At the time did you see the role that you were playing as setting up the architecture and infrastructure for whatever was going to unfold rather than actually driving the process or calling for certain policies?

(The News Lens)

My idea at the time was about developing “situation applications”. That is what I had always been doing in the open-source communities, and also in the private sector; looking at the demands of the day, and coming up with a not-perfect but workable solution.
For example, one day there was a rumor people inside the parliament were being evicted by police. Well, it didn’t happen. To address that, I decided to have a connection between the occupied parliament and the street; we asked the police, and they allowed a direct Intranet line to a projector. The projector would project to a screen on the street exactly what was going on in parliament. Later, it became bi-directional and then also set up on the next street. Again, I was just tossing up ideas; the actual execution was done by professionals.
But this only showed what was happening on the screen. We couldn’t broadcast the sound from the parliament to the street because it would be overwhelmed by noise on the street, so we really couldn’t do the voice channel. Because of that, we also worked with a stenographer team who typed everything they heard inside the parliament; we had a dedicated text channel that converted the audio to the text. So up on the right hand side of the projector there was the real-time text feed. Anybody walking beside the parliament in the street could check with their own eyes what was happening inside, and also read the transcript. Because of this, the actual reality was easier to spread than rumors. Whereas before, in many of the occupy situations, rumors were easier to spread than reality. What we were doing was making reality more communicative, more portable. All this text was typed in Chinese. A colleague organized a different team, independent of us, the Black Island translation team, to translate this Chinese text to different languages, and then broadcast it out.
Everything in the system worked, but they were not envisioned by any architect; each group decided what application they wanted to use to solve a problem. But because we kept all the communication channel end points – that is to say, the inputs and outputs – open, anyone could just hook into those ports, like the text feed, and make extra use of it. We did not plan the international team making use of the real-time transcript. But because we made the transcript open in a very easy to use format, it magically happened. That was just one single day, and every day we had a different system going on.