quinn norton

quinn norton



intro’d to Quinn via the internet’s own boy.


2013 Aaron’s memorial:

6:30 – he didn’t wait to start living – and that’s all it took.

he understood that his curiosity was all the license he needed.. the only permission to participate in the world.

a qr film ness

he understood learning is more important than accreditation and that intelligence is a poor and pale substitute for caring.

he burned with a love for humanity

the rarest thing – marry our thoughts and our actions…

eudaimonia ness


feb 2014

Reclaiming Systems of Mutual Care

slowing eroding what gave human life meaning

do many things and once and then fade into the background… this seems new


2008 – body hacking:

i was remapping a portion of my brain to process something that’s new

self-modification – neuroplasticity – we’re able to remake what we are

why did i feel heart broken when i removed it


a relationship people have with their drugs that is not an addiction – they like who they are



find/follow Quinn:

link twitter

her site:


wikipedia small

Quinn Norton (born 1973) is an American journalist, photographer and blogger covering hacker culture, Anonymous,Occupy movement, intellectual property and copyright issues, and the Internet. Her work has appeared in Wired News,The Guardian, Maximum PC, and O’Reilly Media publications such as Make magazine. She has also been a long-time fixture at O’Reilly’s Foo Camp.

Norton currently writes a regular column, Notes on a Strange World, at Medium publishing.

Norton has given a number of talks at technology conferences on the topic of body augmentation, usually under the title “Body Hacking”, as well as taught a course at NYU titled “Laboratory of the Self”. As part of her research, she had a magnet implanted in the tip of her ring finger, enabling her to sense magnetic fields. The magnet was later removed.

Norton has described a conceptual prank involving writing and executing a computer program that would output all possible melodies, theoretically providing the opportunity to claim copyright for all music.


sept 2014:

Quinn‘s scotland series -States of Disunion:

Over the next week I’ll be bringing you the scene from Scotland, the political and cultural factors, as well as how they translate the events beyond this small island of 60 million people.

1 – https://medium.com/message/scottish-ripples-a6c4ea2f5755

The fact is, however the vote goes in this remote bit of the world, with its own easy oil money and calm society, life won’t change that much in any reasonable time scale in Scotland. But the issues of democracy, autonomy, terrorism vs war, and the advantages of big vs small nations are likely to be some of the forces that change the world around this little island in the 21st century. The issues that set off this referendum are of a kind to issues making impressions on every corner of the world.

The Great Powers broke up four empires at the end of World War One, partitioned them around, punished the losers, and within 20 years were into World War Two, the most devastating conflict in all human history. An unimaginable 66 million people lost their lives to the project of creating great nations and their great armies.

2 – https://medium.com/message/scotlands-divide-383aeb113ea4 

Here is where MacLeod and Bailes agree. “The whole way England has conducted this campaign suggests to me that the leaders are out of touch with the people.

This vote is so even it’s practically a coin toss, which is not a strong base to forge ahead as a new nation.

MacLoad doesn’t see Scotland as politically strong enough to get the right deal out of the UK, the EU, or even internally. “What worries me is that there is nothing, even emergent, that that is resilient enough to cope with the repercussions (of independence) because the actual organizations and the (Scottish) working class are so weak that it’s scary.” He fears a Yes means trading one corporatist ruling class for another, and burning what political energy Scotland has to do it. “The policy and programs are very undeveloped.”


oct 2014:

on whiteness

part 1:


There is no race, no nationality, no ethnic group I can find anywhere in history that gave up wealth and power over others without struggle just because it was the right thing to do, even though most societies have had a philosophical or religious element that extolled doing just that as the core of rightness.

part 2:


The situation is deeply miserable, even for those living slightly higher up on the shit pile. The biggest two indicators that someone will commit suicide in America are the two boxes they check on the census that are supposed to confer the most safety from misery, and the most advantage one could have in our society: white, and male. What could accuse privilege of failure more than seeking one’s own violent end?


There is no sanity in maintaining these standards of difference.


