Technoshamanism: Collaborating with the Pataxó


One of the more important parts of the 1st Festival of Technoshamanism (previously covered here, here and here) was several points of collaboration with the local Pataxó Indians.

The Pataxó is an indigenous people of about 12,000 people who live in the extreme south of the Brazilian state of Bahia, mainly in the area between Porto Seguro and Caraíva. Traditionally, the Pataxó have lived near Monte Pascoal, in the aldeia or settlement (or “village”) called Barra Velha. In 1951, they suffered a devastating massacre at the hands of the Brazilian military police, who basically burned down the settlement and dispersed the Pataxó, who for many years hereafter often had to be  discreet about their heritage. In the 1980′s and 90′s the Pataxó started fighting for their lands and succesfully reclaimed several of their old settlements, among them the Aldeia Velha located in Arraial d’Ajuda and the area around Monte Pascoal near Caraíva. A retelling of the struggle of the Pataxó for their lands can be found here (in Portuguese).

Today, the Pataxó live in 29 aldeias mainly located in the area between Monte Pascoal and Porto Seguro. Their main source of income is agriculture and tradional craftmanship, and though they have made great advances, their claim to their lands is by no means secure. The area is home to vast financial interests in agrobusiness, who would love to be able to clear what remains of the Atlantic rain forest and plant high-yielding eucalyptus everywhere, and their relationship with the rest of society is still precarious, as craftmanship and tourism are a somewhat insecure financial foundation.

After the massacre, the Pataxó might have opted to simply integrate into Brazilian society, abandon their culture and adopt a more assimilated lifestyle as workers and farm hands. But many of them also recognize that if they fail to conserve their culture, they will disappear and become nothing more than a few thousand urban and rural poor – while if the do conserve their culture and remember who they are, they may yet conserve an incredibly rich historical and cultural heritage.

The collaboration between the Pataxó and the participants in the festival was  natural because the concept of technoshamanism is, as has been discussed, all about reconnecting with ancestral knowledge and a connection to nature. In fact, one of the reasons for selecting Arraial d’Ajuda as the location of the festival was that several of the activists behind the festival already had good relations with the Pataxó. One of those people is Regis “Bailux”, who lives in Arraial and founded the hacklab called “Bailux”. At the festival’s opening (pictured above) Regis explained how his life changed completely ten years ago, when he discovered free software. His passion for free software led him to create Bailux with weekly meetings around free software, and for years he has been working to bring free software and free technology to the Pataxó to enable them to connect to the new digital world. For the Pataxó, collaboration with and solidarity from social movements as well as from other independent people are important, as they may yet need all the support they can get in the struggle for their culture and their land.

As a European and a person from a very different culture, I was honoured to be invited as a friend and a guest of these wonderful people.

The village pajé, or medicine woman, in Aldeia Velha:

Scenes from a wedding and sports contest in Aldeia Velha on April 29, 2014:



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Various snapshots from the village:


sou indio pataxó



Elections ’14: Not much to celebrate

The result of the Danish referendum on the European patent court and the unitary patent was, in spite of a rather intense campaign by Prosa, IT-Politisk Forening and Bitbureauet (and, to a lesser extent, our local FSFE group), a clear victory for the “yes” camp. In our defense, the other side had more money and were constantly pounding on the allegation that if the 0,3% of Danish companies that have patents would have to continue validating their patents simultaneously in Denmark, it would somehow destroy the economy. We were also told not to worry about software patents, since the rules explicitly forbid them and of course the European Patent Organization would never issue a software patent. The good news is that very few countries have yet ratified the new patent rules, and the general political squabble may yet mean that the unitary patent may in fact never become a reality. There’s still time to fight against software patents on the European level.

In other news, the nationalist and racist Danish People’s Party gained 26,7% of the votes and is now the largest political party in the country. This could be coupled with the similar victory for the Front National in France. Given our country’s history of xenophobic policies induced by the Danish People’s Party, my analysis of Denmark’s political future is this: “God help us all! Where’s my passport?”

Speaking against the European patent court

This afternoon, I will give a talk at Aarhus University School of Engineering, recommending a no in the upcoming referendum about Denmark’s accession to the unitary patent and the European patent court.

Our main motivation for working against the unitary patent is that the rules about software patents are very unclear, and given a closed-circuit patent-lawyer-only system as created by the European Patent Organization and the court in conjunction, we have every reason to fear the worst. I wrote more about this here.

Below, you can see one of the posters from our campaign. Basically it says that we have to vote NO to patent trolls, as the unitary patent risks creating a patent troll-friendly environment in Europe which did not previously exist.

A NO in the referendum will not immediately help the rest of Europe, but at least unitary patents won’t be valid in Denmark. And, if Denmark votes no because of software patents, and Ireland follows suit in a year’s time when they have their referendum, it may yet help us campaign to change things. And, hopefully, kill software patents (and bio-patents, but that’s another story) once and for all.

Technoshamanism: Strange rituals

Many artists and theatre people participated in the 1st International Festival for Technoshamanism, and this fact conspired with the festival’s theme – the confluence of technology and shamanism – to create a number of interesting performances and happenings. Below is a selection of images which attempts to give an impression of a few of these events.

This is also the first in a series of posts where I will try to convey a number of different aspects of the festival by selecting and grouping the available photos. Of course, a few and selective photos can’t do much justice to the event itself, and there’s no room on this blog for all of the images that are relevant for this or the following topics. Still, as I said, I hope to be able to convey, mosaic-like, an impression of what the festival per se was like. Click on each picture to see it in better resolution.
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Link: Tecnoxamanismo on Flickr.

