Cities of InfraRed

Cities of InfraRed is an abstract for my proposed contribution to a book that is being put together by Cornelia Sollfrank, Shuhsa Niederberger and Felix Stalder. The book has the working title of Aesthetics of the Commons, and arises out of the Creating Commons research project at the Zurich University of the Arts.


In my presentation for the Creating Commons: Affects, Collectives, Aesthetics panel at Transmediale 2019 (see above), I made the point that the Left has been conspicuously bad at turning their representations into the kind of actions that motivate people, in the mainstream of society especially, to constitute themselves as a group around issues such as the commons. (Even taking #MeToo and BlackLivesMatter into account, there’s been no progressive counterpart to the Right’s transformation of the political landscape, achieved through the use of slogans such as ‘Take back control’ and ‘Make America great again’ to create chains of equivalence across different disaffected social groups based on collective forms of identification.)  I then proceeded to talk about how a number of colleagues and I have nevertheless been working on mobilizing some of the Left’s affective-emotional themes - encapsulated by words such as collective, cooperative and community – to develop a range of aesthetic projects for the production of free resources that are capable of acting as a political force.

At first sight it might appear that a lot of our focus has been on scaling the creation of such common resources along with the community that maintains them: from the single journal Culture Machine (1999), to the 21 journals of Open Humanities Press (2008), through the 50 plus members of the Radical Open Access Collective (2015), to The Post Office’s collective presence of all these projects and more as part of an existing formal institution (2018). In actual fact, however, it has never been our intention to simply grow or expand our activities. We prefer to non-scale them, as some of my colleagues have taken to calling it, following Anna Tsing (although we’ve been operating like this for over 20 years now). This we achieve: by developing relationships with a diversity of others in different parts of the world through collaborative co-creation and custodianship; and by allowing our work to be openly copied, shared and reiterated, free of charge. 

We are now turning our attention to the following question: can this non-scaling model of development be applied to cities in order to transform them through the provision of commons-oriented alternatives to public and private infrastructure? Why cities? Cities are particularly interesting places when it comes to political strategy. For one thing, they operate at a scale that makes progressive change a realistic possibility. (Nation states are too large.) For another, it’s in cities that political forces for change most often emerge these days, as various 21st century protest movements, from Occupy Wall Street, through the roundabout revolutions of Turkey, Egypt and Bahrain, to the gilets jaunes in Paris, bear witness.

Instead of having to rely on governments and multi-national companies for their infrastructure, our idea is to make it possible for cities to be able to take some of the ‘alternative’ resources that are provided for them by projects such as Etherbox, Tactical Tech and Memory of the World – and then build their own versions on a self-organising basis, adopting and improving those parts they want and discarding the rest. We see this non-scaling model for collectively-creating a range of municipal institutions (libraries, museums, archives) and the associated technology and tools, as having the potential to provide a more socially just and environmentally sustainable way to run cities in the future.

The use of a CopyFarLeft PPL license, for example, would mean those who live in a city could be compensated for the labour they put into creating and maintaining its infrastructure and institutions by applying it to this mutually-owned and shared information and data commons. At the same time, those businesses that are not part of the city’s commons but who nevertheless wish to exploit its information and data for reasons of privatisation would be prohibited from doing so by the terms of the license - in effect creatively disrupting for-profit companies such as Uber and Deliveroo.

Thanks to its ability to create a more profound affective-emotional community experience, certainly than the pseudo community ethos of Airbnb and co, it's not inconceivable that such a commons-based approach could gain enough of an advantage over its public and private rivals to attract people in sufficiently large numbers to make developing into a large-scale political force a real possibility. It would therefore provide a means of reclaiming the idea of community from the forces of reactionary nationalist populism, such as those associated with Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage in the U.K. and Donald Trump in the U.S. After all, wasn’t it a sense of not belonging - indeed of being actively excluded and forgotten - that led those who feel they have been left behind by neoliberal globalisation to vote for Brexit and Trump?  We thus see this commons-flavoured version of the ‘Preston Model’ for community building as one means by which the struggle for a left populism and construction of a progressive ‘people’ can be fought and won.

As for my title, ‘InfraRed’, well, infra is of course taken from infrastructure, while red links our approach to the politics of the Left. But red also serves to distinguish the above described vision for the future of cities from the blue of most visual representations of the so-called smart city.


Polish translation of New Materialism: Interviews & Cartographies

A Polish translation of the 2012 Open Humanities Press book New Materialism: Interviews & Cartographies, edited by Rick Dolphijn and Iris van der Tuin, has been published on the website of the Machina Myśli group.

It is available here: http://machinamysli.org/nowy-materializm-wywiady-i-kartografie/.

The page is in Polish, but if you would like to download a copy you simply need to click respectively 'pdf'' or 'EPUB' in text.



Why the Radical Open Access Collective is Not Taking Part in Scholastica's 'Academic-Led Publishing Day'

Members of the Radical Open Access Collective (ROAC) recently received an email from Scholastica, asking whether we as a collective would like to take part in an 'Academic-Led Publishing Day' they are initiating. Having discussed this informally with several of our members, we have decided not to take part in this day as a collective. The reasons for this decision are outlined in the response to Scholastic's invitation below (drafted by Janneke Adema and Samuel Moore). We do not want to speak on behalf of individual members in this matter, though, so if anyone in the ROAC is interested in taking part individually they can of course do so. 