No one living is responsible for creating this system, and no one living is really at fault for being caught in its workings. But there is no deus ex machina that will descend from the heavens and set it right. We will have to reach across this chasm ourselves.


i have seen the tops of clouds:



nov 2014 – against productivity:


it takes us getting nothing done

norton productivity law


may 2015 – the hypocrisy of internet journalism


The thing is: I quit, but no one else did. They continued to weave this great net, and catch everyone in it.


I could understand you like no lover ever did, and you would never know I was there. While I could pull you individually out of that database, the real magic is that I would never have to. I could let algorithms understand you, process you, follow you, and never have to know any of you myself. You would be tracked and described by a thousand little bots you could never see.


What I’d do next is: create a world for you to inhabit that doesn’t reflect your taste, but over time, creates it.

manufactured ness


In all honesty, I don’t know what to do about this. Even if I could make my entire living crowdfunding, the only platforms with the social reach to tell people about surveillance and control are those which are also enabling it. And so, I am trapped in the net with you, still building the machine I tried to run away from nearly 20 years ago.


I still believe it’s the best tool to break out of this trap, by learning to use it better, to understand the net for what it is. We can become wizards in our own right, a world of wizards, not subject to the old powers that control us now. But it’s going to take a lot of work.


in the mean time…

take time to consider who you are away from all the things in the world trying to tell you who to be.

2012 – on not voting




july 2015 on depression


Fear has never been much of a cage for me. Depression has always been my trap.


This disease wraps me in gauze. It’s like a layer between me and reality, that makes everything fuzzy and distant. Sometimes I’m sad, but often I just feel like I’m on the verge of throwing up all the time. Sometimes I feel like I’m not real, or dead already.


This makes me think sometimes that my amygdala, which is implicated in disgust, is behind some part of it. But then, it doesn’t matter, because I have it and pointing to the bit of my brain I think is malfunctioning won’t change a thing.


We are dying of broken hearts, and no one knows why.


We don’t know what depression is. We know it’s not just being sad.


Often when a younger person talks about the chronic urge to suicide, I tell them to wait. I tell them that it gets easier, and that they must learn their body and mind. You can always kill yourself later, I tell people. But with a little luck and a little learning, chances are quite good you won’t want to. Hang on, one minute at a time. Just put it off and treat the pain you have now.

– –

sending love.. q


on moving lines and network life – july 2015:


if powerful people want to stop getting pwned, they’re not going to be as able to pwn other people. Nobody gets their own tech ecosystem.

www ness. none of us if one of us ness.


Right now, the only thing protecting your bike in that crackhouse is the overwhelming stack of bikes on top of it.

security from doc everything ness plus something else to do ness…


on 12 years for reg literacy and 2 hours for digital literacy..

yes.. more exposure to what’s needed/used.. but better way than school/teaching..

Education has always been a vital part of consumer protection, and the internet is no different. The first line for digital literacy right now needs to be our schools. Kids should be learning about networks from a young age, and the basics of how computers work.

and perhaps – another way to live beyond consumer ism…


That working on data without decrypting it thing would be pretty cool, but one of the reason it’s not gotten further is that no one is paying anyone to build it for them.

or freeing us up to decide/build whatever

The biggest technical hurdle turns out to be: convincing companies that they need to lose a few percent of profit to creating a quality product. This is doable, but generally gets done through some combination of consumer revolt and regulation.


on africa:






View at Medium.com

It’s got a little over a billion people. Of those a quarter or a third — depending on which metrics you use — are middle class. That’s a middle class which is around the size of the North American middle class. Not just the USA, but a continent-to-continent comparison.


