User:)biyibiyibiyi(/RW&RM 04/proposal 0 0 1

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What do you want to make?

I propose to produce a series of tutorials, manuals, blogs, and hacked objects reflective of DIY hacktivism and ideas of decentralization. This vision is derived from my interest in contemporary practices of DIY and DIWO hacktivism, alternative networks, infrastructures and protocols. I am also interested in unravelling these topics' lineages in media archaeology. I am keen in situating these topics in context of rising urbanism and technological transformations undertaking in China, such as censorship and smart city surveillance. These realities present urgency for hacktivism and decentralization, and I am keen on developing tools and methodologies that critically responds to these realities.

I want to emphasize the distributive potentials of publishing in formats of tutorials, manuals, and blogs. I see these formats as mediums to share, invite, interject discourses in an open public fields. In this process, these publishing formats instigate collective critical making.


How do you plan to make it?

First, I identify the realities and phenomenons that present urgency for hacktivism and decentralizing practices. Phenomenons and realities of centralization call for critical hacktivism and decentralizing practices to provide diversity and porosity to the existing media ecosystem. Centralization is identifiable in a number of manifestations, such as centralization of information, data, services, infrastructure, education, and knowledge. To centralize is to operate from a top-down schematic, to design operations according to authoritative objects and goals. Centralization allocates no space for dialogues or critical discourse, negotiations or consensus, transparency or visibility of structure, mobility for under-represented groups, alter-ability of system structure, heresies or productive complaints towards the system.

The limitation of centralization cause homogeneity and impoverishment in all aspects of society. Society calls to make room for diversity, porosity, transparency and mobility. Hacktivism and decentralizing practices provide counter rationales and narratives to critically react to centralization. I aim to unpack and contextualize the concept of decentralization and analyze on what terms decentralization can provide cure and serve as productive alternatives.

Currently, I am working on Channel Channel. The project initiated as a practical reaction towards Internet censorship in China. VPN service providers are often sought for tools to circumvent the firewalls implemented by authorities. As I become familiar with home brew server culture, I came up with the idea of building the VPN network myself, connecting one Raspberry Pi computer at my home in Rotterdam. In Beijing, I am able to route my network traffic back to Rotterdam and circumvent the firewall. However, this project is not only about technicality of decentralization and hacktivism. As I attempt to write tutorials and publish my experience on hacking, I noticed certain privileges implied in the tutorial, such as access to a network abroad and technical knowledge. Online tech bloggers' tutorials are also richly reflective of their unique contexts and individuality. I want to interpret tutorial writing as a subjective publishing format that yet needs to be questioned and contextualized. Examples of localizing decentralization called attention to scrutinizing the sociality aspect of decentralization.

What is your time table?

During October, I will continue on developing Channel Channel project. I am at the phase of writing tutorials and DIY kits for home brew VPN. Meanwhile, I am identifying aspects of the textual implication of tutorials that account toward experimental publishing. I am also experimenting with building a distributive VPN network based on P2P infrastructure. I hope to try the distributive network first on VPS. During the process of setting up the network I would like to identify and draft textual basis for the network, such codes of conduct and manifesto. Similar to treating the writing of tutorial as a form a experimental publishing, tutorial act as the site to interface with technology and foster sociality, the writing of codes of conduct can be treated as a textual medium to facilitate collaborative consensus in network space.

In November, I would like to push the project timeline backwards, to research instances of centralization and decentralization in media archaeology. The interest in media archaeology is twofold. Theoretically, I want to look at the lineage of how certain protocols, infrastructure and network become dominant, and how notions of centralization and decentralization become implemented and materialized in early days of networking. The example of ARPANET provides both notions of decentralization and centralization. Decentralization to maintain network communication once one of the nodes suffer attack from the USSR; centralization to maintain bureaucratic efficiency, that no subversive operations can be conducted other than sending top-down commands and receiving commands. Media archaeology documented numerous counter narratives to ARPANET, such as usenet, referred to as the poor man's ARPANET; Computer Lib – You can and must understand computers NOW. Practically, I want to start building resistant networks from antiquated media. The networks present resistance to censorship and surveillance since they are antiquated thus out of radar frequency. The need for building resistant, undercover networks derives from subversive nature of decentralization and hacktivism, such as circumventing censorship, surveillance and challenging established authoritative organizations.

