and Always Unfinished Space Making
Η Διακομιστής (Idiakomistis)
Networks of care and trust
Seismography of Artistic Practices
Possible Ongoingness Speculative Libre Intersectional
With / in Limits
A Traversal Network of Feminist
Servers The Communities
This tiny dictionary was born on rosa, a small yet significant feminist server that traveled to six communities in different European cities in 2022, as part of the project A Traversal Network of Feminist Servers (ATNOFS). rosa’s Ecofeminist Dictionary (rED) is the result of many conversations I had with those who have logged in and out of rosa in the past year.
While working on a PhD research project looking into how communities of practice try to diminish the environmental impact of their network infrastructures, I started collecting terms: permacomputing, collapse informatics, salvage computing, convivial technology, low tech, and more.1 What struck me was that coining terms seemed to be the domain of white men, which meant that conversations about this topic happened in the terms of a rather homogeneous demographic. However beautiful the wording, the lack of diversity was painful. When Wendy van Wynsberghe tagged me in a message on Mastodon about a call for proposals, I decided to join what turned out to be ATNOFS to find out what the practices around feminist servers have to say about a smaller environmental footprint and to find out if there is such a thing as an ecofeminist server.
I traversed each chapter – hypha (RO), Feminist Hack Meetings (GR), esc medien kunst labor (AT), Varia (NL), Constant (BE) and LURK (NL/UK) - with this focus, picking up on different threads throughout the project. Towards the end, I asked each community to suggest a term that could reflect their practice. Not as an act of territoriality, of coining a word, but as an attempt to deterritorialize the language around sustainability and ICT, to speak about it in our own words. This attention to language and wordings was a common thread throughout the project, a (re)claiming of space by (re)naming, speaking in and on our own terms with each other when logged on rosa. This text is a republishing of the original dictionary 2 in hypertext format so you can traverse it in different ways.
Thank you to all who took the time to hang out and talk. It was so enjoyable, I forgot I was working. While writing I realized that representing these conversations perfectly is impossible, so I tried to find my balance on the thin line between ‘you had to be there’ and quoting people word for word, but I cannot resist this one, from a recorded conversation between me, Alice Strete, and Cristina Cochior:
“M: maybe it’s time we return… we’ve been away for 25 minutes. I had lots of stuff to discuss but we sort of meandered. That’s OK, I didn’t want to be very structured with questions like ‘what is a feminist server?’ and then note down your answer and copy it into my thesis.
A: we also don’t have an answer :)”
Ecofeminist and Always Unfinished Space Making
Based on two conversations with Sergiu Nisioi and Anca Bucur of hypha.
The first thing that surfaced during my discussions with hypha is a confrontation with the paradox of sustainable and feminist ICT. hypha acknowledges that network technologies are deeply patriarchal and have a patriarchal history that continues to spread unequally in the world. True autonomy and environmental sustainability are impossible in this context, you are always enmeshed in patriarchal, capitalist, and unsustainable systems, so the only thing you can do is to make do with what you have, with what is already there. This acknowledgement doesn’t mean surrendering, but functions as a catalyst for doing technology otherwise, for possible ongoingness.
For hypha the practices developed around rosa made it clear that rosa is a feminist server not because of any specific technology or tool, but because of how we engaged with each other, how rosa gave us a common space. This common space was rooted in feminist ways of thinking and theorizing about the world. This involves the idea of care — to have something together that we — the people around rosa — can take care of, and in doing this, we create occasions to reinforce our community, to know each other better, to know about the space and how to use it. Examples of this care include paying attention to issues around consent and understanding what we are each comfortable giving and receiving. It’s like a house: what’s important is how we’re collectively deciding to live in it, not the house itself. Because of this, hypha didn’t want to focus their chapter on providing technical knowledge to others to self host, but on hanging out together, learning to share this space, and figuring out how we want to use it. It’s a space to collectively take care of; we’re not focusing on the tech but on the community it gives space to.
This space-making is always unfinished and ongoing. In hypha’s context there is no funding, which means that such an endeavor can only be carried forward by a collective of volunteers with little time on their hands. It’s a financial problem. Ongoingness relies on a very delicate balance of giving and taking. The risk of tasks becoming too heavy a burden is high, and with this the risk of irritations and conflict. Setting up any kind of technological infrastructure cannot fall on the shoulders of one person and requires a gradual process of consolidation in a heterogeneous group bringing together different backgrounds and types of knowledge; it’s an ongoing process of learning from each other. It can only converge in a local and specific way. hypha doesn’t intend to copy practices from elsewhere and cannot afford to either.
