Breaking the Frame programme of events 2013-14

Technology dominates our world, but many people think ‘its just a neutral tool’ or that technology = progress.  Although it does bring some benefits, most technology designed and controlled by corporate, military and technocratic elites to serve their interests and exert their power.  Breaking the Frame is organising a series of monthly events to look at the technology politics of food, energy, work, gender, war, the economy, health etc.  There will be speakers from campaigning groups and lots of time for discussion.  We are preparing for a 3-day gathering in May 2014 on these issues.


July 8th 2013 Technology out of control? Drones, killer robots and the arms trade
August 12th 2013 Nuclear Power: Climate Chiller or Silent Killer?
September 9th 2013 Gender and the politics of technology
October 14th 2013 Economic crisis and austerity: the Role of Technology
November 11th 2013 Food, GM and synthetic biology
December 9th 2013 Extreme Energy, Geoengineering and climate change/Poetry launch and seasonal party
January 13th 2014 The politics of alternative technology and workers’ plans
February 10th 2014 Digital technology, surveillance and Big Data
March 10th 2014 Toxics and nanotechnology
April 14th 2014 ‘Mental health’, big pharma and the new eugenics

Breaking the Frame Part 1: Technology out of control? Drones, Killer Robots and the Arms Trade

Remote controlled drones have already caused many civilian casualties in the ‘war on terror’, and people in the target zones and in Britain are campaigning against their use. But the military is moving towards letting battlefield ‘killer robots’ take their own decisions without human input. Should we allow computers to decide who lives and who dies, and who is legally responsible for their actions? This first meeting in our ‘Breaking the Frame’ series on the politics of technology will address some of the ethical and ‘existential’ issues raised by the march of technocracy. There will be plenty of time for informal discussion.
When: 7pm July 8th 2013 Where: Fairly Square cafe, 51 Red Lion St London WC1R 4PF
Introductions from:

Breaking the Frame 2: Nuclear Power: Climate Chiller or Silent Killer?

Nuclear power is not a new technology, but it is perhaps the most dangerous technology we have at present, as the Fukushima disaster has shown. The UK government is still pressing ahead with plans for new nuclear reactors at Hinkley and SIzewell, plans which have sparked fierce local resistance. Is the nuclear power the answer to climate change or is it sure to lead to further disasters and nuclear weapons proliferation? Does it make the development of decentralised renewable energy less likely? Is there a basic problem with nuclear technology?
Introductions from:

  • Nikki Clarke – Stop Hinkley Campaign
  • Atsuko Kamura – Japanese Against Nuclear

Breaking the Frame 3: Gender and the Politics of Technology

In the home and at work, women and men have different relationships to technology.  Women have traditionally been excluded from science and engineering and are put in the role of users and operators of new technology.  Do technologies like IVF and domestic machinery really benefit women or entrench their existing social roles?  How do shifts in technology affect the oppression of women?

Introductions from:

  • Cynthia Cockburn, feminist activist and author of Machinery of Dominance, Gender and Technology in the Making, and Brothers: Male Dominance and Technological Change
  • David King Human Genetics Alert
  • Feminist environmental activist (tbc)

Breaking The Frame 4: Economic Crisis and Austerity: the Role of Technology

The ongoing financial crisis has exposed the fragility of the banking and finance system, and the 2008 crash would have been impossible without the ‘dark magic’ of computer-generated derivatives. But while we continue to debate banker’s bonuses, automated High Frequency Trading has taken over the stock market, creating new volatility as algorithms complete trades in milliseconds.  Back in the real world of austerity created by the crisis, automation is contributing to public sector job loss, as workers are replaced with machines.  How can we get technology to serve people not profit?

Introductions from:

  • Dave Dewhurst, Occupy London Economics Working Group
  • Speakers from Corporate Watch and Kaput, tbc

Breaking the Frame 5: Food, GM and Synthetic Biology

It’s hard to be indifferent to the politics of food, and that may be why the anti-GM food campaign was so successful. But despite environmental concerns and accumulating evidence of health risks, the GM corporations continue to push this technology. Their aim is to intensify industrial agriculture and their control over the entire food chain. Now with ‘synthetic biology’, an extreme form of genetic engineering, scientists aim to industrialise life itself. Come and discuss the way forward on these issues.
Introductions from

  • Jyoti Fernandes – La Via Campesina UK
  • Laura Pearson – March Against Monsanto London
  • Helena Paul – Econexus

There will be an exhibition of classic posters on the politics of technology, produced by Christine Halsall of Chimera Publications.