It has a history of leap frogging technology, and there’s no reason to think it won’t keep doing that. It’s a place with diversity in governance, monetary adaptability, and cultures that often teach a kind of resilience we’re all going to need in the coming age of climate-driven civil decline.

we need the communities of Africa a hell of a lot more than they need us.


oct 2016

A Network of Sorrows: Small Adversaries & Small Allies @quinnnorton youtu.be/dc9d8LXlFRo occuworld.org/news/3563230

Hack.lu 2016 A Network of Sorrows: Small Adversaries and Small Allies by Quinn Norton








on having to fear the very things that we must rely on for our lives/livelihood

we’re all weirdly empowered.. tools make us weird.. and make our conflicts weird.. our tools are interacting w/our human flaws.

everything we can use to help someone can later be used to hurt someone

disconnect between info that can help and action that can act on that info

11 min – the ones pulling a paycheck in this field aren’t interacting with the pain from this insecurity..

12 min – so much of this pain/insecurity in world isn’t readily visible to the people who work in the field who are supposed to be fixing it..

we are all going to have to be part of the solution..

a nother way ie: hosting-life-bits via self-talk as data

we’ve left the biggest/best tool we have on the table.. each machine.. connect to most complex pattern matcher.. a human.. who we generally leave as liability.. but we’re leaving a huge computational power right there.. your users should be the advocators….

when trying to figure out what’s going wrong.. we’re not asking… users..

ways people could respond faster/easier than machines.. because people have context..

15 min – people have context.. can match patterns.. machines good at math.. we have a system good at math and a system good at patterns matching..we keep trying to tell humans to do more math and computers to do more patterns matching.. that seems like we’re missing a few opps..

16 min – one of biggest things we need more of between users/technicians.. more respect/listening.. we spend a lot of time telling users to listen to us.. but not us listening to users… mostly because don’t know the language.. but that doesn’t mean they’re not passing a lot of info

17 min – we need to take tools to places users are and help them understand what state they’re in..

19 min – in the end.. getting the job done is more important than getting it done securely.. ie: always be ready to use a toilet w/o a door

23 min – we may have gotten into computers because they were deterministic.. they did what you told them.. but no longer and now.. we’re all turning into biologists.. and first job is to listen..

25 min – there’s so much we could be gathering about needs..

26 min – people are amazingly brilliant.. we’re leaving a lot of that on the table..

29 min – it all feels impossible to a lot of people..

29 min – creating democracies.. 20th cent.. missing literacy.. so .. teaching everyone to read..

30 min – 7.2 billion basically literate people in less than 200 yrs..


we get to re use those institutions.. we don’t have to build them again.. ie: schools.. talking to educators.. bring in that generalized knowledge.. that’s when we’ll really start seeing that landscape change..


it’s not understanding flash.. it’s understanding what all those words mean.. then we’ll have an awesome internet..


your biggest enemy is the fundamental fear/helplessness people feel when they pick up their turning machines.. when we start to beat that..

simple enough ness.. no school ness needed…

37 min – biggest wins in teaching/training.. explaining the infrastructure.. rather than the tools.. ie: when you log in.. you’re already using encryption..


3 am (mtn) nov 9 2016


America isn’t different than it was Monday, there’s just a part of America that can’t deny what’s going on anymore. That’s an opportunity.


Norton Auto-Updater (@quinnnorton) tweeted at 4:04 AM – 4 Oct 2017 :

Most importantly, for creative people, there’s just that one measuring stick for whether or not we’re legit and successful, and it’s fucked. (http://twitter.com/quinnnorton/status/915517944108666880?s=17)

measuring things.. us.. ness

norton productivity law


Norton Auto-Updater (@quinnnorton) tweeted at 9:44 AM on Wed, Oct 04, 2017:
I’m not woke. I hate that word, for reasons. I haven’t read the right social theory. I just lived thru some shit, paid attention, am human.




The demonization of either rapists or victims is what makes the subject unapproachable, and doesn’t let anyone intercede to get abusive people the help they need, much less the victims.


on crowdfunding

Quinnsplainer ‘ ; DROP TABLE altright_users (@quinnnorton) tweeted at 5:15 AM – 13 Dec 2017 :

A post, in which I reflect on @Patreon , but also crowdfunding, and my own career. https://t.co/coeQ5X6o2I (http://twitter.com/quinnnorton/status/940918114493050880?s=17)

TLDR: If you can’t afford to support me on Patreon, please don’t. There’s lots of other great ways to support me, and the best way is creating a community of hope alongside me. 

