Situated Infrastructures


What are situated infrastructures?

Infrastructures are things that move things. They often define how we live, and what we can or cannot do while claiming invisibility for themselves. In the module, we will focus on digital infrastructures like the servers and online services we use every day and how we would like to change them. Situatedness first of all means having a site, a specific location, something that possibly runs contrary to the alleged ubiquity of digital infrastructures. The philosopher of science Donna Haraway used the term in her feminist essay “Situated Knowledges” to describe how all knowledge is bound to specific perspectives and that these must be understood to reach accountability. As a scientist, Haraway thus looked for reliable knowledge of the world and for the possibility to critique seemingly objective and universal claims about what the world is. We want to use a similar approach concerning infrastructures.

When are servers feminist?

Haraway's thinking is one of the influences when it comes to conceptualizing current technologies in different ways. Her critical thinking is in line with an evolving wish list for alternative and responsible technologies. An early version of this list has been circulating as The Feminist Server Manifesto 0.01 since 2014. It conceives technologies no longer as centralized and isolated from human and other fugitive bodies but as something to serve all. And it radically questions the conditions for serving and service, challenging the technocratic idea of seamless functionality with holistic discursivity.

What will we do?

We want to understand digital infrastructures as political, social, and aesthetic technologies and try to address all these dimensions. We will look at contemporary discourses on such systems to conceive and build our own ones. We will learn how to set up small computers and create services that are hopefully useful or interesting for others. These can be file servers, radio stations or anything that supports our needs to communicate, express ourselves, and remember. And we will discuss our findings in this process with guests who have explored similar things in the field of arts and activism.

Should I join?

Maybe start by reading The Feminist Server Manifesto 0.01, which for us stood at the beginning of planning the module. Does it sound interesting even if it might also be confusing? The module does not require any prior technical skills but simply a curiosity to learn some of them, the same way as we will read and discuss texts. Infrastructures are something inherently social. So, the willingness to work with others or to involve them in your projects is also a good prerequisite for having fun with “Situated Infrastructures”.

Alexandra Pfammatter, Thomas Knüsel, Valentina Vuksic, and Birk Weiberg