Free the Network – 30 Minute Documentary about the Battle to Control the Internet

The doc that I have been working on since September 20th (3 days into the Occupation) is live!!!

Available on MOTHERBOARD & VICE & CNN (excerpt)

What a wild ride.

Here is the text for the piece:

You’re on the Internet. What does that mean?

Most likely, it means one of a handful of telecommunications providers is middlemanning your information from Point A to Point B. Fire off an email or a tweet, broadcast a livestream or upload video to YouTube, and you’re relying on vast networks of fiber optic cables deep underground and undersea, working with satellites high above, to move your data around the world, and to bring the world to your fingertips.

It’s an infrastructure largely out of sight and mind. AT&T, Level 3, Hurricane Electric, Tata Indicom – to most these are simply invisible magicians performing the act of getting one online and kicking. To many open-source advocates, however, these are a few of the big, dirty names responsible for what they see as the Web’s rapid consolidation. The prospect of an irreparably centralized Internet, a physical Internet in the hands of a shrinking core of so-called Tier 1 transit networks, keeps Isaac Wilder up at night.

Wilder is the 21-year-old co-founder of the Free Network Foundation. Motherboard first caught up with Wilder at Zuccotti Park during the fledgling days of Occupy Wall Street. The Kansas City native seemed to be running on little sleep. He’d gone hoarse from chanting relentlessly over the first three days of a populist movement that would soon sweep the country and the world. But there was an undeniable urgency and excitement when Wilder told us about the efforts of the FNF, a non-profit, peer-to-peer communications initiative striving to liberate the global Internet from corporate and governmental interference.

It all sounded lofty and arcane and way, way over our heads. But Wilder seemed committed enough to his drop in the bucket of global revolution, which comes in the form of nine-foot-tall Freedom Towers that beam out free, secure Wi-Fi to occupied sites and underserviced communities, that we wanted to hear more.

If the argument for mesh networking, a sort of pirate radio Internet scheme that allows people to talk to one another online through no middle man, is that a centralized ‘Net lends itself to the sort of surveillance and censorship that, however futile, strokes the Internet kill switch of science fiction, is there a way to circumvent that system altogether? Is there a way to build a new network from the bottom up? To occupy a fresh Internet outside the existing confines of the Web? Or is that all just the stuff of ideological fantasy?

To check the pulse of the Internet – and to get a feel for what life’s like in the digital nerve center of what’s arguably the first fully Web-fueled social movement in America – Motherboard has been following Wilder and Tyrone Greenfield, communications director for the Free Network Foundation, for the past half year. Through the thick of Occupy marches, in squats and test-lab offices, on rooftops and all places in between, we saw Wilder, Greenfield and the FNF building and perfecting their Towers and their humble, cooperatively owned, physical Internet.

We even broke a story that popped off on the Internet in the immediate wake of the New York Police Department’s Nov. 17 raid on Zuccotti Park. We traveled with Wilder to a Department of Sanitation garage shortly after he was released from a 36-hour stint in jail. He was looking for things lost in the early morning sweep of Occupy’s epicenter: cash, his backpack and laptop, Zuccotti’s Freedom Tower.

What he found next to a wet heap of clothing and tents were a number of laptops splayed in rows. They appeared mangled and snarled. One was even stripped of its back casing. Whether Occupy’s laptops were purposefully destroyed, or merely crunched under the hydraulic mash of a Sanitation garbage truck, remains unclear.

To be sure, after the incident we contacted the NYPD, who forwarded us to Sanitation. Sanitation was tasked with hauling away all the abandoned property from Zuccotti to an off-site garage, where demonstrators were later allowed to rummage for their belongings. A Sanitation representative told Motherboard there had been no directive to destroy property, but that he wasn’t surprised to hear that some items, including laptops, had maybe been mishandled or misplaced.

In the end, what we came up with is a short documentary called Free the Network. It’s a story about big dreams and cloudy missions, about complex affiliations and what happens when a DIY hack-tech movement confronts the force of the state.

But beyond that, it’s a story about the incredibly high stakes of living networked in today’s world. We all have skin in this game. Remember: You’re on the Internet.




Free the Network – Trailer

For the past 6 months my colleague Brian Anderson and I have been making a film about Technology. Part occupy, part open source, and all Motherboard we are finally about finished with it. Master Editor (Chris O’Coin) whipped up this trailer for us to send out.


The film premieres March 22 in NYC.

You can read Brian’s copy here.

