The memory of Aaron Swartz remains strong more than a week after his tragic death, judging from the turnout at his memorial service in New York City tonight.
Around 900 people attended the service at Cooper Union’s Great Hall, which featured a selection of speakers close to Swartz. In addition to remembering his life and accomplishments, there was also a constant push towards political action — something that makes it clear Swartz’s legacy will live on for some time.
Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, the founder of corporate responsibility site SumofUs.org and Swartz’s partner, noted that the best tribute would be for “all of us to go out today and fight to make the world a better place.”
She pushed for five main goals for the audience: Making sure the Massachusetts U.S. attorneys office was held accountable for its tactics prosecuting Swartz; opening up all academic research to anyone in the world for free; making sure MIT vowed never to be part of a similar event; strengthen the criminal reform system; and help pass Aaron’s Law, which would limit the number of charges that can be brought against someone who violates the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
“Aaron believed there was no shame in failure,” Stinebricker-Kauffman said. “There is deep, deep shame in caring more about believing you’re changing the world than actually changing the world.”
Quinn Norton, an activist, technology writer, and former partner of Swartz’s, stressed that we should also remember him as “another human being with all the flaws and glories that we all have.” She noted that he could be petty and greedy, while also being loving and hopeful. “But in a culture that is ruled by fear, he taught and showed me that trying is more important than being afraid,” she said.
Other speakers included Roy Singham, chair of IT consulting group Thoughtworks (where Swartz was working before his death); executive director of Demand Progress David Segal; and renowned information design writer Edward Tufte.
Earlier today, Wikileaks claimed that Swartz was also a possible source. While the group says it can’t verify if Swartz indeed contributed leaked information, its mission certainly falls in line with Swartz’s drive for making information free and public.
Photo: Flickr/Daniel Sieradski