Mozilla sells out, adds DRM to Firefox

This is sad and a huge blow to the free software movement, I think.

I’ll just repeat the FSF’s press release, as I can stand by every word:

FSF condemns partnership between Mozilla and Adobe to support Digital Restrictions Management

BOSTON, Massachusetts, USA — Wednesday, May 14th, 2014 — In response to Mozilla’s announcement that it is reluctantly adopting DRM in its Firefox Web browser, Free Software Foundation executive director John Sullivan made the following statement:

“Only a week after the International Day Against DRM, Mozilla has announced that it will partner with proprietary software company Adobe to implement support for Web-based Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) in its Firefox browser, using Encrypted Media Extensions (EME).

The Free Software Foundation is deeply disappointed in Mozilla’s announcement. The decision compromises important principles in order to alleviate misguided fears about loss of browser marketshare. It allies Mozilla with a company hostile to the free software movement and to Mozilla’s own fundamental ideals.

Although Mozilla will not directly ship Adobe’s proprietary DRM plugin, it will, as an official feature, encourage Firefox users to install the plugin from Adobe when presented with media that requests DRM. We agree with Cory Doctorow that there is no meaningful distinction between ‘installing DRM’ and ‘installing code that installs DRM.’

We recognize that Mozilla is doing this reluctantly, and we trust these words coming from Mozilla much more than we do when they come from Microsoft or Amazon. At the same time, nearly everyone who implements DRM says they are forced to do it, and this lack of accountability is how the practice sustains itself. Mozilla’s announcement today unfortunately puts it — in this regard — in the same category as its proprietary competitors.

Unlike those proprietary competitors, Mozilla is going to great lengths to reduce some of the specific harms of DRM by attempting to ‘sandbox’ the plugin. But this approach cannot solve the fundamental ethical problems with proprietary software, or the issues that inevitably arise when proprietary software is installed on a user’s computer.

In the announcement, Mitchell Baker asserts that Mozilla’s hands were tied. But she then goes on to actively praise Adobe’s “value” and suggests that there is some kind of necessary balance between DRM and user freedom.

There is nothing necessary about DRM, and to hear Mozilla praising Adobe — the company who has been and continues to be a vicious opponent of the free software movement and the free Web — is shocking. With this partnership in place, we worry about Mozilla’s ability and willingness to criticize Adobe’s practices going forward.

We understand that Mozilla is afraid of losing users. Cory Doctorow points out that they have produced no evidence to substantiate this fear or made any effort to study the situation. More importantly, popularity is not an end in itself. This is especially true for the Mozilla Foundation, a nonprofit with an ethical mission. In the past, Mozilla has distinguished itself and achieved success by protecting the freedom of its users and explaining the importance of that freedom: including publishing Firefox’s source code, allowing others to make modifications to it, and sticking to Web standards in the face of attempts to impose proprietary extensions.

Today’s decision turns that calculus on its head, devoting Mozilla resources to delivering users to Adobe and hostile media distributors. In the process, Firefox is losing the identity which set it apart from its proprietary competitors — Internet Explorer and Chrome — both of which are implementing EME in an even worse fashion.

Undoubtedly, some number of users just want restricted media like Netflix to work in Firefox, and they will be upset if it doesn’t. This is unsurprising, since the majority of the world is not yet familiar with the ethical issues surrounding proprietary software. This debate was, and is, a high-profile opportunity to introduce these concepts to users and ask them to stand together in some tough decisions.

To see Mozilla compromise without making any public effort to rally users against this supposed “forced choice” is doubly disappointing. They should reverse this decision. But whether they do or do not, we call on them to join us by devoting as many of their extensive resources to permanently eliminating DRM as they are now devoting to supporting it. The FSF will have more to say and do on this in the coming days. For now, users who are concerned about this issue should:

  • Write to Mozilla CTO Andreas Gal and let him know that you oppose DRM. Mozilla made this decision in a misguided appeal to its userbase; it needs to hear in clear and reasoned terms from the users who feel this as a betrayal. Ask Mozilla what it is going to do to actually solve the DRM problem that has created this false forced choice.
  • Join our effort to stop EME approval at the W3C. While today’s announcement makes it even more obvious that W3C rejection of EME will not stop its implementation, it also makes it clear that W3C can fearlessly reject EME to send a message that DRM is not a part of the vision of a free Web.
  • Use a version of Firefox without the EME code: Since its source code is available under a license allowing anyone to modify and redistribute it under a different name, we expect versions without EME to be made available, and you should use those instead. We will list them in the Free Software Directory.
  • Donate to support the work of the Free Software Foundation and our Defective by Design campaign to actually end DRM. Until it’s completely gone, Mozilla and others will be constantly tempted to capitulate, and users will be pressured to continue using some proprietary software. If not us, give to another group fighting against digital restrictions.”


Technoshamanism – mindblowing beauty

The opening night of the technoshamanism festival featured a dance with the local Pataxó Indians, and in fact a lot of interaction with these indigenous people. One of the days participants in the festival went to perform workshops in their nearby village, and another day we were all invited to a Pataxó wedding. These photos in themselves, however beautiful, do not do any justice to the encounter – there’s so much content it will take a long time for people to put it online.

Photos by Nubia Abe.