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[liberationtech] The Future of CPSR

Douglas Schuler douglas at
Tue Jan 25 17:45:50 PST 2011

Subject: The Future of CPSR

This issue seems like an appropriate follow-up to the recent sad news  
about the death of Gary Chapman, CPSR's first executive director.

This note is primarily addressed to people who have been involved with  
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, although, in keeping  
with CPSR's "big tent" approach, we are certainly interested in  
hearing from anybody who is interested in the future of CPSR and the  
further exploration of issues that CPSR members have focused on.

As many of you may have heard or suspected, there is a high  
probability that Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility will  
cease to exist in the near future. I've been appointed by the CPSR  
board as the transitional executive director until mid 2011 to address  
this issue and I'm reporting to a committee consisting of Gordon Lyon,  
Andy Oram, and Bill McIver.

Since CPSR's founding the environment regarding computing has gotten  
more complex and ubiquitous: robotic weapons, stuxnet, network  
neutrality, Wikileaks, the "Twitter revolution", and many other  
examples. And there is still room for proactive design in fields like  
deliberation, community empowerment, transparency, and development.

When CPSR started in 1983 there were few organizations that focused on  
the responsible use of computing in society. Now there are dozens — if  
not hundreds — of such organizations around the world doing similar  
work. (In fact, I see collecting and publicizing that information as a  
task that I might like to take on as part of this job.). One of the  
things I'm extremely interested in is helping to encourage the  
development of shared resources and stronger and better organized  
networks and collaborative ventures among these groups and networks —  
particularly across national and other boundaries.

I plan to be tackling three primary tasks: (1) talking to current and  
former members about CPSR and its possible futures (including CPSR  
rebirth, decomissioning, or integration with another organization) and  
developing one or more proposals; (2) initiating and implementing the  
proposal that gets adopted; (3) discussing (and hopefully  
implementing) a project or projects that reflect CPSR's basic values.  
This could mean developing online resources or sponsoring a conference  
or other event.

For now I welcome suggestions via email or the CPSR activists list. We  
could also set up a discussion forum on the Public Sphere Project site  
if there was enough interest.

Please let me know what you think!

Doug Schuler

PS. A list of CPSR's thematic activities over the years and a brief  
description of who I am in relation to CPSR is I've included below.

About CPSR

CPSR was officially created as a non-profit (501.c.3) corporation in  
1983 ( Since that time  
CPSR was involved in a wide variety of issues. These are listed below.  
(Also see 
  Without too much commentary I would mention that these issues for  
the large part have not gone away and in many cases the need for these  
discussion have gotten more acute. For this reason I hope that whether  
or not CPSR as an organization survives, the discussion of these  
issues continues -- and (ideally!) grows.

CPSR activity areas (also see CPSR's Wikipedia page)

Unreliable and otherwise undesirable features of computing in warfare
Workplace issues (privacy, etc.)
Participatory design
Community networks and other community media
Internet policy and information democratization
Computers and elections
Computer and the environment
ICT and developing countries
Computers and ethics
Liberating Voices pattern language for communication revolution

My involvement with CPSR

I've been involved with CPSR for about 25 years. I organized 10 or so  
DIAC (Directions and Implications of Advanced Computing) conferences  
for CPSR since 1987 and was involved in many of their events and  
activities over the years. I co-edited a number of books and special  
sections on CPSR topics and I continue to write and teach on these  
issues. I am now the president of the Public Sphere Project (PSP)  
which is aligned closely with the philosophy and orientation of CPSR.  
The Public Sphere Project was originally formed as a semi-autonomous  
program within CPSR but for the past couple of years it has been an  
independent non-profit (501.c.3) organization established in the US  
but international in focus.

Douglas Schuler
douglas at

Public Sphere Project

Liberating Voices!  A Pattern Language for Communication Revolution  

Liberating Voices!  A Pattern Language for Communication Revolution  

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