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This page is intended to be a space for sharing the developing content of my research project for the MRes program with the CSNI.
This is a first version of the page, intended as a starting point - and expected to change into different formats.
The page is open for edits/comments. These will be included in the text like so: -This is a comment. Comments can be sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is likely that elements of this page will bleed into other pages on this site. They are sharing stylesheets as well, so changes here, will ripple there.
This text is mutating. (Footnote: I'm writing this mostly, directly in HTML. So the text appears on the screen (my screen) entangled with tags - the marks that make it do certain things. We discussed reflexive traces of research, and this is a step towards that. Brittle, manual gestures that coax other layers into visibility. )
I'm interested in temporary digital networks (Footnote: This being understood as a software-protocol-hardware stack involving disruptive components at any/all levels. ) as spaces that can encourage artists to engage critically with the internet and each another.
This constitutes a set of practices that can reveal the stack and proliferate choice. (Footnote: Schneider's Governable Stacks against Digital Colonialism (2022) suggests a framework for self-governing as resistance to digital colonialism. )
Participation forces a confrontation with particular questions. This research suggests a set of practices/engagements with technology, which are kind of brittle, require care, conversation and sometimes risk.
The research hinges between imagined/fictional frameworks and their realised encounters. Do these practices provide effective modes of resistance against capitalist systems (Footnote: Platform/Tech/Surveillance/Computational-Capitalism. The commodification and financialisation of digital realms. ) and in strengthening communities of care. (Footnote: Communities that foster equality, peer-learning, amplify marginalised voices and under-represented perspectives within the wider culture. )
The traces of these are left in situ - distributed on an array of boards and servers. A village of stacks. Requiring different kinds of interaction and production with each other, software, hardware and so on. (Footnote: In Bratton's The Stack (2016) there is a running allusion to the movement through the stack as a kind of wave, a diving down before returning up to surface in another location. In the last days of the flash web game era there was a peak of games built on this movement - dolphins, dune buggies, bmxs... in these games the player approximates the wave, seeks to enter a flow state - tracing a perfect sine wave via taps of the keyboard. Screen recording from Dolphin Olympics 2. )
A lot of this feels like a balance between figurative metaphors of the interface and excavating layers to find literal skeletons. It is sometimes about peeling back the more figurative metaphors of the interface. In her lecture series Spending the War Without You, Laurie Anderson spoke about the process of adding atmosphere to VR works. Central to her practice with sound and light sans-screens is a co-mingling with the space around it. VR appeared to suppress this fuzzy addition and so she found ways of adding it back in. In the movement between online/offline and archipelegos of hardware/software there is space for other things to enter. (Footnote: Mistakes, errors, bugs, artefacts, 404s, detours, delays. )
On the most general level, we suggest that caring be viewed as a species activity that includes everything that we do to maintain, continue, and repair our ‘world’ so that we can live in it as well as possible.
That world includes our bodies, our selves, and our environment, all of which we seek to interweave in a complex, life-sustaining web.
In thinking about care - we can also think about carelessness. By arguing that care is an activity to be introduced or reconfigured in these network practices - does that presuppose a carelessness before? Using the definition above, there must be practices of care already present in these spaces (of course) but the argument is that this could be misplaced or misdirected through the obscurity of the systems and deeper strategies of the corporations governing them as well as the physical world impact of spending time within them.
This is the position given by Ars Industrialis in their 2010 manifesto:
Such is the genuine scope of this crisis, the financial aspects of which are only one element. Now, the greatest and most devastating effect of addiction is that victims of addiction no longer take care of themselves, nor of others, nor of the world around them: they become irresponsible to the point that they can no longer be counted on. Thus is established a society of carelessness [incurie]—that is, a destruction of society, which we have called a dissociation.
It is in such a context that the question of care can be posed in a new and political way, not confined to the medical field or the ethical field: the question of care must go to the heart of political economy—and with it, clearly, a new cultural, educational, scientific and industrial political culture capable of taking care of the world. This is why we propose as an axiom of our reflections that—as the first meaning of the verb “economiser” says, and as at bottom each of us knows—to economize means first of all and before anything else to take care.
