Living in a Sandbox is an optional course that aims at exploring the culture of free and open source UNIX-like software and computer hardware from the viewpoint of a small device: the Raspberry Pi. During this course, students will be exposed to historical and technical elements of computing that are nowadays buried under an app centric culture grown in the names of user-friendliness, transparency and deceptive allegories such as the cloud.
New technologies, like smart phones and web services, promise cutting edge technologies and software as a means to empower users with a seamingly endless progression of new digital possibilities. In fact, many of these new services are striking for the many constraints they place (where can this be played, how many "friends" can connect, who decides a remix means and if it can be "shared").
Many of the platforms are themselves built on decades old technologies & software. Sandbox aims to deconstruct the digital black boxes, revealing the hidden (historical) layers of software and system, with the aim of: (1) empowering students through literacy of reading these systems, and (2) encouraging new assemblages to be (strategically) reconstructed.
When people hear the word sandbox, it is very likely that most of them will be thinking of the outdoor playset that consists of a container filled with sand. You probably have seen many already and have possibly played in one as a child. Using sand as medium and a couple of tools, the sandbox opens the door to a world where anything can be pretended and experimented with. For some others though, the sandbox is linked instead to the realm of software. Indeed, and similarly to its analogue counterpart, software sandboxes are used both to provide testing and prototyping environments, as well as to describe how users and processes can be isolated for security purposes. These two approaches play an important role in the development and execution of software. As a matter of fact, whether you are browsing a website, using an app, or working with your favourite digital tool, sandboxes have been and are currently used to enable and allow this action.
Truth is, digital sandboxes are everywhere and it is a bit ... problematic. Indeed, stepping out of an analogue sandbox is as easy as dusting off from your clothes the particules left from the imaginary world. The same cannot be said of the digital sandboxes which bits are tightly interleaved with our daily activities and digital diet. Seeing our increasing dependence on software and network infrastructure and in a post-PRISM age, it is becoming urgent to understand how these sandboxes operate and impact production, communication and more generally social dynamics.
The best way to explore these issues is to run your own sandbox! Living in a Sandbox aims to be a platform for:
- Critically (re)defining terms like Sharing, Network, Public/Private
- Understanding the history of networked computation, and an ability to trace to contemporary practices and to make strategic decisions in creating new work
For this course we will be solely working on the Raspberry Pi, a tiny single-board computer.
- Facilitators: Aymeric Mansoux & Michael Murtaugh
- When: roughly once every 2 weeks
- Duration: ~3 hours
- Location: Piet Zwart Institute
- Eligibility: places are limited. See your course supervisor for details.