✞ Motherboard Meets Werner Herzog ✞

Originally written for Motherboard by Alex Pasternack.

Motherboard Meets Werner Herzog (Video)

Werner Herzog only has half an hour. He’s busy with many projects, including a new art installation, and he receives many requests. But he’s also keenly attentive to the value of each moment, to the brief glimpse into someone else’s mind and soul that each encounter affords. These are the kind of things you think about when making a documentary film, especially when the person you are interviewing only has exactly eight days to live.

So Herzog wastes no time. He immediately tells Michael Perry, the death row inmate at the center of his new film “Into the Abyss” that he’s aware of the terrible decisions and circumstances that landed him there, but that “doesn’t necessarily mean that I have to like you.” And for all of Perry’s amiability, it is hard to like him. It’s clear that while Herzog doesn’t begrudge the grim way of life he finds in Texas, he doesn’t approve of the state taking the life of its citizens. But unlike some other death row tales, there is little to redeem or explain these crimes or these punishments. There are no simple answers, no uncovering of injustice, no silver lining. The situation is so grim that when Herzog and his editor began to examine the footage he had made during a whirlwind shoot, they both took up smoking again.

Amidst the chaos and depravity that he exposes in the Texas town of Conroe – just next door to a hamlet aptly called Cut and Shoot – the only comfort the filmmaker can offer comes in the form of these brief, unvarnished encounters with the people who are trying to cope with the difficulty of living and of dying. Because many of these encounters lasted less than an hour, and because there would be no follow-up visits, Herzog excavates the feelings of the people he meets by dispensing with emotion, speaking candidly, asking the questions that aren’t obvious but that get right to the point. “You have to read the person correctly,” he says. “You have to understand, how do you force his chest open and look at his heart.”

When he speaks to the chaplain in charge of administering last rites to death row inmates, a scene that starts the film, Herzog elicits little more than platitudes about the task, about God, and the sanctity of life. But then the director’s voice drops from behind his handheld camera a simple suggestion: “Tell me about an encounter with a squirrel.” It’s droll and strange in that Herzog way, but the question hits him, says Herzog “like lighting.”

In these moments, Herzog’s other asset is his electric voice. His hypnotic accent is as famous to lovers of art films as David Attenborough’s baritone is to lovers of nature films, which is partly why it has become such fertile ground for parody (and self-parody). But by hovering between the two poles of that voice – the intimacy of a philosopher and the distance of a foreign anthropologist – Herzog finds some of the redemption that our strange circumstances often hide. It’s a voice that, inadvertently or not, allows for a bit of light to slip in, a hint of empathy, a smile, a hug, even when time is running out and things look hellishly dark.


The Thorium Dream (Screening)

Yesterday MOTHERBOARD and Co had a screening for the long awaited Thorium Documentary (out tomorrow on Motherboard and next week on Shout out to Hugo Perez, Alex Pasternack and Sean Yeaton. What-a-team!

Afterwards Alex Pasternack stood up for a Q and A session for the audience. He was into it.

Links for the complete piece coming soon!

Motherboard TV: Love And Hate At Comic Con (Full Version)

Originally written for

To be sure, Motherboard is proud of the claim it’s staked on the frontier of the nerds; it’s not our fault that a lot of this backcountry is inhabited by just as many questionably inappropriate ne’er-do-wells as it is heroes, kings and queens. That being said, it was without question that we would travel to the nerd equivalent of Mecca, also known as New York Comic Con.


We shot the breeze with devoted fans, dedicated impersonators and enough nuts to make trail mix feel overwhelmed. All in all it felt like going home. When you’re done watching, be sure to check out the photos we shot while we were there for additional gold that didn’t make it into the documentary and watch our footage from Dragon Con if you’re still feeling hungry for more costumed shenanigans.

– Erin Lee Carr

Follow Motherboard on Twitter @MotherboardTV

Preview: Here’s What Happens When Motherboard Goes To New York Comic Con | Motherboard

Preview: Here’s What Happens When Motherboard Goes To New York Comic Con | Motherboard.

All the

Motherboard traveled from Brooklyn to the crowded island of Manhattan for the annual New York Comic Con, where more than 100,000 people gathered to gape at zany costumes, games and gadgets. This year’s vibes were positively twisted. We went searching for wizards, the Monarch, booth babes, storm troopers and Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

What we actually found was more of a mishmash of awkward children pretending to be adults, Glee freaks, wandering droids, “Bronies,” lots and lots (and lots) of creeps and (spoiler alert) an amazing pulled pork sandwich. Check out some photos we snapped while we were there if you’ve never seen a tattoo of a zombie-themed recreation of Star Wars or two ninjas making out.

