From Where We Are Working

Currently Working On…

Singular Technologies and the Third-Technoscape

This Summer we’re working on an article to be published in the upcoming issue of the Journal of Peer Production. We invite all of you to come and participate in the co-creation of this article about our activity with collective practice and free software.

Please have a look and engage!

Singular Technologies and the Third-Technoscape

The undeniable success of science to accurately predict observable phenomenons led non-scientists to adopt its efficiency, but not its prudence, and develop a pre-emptive approach to everything, where a map precedes the territory. This top-down process amplifies the pregnance of efficient technological practices, but also their uniformization over any other consideration. Industrial technology production addresses a general case, omitting singularities. The primacy of the map over the territory in our society prompted us to explore the conditions of success of alternative, situated practices.

In the course of a 9 month cycle we have attached ourselves to a transdisciplinary research-action in Brussel’s × Lab. Starting within Dyne:β×λ, and pursuing with Petites Singularités we explored technological arrangements for alternate collectives and activist networks. In a critique of abstract and unequivocal technological production, we chose to give a major importance to human relations, and engaged along time in specific places. We contextualized our initiatives to explore territoriality, emphasizing the importance of local conditions, and searching for a possible articulation between human community development and dedicated technological production. We engaged in the liminal spaces of city fringes where a diversity of life develops, and came to focus on technological practices that would be embedded in specific contexts.

From our experience with free software, we work towards the formulation of singular technologies, or technologies that foster human agency and critical, intentional technology production, adapted to local usage: “rooting technologies”. Singular technologies are conditioned by an active presence, and an engagement of the community. Their production involve many different aspects that hybridize them with life ensuring their diversity and perennity.

While citizen-driven technological practice is often associated to the idea of a Third-Space, a social space to develop further imaginations, we put in question this idea inscribed in an already problematic binary practice, divided between work and home. Instead, we argue that the formation of singular technologies occur in a Third-Lanscape. Borrowing from Gilles Clément’s concept of Third-Landscape – an undetermined fragment of the Planetary Garden – that refers to the sum of spaces where humankind abandons landscape evolution to nature alone*, we propose the concept of Third-Technoscape to designate places of technological production abandoned by the industry and institutions to civil society. Such spaces, neglected by the mainstream, show more natural resources in terms of bio- and noo-diversity than architectured spaces colonized by pre-emptive thought – essentialist and hylemorphic.

We will present the ways by which singular technologies develop in a perennial manner by several examples embedded in a specific landscape of the city where diversity blooms as a survival practice. We’ll therefore respond to the constant top-down bottom-up dichotomy by a side step and a transversal approach.

*: Gilles Clément, “Manifeste du Tiers-Paysage” (Editions Sujet/Objet, 2003)

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Draft Overview

This article will develop two phases to help understand the meaning of Third-TechnoScape (3TS) and singular technologies (ST). In the first part, through the description of actual use-cases, we focus on shedding light on key aspects of 3TS that will help approach the modes of existence of ST, in the second part.

We shall conclude with means to embrace 3TS and develop ST.

Third TechnoScape

Shedding lights also means casting shadows. In the shades of capitalist hegemony and ideology, we cast the 3TS to respond to the reductionist market-driven fallacy of “Third Space”, between home and the workplace, where social capital can easily be captured and executed while the worker’s guard is lowered. Not only the pervasiveness of technologies make such notions as home and work porous to the point of dissolution, but the rapidly deteriorating conditions of existence of the living often do not respond anymore to such criteria : the homeless meet the jobless in the darkness left over by the predatory shadow of mainstream propaganda.

Our four use-cases will enlighten the reader on some facets of 3TS and ST, delineating not a tangible asset, but the traces by which the living have made their own path working around the arbitrary grid of the square-cornered flat display of market value.

Reclaiming Singular Technologies

At this point the reader has a good idea what kind of resistance 3TS is characterizing. From our use-cases, we can explore the granularity of ST that make them distinct from, and slippery to market-driven technoscience. We insist on the step aside that can make us see the flatness and compose with interstices and “sociologies of scale” to enable ST and resist the apparent ineluctability of capitalist hegemony.

Each of this case studies points out specific tensions between existing practices and necessities of singular technologies.
While Quantify Wholeheartedly addresses the corporate body-politics agenda it needs free software and rethought data based models to reuse relearn and share again.
BMDE considers the production of knowledge as citizen based necessarily part of the commons and is in need of shared infrastructure and share information with other initiatives to ensure resilience.
Zinneke is in itself an infrastructure as it is transversal to many Brussel based structures, and it faces the omnipotence of corporate networks that penetrate in its organisation in order to build knowledge within its participants it needs means to give them access to information and education.

