The NYT on retrocomputing

The NYT had a short piece last week about retrocomputing. Nothing super deep here but it’s interesting to see this relationship with skills and learning how to rebuild machines:

While modern, ever more efficient computers are selling better than they have in years, vintage computers — impractical old devices in need of repairs and out-of-production parts — are also in demand on sites like eBay. Collectors also flock to message boards, subreddits and Discord servers to buy, sell and trade parts.
People are buying these PCs not necessarily for daily use, but for the satisfaction they get from rebuilding them. It’s a trend one might chalk up to quarantine boredom, though it’s been gaining traction for years.

Why blogging this? Retrocomputing is generally described by showing machines, objects and old artefacts. This is the case here, but I find it relevant to discuss the motivation, and eventually that it is not just about collecting, but also learning how to rebuild objects of the past.

“épaves” (shipwreck)

box with old cameras

The French term “épaves” (shipwreck) is often used out of the marine context, like here, in this box I found at at photographers’ shop in Geneva. A box in which you can find camera junk.

Collapse informatics/Computing with limits


Why blogging this? Bill Tomlinson describes here two stimulating concepts about novel forms of computing that might allow us as a civilization to more effectively engage with more durable ways of living:

For example, Collapse Informatics was focusing on building systems in the abundant present for use in the future of scarcity.

And Computing Within Limits has been looking at the notion that industrial civilization is typically very much growth focused, and the computing industry, situated within industrial civilization also tends to be growth focused. However, there might be new kinds of computing that could arise that could support a de-growth, or an anti-growth type of direction for civilization. With the broad sense being that that will either be something that we go into voluntarily by transforming civilization into something that is not so growth focused, or something that will be thrust on us involuntarily, as civilization potentially begins to collapse around us over the next couple of decades.”

Les déchets numériques en littérature

Cette courte description, dans le dernier livre de Pierre Ducrozet’s, “Le Grand Vertige“:
Description par Pierre Ducrozet
… qui m’a rappelée cette autre mention d’un tel sujet, par Guillaume Poix (dans son “Les fils conducteurs“) situé dans la décharge d’Agbogbloshie, à Accra (Ghana) :

“T’as tout le cimetière numérique, t’as tout l’obsolète qui se trouve un coin pour s’aplatir sous les coups de poings des mêmes qui le fouillent. On te dit “C’est digital, c’est dématérialisé”, on te dit “C’est sans fil, c’est encore plus plat”, on te dit “C’est l’encombre en moins et la vitesse de la lumière dans ta face”, on te dit “C’est la fibre, c’est la poussière en propre, et qui prend pas de place”, on te dit des trucs pareils là où tu es toi; mais ce qu’on t’explique pas, c’est que chez nous, ça devient la bosse, ça devient Babel, le truc: ça grimpe jusqu’au ciel, les merdes cabossées dézinguées bousillées, elles construisent une seconde planète qui t’encrasse les tuyaux, merdes qui stagnent dans toi, qui te collent des migraines et des vomissures. Disons, pour conclusionner le topo, que ce qui se perçoit pas là-bas est pas tout à fait invisible ici.” (p. 143-144)

Why blogging this? Si je ne saurai juger de l’exactitude du portrait du lieu fait par l’auteur, il me semble que celles-ci concordent avec l’enquête de terrain de Jenna Burrell qui a abordé le sujet en partie, à ce travail de Yasmine Abbas et DK Osseo-Asare, ou encore les photos que publient le Makerspace local. Mais la question est de taille car Agbogbloshie est très souvent caricaturé par les journalistes et photographes qui viennent rapidement sur les lieux et en tirent une perspective souvent misérabiliste.

Dans le roman de Poix, publié par les éditions Verticales, j’ai été particulièrement intéressé par les descriptions des gestes accomplis par les fouilleurs de la décharge. Pour quelles raisons ? Tout simplement car elles forment un rappel, une sorte de miroir de nos gestes d’utilisations de tous nos appareils électroniques. Ce sont des mouvements du corps qui poursuivent nos usages et que l’on a bien souvent pas en tête (ce qui rejoint en partie le propos de Burrell qui parle de “invisible users”).

