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

marc garrett marc.garrett2 at gmail.com
Thu Oct 22 16:36:41 CEST 2015


Hi Dave & all,

Thanks for answering the last question.

I just want to respond by unpacking some of the terms used in your
paragraph below, and then see where it takes us...

>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.

Much of the language used to promote technology mystifies it into
abstraction and is not usually helpful in bringing people closer towards a
deeper level of 'user-agency and tool-ownership'. For example 'the cloud'
literally gives us the impression of a cloud that is floating above us and
untouchable, almost godly. In reality the function is different. It is
digital data in 'physical storage' on multiple units/servers/computers
usually at various locations in the world, owned and managed by hosting
companies.

But when you say a "sense of agency/ownership is important", I cannot help
thinking of comparisons relating to land restriction and its ownership, and
privatization of our spaces. This is where issues around boundaries come to
the fore and a critique about us living in a proprietary based society,
historically, socially, culturally, psychically and technically (analogue
and digital).

If we were to take a Evgeny Morozov stance - in his eyes we are prisoners
of these laptops, tablets, phones; via surveillance, self tracking, and
gamification, and we are drowning under the weight of acceleration, through
technological determined domination.

I find the use of the term "smart operating systems" strange. There are
different ways to looking at things, and we can use other people's ideas as
a lens to bring about a different perspective. Sometimes I use George
Orwell's classic text 'Politics and the English Language' as a testing
ground and thoughtful barometer to see what something can look like under
its critically informed, no nonsense metering. From this standpoint the
term "smart operating systems" looks like a euphemism or feels like
doublespeak, when really it could lean more towards 'unsmart' as we become
more needy of technology but not able to delve into its structures and
frameworks, break away from its protocols. Perhaps we are "human operating
systems" being engineered by the technology.

What do you think?-)

Wishing you well.

marc

On 21 October 2015 at 23:15, Dave Young <dvyng at riseup.net> wrote:

> 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.
>
> Regards,
> Dave
>
> 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
> >
> >
> >     _______________________________________________
> >     NetBehaviour mailing list
> >     NetBehaviour at netbehaviour.org <mailto:NetBehaviour at netbehaviour.org>
> >     http://www.netbehaviour.org/mailman/listinfo/netbehaviour
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > --
> > 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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-- 
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
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