3/3 Methods for Togetherness: Colophons
As a last exercises of this seminar, we will work on writing a colophon for the online space that we've been using in the last months: this wiki. How can we translate the different understandings we encountered around collective work, into a colophon? How do the ideas around F/LOSS, Open(?) Source(?), techno-feminism and federated networks inform this colophon? What do we include in it, and what do we leave out? How do we understand authorship now? Let's make a page on this wiki to publish the colophon and let's add the [[Category:Colophons]] tag, so it shows up here. We can use an Etherpad to write the colophon together.
Collective reading on this pad: https://pad.vvvvvvaria.org/hfg-open-source-colophons
What is an Author?
All discourses, whatever their status, form, value, and whatever the treatment to which they will be subjected, would then develop in the anonymity of a murmur. We would no longer hear the questions that have been rehashed for so long: Who really spoke? Is it really he and not someone else? With what authenticity or originality? And what part of his deepest self did he express in his discourse? Instead, there would be other questions, like these: What are the modes of existence of this discourse? Where has it been used, how can it circulate, and who can appropriate it for himself? What are the places in it where there is room for possible subjects? Who can assume these various subject functions? And behind all these questions, we would hear hardly anything but the stirring of an indifference: What difference does it make who is speaking?
— Michel Foucault, ‘What is an Author?’ in Paul Rabinow (eds.), The Foucault Reader, Pantheon Books, 1984. p.119. File:Michel-foucault-the-foucault-reader.pdf
Politics of Naming
When knowledges are collectively constructed, how do we attribute roles, authorship and ownership? During the years of my publishing activity, writing the colophon at the end of a collective process always presented deep trouble. The colophon is a mechanism of liability and credit. It marks the temporality and context of the book. It specifies and acknowledges the contributors and their respective roles. It provides all these data for bibliographic practices that will be replicated (presumably) in perpetuity. These specifications appear as metadata in library catalogs (MARC records), research repositories, archives, and the book trade (ISBN). These international standards have created a rigid set of form fields and categories capturing the book's provenance. These inflexible categories seem to produce a clash with the valuable messiness of collective practice and collectivized outcomes, as described above.
— Eva Weinmayr, 'Noun to Verb: an investigation into the micro-politics of publishing through artistic practice', 6 Analysis: Micro-politics of Publishing, PhD thesis, 2021. http://wiki.evaweinmayr.com/index.php/6_Analysis:_Micro-politics_of_Publishing#Politics_of_Naming
E: (...) I tried this with the Piracy Project, which was a five-year collaboration with Andrea Francke, touring to many cultural institutions, places, with many people involved – in a range of roles: people giving books, inviting us, hosting us, people who contributed to conversations, people who donated books to the collection, people who gave actual money, people who provided support in kind, and so on. I was thinking for a while how I could break this down to the individual agents in this project – just trying to define the roles, the tools, basically everything that made this project happen in the way it happened. It was impossible!
Interestingly, when I talked about this to Andrea, she said such an attempt would come close to what new public management asks us to do: Which museums invited you? How many attendees, etc.. But I was curious if I made an effort and acknowledged the roles and tools that normally aren’t credited – the cleaner in the art space, the care of hosting, etc.. I tried it. I started to define new "roles", but it turned out to be an impossible task. By trying to be inclusive you always produce exclusions. And that was unsatisfactory and too much work.
F: I completely overuse Barad today, but if I look at the colophons that Constant did – especially in the period when we were active with OSP – there is a disproportionate amount of space for naming tools. In that period, we needed to figure out the presence of tools in the objects we were making. The “cut” we were making was to pay attention to tools. There is, of course, a limit to what you can hold somehow – so then the cleaners might not get included. It all depends on the kind of stories the colophon needs to tell. If we thought this was about completeness, we would be back to what you call the neo-liberal idea that it would be desirable, or even possible to cite everything and everyone. Neo-liberal transparency would ask you for everything that makes a colophon quantifiable within a specific economic system. For an academic one, for instance, it would imply that everybody who matters within this system needs to show up. So the question is: which decisions limit or produce the colophon rather than how can we list everything and everyone. Because that would be the world, and maybe even the universe!