“While urging for depriving the technological apparatus of its classist and gendered strains and vocabularies, hypha stands for a knowledge situated collective emancipation. It intends to carry workshops and lectures, taking on new-materialist, eco-feminist, hacktivist possibilities of software actualizations and embodiments.” — hypha, 2022.3
Which brings me to ecofeminism, which has always linked feminism with environmentalism and decoloniality, without prioritizing one over the others but showing how they are interrelated4. hypha’s space-making is informed by ecofeminist and decolonial thought. That means not copying technology and practices or borrowing language from the west, which are meant to scale to a global level and are based on digital extractivism. Instead, they see their practice as a reconfiguring of scale, thinking through digital spaces in a situated and local way, important in disseminating and sharing knowledge. They are in the process of learning about setting up and maintaining online shared spaces with queer and marginalized groups, with a decolonial way of doing.
Perhaps, hypha mused, the only way to go about things locally is to stay on a local area network (LAN) and only much later connect multiple local networks together, but first just to make a local server and connect to it.
Η Διακομιστής (Idiakomistis)
Based on two conversations with Mara Karagianni, Artemis Gryllaki and Aggeliki Diakrousi of Feminist Hack Meetings.
When I asked Feminist Hack Meetings (FHM) about their infrastructure and their ways of thinking through its ecological impact I was confronted with some assumptions I had to get rid off. FHM doesn’t have an infrastructure, and even if it did, it doesn’t have a space to put that infrastructure in. Even if it had a space, they haven’t had time to think about the environmental impact of their work because they have been struggling to find time to focus on something that is more urgent in their context: making space in Athens for feminist ways of understanding tech literacy. Local feminist groups are mostly focused on community building in which technology doesn’t play an important role. Local hackerspaces haven’t been very open to feminist practices. FHM received hostile reactions to the language they used; for instance calling a server ‘feminist’ and their translation of the word ‘server’ into Greek, η διακομιστής, with one part of the word gendered female and the other male. This is unorthodox but meaningful to FHM because in Greek the female version of a word sounds smaller or less significant than the male, less valued or valuable. They wanted to challenge the associations of gendered language and of gender and technology. Someone from a local hackerspace accused them of violating the language. There were many more similar anecdotes. They did not expect such hostile responses to their work.
FHM puts a lot of care into translation. They want to break with the idea that ICT is only for experts, that it is hard. For non-native English speakers the jargon involved in server administration can be an obstacle to learning new skills, therefore, during the FHM chapter in Athens, all presentations were in Greek, which were live translated into English. The workshops were in English but with a live Greek translation. This greatly improved accessibility and because the live translations slowed down the pace of things with regular pauses, the audience had more time to process what was being said. It gave people time to reflect. This was a very positive experience. There was a lack of infrastructure though. Because the space didn’t have a proper mixer, the streaming was very complex, seamful like patchwork computing but taking a toll on human time and energy. There was no WiFi either at that moment, meaning they had to use three phone hotspots for their network connections. This became such a complex situation that at one point they accidentally streamed both languages simultaneously, but only very briefly. Someone listening said it was kind of beautiful.
Networks of Care and Trust
There is so much work to do; ecological considerations are not the top priority. How can you rethink your network infrastructure in environmental ways if you don’t have any infrastructure to begin with? The work is done under difficult circumstances and this is a heavy burden to carry for all those involved. Yet FHM cultivates a very valuable and inspiring way of working With / in Limits. They are a very lightweight organization, being nomadic and sharing resources with other organizations for lack of their own infrastructure. It has resulted in FHM being embedded in a network of care and trust with a long history in feminist tech skill-sharing. They are connected to systerserver, which “offers services to its network of feminist, queer and antipatriarchal folks.”5 Systerserver was launched early 2005 by Genderchangers, “a group of women and women-identified gender minorities, started at the ASCII hacklab around 1999”6, who:
“focus on free and open source software as a political decision. We share our technical skills in the same spirit. In this way, DIY expands into DIT: Do It Together. Things can break and it’s fun!” — The Genderchangers Manifesto, 2009.7
Genderchangers started the Eclectic Tech Carnival (/ETC) in 2002, “a gathering of feminists who critically explore and develop everyday skills and information technologies in the context of free software and open hardware.”8 /ETC was hosted in Athens in 2019, which is when the idea for FHM took shape. Through systerserver they are connected to mur.at9, a grassroots ‘art server farm’ in Graz where we took server-selfies during the esc chapter. Two members of FHM are part of Varia and they are connected to Constant through, for instance, the sharing of their Big Blue Button video conferencing platform. This network is thoroughly connected to many people participating in ATNOFS and beyond. So FHM asks: why would we need a server anyway? This network of care and trust is exactly what they are trying to continue, feed, and expand.
