Digital and/as Public Space Micro-Residencies

As part of the Digital and/as Public Space initiative, The Bentway and From Later hosted a set of micro-residencies with artists, designers, developers, and writers. Below is a synopsis of the residents’ work as well as links to their project materials.

Varied in their approaches and materials, the diversity of projects helped inspire the form of the Field Guide to Digital and/as Public Space: a draft-positive, polyphonic approach to the futures of public spaces and digital technologies.

Digital Garden, Gary Ing & Dawn Walker (Hypha)

Through a research and generation process that connects retro-futuristic histories to speculative possibilities, Hypha looks beyond the assumptions of exclusive, financially motivated content platforms to an equitable internet with “us users as stewards and maintainers of protocols.”

As a matter of working in public, Hypha nurtured a unique digital garden of their own, mapping the rhizomatic connections among research themes. They made the code available under a GNU General Public License for other researchers to chart their lines of flight.

Ritualistic Design, Raad Seraj

For Raad Seraj, rituals are the fundamental units of culture. They encode relationships with ourselves and those around us. Acknowledging our present moment as one where everything is inverted (“We used to go online to escape. But now we go outside to escape”), Seraj calls for the deliberate design of new rituals, counterweights to the force and heft of our current conditions.

Seraj works at “re-appropriating online spaces as spaces for inspiration, healing, and connection,” finding ways to utilize the features uniquely afforded by our digital tools to recapture our attention.

Principia Cartografica, The Foresight Studio

Principia Cartografica catalogues and reflects on The Foresight Studio’s more than fifteen years of designing digitally enabled experiences. In the process, they developed a fluid grammar of shorthand graphic annotations. The annotated illustrations make visible a digital layer over physical space, showing how various devices talk to each other — sensing, exchanging data, providing feedback, and actuating events.

They suggest a set of design guidelines that holds as a core principle the notion that: everything (specifically including time and behaviour) is media; any distinction between digital and physical is fallacious. What results is a notational wellspring for the choreography of public space.

Terms That Serve Us, virtual care lab

Terms That Serve Us was generated through an experimental, collective research process facilitated by virtual care lab as a means to offer inversions, transformation, rejections, and challenges to typical “terms of service” agreements that are often designed to restrict users’ agency on digital platforms.

Embracing the ethos of working in public, virtual care lab initiated a free, public series of discussions, gatherings, and online portals — creating an open cohort of co-conspirators to develop a set of living, collaborative Terms that capture an evolving constellation of community intentions and understandings, rather than a fixed set of rules.

Unnique, Mitchell Akiyama

The recent explosion of speculation in Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) reflects a drive to simulate aspects of the offline world. In this case, the attribute of scarcity, the aura of something rare, the value we ascribe to such things, and the legal dimensions of ownership that are being transferred online.

As an experiment to challenge those assumptions about digital property, Mitchell Akiyama launched Unnique, which endeavours to distribute a singular, digital artwork — a unique version of a JPG reproduction of Fra Angelico’s The Annunciation (c. 1440–45) — to every person on the planet. Through this project Akiyama explores abundance as an alternative model for understanding how digital objects circulate and accumulate value — through a project that could never feasibly be executed IRL.

Modpol, Nathan Schneider and Luke Miller

As Nathan Schneider has noted, online spaces are often governed by an implicit feudalism: with rigid hierarchies, draconian punishments, and no accountability through elections, due process, or term limits. But what if we could organize online life differently?

Modpol (short for modular politics), a collaboration between Nathan Schneider and Luke Miller, is an experiment in online self-governance. It is an application that runs on top of the open-source, community-created, world-building game Minetest. Modpol enables users to invent collective design-making capabilities within the game, while aiming to make those tools portable to other online spaces.