title: Collective Infrastructures (worktitle)
language: en
author: Varia
subtitle: Natural Intelligence Lab @ Fiber
date: 12 March 2022

# Collective infrastructures

Varia: cultural member based organisation in Rotterdam

We will unfold different readings of the word "collective" in relation to *computational infrastructures* and *art and design practices*.
How to operate "collective computational infrastructures" while making "collective art and design practices" possible?

## Collective as in: a shared focus on everyday technology

- Focusing on everyday technology means questioning the hierarchies in place within technical objects and therefore the valorisation of skills needed to design or use these objects. 
- Everyday technology means that a sewing machine is no less important than a laptop, that a tailor's work is by no means less meaningful than that of a computer scientist. Everyday technology means reconsidering the hegemony of high tech: cheap, artisanal solutions are our method of choice. 
- With our work, we try to show that low-tech solutions can be complex, inventive and joyful. Everyday technology means to believe that not only experts should have access and decisive power in regards to how things should work. This is why we design and contribute to convivial tools, namely, tools that guarantee a certain degree of autonomy to their users. 
- Everyday technology means keeping in mind multiple and entangled perspectives, needs, and aspirations when it comes to the understanding of a technical object. We are rooted in the context of art and design, but we actively try to build bridges with other fields. To do so, we encourage participation of people from varied backgrounds and disciplines.

## Collective as in: being part of multiple temporalities

- Varia as a group of 20 members
- Varia as part of Rotterdam Charlois
- Varia as a publically funded cultural organisation in NL (EU Cultural Solidarity Fund, Stimuleringsfonds, Gemeente Rotterdam)
- Varia as one of the many self-organised cultural initiatives in Rotterdam
- Varia as part of a network of networks around free culture practices

## Collective as in: 20 members

- How can collective practices be established and maintained within the field of art and design?
- How can we move away from competition, individual work and prestige?
- How can different ways of working shape (and be shaped by) different realities?
- Which infrastructures value such practices and can nourish them? 
- In the case of Varia:
- When we say infrastructure, we mean the digital, physical and, most important, social systems we have developed as part of our shared practices. [From Prague CCLD presentation]
- How can this infrastructure nourish collective practices? 
- How can this infrastructure be a pedagogical space? 

## Collective as in: a clustering of partial perspectives

- When we use the word "collective", we do sometimes refer to something that we all agree on, but most of the times we are much closer to being a cluster of partial perspectives 
- In that sense, Varia contains a very situated community of practices, undoubtedly tainted by the problematics of a particular group of people (and not others)
- This presentation is written from only 2 of the 20 partial perspectives that make Varia
- We are not a collective that operates on full consensus decisions all the time, but one that allows members to be involved in different intensities and ways. 
- How to maintain a form of togetherness that is sustainable for the group as a whole, while leaving space for change, tranformation and variability? 

## Collective as in: organising togetherness

- How to organise togetherness?
- "Tyrannee of structurelessness": need for workgroups, meeting rhythms, collective agreements, collaboration tools
- common fund: a financial tool for collective buffer + non-funded activities
- but also needing to rely on others: Lurk for our mailinglists, Protonmail for our email inbox, Tele2 for the internet connection in Varia, KPN for the copper wires in the ground in Charlois

## Collective as in: a networks of networks

> A feminist server (...) [k]nows that networking is actually an awkward, promiscuous and parasitic practice

- understanding Varia as a network
- understanding our public as networks of networks
- ATNOFS: (unpack ATNOFS)

## Collective as in: being unavoidably part of an extractive global computational infrastructures 

> Computational infrastructures are complex entities shaped by different technological, social, economical and political dimensions. As is the case with any type of infrastructure, they come with embedded values. Their specificities and configurations shape the possibilities and restrictions of the whole system, defining what can be built on top of them and what not. The logics of computational infrastructures are shaped by global capital, material components, political values, and in turn shape labour relations, environmental ecosystems, as well as the political economies in which they operate. (from Bots as Digital Infrapunctures)

- examples of such computational infrastructures that we (need to) interact with through Varia: Meta (Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp), Alphabet (Google Fonts, Google Code, Gmail, Android, Google Forms), Microsoft (GitHub, Windows), Apple (iOS, Mac OS)
- struggle: having access to alternatives is a privilege, however we do strongly prefer to not rely on them.
> At the same time, we cannot ignore that it takes effort, and a great amount of privilege, to walk away from these corporate tech solutions once and for all. Ease-of-use in times of urgency; network effects; family members whose contact is dependent on the usage of mainstream social networking platforms; complicated political situations where these are sadly the most convenient choice; the need for an online presence in times of structural precarity; etc.; are all considerations that should not be discarded and are the reality for most of us. In fact, and precisely because of such considerations, we are not advocating a purist approach. We are all entangled with Big Tech, but we would prefer to critique it, put limits and eventually choose our dependencies without being forced. (from Digital Solidarity Networks)

## Collective as in: humans + more-than-humans


- interest in bots and situated automation
- resonant publishing: sharing work in progress with public and ourselves
- example of etherpump: making public with __PUBLISH__ tag
- example of logbot: logging, leaving traces in group chats

## Collective as in: collective digital reparative practices

> This pad contains examples of collective digital reparative practices, in a time where everything points to the further consolidation and accelerated normalization of the Big Tech industry (Zoom, Facebook, Slack, Microsoft Teams, Skype, etc.), a.k.a. GMAFIAZ. Other attitudes are possible! (from Digital Solidarity Networks)

- We are wary of smoothly running technology. Very often this obscures the intensive extractivism which allows it to run: appaling working conditions, depletion of natural resources, heavy environmental impact etc.
- Small-scale, community-focused and low-tech are our methods of choice not because we believe in isolationist perspectives, but because we want to give our contribution to the development of alternative approaches to everyday technology for the benefit of more than just a small minority. 
- about DSN: (unpack DSN)

## Collective as in: the possibility of open licenses

- we work with open licenses, which allows for reuse and further dissemination of tools, methods and materials
- mutliple crossing conversations: free and open source software, authorship, citation practices
- ...

[not sure how to make this more concrete, maybe with an example]