Based on two conversations with Roel Roscam Abbing, Lídia Pereira, and Aymeric Mansoux of LURK.
LURK mostly works on their servers and services with very little time and, up until very recently, no budget so, “everything is working on scraps, DIY and tons of tons of gaffer tape.” One of the servers that was running the mailing list used to be just hack on top of hack to keep it running. It only started to look properly administered quite recently. I don’t think anyone in the LURK community notices, but from the administrator point of view, it feels like one of those super fragile games where it’s all in a very fine balance… touch one wrong piece and it all collapses: Jenga Computing. The word jenga is derived from the Swahili word – kujenga – ‘to build’, but for LURK, Jenga refers to a fragile balance. It relates to the diagram they made for their chapter’s workshop. It was called precipice workflow. There is a logic behind what they do, but they are constantly trying to make room for something that takes time and is complicated, yet often situations force them to act quickly.
Building things from scraps and (making do)[#making-do] with what they can find made them think of a 2020 Mastodon toot by Diana Thayer about a future with two major camps of techno-radicals: librists and junkers. The description of the junkers especially resonated with LURK.
“librists – actually, libre-ists – believe in ethical works from the ground up. they operate far-flung rare earth repositories and small-scale manufacturies which produce artisanal computers. wood finish, decent transistor count, moddable, open source. in many ways: the dream of open hardware.
Junkers take what exists. the logistics of producing electronics are slow at best and critically unreliable the rest of the time, so junkers repair machines left by the capitalists, it’s shit tech made shittier by age, but there’s plenty of it so at least you never run out of spares.
‘That’s comcast tech,’ a librist says with disgust.‘Zero net waste op,’ the junker replies dismissively.” — Diana Thayer – 202010
LURK’s Mastodon instance requires a more powerful machine, for which LURK is supported by Greenhost, but for their back-up server and Agnes, which is running xmpp, the mailinglist and mumble, they reuse old hardware. Even though this initially wasn’t driven by an ecological motive, it results in a smaller footprint. The production of hardware is responsible for most of the resource use and energy consumption in a device’s lifecycle, meaning that most energy is already consumed before a device is turned on for the first time. 11 Being frugal with energy is of course a good idea, but it can never compensate for the energy used during a device’s production: buying a more efficient machine is not a solution (unless it concerns a device that uses more energy during its use-phase than during its production, such as a kettle). Next to that, working with older hardware means working With / in Limits. Especially on Agnes, everything needs to be lean because it doesn’t have a lot of power. They don’t use virtualisation, for instance, because it uses too many resources. Not optimizing is not acceptable. They’ve always considered that as simple ethics — not doing it would be wasteful.
LURK traces the ethics of anti-wastefulness back to practices from 25 years ago. At that time hacker communities repurposed old machines and discarded hardware by putting Linux on it. A lot of places, like Access Space in Sheffield and Amsterdam Subversive Center for Information Interchange (ASCII),12 were using this approach. At that time it was more anti-consumerism than environmental activism: giving a second life to these things and giving them to people who couldn’t afford a new machine. Things have changed a lot since then though: old machines are still fine for low level tasks, but crapware such as bloated websites, video conferencing tools, and office suites ruin this potential for the average user. For servers it can still work, depending on what types of services you are running. Our conversation paused briefly, then LURK’s junker ethos was expressed thus:
“We are not forecasting about collapse, we are not environmentally friendly by design, we are mirroring the shit we are in. We’re trying to make do with bits and pieces.” — Lurk, 2022
They don’t profile themselves as a feminist server, but the way they approach the Code of Conduct (CoC) and Terms of Service (ToS)13 of their Mastodon instance as living documents that need to be performed is clearly rooted in feminist practice. These texts are constantly updated based on what the moderators experience. LURK is attentive to how these documents work in two directions, relying on users flagging problems to moderators, as well as relying on the wordings of their CoC and ToS making users feel either encouraged or discouraged to report certain things to the moderators, especially things that are hard to describe in a set of rules; micro-aggressions such as being made to feel invisible, regularly being corrected on details, or subtle sub-toots only recognizable as such by the one targeted. LURK wants to pay attention to this intangible unease you can experience in online social spaces, so people feel more legitimized to mention it to the moderators.
