There were no words to express the energy and experience of at the Virginia Student Power Network march. It was cold and I hadn't quite slept enough or showered in the past few days and my bag kept bumping into people while the oil off my sandwich seeped into its contents. But I embraced the march from the moment we saw dissidents headed down the street toward us, late as we were, to the confusion at every intersection, chants coordinated just well enough for the intersection of our politics - but the chants and stories and issues were ours and it was a moment when we found something in ourselves and each other, something of a community or identity and complete humanity of our voices being heard before the General Assembly. I looked at the girl behind me, sharing a smile or comment about the climate as the cold embraced the tips of our fingers and the wind greeted our faces with the dry frost of winter, dampened by the body's response.
The journal excerpt is a rough picture of my first real experience as a student activist, how it drew me in and completely personalized the issues I was only yet familiar with in the abstract (and financially, since we were protesting student debt). Of course, the revolutionary fervor wore off soon enough and I felt the need to make a bigger contribution than joining a march.
The opportunity came eventually, when the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition sat in at the Department of Environmental Quality in protest of the uninvestigated, illegal dumping of coal ash wastewater into the James River. Eventually the topic of security came up and I felt it appropriate to throw out some advice on cell phone encryption to everyone present. It didn't really become crucial, but I was still pretty nervous about the whole affair, so much so I left my phone behind when we actually sat in.
17 students were arrested, and the entire venture was written about on a number of well known publications - ThinkProgress, Politico, Common Dreams, and The Washington Post all had something to say about the protest.
After the action, I had a conversation with some organizers about the security of the affair and I spoke up a few times about the security culture they were trying to build in the coalition. I also got invited to a conference call I was about 1 hour late to and sent some resources to a central organizer on encryption. My involvement ends there for now, but the outlet my paranoia found contributed to a coming-togetherness of interests that basically crystallized my involvement.
Then I had a serious reflection on the application of Cognitive Security to the Security Culture we talked about.
The context of the picture is discarded in favor of no apparent context at all . . . There's a level of sincerity and (albeit temporary) authenticity to found in what isn't persistent and/or has no apparent meaning. This is what makes it harder for advertisers (and subsequently governments alike) to gain a foothold on the contents of people's lives; it's almost like a form of operations security being applied on a massive scale.
I feel like nildicit's point is really important from a security culture standpoint, since it opens up possibilities for a secure community without excluding outsiders and getting trapped in an ideological bubble. A group of activists needs to avoid the kind of "gray man" operations security that comes with not participating in legally risky activity, effectively not sticking one's head above the crowd in fear of persecution. Maintaining silence about important plans and actions can only get you so far - for the sake of publicity, that silence is eventually broken. The movement would also need to sustain itself with new recruits, ideally with growth in mind. Finally, public image has to be maintained over public platforms - a media campaign conducted solely on obscure alternative networks won't bring the growth or attention that political leverage requires.
Application of nildicit's theory is a little more difficult, but I think a start can be found in the development of socialization that resists the medium's ability to enact structural consequences. This socialization would be a new social context built atop preestablished media, finding loopholes in the careful engineering of its medium to communicate and organize discreetly, all the while building conventional prestige to expose the injustice of the status quo. No particular strategy comes to mind for the description I've abstracted to, but I feel like a pragmatic consideration of these principles and the situation at hand becomes essential.
As a final note, the most interesting thing I've noticed is how organic cogsec seems here. A grassroots political movement emerges alongside social media and the developing panoptocracy. In this light, Cognitive Security comes as a necessary adaptation.