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[liberationtech] CPSR dissolution and Gary Chapman, Winner of CPSR's Norbert Wiener Award

Jon Lebkowsky jon.lebkowsky at
Tue May 7 19:37:09 PDT 2013

Doug, it's great to see this acknowledgement of Gary's work and profound
influence. We miss him.


On Tue, May 7, 2013 at 8:50 PM, Doug Schuler <
douglas at> wrote:

> Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility Dissolution and
> Gary Chapman, Winner of CPSR's Norbert Wiener Award for Social and
> Professional Responsibility
> It is my unenviable task to announce that Computer Professionals for
> Social Responsibility (CPSR), a non-profit educational corporation, has
> been dissolved.
> CPSR was launched in 1981 in Palo Alto, California, to question the
> computerization of war in the United States via the Strategic Computing
> Initiative to use artificial intelligence in war, and, soon after, the
> Strategic Defense Initiative — “Star Wars”. Over the years CPSR evolved
> into a “big tent” organization that addressed a variety of computer-related
> areas including workplace issues, privacy, participatory design, freedom of
> information, community networks, and many others.
> Now, of course, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of organizations and
> movements that are concerned not only about the misuses of ICT by
> governments and corporations (and others) but also about trying to develop
> approaches that help communities work together to address issues related to
> economic and other inequalities and environmental degradation — as well as
> broader issues such as war and peace.
> CPSR to me provided a vital link to important ideas and to inspirational
> and creative people. These people believed that positive social change was
> possible and that the use of ICT *could* play a significant role. For
> example, in 1993, CPSR developed a document designed to help shape the
> National Information Infrastructure (NII) program promoted by the
> Clinton/Gore administration to help guide the evolution of networked
> digital communication. Through a variety of conferences, workshops and
> reports, CPSR encouraged conversations about computers and society that
> went beyond hyperbole and conventional wisdom.
> Although in many ways the issues that CPSR helped publicize have changed
> forms they generally still remain. The ethical and other issues surrounding
> the computerization of war, for one thing, have not gone away just because
> they’re not prominent on the public agenda. CPSR’s original focus on the
> use of artificial intelligence in “battle management” etc. and the
> possibility of launch on warning is probably still pertinent. The advent of
> ubiquitous and inexpensive drones definitely is.
> Apparently, as many people know, the age of the participatory membership
> organizations is over — their numbers are certainly way down — and we in
> CPSR had certainly noticed that trend. I personally suspect that this
> development is not necessarily a good thing. I certainly would welcome
> another membership organization with CPSR’s Big Tent orientation.
> On the occasion of CPSR’s dissolution we’ve developed two small projects
> for keeping CPSR’s spirit alive.
> The first is that it would be a good opportunity to catalog the groups and
> organizations around the world that would be natural allies to CPSR if it
> still existed. We’ve started this cataloging (see
> but presumably
> have only captured a small fraction of these organizations. Please open an
> account on the Public Sphere Project site and add the information about
> your organization.
> The second is less concrete but probably no less important. To help the
> current and future generation of activists as we envision possible futures
> and interventions, we’d like to put these two related questions forward: *What
> applications of ICT are the most important to human development and
> sustainability?* And, on the other hand, *What are the strongest
> challenges to these applications?* Please email me your thoughts on this
> and I will do my best to compile the thoughts and make them public.
> *********
> With this note I also want to announce that CPSR’s final Norbert Wiener
> Award for Social and Professional Responsibility winner is Gary Chapman,
> who served as CPSR’s first executive director from 1985 to 1992. The award
> recognizes outstanding contributions for social responsibility in computing
> technology. Named for Norbert Wiener (1894-1964), who, in addition to a
> long and active scientific career that brought the word "cybernetics" (and,
> hence, cyberspace) into the language, was also a leader in assessing the
> social implications of computerization. Writing in Science (1960) Wiener
> reminds us that, “...even when the individual believes that science
> contributes to the human ends which he has at heart, his belief needs a
> continual scanning and re-evaluation which is only partly possible. For the
> individual scientist, even the partial appraisal of the liaison between the
> man and the historical process requires an imaginative forward glance at
> history which is difficult, exacting, and only limitedly achievable...We
> must always exert the full strength of our imagination.”
