# Not-So-Utopian Open-Source Pedagogies
The FLOSS movement is paradoxical: it's literally at the heart of global capital's world-devouring strategies and capabilities, a mix of free trade, deregulation, hyperproductivity, free labor/entreprenurial precarization, and denial of complicity. And yet its structure suggests that it is also an escape, the groundwork for a tactics of grass-roots populism that is neither nationalistic nor democratic, a practical anarchy. Can we disentangle these aspects? Is FLOS(S) a way forward or a way deeper into the precarization of the contemporary subject? What if we mis-apply FLOS(S) to other practices: artistic, pedagogical? Does free art or free education redeem it? Or does FLOS(S) already too damaged as a pedagogy/ideology?
I'd like to start by taking a step back from FLOS(S) to think about its relationships to other utopias and to spend some time thinking together about the contradictions of utopian group dynamics from both theoretical and practical Marxist/anarchist/feminist perspectives. Then I'd like to reapproach FLOS(S) through the lens of chaos/dissensus/illegibility as another way of talking about "openness," and maybe one that can get us beyond the presently existing boundaries of FLOS(S).
- "Once an organisation, state or project is labelled open, it becomes difficult to account for the politics (closures) that emerge from within. . . . the open is articulated alongside an entourage of fractal sub-concepts that defer political description: participation, collaboration and transparency. While this re-emergence works as a critique of Popper-Hayek openness, it simultaneously reinstates the same conceptual architecture." -Nathaniel Tkacz
- "Now, as then, the roots of the process lie deeper: in the interiors, and the animating forces, of the Age of Millennial Capitalism—in particular, in its impulse to displace political sovereignty with the sovereignty of “the market,” as if the latter had a mind and a morality of its own; to reorder the ontology of production and consumption; to reconstruct the essence of labor, identity, and subjectivity; . . . to elevate to first causes “value-free” technological necessity and the ostensibly neutral demands of economy; to treat government as immanently undesirable, except insofar as it deregulates or protects “market forces”; . . . to equate freedom with choice, especially to consume, to fashion the self, to conjure with identities; to give free reign to the “forces” of hyperrationalization; to parse human beings into free-floating labor units, commodities, clients, stakeholders, strangers, their subjectivity distilled into ever more objectified ensembles of interests, entitlements, appetites, desires, purchasing “power.” And so to raise the most fundamental question of all: In what consists the social? Society? Moral community?" - Jean Comaroff and John Comaroff
- "The Argument proposes that the struggle of our new millennium will be one between the ongoing imperative of securing the well-being of our present ethnoclass (i.e., Western bourgeois) conception of the human, Man, which overrepresents itself as if it were the human itself, and that of securing the well-being, and therefore the full cognitive and behavioral autonomy of the human species itself/ourselves. Because of this overrepresentation, ... the Coloniality of Being/Power/Truth/Freedom, any attempt to unsettle the coloniality of power will call for the unsettling of this overrepresentation as the second and now purely secular form of ... the “Racism/ Ethnicism complex."" - Sylvia Wynter
- "In the era of networks, governing means ensuring the interconnection of people, objects, and machines as well as the free -- i.e., transparent and controllable -- circulation of information that is generated in this manner. . . The figure of the hacker contrasts point by point with the figure of the engineer, whatever the anistic, police-directed, or entrepreneurial efforts to neutralize him may be. Whereas the engineer would capture everything that functions, in such a way that everything functions better in service to the system, the hacker asks himself "How does that work?" in order to find its flaws, but also to invent other uses, to experiment. Experimenting then means exploring what such and such a technique implies ethically." - The Invisible Committee
- "Protocol is based on a contradiction between two opposing technologies: one radically distributes control into autonomous locales, and the other focuses control into rigidly defined hierarchies. . . . Protocological control mirrors the movements of Empire. Empire is the social theory, protocol the technical." -Alex Galloway
Potential readings to discuss:
Open Source Critique / Critiques of Open Source
Alex Galloway "Protocol, or How Control Exists after Decentralization" (2001)
Critiques of Free Software
