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

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What do you want to make?

I propose to produce a series of tutorials, manuals, blogs, and hacked objects within the context of DIY networking. Grass root DIY networking has been a topic of interest during the last fifteen years in Europe and North America, as a response to pathologies of the modern networked world, such as opacity of network infrastructure and asymmetry of power between network monopolies and users (Dragona & Charitos, 2017). The building and facilitation of DIY networks is often done using Free/Libre Open Source Software (F/LOSS) tools and adheres to its core principles of freedom to use, modify and redistribute. As F/LOSS advocates for radical openness and promises a democratic model of collaborative framework, certain barriers remain visible, such as low participating rates of female contributors, technical barriers for laypersons, and meritocracy within the system (Nafus, 2011). The writing of technical textual media such as tutorials and manuals tend to imply these hindrances as well. While these textual media tend to be plain, instructive and serve as textual interfaces for participants to be able to utilize and modify the tools, the sociality of these textual media are often undermined. The expression “RTFM”, Read the F*** Manual illustrates an example of disassociation of caring social relationship between the creator and users (Ibid). My project attempts to re-investigate the role of textual media within DIY/DIWO networking projects. I want to emphasize the participatory potential of technical textual media. I see technical textual mediums as sites to share, invite, interject discourses despite of participants' varied technical skills; through these reciprocal actions, the social dimension of technical texts can be amplified, and facilitate environment for further critical collective making.

How do you plan to make it?

The re-investigation of tutorials, manuals, and blogs happens within three types of circulation process. During the first process, I identify myself as the ignorant user. While trying to set up networks myself, I am in a perpetual state of encountering frustrations reading technical documentation. Upon identifying a technical difficulty, I try to make my frustration visible by contacting the source creator, or other members within the community who are technically more knowledgeable. I identify this process not only as a knowledge transfer process from technically able to the less able, but also a process of making public what are the aspects that hinder users from participating in open source collaborative networking. The second process involves the rewriting of the technical texts based on my experiences. In the process of rewriting, I want to address the context within which I perform technical instructions. These contexts are social, cultural and political. The purpose of situating technical instruction within social, cultural and political contexts is to create space to have discourses around technology unhindered by technical lingos. The third process invites collective reflection by collective writing. As DIY/DIWO networking is a collective process, participants share common interests and objectives, while differing in their individualities. Collective writing invites participants within the network to share their individual experiences and make consensus on maintaining and facilitating the network.

What is your time table?

During October, I will continue to develop the Channel Channel project. I am at the phase of writing tutorials and DIY kits for home brew VPN. The writing process is an effort trying to approach tutorials as a form a 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 a textual basis for the network, such as codes of conduct and a manifesto.

In November, I will focus on researching the history of networking and DIY counter culture. I would like to integrate historical information on networking into the writing of technical textual mediums, as historical insight informs readers how layers of networking come into the present state, and inform contemporary practices of DIY networking. The scope of the research is within lineage of protocols, infrastructure and network, such as TCP/IP, Usenet and ARPANET; and the ascendance of DIY counter culture in the hacktivist community such as of Computer Lib and Homebrew Computer Club.

In December, I want to work on synthesizing the research on networking history and DIY counter culture organically.

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 concentrating on these topics: the social potentials of textual media in collaborative networking practice and integration of network history and DIY counter culture history to shed light on contemporary practice.

In April, May and June, I want to focus on building prototypes that manifest the aforementioned ideas. 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 tutorials and user manuals as decontextualized and universal instructions. Part of the prototypes I am interested using networking media such as packet radio, to reciprocally respond to my research in alternative networks.

Why do you want to make it?

I intend to illustrate the my motivation by Speculations towards Decentralization. Here, decentralization is understood as a organizational topology that makes DIY self organizations possible, and is not interpreted as mutually exclusive to centralization. In a capitalist context, decentralizing practices require significantly more care and maintenance than operating within centralized infrastructures. Thus, the text aims to raise speculation, in order to further validate the viability and affordances of decentralization.

  • To decentralize is to collaborate. As the resources and tools are decentralized and demystified, collaboration can happens on a non-hierarchical model, as opposed to supervisor / subordinate hierarchy. Within decentralized collaborative organization, individual choice and input has influence during the overall process.
  • To decentralize is to offer porosity. The decentralized organization is a porous body. It is composed of dynamic modulars, unfixed in their relations. Porosity allow multitudes of permutations between modulars.
  • To decentralize is to corroborate. Centralized modes of organization produce homogeneity and are prone to vulnerability. Decentralizing practices offer diversity in the ecosystem, making the ecosystem a robust one, rich with variations.
  • 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 is remnant of past legacies of hegemonic regimes and ideologies. Decentralizing tools force power away from the authority and pass it to the mass, empowering voices of the unheard. The empowerment of the marginalized and under-represented shakes the residual of these power structures, cultural and perspectival bias that have caused pain and suffering.
  • To decentralize is to expose. Centralization conceals a system's intention and is manipulative in its operations. Decentralization reclaims transparency .
  • To decentralize is to localize and contextualize. Decentralizing practices happen in context in their localities, challenging uniform and decontextualized forms of organization. Localized contexts adds unique social and cultural layers to collaborations.
  • To decentralize is to play. Centralization posits high costs on tinkering and system failures. Decentralization allows playfulness and conviviality in experimentation.

Who can help you and how?

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

  • Michael Murtaugh. First of all, Michael has 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 the history of networked media. My interest in media archaeology can be informed by his expertise in the subject.
  • Relearn, Constant and Varia. These organizations have 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 provides a unique perspective on 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 this 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 to the infrastructures in socialist and post-socialist Russia. This perspective suggests 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 became fluent in using open source software and discovered many more possibilities of home brew DIY projects.

My final project used hyperlink structures 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 the 1990s and 2000s in China, where personal, lived experiences are entangled with political, ideological and economical changes of the country. The use of hyperlinks also reflects my interest in exploring possibilities of hybrid publishing. Hyperlink's history in media archaeology also led me to discovering speculative archive devices 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

My project relates to the larger context of context of experimental publishing. The subject concerns making public unregarded cultural, political and social processes within technological frameworks. The medium of publishing is a tool of strong distributive potential to infiltrate the public space; it also serves as a discursive site, as publishing provides a common ground for further critical collective making.

This methodology is visible amongst media activist groups, where there has been nascent interventions with textual media processes. The RFC document Feminism and Protocols (Guerra, 2019) inserts feminist discourses into the context of IETF, the standard body of proposing and discussing Internet development. As the documents are public and peer reviewed, it was discussed in a meeting of Constant's Networks with an Attitude (Snelting et al, 2019) and given critiques and modifications. This is an example where textual media can invite sociality and discourses.

Bibliography

Dragona, D. and Charitos, D. (2017). Going Off the Cloud: The Role of the Art in the Development of a User Owned & Controlled Connected World. Journal of Peer Production, Issue 9
Guerra, J. (2019). Feminism and Protocols. Internet-Draft. Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). Available at: https://tools.ietf.org/html/draft-guerra-feminism-00
Nafus, D.(2011). Patches Don't Have Gender: What is Not Open in Open Source Software. New Media & Society
Snelting, F. et al (2019). Comments on draft-feminism. Published during Network with an Attitude work session, Brussels. Available at: https://github.com/IRTF-HRPC/drafts/issues/4