By Mia Melvær

In this chapter of Aquarius, the water bearer, we touch on the flow of tools, data and collective properties, while giving some examples of feminist technologies and tool systems.

Let’s move away from who owns what, and let’s share whatever knowledge we have.

Choosing this month as a space for reflecting on the circulation in our own ecology of tools and technologies, the first step might be to look at which criteria we evaluate these by. Beyond choosing tools based solely on efficiency and convenience, and paying for these by letting our data be harvested and sold by their providers, lies the matter of how we can work towards using and creating tools for work that are more in line with our practices and ethics. Tools that are based in an ideology that resists the surge of what we could identify as technical progress through patriarcho-colonial, capitalist motives. Questioning this development does not only have to mean a purist approach where you are able or willing to boycott all extractivist tools and technologies that are built into our societies today, but could for example, mean to swap out your most used digital tool for a more fair alternative, finding a replacement for Google Drive or taking some time to map out which tools you are currently relying on and who owns them.

To start by reflecting on how “deep” you are available to go in terms of scrutinising your own tool-ecology, this chapter starts off with a contribution called Pooling Public Tech which asks you to situate yourself and your tool-desires on the map of a swimming pool with different depths. Using the metaphor of how deep you are submerged into the water, it also acknowledges that this is meant as a mere snapshot of where you are right now. Your desire to question your tools is representative of the phase you are in, and is not static nor isolated from who else is in the pool with you. Local initiatives that work towards creating friendlier cloud services around us can, for example, be a way to get a better grasp on what the digital architecture we frequently use holds onto. In this chapter, we introduce Nubo as an alternative cloud and email service, and what using a local cloud service means in terms of ownership.

Moving our glance from when our work relies on private storage to the work that meets the public eye, we wanted to highlight a new licence to register work under, called CC4r, (Creative Commons for re-use). Oriented by a feminist and intersectional understanding of authorship, it considers cultural expression as always already situated within communities with which we exist. The CC4r license favours re-use of work and generous access conditions. It considers hands-on circulation as a necessary and generative activation of current, historical and future authored materials. One important aspect of this license is that while you are free to (re-)use things that are registered under CC4r, you are not free from taking the implications of (re-)use into account, and as such it is a license that promotes a certain level of trust-mixed-accountability.

While making steps of resistance against paradigms promoted by multinational companies, it is easy to get somewhat paralysed by exasperation, apathy or cynicism. Nevertheless, by believing in the process even if we only focus our attention to the systems and customs on a patch within our field, it might prove to be a valuable tool to apply to a bigger structure at a later time. An example of this kind of re-scaling is tested out in this chapter by ooooo in their contribution File Systems which asks what we can learn about art institutions by analysing them through protocols from server systems.

Through negotiating the origin of our tools, technologies and types of ownership, we can address the space these occupy in our work, review how that space is furnished and see if it still makes sense. A reparative, intersectional, and feminist approach to our tool-ecology means a networked approach, set up for working best when it is cared for by one or many communities. If we wish to encourage this then it should not only be through offering our resources but, perhaps more importantly, through understanding that working with a generous amount of trust in the process, throughout our community’s trials and errors with various tools and materials, does not mean that one is taken for a fool. Rather than holding on to personal control, it is work that pushes us to embrace the fact that, as humans, we are limited in timespace. This should urge us to take in and use relational systems that acknowledge the large benefits of complex interdependence, as these tools, thoughts and spaces show us, there are a multitude of ways of vibrating together.


Poissons Volants et Vagues - Lemercier, 1897, part of the public domain.