Ellen Ullman "Close to the Machine" -> http://complex.local/not-so-utopian-readings/Close%20to%20the%20Machine_%20Technophilia%20and%20Its%20-%20Ellen%20Ullman.epub
Evgeny Morozov - The Meme Hustler https://thebaffler.com/salvos/the-meme-hustler
Christopher Kelty - There is no free software http://peerproduction.net/issues/issue-3-free-software-epistemics/debate/there-is-no-free-software/
Florian Cramer - Musings on whats left of copyleft: https://nettime.org/Lists-Archives/nettime-l-1707/msg00004.html
Jodi Dean - Communicative Capitalism: Circulation and the Foreclosure of Politics (2005)
Free/Open Source Property
Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento - http://www.cabinetmagazine.org/issues/10/suburban_intervention.php
Critiques of Utopia
Frederic Jameson "Antinomies of Postmodernity" Seeds of Time (1994)
Ursula K. Le Guin "A Non-Euclidian View of California as a Cold Place to Be" (1982)
"If utopia is a place that does not exist, then surely (as Lao Tzu would say) the way to get there is by the way that is not a way. And in the same vein, the nature of the utopia I am trying to describe is such that if it is to come, it must exist already." - Ursula Le Guin
"Something’s Missing: A Discussion between Ernst Bloch and Theodor W. Adorno on the Contradictions of Utopian Longing"
"Hope is not confidence. If it could not be disappointed, it would not be hope. That is part of it. Otherwise, it would be cast in a picture. It would let itself be bargained down. It would capitulate and say, that is what I had hoped for. Thus, hope is critical and can be disappointed. However, hope still nails a flag on the mast, even in decline, in that the decline is not accepted, even when this decline is still very strong. Hope is not confidence. Hope is surrounded by dangers, and it is the consciousness of danger and at the same time the determined negation of that which continually makes the opposite of the hoped-for object possible." - Ernst Bloch
Jean Comaroff and John L. Comaroff "Millennial Capitalism: First Thoughts on a Second Coming" (2000)
Lauren Berlant "Cruel Optimism" (2006)
"'Cruel optimism' names a relation of attachmetn to compromised conditions of possibility. What is cruel about these attachments, and not not merely inconvenient or tragic, is that the subjects who have x in their lives might not well endure the loss of their object or scene of desire, even though its presence threatens their well-being, because whatever the content of the attachment, the continuity of the form of it provides something of the continutiy of the subject's sense of what it means to keep on living and to look forward to being in the world." - Lauren Berlant
Sylvia Wynter "Unsettling the Coloniality of Being/Power/Truth/Freedom" (2003)
Michel de Certeau "Vocal Utopias: Glossolalias" (2001)
Jacques Rancière The Ignorant Schoolmaster (1991)
Jacques Rancière Dissensus (2010)
Invisible Committee "Fuck Off Google" To Our Friends (2013)
Jean Fisher "Metaphysics of Shit" Documenta 11 (2002)
Kim Charnley "Dissensus and the politics of collaborative practice" (2011)
I don’t have a proposed escape route from this endless critical loop but I believe that it requires a step back to think about what a collectivity is, what it can do, and how technology can be a glue or a medium instead of a pass-coded barrier to participation. And then it will require a leap, one that recognizes that when everything expires in its opposite there is nothing left to analyze or name – only a bare collectivity.
Institute of Imitation (iOi)
After several years of experimenting with art machineries I have fullfilled
most of my desires as a DIY inventor. During the period I finished my
second masters in art education I got deep into the notion of critical
pedagogy. My enthusiasm was being fueled by several personal
experiences. Thanks to my family’s nomadic lifestyle, as a kid I have
participated in eight different schools: catholic, Rudolf Steiner,
Montessori, art-focused and average public ones, and later on two art
universities as-well. Since the early years I tried to develop my critical
point-of-view on these institutions and those operating systems behind.
In 2011 the Hungarian government introduced a retrograde, control-
freak, destructive educational reform. A new young generation got
betrayed and injustice is supported by the State on an epic scale.
Institute of Imitation (iOi) is a vision from a not too far dystopia where
any social form of education is prohibited and has to be punished 1 . We
see scenes as SWAT teams chasing little geeks in dark alleys. Nerds
studying geopolitics from fake comic-books. iOi is a place for praxis
where people come together to develop the most sophisticated
methods for learning from each other in secret. It is a permanent
experiment on many different levels. They investigate the capacity of
cultural translation, decision making, reality-checking, empathy,
uselessnes, power, quantity and quality of inteligence.