One part of the required response
The stakes are high. They are the continuation of a life on earth that
at a minimum includes humans - and for any success, includes every other
being. And in here along with Bratton there is a sense that part of the
challenge is resistance in a way that doesn't shut down the scope and scale
of the response needed to overcome the problems. This requires a response
in the framing of the practices developing here. To what extent to they
build towards efficacy.
A counter to this might be found in Mueller assessment of the Luddites and understanding of the decelerationist movement:
"...that the radical left can and should put forth a decelerationist politics: a politics of slowing down change, undermining technological progress, and limiting capital’s rapacity, while developing organization and cultivating militancy." ) for Ars industrialis is to call for "De-proletarianization, which is a re-conquering of responsibility"
The Ship of Theseus
I'm looking after my digital library using Calibre and Calibre-web. I'm learning to use Zotero to capture notes and references.
A slightly wider list of things I've been reading can be found at /reading.
- Reassembling the Social, Bruno Latour
- Creating Insecurity: Art and Culture in the Age of Security, edited by Wolfgang Sützl & Geoff Cox.
- Aesthetic Programming: A Handbook of Software Studies. Winnie Soon and Geoff Cox
- The Age of Disruption: Technology and Madness in Computational Capitalism, Bernard Stiegler
- The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Hakim Bey =
Breaking Things at Work, Gavin Meuller
- Changing Marxists into Luddites.
- Surfaced the Pynchon essay on Luddites referenced below.
- p.4 "you should be critical of technology and acknowledge those moments where people, especially those at work, have resisted it." and it is through this technology that work expands to a constant state (the hustle) of being online and as a consumer (loyalty schemes/points, self-service)
- "...the working class is defined by its struggle against capital and not [merely] by its productive function." (Zerowork 1)
- Importance of sabotage.
- p.107 Free Software as Luddite technology.
- p.128 "One of the biggest challenges facing the weak and fragmented left is how to compose ourselves as a class—how to organize diverse sectors of people to mobilize for fundamental social change. "
- p.129 "In this way, Luddism is not simply opposition to new machines or technologies, but a set of concrete politics with a positive content. Luddism, inspired as it is by workers’ struggles at the point of production, emphasizes autonomy : the freedom of conduct, ability to set standards, and the continuity and improvement of working conditions. For the Luddites specifically, new machines were an immediate threat, and so Luddism contains a critical perspective on technology that pays particular attention to technology’s relationship to the labor process and working conditions. In other words, it views technology not as neutral but as a site of struggle. Luddism rejects production for production’s sake : it is critical of “efficiency” as an end goal, as there are other values at stake in work. Luddism can generalize : it is not an individual moral stance, but a series of practices that can proliferate and build through collective action. Finally, Luddism is antagonistic : it sets itself against existing capitalist social relations, which can only end through struggle, not through factors like state reforms, the increasing superfluity of goods, or a better planned economy."
- The stack: on software and sovereignty, Benjamin H. Bratton
- Engineering Culture: On 'the author as (digital producer), edited by Geoff Cox & Joasia Krysa
- Tools for Conviviality, Ivan Illich
- The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, Shoshana Zuboff
- The Mushroom at the End of the World, Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing
- Staying With The Trouble, Donna J. Haraway
- Race After Technology, Ruha Benjamin
- Neither Settler Nor Native, Mahmood Mamdani
- Blockchain Chicken Farm, Xiawei Wang
- New Dark Age, James Bridle
- Anderson, Laurie. Mahindra Humanities Center. Norton Lecture 1: The River | Laurie Anderson: Spending the War Without You, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6LuKgGn5e2g.
- The Container Update: Interview with Mervin Jarman’. Accessed 4 February 2022. https://nettime.org/Lists-Archives/nettime-l-0003/msg00210.html.
