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CS FIELD MANUAL: PRACTICING SHIFTING GROUNDS

On all the indeterminate possibilities that two simple letters can offer.

  • Dec 10 2020
  • Loren Britton and Helen Pritchard
    Loren Britton is an interdisciplinary artist based in Berlin. Focusing on radical pedagogy, play, and unthinking oppression, they make objects that reposition and collaborations that unlearn. Britton is responsible to questions of techno-science, anti-racism, trans*feminism, and making accessibilities (considering class and dis/ability). Britton researches within Gender/Diversity in Informatics Systems (GeDIS) at the University of Kassel, Germany. hello@lorenbritton.com

    Helen Pritchard is an artist and designer whose work considers the impacts of computation on social and environmental justice. Their research addresses how Big Tech configures the possibilities for life—or who gets to have a life—in intimate and significant ways. As a practitioner they work together with companions to make propositions and designs for computing otherwise, developing methods to uphold a politics of queer survival and environmental practice. Helen is an associate professor in queer feminist technoscience & digital design at i-DAT, University of Plymouth.

CS (chance and scandal) has everything to do with CS (computer science) and CS (committed survival). CS (chance and scandal) is not an event or critical break after which new normativities are established. CS (chance and scandal) can be trained for with the commitment towards undoing another source of oppression like: extractivism, optimization, white supremacy, carceration, tokenization, othering, reproductive capitalism, the family, binaries, linearity, and attention. CS (chance and scandal) can be a form of failure less closely tied to action. CS (chance and scandal) helps to set up an expanded gestural repertoire of “how” and “what” “to do”. CS (chance and scandal) can be resourced.

In this guide we propose a set of practices for CS. In reaching towards scandals that are chancy, and less closely tied to action, we call for CS as a figuration. We do this to account for, unsettle, take responsibility for and remake dominant Computer Science as it currently “is”— a field built on colonial and imperial violences (1). These violences are hard coded into the field, which continuously uphold and stand in for what Sylvia Wynter describes as “universal généralisant”: the unquestionable reason, value, and authority (2) that is the illusion of all colonial constructs—we work to destroy this. This is a field manual for CS. The following operations draw on Fred Moten’s concept of chance and scandal (3) , and develop it within Computer Science as a path to justice and freedom. We engage scandal to break through established practices—where diverse practices might flourish. Towards this undoing we propose that we need more stories of: scandal and enjoyment, friendships, refusals, inaction, hums, modes of survival, modes of non/commitment, damage, namings, cruising, feelings, pockets, tooling up, reading, dreaming, writing, making, smelling, rhythms and flows, tunings, cusps, insensibilities and wayward practice. We invite you to take part in unsettling CS practice by performing a series of operations: When addressing CS (computer science), unlearning and being with others—what comes up? Our aim is a commitment to survival with CS.


Glossary of CS_Practices


(computer science
): Invite yourself to unlearn what this has come to mean.

(chance and scandal): Practices that can disrupt and rupture what we think the ground is. Scandals might include crimes or very quotidian activities. Ask yourself what would be scandalous here and test it out together with others. (4)

(composition and struggle): Center Sylvia Wynter’s call to practice from the imperative of a perspective of struggle, to generate anti-colonial and antiimperial practices. This is a practice of struggling with, to care about this means we cannot predetermine what you’ll need to be specific to the struggles you engage with. But it could include trust, atemporality, uncovering, obscuring or not, or unsettling. (5)

(complexity and space): engage with moments of normative space that frame your practice. Let go of the attachment to stasis and the idea that space just is. (6)

(committed survival): Allow a loss of knowing of what to do but remain committed, and response-able to freedom & liberation. (7)

(care and shelter): Care for not knowing, cannot be predetermined in advance includes maintenance of non normative practices of engagement.

(chocolate and strawberries): Might be as simple as chocolate and strawberries. Might be as complex as finding out where they came from. Might be as sensual as your favourite taste. Might be as vulnerable as sticking your tongue out. Critical endorphins. (8)

(cushions and stargazing): Recognise the earth as alive, soft, hot and in production. Press into softenings and dreamings. Feel out other structures to lean on and other tools for navigating time forward. (9)

(collective strategies): Take a practice from corporate training, militancy or military, flip it and reverse it, take it up and onto the streets and sheets. (careful slug): Leave a (slime) trail, pay attention to what this trail is and who and how it effects.

(cut and scale): A figure for changing where decisions get made and at what scale. Scale and cut can include: rescaling, changing the conditions on how cuts are made and making cuts in different time-spaces.

(collapsing species): An imploded conglomerate without species boundaries, study the circumstances around you, get to know what living entities are there, and which ones used to be, wonder what changed and why.

(chancer scientist): Pay attention to both the recklessness and fantasies of science and never miss an opportunity for joy. Practice de-institutionalisation.

(cohabitation and sharing): Co-habitation is deeply entangled with questions of comfort. Consider practices for cohabitation in a mode of sharing, even when this sharing is uncomfortable, and causes discomfort. (10)

(conditions and story): Tell stories about the structural conditions that organise life chances and chances for living. Practice abolition.

(crying sabotage): This is a group exercise, attempt to feel the energy between yours and another’s body, not limited to humans. Focus on the feelings, feel time pushing forward and pushing time back, it’s not always easy to experience the physicality of energy from below. (11)

(collective suffering): Listen for mourning and grief without insisting that it be transformed. (12)

 
CS FIELD MANUAL was presented during a series of workshop "Art Workers Commons", organised in collaboration with Lothringer 13 Halle in November 2020. 

 

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  • Footnotes
    1   Ali, Syed Mustafa. “A Brief Introduction To Decolonial Computing”. Xrds: Crossroads, The ACM Magazine For Students, Vol.
    22, No. 4, 2016, Pp. 16–21 And Chakravartty, Paula And Mills, Mara. “virtual Roundtable On ‘decolonial Computing’”. Catalyst, Vol. 4,
    No. 2, 2018, P. 14.

    2   Mckittrick, Katherine. Cited In Wynter, Sylvia. “beyond The Word Of Man”. Pp. 638–39. See Also: Wynter, Sylvia, “ethno Or Socio
    Poetics”. Pp. 87.

    3   Moten, Fred. Black And Blur. Durham & London, Duke University Press, 2017, P. 38.

    4   Moten, Fred. Black And Blur. Durham & London, Duke University Press, 2017.

    5   Mckittrick, Katherine, Editor. Sylvia Wynter – On Being Human As Praxis. Durham & London, Duke University Press, 2015.

    6   Mckittrick, Katherine. Demonic Grounds – Black Women And The Cartographies Of Struggle. Minneapolis & London, University Of Minnesota Press, 2006, P. Xi.

    7   Hartman, Saidiya. Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments – Intimate Histories Of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women, And Queer Radicals. New York & London, W. W. Norton & Company, 2019.

    8   Britton, Loren And Helen Pritchard. “for Cs”. Acm Interactions, 2020.

    9   Gumbs, Alexis Pauline. M Archive – After The End Of The World. Durham & London, Duke University Press, 2018, P. 23.

    10   Yusoff, Kathryn. “insensible Worlds – Postrelational Ethics, Indeterminacy And The (K) Nots Of Relating”. Environment And
    Planning D – Society And Space, Vol. 31, No. 2, 2013, Pp. 208–226.

    11   Gumbs, Alexis Pauline. M Archive – After The End Of The World. Durham & London, Duke University Press, 2018, P. 23.

    12   Cvetkovich, Ann. Depression – A Public Feeling. Durham & London, Duke University Press, 2012.

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