A few months ago I outlined an interest in starting a music publication, and a bit earlier a press. I was hesitant to move on the two of them (in the midst of graduating with a seven class final semester) while reconsidering my personal capacity to publish, the relationships I had then, and my resources. I’ve now graduated and spent the month mostly idle, reading, and building for myself; I’ve been focusing a lot on exploring art and experience-making on the web (now that I see it as a potentially viable path in my future), publishing almost everything under my own name or under random pseudonyms. This is far different from how I’ve operated under the past few years, often engaging under collectives (like Developh) or school organizations. Now, I think I’ve demarcated what I want to engage in personally and what I would like to engage in collectively.
his also connects with how I’ve spent the past two seasons spending a lot of time thinking about my relationship to community and creation. Offline or online, I can’t remember a time where I wasn’t pursuing something that happened to gather people around me. I don’t like to say it and was often bad at recognizing it, but so much of my organic means of inhabiting space naturally invites people and calls for co-creation. Much of it stems from personal & inwards thoughts but is deeply interconnected—which is what makes the work feel natural, authentic (if you have issues with that), and unlike work at all. This was always about gathering people together and creating. It’s inseparable from not only how I produce, but how I engage and look at the world.
Now, I’m interested in the politics of printing, distribution, execution. I think envisioning something and realizing it into this world is one of the things I’m particularly good at and have been doing for a long time. Maybe it’s even what I’m meant to do here.
These are some thoughts on what I think about community, distribution, and creation. Afterwards, some projects I’ve been thinking about at various stages of execution.
Community is political, distribution is political. Just as what we choose to present and share of our own making is a conscious act; augmenting the work of others is a powerful, political act. Backing provided by a community, especially, suggests a co-signing and identity that is shared—the propulsion of belief systems not only from a single actor, but a diverse group of minds that have converged or at least believed enough in one idea to co-sign it and put it out into the world. Distribution of course occurs internally within communities, as ideas and projects are fertilized with a unique back-and-forth and discourse that operates under a general set of shared values, beliefs, or goals. Letting people operate & co-create with (ideally) best intentions of one another in mind as they operate under the same sphere, embedding ideas and material with one another’s views… these are the conditions that bring me the most optimism and awareness on the potency of creation. Surrounded by people, reimagining the world as a shared activity, engaged and discursive in this world to form the next one.
I think about community politics in the generation of material outputs, since that’s what most communities I’ve been in have led towards. Thinking about politics in terms of tangible outputs raises the question of power and curation: how can communities be designed to truly be participatory and reflect collective voices? How does a community decide what is published, what is therefore representative of their beliefs? Community politics of course, also applies to communities that don’t necessarily have a definable output rather than the connection with one another. (Though I’d argue that this less tangible ‘connection’ is an output that is immeasurable in itself and often takes longer spans of time to witness the effects of.) The distribution and reallocation of resources to one another, attention and awareness, communal care, and how these standards of care are shared and defined are part of the process. What reaches people and how people communicate is distribution: what is shared imagination, what ideas and efforts are worth exchanging and co-creating with one another, what of the shared imagination is made into a material reality, and how material realities & created language shape outward cultures and belief systems. What is cherished within and propagated in communities is of signified importance not only to one individual, but to all its followers. The publics that we choose to engage with and speak towards when entrenched in communities, endogenous and exogenous, are key spaces that I’ve been thinking about. How we perform ourselves to the outside world and how we perform internally within the rooms where the publishing and production happens become unquestionable politics that we must engage with.
In the context of technology and publishing, I’m thinking about how to band communities together to curate and govern their spaces and their subsequent outputs: what ideal modes of participation look like, how to design the structures and facilitate the act of creation, the act of co-dreaming and co-building. I want a shared world of human flourishing so that the act of imagining never feels wasted—imagination just becomes a part of living.
Community is distribution in space. I can recite a hundred arguments and spaces that push people towards physical reconnection (which is invaluable, yes), and I have many feelings about digital spaces that solely recreate physical environments (and how disappointing of a use of technology this is). While the internet is far more territorial than it seems (and is built upon massive structures of invisible labor and borders), the majority of you reading likely have the technical know-how to bypass geographic limitations and explore the web to its full potential. You might know how to use a VPN, or simply be someone who can visit most websites freely unlike many in the global south who live with restricted browsing access through Facebook Lite or restrictive cellular plans.
I still believe in decentralization and remote connection, even going as far as to say that unique modes of intimacy and connection can only be fostered by the internet. I personally grew up in a place where the digital realm was the only space where I could be my authentic self, dealing with a repressive environment that was dangerous (and still is dangerous today) for people of marginalized, queer identities and backgrounds. Right amount of caution at my side, communities and online subcultures offered my space to even begin to identify and understand my identity—and I’m confident that the person I am today would be far more different without this type of support system to lean towards. While I’ve yet to personally articulate the circumstances and conditions that made this type of relationship-building possible, I continuously find wonder and inspiration in the encounters I have online — most with people I may never cross with in-person, yet talk to continuously and with more depth than most of the people I’ve met through college. (And I like to think that I’ve made it through college and maintained optimistic about the good parts of the United State from picking out people on the web who happened to align alongside me; and feel a shared sorrow for all the people I’ve missed out on here and in university because of how I’ve filtered for ‘people’, but also one that remains optimistic since the nature of the space gives us so many more opportunities to meet and connect again and again.) Staying up for hours, ranting over a specific topic, the wonder of hearing someone’s voice, never having a dearth of things to talk about, feeling a tangible, shared language develop, measures and signals for presence. There’s a unique joy in finding people who come with genuine graciousness and sincerity, formed of initial binding connections and all the surprising overlaps that happen thereafter.
