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.
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”.
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.
- What role does tech play in your work?
- What challenges did you face last year?
- What opportunities are you exploring this year and what help do you need?
What Came Up:
- 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?