On & Off the Grid Publication

editor book publication
urban prefigurative politics infrastructure networks hacking self-sustaining autonomy

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Project Summary

I was asked by Hackers & Designers (H&D) collective to be the editor of their first long-form book publication, reflecting upon their activities and collaborations over 2017. It was the collective’s first time working with an editor. Throughout the year, H&D investigated forms of dependence and obedience to technologies embedded in our daily working and living environments. Their collaborative hands-on programming investigated going on and off the grid as a process for rethinking and building self-sustaining environments that shape our future practices in unexpected ways. I was given 25 texts ranging from interview transcriptions and blogposts, to artist statements, and project pitches, with international authors from a range of backgrounds and expertises. The content was wholly incongruent in form, style, content, topic, and linguistic clarity (about 95% of the texts were written by non-native English speaking creatives with little to no training in writing in English). To keep in the collective’s hacker-spirit, I created a unique formatting and style guide that captured, rather than flattened, the origins of the texts as written for the digital. This guide can be used for on and offline texts for the collective’s future texts.

My goals for the content were to craft a narrative through the collection that united and highlighted the range of angles, approaches, and opinions upon the topic; and emphasized its relevance and contribution to the techno-materialist discourse of infrastructures and urban and rural living, as well as explorations of value in digital and material technologies and spaces.

With this in mind, I refined the focus of the content, conducted heavy cuts to the writing and flow of content, and further provoked contributor’s ideas through productive exchange. My goal for the publication process was to create an editing system that was flexible enough to function within the contingencies of being printed on the PJ Machine (Publishing Jockey Machine), a box with arcade buttons to control a web interface for live publishing that was developed during a workshop of the H&D Summer Academy. The Machine allowed the creation of a layout design with text and images and the generation of a print-ready .pdf. I had not previously encountered this kind of exchange in which editing became a part of the publication design and print process.

We had a successful book launch at Sans Serriffe (Amsterdam) in May 2018. I have since been commissioned for two projects by H&D book contributors and project curator who were happy with the editing and development of their works. These were for coder Joana Chicau’s (Portugal/NL) book Choreo- Graphic-Hypothesis published October 2018, web version forthcoming; and Script for Face the Interface’s ‘smart mirror/social surveillance’ video installation (NL) by Anja Groten and Hay Kranen in collaboration with writer Maartje Smits and artist and developer Jasper van Loenen shown at TodaysArt 2018 Festival in September 2018.

Editor's Note

I have had the honor of editing this collection of texts, a reflection of Hackers & Designers’ activities and occupations in 2017. The range of content is what initially struck me. We have Wiki page process-docs and workshop-sharings, radio-Skype-in-person interviews turned transcript, art statements, art works, and questionnaire testimonials. With the premise of going on and off the grid, there is an overarching investigation of what being together can look like through the objects and systems of basic needs and social exchange - food, shelter, water, clothes, emotional support, community investment, labor practices, transportation, utilities, money and valuation. Questions that many authors of this compilation grasp at are the tensions between work and life as a critical maker, between individual drive and collective actions, autonomy and material realities.

Fortunately, these meta appraisals come with a lightness as they arise from doing: inspecting the stuff around us and taking things apart and putting other things together...i.e., hacking. The H&D community has varying spirits towards the reality of ethics a person can extend. Joana Chicau states that "It's not easy to be critical in multiple ways in one's practice...This holistic approach is hard to find and hard to practice." Alternatively, Jon- Kyle emphasizes how deeply personal the environment of the internet is and encourages designers to jump into Peer2Peer .head on to make locales amongst its over-corporatization. He asks, “What does a neighborhood on the internet look like?” Ivanka Annot refuses to "pay rent with [her] life" and adopts prefigurative politics as her way of life and art, building replicable and scalable politics as her way of life and art, building replicable and scalable systems within legal loopholes. As Annot puts it, “you create what you want to see happening in the future. Instead of protesting to what is happening now, you prefigure it. You give it a shape, you make it happen.” Bongani captures a crucial reality - "There isn't some consistent ethical approach to doing something good and positive...material conditions, the conditions of life, require you to carve out what your priority is - you must focus on one impact... [and you must be] content with that decision."

Ultimately, whatever energies motivate the fight for ethics in our livelihoods and beyond, and however much we can teach ourselves alone and with the aid of internet connection, there is the need for others in making systems that more accurately reflect ways of living that are not yet feasible or envisioned in the grids of society- at-large in which we are positioned. Reliance on popular grids oft reinforce individualist society, yet pursuing to critique and effect change to the systems in which you are embedded can also be isolating. This is a lived obstacle, as experienced by Vicky de Visser's Off the Grid Amsterdam Boat Life Project, in which she found that there were "Too many hardships to be managed and controlled without the support of a community equally invested in a shared, off-grid system."

As many of the experiences from HDSA17 indicate, collaboration is work - the work of mediation, communication, and management of individual drives. Daniela Rota and Meike Hardt (m—d—buero) share that "It is always about the negotiation of disciplinary differences. You push your own disciplinary borders by unlearning habits to make space for the other." From the friction and discomfort of different group member goals, Loes Bogers' developed reflective practices “about inhabiting shared spaces of learning that [she] now uses in [her] teaching practice.” Perhaps these are other forms of prefigurative politics in consciousness-raising - the potential for resignation to others as constituting and supporting a grid’s weave as civic life.

Another practice of congregation is the language of these texts. The majority of the writings were done in the non-native tongue of the writer or interviewers/ees. In editing, this was felt as an expansion and detailing of a language in common, rather than a flattening of cultural linguistics or universalization. I aimed to retain these intricacies through which the author's essences of thought, presence, and enthusiasm run and with the hopes to highlight a heterogeneous cohesion as the collection's underbelly.

As well, I aimed to point back to how these texts came to be together within a community grounded in web technologies. The texts were written by the tech-minded's formulation of sharing information - with readers with a screen and internet connection. The writings were rich in hyperlinks. I wanted to keep the interchange between the digital and print on the surface by keeping hyperlinks within the texts as much as possible within the parameters of printing using the PJ Machine. Formalities of style and formats are equally sites to be changed to more accurately reflect the use and access of content. Citations are influenced by APA, but have been ridden of redundancies such as “link accessed at." While there is a core goal of sharing enough information to accurately and clearly reference authorship, the formatting, style, and citations of this publication are meant as an adaption to the creative works that constitute it.🝏