Dossier: Practising Permacomputing

Resources on reusing technologies for digital resilience

Reassemble

Introduction

What lies behind our interfaces? What is the physical impact of virtual data? How can we connect the tiny devices in our hands to the expansive architecture that powers them? What ideologies underpin the “cloud”? Can we (re)use digital technology within the boundaries of our planet? These are some of the questions explored during the fifth edition of FIBER’s nomadic Reassemble Lab, titled Practising Permacomputing.

Said with tongue in cheek, permacomputing is a radically slightly more sustainable approach to computer and network technology inspired by permaculture. At a time where computing epitomises industrial waste, permacomputing encourages the maximising of hardware lifespans, minimising energy use, and focusing on the use of already available computational resources.

Throughout the span of three months, the Lab offered a platform for reconsidering our connection to computation through a workshop series and a one-day symposium. From turning old computers into functional servers and building small cybernetic systems integrating plants, humans and electronics to exploring new tools and methods for fostering collective imagination, Lab participants had the opportunity to take a closer look at their role in the digital environment they inhabit. 

This dossier is one small step toward creating an archive of collective knowledge, interventions, and documentation around the practice of permacomputing, featuring contributions from Lab participants who situate it within their own research and practice.

Articles

Have you ever wondered about the role of metaphors in shaping imaginaries? Or about the ideologies behind data centres? And what happens to our laptops and smartphones once we discard them? Grounding itself in the urgent, real-life applications of permacomputing principles, the Permacomputing Dossier assembles contributions from Lab participants, who were invited to reflect upon their practice in relation to the themes of the workshops. Through this collection of texts, we invite you to do the same.

  • Hope for the best, prepare for the worst: Reclaiming agency in datafied times | Eleni Maragkou
    12/03/2024
    Pour some ln2s, avoid condensation, win the prize: Liquid nitrogen overclockers and their practices | Cyrus Khalatbari
    12/03/2024
    “Faulty” GPUs, gold, forks, cooking pots or iron-rods: Recycling computers in Accra, Ghana | Cyrus Khalatbari
    12/03/2024
    Imagination above productivity: Crafting a joyful resistance with permacomputing | Ola Bonati
    12/03/2024
    Permanently computed: The museum is burning. Can permacomputing help? | Olivier Van D’huynslager
    12/03/2024
    Acid clouds over the Netherlands: Niels Schrader on data centre topologies | Niels Schrader, Eleni Maragkou
    12/03/2024

Article Summaries

This cluster of collective intelligence, bringing together perspectives from across disciplines and experiences, from design to museum curation, and from new media to ethnography, hopes to shed a light on the invisible aspects, materiality, and alternative potentialities of network technologies, in order to foster a relationship with them that is based on imagination, resilience, and care.

In her article, Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, Eleni Maragkou reflects on data anxiety, digital metaphors, and agency. Researcher and storyteller Ola Bonati unveils in Imagination above productivity alternative perspectives for those who might struggle with the love-hate relationship with digital technology in their lives and presents the argument for joyful resistance.

In his contribution, Permanently computed, curator Olivier Van D’huynslager discusses the transformative potential of digital technology within a museum context and advocates for a balanced approach to artificial intelligence. In an interview with designer Niels Schrader, we learn more about the topologies, material traces, and latent ideologies of digital infrastructure.

Finally, PhD researcher Cyrus Khalatbari presents two articles, which link his field work to the themes of the Lab. In Pour some ln2s, avoid condensation, win the prize, he explores the world of liquid nitrogen overclockers; and in Faulty” GPUs, gold, forks, cooking pots or iron-rods, he delves into delves into the computer recycling practices of circular economies in Ghana.

Sources

A selection of resources related to permacomputing

  • Permacomputing wiki
    13/04/2024 Energy Literacy
    Low Tech Magazine
    04/03/2024 Low-tech Magazine
    Permacomputing Aesthetics: Potential and Limits of Constraints in Computational Art, Design and Culture
    07/06/2023 LIMITS
    Permacomputing
    24/06/2020 Viznut
    Acid Clouds: Mapping Data Centre Topologies
    30/07/2024 nai010
    A Prehistory of the Cloud
    02/09/2016 MIT Press
    Reassemble Lab 5 | node9.lab: Forest Care and Permacomputing
    02/12/2023 Biophilic Research
    Reassemble Lab 5 | Networking with Nature: Connecting plants and second-hand electronics
    30/11/2023 Biophilic Research
  • A Solarpunk Manifesto: Turning Imaginary into Reality
    10/08/2023 Philosophies

About the Lab

Reassemble is FIBER’s nomadic lab for art, technology and ecology. It serves as the bridge between festival editions, offering an exciting program that includes workshops, collaborative work sessions, immersive field trips, lively discussions, and engaging public events. The lab is a space of exploration, whose mission is to deepen our grasp of the immense global challenges we face by nurturing creative minds and inquiring thinkers, empowering them to prototype fresh and collaborative creations and explore innovative perspectives.

 

VISIT THE LAB PROJECT

Dossier Credits

Production: Allegra Greher
Curation: Allegra Greher, Jarl Schulp
Photography: Paulus van Dorsten
Video production: David Lopez-Cotarelo 
Design:
 Mary Ponomareva

Dossier coordination:  Eleni Maragkou
Contributors:  Cyrus Khalatbari, Eleni Maragkou, Niels Schrader, Ola Bonati, Oliver Van D’Huynslager, Niels Schrader, Cyrus Khalatbari, Eleni Maragkou, Niels Schrader, Ola Bonati

 


The Practising Permacomputing Lab is part of FIBER’s Reassemble Lab programme which is currently researching the theme Rewilding Computation.

The Lab is a collaboration between FIBER, the permacomputing community and the Unsustainable Research Group of the Willem de Kooning Academy, and was made possible with the support from Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunst, Stimuleringsfonds Creatieve Industrie, Pictorights Fonds, Tolhuistuin, and Arduino.