To list a typeface in a colophon, for instance, seems ridiculous. Who really cares? But in some environments and at specific times this is what needs to happen. And then, after a while, it can become a habit at some point. In the Netherlands, for example, every book will list the person who designed it. There is no question about leaving the designer out.
E: Because of the Netherland’s design tradition?
F: Design matters, and therefore you list it. In Belgium, this is absolutely not the case. When I came here to Brussels, the non-listing of the designer felt like a purposeful omission, but then I understood, it's the opposite: to list the designer does mean something.
F: We talked about the choices you make in listing certain things and not others, in the colophon for example. This is different from the transparency that Joe Freeman asks for and also to the neoliberal one. I think neoliberal transparency does not ask for everything to be transparent; it is interested in very particular things becoming transparent.
You need to keep agency with what you make important – and that is not always the same thing. At a certain point, it could be important to list all the tools involved in the production of something – and then other things miss out. There are authorship and editorial decisions in what gets listed. It is sometimes hard to keep these two things apart because we are both trying to live a feminist life and at the same time we are of course implicated in neoliberal systems – we get confused sometimes. But I think it's really important to remember that we make choices.
— Eva Weinmayr, 'Noun to Verb: an investigation into the micro-politics of publishing through artistic practice', Appendix 2*Interview with Femke Snelting, PhD thesis, 2021. http://wiki.evaweinmayr.com/index.php/Appendix_2*Interview_with_Femke_Snelting
We can read Karen Barad’s (2007) account of the seeing-touching made possible by “scanning tunnelling microscopes” in this direction. These devices are used to “observe” surfaces at atomic level, a procedure that operates “on very different physical principles than visual sight” (53). This account calls upon the “physicality of touch.” A sense of the object passes through a “microscope tip” and the “feel” of the surface passes through an electron current tunneled through the microscope. The data produced (including the resulting image of the surface) corresponds to “specific arrangements of atoms.” In this encounter, where the physical universe is as much an agent in the meeting with a knower, there is no separateness between observing and touching, figuring well a vision that does not separate knowing from being-relating.
Barad’s account of the closeness of touch stands for a conception where “knowing does not come from standing at a distance and representing the world but rather from a direct material engagement with the world” (49, emphasis added). This vision challenges the framing of knowing within epistemologies of representation and “optics of mediation” (Barad 2007, 374–77)—in social constructivism, for instance, “nature” never comes to “us” but is mediated by the knowledge social beings have of it. A critique of this bifurcated optic order requires a more subtle thinking of the “agency” involved in knowing yet without necessarily speaking for immediacy, for directness in touching the real, or nature. On the contrary, vision-as-touch works rather to increase a sense of the entanglement of multiple materialities, as in Barad’s theory of the “intra-activity” of human and nonhuman matters in the scientific constitution of phenomena. Going further than inter-action, Barad’s intra-action problematizes not only subjectivity but also the attribution of agency merely to human subjects (of science)—as the ones having power to intervene and transform (construct) reality.
The reversibility of touch (to touch is to be touched) also inspires the troubling of such assumptions: Who/what is object? Who/what is subject? It is not only the experimenter/observer/human agent who sees, touches, knows, intervenes, and manipulates the universe: there is intra-touching. In the example above, it is not only the microscope that touches a surface; this surface does something to the artifact of touching-vision. In other words, touching technologies are material and meaning producing embodied practices entangled with the very matter of relating-being. As such, they cannot be about touch and get, or about immediate access to more reality. Reality is a process of intra-active touch. Interdependency is intrarelational.
— Maria Puig de La Bellacasa, 'Matters of Care: Speculative Ethics in More Than Human Worlds', 2017. https://syllabus.pirate.care/library/Maria%20Puig%20de%20La%20Bellacasa/Matters%20of%20Care%20(171)/Matters%20of%20Care%20-%20Maria%20Puig%20de%20La%20Bellacasa.pdf
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