justice movement, which has fused with my developing interest in technology. Thus it seemed natural when my focus shifted from alternative journalism in the new movement to the tech activism that supported it. For example, Indymedia would not have been possible without the geeks who created the digital infrastructure that enabled the radical media making project. Now I’m working with an open source methodology, and working out the idea of “open source = open web.” This is basically the idea that freedom can only stem from open, transparent, horizontal communication and organization.

My dissertation is here. I was chuffed when it cited in the Wikipedia entry on the global justice movement. It’s the little things, I always say.


I like letters!

kate [dot] milberry [at] gmail [dot] com