The ownCloud Contributor Conference is coming to Berlin from August 28 to September 3. The 2 day talk program will kick off on August 29 with a keynote speech given by Angela Richter, house director at the Cologne National Theater and director of the interactive project “Supernerds,” on the topic of digital surveillance, whistle blowing and digital dissidents. She has worked with various digital activists and hactivists such as Julian Assange, Daniel Ellsberg, Edward Snowden, Thomas Drake and many others, with the goal of bringing their story to a wider audience. Read on for a short interview with her.
Who is Angela Richter?
We asked Angela to introduce herself.
I am currently one of the four house directors at the Cologne National Theatre “Schauspiel Köln.” In recent years I have worked with such digital activists as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and in 2012 premiered my piece “Assassinate Assange,” which was shown in Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne and Vienna. Since then, I not only visited regularly with Julian Assange in London, but have engaged in panel discussions, conferences and in various print media including Der Spiegel, Monopoly, Interview Magazine, and Revue Magazine for the Next Society for internet activists and hacktivists. During the 2014/15 season, I wrote and directed the interactive project “Supernerds” (info about Supernerds in English, German review) on the topic of digital mass surveillance, whistleblowing and digital dissidents in collaboration with national television and radio WDR, Schauspiel Köln and the Producers Gebrueder Beetz, including an “Internet Sudden life Game.” The audiences in the theatre, on TV and internet were part of the story; they experienced examples of hacking and surveillance on their smart phones and laptops. Supernerds is seen as a unique example of Transmedia because it allowed audiences to explore the story in several medias such as internet, sudden life gaming, radio, TV and live on stage.
The play was based on interviews that I conducted in the last three years, with whistleblowers, human rights lawyers, hackers and internet activists, among them Julian Assange (Wikileaks), Daniel Ellsberg (Pentagon Papers), and the NSA Whistleblowers Bill Binney, Thomas Drake and Jessely Radack. I also visited Edward Snowden in Moscow in February 2015 (German interview with him here). I published a selection of the interviews in the Book “Supernerds – Conversations with Heroes” with Alexander Verlag Berlin, both in German and English.
What do you see as the biggest problem with regards to privacy in our society? And what should we do about it?
Not enough awareness in the mainstream population. Politicians rather smother it up and downplay it. Mainstream media doesn’t shed light on it.
We need both technical and social solutions. First enlightenment to invigorate awareness about it. And also tech solutions; encouragement to make people less dependent on big Internet companies, who incapacitate people and hold them in dependency. Encouragement of free software, open source etc.
Your work and what you did with Supernerds (and other initiatives) gives you a ‘different’ perspective. How do you see this influence the debate and why does it matter?
As I am an artist and not a techie, I think I can communicate these issues without being intimidating. Through a project like Supernerds I can make people understand it easily and in a playful way. If I can get it as an artist, everybody can. Also the difference between knowing and really understanding how sensitive we are, in terms of surveillance, is important
At the ownCloud Contributor Conference, Angela will share some of her experiences and insights in both the issues she discusses in her work as well as in the work itself.