[hackerspaces] An interesting point of view : "On Feminism and Microcontrollers"

Carlyn Maw carlynorama at gmail.com
Thu Oct 7 01:24:25 CEST 2010

As a woman helping run a mostly male hackerspace in LA, I guess I
gotta chime in here.

For me the point of a hackerspace is community. Community, community,
community. If it was about technology and education alone I could stay
home and look things up on the internet.  The topics I like are the
ones where we all get learn and experiment together - people not
afraid to make mistakes in front of each other. I'm trying to get us
to have more of those.

I guess I have some conjectures on why Crash Space stays mostly male,
and believe me I have been missing the XX company, but I don't think
it's something we can dwell on.  Dwelling on it makes it worse. Women
can smell desperation ;-)

-- Carly

On Sat, Oct 2, 2010 at 3:01 AM, Michel Bauwens <michelsub2004 at gmail.com> wrote:
> Some background on protocollar power and intentional design, taken from
> various sources:
> On Sat, Oct 2, 2010 at 11:04 AM, Alexandre Dulaunoy <a at foo.be> wrote:
>> For sharing with you,
>> Leah Buechley and Benjamin Mako Hill made an interesting
>> comparative paper[1] about LilyPad and Arduino.
>>   [1] http://hlt.media.mit.edu/publications/buechley_DIS_10.pdf
> Design is power: A review of issues around the concept of protocollary power
> Michel Bauwens
> 3rd October 2010
> Protocally Power is a concept developed by Alexander Galloway in his book
> Protocol, to denote the new way power and control are exercised in
> distributed networks.
> (See also, in the P2P Foundation wiki, our entries on the Architecture of
> Control and on Computing Regimes.)
> Here is the description of the concept from Alexander Galloway in his book
> Protocol:
> “Protocol is not a new word. Prior to its usage in computing, protocol
> referred to any type of correct or proper behavior within a specific system
> of conventions. It is an important concept in the area of social etiquette
> as well as in the fields of diplomacy and international relations.
> Etymologically it refers to a fly-leaf glued to the beginning of a document,
> but in familiar usage the word came to mean any introductory paper
> summarizing the key points of a diplomatic agreement or treaty.
> However, with the advent of digital computing, the term has taken on a
> slightly different meaning. Now, protocols refer specifically to standards
> governing the implementation of specific technologies. Like their diplomatic
> predecessors, computer protocols establish the essential points necessary to
> enact an agreed-upon standard of action. Like their diplomatic predecessors,
> computer protocols are vetted out between negotiating parties and then
> materialized in the real world by large populations of participants (in one
> case citizens, and in the other computer users). Yet instead of governing
> social or political practices as did their diplomatic predecessors, computer
> protocols govern how specific technologies are agreed to, adopted,
> implemented, and ultimately used by people around the world. What was once a
> question of consideration and sense is now a question of logic and physics.
> To help understand the concept of computer protocols, consider the analogy
> of the highway system. Many different combinations of roads are available to
> a person driving from point A to point B. However, en route one is compelled
> to stop at red lights, stay between the white lines, follow a reasonably
> direct path, and so on. These conventional rules that govern the set of
> possible behavior patterns within a heterogeneous system are what computer
> scientists call protocol. Thus, protocol is a technique for achieving
> voluntary regulation within a contingent environment.
> These regulations always operate at the level of coding–they encode packets
> of information so they may be transported; they code documents so they may
> be effectively parsed; they code communication so local devices may
> effectively communicate with foreign devices. Protocols are highly formal;
> that is, they encapsulate information inside a technically defined wrapper,
> while remaining relatively indifferent to the content of information
> contained within. Viewed as a whole, protocol is a distributed management
> system that allows control to exist within a heterogeneous material milieu.
> It is common for contemporary critics to describe the Internet as an
> unpredictable mass of data–rhizomatic and lacking central organization. This
> position states that since new communication technologies are based on the
> elimination of centralized command and hierarchical control, it follows that
> the world is witnessing a general disappearance of control as such.
> This could not be further from the truth. I argue in this book that protocol
> is how technological control exists after decentralization. The “after” in
> my title refers to both the historical moment after decentralization has
