A river that needs crossing political and tech blogs - On the political side, there is arrogance and ignorance, on the geek side there is naivety and over- complexity

My videos are on these two youtube channels visionontv 3,832,876 views and undercurrents 22,689,976 views


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Entries with tag consensus .

Balcombe - the missing solar Panels

I have been at Balcombe camp for nearly 2 weeks working in the tech tent. The campaign is a positive experience and the issue is very winnable. But the internals of the campaign and the camp that is now at its centre is like many in the past dysfunctional anufe to help undermine this likely victory. The are a lot of hidden agenda’s amongst the #Balcombe anti-fracking which can make a very dysfunctional campaigning space. I am sitting this morning in such a situation.

If my solar equipment isn’t here (which at the moment it isuant, as I though the new 450w had arrived) the camp has one 27w solar panel which on a sunny day can power a small laptop or charge 4-5 phones. This has been going on for a month or more. For a time I brought extra panels and got us up to charging 20-50 phones a day including all the legal and core camp phones. Was a happy time that was crowned by a offer of local funding and a morning on the pub wifi, £600 ordered 450w of solar panels and controllers. See post (LINK)

It was going to take 3-4 days for the gear to arrive so I left the camp with a working basic solar phone charging set-up for core camp phone's for a few days to do some work in London. Keeping an eye on social media I noted that the process of installing the solar panels had got stuck somehow so decided to come back to the camp to finish the install.

Arriving back to a poisonous soup of clashing agenda’s the panels were stuck in a locals house and are still there now 4 days latter.

The is a sorted tech crew, but no consensus on how to move on from here. So days are spent rasherioning power and argueing over fantasy plans which are beyond the power we have and beyond the 450w of power we will have at some point.

Its interesting to experience the internal dynamics inside the tech team -

On one hand we have pragmatic realists – who recognise the lack of control, creative and destructive power at camps. They deal with this by:

  • Building set-up's to include clear separation of different systems so if one fails the other continues.

  • Put in simple work flow to minimise the competing needs on scares resources the different groups will demand.

  • Separate the different user groups into core camp, legal, media and events so that they do not compete for the same pools of limited resources

Of course the is nothing to stop the different working groups co-operating and helping each other, what this avoids is the competition and ego-flaring that envehrtably happens in the highly stressed camp life.

On the other hand we have obdurate realists who while right in what they are saying are ignoring the circumstances of where they saying it. I can give you an example: in the last 24 hours the solar phone charging I set-up has been ripped apart and scattered, then re-built 3 times. To keep this working today I sat in the tent all day this is not a sustaining way of running a key camp technology.

This is the reality of camp life with no working consensus.

Proposal for making the interactive site live

Richard's Proposal for making the interactive site live

I'd like to thank everyone for their comments and suggestions on the site thus far, which we have either implemented or explained why not. I want to point up here a potential very serious problem with the process for the site going live. I'm sure that everyone is acting in the best will, so my fears over this will not be justified.

For this site to have any chance of success it needs to go live asap, now that there are only 4 weeks left until the RMC. (The original date for completion was September 1st, but there were delays over consensus to go ahead at all). In my considered and very strongly-held opinion, if it were to drag on, say, to Thursday of next week, the opportunity would be largely lost, and all our work wasted (work which has for instance kept me awake all of tonight). So I'm trying to predict obstacles to the site going live, and gently remove them.

*** has asked for an umpire of the process, and no one has volunteered. Is an umpire really necessary? What we need, surely, is a really simple and rapid process. *** asked for all the texts to be in for review. This will simply never be the case for a site such as this, as the expansion of the site will go on after the conference has finished. When I get the chance (I'm going to be on a plane for 12 hours) I will fill in what has been called "conference guidelines", which is actually a necessary short statement on how off-topic posts will be deleted etc, trolls banned etc with a link to the static site mission statement.

I propose the following as a process: as the technical check is done and the site's stability has been approved, I would propose the site goes live, as long as: 1. Unfinished pages are clearly labelled "under construction", as I have begun to do. 2. There is no text on the site which is either misleading or nonsense.

The background to this proposal is my earlier opinion stated on the wiki that the risks to the RMC from this site have been greatly exaggerated, and its value seriously underestimated. ******** described this statement as the crux. I hope it is now clear from the version of the site online that the site presents minimal risks to the RMC's reputation.

If the above proposal is not accepted, I think we have a very serious risk of the consequent delays destroying this project utterly, which I personally and professionally would be gutted by, and left wondering how on earth this happened. It really does hang in the balance right now.

After going live we would need two things: 1) the emails of all the speakers to invite them to post on the pages of their sessions. This should happen once the template for the workshop pages is completed and run by one member of the organising group who is neither of us and who has the time to do it. ****** and Hamish met yesterday to sort out this template. 2) The ticket holders' details so that they can be signed up to the site and emailed with invitation to participate. This should only be done once the text of that email gas been reviewed, with its clear option for people to unsubscribe, for those who do not wish to partjcipate and for those activists who do not wish to be on the net at all. Once again, if an "opt in" rather than "Opt out" proposal is made, this is the equivalent of saying the site should not go ahead, because it would be completely stymied. I suggest that we pass this email text by at least one of the members from Peace News members of the organising group, who best understand activists' concerns.

Meanwhile we look forward today to the rest of *** and all of ******* feedback, which we will again rapidly implement or explain why not / suggest an alternative. And also feedback from anyone else who has the time.

Very best wishes to all.


