DWeb Camp was a place to share questions, experiences, concerns and joys regarding our relation to technologies. We talked and we listened, under the massive redwoods at Camp Navarro, California, and over their networked and intertwined roots. For almost a week, people from diverse walks of life had the opportunity and privilege to give ourselves the time and place to get together and weave ideas towards the decentralisation of the internet.
Fellows like us had the opportunity to join from various latitudes, bringing reflections and experiences grounded in the diverse territories that we inhabit and collaborate with. Most of them related to processes of what we call community networks among a vast richness of definitions: these are processes where people locally design, deploy, implement, take care of and sustain telecommunication networks in their territories through their own decision-making processes.
We, Dana (a member of Colnodo in Colombia) and María (member of Redes A.C. in Mexico), arrived with a group from Latin America with the commitment to share some of the learnings from the projects we are part of. Also to listen actively and bring back to our locations all that we could learn from other experiences, such as co-created P2P open-source tools for frontline communities defending their territories, women-led cooperatives, music cooperatives, decentralised magazines that strive for digital commons, tools to preserve and share cultural records and narratives in secure ways, mesh-networks of local content, free hardware developers, localisation projects, collaborative website creators, supporting trans-feminist activists, to name a few.
Among the continuous exchange of reflections and ideas, we found how, in the so-called Global North, there is a strong and progressive movement for decentralisation of the web that is mostly centred on providing autonomy to users with the help and development of protocols such as those in the form of blockchain, cryptocurrencies or P2P applications, many of which position themselves against the large telecommunications companies and digital platforms that centralise information and surveillance mechanisms.
We also found that our view from the so-called Global South (informed by our experiences, and collaborations with community networks and community media in Latin America) can expand these discussions. Mostly based on the decision-making processes in the design and implementation of technologies, we think the participation of rural, Indigenous and peri-urban communities should be at the centre, taking into consideration local needs, struggles and political claims.
Other ways to live
Along this exchange of experiences, together with Kemly Camacho from Sulá Batsú, we planned and facilitated a workshop with the intention to share the methodological proposal as a result of systematised learnings from diverse community-based projects. Most of them, in the hands of the Indigenous peoples and their long paths of self-determination and autonomy, remind us of other ways to live in relation with each other and the land that we inhabit. Processes that demonstrate that technology is not neutral but political, and show the relevance of local decision-making processes.
This methodological proposal (to be continuously nurtured and adapted) is centred in the belief that we need to step back from technology before engaging with a media or connectivity local project, and the importance of doing so on people's own terms. We suggest first to identify our shared dreams, then to design a communication strategy that supports those dreams, and then, to find which (or if!) technology responds to those local needs and desires. For two hours, we opened a conversation with people who attended from Brazil, Australia, Aotearoa, Germany and different places in the US, to talk about these paths and reflect together. Not just about technologies, but also about our relation to them and the steps that we find relevant to take if we want to shape and use them for common good.
This sharing became a circle where we all talked about the challenges of sustainability, the concerns that people may have when approaching technologies, the different pedagogies that are implemented to discuss technical and organisational issues, or decision-making processes on content creation. Also, about the different ways in which the power of people and communities take part in the design, construction and care of their own technological strategies, to walk their dreams and strengthen educational, economic and cultural processes with autonomy.
As mentioned, one of the first steps that we have learnt to take is to talk about our dreams. These are often drawn or named as a community with shared dreams in a specific territory. We, sitting there, imagined ourselves as a community of people gathering at the DWeb that could dream together. We all shared and listened, while documenting our diverse ideas into the following text that we then named Dream Manifiesto:
We have all now returned to our homes with an expanded network of relationships. This network reminds us that there are plenty of us thinking and working towards another kind of relationships and projects where connectivity is not an end in itself but a tool for processes that strive for collectiveness. We believe that this Manifiesto is a reminder of that network, and the possibilities of collaborating towards those dreams. Also, a responsibility to continue striving for those dreams through reflection and action.
We also came back with questions that are still present in our conversations and we find relevant to share here. How would this conversation sound if it included those voices that are as diverse as the territories from Abya Yala? And the world? How does it sound in languages that are not as colonial as English or Spanish? How do we take care of the line that stands between tech-centred decentralisation of Web 3.0 and one that is centred in relationships and processes? One that acknowledges the different contexts in which we relate to technology?
Decolonization is not a metaphor, Eve Tuck and K. Yang remind us. Neither is the decentralisation of this conversation, or the decentralisation of the web. How can we then amplify this conversation, and continue weaving our different efforts for a better relation with technologies while acknowledging our local and diverse contexts?
Gracias a Kemly, Micah, Hiure, Alice, Ben, Ian, Ying Tong, Cel, Sebh and Ngoc for sharing this session with us.
Photos: Brad Shirawaka/DWeb