> come into existence, but also–and more important–the historical phase after
> decentralization, that is, after it is dead and gone, replaced as the
> supreme social management style by the diagram of distribution.”
> The following citations confirm the role of Design, and the intention behind
> it, as a function of Protocollary Power:
> Mitch Ratfliffe:
> “Yes, networks are grown. But the medium they grow in, in this case the
> software that supports them, is not grown but designed & architected. The
> social network ecosystem of the blogosphere was grown, but the blog software
> that enabled it was designed. Wikis are a socially grown structure on top of
> software that was designed. It’s fortuitous that the social network
> structures that grew on those software substrates turn out to have
> interesting & useful properties.
> With a greater understanding of which software structures lead to which
> social network topologies & what the implications are for the robustness,
> innovativeness, error correctiveness, fairness, etc. of those various
> topologies, software can be designed that will intentionally & inevitably
> lead to the growth of political social networks that are more robust,
> innovative, fair & error correcting.”
> Mitch Kapor on ‘Politics is Architecture‘
> “Politics is architecture”: The architecture (structure and design) of
> political processes, not their content, is determinative of what can be
> accomplished. Just as you can’t build a skyscraper out of bamboo, you can’t
> have a participatory democracy if power is centralized, processes are
> opaque, and accountability is limited.”
> Fred Stutzman on Pseudo-Govermental Decisions in Social Software
> “When one designs social software, they are forced to make
> pseudo-governmental decisions about how the contained ecosystem will behave.
> Examples of these decisions include limits on friending behavior, limits on
> how information in a profile can be displayed, and how access to information
> is restricted in the ecosystem. These rules create and inform the structural
> aspects of the ecosystem, causing participants in the ecosystem to behave a
> specific way.
> As we use social software more, and social software more neatly integrates
> with our lives, a greater portion of our social rules will come to be
> enforced by the will of software designers. Of course, this isn’t new – when
> we elected to use email, we agree to buy into the social consequences of
> email. Perhaps because we are so used to making tradeoffs when we adopt
> social technology, we don’t notice them anymore. However, as social
> technology adopts a greater role in mediating our social experience, it will
> become very important to take a critical perspective in analyzing how the
> will of designers change us.”
> Here’s an example of the implementation of social Values in Technical Code:
> “In a paper about the hacker community, Hannemyr compares and contrasts
> software produced in both open source and commercial realms in an effort to
> deconstruct and problematize design decisions and goals. His analysis
> provides us with further evidence regarding the links between social values
> and software code. He concludes:
> “Software constructed by hackers seem to favor such properties as
> flexibility, tailorability, modularity and openendedness to facilitate
> on-going experimentation. Software originating in the mainstream is
> characterized by the promise of control, completeness and immutability”
> (Hannemyr, 1999).
> To bolster his argument, Hannemyr outlines the striking differences between
> document mark-up languages (like HTML and Adobe PDF), as well as various
> word processing applications (such as TeX and Emacs verses Microsoft Word)
> that have originated in open and closed development environments. He
> concludes that “the difference between the hacker’s approach and those of
> the industrial programmer is one of outlook: between an agoric, integrated
> and holistic attitude towards the creation of artifacts and a proprietary,
> fragmented and reductionist one” (Hannemyr, 1999). As Hannemyr’s analysis
> reveals, the characteristics of a given piece of software frequently reflect
> the attitude and outlook of the programmers and organizations from which it
> emerges”
> Armin Medosch shows how corporate-owned Social Media platforms are
> Re-introducing centralization through the back door:
> “In media theory much has been made of the one-sided and centralised
> broadcast structure of television and radio. the topology of the broadcast
> system, centralised, one-to-many, one-way, has been compared unfavourable to
> the net, which is a many-to-many structure, but also one-to-many and
> many-to-one, it is, in terms of a topology, a highly distributed or mesh
> network. So the net has been hailed as finally making good on the promise of
> participatory media usage. What so called social media do is to re-introduce
