One of the most important roles for artists and creators of software today is to imagine and promote forms of cultural practice outside of corporate enclosure.

@praxeology this is so important. i still think a lot about Seymour Papert's vision for syntonic/humanist computer culture and computer languages. It's a major driver in my art practice, and life in general. And is also partly why I left my interaction design career to figure out a better way of living with computers.

@praxeology I'm wondering about the contribution social scientists are making or can make to this project. It shouldn't be so hard to come up with examples or fruitful research questions, but it is.

@jboy It's a good point.

My impression is that a lot of scholars have started to criticize the big platforms and gatekeepers but they have not gone beyond that to suggesting and participating much in alternatives. But I don't feel like I have enough of an overview to make a blanket statement.

I know some of those interested in the nuts and bolts of programming get involved in some of these topics like "Critical Code Studies" and "Software Studies". And there are several artists (especially around here!) involved in academic writing about those kinds of practices.

How do things look from your perspective? Are there academics documenting and trying to build independence and outside collectives?

@praxeology I've been thinking about it some more. I'll try to put some of those thoughts in writing....

I think you are right that there are fields of study where this is definitely a concern that is being debated and researched. From my point of view that especially includes studies of peer production, hacker culture and various "pioneer communities." I suppose the Institute of Network Cultures is an important node, and I can also think of folks like @Biella and @robertwgehl who contribute to such a project.

However, the forms of cultural production/expression studied by those who focus on alternatives are mostly marginal and not likely to become broadly accessible. As @aparrish put it in her great talk on the hacker ethic, hackers often preach total access while practicing exclusion.


So there is a rationale for looking ethnographically at where people are, and overwhelmingly that is in the commercial web. I guess that's what Jess Lingel is doing in her recent book An Internet for the People. It is a bit strange when compared to the other work I mentioned, because it studies a commercial product (Craigslist) as an example of resistance to the corporate web.

I think what also deserves attention from social scientists is the work of people developing protocols and maintaining systems -- people like @cwebber or @darius who are laying the groundwork for alternatives that can eventually afford cultural expression to big swaths of users outside of commercial platform ecologies.

@praxeology But yeah, I'm still sorting out my thoughts on this...

@praxeology (Lingel's book is on my desk to review, so maybe I'll use that as a chance to organize my thinking.)

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