[NetBehaviour] Know Your Filesystem (and how it affects you)

Dave Young dvyng at riseup.net
Thu Oct 22 00:15:44 CEST 2015

Hi Marc and all,

Thanks for the quote & question! To draw a minor correlation between my
text and this Illich quote – Illich wrote Tools for Conviviality in the
early 1970s, the same time the first GUI (Xerox Alto, later Star OS)
operating system was being developed. So it's interesting to think that,
while he writes at a time not too long ago but before even the personal
computer and the GUI, his comments are very easily read within the
present context where mass production quickly brings to mind the
manufacturing of information. His ideas about isolationism, destruction
of 'community' and relentless individuation recur frequently in
contemporary net criticism, and his declaration that “corporate
endeavours which thus threaten society cannot be tolerated” is
especially resonant these days, with Google's rebranding etc.

I think the shell metaphor is also quite fitting. What I wanted to get
at in the text was that any interface acts as an enclosure: it presents
options to the user, but in the end these parameters are designed and
constrained - some possibilities of user-responses/interactions must be
omitted, and we shouldn't readily consider these omissions to be inert
gestures but moments where interaction is governed. I think the
interfaces of Android, iOS/OSX, and Windows have been moving towards
what Illich might have considered a “man-made shell” for quite some time
already - our shifting perspective on the filesystem is to me emblematic
of this. The more we find ourselves within this shell, perhaps the less
we consider our devices (laptops, tablets, phones, etc) as tools? I have
the impression that, when it comes to tool-use, a sense of
agency/ownership is important. I think we are really losing the
entitlements that come with user-agency and tool-ownership as a
consequence of these 'smart operating systems' and their reluctance to
share their dirty laundry (filesystems, background processes,
data-caching, and so on) with us - should we ask them to.


On 21/10/15 12:26, marc garrett wrote:
> Hi Dave,
> I've been reading your article 'Know Your Filesystem (and how it affects
> you)', and I'd like to ask a question...
> The article reminds me Ivan Illich's 'Tools for Conviviality'...
> In his book, he says "Society can be destroyed when further growth of
> mass production renders the milieu hostile, when it extinguishes the
> free use of the natural abilities of society's members, when it isolates
> people from each other and locks them into a man-made shell, when it
> undermines the texture of community by promoting extreme social
> polarization and splintering specialization, or when cancerous
> acceleration enforces social change at a rate that rules out legal,
> cultural, and political precedents as formal guidelines to present
> behavior. Corporate endeavors which thus threaten society cannot be
> tolerated. At this point it becomes irrelevant whether an enterprise is
> nominally owned by individuals, corporations, or the slate, because no
> form of management can make such fundamental destruction serve a social
> purpose."
> Now, when he says "locks them into a man-made shell" -- it kind of feels
> similar to your own concerns relating to how the filesystem mediates our
> everyday use of computer interfaces and shape our interactions with our
> data and digital tools.
> Do you see a connection between Illich's past, analogue perspective, and
> your own computer orientated position on the matter?
> Thanks Dave ;-)
> wishing you well.
> marc
> Hey!!! In fact, anyone is welcome to join in with these public
> discussions...
> On 21 October 2015 at 11:13, furtherfield <furtherfielder at gmail.com
> <mailto:furtherfielder at gmail.com>> wrote:
>     Know Your Filesystem (and how it affects you)
>     By Dave Young.
>     Dave Young writes about the context of Localhost: RWX, a symposium
>     and worksession at Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop from 29-31 October
>     2015. He explores how the filesystem mediates our everyday use of
>     computer interfaces, shaping our interactions with our data and
>     digital tools.
>     http://www.furtherfield.org/features/know-your-filesystem-and-how-it-affects-you
>     Dave Young (IE) is an artist and researcher based in Edinburgh. His
>     practice follows critical research into digital culture, manifested
>     through workshops, website development, and talks on subjects
>     varying from cybernetics and the Cold War history of network
>     technologies, to issues around copyright and open source/free culture.
>     He is founder of Localhost, a forum for discussing, dismantling and
>     disrupting network technologies, with past events focusing on
>     Google's entry into media art curation, and the role of analog radio
>     as a potential commons in the digital age. He has presented
>     workshops and given talks at institutions and festivals
>     internationally, including at Edinburgh College of Art, V2
>     Rotterdam, Furtherfield, LiWoLi, and Transmediale. Localhost:
>     http://l-o-c-a-l-h-o-s-t.com
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> -- 
> Marc Garrett
> Co-Founder, Co-Director and main editor ofFurtherfield.
> Furtherfield - A living, breathing, thriving network
> http://www.furtherfield.org - for art, technology and social change
> since 1997
> Furtherfield Gallery & Commons,
> Finsbury Park, London N4 2NQ
> T +44(0)208 802 1301/+44(0)208 802 2827
> M +44(0)7717 887923
> www.furtherfield.org <http://www.furtherfield.org>
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