Surviving many flavours of chaos (thanks to a possibly over-ambitious plan to offer 90+ students a random selection of 3 out of 9 modules plus 3 lectures, taught by 10 different tutors, interfered with by numerous administrative constraints, on-going national strikes and a healthy resistance to anything involving discipline), we managed to celebrate the finale of Cultures Numériques. This experimental course at erg (école de recherche graphique, Brussels) was initiated by a group of tutors that wanted to develop a common vocabulary of the digital between students and tutors, criss-crossing through various ways one can engage with it’s cultures. The course was obligatory for all first years and gravitated around contributions to a common wiki.
[W]hat then, would become of it — this context — if transferred? — if translated? Would it not rather be traduit (traduced) which is the French synonyme, or overzezet (turned topsy-turvy) which is the Dutch one?1
“How do supports of writing — a book or a single piece of paper, pencils, typewriters or internet pages — work on our thoughts? How do ‘chance supports’ (a train ticket, the back of an envelope, the margin of a book) challenge common ideas and practices of archiving, binding, displaying, reproducing, translation?”
With Jonathan Lahey Dronsfield, Nick Thurston we contributed artist talks and performative readings, adding to the rich collection of material (books, references, ideas) that Kristien had brought together. It was a welcome opportunity to revisit many familiar themes, an occasion for a re-take of A Romance of Many Dimensions and a first try-out of Technical Writing.
My first three month at Akademie Schloss Solitude are nearly over. But just before leaving, I had the pleasure of a visit from Laurence Rassel. In Herman’s library at the Schloss we served tea, cookies and conversation.
In 1934, documentalist Paul Otlet wrote: “Humanity is at a turning point in its history. The mass of available information is formidable. New instruments are necessary for simplifying and condensing it, or the intellect will never know how to overcome the difficulties which overwhelm it, nor realise the progress that it glimpses and to which it aspires”. Otlet considered radio, cinema, micro-fiche, phonograph and television all worthy substitutes for the book as information carrier. He envisaged them interconnected into a ‘radiated library’, an intellectual multi-media machine that would support the publication, consultation and creation of knowledge.
From industrial heartland to the Internet age (screen-capture). Video published by The Mundaneum, 2014
Since 1993, the remains of Otlet’s extensive collection of documents are being cared for by The Mundaneum archive center in Mons. Located in a former mining region in the south of Belgium, Mons is also right next to Google’s largest datacenter in Europe. Due to the recent re-branding of Otlet as ‘founding father of the Internet’, and ‘visionary inventor of Google on paper’, The Mundaneum has called international attention to his oeuvre. The Internet giant thankfully accepted the gift of posthumous francophone roots, and adopted The Mundaneum in return.
‘The Internet on paper’ traces various narrations of media in and around the work of Paul Otlet. It is a contribution in the context of Mondothèque, a platform for experiments by artists, archivists and activists concerned about the state of infrastructures for knowledge production.
The production of Free Software happens within a legal framework that guarantees all users the right to run as well as study, modify, and distribute source code for any purpose. It allowed a vibrant ecosystem of networked communities to flourish, forming what Christopher Kelty has described with the term ‘recursive publics’. Software consists of hundreds of individual files and interconnected libraries that are being operated on by many different people. For managing those multifaceted objects, Distributed Version Control helps to keep track of files, visualising ‘differences’ between subsequent versions. Distributed Version Control is a type of meta-software that has become the norm in managing code development, changing the understanding of Free Software production through its orientation towards ‘forking’ rather than ‘merging’ projects. Where the heightened attention for difference could draw collaborators together to discuss and merge conflicts, the mechanisms built into Distributed Version Control makes forking a code base an easier option. Automatic Merge Failed is a close reading of the way ‘difference’ is encoded into software, and insists on it’s centripetal potential.
What is the attraction of an algorithm? Do servers have a gender? Can a book be a disobedient object? Is it possible to understand an infrastructure as a poetics?
Sunday afternoon in the library, a conversation with Jara Rocha about Objetologías, a line of research she carries together with Josianito Llorente, Jaron Rowan and Carla Boserman. Working on the aesthetics and politics of objects and technologies, Objetologías speculates about the potential of relations between humans and non-humans. Their attempt at a post-humanist approach brings together studies of culture, science and technology, actor-network theory, new materialisms, speculative realism, futurology and affects theory. Objetologías considers the ethic, erotic, aesthetic and political agency of objects and studies their material conditions in a broad sense: scale, durability, weight, volume, attraction, dispersion. Objetologías shifts attention to ontologies rather than the social use of objects and technologies, allowing processes of individuation, co-production and articulation to be understood as basic gestures that act symmetrically in a complex web of materiality.
Tea and cake served!
