I attended the OTHERnet workshop at Studio Weise 7 because I plan to host the NETworkshop in March/April in Belgium with the School of Arts Ghent and iMal in Brussels. Both the OTHERnet and NETworkshop offer important insights in networked communication technology. The required (basic) knowledge for setting up your own media cloud or web server should be regarded elementary.
For the most of us, we the users, “the internet always looks like someone walked into our diagram and peed on it“. (quoted from Luis Fernandez, workshop participant). It is represented as a fluffy, handy cloud. Learning the very basics of this infrastructure, and the way your devices are hooked up to the network, is as elementary as geography or history and should as such be implemented in today’s educational programs.
Technology, and especially information technology, has never been (and will never be) neutral. Also at Transmediale and festivals alike there has been an extensive debate on this. Instead of another debate, this workshop offers a practice-based reflection. A hans-on approach of what almost seem dirty or obsolete tools (but which aren’t, e.g. the unix terminal, a bss) is crucial. It reminded of the meaning and role of ‘arts and crafts’ in the ate 19th century as not solely an artistic movement but at least as much a political and economic one, and the recently published essay by Evgeny Morozov as a harsh morozovian critique on the maker movement. Instead of getting all our hobby-time into 3D-printing or urban agriculture, or regressively withdrawing into quitling bees and knitting clubs to “join the revolution”, it might be far more urgent to get our hands on the network and our devices that are connected to it. A nice quest for more insight in and experimentation with obsolete network technologies can be found in what I regarded as Goto80’s new years resolution: More Networks, Less Internet.
The importance of independent devices and cloud service has been brilliantly translated by Eben Moglen, in what for me has become a seminal lecture from ‘Freedom in the Cloud’. If you did not yet watch this video, watch it now!
Perhaps we should not withdraw from the monopolized and privacy infringing cloud services and centralized social networking tools. Perhaps. We should not leave them behind, because of the simple fact that for now they are – apart from being privacy infringing and copyright enforcing – they are indeed very useful handy tools for sharing information and social organization. It’s intellectual formalism not to use them. It is as good as impossible not to feed your data to the big beasts (be it blue, red, green or yellow).
Perhaps the seed for revolution lies in education indeed. Secondary and elementary schools should structurally include basic technology classes into their programs. To imply this, is a well-suited and perhaps rather easy role modern states can play in the technology debate.
One day we will (have to) delete it all.
But remember, if we don’t feel like eating the rich one day, we better start thinking about who, when, where, how and if we will delete all ‘our’ data in the cloud. Perhaps this is the true meaning of urban cannibalism. One day we will (have to) delete it all.
To come back to your questions, Teresa, it was great fun and very interesting to attend the OTHERnet workshop. I managed to set-up a working (not-always-on) portable web server on my little netbook, and am now planning to set up a portable (not-always-on) BBS on a Raspberry Pi. I felt privileged to be able to get the help from Danja and Julian. I must not forget to thank my fellow participants for the patience they had with me struggling as a ‘not so sudo’.
You wanted a little bio and/or professional background. Here it is:
Bram Crevits is leading the design department at the School of Arts Ghent, Belgium. He was co-founder and artistic director of Cimatics in Brussels. In 2013 he curated the exhibition ‘Drones/Birds – Princes of Ubiquity’ and is now working on the project ‘Atelier de stad Gent’ (translate: The city as a studio, Ghent), as a hands-on practice-based research and application of smart citizenship, remixing approaches from speculative, social, critical and participatory design.