Introduction + Stretching Acts

*・゜゚・*:.。..。.:*・*:.。. ☀️ Warming-up ☀️  *・*:.。. .。.:*・゜゚・*

<Introduction to RDI - Peter>

Before we start with the introduction of today, we will share the schedule of and some links. 

And before we do that, there is a question we want to put on the table: 
This session, like other RDI sessions will be documented as part of a publication. Would you be comfortable with that? You are free to use the multiple pad tabs to multiply/diffract yourself if you prefer. We can speak about at the end of the day, while being in a video call together. 

Schedule of today

11:00 - 13:00 Introduction + Stretching Acts [here on the pad]
13:00 - 14:00 BREAK
14:00 - 17:00 Conversation [on BBB] + Axes of Inquiry [here on the pad]

Links for today (this pad) (today's BBB) (announcement of today's event) (Varia's website) (Minimal Viable Learning research trajectory home)

Oke let's start with the introduction of today, ready? :)

In previous Reclaiming Digital Infrastructures events, we have been using Etherpads to keep notes from conversations or to collectively write stories. The Etherpad has become a favourite tool for many organisations who use it for offline & online note taking, generating ad-hoc workshops, writing collective emails, applications, reports.
We are currently on an instance of Etherpad hosted on Gouwstraat 3, Charlois, Rotterdam. It is hosted by Varia, an artist collective interested in everyday technology. Varia is a group of 16 people that works transdisciplinarily, following feminist methods, through collective work moments and events. However, a year and two months ago we stopped being able to host physical events easily.

As we all scrambled to find ways to mediate our physical presences in a digital unison, and as Big Tech further solidified its reach in all areas of life, work, care-taking, romance, the modest pad became a place of resistence. In the abundance of lists circulating with tips, some Varia members joined the pad choir to start the Digital Solidarity Networks pad. The free software tool list aims to be an asynchronous resource for knowledge exchange.

Let's zoom in a bit on this particular pad and read a few snippets from it:

The Digital Solidarity Networks pad evolved into a slow writing space with engagements across scales (individuals, groups, small organisations, institutes), timezones and degrees of technical closeness. Sometimes a number of people would be hanging around whom we didn't know, their presence felt like a small gesture of togetherness.

The pad became a space of togetherness when we were quite desperate for social encounters. The first event hosted on Etherpad was organised as part of the Read & Repair series and co-hosted by artist and educator Amy Pickles. During the session, Amy formulated exercises in advance and pasted them one by one, while keeping note of time. (In a similar way as we're coming together right now.) From a distance, on a Sunday morning, participants to the session, some of which were using the pads for the first time, joined in answering to the text and to each other in a way that allowed us to determine our own environment. While joining the event, we could talk to people in our surroundings, play music, make tea, take a break if needed.

Let's have a look at one of the first session pads:

Also bigger scale institutions started to show interest in pad practices. In a work session with Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam, we were asked to introduce our methods and reflect on the collective technological space that Etherpads generate.

Below is a snippet that introduced one of the exercises that was done that day:

These experiments were carried by Varia members into institutional educational settings (mainly art schools) where the pad became an escape from the rectangularisation of online classes. Sometimes the pad was used as a central meeting place during a whole class, other times it was used as a parallel space next to a videocall-based space. Although we're not convinced at all about the Etherpad as a main educational environment, we were curious about the impact it had on the feeling of togetherness and viability of an online class. It became a way to re-think the sessions we had together on MS Teams.
This is the introduction text of a Digital Media class with 3rd year Graphic Design students in May 2020:

A small thing that appeared was the usage of the double slash (//) as an act of formatting in the moment which was started by one student and suddenly taken over by the rest of the group. It was interesting to experience how structure was not inscribed by software but generated through collective dynamics.

Let's have a look at another snippet from a Etherpad hosted class, this time for first year BA students who were just encountering Autonomous Practice for the first time:

In other types of learning environments pads were used in combination with other technologies, such as radio streams. In the workshop Temporary Riparian Zone, Cristina Cochior and Angeliki Diakrousi hosted a streaming workshop combining audio streams with textual streams. Combining both spaces (audio and text) into one interface created a collaborative multi-dimensional learning space. Participants installed radio streaming software, wrote material they would be performing on the pad and took part of a radio stream with multiple mountpoints.

Let's have a look at their interface. If you can come back to this pad in a minute, we can continue together again.

The pad formed the perfect ground for the exploration of what minimal viable learning can be. With its un-invasive attitude, it became an environment that we have been using in many different situations and contexts, on different timelines and with different group sizes.

At the end of last year, we had the opportunity to further dive into our everyday technological practices in a residency at the School of Commons. It was the place where we started to work on the formulation and the understanding of minimal viable learning.

In the final wrap up text we formulated it in the following way:

Or how someone else phrased it:
In the everyday practices of Varia, we work intimately with Etherpad in different ways, not only as users or user-learners, but also as server administrators that keep an Etherpad running. The particular Etherpad that we are using right now, is hosted on a server that we are running from our collective-space in Rotterdam-South. Combining Practices of self-hosting with collective sys(ter)-admin work, means that the services running on our server are subject to cosmic events, spilled drinks and personal energies. 