LURK started experimenting with a model for financial sustainability of their services through voluntary donations by users via Open Collective14, a legal and financial toolbox for grassroots groups. They try to test and create a precedent that can hopefully help normalize paying for services that commercial actors are able to offer for free because of their business models based on user surveillance, targeted advertisement, and data brokering. LURK’s funds support labor instead of hardware and are visibilizing normally invisible labor to help improve things “one jenga block at a time”. LURK succeeded in receiving trust from a group of people who feel at home on their servers. They don’t consider themselves a shelter but do believe there is something happening, something consistent, people tend to stick around.
This description is based on two discussions I had with Cristina Cochior, Alice Strete, Manetta Berends, Amy Pickles, and Julia Bande of Varia.
Varia prepared rosa before the start of the project, during a series of Thursday evening get-togethers. During these meetings a lot of thought was given to what functionality would be needed, a careful selection of tools to accommodate ways of working together. It was clear that this wouldn’t be a simple install party. rosa would not start from scratch, nothing ever does, but instead would be built using a patchwork of projects, scripts, and tools originating from Varia, XPUB15, Constant and the wider networks they are part of. This method made a point of showing the seams by not automating everything. This mattered because it made everyone more aware of all the moving parts. This seamful patching together of small tools, adapting them to a specific context to allow for meaningful engagement, is patchwork computing.
Varia approached rosa as a tool for documentation but also as a social space. The role language played in server interactions was a very concrete translation of caring for and claiming that space. Because for some Varia members it was the first time using a terminal, while others already had experience, the language was something that they could all engage with. Varia recalls the language of the fresh Linux install was determining a certain hostility in the environment. This started with the ‘lecture file’ that popped up after running the sudo command for the first time. The tone of the text just felt so out of proportion with what they were doing: they just had dinner, they were having a nice chat… and then — they got lectured. “Suddenly this other voice comes in that is taking over the space from a place we didn’t know was even there.” Changing certain texts, such as the sudo lecture file, renaming commands and tweaking welcome messages, was a way of making it more comfortable to move around rosa, through small scale interventions. The realization that you don’t have to take these wordings for granted was very inspiring and kept playing a role throughout the project.
This reclaiming of the space by making it speak in a voice that was ours (the participants’) also happened through other means. One very risky but interesting move was giving everyone root privileges, erasing the power differences between users and administrators. This made room for other ways of doing, for instance, in dealing with errors and error pages. Normally, when someone tries to load a page that doesn’t exist or is run by a service that is currently not running, the server loads an error page, a dead end for the visitor. Because everyone had root, these pages could be rewritten to include instructions on how to fix the problem. There was a conversation about automating this process, for instance restarting etherpad-lite, but it was decided that this was not a desirable thing to do. Automating it makes it invisible, you lose a level of understanding. It’s one of the ways the seams of the patchwork are made visible and it transforms moving and replugging the server into a type of ritual: you plug it in, you start it and you manually start the services: “like you make the coffee, open the blinds and you welcome everyone inside.”
Even though there wasn’t a specific environmental focus in how rosa was prepared, the server ended up quite lean because of its limited computational capacities. At first they were too limited, which meant the donated machine had to be replaced by a second-hand one because etherpad-lite needed a little bit more power when many people were working on documents at the same time. Using second-hand hardware was an environmentally significant choice, making do with what is already there, and to work With / in Limits of the machine as well. Varia mentions that working with such a modest device was possible because rosa is thought of mainly for the role of documentation, allowing for more flexibility, also in terms of availability. rosa went offline every time they traveled. This adaptation to the context, this situated way of serving, challenges certain paradigms that cause environmental harm, such as expecting 99.999% uptime and expecting servers to have the latest GPU and CPU no matter what the task at hand is. Certain tasks are essential and require this, but many more services could be approached in this flexible and situated way.
