Active Propositions

This topic is to prepare the active propositions from Luciana Parisi (@l.parisi), Ksenia Emoshina (@ksenia), Ludovic Duhem (@ludovicduhem), Eliot Berriot (@eliotberriot), Stefanie Wuschitz (@stefanie_wu), and :ps: (@natacha, @how).

Next post is a wiki: if you are not mentioned above, please use replies instead if you like to suggest anything, or comment.

This is a wiki. Constructive interference welcome. To edit this post use the edit button botom right, feel free to intervene, improve, transform…

Proposition

  • title: Diffracting + Decentralisation: exploring collective asymmetry
  • subtitle: Hacking and Philosophy at Pa-f
  • approach: informing experience from/towards theory and combining desires into action
  • methodologies: conversation, study groups, participatory workshops and diffractive readings
  • context: we will address the implications of technology in our diverse collective endeavours inclusive of feminist and intersectional concerns

Questions

Self-Organization

Agency of resistance networks - from autonomy to stigmergy

Infrastructure

Decentralisation in the context of complex production chains from conception to disposal, through slavery and ecocide

Solidarity

Freedom as responsibility

Workshops

3 posts were split to a new topic: Community-Run Governance

A reading of the original proposition

Going through the Proposition title in the wiki above, trying to unfold meaning a bit – from where I sit.

Diffracting refers to Science and Technology Studies (STS), especially the concept of Diffraction, inherited from the physics of optics, and developed by Donna Haraway and especially Karen Barad in her 2007 book Meeting the Universe Halfway.

Decentralization refers to the hacker mantra Do not trust authority, and the free software movement’s effort to bring to reality a peer-to-peer network infrastructure, starting from (re)decentralizing the Web, that was originally conceived as a distributed document space where each node would connect to other nodes in order to retrieve relevant information, but evolved into a monoculture where central servers absorb most of the information and serve it as their own.

Exploring collective asymmetry refers to the various layers of meaning and situational awareness that anyone – but not everyone[1], confronted with seemingly untouchable imbalance of power, amplified by technical means, experiences. But this is not about “the individual” nor about identity: it’s really about relations, and relations not “in opposition to” but “in solidarity with”. Collective asymmetry also refers to this anyone but not everyone in another aspect: anyone is concerned, but not everyone is resisting…

As much as contemporary philosophy[2] and hacking both seek changing the actual system, destroying its asumptions, defusing its theories, their methodologies seem to take opposite routes. Within the spectrum of researching the “truth”, philosophers tend to use abstraction as a way to reach understanding, while the latter tend to test concrete limits and start from there. Yet both worlds seldom know or meet each other: this is why we want to bring them together. There’s no opposition between philosophy and hacking: they are complementary to each other and interdisciplinary exchange could be useful to both disciplines.

This refers to what Simondon calls “infomation”, what Barad calls “intra-action”: informing experience means that we start from experience, not from abstraction, the form comes as a witness of the ongoing process, therefore cannot be considered from/as an external perspective. From/towards theory refers to the consciousness of the inseparability of theory (and practice), aka. praxis: it is critical to understand that one cannot “have a theory” and “live outside of it”; one cannot theorize what they do not practise, and vice-versa: one cannot practise without theorizing this practice; this is a virtuous circle of consistency with the truth – and makes a very easy marker for bullshit detection. Combining desires into action refers to the will and desire to not blow air, but to actually affect the world in which we live in significant ways.

These are non-hierarchical methodologies from STS and feminist heritage. Some of them are yet to be experimented (for example, there’s no explicit definition of what diffractive reading means, besides the examples given by Karen Barad and Iris van der Tuin.)

Hence, we’re not looking at how much our outreach has grown thanks to tech X, but rather what balance can be found in using and deploying technologies to consolidate collective action and the cost-benefit of increasing agency vs. social/ecological cost of doing so.


Now, maybe I can go through the three research axis (questions) and unfold some of them shortly to convey the perfume they can exhale…

Self-organization

  • agency of resistance networks clearly refers to the goal of consolidating and expanding resistance to capitalism.

    Here is a former proposal to edit an issue of JoPP. It would be called .RES.IS.TRANS.:

  • from autonomy to stigmergy refers to a follow-up to the autonomist movement that goes beyond its strategies into a discontinuous signaling system that performs situated solutions that can be transmitted across networks to share differences rather than commonalities: graph (street art), shows exactly this, leaving hints not only of what they convey graphically, but also that you too, can claim public space; another example: subcomandante Marcos’ address, Don’t join us: do it yourself, incites, as a counterpoint of the (neo)colonialist approach, to look in our own backyard and start from there, rather than trying to impose ready-made solutions there (in Chiapas) from outside – which is what commodification does; graphers and the EZLN send a signal: that it is possible, that it is happening, that it is grounded, situated. Stigmergy leaves a manifest track of desires.

Infrastructure

Considering the whole chain of production, from conception to disposal, through slavery and ecocide, encourages to think systemically, and evaluate the trade-off between using and deploying technologies to amplify our actions, and the energetic costs engaged (including social costs and human sacrifice).

For example, we’re often talking about decentralization, decentralized services, etc. But when looking into it, where are the “decentralized servers” running, we end up with most “alternative” providers using a handful of datacenters. How decentralized is that? What does it entail to move away from those datacenters, in terms of infrastructure, human labor, energy costs? Is larger decentralization (e.g., self-hosting) energy-efficient compared to huge datacenters? What effort is required to combine forces amongst ISPs serving resistance networks to reinforce everyone? Is it possible, if at all desirable?[3]

Solidarity

Freedom as responsibility comes as an attempt to distinguish “liberal freedom” (or individual freedom – as detached from others) from freedom without an adjective, achieved here and now by people acting together in a spirit of solidarity – cooperation, mutual aid, self-determination.

I hope this reading can inspire the conversation.


  1. Jodi Dean, 2017: Thesis Two: Anyone but not everyone can be a comrade in https://www.e-flux.com/journal/86/160585/four-theses-on-the-comrade/

    The term “comrade” points to a relation, a set of expectations for action. It doesn’t name an identity; it highlights the sameness of those who share a politics, a common horizon of political action.
    […]
    To reiterate: that anyone but not everyone can be a comrade highlights how comradeship designates a relation and a division—us and them—a political relation but one that is not the same as the relation between friend and enemy, an absolute and exclusive state relation. Instead, there is a space of possibility: anyone can be a comrade, but not everyone.

    The four theses are:

    1. “Comrade” names a relation characterized by sameness, equality, and solidarity. For communists, this sameness, equality, and solidarity is utopian, cutting through the determinations of capitalist society.
    2. Anyone but not everyone can be a comrade.
    3. The Individual (as a locus of identity) is the “other” of the comrade.
    4. The relation between comrades is mediated by fidelity to a truth. Practices of comradeship materialize this fidelity, building its truth into the world.
    ↩︎
  2. from this term I exclude the lackeys of capitalism who trade a philosophy for a bowl of soup: justifying inequality and the powers in place have more to do with prostitution than with philosophy. ↩︎

  3. a large number of alternative ISPs building InfraRED and the LibreHosters network seem to think it’s desirable, and :ps: counts among them. ↩︎

Diffracting time, in (dis-)continuity with the notion of exploring asymmetries, from « I Come From The Third-TechnoScape », HackOn, July 2017.

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