Here now iOi is represented by the narrative of movies, but it should not
be limited to these fictional images. My longer goal is to set up this
The backbone of my proposal is a code for working group organizing or
lets say a preprogrammed gathering method that I call the Circles of
Uncertainty. This name was adapted from Paulo Freire, the brazilian
educator, philosopher and leading advocate of critical pedagogy. I
transcripted his term of Circles of Certainty 2 which refers to groups
where overcoded circumstances make born of new ideas and reflection
impossible. This inspired me to come up with exactly the opposite idea,
wherein participants can take the freedom to work with whoever they
want (escaping from their institutional circle as university, office, club,
gang, etc). Within the Circle of Uncertainty we can also decide what we
want to talk about and how we are going to put it into action. This aim is
moved by the very liberating idea even more a vision to cut the chains
of social-institutional circumstances we are born with and later build
around us during our carreer.
As also thought by Freire we will avoid the danger of falling into
verbalism so we will take action: create and experiment. We will also
practice the permanent play of self-reflection. Circles of Uncertainity is
going to be our framework for praxis.
1 This story is was transcripted (stolen) from the Swedish movie Picassos äventyr, 1978
2 Freire, P. (1970) Pedagogy of the Oppressed
Circles of Uncertainty
Lets call this first group Circle A. The founding of the first circle can be
explained in five simple steps. Further circles will be initiatied by the
members of Circle A.
Setting up a Circle of Uncertainty:
1. Circle A initiator (in this case me, AA) finds only one person who is
willing to join (AB). The reason can be a common ethos or an
interest in a mission plan they both share.
2. The founders (AA) discusses his idea about the circle and
encourages AB to find a third person to build towards the circle.
3. AB finds a third person (AC) who is willing to join and shares some
of the ideas and visions AA and AB do. AB also explains the
importance of the collaboration.
4. AC keeps on whith the same method.
5. And so on until everybody agress that the circle should temporary or
permanently stop growing. Circle A starts his activity.
The power of this method lies not only in it’s simplicity but in the very
idea that anybody can freely initiate a discussion and program without
important resources and social embeddedness or even perfect ideas.
Not by accident it can also remind us the gangs of elementary school
playground where a shared fictional story (ethos) could give enough
inspiration for a months-long epic game. We are all locked to the same
playground, why build further limitations into play? The university,
offices, labs, and other working environments are buildt on social walls.
In this perspective they gain their respected comfort of certainty from
separation and limitation of free flow of knowledge. Circles of
Uncertainity projects carry the vision that we don’t need these borders
in order to discuss, create, experiment, take action, and reflect.
Proposal for participation
I would like to ask the Relearn participants to set up their own instant
prototype of Circle of Uncertainity. That could happen within the fresh
Relearn community or along with the residents of Poortgebouw. Any
alternative approach is more than welcome. My main interest lies in the
possibility of getting valuable critical input from participants with
professional interest in codeing and/or broad application of networks.
PDF with illustrations>
Notes from the track intros:
Disentangling how 'open source' works outside of software. How it is employed as a badge for utopian ideals ('freedom, transparency, openness' -> terms that are at the core of neo-liberalism).
Is one branch.
The other branch is inspired on Paul Freires critical pedagogy. Going from 'tyranny of certainty' to 'cirlces of uncertainty'
Circles of uncertainty are about where one person brings up an issue to someone who is then asked to introduce this issue to someone this person knows.
So one branch proposes a set of issues and the other proposes a methodolgy
So one question is how to guague when the methodology works?
Rethinking group organization, try to think what that means.
Can we learn from open-source software culture?
How to initiate groups around a topic.
Philisopher came up with the concept of "circles of certainty". In which he described how people are stuck in safe circles like a school.
Mate came up with a response: "circles of uncertainty"
- -> how does this relate to 'echo chambers'?
A system of circles, in which people are only speaking to one more other person.
Interest in an experiment to let such circle happen.
How does it feel to approach somebody? Interest in social and psychological part.
A first experiment of circleling, on the topic of critique of open source.
Does it change the system once you are aware of its structure?
What tool are we going to use to track the circles is still an open question.
The circle is an artistic icon to envision these group dynamics.
The idea to track the circles, does that touch on some sort of a system fetish?
Jeremy was part of an open source performance group, that followed the following rules.
- There is always someone in charge.
- There is nobody in control for too long.
- You can always disagree.
There is a link to pgp, where a pgp is checked and approved by one of the persons in the ? (i forgot)
"openness" as a sort of trust certificate.
Gustave Le Bon, "The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind" (1896)
Close to the machine, "ellen ullman", systemazation removes the possibility to bend the system.
hand drawing circle
The necessity (and necessary failure?) of a leader/persuader/initiator?
