*** DIGITAL STRUGGLES/AUTONOMOUS SPACES :: "ADMINISTRATORS"-"USERS" MEETING :: PGA, DIJON, 24TH OF AUGUST 2006 ***
* INTRO: These are some of the reflections made in the context of the crossover meeting between "digital fights" and "defense of autonomous spaces" in PGA (Peoples Global Action) in august 2006 in Dijon (French state). The idea of the debate was to put toghether those who "provide" digital services for the activist comunity (email accounts, lists, servers, hostings...) and those who "use" it. The reflections are listed without too much lyric stile, but c'mon, we just had a pen and a piece of paper. I hope everybody involved feel their thoughts reflected here, if not, I'm sorry.
* SOME IDEAS:
-In one hand we have the issue of "how we define ourselves", and this is very representative of the problem we are trying to solve, the barrier between administrators and the rest of the activists. Some of us define ourselves as "service provoders" and some other are defined as "users". That's a part of the problem and at the same time it's representative of it.
-Being an administrator is a really complicated thing so everybody can't or doesn't want to be and administrator. Also admins deal with really important data, such as passwords, that is better not to give to everybody in an activist collective (for example). That makes more complicated to overcome these barriers.
-If we want to challenge this separation we have to understand that there are different ways of administrating and of using these resources. It's not the same to run a server or to be a moderator in indymedia, and also it's not the same to have an email account, or to be a journalist that uses indymedia to "catch" some news for commercial medias.
-Related to this, there are different "levels" of administration. And even if some of them are really comlicated to be taught, some other can easyly be assumed by any activist, because itś quite easy to learn them. Of course, as we said it's not the same to manage a mailing list or to run a server. But sometimes even the technical things that anyone can do rely on the "techies" by default.
-Anyway some people say that their experience trying to teach/tell about technical stuff like free software or administration at different levels is not always successful. People are not always interested. But also some other think that teaching technical issues is not just about telling somebody how to do this or that, but also about making people understand the importance of it, and the context where this happens. This happens for example with free software. If people feel the importance of using it, then learning how to use it is much easyer. So it seems to be responsability of everybody to break this gap.
-It's needed sahring technical works and responsabilities inside of the collectives, and also it's necessary that techies take part in the movements not just in the technical issues related to them.
-Anyway, the responsability of the administrators is not just about passwords, it's also about privacy or legal responsability . They are the ones that can go to prison "if something goes wrong". This is not easy or convenient to share. Some people feel that they are in the middle of being techies and activists. It seems not be a really comfortable place to be.
-This separation also has to do with the way technology os offered to us nowadays: as a service that doesn't need/allow your participation or responsibility. So apart from the people really interested in these issues, the rest doesn't want to take this technical responsibilities, because it's not funny and great all the time. We should also think about some works being easyly recognizable and some other not. This is not just about technical work, is about many works like cleaning, cooking, organizing... And of course this separation of the work (visible/invisible) is related to many factors, especially gender. So it's important to make all this issues visible to achieve the responsibilities and share of jobs in a political/collective way. And this also has to do with technical issues such as administration.
-We are back to say that it is not so easy to be an administrator in some kind of levels, reclaims normally lots of time to learn how to do lots of things, also lots of time everyday to be updated and solve all kind of problems, so it seems that this is related to many aspects of our life such as our interests, needs, backgrounds, conditions... So it's really complicated to get a "zero specialization" situation. Maybe the key is to be concious of this specialization to deal with it and make it smaller and smaller.
 In fact it can be also users: the legal responsability of a server depends on the legal statutes of the personne who owns the server, if the serveur is owned by the admin sys, so he will be the responsible, if it is owned by a non profit organisation, so it will the membres (and so users) who where elected to manage the organisation.