When I left the Open Rights Group a couple of years ago to concentrate on writing, my dream was to bring geek issues like online free speech, privacy and copyright reform to a mainstream audience with a book that was cool, accessible and fun. By a stroke of luck, the year I picked to write the book, 2010, was the year WikiLeaks took hacker culture to the top of the global news agenda. The book that resulted was published last week, "Barefoot into Cyberspace", and interweaves an insider's take on the drama of 2010 with a mix of personal reflections and conversations with key figures in the community like Stewart Brand, Boing Boing's own Cory Doctorow, Ethan Zuckerman and Rop Gonggrijp.
This is not just another WikiLeaks book. It sets out to ask a specific set of questions that I took with me when I left digital rights campaigning. Will the internet make us more free? Or will the flood of information that courses across its networks only serve to enslave us to powerful interests that are emerging online? And how will the institutions of the old world -- politics, the media, corporations -- affect the utopians' dream for a new world populated not by passive consumers but by active participants?
You can buy the book on Amazon in Kindle and print formats, and it's also available as a free download, licensed CC-BY-SA. The illustrations, which riff off John Tenniel's original (now public domain) drawings for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, were conceived and executed by Christopher Scally, a friend from ORG days and before who also conceived the artwork for ORG's anti-database state protest in Parliament Square some years ago, which Boing Boing reported on at the time.
The book is intentionally pulpy and open-ended, leaving the reader to draw their own conclusions. It turns out this made it a bad fit for commercial publishers, so I got together with a group of friends and we flash published the book ourselves. Despite the lack of commercial interest, it doesn't seem to have had a bad reactions from readers so far, if the first few days are anything to go by.Barefoot Into Cyberspace (Thanks, Becky!)
Over the coming weeks and months, I intend to post more about the flash-publishing process, as well as share some of the raw materials that went into making the book. I've already posted the transcript of the interview I conducted with Julian Assange in 2009 at the Chaos Communications Congress, back when he was still a relatively unknown figure. Next up I'm hoping to post some short audio snippets from the interview I did with Cory in 2010.