ClimateCamp Media

The Ratcliffe Swoop prosecutions caused a backlash against activist media that reverberated around the Edinburgh climate camp. We were not present at the Ratcliife Swoop, and played no part in the gathering of video there. When we saw footage posted of identifiable activists doing criminal damage, we were astonished, as throughout the history of video activism this has been an absolute "no no", without the express consent of the activists pictured. We immediately took this material down from visionOntv accounts where it had been posted, and told the Ratclifffe media team why we did so. Regrettably the footage was later re-posted by the producers to accounts outside of our control.  Having said that, as of writing, we have been unable to find out any details of the prosecutions and exactly which footage was used.

But as a response I (perhaps naively) thought it might be helpful to try to do consensus/affinity group process with activist film at the Edinburgh climate camp. To kick this off, we showed a sneak preview of END:CIV on the Saturday to a crowd of around 50-70 people which sparked off a good and respectful debate about aesthetic of activist film and the old spiky/fluffy debate about effective action. People came away challenged and thoughtful.

The next day after the action on the RBS HQ we showed the rough edit of it to get feedback and make sure it was OK to put out. It was enthusiastically received but there was also a very forceful verbal attack of “you must do this” “do it now, or you are endangering activists” and a refusal to answer simple questions about “why” in exchanges with one person. Finally, after some bad feeling, I found out that she had seen an “object for causing criminal damage” being held by one person in the film. OK, that is a genuine issue, so I agreed to look at it again. I asked her to show me where it was in the film but instead she rushed off to tell everyone that climatecamptv had refused to remove the “weapon” and that we were putting out films that were endangering activists. This led later to many different groups and individuals coming along to have their say over the next day about how the film should made.

See later where this led.

I had watched the film 3 times during editing for legals, and had shown it to to a number of other trusted people. After we had packed up the screening we looked at the “object” on the video and found it to be a plastic horn not an “object to cause criminal damage” at all. Humm... a storm in a teacup you would think, but read on.

Let's briefly go through it - the film of the action had a few legal issues.

* The pushing on the bridge (possibly assault) leading to the earlier dressing-up sections (unmasked) being possibly incriminating of this possible assault.

* We had no video of the breaking of windows (criminal damage) thus this was less of an issue in the film. Nor did we have film of any identifiable possible perpetrators.

* There was one additional shot which could potentially have been "creatively" used by police to prosecute an activist.

* The bridge-pushing was problematic as all the activists were unmasked, with all the FIT team on the roof and 3-4 corporate media TV/photo actively filming. Many photos/images would be available so on the one hand it was clearly done in the open, and therefore accountable. On the other, if they were charged, our video would likely be used in the prosecution, both for and against the activists. It's an issue we face many times and it unless we know otherwise we have to have to err on the side of caution. Without the opportunity to ask them whether they were accountable thus OK to show it or not, we decided to blur this section – rendering the need to blur the early stuff irrelevant as we now had no incriminating video of this “crowd” action.

The other potentially incriminating shot was removed, at the request of the individual filmed.

After running it past the affinity group made up of CCTV/visionontv crew and some trusted legal support we left it to a volunteer to polish the final edit for showing that evening before putting out to the web. In my experience you can never run a film past an audience too many times before it's finished from both a legal and an aesthetic point of view.

The day of action was very busy, and we were all running around filming. While we were out and about a number of people came in to look at the earlier action video being edited and asked the editor to make changes – he responede to their requests and made a lot of changes to hide and obscure many details throughout the film.

When we saw the film in the evening just before the screening we were shocked. Editing a film by committee is always a disaster and the film was now an incoherent and sinister mess making climatecamp look like a bunch of criminals. We now had a film we couldn't put out. This wasn't our volunteer editor's fault, it was a problem with the process we had begun but were not around to control. To top this, at the end of the day the editor had found the people who were at the front of the bridge-push and they had made it clear that they were unhappy being blurred out as it was the best thing they had done in ages. They were willing to be accountable for their actions, so we didn't need to thus put any obscuring in the finished film.

We now had to re-do the film from an earlier version. It was dark and we were late for the nightly screening, we had one computer to gather all the films up and convert then to the right format and re-edit this film – we decided it wasn't possible to screen the action film and concentrated on showing the other 9 finished but less exciting films we had ready. We started the screening with non-action films to cries of "we want to see the action". So an old version of the action film was rush-encoded and was ready half-way through the screening. Unfortunately this contained the ptoentially incriminating shot we had earlier taken out, and was screened to about 40 climatecampers. NOT good. Another person had a very solid go at us...

What did we learn from this?

Should protesters never trust any video/photo on an action OR should they trust video activists as THEY know what they are doing?

For me, not trusting experienced video activists leads to the very real danger that through bureaucratisation it pushes the working affinity group structure underground and renders it ineffective – the option of bureaucratic/consensus process isn't an option with film which is at its best a skilled creative story-based process.

But now we have to deal with the rumour mill which quickly churned around the "weapon" / plastic horn issue. Rumour has more power than truth when there isn't a functioning media. I heard the misinformation that we had put out footage of window-smashing weapons three times while leaving the camp to get home. And that's why I wrote this post as this rumour could distort the very real pro/anti-media debate in activism which needs to happen in a constructive way.

On the subject of social media and underground/wannabe mainstream film-makers/photographers, there are very real dangers that is the subject of another post.

The media wreck

The digital tsunami has passed, the washed away sea front of the the old media world is being re-built with the usual fast food joints and global burger bars media outlets. Leaving little space left on the fringes for the new media world that hasn’t made the shift into the new mainstream. Traditional media is re-creating it self, contemporary media is withering. Lifestyle, Inaction scwobaling and NGO dispoling failed to fill the space left by the digitization wave. The old media is back, with the re-newd vigor of the full digital power, be frightened, be very frightened.

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