quinta-feira, 26 de dezembro de 2013

Little Brother: Empowering citizenship in a digital future.


Little Brother reads like a combination of manual for an hacktivist operating system and a manifesto for liberty in a progressively digital world. Behind a seemingly innocuous and rather stereotypical story of misadventures of a young boy fighting injustice is a powerful reflection on privacy, power of media, individual rights and freedoms, the balance between the powers of states and citizens rights, paranoia and political opportunism associated with wars on terrorism.

Doctorow uses quite effectively a narrative structure where a hapless hero has to suffer mishaps, glaring injustices and torture until his fight for the values ​​of freedom ultimately triumphs. It's a classic story of struggle of good against evil, between libertarian hackers and oppressive laws raised in the name of security. The book has the express purpose of using the young adult sub-genre to raise awareness on issues such as privacy, online security, and the struggle between free culture and political and economic interests that claim compelling needs to impose unreasonable restrictions.

Within the characters struggle against the injustices Doctorow gives us a manual for ethical hacking, exploring in depth methods of social struggle and technologies to defend individual rights. The explicit purpose is to teach young readers about privacy, encryption, hacker culture, smart mobs, free culture, open-source movements, wireless networks, civil rights and new forms of social organization enhanced by digital technologies.

Written in 2008, this book today seems eerily prescient. In our post-wikileaks/Snowden world, we know that shady governmental agencies worldwide have no qualms on using our digital tools to spy without legal oversight. Drones overfly us, surveillance cameras lurk in every corner of urban spaces. Privacy as a concept withers in a society where we freely give away personal data in exchange for services, unbeknownstingly sharing personal information. Doctorow spotted these trends early on and gave us an empowering manifesto to assert individual rights in the face of pervasive vigilance.


Coelho, A. (2009). Little Brother. Retrieved 16/12/2013 from http://intergalacticrobot.blogspot.pt/2008/07/little-brother.html

Doctorow, C. (2008). Little Brother. Nova Iorque: TOR.

Doctorow. C. (2013). Little Brother News. Retrieved 16/12/2013 from http://craphound.com/littlebrother/

(This being the last essay I'll do a little misuse of this space to wish you, unknown reader, a merry Christmas and an happy new year. I do hope you've enjoyed sharing this course and... best wishes!)


(E agora num toque autocongratulatório, há que sentir uma pontinha de orgulho numa apreciação destas: "Does the link in a foreign language mean that English is a second language for you? If so, that's extremely impressive. A few minor hiccups, but nothing major. Your vocabulary is great, and your paragraph structure makes sense. I would say that you get a bit carried away with listing things in places. A 2 from me. Well done!")

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