Artist of Week 11: Aaron Swartz


Aaron Swartz was born on November 8, 1986 in Chicago, Illinois, and died on January 11, 2013 in Brooklyn, New York.  He died by committing suicide by hanging.  He was an American computer programmer entrepreneur, writer, political organizer and Internet hacktivist.  He was also involved in the development of the web feed RSS, the website framework, the Markdown Publishing, the organization Creative Commons, and the social news site Reddit, in which he became a partner after it merged with his company, Infogami.  At the time, he faced $1 million in fines and 35 years in prison.

Swartz also focused a lot of his work on civic awareness and activism.  In 2009, he helped launch the Progressive Change Campaign Committee to learn more about effective online activism.  In 2010, he became a research fellow at Harvard University’s Safra Research Lab on Institutional Corruption while being directed by Lawrence Lessig.  Swartz also founded the online group called Demand Progress, which was known for its campaign against the Stop Online Piracy Act.  On January 6, 2013, Swartz was arrested by MIT police for state breaking-and-entering charges after surreptitiously installing a computer in an Institute closet which he intended to systematically download academic journal articles from JSTOR.  Federal prosecutors would later charge him with two counts of wire fraud and 11 violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and he received a maximum penalty of $1 million in fines and 35 years in prison, asset forfeiture, restitution, and supervised release.


Aaron Swartz doesn’t fit the prototype of an artist, but he was very artistic in the ways he did things.  In the present day, art can be defined in more and more ways and in some ways, Swartz did some things that were very artistic.  He was a very intelligent man and wanted to make the world a better place.

I have never really looked into hacking, but I always thought that it was bad and was done by evil and bad people.  However, Swartz hacked in a good way, to help people, and he stood up for what he believed in instead of hiding and being anonymous.  I can’t really relate to him, but I think what he did was right, because he stood up for himself and his beliefs.  He was an intelligent human being and it’s a shame he took his own life.


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