- Chávez Heras, Daniel, and Tobias Blanke. ‘On Machine Vision and Photographic Imagination’. AI & SOCIETY 36, no. 4 (1 December 2021): 1153–65. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00146-020-01091-y.
- Cherry, Miriam A. ‘The Future Encyclopedia of Luddism’. The MIT Press Reader (blog), 19 January 2021. https://thereader.mitpress.mit.edu/the-future-encyclopedia-of-luddism/.
- Diehm, Cade. ‘This Is Fine: Optimism & Emergency in the P2P Network - A New Design Congress Essay’. Accessed 27 January 2022. https://newdesigncongress.org/en/pub/this-is-fine.
- Fisher, Bernice, and Joan C. Tronto. “Toward a Feminist Theory of Care.” In Circles of Care: Work and Identity in Women’s Lives, edited by Emily K. Abel and Margaret K. Nelson. State University of New York Press, 1990.
- ‘Sabotage - by Elizabeth Gurley Flynn | Industrial Workers of the World’. Accessed 12 April 2022. https://archive.iww.org/history/library/Flynn/Sabotage/.
- ‘David Graeber: After the Pandemic, We Can’t Go Back to Sleep’. Accessed 20 March 2022. https://jacobinmag.com/2021/03/david-graeber-posthumous-essay-pandemic.
- Marks, Laura U. ‘Streaming Carbon Footprint’. Accessed 17 March 2022. https://www.sfu.ca/~lmarks/blog/index.html.
- Makery. ‘From Commons to NFTs: Digital Objects and Radical Imagination’. Accessed 2 February 2022. https://www.makery.info/en/2022/01/31/english-from-commons-to-nfts-digital-objects-and-radical-imagination/.
- Murtaugh, Michael. ‘Becoming Sponge: Sustaining Practice Through Protocols of Web Publishing’. MARCH. Accessed 10 April 2022. https://march.international/becoming-sponge-sustaining-practice-through-protocols-of-web-publishing/.
- O’Dwyer, Rachel. ‘Just Say No - JustPaste.It’. Accessed 28 January 2022. https://justpaste.it/7mxo5.
- ‘Thomas Pynchon’. Accessed 20 February 2022. https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/97/05/18/reviews/pynchon-luddite.html?
- Sadowski, Jathan, Edward Ongweso, and Jereme Brown. ‘The Butlerian Jihad - Why Sci-Fi Needs Luddism’. This Machine Kills, n.d. https://soundcloud.com/thismachinekillspod/120-the-butlerian-jihad-why-sci-fi-needs-luddism?utm_source=clipboard&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=social_sharing.
- Schneider, Nathan. ‘Governable Stacks against Digital Colonialism’. TripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique. Open Access Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society 20, no. 1 (12 January 2022): 19–36. https://doi.org/10.31269/triplec.v20i1.1281.
- Snelting, Femke. ‘Generous Practices’, n.d. https://constantvzw.org/verlag/spip.php?page=article&id_article=97&mot_filtre=8&id_lang=9&debut_source_material=0#.
- ‘Son[i]a #344 Femke Snelting’, n.d. https://rwm.macba.cat/en/sonia/sonia-344-femke-snelting.
- Valk, Marloes de, Nestor Siré. Unthinking Photography, The Photographers’ Gallery. ‘Interview with Nestor Siré [Part I]’. Accessed 28 February 2022. https://unthinking.photography/articles/interview-with-nestor-sire.
- Valk, Marloes de. ‘A Pluriverse of Local Worlds: A Review of Computing within Limits Related Terminology and Practices’. LIMITS Workshop on Computing within Limits, 14 June 2021. https://doi.org/10.21428/bf6fb269.1e37d8be.
- ‘Latent Lenses and Computational Cameras – CSNI’. Accessed 2 February 2022. https://www.centreforthestudyof.net/?p=6101.
- ‘Network of Ones Own’. Accessed 16 February 2022. https://networksofonesown.constantvzw.org/etherbox/manual.html#networks-of-ones-own.