Making room for other kinds of collectivities/subjectivities other than the egocentric (concentric?) self.
There is No Free Software
Split between free and open source software. Now all cloud-based, server farms, GPL licenses no longer matter. Nobody cares how it is controlled because it's so efficient.
"Free software" promises a way of remaking of life, way of socializing, political structure, etc. (based on the freedom of the user/consumer?)
"Open source" is a development metholodology.
There is no thing as "free" software because it is always a promise, it is always already a methodology. Practically speaking most "free" software is sponsored by commercial enterprise.
Free software trusts (and depends on access to) the state and the legal regime in order to
From Open Software to Open Government
Freedom is articulated economically, as a freedom to circulate -
Vagueness of openness, always in relation to something closed. The "second coming of openness" is in an already open society, nothing is already pre-planned, flexibile, transparent, i.e. neoliberal.
"Open source" is then a regressive idea, growing out of this.
Communicative Capitalism "Technology Fetishism"
You focus on the fetish as if you are doing something else, Freud.
Technology fetish: IT as a tool for politics (Apple "Think Different" ad).
Putting stuff online / sharing is not in itself radical, it is a "screen" onto which all kinds of supposed political action can be projected.
Napster / P2P file sharing becomes a proxy for bringing down capitalism. It is already consumerist/capitalist.
Condenses or simplifies the political issue / solutions are flattened as well.
Clicktivism - satisfies your political urge, means you don't have to protest in the streets.
Foreclosure - technological objects are presumed to be good, part of the solution, and need not be scrutinized.
Only an Attitude of Orientation - Paul Bailey:
tracing out a personal ideology of teaching
different fragments, nonlinearly leading towards an idea of 'ignorant schoolmaster'
one is: semantic poetyry translation -> you do a bad translation of a technical academic text by turning it into a literal flat translation. 'Bad translation' to reveal implicit meanings
another is: distinction between schools and movements -> rigid vs flexible and hierarchical vs flat etc. School as in school of thought.
sees student paralysis comes from schooling as imitation. if you make something which is impossible to imitate learning happens. for example ignorant schoolmaster who cannot communicate with students and only asks them: what do you see, what do you think about it, what do you do with it
Labor and resource extraction - highlighting the pre-conditions of technology
Luxury item / pleasure in the making of it, pleasure in the consumption of it. Model of art.
Know-how + practical knowledge vs the recipe / theory of cake making.
Extra flavors, other senses. Could we / would we want to join a utopia without cake?
Cake as a transmission medium for material
Cake Circles of Uncertainty
- Have one ingredient for a hypothetical cake
- Find one fellow who brings one other ingredient
- Together find more people for each of the rest of the ingredients
- If you have all the basic ingredients (and cooks) you should come up with a secret ingredient together.
- Make the cake.
- After all each of the cooks should start a new cake by finding new cooks (repeat step 2-6).
Paradoxes of openness: implies antagonism, hides closure. (Open source medicine hides profit motive, use of data, distracts from other, economic/access issues)
Necessity of a Jacotot a non-hierarchical leader? But this form of teaching is really only operative in contrast to a traditional school system, do we really buy "everything in everything?"
Can software be critical? It must adopt the logic and structure, the "code." Free software is only a vehicle for copyleft intellectual property debates, the software is not in itself critical. *(Maybe through open source, it is possible to intervene in software to highlight the inequalities/presumptions that underlie it: c.f. MakeHuman)
Structures of dissensus / practicing dissent?
A dissensual cake?
Platonov's parable Friendship of the Poor Man
"Collaborative artwork is fascinating because it is a nexus of contradictory claims where the political potential of art directly confronts its institutional character. Work that explores and thrives on this dissensus neither needs to abandon ethics, nor should it relinquish the tradition of avant-garde confrontation. A ‘recalibration of the senses’ is impossible in an ethically neutral space, just as dialogue is weak if it avoids conflict. . . . A collaborative art of dissensus requires that art is willing to use an engagement with its ‘outside’ to challenge itself, rather than to reproduce the hegemonic terms of its ‘failed totality’." - Kim Charnley
Discussion of frustration before disagreement
Disagreement is healthy
Skills / exercises as a way of finding another way to have a discussion. Absurd specificity / constrait as a way of breaking habits
Need to engage with the outside / boundary / margin in order to be dissensual?
Reflexiveness / circularity is also useful because it produces a kind of intensity.