What I had on Gittip, then Patreon, was choice. I could choose what I did, do whatever I found worthy, and then I’d find out if you found it worthy too. That was new. I responded by having a small nervous breakdown and not doing anything for a while. This is a theme that re-occurs with some regularity in my career. I don’t even have the sense to feel ashamed about it. It’s just a thing that’s true.

happens ie: when kids let out of school to unschool .. they call it detox

norton productivity law

.. our job is to reinvent community.. to reinvent the self in a way that lets us build a healthy society.

If you want to support what I’m trying to do in the world, money helps, It helps a lot! But it’s the second best way to help. The best is to write or record or take notes on the new problems of human society in this century; to discuss questions and ideas about who we are in the world and who we should become. ..To develop an imagination big enough to make the future. To get things wrong, to iterate, to converse, to forgive, to teach, to choose.

ie: hlb via 2 convos that io dance.. as the day..[aka: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake…]..  a nother way


Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) tweeted at 5:24 AM – 14 Feb 2018 :

It’s also quite interesting that on January 3 – just six weeks ago – Quinn Norton tweeted that she vowed a decade ago never to work for the NYT and seemed to re-affirm this pledge. Did the NYT see this? How quickly did this hiring happen? https://t.co/mDPo98Zgv3 (http://twitter.com/ggreenwald/status/963750824223694848?s=17)

Well that was fun. (@quinnnorton) tweeted at 5:25 AM – 14 Feb 2018 :

@ggreenwald they linked to it in the initial mail, and we talked about it a lot. (http://twitter.com/quinnnorton/status/963751126897254400?s=17)

Well that was fun. (@quinnnorton) tweeted at 5:44 AM – 14 Feb 2018 :

@ggreenwald i think the twitter anger was a very unpleasant surprise for them, and they didn’t know how to deal with it. to be fair, they were hiring me to help them understand the net, ergo, they don’t understand the net right now. (http://twitter.com/quinnnorton/status/963755871388958721?s=17)

Well that was fun. (@quinnnorton) tweeted at 5:46 AM – 14 Feb 2018 :

@ggreenwald I really do hope they find the right person, and I’m sorry I couldn’t be it for them. But I have no ill-will towards them, and no reason to suspect their motives. I think this was all very weird and scary for James and Katie and Jim. (http://twitter.com/quinnnorton/status/963756276680396801?s=17)

willow (@willowbl00) tweeted at 7:14 AM – 14 Feb 2018 :

Justice and kindness are HARD, and the *only* person I know who understands the overlap of both in a networked world is Quinn. I benefit from her insights, and I’m sad fewer people will have access to that now. (http://twitter.com/willowbl00/status/963778546660343808?s=17)


danah boyd (@zephoria) tweeted at 7:48 PM on Tue, Feb 27, 2018:
I love @quinnnorton’s processing of her experience getting hired/fired in 6 hours: “The New York Times Fired My Doppelgänger” https://t.co/1cOKTJkNYb

 I didn’t particularly want them to harm me, but I also knew that I was tough in a way they aren’t. I have been through this before, and I know who I am, an advantage I have over most of the institutions currently entrusted with the care of our society

In my pacifism, I can’t reject a friendship, even when a friend has taken such a horrifying path. I am not the judge of who is capable of improving as a person.

I had what I now see as the advantage of coming from a family of terrible people. This taught me that not everyone worthy of love is worthy of emulation. It also taught me that being given terrible ideas is not a destiny, and that intervention can change lives.

Not everyone believes loving engagement is the best way to fight evil beliefs, but it has a goodtrackrecord.

I wish it hadn’t affected my life, but it also illustrates to me why my work is important, and why I must continue exploring and explaining these things.

I am not immune from these mistakes, for mistaking a limited snapshot of something for what it is in its entirety. I have been on the other side

I had been a victim of something the sociologists Alice Marwick and danah boyd call context collapse, where people create online culture meant for one in-group, but exposed to any number of out-groups without its original context by social-media platforms, where it can be recontextualized easily and accidentally.

