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Applying Disability Justice, Climate Justice, and Solidarity Economics to your Digital Practice | Vijay Mathew

14th April 2023

Over the past few years, performingborders has had a very fruitful collaborative relationship with HowlRound Theatre Commons, a digital-broadcasting group based in Boston, who were fundamental in live streaming our digital programme performingbordersLIVE20, as well as contributing to our knowledge and research on the intersections of digital sustainability and inclusivity. In 2021 we invited HowlRound’s Co-Founder and Cultural Strategist Vijay Mathew to contribute to our e-Journal on this topic, you can read How do we increase access and inclusion while powering down civilization? here.

Continuing our collaboration and with the intention to share knowledge and best practices that can help cultural workers find effective, equitable, and collective modes of operation, we’re excited to share with you a new text and resource by Vijay: Applying Disability Justice, Climate Justice, and Solidarity Economics to your Digital Practice.

This text is the result of a conversation that was had between performingborders, Untethered Magic, and Vijay in February 2023 during a residency with Untethered Magic in Rongai (Kenya).

This is a short list of organizations, tools, and design approaches for arts and culture workers who are interested in developing new practices for their digital activity and programming. By default, the information and communications technology sector that exercises enormous influence on our culture is inherently extractive, unsustainable, exclusionary, and oppressive – in short: ecocidal. However, with a principled and self-limiting approach to how we use digital tech in the next few months and years, culture workers can attempt to leverage digital’s effectiveness of communication to help us transition into regenerative and restorative societies and futures.

First draft compiled by Vijay Mathew. Updated 2023-03-27.

Organizations creating sovereign, commons-based digital infrastructures

A non-profit association founded in 2004 in France. They host free and open access online services, develop software, educate the public about surveillance capitalism and Big Tech, and promote commons alternatives. The Chatons is a network/federation of like-minded organizations, companies, collectives with similar values that host commons-based software.

Commons-based or open source video/audio software alternatives for artists/culture workers

Video hosting and a video livestreaming destination. Anyone can join an existing instance (server), or host their own with their own administrative rules. All instances can federate and share video catalogues if desired. A true commons-based open source software project with development stewarded by Framasoft.

Video conferencing with breakout rooms and livestreaming. Can be self-hosted on one’s own server. The link above is to the instance hosted/managed by the company that is behind the open-source project.

Video livestream producing and recording software.

Digital Accessibility Specialists

Small company based in Sweden, the services they provide are accessibility audits of websites, and user testing of websites with people with disabilities. They are best engaged in the planning phase of website creation and work in collaboration with web developers.

Deaf artists seeking equitable access, and human rights to access what happens on the web.

Website Developers who are Energy and Destruction Aware

Small worker-owned cooperative based in Lyon, France. Can make a light website.

Creators of WebSiteCarbon. A small B Corp based in London, UK.

Website Hosting Services

“Green” doesn’t preclude extraction, oppression, ecocide. We need to grapple with the fact that the ICT sector and the internet is absolutely not sustainable. Most green hosts are purchasing Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) and does not necessarily mean that the electricity generation powering the datacentres are emitting no carbon emissions, and that the datacentre can be connected to a power grid that is a mix of all kinds of energy. (Therefore, RECs could be considered a type of problematic Offset, as carbon emissions are still happening somewhere.). One host  in Iceland has a zero-carbon emissions datacentre. (But this is just in terms of the electricity used to operate it and it doesn’t account for building of the datacentre, the manufacture of the equipment that has been flown and shipped around the world, and the eventual e-waste it produces.)

Carbon Emissions Calculators

            Measure the carbon emissions of your website.

            Measure the carbon emissions of your online media activity and productions: Video conferences, livestreams, podcasts. Based on the calculations in WebSiteCarbon.

Vijay Mathew is the Cultural Strategist and Co-Founder of HowlRound Theatre Commons at Emerson College, Boston. He is also the Accessibility Producer of Black Heart, a BIPOC worker-owned cooperative agency specializing in digital communications for progressive organizations and collectives. In the past decade, Vijay has helped to facilitate the solidarity economy characteristics of HowlRound’s current program design. Consequently, he has contributed to building the organizational capacity for several hundred nonprofit organizations worldwide to livestream their conferences, panel discussions, and performances — with an emphasis on prioritizing accessibility, inclusion, and resource efficiency. When using internet technologies, he is passionate about the intersections of accessibility, inclusion, the climate emergency, commoning, and a low-energy, regenerative future. All of his work in these areas has been informed by solidarity economics and social-justice values.

Main image credits: “Sporadical” from the exhibition “The World After Us” by Nathaniel Stern (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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