I would like to start by going back to 2014 and hearing a little bit about your personal role in the Sunflower Movement, and perhaps your reflections on the role that technology, the hacking circle and the people involved in that space, what role they ended up playing?
(The News Lens)
My role was one of many. 10 days before the Sunflower Movement there was a nuclear abolition march. The organizers of the march asked for support of the civic hackers because they needed Internet connectivity for the media – a year earlier at the same event, many people came but there was no Internet for the media and all the media had to wait until after the event to publish.
For that year, 2014, the organizers wanted some dedicated Internet connectivity for the media booth, so that people could publish in real-time about the parade.
But that day had heavy rain, so not many people showed up. The media were in the booth with a cover that protected them and their equipment from the rain. We brought all the equipment – mostly home-use level equipment – that connected the media to a broadband link.
The civil society organizers provided the SDI (serial digital interface) video for the media to use. Because of the low turnout, we had a lot of bandwidth and not many people using it.
We were a team of maybe 20 people, and I was the first person to commit to take my equipment and set it up. But the real work was done by much more professional people; they are well-experienced in setting up infrastructure for all of the open-source, large-scale conferences in Taiwan.
We had a lot of extra bandwidth, and it occurred to us we could use that extra bandwidth to not just provide to the media, maybe we can be the media ourselves. The civic hackers used the same SDI video line, and they used my laptop, and then some civic media people set-up an impromptu YouTube livestream, and then we had a live feed of whatever was happening on stage.
It provided a real, close to the stage view of the rallying and the shows happening on the stage. Because of the way the camera was positioned, despite the fact that the seats were not really occupied, you see a full crowd – it is exactly like how the parliament camera works.
A lot of people wanted to come [to that protest], but due to the weather, they could not come to the event. Even though the live video link wasn’t pre-announced – it was just posted on the event’s Facebook – very soon we had more confirmed viewers than people immediately in the front row of the stage, and attracted a secondary audience. Because it was really high-quality people could make out a lot of what was happening, and were criticizing or chatting among themselves in the chatroom next to the YouTube live video. I was also helping to moderate the discussion there, so it becomes a more constructive conversation.
All of that happened before the Sunflower Movement. When the occupy movement started 10 days later, our equipment was “hot”; we had just had a dress rehearsal of how to make this kind of thing work. Because it was at night when parliament passed the reading of the Cross-Strait Services Trade Agreement, we didn’t have time to contact HiNet to have a dedicated line to the protest area, and it was originally scheduled to be just one night.
At the request of the civil society organizations organizing the Sunflower protest on the side of parliament, I brought my phone and because I was switching to the high-speed connection at the time, I was providing the connectivity. A student from the Black Island Nation Youth Alliance provided his laptop as the bridge between my phone and the station of broadcaster “Indie DaaDee”. We connected through this gateway, and then from my phone it was then broadcast to YouTube. It was then announced that people can see what is going on and have a conversation.
Although I was the first to supply the network equipment for livestream, I didn’t stay long – maybe two or three hours – and when it was night I left my phone there. They promised they would return it to me – that didn’t happen! – and then other civic media people followed up.
On the next shift, they broke into the parliament. The civic media people took, with professional equipment, the actual process of going into the parliament; including the fact there was very few police there, and the fact that it was actually very peaceful. They negotiated a line for logistics, and then they negotiated an agreement with the police. When they were in the parliament and the next wave of police came, we already had a live feed going out, and people in the parliament, independent of us, also set up a broadcasting station.
Because of these two broadcasting stations people could see with their own eyes what was really going on. When people came to surround the parliament, more people came to counter-surround the police. That basically defined the topology of the occupation afterwards; it remained that way for 22 days.
Afterwards, my role was pretty much the same as the first day. I looked at the situation to see where we may need more Internet equipment, where we may need a dedicated line.
But the actual work, the actual coordination was done by professional contributors as well as people who would rather remain anonymous – the people who set up the equipment, the power generators, and so on. I was really just a channel to make available — and make visible — what was happening around the parliament. Most of the work were done by a team of CPR (cable power radio) experts, a team of maybe 100 people across the whole occupy movement.