Dear Danielle (who was writing to us on behalf of Scholastica),

Thank you for your invitation to take part in 'Academic-Led Publishing Day'. There are various reasons why, from a radical open access perspective, we would refuse to be involved in such a day. Let us set out some of these reasons.

First of all we feel the name of your proposed event is problematic. None of the organisations mentioned in your invitation - Library Publishing Coalition, Michigan Publishing, Ubiquity Press, the University of California Press - are academic-led (or scholar-led if you prefer that term). The exception is Ubiquity Press, which is however operating predominantly as a commercial service and infrastructure provider. Looking at the organisations you list this seems very much an 'academy-led' event, and we suggest you perhaps change the name accordingly (i.e. to 'Academy-Led Publishing Day'). 

We feel words are important here; and all the more so given a true 'Academic-Led Publishing Day' would indeed be one that is initiated, organised and 'owned' by academic-led publishing initiatives themselves, rather than commercial service providers such as Scholastica.

The Radical Open Access Collective promotes community ownership of research (as you say you do). The difference is that for us this includes ownership and custodianship of open publishing infrastructures. To this end we have set up an information portal which lists open source publishing software and platforms as open and non-commercial alternatives to the services that Scholastica and Ubiquity provide. We feel taking part in an  'Academic-Led Publishing Day'—which we would like to emphasise is not actually academic-led at all but initiated by Scholastica, a for-profit intermediary—would, as it is currently conceived, be to indirectly promote the commercial services you provide. We acknowledge some presses may choose to use Scholastica's services and benefit from them. As a collective, however, we aim to promote and seek alliances with non-profit and open alternatives instead. 

We would very much like to support an 'Academic-Led Publishing Day', if it were indeed initiated from the bottom-up by scholar-led publishing initiatives, and we very much support those not-for-profit organisations that are taking part in this event. We also don’t want to speak for individual members of the Radical Open Access Collective, and would not wish to discourage them from taking part in this event if that is what they want to do. (We will forward your invitation to our mailing list.) Still, as a collective, we choose to pass on this one. We hope you understand.



Ways of Following: Art, Materiality, Collaboration by Katve-Kaisa Kontturi

Open Humanities Press is pleased to announce the new book in its Immediations series: Katve-Kaisa Kontturi's Ways of Following: Art, Materiality, Collaboration.

In Ways of Following, Katve-Kaisa Kontturi offers rare, intimate access to artists’ studios and exhibitions, where art processes thrive in their material-relational becoming. The book argues for an ethical and affirmative mode of engaging with contemporary art that replaces critical distance with sensuous and transformative proximity. From writing-with to dancing and breathing, from conversations to modelling, it maps ways of following that make the moving materiality of art intensively felt. Drawing on long-term engagements with selected contemporary artists and their art-in-process, Kontturi expands the concept and practice of collaboration from human interactions to working with, and between, materials. With this shift, Ways of Following radically rethinks such core tenets of art theory as intention, artistic influences and the autonomy of art, bringing new urgency to the work of art and its political capacity to propose new ways of being and thinking.





Executing Practices: New Book in OHP's DATA browser series

The DATA browser book series, together with OHP, is delighted to announce the publication of Executing Practices. This collection brings together artists, curators, programmers, theorists and heavy internet users, all of whose practices make a critical intervention into the broad concept of execution. 

DATA browser 06

Edited by Helen Pritchard, Eric Snodgrass & Magda Tyżlik-Carver
Published by Open Humanities Press
CC 2018 (Creative Commons Attribution By Attribution Share Alike License)
310 pages

Download as FREE PDF (colour)
Download as FREE eBook (colour)


This collection brings together artists, curators, programmers, theorists and heavy internet browsers whose practices make critical intervention into the broad concept of execution. It draws attention to their political strategies, asking: who and what is involved with those practices, and for whom or what are these practices performed, and how? From the contestable politics of emoji modifier mechanisms and micro-temporalities of computational processes to genomic exploitation and the curating of digital content, the chapters account for gendered, racialised, spatial, violent, erotic, artistic and other embedded forms of execution. Together they highlight a range of ways in which execution emerges and how it participates within networked forms of liveliness.


Executing Practices
Helen Pritchard, Eric Snodgrass, Magdalena Tyżlik-Carver

Preface: Time of Execution
Yuk Hui

Modifying the Universal
Roel Roscam Abbing, Peggy Pierrot, Femke Snelting

Geoff Cox

On Commands and Executions
David Gauthier

Deadly Algorithms
Susan Schuppli

Executing Micro-Temporality
Winnie Soon

Spinning Wheel of Life
Winnie Soon

Synchronizing Uncertainty
Brian House

Loading... 800% Slower
David Gauthier

Bugs in the War Room
Linda Hilfling Ritasdatter

Audrey Samson

Posthuman Curating and its Biopolitical Executions
Magda Tyżlik-Carver

Ghost Factory
Magda Tyżlik-Carver & Andy Prior

Bataille's Bicycle
Marie Louise Juul Søndergaard & Kasper Hedegård Shiølin

The Chance Execution
Olle Essvik

What is Executing Here?
Eric Snodgrass

Critter Compiler
Helen Pritchard

Shrimping Under Working Conditions
Francisco Gallardo & Audrey Samson

Afterword: Reverse Executions in the Internet of Things
Jennifer Gabrys

Produced with support from Aarhus University and Liverpool John Moores University.


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