At 6pm there will be a discussion group at Fairly Square on the politics of technology, to which all are welcome. For more info contact, or visit Facebook: Breaking the Frame.


Breaking the Frame 6: Extreme Energy and Geoengineering / Poetry Launch and Seasonal Party

The consequences of fracking and other forms of extreme energy for local environments and climate change seem obviously disastrous, so why do they persist? After 200 years of techno-capitalism, it is not just greed that has brought us to the brink of ecological disaster. But for technocrats, engineers and corporations, the solution is more of the same: technology will fix the problem, and let us continue business as usual. In this case, they think they can engineer the planet’s climate through insane experiments like blasting sulphur particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect sunlight, or trying to change the chemistry of the oceans. The results of these technofixes may be much worse than climate change. How can we stop these irrational schemes and move to a sustainable energy supply?
Introductions from:

  • Frack-off – on fracking and other extreme energy technologies
  • Pete Deane (Biofuelwatch) – on geoengineering

At 6pm there will be a discussion group at Fairly Square on the politics of technology, to which all are welcome. For more info contact, or visit Facebook: Breaking the Frame.

The second half of the event will be a seasonal party, including the launch of Luddite’s 200 long-awaited poetry anthology, ‘Words in Praise of Ned Ludd’. Pete the Temp will perform some of his and others’ Luddite poetry.


Breaking the Frame 7: The politics of alternative technology and workers’ plans

Radical movements, appreciating the importance of technology, have often tried to appropriate or modify it, or even to create their own technologies. ‘Alternative’ or ‘sustainable’ technology has now become part of the mainstream, but has it lost sight of the principles of its founders, such as E F Schumacher? Has it become just another techno-fix? Trade unionists have also put forward alternative plans for how to use technology in the common interest, rather than those of corporations and the military. But can industrial megatechnologies ever really solve the problems that industrial capitalism has created? Can the Green and Left critiques of technology be combined?
Speakers :

  • Patrick Mulvaney (adviser to Practical Action)
  • Suzanne Jeffery (Million Climate Jobs Campaign)

The second half of the meeting will be an opportunity for people to give input on the Breaking the Frame gathering.

Breaking the Frame 8: Digital technology, surveillance and Big Data

Recent revelations about the use of Big Data for ‘predictive policing’ in the US, the scandal over spying by the US National Security Agency, and the selling of users’ data by Facebook to other corporations, have highlighted the extent of state and corporate surveillance. While digital technologies are often useful for individuals, deeper questions need to be asked about their structural function in our society. Is campaigning for privacy and internet freedom and taking personal security measures enough?
Introductions from :

  • Statewatch
  • Open Rights Group

Breaking the Frame 9: 30 Years on from Bhopal: Can we Control Toxics and Nanotechnology?

As we approach the 30th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster, the effects of toxic chemicals upon people and the environment are still amongst the most harmful impacts of industrial capitalism. The continuing resistance of chemicals corporations and legislators to precautionary approaches and the widespread conflicts of scientific interest continue to hamper efforts at clean-up, whilst the health and safety of workers is routinely ridiculed in the mainstream media. Meanwhile these same corporations are developing new technologies including GM and ‘synthetic’ organisms and are busy marketing potentially unsafe products of nano-technology. How can we put these issues back at the centre of public debate?
Introductions from:

  • Colin Toogood, Bhopal Medical Foundation
  • Helen Lynn, Alliance for Cancer Prevention
  • Michael Rainsborough, Stop Unsafe Nanosilver

Breaking The Frame 10: ‘Mental health’, big pharma and the new eugenics

Modern medicine is often trumpeted as one of the greatest examples of technological progress.  But technocratic medicine also has a very dark side.

  • Side effects of drugs are in the top ten causes of premature deaths
  • Continuing historic eugenic tendencies under the rubric of reproductive choice, pre-natal testing prevents the birth of thousands of disabled people
  • The medicalisation of mental distress serves the financial interest of drug companies but often fails to address the real problems of highly vulnerable people.

Meanwhile, as the NHS suffers increasing privatisation, the government wants to sell our electronic medical records to the pharmaceutical industry. this event will explore how genomics and other high-tec medical trends are detracting from public health approaches and basic human-centered treatment.
Introductions from;

  • Micheline Mason, a writer and leading advocate of inclusive education will discuss the rights of disabled people and the history of eugenics
  • Redmond O’Hanlon from the Critical Psychiatry Network will look at the problems of drug-based psychiatry and how this serves the interests of the pharmaceutical industry
  • Fleur Fisher former head of Medical Ethics at the BMA will speak about the campaign against government plans to allow drug companies access to the NHS medical records database

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