Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Interview with A Pirate Researcher

A little over two weeks ago, I had  a very interesting meeting with a Swedish researcher doing a study on "Piracy as an ideological movement". As we as a movement gain more traction, there will doubtless be more, but this is the first one to have really contacted me, and been serious about the project. How serious? He's been traveling the US (by BUS no less) meeting Pirates and getting answers.

Martin Fredriksson is a man on a mission. He wants to understand how pirates think, and what they want to do, and he's willing to go to some extreme lengths (such as enduring US intercity bus systems) to find out. We met March 17th at the Marietta Big Chicken

It's actually my first attempt to see what someone who is interested, but not already 'a convert', has to say on the subject, and to be honest, it was very enlightening. It wasn't so much what he said, because as a researcher he was attempting to stay neutral, but it was the questions he asked that were a huge eye-opener.

There is a tendency for people to surround themselves with either people who agree with them, or to seek out (or be sought out by) those they oppose. Thus there is a polerization of debate, which is never good. With people you agree with, There is no critical thought, positions are accepted without significant debate, and assumptions are left unquestioned. With those you oppose, you are almost always stuck arguing the semantics, or the basic assumptions, to start on anything approaching really insightful questioning.

Thus the ability to be detached; to understand and yet not to argue for the sake of argument, while still questioning assumptions, is rare, and incredibly valuable. 

The ability to question from an outside perspective, without agenda, is also rare. Most outside questioning comes from three sources.

  1. People who oppose the party (even if due to a misunderstanding or mistaken assumption) and are looking for something to attack it on
  2. People who want to justify a position or action of their own (again, often based on a misunderstanding, or mistaken assumption), or 
  3. Journalists who have a 'spin' on the story, and an idea for the framework that they want filled.
All of these, though, come with a point of view already. They have a point of view on the topic already, and they're coming for a reaction. What they are not wanting to do is question their starting point. That is the sole preserve of the academic researcher.

And so now we come back to Martin. Without question, the questions he asked were at the same time, some of the hardest, and yet some of the easiest I've had in the nearly 6 years I've been associated with the Pirate Party. They were easy in that I didn't have to excessively justify my responses, no quibbling over references or evidential quality (or most annoyingly, the strawmen, and emotional appeals). Yet they were hard for the same reasons, and because I had experience dealing with the one-sided or loaded questions, I couldn't trot out a nice prepared answer, because the questions were about getting *an* answer, not *the* answer. 

The other two core issues, privacy and government transparency, seem to be wider issue than the more specific question of intellectual property rights reforms - or am I mistaken? Do you think that the pirate party could exist without even addressing the original issues of Intellectual Property Rights, relying only on the other two core issues?

Do you think the typical pirate is different in the US than in Europe? 
These are not questions you get asked a lot, and these are just from the preliminary emails. I can't actually remember a lot of the questions we discussed in person, I'll have to hope I can get a copy of the audio at some point.

The one thing I do remember, is that he's looking to do a worldwide version in the future, and I hope we can repeat this in a few years time, and discuss what has changed, and improved. In the meantime, the thoughts and ideas he's left me with, have helped sharpen and focus my thoughts on what I believe being a Pirate is all about.

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