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<nettime> Risks 27.28 [excerpt]: CPSR dissolution; Gary Chapman gets CPS
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<nettime> Risks 27.28 [excerpt]: CPSR dissolution; Gary Chapman gets CPSR's Norbert Wiener Award

     [From < http://catless.ncl.ac.uk/Risks/27.28.html#subj4 >]

                            [27]The Risks Digest

        Forum on Risks to the Public in Computers and Related Systems

   ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy, Peter G. Neumann,

                             Volume 27: Issue 28

                             Friday 17 May 2013


CPSR dissolution; Gary Chapman gets CPSR's Norbert Wiener Award

    Doug Schuler <douglas {AT} publicsphereproject.org>

   May 7, 2013 9:49:57 PM EDT

  [We infrequently run an obit notice, but I don't recall ever running one
  for an organization.  However, if organizations are people, then this does
  not really set a new precedent.  Incidentally, CPSR was mention twice in
  the very first issue of RISKS in 1985, and Gary Chapman contributed to
  RISKS-1.37 and 1.46, as then director of CPSR.  Created by Severo
  Ornstein, and subsequently led by Gary and Marc Rotenberg, CPSR was a
  major player in activities related to RISKS, as Doug notes here.
  Posthumously giving the final Norbert Wiener Award to Gary is very
  fitting.  I hope the CPSR website can survive (cpsr.org) as an
  historically relevant site.  PGN]

It is my unenviable task to announce that Computer Professionals for Social
Responsibility (CPSR), a non-profit educational corporation, has been

CPSR was launched in 1981 in Palo Alto, California, to question the
computerization of war in the United States via the Strategic Computing
Initiative to use artificial intelligence in war, and, soon after, the
Strategic Defense Initiative--`Star Wars'.  Over the years CPSR evolved
into a `big tent' organization that addressed a variety of computer-related
areas including workplace issues, privacy, participatory design, freedom of
information, community networks, and many others.

Now, of course, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of organizations and
movements that are concerned not only about the misuses of ICT by
governments and corporations (and others) but also about trying to develop
approaches that help communities work together to address issues related to
economic and other inequalities and environmental degradation--as well as
broader issues such as war and peace.

CPSR to me provided a vital link to important ideas and to inspirational
and creative people. These people believed that positive social change was
possible and that the use of ICT could play a significant role. For
example, in 1993, CPSR developed a document designed to help shape the
National Information Infrastructure (NII) program promoted by the
Clinton/Gore administration to help guide the evolution of networked
digital communication. Through a variety of conferences, workshops and
reports, CPSR encouraged conversations about computers and society that
went beyond hyperbole and conventional wisdom.

Although in many ways the issues that CPSR helped publicize have changed
forms they generally still remain. The ethical and other issues surrounding
the computerization of war, for one thing, have not gone away just because
they're not prominent on the public agenda. CPSR's original focus on the
use of artificial intelligence in `battle management', etc. and the
possibility of launch on warning is probably still pertinent. The advent of
ubiquitous and inexpensive drones definitely is.

Apparently, as many people know, the age of the participatory membership
organizations is over--their numbers are certainly way down--and we in
CPSR had certainly noticed that trend. I personally suspect that this
development is not necessarily a good thing. I certainly would welcome
another membership organization with CPSR's Big Tent orientation.

On the occasion of CPSR's dissolution we've developed two small projects for
keeping CPSR's spirit alive.

The first is that it would be a good opportunity to catalog the groups and
organizations around the world that would be natural allies to CPSR if it
still existed. We've started this cataloging (see
http://www.publicsphereproject.org/civic_organizations) but presumably have
only captured a small fraction of these organizations. Please open an
account on the Public Sphere Project site and add the information about your

The second is less concrete but probably no less important. To help the
current and future generation of activists as we envision possible futures
and interventions, we'd like to put these two related questions forward:
What applications of ICT are the most important to human development and
sustainability? And, on the other hand, What are the strongest challenges to
these applications? Please e-mail me your thoughts on this and I will do my
best to compile the thoughts and make them public.