- Puckette, M. (2012 November 21). Design choices for computer instruments and computer compositional tools - CIRMMT Student Symposium Keynote. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLACjtOpe0Q (Footnote: ~msh on LURK referenced this is a discussion "he talks about how one of the challenges of using computers to make art is that we're working with machines that were designed for finance and war. When you think of it in that context, the "personal computer" can be thought of as, at best (and with a lot of tenacity), a site of anti-capitalist and anti-imperial resistance. At worst, a new vector whereby the "user" is worn down and transformed into an extension of the larger engines of finance and war." )
- Trust. ‘Trust — Moving Castles: Modular and Portable Multiplayer Miniverses’. Accessed 28 January 2022. https://trust.support/feed/moving-castles.
- Kate Crawford and Vladan Joler Anatomy of an AI system
- The Institute for Technology in the Public Interest Digital Ethics Audit
- Taeyoon Choi Distributed Web of Care
- Constant Reclaiming Digital Infrastructures
- ‘The Weise7 in/Compatible Laboratorium Archive’. Accessed 2 April 2022. weise7.org/book
- Castillo, Joey. The Open Book Project The Open Book Project is a particularly useful reference for thinking through reflexive forms that research can take - where the object is registered as part of a process of making, as part of the argument - a good example of artistic research in action.
- Gemini (protocol)
┌─────────────────────┬────────────────┬───────────────┬────────────────┐ │human scale computing│shared computing│webring kinship│protocol hopping│ ┌─────┴────────┬────────────┴─┬─────────────┬┴─┬────────────┬┴───────┬────────┘ │string figures│permacomputing│tilde servers│ │entanglement│smoltech│ └──────────────┴──────────────┴───┬─────────┴──┴───┬────────┴──────┬─┘ │shadow libraries│sustainable ICT│ ┌────────────────┬───────────┴────┬─────────┬─┴─────────┬─────┘ │artist workshops│hosting sessions│exploring│maintaining│ └────────────────┴────────────────┴─────────┴───────────┘
System Environment ┌───────────────────┐ ┌────────────────────┐ │Imagining Practices├──►│Activating Practices├─┐ └─▲─────────────────┘ └────────────────────┘ │ │ │ │ Feedback │ └────────────────────────────────────────────┘ Cybernetic Loop
care assemblage ecologies hardware networks software compression play luddism bandwidth distribution organisation programming security resistance labour convivial tools refusal networke_d/r free software time open source shadow practices open access traces
┌───┬───►┌─────┐ │mud│time│stone│ └───┘◄───┴─────┘
Artists performing experimental networks. What is this trying to set up? It's partly about roles of care, spaces for care, care as radical. What is the shape of care ~digital outlines ~fibers, waves ~process+control.
Why follow this?
- Escape routes from capitalism
- Luddite assessment
- Convivial plasticity
- control, consent, meaning
- The stack
- mapping this - the vertical and horizontal
- Documenting the pockets of play
- Engaging with artists
- Bringing them together to work in different ways
- Engaging different perspectives
- Care as the embodied relation with the other
- peer-to-peer as one alternative protocol with specific performative qualities
- the metaphors that describe the internet are closer to the reality
- those behaviours can be performed with other approaches
- which might still lead to radical action
Alternatives reveal the container. They provide something to define against. They are hopeful in a way that total refusal isn't. It allows more in.
- Energy/carbon-impact in our capitalist society which is thoughtless energy.
- Competing modes of refusal (recycle/reuse/upgrade)
- Pervasive drive towards faster/higher definition/higher bandwidth
- Acknowledging a position of choice.
- The server prompts other questions:
- Responsibility for the content
- Legal compliance
- Power consumption
- It repositions the networker as a point of control and responsibility
Is there something in the terms, mediators + intermediaries? (Footnote: Too early in the reading, really - but related to Reassembling the Social, Bruno Latour. ) How much do nodes (actors?) strengthen/reinforce an individual position more effectively than IRL. The Networker sees the mediators and can shape them - participate in the mediation.