Something Varia intended to do, and something that could help in keeping computationally heavy processes in check, was to monitor all the processes on rosa and make them more visible. They wanted to look at which things take up the most space, and if that space can be justified, to make the space more equal for all the other processes. This idea was triggered by a cronjob that was executed very often and started slowing everything on rosa down. Although they didn’t have time to work on this visualization, rosa did gain a voice, even several voices, in Graz. Listening to the server made them more present in the space. Pushing this idea further, the making of space for other processes (computational or other) could mean slowing down a cronjob to once a year. We started thinking about seasonal computing, something that doesn’t need to happen all year round, but only on one particular moment in time, on one specific location. Could computing be less like a 24/7 supermarket thing and be more seasonal — like you would go to an orchard to pick fruit once a year, you could go to this space where one special computational task is happening which would be dormant the rest of the time?
Seismography of artistic practices
This description is based on two discussions I had with Reni Hofmüller and an email exchange with Nina Botthof of esc medien kunst labor (mkl).
Esc medien kunst labor (esc mkl) proposed describing their work as a seismograph of artistic practises: it observes and records artistic processes, recognizes the creative potential of artists within the current technological and socio-political developments, and promotes this work, making it visible to a broader audience and documenting the outcome. In our conversations and also in past encounters, esc has always been active in bridging different worlds, making connections between generations, localities, and contexts, bringing a diversity of people together around shared topics of concern. This seismography is not one that alerts us to impending disaster but to the building up and fostering of momentum within artistic, activist, and feminist practices.
Reni Hofmüller, one of esc’s founders, spoke about how she uses resources as an entry point to discussions about technology, as a connecting element that ties labor, time, energy, sustainability, intersectionality, decoloniality, feminism, embodied and situated knowledge together. This means that, even in situations focusing on one specific struggle, we can’t forget the others; these struggles are all linked. Reni explains how she tries to have a holistic approach to the things she does, and one way to do that is by connecting it all to resources: resources of her own time and energy, the energy it takes to bring her from Graz to Rotterdam, for instance, the financial resources, and the responsibility towards others that have poured their time and energy into making this project happen. It’s a way to understand our surroundings. In each constellation resources are a big question, infrastructure is a big question. This is really important in her work – contextualizing what is done and thinking it through as situated knowledge. I felt this approach resonated a lot with ecofeminist thought, with something activist and scholar Greta Gaard wrote:
“As the slogan goes, ‘I’ll be post-feminist in the post-patriarchy’—and when sexism, heterosexism, transphobia, classism, racism, speciesism, ableism, ageism, and the global inequalities produced and exacerbated by industrial capitalism and the legacies of colonialism cease to be a problem, then feminism will have accomplished its goals and outlived its usefulness.” — Greta Gaard 16
Reni has been part of this longer history of feminist tech events, servers, and networks. She (among many other things) co-founded mur.at in 1998, was part of Gender Changers Academy, and Eclectic Tech Carnival, which was hosted by esc in 200517. After more than two decades of bringing people together over nice food and feminist tech, she explains why she has this huge patience for learning together:
“because this is what learning is. If we don’t create these spaces where people can express ‘I have never done this before’, or ‘I don’t understand how that works’, or ‘it’s not working on my system’, then we can’t share it. If we want to share this other way of doing things, we also have to do it. Always. Networking takes time. It’s not only the machines, it’s also the people living a good life, and that means time and energy and everything that entails, with all our personalities.”
She joined this project with esc because she felt that this is the next generation of people who do things. She wanted to bring everything that people already thought about and tried out and experimented with, so that there is an access to lived history, all the contradictions and the doubts, the good and the bad things, everything that already happened, because for the new generation it’s something that can only be read about. Even though today things are created in a completely different setting, the questions remain the same: what is it that technology does to us and what could an active role in that look like? What could an infrastructure be that is reflecting our needs? She mentions how it is good to bridge this history while also being sensitive to what has changed. She sees this change most clearly in this real wish for collectivity in a way that makes space for others. It’s not only a wish, it is really a practice. The Code of Conduct at Varia, for example, is really something that they live, part of how they do things and they have found ways to actually enact that. It’s not an abstract verbalization of something they aim for, it’s really part of how they do things. This is a huge change over the decades.
