Interview with OpenArchive’s Founder, Natalie Cadranel.
OpenArchive is a free, open-source mobile application dedicated to
maintaining the privacy, provenance, and preservation of audiovisual civic media. Conceived during the Arab Spring and Occupy, and currently available in beta for Android, it unites the efforts of Tor, Creative Commons, and the Internet Archive to foster a virtual commons where civil liberties and digital rights are protected.
Founder, Natalie Cadranel, and supporters of the OpenArchive project will be at the San Francisco Hackathon this weekend, ready to collaborate with folks. This is your chance to get your hands on the code and contribute to the Internet Archive’s first secure, open-source mobile application. You can join the beta-testing community here.
Natalie is an archivist, researcher, and independent media advocate. After finishing her master’s at UC Berkeley’s ISchool, she launched the OpenArchive App. The background and inspiration for the project is highlighted in her journal article Preserving Mobilized Culture. She will be engaging with the community at the San Francisco Aaron Swartz Hackathon, on Saturday from 10am – Noon, and looks forward to sharing it in the venue and spirit it was conceived.
Citizens armed with mobile devices are becoming history’s first
responders, amassing rich, contextualized, and crucial records of
their movements and breaking news. However, most of these recordings presently reside on social media platforms that can chill free speech and are subject to government censorship, privacy breaches, and data loss. While social media is an acceptable distribution platform, it does not provide sufficient privacy protections or archival preservation of this vital media.
OpenArchive’s mission is to preserve, amplify, and route mobile media to user-created collections in an accessible public trust (The Internet Archive and beyond) outside the corporate walled gardens currently dominating the online media ecosystem.
Lisa: So, is the idea that, while you are posting something to Facebook or Twitter, you might also post it to the Internet Archive, for safekeeping, for future generations?
Natalie: Definitely. This application is an alternative to social media and intended to meet the needs of three primary groups:
1) citizen journalists who no longer trust social media and want to share their documentation with organizations that respect their civil liberties and are committed to preservation and contextualization
2) archivists who are looking for effective ways to collect and preserve community media while respecting the media-creators’ intentions, and
3) those interested in using and remixing the media like news outlets, researchers, scholars, and artists.
Lisa: What gave you the idea to build this?
Natalie: As a former journalist for IndyMedia, an archivist, and digital rights activist, I became increasingly concerned about the lifecycle of sensitive mobile media during global uprisings starting in 2010. I interviewed citizen journalists, archivists, and refugees from Iran’s Green Movement about the challenges surrounding their information gathering and distribution processes.
The ethical collection, contextualization, and amplification of citizen media are issues that crystallized during these conversations. Privacy and authentication emerged as critical concerns for people who had very sensitive media on their phones, which often included documentation of human rights abuses. Popular social media platforms were not secure enough to protect users’ identities or conducive for long-term preservation and there were no alternatives at the time.
Lisa: Explain more about this problem of our social media-filled world that could just be deleted, should a corporation, such as Facebook, get bought and disappear someday.
Natalie: Companies are committed to their bottom line, not long-term preservation or user privacy. While they are currently fantastic distribution platforms, users cannot rely on them to safeguard and preserve their content.
This platform is facilitating a timeline of a “people’s history” that
preserves and respects contributors’ content. Another benefit of
contributing this media to an archive is that it increases the
interoperability of it for future use and makes it widely available without betraying user identities or intentions.
Lisa: So when you upload to the Internet Archive, you are adding it to a personal collection at the Internet Archive, as if you had uploaded through its website?
Natalie: Yes. Exactly.
Lisa: What kinds of things might people be able to help you hack on at the hackathon?
Natalie: We currently need help with some usability and design
refinements. There are open issues on the GitHub site.