Castells makes the distinction between the ‘networkers’ who set up connections on their initiative, and the ‘networked’ who are online but without any control over decisions.The Networked is unable to recognise the intermediaries that can be flexed to mediators. The same entities assemble differently.
The molecular fuzziness - a signal - tolerance within ones and zero. The one and the zero is the record of a passed threshold - it is not by itself the thing.
I'll detail here, several of the experiments or frameworks of practice that I'm working on.
The first iteration of Careful Networks can be found at carefulnetworks.net
The practice of webrings seems to be one of several early internet practices that returns in waves. It is useful here, as it brings several requirements for engagement: ability to edit basic HTML, JS; a method of publishing online. In the first iteration of Careful Networks we used peer-to-peer (Footnote: I've shifted away from abreviating some of these terms when possible as it quickly slips into buzz - and eases forgetfulness about which parts might be important. A lot of the terms are also less specific than something like HTML or JS (used just above). Distributed and decentralised which I was also using more previously have been mostly dropped as they are now much more loaded with the crypto-blockchain discussions. ) protocol, Hyper combined with the browser, Beaker. Using Beaker presents some nice surprises, as it can be used to read and write pages simultaneously. The fact that it uses the Hyper protocol then removes the usual interaction with a server. The content is served immediately from the user's computer.
Artists responded to the protocol, creating works that were self-contained (Footnote: ...without external dependencies. There is a balance of performance/illusion in this space. Including this restriction adds truth to the idea/concept that visiting a work or node in the exhibition is equal to visiting a single, identified source of that information. Even when the content is then mirrored, and hosted by others, the transaction is the same. A request is made, and an answer given. Compare this to the experience of the web generally, which is a barrage of cookie notifications which hint at some of this, but also the intensely layered pulling in of resources (fonts, scripts, images). ) and within a 2mb file size. (Footnote: This introduced the idea of compression - and encouraged approaches that celebrate low-res. This idea was informed by the work of Laura U. Marks and the Small File Media Festival. It secures an accessibility of the works across a range of devices and internet speeds. It aims towards something that is resilient. The weight of the file on a host hard-drive should be small and manageable. It is a careful guest. ) These works were then hosted by one of the other artists (in the first instance) and pages were linked like a webring with the ability to move forwards or backwards along the chain, or pull up a menu and hop between.
It was expected that this network would be temporary and fragile. Pages would likely slip to 404 errors after the opening convening. As it was, folks did take on the hosting more widely. A complete mirror seems to be reliably connected somewhere in Finland. (Footnote: Beaker reveals the IP address of host devices. The implications of this are discussed in Cade Diehm's This is Fine. )
I am seeking opportunities to continue webring workshops with artists. These need not be based on Hyper/Beaker, but can introduce other constraints that build similar acts of care.
A sketch of a webring-type practice that considers a publishing material online in ways that don't necessitate writing html or interacting with a platform/WYSIWYG-type tool. Using ExifTool participants are invited to edit specific metadata values attached to a jpeg. The jpeg is uploaded to a host of their choosing - or emailed to the webring coordinator, and the URL of the image supplied to the coordinator. A central page is then created which loads in each of the jpegs from their various locations. As the images are loaded the js library, exif-js, pulls the specified metadata from the image and displays them alongside it. This framework creates a single-page ring with each participants content remaining easily editable by them. Dialogues could emerge between posts. Things could be removed. The images could exist without revealing their metadata on other websites or spaces. This practice, again, appears to replicate things achievable using conventional tools and platforms, but through a process that is ceding control to its participants at each step.
The digital of digital - screenless devices encountered by fingertips. Tiny devices that can be programmed in relatively simple code, very quickly making things happen outside of the screen. It transgresses through different layers of The Stack. The kind of programming we're exploring here creates archipelagos, odd extrusions and fields of signal.
