Distributed Web of Care
Code Societies, Day 13 with Taeyoon Choi
by Ying (Code Societies TA)
For the last class of the SFPC Code Societies summer session, we investigated how code and tools can challenge existing systems of power. Our teacher for this class is Taeyoon Choi, artist, educator, and co-founder of the School for Poetic Computation.
We started with a discussion on the balance between chaos and control. Code is about creating a set of rules that everyone agrees to follow. How we make decisions as a group is a kind of code. If there are no rules in place, there is chaos. Clearly, some kind of rules are needed for a functioning society, but how can we strike a balance between authoritarianism and complete anarchy? The group was interested in how to run businesses responsibly, and this led to a discussion of how SFPC is run, and the school’s transparency about its finances.
“My life is centered around certain rules that I have to follow and that sometimes I create. The joke of the day is that there are two types of people in the world: the type that like to create the rules and the type that like to follow the rules.”
We spoke about tools, and Taeyoon talked about how zines inspires him for their punk aesthetic and resistance to authority. Zines, according to Taeyoon, are ideal forms to materialize our voices, as they are not beholden to any institution or standardized way of thinking.
Internet as an Artistic Medium
Taeyoon argues that in this day and age, it is impossible to live one’s life without being in some way touched by the Internet. For those being born today, their existence on the internet precedes their decision to be. Network computation is a precondition for our being. Because technology is so knit into our social fabric, artists have a responsibility to think about how we relate to it. Not only do artists need to make work about technology, but with it as well.
Taeyoon implores us to consider it our duty to distribute content in a radical, subversive way on our own terms. So, we transition to learning about Dat, an open source protocol for distributed file sharing. Dat started off as a project to archive and publish research data, with a recent focus on decentralized applications.
Everyone was able to get dat set up on their machine, and shared a thing or two about themselves on the distributed web. With help of the two fellows from Distributed Web of Care project, cleo miao and Callil Capuzzo, Taeyoon led us through a couple of experiments in sharing files through our machines, including one where each student had a link to another student’s files, creating a ‘sharing circle’.
Taeyoon finished the class on a theme that resonated through the entire session — that our tools explicitly or implicitly color the work we produce with it. Technology is simply a metaphor to understand different power dynamics. It requires us to ask hard questions: what kind of social network do you want for yourself and what kind of social network do we need.
Dat invites us to imagine an internet where every user becomes an active citizen through self publishing, voting with their filesystems and CPU cycles. Not only does this afford us different ways of working and sharing, but perhaps also different ways of thinking, feeling, and being together.
In true pedagogical fashion, Taeyoon left us with one last piece of homework: to fork code societies and teach the community that matters to us most!