The Disruptive Fridays, a series of live-streamed one-hour conversations, consolidates a platform of discussion for whistleblowers, human right advocates, artists, journalists, lawyers and activists to present their experience, research and actions – with the aim to share ideas for a free Internet and modern democracy and to strengthen human rights values and freedom of speech. We use art and digital culture to empower networked Europeans to explore new ideas and develop innovative digital tools to enrich future event production, where hybrid solutions are needed.
Started in April 2020, our format was continued and further developed into 2021 with support of the European Cultural Foundation. We realised 22 editions so far, with over 60 speakers mainly covering Central and Eastern Europe, but also expanding the discussion to the USA, Latin America and Africa. Our topics ranged from grassroots data analysis, leaking and whistleblowing, to legal and human rights mobilisation, anti-corruption, health promotion interventions, and the effects of information technology on civil society, politics, culture and art.
With these series we explored various methodologies and tools for online work. We create a safe digital environment for our participants, as they often work with sensitive information. We avoid using commercial software but work within an independent digital environment, which enables us to guarantee data safety of our participants, but also to control the aesthetic end-result of each edition. We enabled people with poor internet connection to take part in our programme to avoid digital inequality. We built an inclusive and accessible environment on our website, where people can watch the live-stream and take part in the chat discussion to ask questions to the speakers. Each edition is archived on our YouTube channel for long-term accessibility.
The series enabled us to better understand the effect of the pandemic, and to expand our interests in response to the current political and social changes. The crisis amplified the breach of human rights, gender rights, digital rights, and the circulation of misinformation. At the same time the new circumstances produce ground for new ideas, and we are witnessing the development of numerous global solutions, practices of care, community building & organising, and proposals for new political/systemic change. ‘Disruptive Fridays’ analyses the wider matter of self-organised and technologically-based tactics of producing justice and promoting accountability. Empowerment is seen as the process of obtaining rights for marginalised people. Online events are particularly suitable for reaching participants globally: cross-cultural dialogue and transnational exchange was an immediate result of our programme.
One burning question in spring 2020 was: How to best continue our work, and later on, how has our work changed in the past year? In the editions “Creative solutions and resistance to isolation”, “Reimagine culture”, “Reimagine community” and “Online events – what works?” we had talks with people from the cultural sector to exchange knowledge and tips for organising online or hybrid events.
Another topic emerging from the cultural and activist sector was the topic of (health) care. In “Pirate care” we talked about self-organised care initiatives; in “Harm reduction and queer care” we tackled the specific conditions of queer & POC communities and the role of harm reduction programmes. In “Crossing borders: Sub-Saharan communities of care and resistance” we covered the African perspective, and in “Radical health care” we discussed feminist aspects of health and health care.
We often discussed the connection between the pandemic and technology: in “Makers vs. Virus” we talked about the open-source approach and critical making, and in “Virus Tracking and Surveillance” and “Global surveillance in the data society” we discussed the implications of tracking and data retention on everyday life, as well as privacy and surveillance concerns. In “Whistleblowing during COVID-19” and “Follow the data: Corruption, Leaks & People vs. Power”, we covered the topics of corruption and whistleblowing. Two other editions focused specifically on corruption: “Are kleptocrats the big winners of Covid-19?” discussed how the crisis has helped to break down defences against kleptocracy and “Global fallout: Covid-19 in Africa, Latin America and Beyond” discussed the impact of the pandemic and vaccine roll-out in the Global South.
Some editions focused more on overall political change: “Lockdown or Crackdown” focused on the possibility of protest in the middle of pandemic, “Empowerment vs. Power: #blacklivesmatter” spoke with activists on the ground in the US protests, and “Shadows of control” tackled the growth of the authoritarian state in Eastern Europe.
We also left a bit of space for topics other than the pandemic: in “Play or get played” we tackled the topic of critical games, in “Colonial borders and counter-archives” and “Legacy of resistance – Rediscovering Yugoslavia’s Partisan history” we discussed the creation of counter-archives the artistic and political past in Egypt, Syria and former Yugoslavia, and in “The Q in Conspiracy” we addressed creation of conspiracy theories, inspired by the recent book by Wu Ming 1.