> Gary who died in 2010, spent nearly three decades working towards peace
> and social justice as it related to information technology. As Marc
> Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy and Information Center (EPIC) stated,
> Gary “made many people stop and ask hard questions about technology. Not
> just ‘Is it cool?’ but ‘Does it make our lives better, or more just? And
> does it make our world more secure?’ ”
> Gary’s technology column, "Digital Nation," was carried in over 200
> newspapers and websites. He taught and lectured all over the world, most
> recently as a guest faculty member at the University of Porto in Porto,
> Portugal. Since his time at CPSR he had been involved in a multitude of
> related projects including the International School for Digital
> Transformation (ISDT) that he and others at the University of Texas
> convened annually in Porto, Portugal.
> Gary was on the faculty of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs
> at the University of Texas, Austin. On the local level, he also worked to
> bridge the digital divide, the gulf between those with access to technology
> and those without. In 1995, for example, he worked on the successful grant
> application that led to the establishment of Austin Free-Net (
>, which installed the first public access Internet
> stations in Austin, and continues today as a national model for bringing
> digital opportunities to low-income and digitally challenged residents. And
> in 2010, Gary co-founded Big Gig Austin (, which
> anchored the successful community campaign to bring the Google gigabit
> fiber network to Austin.
> Gary was a principled and untiring advocate for the use of the Internet a
> tool for collaboration and other means to bring people together. Also, as a
> former medic with the Army Special Forces, Gary was especially concerned
> about the uses of computing in warfare. In his articles in the CPSR
> Newsletter, he warned that “Automating our ignorance of how to cope with
> war will produce only more disaster.” With David Bellin he co-edited
> “Computers in Battle: Will They Work?”, a book on the implications of
> computer technology in war, and was involved for many years in a rich
> collaboration with the Pugwash-USPID (Unione Scienziati Per Il
> Disarmo)-ISODARCO (International School on Disarmament and Research on
> Conflicts) community in Italy and elsewhere.
> Gary contributed chapters to several books that I was involved with. Most
> recently, he contributed *The Good Life,* one of the patterns (
> in *Liberating Voices*, a book that
> I wrote (with the help of 85 others). The verbiage from the pattern card
> abridged from the full text<>reminds us of Gary's humane values, and serves as an important challenge
> for all of us:
> People who hope for a better world feel the need for a shared vision of
> the "good life" that is flexible enough for innumerable individual
> circumstances but comprehensive enough to unite people in optimistic,
> deliberate, progressive social change. This shared vision of The Good Life
> should promote and sustain conviviality and solidarity among people, as
> well as feelings of individual effectiveness, self-worth and purpose. A
> shared vision of The Good Life is always adapting; it encompasses
> suffering, loss and conflict as well as pleasures, reverence and common
> goals of improvement. An emergent framework for the modern "good life" is
> based on some form of humanism, particularly pragmatic or civic humanism,
> with room for a spiritual dimension that does not seek domination. Finally,
> the environmental crises of the planet require a broad vision of a "good
> life" that can harmonize human aspirations with natural limits. All this
> needs to be an ongoing and open-ended "conversation," best suited to small
> geographic groups that can craft and then live an identity that reflects
> their vision of a "good life."
> Although this will be CPSR's final Weiner award, the work that Gary and
> other activists from CPSR and other organizations helped launch over two
> decades ago is now being carried forward by scores of organizations and
> thousands of activists all over the world, as digital information and
> communication systems have assumed such a central location on the world's
> stage.