With / in Limits
Based on two conversations I had with Wendy Van Wynsberghe, Élodie Mugrefya, and Martino Morandi of Constant.
Constant works with many terms, they have a habit of collecting words, of thinking in multiplicities. True to this, yet working With / in Limits, they settled on three words that were part of their vocabulary already, and revisited them to see how they relate to environmental concerns. Environmental and social issues are so interconnected, and to me it’s interesting to see how taking care of small scale infrastructure in a thoughtful way has positive impacts across the board. Constant is thinking more and more in terms of these interconnections. When it comes to online content for instance, they aim to stay within the limits of the space they have on the server. They decided not to grow this space but to stick to what they already have. When they reach the maximum, they remove or downsize files. Constant has a long memory — they keep content from their entire history online and available — but this long presence is cheap in terms of space, because the older content is so small in comparison to content produced today. The more current practices are the problematic ones. Even though they max out their disk space occasionally, their system administrator will warn them in advance, giving them time to decide what to do instead of fixing it in a panic. They want to turn this into a protocol, into a regular practice.
Linking environmental questions solely to CO2 emissions and electricity use pushes us into a small corner of metrics and narrow ways of engaging with alternative practices. Constant prefers a more holistic approach, because the most efficient forces are the ones that divert from the ‘cloud paradigm’, which might be super efficient, but propagates the narrative of unlimited and eternal use of services and storage. It pushes you to consume more. Constant is maybe less efficient but more aware of conditions of use, not pushing for more but working With / in Limits.
Speculative Libre Intersectional Technologies
In the coming years, Constant will focus their work through this acronym: SPLINT, which stands for Speculative Libre Intersectional Technologies.
“Speculative Libre Intersectional Technologies is a term invented to signal Constant’s commitment to answer the question: What could/should free and intersectional technologies do? More specifically, what kinds of devices and practices could address and counteract the systemic discriminations, oppressions and exclusions at play in today’s technologies? SPLINT explores the potential of technology for artistic practice and vice versa, at the intersection of intersectional feminism and open source software. SPLINT investigates the discriminations and structural problems inherent in technology, and nurtures the imagination and imaginative capacity of techno-realities that can contribute to an open, experimental and equitable digital art field.”
The overarching aim is paying attention to where violence and oppression happen in society. They don’t want to define this word too much yet, because it is a striving, a goal for the coming years, it has yet to develop. I do love the acronym, something that allows mending something broken by temporarily supporting the structures around it. One clear environmental focus is interspecies relationships. This theme will be the main focus during one year but they aim to carry the sensitivity of this focus throughout the whole five year period. Another clearly environmental focus is techno disobedience, which relates to the question of resource use and e-waste. The term stems from Ernesto Orozo’s research on Cuban repair culture and the creative repurposing of old devices out of necessity and relates to making do with what is already there. 18 19
Possible ongoingness is the third term Constant felt resonated with their practice. It came up in a conversation between Donna Haraway and Carry Wolfe, and captures this striving to support and nourish practices that involve feeling responsible towards others and the world, to work towards something common in the midst of political polarization and climate catastrophe.
Carry Wolfe: “Let’s start with a problem that we all agree we share”.Donna Harraway: “We all share this problem, and we all have very different ideas about what to do about it. That’s already hard enough. That does not mean the science is not settled on climate change, or that relativism reigns; it does mean learning to compose possible ongoingness inside relentlessly diffracting worlds. And we need resolutely to keep cosmopolitical practices going here, focusing on those practices that can build a common-enough world.” — Haraway and Wolfe, 2016 20
One way Constant practices this is through the sharing of their infrastructure with others. Etherpad, for instance, is shared with many organizations and people. Sometimes they find out that people encounter Constant uniquely through their etherpad service and only later find out they are an actual organization that does other things too. Big Blue Button (BBB) followed a similar pattern. At first it became a necessity for Constant itself because of the first lockdown. They needed it and had the resources to set it up. They decided to share it. Everyone who wanted to use it could book a timeslot in the agenda. This resulted in a large diversity of groups and individuals making use of it, from activist groups to students and more. They have an archive of the reservations, which has become potential evidence to show to those who refuse to consider alternatives to big tech. It demonstrates that it works and that there is a real need and interest. Environmentally, it is a great idea to share resources — not everyone needs to have their own server with BBB and etherpad. Besides, this sharing also strengthens relations between people and organizations, building networks of care and trust.