It is small and vulnerable. Adding functions and processes increases the attack surface. Inhabiting the space introduces risk. Who can bear that risk? What steps can be taken to mitigate the risk? Any interaction with the community is the result of a series of steps - at each point, defining the boundaries of the space, and what might constitute as safe usage. Acting safely within the network is a collaborative endeavor.
Like accessing the Bootleg library or a local-only Bibliotecha instance, the specific url's and steps are shared locally. Something has to happen in the air of the space. The vectors of access translate across different surfaces and become noisy - susceptible to error, mistakes and surprises.
The boards are Wemos D1 mini, ESP8266, low-cost wifi microchips. The practice here is simply a very loosely adapted approach to the firmware web server examples. The board runs a miniature offline web server. Users that access the board from their own devices can visit a simple web-page. A hardware text. The text is on the chip. It isn't useful like the library. It isn't read/write. It's store/read. It is storied. It is portable. It can travel broadcasting. It can be passed between friends. One version has a temporary message-board that can be populated as long as the board remains powered. After resetting any sigs are lost. There are of course ways of advancing the programming and for it to behave in the ways expected from a 'product'. However- retaining these difficulties and weaknesses offers routes to Luddite proclivities instead: building with awareness of security vulnerabilities (use must reflect that), this prevents certain behaviors but forces them to augment the constraints of the program rather than trusting the program, a limited, fragile, temporary space is the condition by which any media exists but is usually easy to forget in online practices.
I've also started to set up nodes of an artist shadow-library which has developed out of my participation in Simon Browne's parallel library services project - and using the Raspberry Pi Bibliotecha package maintained by folks at Varia. These are built using Raspberry Pi's and provide a local network to registered users. This needs of the library overlap with the needs of the peer-to-peer network. And again this is emphasised through a performative twist, or re-affirming of the physical locality by the intention of the nodes to travel. I plan to introduce nodes into other regional (east midlands based) art spaces and then every few months rotate the devices around, so there is this passage, journeying and giving of information. And the libraries can contain any kind of media - the artists at Two Queens are interested in artist texts and publications but it could also be a container for images and text - a bit like the structure of Cuba's Paquete Semanal. (Footnote: See Interview with Nestor Siré, Marloes de Valk (2020) )
This is an activity designed to be suitable for families. It is a simple webpage that provides images and details of different pieces of internet and connected infrastructure. The page will be expanded to include a range of devices typically seen around a city. (Footnote: Pink Cell Tower by Julian Oliver (2022) is a good example of practice identifying this infrastrucure 'in the wild.' )
The page is currently hosted on Glitch and can be visited here.
In a workshop or event setting, folks could set out following their own intuition, memories and knowledge of a place before returning to discuss what they had found with the facilitator and/or other groups.
A starting point. -I've started to expand this on a separate page: esp.html Examining the field of interactions that produce the Wemos D1 Mini boards. These boards are 'cheap' and easy to acquire and program. Most commonly bought are clone boards. They mimic the components and layout of the Wemos.
The key part of the board is the central module, the ESP8266. This is what provides the wifi functionality.
ESP8266 is the most popular and low cost WiFi SoC with TCP/IP stack and a low power 32 bit microcontroller manufactured by Espressif, a Shanghai based Chinese manufacturer.
What is Espressif? What are the infrastructures that support these kinds of boards?
These are hobbyist boards at that interact with the edges of larger systems.
How does their factory->open-source/cloned assembly, global shipping, internet interfacing existence fit with their use as a tool for care?
The tilde is used in some systems to denote computing to denote the users home directory. It is also used in URLs to denote a user homepage. (Footnote: Tilde>Wikipedia )
It is easy for this meaning to expand. It's misuse here invites authors to become users and suggests a shared space. This is the practice of tilde servers. These are public access unix systems. Shared servers that communities access remotely. (Footnote: tildeverse.org )
The footnote script is borrowed from James R Meyer's Easy Footnotes for Web Pages. This is a lightweight, easy to implement format that focuses on accessibility.
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