Key features of ST:

  • foster the living
  • maintain an open-world assumption
  • enable unity-in-diversity
  • plurality and diversity of representations
  • paying attention to otherwise invisible knowledges

Key components of ST:

  • human-driven
  • free software (especially the recognition of collective freedoms)
  • equal access to data allowing for creative appropriation and analysis
  • non categorizing visuals
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A Step Aside : Ending Capitalism Without Adversity

3TS and ST stem from the need to characterize daily practice by citizen groups that deploy their successful institutional arrangements and affordances under the radar of and outside the competency of traditional institutions. Both concepts do not try to define any tangible essence, but rather articulate social dynamics of the committed groups.

As much as the concept of Third-Technoscape forms an adversarial response to the ideologically tainted concept of ‘third space’ now popular in social sciences to capture informal and non-economical practices such as hackerspaces and other grassroots collectives into the mainstream framework of a society subjugated by the market (home, workplace, and what’s in-between, on the condition it’s measurable and marketable), 3TS also provides a narrative for society to defend itself from the hegemony of capitalist recuperation.

The Third-Technoscape requires genuine human activity, and requires social ties that are not submitted to the market economy. That is not to say that the Third-Technoscape fosters free labor: on the contrary, most of the work done in 3TS is hardly accounted for in ‘the economy’, barely recognized as work in the classical sense, and certainly not promoted as such nor encouraged within the institutions. But this derives from the invisibility and non-recognition of non-trade-economy in the institutional frameworks: the Third-Technoscape remains an ‘externality’.

Embracing and promoting the use and co-creation of singular technologies empowers our local peers, and inspires more to share the love and realize the importance of free technologies production that respect and uphold diversity, and institutional arrangements that respect the living, the body, and the trans-individual. That a large majority of public funding goes to promises rather than supporting existing practices put an unbearable pressure on society, and keeps the Third-Technoscape marginal. If institutions want to let something auto-regulate, it must be grassroots citizen networks working in solidarity and for the advancement of knowledge with delight, rather than short-sighted private interests full of fear and control sickness.

Once the dark matter of society, the Third-Technoscape now highlights the artificial asymmetry in public funding that keeps it marginal although it forms the majority of successful grassroots endeavors in society in resistance to capitalist hegemony. Will the institutions realize that prowess of citizens to come up by and among themselves with working solutions where the subsidized private sector keeps promising marvels without delivering anything but barriers to the free development of the Third-Technoscape?

In the Third-Technoscape, social fracture is not one that needs reduction, but the result of smashing an axe of direct action in solidarity into the square-cornered flat screen of media propaganda to look and act beyond its wall. Where power needs to reduce the fracture, and smoothen out difference, the Third-Technoscape embraces divergence and unity-in-diversity. As with aikido, the Third-Technoscape requires a step aside to let the adversary fall from its own weight. This change in the perspective and the quality of regard enables the ‘disintegrated’ to unfold their creative solidarity without resentment that plagued radical social movements and brought them to impotence.

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Very interesting :slight_smile:

As the JoPP editor, I would be interested to discuss the overall process (is there a thread for this?), the role and participation of external actors (can I invite people to participate?), and how the outcome can be presented inside the journal’s “domain” (a selection of interesting online “moments” that took place in this forum?, a creation of a special thread, as the “outcome thread” where selected content is placed?, something else?)

Just brainstorming …

Welcome @panayotis! Thank you for your interest.

We can start the conversation here and eventually break out to a dedicated thread. Feel free!

Yes, this conversation is public, and the more, the merrier. Across your travels we’ve been meeting a lot of people who embody 3TS without theorizing it.

We’ve been thinking about this for a while. What we came up with, with regard to the online nature of JoPP, and the will to print, and the liveliness of the conversation, is to take a metamorphic approach: an SVG animation containing an overview of the work would degrade gracefully to printable HTML+CSS.

The forum will keep evolving online and the publication is a momentum of the process we will build from the text that is here embedded in a specific outcome for the journal

Both written and visual content source the transformation this choice aims to insist on the mutability of the formats, between content and image following the different threads.

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Third Technoscape is a response to the appropriation of the third space by corporatism it acknowledges the ensemble of practices that tie up as a fabric across different practices.
While each activity is situated and fragile, sometimes ephemeral, their importance is strongly attached not only to every case but each element reassembles energy as much as it creates space to renew our modes of organization and social production.

Third Technoscape is ported by singular technologies in as much as the context of production of technologies is directly associated to the needs of the community. while reproducible singular technologies are not standardized, they exist relatively to their appropriation by the community they are used by. Singular technologies are developed openly for one purpose with a large open structure.

We posted the final draft over here.

Thank you all for your attention and <3