 - - - -

With this note I also want to announce that CPSR's final Norbert Wiener
Award for Social and Professional Responsibility winner is Gary Chapman,
who served as CPSR's first executive director from 1985 to 1992. The award
recognizes outstanding contributions for social responsibility in computing
technology. Named for Norbert Wiener (1894-1964), who, in addition to a
long and active scientific career that brought the word "cybernetics" (and,
hence, cyberspace) into the language, was also a leader in assessing the
social implications of computerization. Writing in Science (1960) Wiener
reminds us that, "...even when the individual believes that science
contributes to the human ends which he has at heart, his belief needs a
continual scanning and re-evaluation which is only partly possible. For the
individual scientist, even the partial appraisal of the liaison between the
man and the historical process requires an imaginative forward glance at
history which is difficult, exacting, and only limitedly achievable...We
must always exert the full strength of our imagination.''

Gary (who died in 2010), spent nearly three decades working towards peace
and social justice as it related to information technology. As Marc
Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy and Information Center (EPIC) stated,
Gary "made many people stop and ask hard questions about technology. Not
just Is it cool?, but Does it make our lives better, or more just?
And does it make our world more secure?''

Gary's technology column, "Digital Nation," was carried in over 200
newspapers and websites. He taught and lectured all over the world, most
recently as a guest faculty member at the University of Porto in Porto,
Portugal. Since his time at CPSR he had been involved in a multitude of
related projects including the International School for Digital
Transformation (ISDT) that he and others at the University of Texas convened
annually in Porto, Portugal.

Gary was on the faculty of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at
the University of Texas, Austin. On the local level, he also worked to
bridge the digital divide, the gulf between those with access to technology
and those without. In 1995, for example, he worked on the successful grant
application that led to the establishment of Austin Free-Net
(www.austinfree.net), which installed the first public access Internet
stations in Austin, and continues today as a national model for bringing
digital opportunities to low-income and digitally challenged residents. And
in 2010, Gary co-founded Big Gig Austin (www.biggigaustin.org), which
anchored the successful community campaign to bring the Google gigabit fiber
network to Austin.

Gary was a principled and untiring advocate for the use of the Internet a
tool for collaboration and other means to bring people together. Also, as a
former medic with the Army Special Forces, Gary was especially concerned
about the uses of computing in warfare. In his articles in the CPSR
Newsletter, he warned that "Automating our ignorance of how to cope with
war will produce only more disaster.''  With David Bellin he co-edited
Computers in Battle: Will They Work?, a book on the implications of computer
technology in war, and was involved for many years in a rich collaboration
with the Pugwash-USPID (Unione Scienziati Per Il Disarmo)-ISODARCO
(International School on Disarmament and Research on Conflicts) community in
Italy and elsewhere.

Gary contributed chapters to several books that I was involved with. Most
recently, he contributed The Good Life, one of the patterns
(publicsphereproject.org/patterns/lv) in Liberating Voices, a book that I
wrote (with the help of 85 others). The verbiage from the pattern card
abridged from the full text reminds us of Gary's humane values, and serves
as an important challenge for all of us:

People who hope for a better world feel the need for a shared vision of the
"good life" that is flexible enough for innumerable individual
circumstances but comprehensive enough to unite people in optimistic,
deliberate, progressive social change. This shared vision of The Good Life
should promote and sustain conviviality and solidarity among people, as
well as feelings of individual effectiveness, self-worth and purpose. A
shared vision of The Good Life is always adapting; it encompasses
suffering, loss and conflict as well as pleasures, reverence and common
goals of improvement. An emergent framework for the modern "good life" is
based on some form of humanism, particularly pragmatic or civic humanism,
with room for a spiritual dimension that does not seek domination. Finally,
the environmental crises of the planet require a broad vision of a "good
life" that can harmonize human aspirations with natural limits. All this
needs to be an ongoing and open-ended "conversation," best suited to small
geographic groups that can craft and then live an identity that reflects
their vision of a "good life."

Although this will be CPSR's final Weiner award, the work that Gary and
other activists from CPSR and other organizations helped launch over two
decades ago is now being carried forward by scores of organizations and
thousands of activists all over the world, as digital information and
communication systems have assumed such a central location on the world's

Several projects including a Festschrift or other book project or event
related to CPSR and social responsibility have been discussed although no
firm plans have been made.

Gary Chapman was patient but persistent in his pursuit of progressive goals
and a better life for all. Sadly, Gary left us before he could see his
vision brought to fruition. He'll be missed but we all must push forward
with his vision.

Douglas Schuler <douglas {AT} publicsphereproject.org>


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