Note from the flea market #1

Why blogging this? The flea market is an important site in this project. We try to visit it as much as possible, observing which digital objects are sold, their conditions, the price given by the seller, the discussions around them, and sometimes the body posture of the potential buyers. Two examples here from yesterday in Geneva, with a laptop as well as power adapters and cables.

“Why using old cartdriges?”

Seen on the website of Iodine Dynamics, which recently “What Remains”, an 8-bit game for the NES console (released in 1985) that blends visual novel and adventure elements:
Why are you using old cartridges to house your game?  The game was made thinking about having as little environmental impact as possible. The choice for the NES was part of these considerations. The NES is a very sturdy machine, still functioning after 4 decades. The cartridges as well. Producing new hardware and purchasing new electronic components to create a game did not feel right, because in the long run we would just be adding to the already out of control pile of e-waste. There are so many cartridges out there which are abandoned and unloved, they can be brought back to life with a new ROM, giving them a new purpose with very little environmental impact.
Why blogging this? An interesting project that illustrates the kind of practices we are interested in here. Designing a game in 2019 on a console released thirty years before doesn’t mean it’s about privileging the past, mostly because game designed evolved and that the way to imagine game imaginary/design has changed… which is why this is not an example of “retrogaming” even though the aesthetic is close to the one of the 1980s, it’s much more than that, and we’re not sure such a game could have been produced (conceptually) back in the days.

Détournement

“Détournement: s’emploie par abréviation de la formule : détournement d’éléments esthétiques préfabriqués. Intégration de productions actuelles ou passées des arts dans une construction supérieure du milieu. Dans ce sens il ne peut y avoir de peinture ou de musique situationniste, mais un usage situationniste de ces moyens. Dans un sens plus primitif, le détournement à l’intérieur des sphères culturelles anciennes est une méthode de propagande, qui témoigne de l’usure et de la perte d’importance de ces sphères.”

or in English:

Short for “détournement of preexisting aesthetic elements.” The integration of present or past artistic productions into a superior construction of a milieu. In this sense there can be no situationist painting or music, but only a situationist use of those means. In a more elementary sense, détournement within the old cultural spheres is a method of propaganda, a method which reveals the wearing out and loss of importance of those spheres.

Source: Internationale situationniste Bulletin central édité par les sections de l’Internationale situationniste Numéro 1, Juin 1958.

Why blogging this? As détournement seems to be an important notion in the social practices we are interested in here, I’m putting together a lexicon about its different expression. Might be relevant to express the nuances we run across.

On “critical jugaad”

An interesting interview of Deepa Butoliya by James Auger at Speculative dot edu. Based on a recent CHI workshop paper she wrote about non-western maker and DIY cultures, Butoliya describes the notion of “critical jugaad”:

Critical Jugaad is jugaad done as an act of everyday resistance and survival. Critical Jugaad is a term I have coined that is based on an inquiry that explains how people use ingenious making practices like jugaad as a tool for resistance, subversion and criticality against colonial powers of oppression. Jugaad is a Hindi term which means making do with what you have at hand. Jugaad-like practices form cultural binders and empower people to find a collective force to fight oppression while practicing creative self-expression.

Why blogging this? This notion, and the way she described it more thoroughly in the interview, is interesting both because it describes a counterpoint to Western visions of Maker culture, and also because it highlights a similar phenomenon to my earlier blogpost about gambiarra: DYI as a way to re-appropriate technologies and goods.

Digital media debris #1

Why blogging this? This street scene is from 2009 in Geneva. I am used to keep track of discarded digital technologies… I’ve been observing this kind of scene for more than twenty years. I realize I do have colleagues also working on this topic. Media Debris is a research project conducted by Katharina Niemeyer and Juliette De Maeyer about “street media history”, which aims as “documenting the crime scenes of (r)ejected technologies”.