Sandbox Culture at Interference


Sandbox Culture

Last year in May, I had the opportunity to give a talk in Porto, on what I coined “sandbox culture” at the closing event of the Libre Graphics Research Unit (LGRU) research project. I had great feedback and was able to improve the way I was articulating this analysis of free culture. The result will be published online by the Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie Karlsruhe (ZKM) in the coming months and the argument is further developed in the closing chapter of my PhD thesis that should be baked and ready to serve sometimes around the end of this year.

Meanwhile, I am very happy to join the Interference next month, a gathering of people, perspectives, theories, and actions that share a critical approach to society and technology. It will take place in Amsterdam, August 15th-17th. The preliminary program looks really nice already, and here is below a copypasta of the updated talk abstract on sandbox culture, that I will be giving there:

Figures of speech, such as metaphors, are often used to communicate technological ideas to a broader audience. The Cloud comes to mind, yet what is lesser known is that computer technology can in turn also be used metaphorically to describe more general societal concerns. For instance Lawrence Lessig uses the terms of Read-Only (RO) versus Read-Write (RW) culture to describe the problems of access and rights to culture. Alas, as much metaphors attempt to clarify a signal by simplifying its information, the result of such drastic filtering often results in a plethora of misunderstandings that end up interfering with each others.

In the case of free culture, the RO vs RW approach reaches quickly its limits as soon as one steps out of the simplified binary narrative. However, by pushing this analogy of file attributes to its limits, this presentation will challenge the ideas of cultural freedom by putting it in perspective of Unix-like file permissions and venerable filesystem trickery such as the chroot command, so as to reveal a lesser known facet of free culture in its struggle to combine a dream of universalism with the harsh reality of local sandboxed particularities.

See you there!

Photo: based on Scott Robinson’s Sandbox Shadow, CC-BY 2.0