> Several projects including a Festschrift or other book project or event
> related to CPSR and social responsibility have been discussed although no
> firm plans have been made.
> Gary Chapman was patient but persistent in his pursuit of progressive
> goals and a better life for all. Sadly, Gary left us before he could see
> his vision brought to fruition. He'll be missed but we all must push
> forward with his vision.
> *********
> *CPSR’s Norbert Wiener Award for Social and Professional Responsibility
> Winners*
> **
> *2013 - Gary Chapman*
> *For his tireless efforts to promote human values within an increasingly
> computerized world.*
> 1987 - David Parnas
> For his work to promote software reliability and his campaign to raise
> public awareness of the technical infeasibility of the Strategic Defense
> Initiative.
> 1988 - Joe Weizenbaum
> For his work to promote the human side of his computing, as expressed in
> his book Computer Power and Human Reason.
> 1989 - Daniel D. McCracken
> For his work in the late 1960s to organize computer professionals against
> the deployment of ABM systems.
> 1990 - Kristen Nygaard
> For his pioneering work in Norway to develop "participatory design," which
> seeks the direct involvement of workers in the development of the
> computer-based tools they use.
> 1991 - Severo Ornstein and Laura Gould
> For their tireless energy to guide CPSR through its early years.
> 1992 - Barbara Simons
> For her work on human rights, military funding, and the U.C. Berkeley
> reentry program for women.
> 1993 - Institute for Global Communication
> For using network technology to empower previously disenfranchised
> individuals and groups working for progressive change.
> 1994 - Antonia Stone
> For her work in founding the Playing To Win organization, which has
> brought computer skills to many people who have long been technologically
> disadvantaged.
> 1995 - Tom Grundner
> For his pioneering work in establishing the Free Net movement, which has
> provided access to network technology to entire communities who would
> otherwise be unrepresented.
> 1996 - Phil Zimmermann
> Inventor of Pretty Good Privacy (PGP). PGP allows the average person to
> encode his or her email. Previously, only governments or large corporations
> could make their email secure.
> 1997 - Peter Neumann
> Editor of the RISKS Digest, for his outstanding contributions to the field
> of Risk and Reliability in Computer Science. Read his Notes on Receiving
> CPSR's Norbert Wiener Award
> 1998 - The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)
> A large open international community of individuals, engaged in the
> development of new Internet standard specifications, for its tremendously
> positive technical and other contributions to the evolution and smooth
> operation of the Internet.
> 1999 - The Free Software & Open Source Movements
> This movement profoundly challenges the belief that market mechanisms are
> always best-suited for unleashing technological innovation. This voluntary
> and collaborative model for software development is providing a true
> alternative to proprietary, closed software.
> 2000 - Marc Rotenberg
> For his ongoing efforts through CPSR and the Electronic Privacy
> Information Center to protect the loss of public's privacy through
> technological innovation.
> 2001 - Nira Schwartz and Theodore Postol
> For their courageous efforts to disclose misinformation and falsified test
> results of the proposed National Missile Defense system.
> 2002 - Karl Auerbach
> For pioneering democratic Internet governance.
> 2003 - Mitch Kapor
> For being a role model for anyone seeking to succeed in the cut-throat
> world of high tech business without sacrificing integrity and conscience.
> 2004 - Barry Steinhardt
> For being a prominent advocate for privacy and other civil liberties in
> the face of technologically-oriented threats.
> 2005 - Douglas Engelbart
> For being a pioneer of human-computer interface technology, inventor of
> the mouse, and social-impact visionary.
> 2008 - Bruce Schneier
> For his technical achievements and passionate advocacy for privacy,
> security, and civil liberties.
> Douglas Schuler
> douglas at
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Public Sphere Project
> Creating the World Citizen Parliament
> Liberating Voices!  A Pattern Language for Communication Revolution
> (project)
> Liberating Voices!  A Pattern Language for Communication Revolution (book)
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Jon Lebkowsky (@jonl)
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