Many people have heard about the criminal investigation of UC San Diego Professor Ricardo Dominguez related to his symbolic protest actions aka Virtual Sit-ins this past March 4th on the servers of the UC Office of the President (UCOP). Republished below is a report back from one of Dominguez’s frequent collaborators and fellow UCSD faculty Brett Stalbaum. This case is extremely important as a precedent setting conflict, bringing together the activism around the UC budget crisis, academic freedom, tenure, and the intersections of online and border activism.
To learn more about the “investigations” and support for Professor Ricardo Dominguez and Electronic Disturbance Theater/b.a.n.g lab click here read and watch these news reports about the “investigations”:
- Digital Zapatismo and the Threatened Persecution of Prof. Ricardo Dominguez (UCSD) by John Armenta: http://thevirtualcampfire.org/garibaldi/2010/05/ricardo-dominguez
- UC San Diego professor who studies disobedience gains followers – and investigators By Richard Marosi, Los Angeles Times: http://articles.latimes.com/2010/may/07/local/la-me-ucsd-professor-20100507-53
- Ucsd Hacktivism “Affective – Not Effective!” – Fox News Video: http://bang.calit2.net/2010/05/ucsd-hacktivism-fox-news-eeek/
How to help:
- Donate to the legal fund supporting Dominguez here.
- Sign the “Stop De-Tenuring of Ricardo Dominguez” petition here.
Reposted from Walkingtools.net:
“I hope you agree that our tradition
of view-point neutral application of
policies governing professional
conduct by faculty and staff is one
of the great strengths we rely on to
demonstrate our commitment to
the public good.”
University of California President Mark Yudof
(Response to UC MRG Core Members Letter of concern over the persecution of Professor Dominguez, April 20th 2010.)
In this post, I would like to highlight the issue of view-point neutral application of University of California Policy by both the University of California Office of the President and UCSD. On July 21st2010 I went to the UCSD Police Department to give a formal statement on the criminal investigation of Professor Ricardo Dominguez. Dominguez is being investigated for a Virtual Sit-in held on March 4th of this year, and yet apparently not (the Police seemed not to know of it) for a virtual sit-in held on March 19th-21st 2008. In fact, as noted elsewhere, UCSD Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Paul Drake actually promoted Dominguez for the latter, yet two years later is trying to fire him for the former, in spite of some very disturbing facts including that both virtual sit-in events involved the same servers (ucop.edu and bang.calit2.net.) First you love him then you hate him. What really is happening here?
The history of Virtual Sit-ins is something that Ricardo and I both know something about, having co-founded the Electronic Disturbance Theater and produced the original FloodNet Applet (along with Carmin Karasic and Stefan Wray) in 1998, and further having implemented many performances (peaceful online protests against President Bill Clinton, his administration and “his” Pentagon, as well as Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo and others) in support of the Zapatista indigenous communities of Chiapas. In the interstice between then and now, Ricardo has remained one of the leading theorists and art practitioners of Electronic Civil Disobedience (a term he helped coin with the Critical Art Ensemble previous to our work with the Electronic Disturbance Theater.) Also in that time, I worked on other collaborations (C5 Corporation, paintersflat.net) where I developed a practice in location aware media in the arts. (GPS, mobile phones, code…) Our practice as active collaborators was rekindled in recent years working on an Artivist project titled the Transborder Immigrant Tool, which has been denounced by Republican Congressmen, and has generated troubling death threats from the public.
There was a reason I moved on from EDT for what has turned out to be close to a decade now. Simply stated: Virtual sit-ins occupy a gray area between (as Ricardo often says) affect in effect. Virtual sit-ins don’t hurt anything or anyone, yet they have some of the appearances of being a bot-net attack, the latter being unambiguously illegal. Our development of virtual sit-in technologies was always focused on playing in the gray spaces of the affective and appearance, specifically designed for purposes of 1) Artivism, and 2) conceptual art practice exploring the unique material and social dimensions of a new medium: the internet. Virtual sit-ins have never been effective in terms of damaging servers, and have been ridiculed by hackers as technically ineffective. But the only reason I quit developing new software myself (circa 2000) was that professional system admins – and no doubt many public relations consultants – were onto our game. (And, probably unimpressed with artivistic gestures such as causing the names of the people massacred at Acteal to appear in President Zedillo’s web server’s error logs.) With few exceptions – and at that mostly triggered by under-trained government bureaucrats – virtual-sit ins simply stopped garnering much of the kind of art, media, public and critical attention that we had previously been able to divert to Chiapas. And when my friend and C5 colleague Bruce Gardner gave me a GPS device to use in 2000, and shared some of his early computer code with me, I became interested in a practice exploring another new medium that for me, frankly, had very little political dimension.
Q&A is an irregular series on SOTA which will pose a question to a small group of faculty, staff or students from different campuses and compile their responses. If you would like to respond to the question, please do so in the comments section of this post or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Here is the 2nd SOTA Q&A:
A: Peter Krapp (UCI) – This is a major scandal. If the US Senate hearings have started to shine a light on the practices of for-profit higher ed, then why is UC still indulging in dot-com fantasies? Who does [UC Dean Christopher] Edley hope to please with his authoritarian imposition of wage suppression, layoffs, and watered-down education?
A: Brett Stalbaum (UCSD) – My experience is that when faculty committees examine the application of online education to large undergraduate classes, they properly identify the hidden costs, the mixed experience of peer institutions, and very real concerns about quality. These same committees often find on the contrary that distance education could be a real revenue generator at the graduate level – especially in programs where producing a thesis requiring the student to be in a different location. (Say a deeply engaged, situated anthropology study or special collections.) Drafts and viva voce examination and support can be done with word processors, email, Skype, and other low cost tools. Using online technologies for “savings” is probably a folly tied to special interests who want to sell the UC on expensive platforms, and simultaneously distracts from the development of potentially very profitable, specialized graduate programs that are bound to our main mission as a research system.
Q&A is an irregular series on SOTA which will pose a question to a small group of faculty, staff or students from different campuses and compile their responses. If you would like to respond to the question, please do so in the comments section of this post or email email@example.com. Here is the first SOTA Q&A:
Q: How are you balancing the need for efficiency in your programs with the recognition that the arts cannot fit into an efficiency model?
A: Peter Krapp (UCI) – Efficiency does not have to be defined by corporate metrics. UC is a global leader in research, education, and service. Why can’t we
stop making important what corporate managers consider measurable, and start making measurable what is important?
There seem to be too few people in positions of influence at UCOP who have any significant experience on a UC main campus teaching undergraduates. Appropriate metrics need to be developed by faculty who are fully engaged in, and familiar with, the core mission.
A: Brett Stalbaum (UCSD) – The arts can and often do fit into an “efficiency model”, that they don’t is a canard that we largely impose on ourselves when we nod in agreement with the president. UC Administrators regularly fail to take into account that all enrolled students bring in the same state funds, and especially with fees increasing in recent years, departments such as English and Literature are cash cows because the students themselves don’t use nearly the same capital intensive infrastructure as students in the sciences do. Further, humanities and social science departments tend to have heavier teaching loads and lower salaries! The president’s assumption is almost certainly false, but don’t expect robust apples to apples efforts to correctly quantify any of these questions to come from UCOP. This president is not an honest player.