> a centralised structure through the backdoor. While the communication of the
> users is ‘participatory’ and many-to-many, and so on and so forth, this is
> organised via a centralised platform, venture capital funded, corporately
> owned. Thus, while social media bear the promise of making good on the
> emancipatory power of networked communication, in fact they re-introduce the
> producer-consumer divide on another layer, that of host/user. they perform a
> false aufhebung of the broadcast paradigm. Therefore I think the term
> prosumer is misleading and not very useful. while the users do produce
> something, there is nothing ‘pro’ as in professional in it.
> This leads to a second point. The conflict between labour and capital has
> played itself out via mechanization and rationalization, scientific
> management and its refinement, such as the scientific management of office
> work, the proletarisation of wrongly called ‘white collar work’, the
> replacement of human labour by machines in both the factory and the office,
> etc. What this entailed was an extraction of knowledge from the skilled
> artisan, the craftsman, the high level clerk, the analyst, etc., and its
> formalisation into an automated process, whereby this abstraction decidedly
> shifts the balance of power towards management. Now what happened with the
> transition from Web 1.0 to 2.0 is a very similar process. Remember the
> static homepage in html? You needed to be able to code a bit, actually for
> many non-geeks it was probably the first satisfactory coding experience
> ever. You needed to set the links yourself and check the backlinks. Now a
> lot of that is being done by automated systems. The linking knowledge of
> freely acting networked subjects has been turned into a system that suggests
> who you link with and that established many relationships involuntarily. It
> is usually more work getting rid of this than to have it done for you.
> Therefore Web 2.0 in many ways is actually a dumbing down of people, a
> deskilling similar to what has happened in industry over the past 200 years.
> Wanted to stay short and precise, but need to add, social media is a
> misnomer. What social media would be are systems that are collectively owned
> and maintained by their users, that are built and developed according to
> their needs and not according to the needs of advertisers and sinister
> powers who are syphoning off the knowledge generated about social
> relationships in secret data mining and social network analysis processes.
> So there is a solution, one which I continue to advocate: lets get back to
> creating our own systems, lets use free and open source software for server
> infrastructures and lets socialise via a decentralised landscape of smaller
> and bigger hubs that are independently organised, rather than feeding the
> machine …” (IDC mailing list, Oct 31, 2009)
> Harry Halpin insists that Protocols are Designed by People:
> “Galloway is correct to point out that there is control in the internet, but
> instead of reifying the protocol or even network form itself, an ontological
> mistake that would be like blaming capitalism on the factory, it would be
> more suitable to realise that protocols embody social relationships. Just as
> genuine humans control factories, genuine humans – with names and addresses
> – create protocols. These humans can and do embody social relations that in
> turn can be considered abstractions, including those determined by the
> abstraction that is capital. But studying protocol as if it were first and
> foremost an abstraction without studying the historic and dialectic movement
> of the social forms which give rise to the protocols neglects Marx’s insight
> that
> Technologies are organs of the human brain, created bythe human hand; the
> power of knowledge, objectified.
> Bearing protocols’ human origination in mind, there is no reason why they
> must be reified into a form of abstract control when they can also be
> considered the solution to a set of problems faced by individuals within
> particular historical circumstances. If they now operate as abstract forms
> of control, there is no reason why protocols could not also be abstract
> forms of collectivity. Instead of hoping for an exodus from protocols by
> virtue of art, perhaps one could inspect the motivations, finances, and
> structure of the human agents that create them in order to gain a more
> strategic vantage point. Some of these are hackers, while others are
> government bureaucrats or representatives of corporations – although it
> would seem that hackers usually create the protocols that actually work and
> gain widespread success. To the extent that those protocols are accepted,
> this class that I dub the ‘immaterial aristocracy’ governs the net. It
> behoves us to inspect the concept of digital sovereignty in order to
> discover which precise body or bodies have control over it.”
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