Ignorant of the necessary context, and full of righteous anger, I victimized a community I didn’t even know existed.

Be damn sure when you make angry statements. Check them out long enough that, even if the statements themselves are still angry, you are not angry by the time you make them. Again and again, I have learned this: Don’t internet angry. If you’re angry, internet later.

Context collapse is our constant companion online. The openness of the web that has given us so much has given us this phenomenon, too, and it complicates things. It isn’t inherently dangerous, but it does require work and critical thought. The internet makes us telepathic, angry, and weird—but it also lets us collaborate, remix, and rapidly reconfigure one another’s ideas on a massive scale.

They require context to understand, but that’s not a flaw—that’s part of what makes them complicated and useful thoughts.

Right now we are a world of geniuses who constantly love to call each other idiots. But humanity is the most complicated thing we’ve found in the universe, and so far as we know, we’re the only thing even looking. We are miracles by the billions with powers and luxuries beyond the dreams of kings of old.

I’m leaving the majority of my flaws online: Go for it, you can find them if you want. It’s a choice I made long ago.

In doing so, I’m telling you that *you have to look for context if you are seeking to understand me. You don’t have to try, I’m not particularly important, but I am complicated. When I die, I’m going to instruct my executors to burn nothing. Leave the crap there, because it’s part of my journey, and that journey has a value.

hlb ness.. and no need for security.. in a gershenfeld sel world.. and why i believe in *idio-jargon as the language

Let mercy guide us forward in these troubled times. Let yourself imagine, because imagination is the wellspring of hope.

brooks contempt law




Quinn Norton (@quinnnorton) tweeted at 6:37 AM – 10 May 2018 :

We’re overdue for starting to think about the network as a complex system. (http://twitter.com/quinnnorton/status/994557104655556611?s=17)

Just to make it clear, I mean complex like “planetary ecology” complex. Not “requires more math and some ML” complex.

Yeah, still a bit too simple.

well, 1: our architecture sucks and it doesn’t have to. we’ve thrown more bandwidth at things instead of fixing routing and BGP is mindbogglingly stupid and abusable.

2: our models for society on networks are infantile, and digital literacy nearly non-existent

3: the systems we’re dealing with start to behave like biological systems at scale, and almost no one is trying to study or model and ecology of networks, from the machines to the cable lays to the psychological reinforcement layer floating somewhere far far above Application

4: we have a breakdown of representation and art that creates meaningful models of networked life for the people on the network, which is linked to but not the same as the digital literacy issue

5: security and privacy are a mess, and political and business incentives are firmly squared off at keeping them a mess, to the deep detriment of culture and even health

am thinking to get to the deeper more complex (aka: undisturbed ecosystem).. begs we focus more on listening to all voices (as it could be).. just that..facil ing that.. trusting that.. counting everything else as busy ness


Quinn “kind of here” Norton (@quinnnorton) tweeted at 5:30 AM – 23 May 2019 : One of the things I have said for many years is that you don’t get a better internet without people getting better, because the internet is made of people. That takes education, culture, and a vastly different set of priorities, and no one likes it but it’s still true.

Quinn “kind of here” Norton (@quinnnorton) tweeted at 5:32 AM – 23 May 2019 :
And for people who inevitably say people can’t get better, that’s unrealistic quinn I’d argue we have done it quite a bit in our history as humans, and also even if it was impossible that doesn’t make me wrong. (http://twitter.com/quinnnorton/status/1131523358569435137?s=17)

lessig impossible law: ‘impossible is irrelevant’ @lessig


Quinn “I probably should be writing now” Norton (@quinnnorton) tweeted at 11:39 AM on Mon, Sep 09, 2019:
I keep wondering why I’m so upset and fighting with depression right now after all the Media lab stuff, and I guess because it’s scratching at scars around sexual abuse, rape, torture, my best friend and beloved’s suicide and the political state of my birth nation.