Quote from Edward Snowden's Permanent Record

There is something both strange and familiar about Permanent Record, Edward Snowden’s autobiography. The book traces Snowden’s story to now. Whether it is being mesmerised by his father’s Commodore 64, pulling apart a Nintendo as a six year old, growing up online, hacking his education by acing tests, but refusing to submit homework, automating work wherever possible or teaching others about the web, each act recounted is seemingly fated to produce the same extricable outcome – Snowden’s revelations NSA’s surveillance of the world and his life since.

Although raised in a world away from my own, there was something relate-able about growing up during the same time. Whether it be my own hand-me-down Apple IIe and then a Nintendo, I too was lucky enough to grow up with and alongside technology. However, I have never quite taken this fascination to the point where I truly appreciate the ghosts in the machine as Snowden has. Although venturing on the web at school and tinkered with my own computer, my family did not get the internet til late and I did not really grow-up in message boards. There seems to be something privileged about those who were on the early web. This maybe what helped created the close sense of community. (Listen to Howard Rheingold’s interview on the Modern Learners Podcast for an example.)

Although Permanent Record talks a lot about technology, it is far from just another technological book. Even with the discussions about privacy, content and metadata, this is not so much about ‘how to’, but rather a why. For me, the book is first and fore-mostly about humans, society and democracy. Therefore, I think it is best considered as a meditation on the world we want today and tomorrow.

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REVIEW: Permanent Record – Edward Snowden and the Making of a Whistleblower by Aaron Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

8 thoughts on “REVIEW: Permanent Record – Edward Snowden and the Making of a Whistleblower

  1. In an interview with Ian Tucker, Samantha Hoffman suggests that we need to be careful about the the idea that we don’t have anything to worry about when it comes to data:

    I would be. You may think “I’m not researching the CCP or testifying in Congress, so I don’t have anything to worry about”. But you don’t really know how that data is being collected and potentially used to shape your opinion and shape your decisions, among other things. Even understanding advertising and consumer preferences can feed into propaganda. Taken together, that can be used to influence an election or feelings about a particular issue.

    This comes back to Edward Snowden’s assertion that:

    Ultimately, saying that you don’t care about privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different from saying you don’t care about freedom of speech because you have nothing to say.

  2. In a new introduction for Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother and Homeland, Edward Snowden reflects on the change in consciousness in the last ten years.

    While the system itself was not substantially changed—as a rule, governments are less interested in reforming their own behavior than in restricting the behavior and rights of their citizens—what did change was the public consciousness.

    This is something that Doug Belshaw discusses in his mapping of the internet.
    In response, Snowden discusses the power of language to challenge.

    You have heard that when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Herein lies the folly of every system of rule whose future relies more heavily on the omnipotence of its methods than the popularity of its mandate. There were times when empires were won by bronze and boats and powder. None survive. What outlasts each forgotten flag is our greatest technology, language: the empire of the mind.

    It is interesting to consider this alongside Audrey Watters’ discussion of luddite pedagogy.

  3. Welcome back for another month. Some things change, some things stay the same.
    On the family front, my wife continues to ride the waves of being in leadership during such chaotic times. One minute talking about building back better, next minute scrambling plans for how learning online might be for Victoria’s second wave. All while balancing study as well. In the meantime, the kids have taken to finding joy in forgotten places, such as the backyard. This included using the sticks from the apple tree to create a homemade tent.

    Homemade Tent Version 1

    Homemade Tent Version 2

    At work, the month started with questions from schools about whether they needed to change things back to normal within their system to frantically checking that everything was still in place from last time schools to move back online. In between all of this, I have been supporting new schools and continuing to develop various resources. I am not sure if it is just me, but there is a different level of scrutiny when recording video content compared with written material.
    Personally, I have continued to live the life of working at home where everything morphs into everything else. However, Troy Hunt wrote a useful reminder about not sweating the small stuff. I have found it important to remember that things could always be worse. I am still employed and as Damian Cowell recently explained, there are always worse jobs.
    In regards to writing, I wrote a reflection on stealing time, as well as some more pieces about space. I have also been continuing my dive into the sonic spaces of Joseph Shabason, listening to DIANA. I have also been enjoying Taylor Swift’s pivot.

