Pooling with public tech

With : Constant + Nubo -
Language : EN / FR / NL (predomanently English with informal translations)

In the framework of the SOTA fair arts Almanac 2022

This session interrogates the ethics of the digital devices, the services, platforms and softwares which we use as artists, designers, organisers and people working around the arts, to compare them with our worldviews and the way we desire to work together.

Using digital tools is an integral part of cultural practice. Explicitly or implicitly, services and tools have social and political stances expressed in their work conditions, user agreements, data policies, ecological choices. In turn, by using these tools and services we ourselves are involved with their existence and their choices, whether we endorse them or not.

Many artists and cultural workers are increasingly sympathetic with community based tools, whose source code is accessible and which are not based on data extraction or unfair work conditions. These projects offer a perspective of how to organise our digital household in healthier inter-dependence with the ecological and social views expressed by the tools. Altogether, the growing range of available free-software, open-source and community-made tools is contributing to create working ecologies that depend less and less on GAFAM and other capitalist tools.

Then again, the wish for different techno-ecologies often meets the reality of practice. For some it is possible to embrace the changes that come with using less proprietary tools, and their consequences to other facets of practice and life. For others, this remains a too big step to take, as either the dependencies by Big Tech are too rooted in daily work, or the time and effort it takes to switch to something else seems not available.

The session proposes multiple entrances into these multi-layered questions, starting from the perspectives of two organisations : Constant is an association for arts and media, with a long history in engaging in free software cultures, open source and collectively developed tools. Nubo is a cooperative which offers online hosting (’cloud’) and e-mail over which you have full personal control.

Participants will be able to approach these infrastructure issues by choosing between three different pools :

- At the Shallow Pool, where you can enter with little or no experience.

- The Medium Pool people who are already using FLOSS can exchange about their experiences.

- The Deep End wonders how to extend from a digital ecology that is already in place to other aspects of relational and organisational work.

We will propose some tools that are common to the way we work, and take some others as examples or discussion pieces. We’ll think together how the organisational work around the arts can allign better with our worldly desires, and look at F/LOSS softwares (gimp, open office, inkscape, ..) hosting and online communication services (such as : etherpad, Nextcloud, self hosting, communication tools such as jit.si/ BigBlueButton, IRC, etc.) operating systems. What are their economical and social realities and proposals and how do we relate to that ? Also we’ll discuss licenses for sharing collective work (CC4r) [1] and Guidelines of collaboration [2] that Constant is developing.

So it is a moment to be enthusiastic and critically curious about ways tech can help us to actively working together.
"Tech is not a substitute for democratic accountability, the rule of law, fairness, or stability — but it’s a means to achieve these things. (...) our best hope of solving the big coordination problems — climate change, inequality, etc. — is with free, fair, and open tech." [3]


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