title: Collective Infrastructures [let's think of a better title ;)]
language: en
author: Varia
subtitle: Natural Intelligence Lab @ Fiber
date: 12 March 2022


Page breaks are inserted:

We could approach our presentation as a zine? :) Instead of making "slides" we make pages of an A5 zine? 
Also as a way to present in a medium that values dissemination, DIY culture; i think that could be a nice format to speak through.


<section class="situated">


**Note on situated context**

In the middle of projects, server maintainance, spreadsheet care taking and many many chat messages, we find ourselves now here with you. 

This XXX holds a XXX of different understandings of the term "collective". We are speaking from the situated context of Varia, a cultural member based organisation in Rotterdam, which brings a group of 20 people together who work with artists, designers, programmers, writers and educators. This group holds different collective ways of working, thinking, living and imagining, which each can be unfolded and will render into a range of understandings of the word "collective". The shared reality of Varia includes, amongst other things, a collective infrastructure (providing digital, print and electronical facilities), a resource sharing initiative (Digital Solidarity Networks), a collective European project around feminist servers (A Traversal Network of Feminist Servers) and custom tools that shape collective work (octomode, logbot).

Our perspectives are partial. We are just two voices of the many others and our observations will most likely be differ from others who are co-shaping the multiple collective realities we are part of.

[ ]{.break}

**Voices**: Cristina Cochior, Manetta Berends, octomode

**Other resonating voices**: the other Varia members (Julie Boschat Thorez, Thomas Walskaar, Amy Pickles, Alice Strete, Luke Murphy, Danny van der Kleij-Thirdas, Niek Hilkman, Simon Browne, Roel Roscam Abbing, Dennis de Bel, Angeliki Diakrousi, Joana Chicau, Lídia Pereira, Silvio Lorusso, Artemis Gryllaki, Yoana Buzova, Mathijs van Oosterhoudt, Julie Bande), the Varia server, the surrounding networks of networks

**In the context of**: Reassemble Lab: Natural Intelligence

**In the moment of**: 12 March 2022

**With many thanks to**: Fiber. Thanks for inviting us to be part of the Natural Intelligence program, we're very happy to contribute to the collective infrastructures track and share thoughts with you from the collective practice of Varia. 


# Collective infrastructures

When thinking of the word "collective", there are many shapes, topologies and metaphors that can be used to visualise or imagine how a group of people comes together. There are "networks", "webs", "nets", "circles", "clusters", "knots", ... Each one operating togetherness in different ways. They transform throughout time, have different rhythms, struggles, situated contexts, organisational models, ...

What, how, when and where is something "collective"? 
Who is part of the "we" when we talk about a collective reality? 
What roles do the different entities, both human and more-than-human, play?

Let's unfold different understandings, feelings and XXX of the term "collective" in relation to "infrastructures".

## Collective as in: shared authorship

![Imagine this *collective* formation as a XXX [insert a shape, metaphor, drawing?]...](https://vvvvvvaria.org/~mb/placeholder.png)

Let us start by introducing the environment in which this zine is being written. We (as in Cristina and Manetta) are both writing, editing and proof reading each others text. Our authorship merges, we author this text together. The ideas and phrases we use are obviously not ours. They have been shaped and tranformed throughout time and experiences. 

We write collectively using an online real-time text editor called Etherpad. Etherpad, or Etherpad-Lite as the software is called, is a free and open source which first appeared in 2008. It uses a realtime synchronization library called *EasySync* that shares a history with Google Docs. Etherpad is a free and open source tool that uses synchronization algorithms to merge our textual changes together. Change for change. 

We transform the writing into a zine using a self-made tool called octomode. [expand]

## Collective as in: the perspective of "everyday technology"

![Imagine this *collective* formation as a XXX [insert a shape, metaphor, drawing?]...](https://vvvvvvaria.org/~mb/placeholder.png)

We share an interest to approach technology from the perspective of the "everyday": *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. If we speak of everyday technology, *whose* everyday are we then speaking about?

Everyday technology means reconsidering the hegemony of high tech: cheap, artisanal solutions are our method of choice. 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 keeping in mind multiple and entangled perspectives, needs, and aspirations when it comes to the understanding of a technical object. 

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. 

## Collective as in: being part of multiple temporalities

![Imagine this *collective* formation as a XXX [insert a shape, metaphor, drawing?]...](https://vvvvvvaria.org/~mb/placeholder.png)

- 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

![Imagine this *collective* formation as a XXX [insert a shape, metaphor, drawing?]...](https://vvvvvvaria.org/~mb/placeholder.png)

- 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

![Imagine this *collective* formation as a XXX [insert a shape, metaphor, drawing?]...](https://vvvvvvaria.org/~mb/placeholder.png)

- 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

![Imagine this *collective* formation as a XXX [insert a shape, metaphor, drawing?]...](https://vvvvvvaria.org/~mb/placeholder.png)

- 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

![Imagine this *collective* formation as a XXX [insert a shape, metaphor, drawing?]...](https://vvvvvvaria.org/~mb/placeholder.png)

> 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 infrastructure

![Imagine this *collective* formation as a XXX [insert a shape, metaphor, drawing?]...](https://vvvvvvaria.org/~mb/placeholder.png)

> 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) [maybe too much?]

- 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)

> 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)

- struggle: having access to alternatives is a privilege, however we do strongly prefer to not rely on them.

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

![Imagine this *collective* formation as a XXX [insert a shape, metaphor, drawing?]...](https://vvvvvvaria.org/~mb/placeholder.png)


- 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

![Imagine this *collective* formation as a XXX [insert a shape, metaphor, drawing?]...](https://vvvvvvaria.org/~mb/placeholder.png)

> 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

![Imagine this *collective* formation as a XXX [insert a shape, metaphor, drawing?]...](https://vvvvvvaria.org/~mb/placeholder.png)

- 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]
[maybe we can invite the reader/listener to reuse, modify or (re)publish this zine? putting open licenses into practice? :)]
[can we describe how we like to imagine this zine to be reused?]