Jara Rocha is a cultural mediator, developing educational programmes at Bau School of Design in Barcelona. She works with materialities of infrastructure, queering practices and links both formal and non-formal ways of researching interface cultures. With Seda Guerses, Miryam Aouragh and Femke Snelting she participates in The Darmstadt Delegation.
The Traité de documentation : le livre sur le livre, théorie et pratique is an almost hypertextual book on documentation, written in the 1930’s by Paul Otlet. It has many cross-references, tables and illustrations; at times it is written in encyclopedic style, turns into a passionate manifesto, speculative fiction, and a practical manual for librarians. The pdf I have is badly OCR-ed and too heavy for reading comfortably on a digital device. So this morning I transformed the digital version into something that I can print at a copy shop.
I started with extracting the images from the pdf with the help of the imagemagick convert command:
This workshop asks how digital tools can refuse strict separations between ‘users’ and ‘developers’, both in the way they are built and how they are put to use.
Mixed experience starts from experiments by artists, designers and programmers affiliated with Constant and design caravan OSP. Our tools are sometimes built from scratch, and often combine existing packages in ways that allow actual experiences of and with software.
Rooting our work in the culture of Free, Libre and Open Source software allows us to critically interrogate how tools condition our practice but above all is an invitation to use, study, distribute and improve software. It inspires us to mix the expertise of ‘users’ and ‘developers’ and to work simultaneously on the level of code, structure and design. In order to shift our digital practices away from the pressures of meritocracy and the limits of technocentrism, we need to make tools together.
Workshop in the context of PIPES (Participatory Investgation of Public Engaging Spaces), and in collaboration with OSP (Open Source Publishing).
In this presentation Femke introduces a book-in-the-making, an extensive collection of conversations between developers and designers involved in the wider ecosystem of Libre Graphics. Speaking to each other about tools for typography, lay-out and image processing they render a portrait of a community gradually understanding the interdependencies between software and design.
For the seminar Public Library. Über Infrastrukturen der Wissensbildung (Public Library. About infrastructures of knowledge formation), Femke prepares a new episode of Fathers of the Internet, charting the overtures between an Internet giant, local governments and a historical archive.
“In 1944, Belgium universalist and documentalist Paul Otlet died a disillusioned man. In his lifetime he only partially realised The Mundaneum, an encyclopedic survey of human knowledge which would ‘progressively constitute a permanent and complete representation of the entire world‘. While Otlet is being rediscovered as “a founding father of the Internet”, Google adopted the remains of his archive in Mons. Located in a former mining area in the south of Belgium, Mons is not only home town to prime minister Elio Di Rupo, but also conveniently located next to one of Google’s largest datacenters in Europe. This lecture explores the messy entanglements of faltering local governments, dreams of accessible knowledge, and the hopeful desire for corporate patronage.”
As a contribution to The Ministry of Hacking, a project developed by esc medienlabor in Graz, Constant presents a follow-up of the Feminist Server Summit. Around and after the event in December 2013, many other international meetings took place that challenged, continued and extended our thinking about feminist servers. Time for an update!
Gender Blending gathers body hackers, 3D theorists, game activists, queer designers and software feminists around the table to challenge typical digital representations of the body, bending the rules of both gender and software. Using 3D animation software Blender, medical bodyscanners and 3D-printers, we’ll experiment at the contact zones of gender and technology.
In 6 days, 3 interdisciplinary groups will develop three interconnected proposals for modelling digital bodies differently. Each thread is prepared by two or three invited guests.
Throughout the week we’ll organise discussions, small workshops and presentations for all participants. This will allow us to work through theoretical and material specifics of imagining gender (social readings and constructed imaginations) in a digital context.
We’ll use Free, Libre and Open Source software such as MakeHuman, Blender, Openscad, Freecad and PyMol. Participants bring their own laptop with Linux installed or can borrow a computer for the duration of the session (limited availability).
Participation is free; maximum 25 places available. Please write email@example.com if you are interested in participating.
Organised by Constant, Brussels in collaboration with De Beursschouwburg, Anne Smolar and Željko Blaće; contributions by Pink Screens, Maria Ptqk, Tom Weller, ginger coons
On division of labor and practices of delegation in times of mediated politics and politicized technologies
Be it in getting out the call for the next demonstration on some “cloud service”, or developing a progressive tech project in the name of an imagined user community, scarcity of resources and distribution of expertise makes short cuts inevitable. But do they really? More …
Hosted by Seda Gürses, Miriyam Aouragh, Femke Snelting, Jara Rocha
4 August 2014
Worksession part of Thinking together @ Mathildenhöhe, Darmstadt (DE)
“In the end, free culture has been an essential step and great opportunity to sync all sorts of individuals, groups and communities who would probably not have connected with each others, and maybe the recruiting loop needs now to transit towards something else more effective, maybe for instance in the area of copyright reform while at the same time keep on making tools that punches holes into walls and not just prettify them.”