There is an element of care in the way they treat these shared services. Etherpads that are not used for a year are turned static, colors are removed, as well as the history of all edits of the page, which together saves a lot of space. These space saving methods were a result of the database growing too much. This seemingly small and practical gesture could have a big impact if it were practiced more widely; refusing to grow storage space and instead looking for ways to stay With / in Limits.
There is no such thing as an ecofeminist server, at least there isn’t one identified as such as far as I know. That’s ok, this dictionary is full of terms that did not exist yet. It is also not about servers but about the language we use to speak about how we use them, the narratives shared. I used the term ecofeminist because there is a rich discourse around feminist servers and there is one about sustainability and ICT, and I wanted to explore if and how they connect while simultaneously and briefly exploring the term ecofeminism itself.
I am aware of the turbulent history of the term and the very diverse academic and activist practices associated with it. I’m inspired by Miriam Bahaffou and Julie Gorecki’s introduction to the New French Edition of La Feminisme ou La Mort by Francoise D’Eaubonne 21. They describe how, for them, there is a clear connection between the treatment of nature and that of women, the enslaved, disabled, and racialized. All are treated as terrain of experimentation or conquest. They point out the whiteness of ecofeminism’s history and show how colonization is painfully absent from the writings of Francoise d’Eaubonne, who coined the term in 1972. They dismiss the apolitical, ahistorical type of ecofeminism that reproduces white privilege as well as the equally privileged DIY lifestyles that require materials created under horrible conditions by workers on the other side of the world. Yet they see potential in d’Eaubonne’s call to link theory and practice and celebrate calls for “feminist system change not climate change” by women and gender minorities around the world.
“In a damaged world, we feel urgently that reinvention cannot happen except through creating microsynergies, local alliances, and piecemeal collaborations” – Bahaffou and Gorecki, 2020
The practices described in this tiny dictionary are specific to their local context yet share the desire to connect the struggle against different oppressions and to transform this desire into ways of doing: something biologist and activist Max Liboiron calls axiology-in-praxis, in Pollution is Colonialism 22. Liboiron describes the way CLEAR lab approaches anti-colonialism as land relations at the scale of protocol. It is impossible to confront land theft and ongoing colonial violence when you’re doing everyday research in a lab, but you can manifest your values in the way you do your daily work (ibid.).
Debora Prado, building upon the work of Stengers and Pignarre23 and Haraway24, reflects on the confrontation between activism at different scales; aiming at global and systemic change versus changing practices making use of a diversity of local knowledges and experiences. She argues that, in certain contexts, a dismissal of local knowledges in favor of the imperative of total system change can become a way to shut down discussion and avoid having to think about how our own practices reproduce inequalities: “It is easy to conclude that technologies are colonised and colonising. But it’s hard to accept that we, to some extent, are too.”25
A decolonial ecofeminism applied to tech infrastructure can be a way to think through resistance to these connected oppressions at multiple scales; from creating safe online spaces for marginalized communities to political action demanding supply chain transparency and repairable devices out of care for a damaged earth and in solidarity with those who mined the raw materials and worked to produce the devices needed to accommodate those safe online spaces.
A Traversal Network Of Feminist Servers
The project A Traversal Network of Feminist Servers (ATNOFS) took place in 2022 at six locations across Europe. Its main protagonist was rosa, a tiny local server that hopped on and off trains, disappearing from the network only to reappear again shortly after.
ATNOFS was a collaboration between several communities that wished to take time to exchange ideas, skills, and knowledge about intersectional, feminist, ecological servers, wanting to break communication and culture out of corporate capture by media oligopolies.
