Pooling public tech

By Constant vzw

Digital tools and infrastructures are an important part of anybody’s practice. The pandemic waves have underlined this. Online work is dominated by big tech companies who manage (and profit from) many of the services and platforms we use. Aside from the influence this has on the work of many of us in the creative field, the predatory capitalist logics which constitute Big Tech’s business model are not compatible with our worldviews.

Constant is interested in drawing new imaginaries for desirable techno-realities. Free/Libre Open Source Software and Open Content licenses have been important ways to think/go for a fairer technology. They go together with other modes of thinking about the realities we want to be part of, such as intersectional feminisms, or cooperation and federation as collective models of organisation for life and labour. By acknowledging the multiple forms of oppression that are built into the technical tools we use and rejecting the ecological, social exploitations that come with their material conditions, we look for alternatives to rethink the way tech is organised and taken care of. But where to start from, immersed in such a complex and dense network of dependencies and techno-social norms? When considered as a monolith, the task can seem so huge and daunting, but there are myriad different scales and approaches possible.

It is important that we create care spaces to re-consider our tool ecology. Spaces that can welcome everyone on their own terms, at their own pace, and with their own capabilities. As we come equipped with different skills, philosophical insights and time availabilities, it is through pooling together our desires, resources, doubts and determinations that we can develop technological solidarity (between artists). Nubo, Framasoft and other organisations offer an accessible point of departure to start to de-G$$gle-ise our digital work. As more time, energy and knowledge are available, changing our operating systems from Windows or Apple to a Linux system or setting up Next-cloud on our own server can be further steps. Going down the rabbit hole of questioning technical dependencies, reviewing the whole infrastructural footprint of the institution one works with is possible, too, when one chooses to invest fully in networking and policy-politics. Any question is a valid one, and fortunately it can lead to different levels of involvement and engagement.

So, where do we start from and how do we persist when we want to…

  • talk about feminist servers? ◀▼
  • approach the gap between the ethics of our work/collective/institution and the ethics of it’s tools? ⬤
  • know how my email works? ▓▒░
  • be comfortably critical of technology? ◈◈◈
  • smash (surveillance) capitalism, but maybe not during the weekend? ███
  • call into question the whole technical infrastructure of our lives, starting right after lunch? ✖
  • *know more about alternatives to GAFAM tools, but we don’t have much time right now… how can we set some wheels in motion? ⦿
  • host files as ethically as possible? ◍◍◍
  • stop feeding data extraactivism or at least know when we are doing it? ╣╣
  • look into how social dynamics in our collectives relate to the use of certain tools?〓〓
  • stop being purist/primitivist/techno-skeptical? ║⊡║

Phase 1 Curious and eager

Floating around here is about wanting to know more about alternatives to exploitative tools and locating paths towards a fairer tool ecology.

  • ⦿ ⬤ 〓〓 Acknowledging that even though the time and resources available for changing one’s tools are limited at times, it is a priority and can happen in a multitude of smaller steps and energy flows.
  • ⬤ We do not let our current resource limitations sap our energies with guilt; rather, we find ways to take an interdependent, collective, generative and experimental approach.
  • ◈◈◈ ◍◍◍ We source methods of changing our multilayered habits, whether it is making steps to change tools in our personal work, in how we engage with the tools of institutions around us or talk together about which changes we are prioritising.
  • ◀▼ ╣╣ We question normalised habits of trading our privacy and (artistic) autonomy for momentary comfort and smoother service.

Phase 2 Generously connective

This phase is about the flow from small changes, alternative choices and personal practices towards larger shifts that re-consider the paradigms and set-ups of an organisation or institution.

  • ⬤ ⦿By finding out if colleagues/friends/allies are going through similar technical re-arrangements, and sharing our experiences, we already make a collective process. 〓〓
  • ⦿ ◈◈◈ We think of ways to give visibility and stability to alternative tool practices that are diffusing in our collective or institution. Successful small changes and altered routines motivate us to re-think the larger ecosystem. ◀▼
  • ⦿ ◈◈◈ We consider how to nourish ongoing practices long term – taking into account material resources, funding, energies. How can budget be dedicated to this? ◍◍◍ ▓▒░
  • ◀▼ ╣╣ If in an institution, we keep wary of institutional ingratitude. ⬤ We might need to find external allies and networks of doing-things-otherwise to support the process. ███

Phase 3 Overturn and aggregate

At this ‘full on’ level, we are ready t✖ change lives and practices.

  • ◈◈◈ Dump those corp$ that dominate our networks.
  • ║⊡║ Engage in setting up solidary tools ◀▼ and independent tech collectives
  • Get ✖✖organised! Engage everyone around ▓▒░
  • ⬤pen s✖urce everything and try to do that intersectionally
  • Our full on inv◈◈◈stments of time and energy allow others space for temporisation
  • When limits are reached ◀▼ that can not be cr✖ssed, act up✖✖
  • ║⊡║ Enough is enough. ███ … also during the weekend!
  • ✖◍◍◍ Find/create resources to inv〓st in m⦿r〓 open tech initiatives
  • ◀▼ Complain
  • ⦿ Use and support alternatives
  • Write angry letters to governnmental bodies
  • Sign up with rights organisations
  • ◈◈◈ Host discussions and action meetings
  • ◈◈◈ Act in solidarity and su║⊡║port
  • ✖ Formulate arguments towards our inst╣╣tut╣╣ons/organisations ◀▼, why to move a◀wa▼y from ✖✖✖✖GAZFAM⦿✖✖✖ dependency, proposing how t⬤ do th▓t with ░lternative, fairer tools and workflows that have shown to ◀▼ork at individual and c⬤llective levels.
  • ⬤ Develop and ◍◍ aggregate ║⊡║t◍ols and c✖mmunities ❤❤❤❤❤