What elements belong in a Data Seder?

Phil Wolff
Oct 11, 2014 · 2 min read

The Passover Seder is a ritual meal that passes along the story of the Jewish Exodus from Egypt. It carries lessons about freedom and slavery, the importance of speaking truth to power (“Let my people go!”), of remembering past oppression and struggling to overcome it. This annual family event lasted for centuries, holding seeds of hope in dark times.

A modern twist adapts the seder format to celebrate other themes, like poetry or veganism. A quick look through Amazon’s Haggadah offerings (haggadahs are booklets used at the dinner table with Passover’s songs, stories and rites) show warm, artful, and socially conscious innovation.

What would you include in a Data Seder centered on our loss of privacy, on companies that hold our data without data portability, on personal sites destroyed, assaults on net neutrality, blocked accounts, DRM’d everything, and networks that charge ridiculous rates for access?

  • What dishes would you serve for their symbolism?
  • What passages or stories would you tell?
  • What ceremonies would you perform?
  • What songs would you sing?
  • What values would you pass to your children?
  • What attitudes would you encourage?

Some of these issues are rather specific to our times. What versions will be as enduring as the struggle for freedom?

Passover is a spring holiday in the Northern hemisphere and I’d imagine our data seders would be the same. Let’s start planning our data seders now.

What’s in your Data Haggadah ? Here’s a working draft of my Data Haggadah. Please kibbitz!


P.S. Our struggle for cyberspace freedoms is multigenerational. Data Seders are one idea for keeping the fight vigorous over centuries.

Notes on rites and rituals…

Beijing Jewish community seder. photo: Li Hao for GlobalTimes.cn

Aaron’s Cup. I like the idea of pouring a glass of wine and opening the door for the spirit of activist Aaron Swartz to visit us, pausing a quiet moment to see if this is the year he comes. This parallels the religious tradition of doing the same for the prophet Elijah, whose arrival anticipates the fulfillment of hoped-for biblical prophesies.

A drop of wine for each “plague” that befell our online selves. “Our data was given to governments without warrant. Our email was read by robots to pick more persuasive adverts. Our web sites were deleted. Our accounts were banned. Our identities were forced to be ‘real’ instead of our true selves.”

Digital Justice

Our Data, Our Networks, Our Selves, Our Rights

Phil Wolff

Written by

Strategist, Sensemaker, Team Builder. Product guy +1.510.343.5664 http://linkedin.com/in/philwolff @evanwolf

Digital Justice

Our Data, Our Networks, Our Selves, Our Rights

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