“From the beginning, the goal of ATNOFS has been to set up a long-term collaboration framework together with a growing network of associations of people interested in, or already active within, self-hosting federated practices that follow feminist, intersectional principles. The project responded to the need for continuity, interrelation and support for self-hosted and self-organised computational infrastructures in The Netherlands, Romania, Austria, Greece and Belgium. This work is especially inspired by the tenets of the Feminist Server Manifesto.”26
During the year, six physical meetings were held, called ‘chapters,’ which were documented on rosa. All documentation was gathered in one final publication.27
hypha (RO) is a collective based in Bucharest, Romania. It is an unfinished project. They are still writing their story. hypha is a non-homogenous group of individuals. The people taking part in hypha meetings are joined by the curiosity to explore technology with both curiosity and critique. hypha meetings have been informal. They discussed subjects that emerged naturally from their lived experience. Their understanding and relationship with technology differs from person to person. This created a space of diverse opinions. They have held space for their differences, and they have held each other through learning about the things that they struggled with. They also gathered to watch and discuss movies — curated documentaries about hacking culture. These stories sparked further explorations […] 28.
Varia is a collective space in Rotterdam focused on everyday technologies. They believe technology shouldn’t be the exclusive domain of specialists. It affects everyone and should enable, rather than preclude, diverse ways of living. Focusing on everyday technology means questioning the hierarchies in place within technical objects and therefore the valorization of skills needed to design or use these objects. This means reconsidering the hegemony of high tech: cheap, artisanal solutions are their method of choice.
Feminist Hack Meetings
Feminist Hack Meetings (FHM) is a project initiated in Varia, Rotterdam, that aims to create a safe space to explore the suggestions, urgencies, and potentials of feminist hack and tech initiatives. FHM organizes research meetings and workshops around technology and feminism, enabling diverse activities such as sociopolitical discussions, prototyping, skill sharing, and experimenting with various artistic practices. Feminist pedagogies and Free, Libre, and Open Source Software ideas of sharing inspire their working methods. Their sessions are open to people who envision the making of technology, and its processes, as a feminist practice.
LURK started out as a small collective of artists / hackers, cultural workers, art, sound, and design practitioners (from makers to writers) interested in facilitating and archiving discussions around net- and computational culture and politics, proto- and post-free culture practices, (experimental) (sound) (new media) (software) art, and other such topics. They have been active since 2014, and today they are best described as both a collective and a community of communities. Practically speaking, they offer, to like-minded people and peers, the possibility to host their email discussion lists, access instant messaging services, participate on alternative social media platforms, as well as make use of an audio and video streaming server for events, radios, and miscellaneous experiments.
Esc medien kunst labor
esc medien kunst labor (esc mkl) is an art initiative, a cultural organization, and exhibition space based in the city center of Graz, Austria. While its main task is the production of art, it also puts emphasis on the observation and capturing of artistic processes. The artistic activities of esc mkl are determined by the fact that art is understood as a subsystem of social and societal reality. As a hub for the exchange of ideas, esc mkl serves to network between artists, scientists, theorists, and many more while also providing infrastructure, technical support, and advice. Furthermore, exhibitions contribute to the public awareness of art and promote artists.
Constant is an association for arts and media run by artists, designers, researchers, and hackers based in Brussels, Belgium. Constant works to systematically create collaborative situations that engage with the challenges of contemporary techno-life. At Constant, they develop projects at the intersections of art and technology in which, for them, it is important to make connections between intersectional feminisms, free software, and copyleft approaches. Together, these allow them to imagine webs of interdependencies, infrastructures of solidarity, poetic algorithms, conflicted data processing practices, and principles for multi- and/or fuzzy authorship. For them, generating puzzling questions is a strategy that offers openings for profound, complex, and playful research. These questions are stumbling blocks that help them realize that the technologies they are interested in are not about fluency, smoothness, optimization, and efficiency, but are instead full of assumptions and problems that demand our continuous attention29.
Thanks to the generous contributions of: Sergiu Nisioi and Anca Bucur of hypha, Mara Karagianni, Artemis Gryllaki and Aggeliki Diakrousi of Feminist Hack Meetings, Roel Roscam Abbing, Lídia Pereira and Aymeric Mansoux of LURK, Cristina Cochior, Alice Strete, Manetta Berends, amy pickles, and Julia Bande of Varia, Reni Hofmüller and Nina Botthof of esc medien kunst labor and Wendy Van Wynsberghe, Élodie Mugrefya, and Martino Morandi of Constant.