This results in emails such as:

And status logs such as: (pasted below)

Based on these experiences and as preparation of today's session, we started drafting a minimal viable learning minifesto. The minifesto is written as an text-based operator to demand space for: 

It is the first time that we share this text with a public, we're very curious to see how it resonates with you all.

We propose to take 10 minutes to go through the minifesto together now and annotate it with any kinds of thoughts, questions, question marks, tensions, examples, etc!
There will be time in the afternoon to further unpack specific statements that are made. 

[after 10 minutes]

Thanks for that! 

This brought us to the end of the introduction. 

We will continue with the stretching activities of this morning, before we take a lunch break at 13:00.


While preparing for today, there were many ideas for things that we could do together. 

At a certain point it was clear for us that we really wanted to invite you to a series of stretching activities, that return to the things we discussed above into practice. Translating thinking into practice is therefore not only a way for us to share experiences with you, but also a way to invite into a thinking space in your own way. We will continue on this line in the afternoon, by inviting you to formulate new stretching activities.

In the coming hour, we will go through a series of stretching activities that all emerged from previous pad-based collective moments, in different types of learning environments.

Crisscross reading (⏲ 5 minutes)
→ Read the lines 107, 241, 303, 380 in this order.

*・゜゚・*:.。..。.:*・*:.。. ✒️__Collective Writing__ *・*:.。. .。.:*・゜゚・*

A padtiquette to this Etherpad 
We propose to read, edit and engage with the collective conditions of this digital place. What collective writing protocols do we need with this group?

→ Some things to keep in mind...
Let's all scroll to line 10 of this pad and take a few minutes to edit them.

*    .  *      .        .  *   
  ..    *    .      *  .  ..  *
 *    *            .      *   *
.     *  Magic Words      *    
   .        .        .   *    .
 .      .        .            *
   .     *      *        *    .

Magic Words were brought into the software ecology of Etherpad by Michael Murtaugh, a member of the Brussels-based arts organisation Constant. Magic Words are used to enact certain commands; using __PUBLISH__ on this pad indexes it on this page:

They are little spells that can be used anywhere on the pad to indicate how we want to interact with the text. We would like to think together with you what kind of social incantations magic words can evoke. What kind of relations between text & reader, reader & reader, place & text, place & text & reader could the magic words provoke? If we see magic words like small instructions that can be activated during a collective reading experience, how would that affect our being together?

We will be adding, using and reusing new magic words during the reading time that will follow. 

.  -    * Spellbook for Reading through Magic Words .  -  * ..  

Here are a few examples of what the magic words could look like. Think of them as launching a specific kind of interaction with the text fragment that it sits next to. This will be our collective spellbook that everyone can add, edit or use at will.

__CANWEDISCUSS__ If a sentence or paragraph is raising questions or you would like to know what others think about it, we can use this incantation to take it with us into discussion.

__ALOUD__ This magic word is used to encourage those encountering it to read aloud the text fragment that it sits next to.

__REUSE__ This magic word invites the reuse of the text fragment that it sits next to in an unexpected context.

Take 5 minutes to think about other possible __MAGICWORDS__ you could add to the spellbook. You can continue doing this at any point of this session. 

In the next part of this session we will unpack the phrases minimal viable and viable learning. We selected two texts that we can read together and through which we can activate our thinking about these terms. We will start with Minimal Definitions (tl;dr version), by Jentery Sayers (2016) followed by Teaching to Transgress: Engaged Pedagogy, by bell hooks (1994).

We encountered the Minimal Computing blog a couple of years ago. Minimal Computing is a workgroup of the Global Outlook::Digital Humanities network. The main focus of the work is to engage with technologies in relation to the field of Digital Humanities. 

The ideas around minimalism in the Minimal Computing blog resonated with the technological practices of Varia and provided us with handles for reflection. We must admit that the "thought pieces" on the blog trigger an itch, to which we responded by adding the "viable".

Let's read together one of the thought pieces in which Jentery Sayers, who works at the University of Victoria (US), proposes a listing of minimal and maximal technological practices.

While reading, you can use the magic words above to insert into the texts that we will introduce shortly. Feel free to use any and as many of them. We will take as much time we need and notify you in the chat when we continue to the next part.

In the next part of this session we would like to read a few paragraphs from Chapter 1 of the book Teaching to Transgress by bell hooks, author, professor, feminist, and social activist. In the text, she introduces ideas around engaged pedagogy as forms of self-actualization and self-conscious engagement. Although the text is written primarily from the perspective of a teacher, it questions the mode of engagement in learning environments and asks how these cross with the different living environments. We think the text can speak also to learners (which we consider ourselves to be).

We will paste the reading below, you can use the magic words again and engage with the text in different ways.

*・゜゚・*:.。..。.:*・*:.。. 🔥🌧️ Cooling down 🔥💦 *・*:.。. .。.:*・゜゚・*

Close your eyes ⏲ for 5 seconds ⏲ and when you open them follow as below:
→ Focus on the in between, how much space is there in between each sentence;

Close your eyes again, breathe in and out ⏲ for 5 seconds ⏲
→ Focus on the colours on the pad; then focus on the white space in between;

Close your eyes again ⏲  for 5 seconds ⏲ 
→ Which words to you encounter? focus on one;

Close your eyes again ⏲ for 10 seconds ⏲ let your thoughts drift with spontaneous thoughts, impressions...
→ Look at the most distant spot you can see away from your laptop.