    Here then are some of the posts that have had me thinking:
    Steve Collis on Innovation in Learning Design
    Steve Collis reflects on the challenges associated with designing for emergence.
    ‘Reality Pedagogy’ Is Teaching as a Form of Protest
    Christopher Emdin discusses the importance of pedagogy as a response to the world around us.
    Blended Content Studio
    Mike Caulfield breaks down some of the pieces associated with the structure of blended learning and some consideration in regards to the creation of video content.
    Librarians turned Google Forms into the unlikely platform for virtual escape rooms
    Aliya Chaudhry reports on how some librarians have turned to the creation of digital escape rooms.
    What does ‘back to basics’ really mean? What ‘reforms’ are being signalled this time?

    Naomi Barnes reflects on the many iterations of ‘back to basics’ education and highlights the way in which this empty signifier means more than just reading, writing and arithmetic.

    Why Should We Allow Students to Retake Assessments?
    Thomas Guskey responds to concerns raised around offering students the opportunity to retake tests and assessment.
    The Constant Risk of a Consolidated Internet
    Ian Bogost reflects on the recent Twitter hack to highlight how centralized the internet has become. One with little room for design and creativity.
    How SDKs, hidden trackers in your phone, work
    Sarah Morrison digs into the way in which APIs and SDK kits provide the framework for tracking.
    What’s wrong with WhatsApp
    William Davies discusses the place of private groups in the rise of the web.
    The TikTok War
    Ben Thompson reflects on the growing concern around the political implications of TikTok. In a follow-up piece, he discusses the different internets and the role they play.
    The Age of Mass Surveillance Will Not Last Forever
    In a new introduction for Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother and Homeland, Edward Snowden reflects on the change in consciousness in the last ten years.
    The rise and fall of Adobe Flash
    In other histories, the Walkman turned forty and the car radio turned ninety.
    Jacob Collier: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert
    Jacob Collier re-imagines the idea of a solo performance with multi-part presentation for NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert
    The End of Open-Plan Everything – Walls Are Back
    Amanda Mull discusses the challenges associated with turning around years of open planned spaces.
    Our remote work future is going to suck
    Sean Blanda discusses remote work’s focus on tasks, the ways in which people can become forgotten, the culture of disruption, and the challenge associated with career growth.
    Is SARS-CoV-2 airborne? Questions abound—but here’s what we know
    Beth Mole unpacks the data on coronavirus and aerosol transmission, with the push to recognise the distribution beyond just droplets.
    Mystery Road offers a different model for police shows in the age of Black Lives Matter
    Hannah Reich discusses the problems associated with a one-side perspective of police portrayed on the screen.
    Susan Rogers on Take 5 Podcast
    Zan Rowe speaks with Susan Rogers about working with Prince, archiving his music and our experience of music.

    Read Write Respond #055
    Ben Folds captures the current moment best, stating:

    It used to be ‘that song is so 2008’. Now it’s ‘ugh, that song is so 10am. What are you thinking? With that old song you old man?

    On that note, stay well and thank you for reading. I hope you found something of interest. Oh, and thank you to my one avid reader for.picking up the careless mistakes in my last newsletter.

    Cover Image via JustLego101

  4. In this episode of Reclaim Today, Tim OWens speaks with Dr. Pete Rorabaugh about some of the steps and challenges associated with with extracting your data and habits from Google. On the one hand, Rorabaugh was left inspired by reading Edward Snowden’s Permanent Record, however as Google starts putting a ceiling on what you can actually do, it is becoming a practical problem. They discuss moving email to something like ProtonMail, messaging to Signal and storage to Nextcloud. One of the challenges I feel is faced with any swap is there is always compromises or sacrifices, this is something that came up in Alex Kretzschmar’s investigation of open source options to Google Photos:

    Our perhaps unsatisfying conclusion to this seven-app showdown exposes an important truth: the photo management software world is too complex for a one- or two-person dev team to properly handle. Unless we see some of these app-makers start to pool their resources together, it could be a while before we get a truly excellent self-hosted option to pry many of us away from Google.
    @arstechnica https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2021/06/the-big-alternatives-to-google-photos-showdown/

    Personally, I am interested in exploring Nextcloud as a space to store my photos and probably should move my email. I am also interested in the idea of storing all the images associated with my blogs in one spot and referencing them from there. This is something Jim Groom has touched upon.

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