We speak with Annika Richterich from Maastricht University where she works as an Assistant Professor in Digital Cultures at the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences. Annika was with us earlier in 2020, check out that episode too.
This paper discusses how the Chaos Computer Club, a German hacker association, engaged in health data activism during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic (2020-2021). Hackers technopolitical activism tends to be neglected in public debate, partly since hacking is often equated with cybercrime. Yet, civic hacking communities have shown a longstanding dedication to activism relevant to public interests and technopolitics. In early 2020, hacker communities therefore also started scrutinising technology meant to tackle issues emerging during the COVID pandemic, often by collecting health-related data. The paper methodologically draws on a case study approach: it focuses on the Chaos Computer Club (CCC), analysing public statements, open letters, and reports. Conceptually, it frames the CCCs practices as data activism, specifically health data activism. It notably expands on Milan and van der Veldens (2016) continuum of proactive and reactive data activism. Within the proactive/reactive continuum, it stresses the CCCs interventional-regulative activism. The latter notion refers to practices of data activism involving interventional, technical assessments of data-intensive technology, using these to critically yet constructively articulate regulative requirements and demands. I argue that the CCCs health data activism oscillates between reactive and proactive data activism, by engaging in interventional-regulative practices: the association intervenes in public debate concerning the politics of covid-technology, while also directly interacting with and holding policy makers as well as technology corporations accountable. Thereby, this paper lends further weight to the importance of civic technology expertise and engagement - especially during public health crises, when tech-solutionist approaches are being promoted by appealing to the hope of them contributing to the greater good.
Formally, the CCC is an association registered in Germany (eingetragener Verein). However, while its central office is in Hamburg, there are also 25 regional chapters plus multiple local groups (Chaos-Treffs) in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.
This episode is a live recording from Hacking Everything. The Cultures and Politics of Hackers and Software Workers panel organized at the European Association for the study of Science and Technology (EASST) 2022 conference in Madrid on 2022-07-07. The hosts are Paula Bialski, Andreas Bischof and Mace Ojala. Audio production by Heights Beats at Hotmilk Records, who also produced the theme track. We are grateful for Chemnitz University of Technology for funding.