Enjoy the trailer above and stay tuned to Motherboard for when this glittery, kind of inappropriate soiree into the dark corners of Comic Con airs this Wednesday, November 2nd.

Hot Mics, Cold Sweats

Originally written for

Internally and externally monitoring yourself is something we should all attempt, but rarely do.

I would not describe myself as a paranoid person, especially regarding the internet. I discuss drugs and sex at length on Gchat, have shamelessly used the word “score” in texts to many of my friends and have determinedly scoured the web “researching” amputee prostitutes. I am long past worried if Google knows or cares if I am a deviant.

My fears have been placated because they haven’t physically manifested themselves into my daily life. My “real life” fears typically have to do with: money (or lack thereof), the possibility that a rat is living in my closet and that my autistic roommate drank an entire gallon of my milk in one day. Dude, how is that even possible?

The whole “monitoring oneself” thing came up recently when I was working at a party, and was given a headset to communicate(read: act like a secret service operative). At first I was into it. Who doesn’t like to say “copy,” “roger” and other such jargon associated with radio communication?

But then rationality set in. I quickly realized that each time I thought about saying something I had to censor myself and wonder if anyone was listening.

Part of the worry is unfounded—I had to press a button on the headset to activate the microphone. But weirdly enough, my heart was racing faster and faster with every hour that I wore the device. For every judgment, complaint and backhanded remark I made there was a microphone capable of picking it all up and sending it out to too many people who wouldn’t take kindly to my witticisms.

This all had me realizing how increasingly negative I’d become.

Non-mic’ed complaining, however, has been normalized. Off-the-record communication is acceptable in my generation. We commiserate by complaining. It’s a unifying force. But how did some measly microphone have me so mentally unhinged? All my first-world gadgets and social networks are all distinct microphones in their own right that duly record my every thought, hookup and drug deal. So how was this piece of plastic any different? It shouldn’t haven’t been, and yet it was.

Now, I know I am not alone in my fascination with the “hot mic” phenomenon. Throughout modern history, countless people have ruined their marriages, reputations and careers—hell, their entire lives—by simply forgetting that they were wearing a microphone.

Just ask Michael Duvall. This guy forgot he was mic’d when blabbing on about spanking and sleeping with a female lobbyist, all unbeknownst to his wife and congressional colleagues. He resigned a mere fifteen hours after the story broke.

Or Christian Bale. Remember his venomous on-set effenheimers thrown at the director of photography of Terminator Salvation? The English psycho lost credibility after an audio clip of his fucking explosion went viral.

And what about the Rev. Jesse Jackson? He must’ve been pretty embarrassed after a hot mic had the world knowing that the Civil Rights figure wanted to cut Barack Obama’s balls off.

My favorite mic mishap has got to be President Ronald Reagan addressing his fellow Americans one night at the height of the Cold War: “I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” His comment was supposed to have been a soundcheck, but accidentally went live.

Do I still judge? Complain? Dish out back-handed remarks? Of course I do. But at least now I think twice about it. Thanks, technology!

The Rules of Modern Day Attraction

Want a recipe for loneliness and jealousy, but in a good way? Booze not doing the trick anymore? In my current role as Associate Producer for I spend a lot of time on the internet, and when I say a lot I mean it—you’d think my ass would be permanently adhered to this miserable office chair by now. As such, my eyes sometimes glance upon a certain website that most of us simply cannot live without.

Facebook and Internet culture in general have drastically and lastingly changed the way we know, date, friend, poke and relate to each other. By the way, poking someone means you want to have sex with them right?

Wait. My crush isn’t listed on here. Poking me back. Poking me at all. Could this mean he/she/it doesn’t want me?

When you meet someone, what’s the first thing you do? Come on, you know you start stalking them on the Internet. Scoping out profile pictures, relationship status and if they have any of the Facebook red flags, which I’m wont to say are universal, but am willing to consider are not. Ubiquitous or otherwise, a glossary of relative principles seems essential to say the least. I’ve provided my own list as a guideline.