In December, I want to put together a clear and concise synthesis of decentralization, centralization, media archaeology, and hacktivism. The relationships between these topics needs to be clearly stated. Such as, why decentralization can amend to disadvantages of centralization; how notions of decentralization and centralization materialized in history of early networking; how antiquated networking media can build resistant decentralized network to counteract existing forms of centralization.

In January, I would like to invite users to test the distributive network I built. I still need to identify potential users. The feedback will in turn influence how I develop the mode of address of tutorials, kits and blogs.

In February and March, I want to focus on synthesizing my thesis and put forward a convincing argument on decentralization, centralization, hacktivism and media archaeology.

In April, May and June, I want to focus on building prototypes that manifest the aforementioned ideas. They will be published as stated in the beginning of my proposal. They will be published in distributive formats of tutorials, user manuals, and blog entries. The publication should indicate clear intention to contextualize and playfully explore the writing of these formats, therefore challenging hackneyed interpretations of technical tutorial and user manual as decontextualized and universal instructions.

why do you want to make it?

I intend to manifest my motivation of conducting this project in a Speculations toward Decentralization.

  • To decentralize is to collaborate. As the resources and tools are decentralize and demystified, collaboration can happens on a non-hegemonic model, as opposed to supervisor / subordinate hierarchy. Within decentralized collaborative organization, workers take charge of the organization and retain flexibility for their individualism to make productive collaboration possible.
  • To decentralize is to offer porosity. Challenging the vertical organization structure, a porous organization body is composed by divisions which relationships are dynamic and unfixed. Porosity allow communication and inspirations to happen between divisions.
  • To decentralize is to corroborate. Centralized modes of organization produce homogeneity and prone to vulnerability. Decentralizing practices offer diversity in the ecosystem, making the ecosystem a robust one, rich with variations.
  • To decentralize is to stanch. Centralization had left vulnerabilities and loopholes to society. To decentralize is to use decentralization's flexibility and promptness to amend to the vulnerabilities and loopholes.
  • To decentralize is to speculate. Centralization allocates no space to speculate new social imaginaries. Decentralization welcomes speculating and contesting practices.
  • To decentralize is to combat imperialism, colonialism and orientalism. The global inequality today are remnants from past legacies of hegemonic regimes and ideologies. Decentralizing tools force away the power from the authority and pass it the mass, empowering voices of the unheard. The empowerment of the marginalized and under-represented shakes the residual of these power structure, cultural and perspectival bias that had caused pain and suffering.
  • To decentralize is to expose. Centralization conceal system's intention and is manipulative in its operations. Decentralization retain transparency to its objects and intentions.
  • To decentralize is to localize and contextualize. Decentralizing practices happen in context in their localities, challenging uniform and decontextualized forms of organization. Local contexts add social and cultural layers to collaborations, which are held as unique.
  • To decentralize is to play. Centralization posit high costs for tinkering and system failures. Decentralization allow playfulness and conviviality in experimentation.
  • To decentralize is to dismantle privileges. Centralization is the congregation of wealth of privileges in disproportionate number of authorities. Decentralization makes accessible and transparent of resources, providing access to under-privileged.
  • To decentralize is to temporalize. The rights to determine experience and materialization of time in hierarchical structures are not held in our hands. To decentralize allow us to experience the manifestation of time at our decision and will.

Who can help you and how?

This project will receive guidance, advice and valuable input from people around me. I am listing the following list, and it will evolve as the project develop.

