Making Room: Notes on Radical Spacemaking

For those of us, the fortunate ones in the western world, the pandemic propelled us online in a major way in order to maintain some level of livelihood and connection.

Whether over Teams or Zoom, Jitsi or BlueJeans, our touches become imprints of bits and bytes over the wire.

For many of us in the tech workforce, the video work meetings were nothing new even when we worked in physical offices, It was the everything else beside work that was eerie — familiar but not. From church to school to therapy to educational seminars, it all started to map uncomfortably onto each other and in some ways become too much.

Though there are at this point lots of articles about videocall burnout, little of them point to what’s been gained in terms of connection and accessibility to various populations as well as where we need the technology to go next. How do we squarely and fairly think about this move to port all of our previous fleshspace contacts to digital space? And how do those of us who are radicals connect it to a longer radical history of meeting spaces, meeting practice, and our evolving political and social praxis?

What follows are a few questions to chew on with your people.

The Iroquois Council
  1. What are the origins and meanings of the fleshspace spaces we already inhabited? What are we/ have we been saying intentionally and unintentionally with the spaces we create?
  2. What were the flaws and benefits of the fleshspace spaces we already inhabited?
A Zoom meeting

3. What positives did we carry over from those spaces into digital space?
4. What flaws did we simply port over into digital space?

Scottish House of Parliament
Candomblé ceremony in Brasil

5. What does digital space offer beyond fleshspace?
6. What are the narratives, guidelines, and ceremony — both conscious and unconscious— of our current spaces? videochat

Things To Read

Anarchism, Geography, and Queer Space-Making: Building Bridges Over Chasms We Create by Farhang Rouhani

(download here)

Haudenosaunee narrative, constitution, and ceremony,_constitution,_and_ceremony

What Is Candomblé? Beliefs and History

Worship takes place in temples which have indoor and outdoor spaces as well as special spaces for the gods. Prior to entering, worshippers must wear clean clothes and ritually wash. While worshippers may come to the temple to have their fortunes told, to share a meal, or for other reasons, they typically go for ritual worship services.

The worship service starts with a period during which priests and initiates prepare for the event. Preparation includes washing costumes, decorating the temple in the colors of the Orixa to be honored, preparing food, conducting divinations, and (in some cases) making animal sacrifices to the Orixas.

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January 2018 – Sending Up Signals, Sowing Seeds: A community Dinner Discussion on Ecology, Technology, and The Solidarity Economy

On January 18, 2018, CoLET gathered at the beautiful Brooklyn Community Foundation office with ecologist and technologist friends — old and new — to drink, eat, and talk as about the roles we do and can play in struggles for liberation.
Opening Remarks: 
CoLET was created less than a year ago after Camille Acey was introduced to Dana Skallman at an event organized by the Cooperative Economics Association of New York City (CEANYC) event. Dana and Camille were interested in carving out a greater space for technology in the mutually supportive economic institutions practices that are globally being referred to as the solidarity economy. They were both already talking to people in these spaces about the ways the devices we may hold in one hand are reproducing the very systems  of oppression we are fighting with the other, and they were eager to move beyond that frustration.
Over time, CoLET expanded to start a monthly community of study with other technologists as well as artists, media makers, and activists where we have been exploring different perspectives on technology and the ways it can be/has been a help or hindrance  to radical struggles for liberation and earth justice. We don’t view tech as a solution in and of itself but one potential tool in the toolbox. Camille informally refers to us as “the Radical IT department”.

(L to R) Laura Laqui and Dana Skallman of CoLET

 Our work has three components at this moment:
1) practice- we are actively providing technical support to organizations that want to maintain their websites and tech infrastructure on our open source platform
2)study – a monthly reading/ discussion group held here in Crown Heights and open to all; and
3)service – trying to be more of a resource here between the neighborhoods of Bed-Stuy and Flatbush, operating at human scale in the neighborhoods and helping our friends and neighbors better understand, leverage, and enjoy technology.
The title of the event is inspired by this political moment when people are waking up to the often overlapping realities of race/class/gender, politics and power, ecological destruction, as well as surveillance and the potential dangers of technology, especially social media.
We at CoLET see this moment as ripe with possibility to begin forging new alliances as well as deepening and more clearly defining our bonds of solidarity, and we are excited to have you at the table to explore this with us.
  1. What role does tech play in your work?
  2. What challenges did you face last year?
  3. What opportunities are you exploring this year and what help do you need?

What Came Up:

Camille Acey of CoLET

  • How do we share information between organizations and generations? There are many current and historical “wins”; where do we put them so everyone has a chance to see them?
  • People struggle with the idea of alternatives to mainstream commercial software. It seems neutral, almost like a public utility. How do we start planting seeds so people can think about making the transition?
  • Someone made the point that we are killing the planet, but in honesty we are killing ourselves (and taking out several species with us). The planet will go on. How do we think about that? How do we process not just growth but also death?
  • “If you’re gonna fight the good fight, you gotta know who you’re fighting.” – It’s important to know your enemies!
  • How concerned should we be about mass surveillance? Are our solutions particularly freeing? Even Signal’s servers are hosted by Amazon.
  • How are people and groups dealing with/combatting doxxing
  • How do we work at a human scale?
  • Many of us want to talk about black liberation, queer liberation, women’s liberation. How can we create spaces where people can come as their whole selves, representing all of their concerns?
  • Examples of how groups creating a nurturing space include: cooking together, group exercise, going dancing together, providing food and childcare at gatherings, providing translation services
  • People seemed to be divided along lines of “techie ” and “non-techie”; how do we bring down the barriers to tech literacy?
  • Some people rely on Facebook or Slack for vital resources like work or housing info, how do we begin to move these privileged networks off of proprietary platforms?
  • Camille mentioned that MACC has started a mutual aid network – link here
  • Does everything we share need to be permanently shared or can we embrace the temporary?
  • How do we regain our attention from these apps and devices?

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