  • Less then 10 profile pictures.
  • Pictures with babies. Nobody wants to date a baby momma/daddy at this age.
  • General stupidity with special regard to bad grammar.
  • More than 5 status updates per day.
  • Pictures of your ex(es). Are they hot Liz Lemon lookalikes or are they scary, obese ogre trolls that smile bleakly from behind their 10th red cup of generic beer? Either way, deal breaker central.
  • Number of friends: -50 = bad, +2000 = just plain weird. Who knows that many people?
  • An overwhelming number of pictures featuring cats or other animals (excluding weasels) in them.
  • Music: Nickelback/Creed/Staind = bad. DJ Marcus, any dubstep (excluding Cragga or Nightspitter) and the killer of all potential relationships, Dave Matthews Band = horrible .
  • I hate same-facers. Need I say more?
  • Photos that belong on softcore or hardcore porn sites as your profile picture.
  • If the book section is left blank or says something like, “I don’t read too good”. Umm, thanks. Try again. Wait, on second thought, please don’t.

Picture of a Facebook friend who moved to Florida to work in the adult film industry. Yes that is a giant needle poking through her face.


  • Professional photographs of yourself because you happen to be friends withHalston Bruce.
  • GummoPink Flamingoes, and/or Freaks in your favorite movies category.
  • Your pictures and/or general content has something/anything to do with weasels.
  • Music section includes Funk from the 60s and 70s and This American Life (check out the best ep.)
  • Your interests include: “Masturbating Violently to Antiques Roadshow.” This is an actual group.
  • Links to your blog so I can stalk you more

If you’re saying to yourself: “Jeez Erin, kind of judgmental, don’t you think?” Well, you can shut your hypocritical mouth. We all do this. It’s part of our depressing quest to find a mate. Facebook provides a reasonable platform from which we should all be screening potential partners. Welcome to the future or whatever. Where studies can prove how annoying you are to everyone; how jealous you are and how to rig your profile to attract people.

How has facebook helped my social communication? Well it hasn’t. Instead of calling or meeting face to face, we text or poke or some other such vapid form of “staying in touch.” I’ve wasted countless hours on this god forsaken website. But will I stop? Fuck no, my FB stalking skills are razor sharp, thank you.

One more thing: engagement photos. Jesus. I went to school at the University of Wisconsin and it looks like the goal for graduates is to get married as soon as humanly possible. These people were once smart, capable, and somewhat sane in my book. Now at 23 they’re throwing 40 large down the crapper and promising themselves to someone for eternity. Why? And don’t even get me started about the kissy pictures at sunset on a dock or whatever. Excuse me while I vomit all over my keyboard.

Growing a New Eye (With a Little Help From Technology and You) (

Originally written for

When I grew up, I wanted to be like Sarah Connor in Terminator II: leather clad, ass-kicking, and mean as a snake. But my male compatriots yearned to be Arnold: part-man, part-machine. Our society has always nurtured a fascination with the melding of humanity and science. And its origins were often more based in fantasy—see sci-fi favorites such as Darth Vader, Robocop, or Tom Cruise—than reality.

But the melding of metal and flesh begs a few questions. If you put metal parts into an individual do they stop being a human? How much metal can you put into a person before he/she isn’t a person? At what point does the line between humanity and AI bleed into each other? Obviously, this amalgamation provokes a certain amount of conflict, anxiety, and identity crisis.

But what about people who aren’t characters in movies, everyday people who want to fuse the concepts for the betterment of their bodies and minds? Enter Tanya Vlach, a women who lost her eye during a horrific car accident. Before the accident she was a well-known visual artist and performer. Afterwards, she had a frontal lobe minor brain injury and was missing an eye. Despite her subsequent depression, Tanya refused to be victim of her circumstances and sought a fix through technology. What if she could see again, but better? Couldn’t she just put a bionic eye in her socket and move on?

She pitched her idea to Wired founder Kevin Kelly; his curiosity was piqued. He put out a personal call to engineers to help build an implant of a miniature camera inside her prosthetic eye. Hundreds of scientists and engineers responded with their ideas. But such innovations don’t come cheaply; insurance wasn’t going to pay for this, and she didn’t have the money.

In June, Tanya started a Kickstarter campaign. It was quickly picked up by the Internet, and suddenly she was the newest poster child for transhumanism and body modification. Her project, Eye-Camera: an experiment in wearable technology, cybernetics, and perception. The project inspired frequent questions on her website ranging from the laughable (“Are you a Spy”) to the hopeful and suspicious (“are you starting a cyborg revolution?”). One can dream.

Tanya continues to travel and discuss her plight and subsequent plan of action across the United States; on Sunday July 31st she comes to Brooklyn for an eye fundraiser at Brooklyn Winery. Come prepared to discuss cyborgs, eyes, and the art that lies in between.