  • Michael Murtaugh. First of all, Michael had tremendous experience developing publishing tools in context of collective collaborations, such as the Etherbox. The projects and the discussions initiated contributed to the notion Experimental Publishing, by expanding the definition of what can be considered as publishing. The treatment of tutorial, user manual and blogs as a form a experimental publishing will benefit from Michael's insights. Additionally, Michael is very knowledgeable on history of networking media. My interest in excavating media archaeology can be informed by his expertise in the subject.
  • Relearn, Constant and Varia. These organizations had provided context and facilitated collective discussions on autonomous networks, self-sufficiency, contextual understanding of technology. Relearn session from 2019 inspired me to write a speculative manifesto towards decentralization; Varia collaborated with XPUB to develop The Network We de(Served) and stimulated my curiosity towards network studies; Constant also provides a rich context for open source publishing practices and autonomous networks.
  • Amy Suo Wu. Amy's research in employment of Samizdat secret communication is provide a unique perspective of resisting centralized surveillance and censorship. She's also very sharp in scoping context of a project and pointing out directions worthwhile to push forward. Her work Thunderclap contained research on re-interpreting early feminist writings in China; her cultural sensitivity derived from experience working across multicultural contexts is very sympathetic to my background.
  • André Castro. André has extensive experience working with experimental publishing tools and contexts. Such as the Hybrid Publishing Toolkit, Bibliotecha, and the Mondotheque: A Radiated Book. He is also a very good organizer of collective learning environments such as workshops. I can greatly learn from him on making obscure technologies lucid and accessible to people. His expertise and rich experience, both technically and critically, will benefit defining the scope of my project and looking for worthwhile directions to untangle.

Relation to previous practice

Special Issue 08, Welcome to the Federation, was a very crucial learning phase for me. The issue took close reading to a variety of literature and text in counter culture, hegemony, poetics of infrastructure, and paranodality. The introduction to these literature opened doors to further bibliographic research on these topics. Two texts remained relevant to my current research. Machine Politics: The rise of the internet and a new age of authoritarianism by Fred Turner; the Politics and Poetics of Infrastructure, which unpacked the sociality of reading contextualized networks and infrastructures under variant political ideologies and unique cultural backgrounds . The text also paid attention articulating unique attributions of the infrastructures in socialist and post-socialist Russia. This perspective suggested possibilities of situating research under more nuanced social and cultural contexts.

It was also full of hands on prototyping and tinkering. As we set up a server on Raspberry Pi, published hybrid publishing prototypes, we become fluent in its open source operating system and discovered many more possibilities of home brew DIY projects.

My final project used hyperlink structure to weave a networked narrative. The narrative draws inspiration from Brian Larkin's Politics and Poetics of Infrastructure, unravelling different forms and organizations of libraries and other forms of information circulation in 90s and 2000s China, where personal, lived experiences are tangled with political, ideological and economical changes of the country. The use of hyperlink also reflected my interest in exploring possibilities of hybrid publishing. Hyperlink's history in media archaeology also led me to discovering speculative archive device that networks information, such as Memex and Project Xanadu.

As our two tutors, Manetta and Roel work within the collective Varia, they present to me a possibility of working with and inquiring technology with a horizontal attitude. That is, to consider cultural, social and situated significances of technology and develop projects and tools that present relevancy and urgency to such contexts.

Relation to larger context

Since I outlined the background of centralization and why is it urgent to foster decentralization and hacktivism, I want to identify the relation to the larger context as relation to the emergent field of experimental publishing. As I understand, the subject is concerned with making public of unregarded cultural, political and social processes within technological frameworks. The medium of publishing is is a tool of strong distributive tool to infiltrate within the public space; it also serve as discursive site, as publishing provides a common ground for further critical collective making.

My interest in investigating tutorials, user manuals and blogs as experimental publishing formats derive from this context. Michael introduced me to the project 365 RFC, https://write.as/365-rfcs/ by Darius Kazemi, a technologist and artist. The project summarizes and introduces one RFC documentation from ARPANET development per day. The project confirmed the possibility of re-interpretation of technical texts in tech communication. Michael also mentioned about the lingo “Request for Comment”, but they are not quite requests for open comments, as the APRANET working group is a closed working group. There are re-writing sessions organized around these documents, but I forgot where it happened. (search on Constant website there is no result. )