What does Europe Need in Times of Crises?
It's no secret that our democracies are in bad shape. Yet, what are citizens doing about it? Some don't believe in the possibility of change and hence abstain from speaking out. Others are afraid of being under surveillance and therefore refrain from political action. Nonetheless, new citizen movements are emerging! The Berliner Gazette conference SLOW POLITICS gathered hundreds of activists, media folks and researchers exploring their approaches to empower people as political actors. By detecting commonalities the conference revealed the larger democratic project underlying their efforts. Here we cluster the results in three domains: REBUILD DEMOCRACY! TRUST STRANGERS! ORGANISE NETWORKS!
We are in the midst of a great global crisis of democracy that concerns not only Greece, Turkey, etc., but also the putative “showpiece states” (Germany, UK, etc.). We can begin to rebuild democracy by asking hard questions in light of the revelations about the monstrous extent of state surveillance, known as “NSA-Gate.” What should we do with the knowledge that we have gained through the secret documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden? What positions and actions can we as citizens take, and what are this risks of complicity and apathy? SLOW POLITICS joins the debate by presenting a position paper, a toolbox proposal and a users-guide as sources of inspiration.
Snowden Commons: The NSA disclosures provide an unprecedented basis for research on the contemporary surveillance system. Yet there is no central reference point for the Snowden files, which continue to be published by scattered media houses all over the world. How can this vital information be housed in public libraries to ensure its preservation, its accessibility and its democratic potential? This paper develops a solution for the problem. -> PDF Download
Trustburg: The “Trustburg” project plans to bundle a variety of existing and emerging digital security tools in a physical hardware box. It enables citizens to encrypt their internet activities including email, web browsing and chat communications. The project also proposes a crypto-stick for mobile users that would be usable in multiple countries. -> Coming soon
My Secret Surface: Lack of time, technical knowledge and personal awareness – there are many reasons why people don’t encrypt their digital communication. What can be done? Outlining visions for digital democratic participation in the future, the guide “My Secret Surface” provides a basic and accessible guide to digital self-defense, encryption tools and today’s media landscape. -> PDF Download
The paper “Snowden Commons” was developed at the SLOW POLITICS workshop “Publics In Peril”. The project “Trustburg” and the guide “Secret Surface” were developed at the SLOW POLITICS workshop “After NSA-Gate”.
Trust is at the heart of social change. But the glitch in the system is: If trust is reserved for only our friends, how can we work together on the bigger scales necessary to meet today’s pressing problems? How can we reboot our practices of trust to include strangers? A good starting point is migration – a subject, that is typically dominated by a blend of scandalizing news and selective statistics. In contrast, SLOW POLITICS presents authentic stories from the mobile populations of South European countries, where unemployment among the youth has currently reached 80%. To move beyond distrust and fear, let’s dive into their stories and get to know the actual people.
Taxi to Berlin: The economic crisis that has haunted Europe for more than five years has also highlighted the topic of Greek migration to Germany. Mainstream media narratives tell a story about Greeks ruining their economy through corruption and laziness and now fleeing their homes to “invade” the wealthy North. But what if we looked beyond such stereotypes? Listening to the life stories of the Greeks who have come to Germany brings a series of complexities to surface. While many remain, some have moved back to their homeland. All of them once took a “Taxi to Berlin”… Join the ride! -> Project Website
Portugal’s Lost Youth: During these recent years of financial mayhem, Portugal has seen its population plunge. Emigration numbers have continued rising every year since crisis of 2008 as the country endures mass unemployment, falling wages and soaring taxes. Emigrants have mostly dispersed across Europe in search of work and a better life, but they and those whom they have left behind are haunted by a profound melancholy. In the words of one of “Portugal’s Lost Youth” interviewed for this series of compelling human stories: “Yes, I miss my country. But I don’t know if the country I miss still exists.” -> Project Website
The story telling projects “Taxi to Berlin” and “Portugal’s Lost Youth” were developed at the SLOW POLITICS workshop “We Are All Migrants”.
Networks are supposed to be fragile and ephemeral. Yet, today’s emerging social movements are testing new approaches in sustaining solidarity for economic and democratic change. People are coming together, experimenting with unconventional forms of collaboration and bundling their energies in new network formations. They are creating new forms of community to answer the challenges posed by the manifold crises. Which forms of social networking enable this? What kinds of tools are people using? How do they get organised? SLOW POLITICS presents a paper, a tool and an experimental app that help us to rethink and reorganise our networks.
What Do We Need To Get Organised? : This provisional paper aims to identify some of the support structures, tools and knowledge that can help democratic actors to get organized. With a focus on key tactics and resources it addresses a wide variety of civic movements, from individual activists to NGOs. -> PDF Download
The Big We: Social network analysis is a technique used by corporations and governments to analyse the social relations of populations. Yet, this tool can be also appropriated by citizens in order to reorganise collective action: What are the issues, tools and aims that connect us? A prototype of six experimental social network maps help us visualize the usually hidden links between citizens and to realize the potentials for new cooperation. -> PDF Download
Checklist For Activists: This experimental app for mobile phones offers citizens a tool to develop a systematic approach to their social activism and movements. It allows users to crowd-source key questions and problems for organizers, to help them shape more robust and responsive action. -> Wireframe App
The paper “What Do We Need To Get Organised?” was drafted at the workshop “Bitcoin Meets Blue Marble”. The project “The Big We” was developed at the workshop of the same name.The app “Checklist For Activists” was conceived at the SLOW POLITICS conference in Sapporo at the workshop “Re-Designing the Waves of Change”.
After two days of highly productive workshops, SLOW POLITICS opened its doors to the wider public. In order to watch talks by prolific speakers including Marina Sitrin, Geert Lovink, Max Haiven, Claudia Núñez and Felix Stalder check out the videos.
Thanks to hundreds of energetic guests, the SLOW POLITICS conference turned into a stimulating and productive event. Our photographer accompanied the processes with his camera and managed to capture many precious moments. Check out the photos.
“SLOW POLITICS offers a glimpse into new citizen movements” (WDR5). Coverage of the Berliner Gazette conference encompass a broad range of media: from online publishing pioneers to public broadcasting media. Check out the press voices (last update January 5th, 2015).
Tweets from SLOW POLITICS include observations, snapshots, comments, links and quotes – guests and participants posted under the hashtag #bgcon14. Their 140-character messages capture the beauty of the moment. Check out the twitter archive (last update December 3, 2014).