I want to make a private, self hosted channel of communication for LGBT people in Turkey, for purposes of community building and mutual aid in situations where using public social networks is a safety risk. Additionally with this project, I want to highlight parts of our online experience that have been eclipsed by major networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, as simply logging off and not considering alternative ways of online communication isn’t the best solution. The services provided by these sites have proven useful in various social movements; but our connection with others and our communities can’t be left in the hands of major corporations. This will be a tool similar to IRC or software such as Discord and Zulip, with multiple chat rooms dedicated to different topics. The most important aspect of the project is to provide people with a place where they can ask for financial or emotional support without exposing themselves to homophobic violence.
Why I want to make this
Economic crisis and political turmoil have created a very tense environment in Turkey. Ethnic and religious minorities, LGBT people are vulnerable to backlash and violence, along with anyone who voices dissent with government policies. Most recently, there has been a state sponsored campaign of marginalization and ostracization towards the LGBT community in Turkey. Multiple pro government politicians and government officials such as the Interior Minister of Turkey has made statements inciting violence towards LGBT people. Their rhetoric bears similarities to talking points of right wing conservatives and religious fundamentalists around the world, with claims such as LGBT people are perverts, a risk to the traditional family and an affront to religion. While being a part of or an ally to the LGBT community is not currently illegal, recently LGBT people have been presented as terrorists who aim to undermine the country. This situation is not only mentally and emotionally tasking, but it also puts LGBT people at risk of doxxing or being rejected by their families. Since the 90s internet has been an important tool for marginalized people, and it still is to this day. But with many authoritarian regimes’ recent recognition of social media as a formidable threat to their existence, the risk of retaliation from these regimes have increased for marginalized people. The corporations that own these social networks are not exactly helping the situation either. Twitter, Facebook and Google have shown, time and again, that when they curate and moderate their platforms, they do it with financial growth in mind rather than quality of their platforms or safety of their users. I was doing research on my original project when I saw the statements made by certain public figures that ranged from rejecting the existence of LGBT people to openly calling for violence. While I didn’t lose interest in my original project, I was concerned about the effects of this situation on my friends and community in Turkey. If we lose the ability to communicate with each other online, we are effectively cut off from each other. I felt like using the experience and knowledge XPUB gave me since last year was urgent and important. Through this project I also want to have conversations about our online experiences, and how we can change the way we use the internet to focus on community and caretaking, and find ways of self expression online that exist out of the scope of mainstream social networks.
Relation to previous Practice
Before I started my masters study, I worked on a project titled Sanctuary, which was a statement about the lack of green spaces in Istanbul, disguised as a product. This was a houseplant care starter kit, meant to help people who didn't have a lot of time to spend time in parks or other green spaces. The kit included tools and a guide to make plant care at home as easy and low effort as possible and presented house plants as an alternative to spending time in nature. I think the field of design is underutilized as a tool of conversation and awareness, I'm motivated to start conversation with my design work along with serving a purpose. All three of the special issues I worked on in the first year of XPUB earned me valuable knowledge and experience. While I was working for Special Issue 10, I did research on interfaces and how they can affect decision making, especially on websites. My work during Special Issue 11 really motivated me to study online politics. Seeing the similar oppressive tactics used by authoritarian regimes in very different parts of the world made me realize that If we had the chance to recognize these similarities and acknowledge each others struggles, we can learn a lot from each other. And as someone who had to deal with repression and censorship growing up, the way we used online tools to circumvent censorship was really empowering and it made me aware of the ways I can use my own practice in ways that can help me and those around me in a tangible way. Special Issue 11 involved an archive of political material, and I felt like it would be useful to have a section where statistics of this archive were visualized to make information more accessible. While working on Special Issue 12, I had the chance to produce a number of podcasts and the one I enjoyed working on the most was a podcast titled Souvenir (File:Damla-souvenir.mp3), which was about the controversy surrounding the Nefertiti bust on display in Berlin. Bringing my research together into a (real) story about colonization, European museums and access to information and artworks was a different way of working for me, and I appreciated this as an opportunity to work with writing.
Relation to Other Works
Zeynep Tufekci’s study on the role of social media on activism and protests such as Arab Spring, Gezi protests and later Hong Kong protests was one of the things that sparked my interest on social media as a tool of communication and connection, especially since I had personal experience with one of these events. I was also inspired by a number of online resources that were created as a reaction towards censorship and manipulation. Teyit.org is a fact checking platform that has managed to reach a considerable amount of internet users in Turkey, EngelliWeb is a Twitter account that tracks online content that the Turkish government blocks access to. As someone who grew up spending a lot of time online, the work these platforms do made me want to utilize my experience. Douglas Rushkoff's Media Virus was helpful in learning the history of internet as an alternative to mainstream media and how factors like politics and corporate interests affect both mainstream media and internet.
Beyond the technical necessities of this project, I want to focus on how we can include both anonymity and accountability on online spaces. How can a platform effectively be moderated to keep everyone safe from bullying or abuse while also not relying on public shaming. I also want to document the progress of this project, and along with this documentation, create a space to talk about our online experiences as a means to recognize the ways we can possibly improve it.
Determining which functions are necessary and which functions are optional
Setting up a Raspberry pi
Determining the most suitable software for the project
Writing code of conduct and determining safety protocol
Contacting people who want to be a part