Connection reliant on physical meeting points are now outdated as the web offers more modes of proximity and intimacy. The advent of the internet has allowed us to filter (for better or for worse) people and let us signal ourselves in ways we desire. Some of my most meaningful friendships have formed themselves from niche intersections in deep subreddits or forums, especially ones propelled by shared creativity & theorization. These seemingly cursory and ephemeral intersections aren’t too distant from say, the university space, especially for people who can go deep into these interests (and only have space for them in the digital realm). Global voices and influences (when cultivated intentionally), a natural openness to adapt to remote tooling, and potential for flexible forms of collaboration and co-working turn distributed networks into inimitable tools for gathering.
I think back to the concept of Community Memory which Mike Tully wrote wonderfully on in the Are.na Annual. The 1970s project aimed to provide people with access to a computer to exchange information within their communities, inspired by a technological approach to community organizing. While rendered obsolete in the next decades as personal computing outshone the project’s terminals housed in laundromats and co-ops, there’s much to learn about the relationship we should have with our technological tools and the benefits they can bring with gathering (offline and online) and preservation. I wonder if it is time to re-embrace the project in a time of surveillance and digital hostility—returning back to local spaces and informal exchange where a resistance of the centralized cloud and web brings about the resurgence of community care and trust. While this project was reliant on the present of physical machines (and oftentimes, peers to guide new technologists to the use of these terminals), these same principles can be brought about on a global scale on alternative peer-to-peer networks or likewise. What would a contemporary Community Memory project look like?
Reliance on digital software changes how communication and distribution looks. Reading through Annalisa Pelizza’s Communities at a Crossroads has helped influence a lot of my thinking about ‘technosocial assemblage’ There’s more to distribution and community-building afforded by the internet than ‘communication and information is more accessible than ever’. There are questions of how (and if) humans were even meant to process instantaneous information transfer; a common mistake (that I’m also making here) is also writing off all digital communities as operating under similar systems and constraints when the platform of choice embeds so much layer to socialization. Biases and constructs inscribed by software become part of or are just as important (depending on how you look at it) as organic rituals, as technology dictates what rituals are possible. Much of this flourishing is dependent on accessibility and visibility, which is also configurable. This is why I’m fascinated by tools, their potential, and the role they play in shaping systems and placemaking as we consider their access and distribution: it radically transforms entire ecologies. The space we are allowed to occupy on the internet is infinite and one all at once.
Community is preservation. A transition motivated from the ‘Community Memory’ project, of course. This statement stems a lot from my personal relationship with the web: I trust in it because it is a form of witnessing of myself and for myself. When I am moved to produce, write, and code, I am creating the space in which I want to exist, document, and present myself as. In my personal space and servers on the internet, I hold my memory in control. I transfer these documents to a flash drive, holding physical media that might outlast the digital. I erase what I would like to have erased. Still, it is the most powerful record I have of myself—powerful not because it is lasting, but because I have control over it. My personal memory is incredibly hazy; I find myself recollecting things only through the last artifacts I’ve left online of that era. I don’t have anyone else to tell me what happened.
Witnessing fragile institutional memory in college organizations didn’t give me much faith, either. The internet doesn’t offer a safehaven against decaying memory and is designed that way, which is part of why I’m careful to emphasize the internet as an archive we could have agency over than something that is permanent. (If you want, you can consider permanence and immutability on the blockchain. That’s not something I want to talk about right now, though.)
But a community is a group of individuals working to form culture by preserving the instances most meaningful to itself in time. It is sustained through community belief and action, ideally acting as an evolving mirror of shared meaning.
I like thinking about the information role of cities. In A City Is Not A Computer, Shannon Mattern examines and critiques the Sidewalks Lab-ification of urban spaces—the tired promise of ‘smart cities’ and all their failures. The circuit board looks like a city, but so do the veins of the leaf. I want to hold onto the importance of storage and information ecology when shaped not by a select few or left in the hands of those in power imposing a surveillance state; I want to know what communal memory and information storage looks like if the writing of history and its preservation is equally accessible to every citizen—which I believe can be enabled by technology and distanced from the centuries-long issue of history preservation. Mattern considers physical city sites like universities, laboratories, hospitals, etc. as all having distinct orientations towards urban intelligence. Living in New Haven with a storied history of exploitation from Yale and firsthand witnessing the callousness of these students and the death of any form of accountability is just one example of how traditional structures of intelligence and consciousness have failed. In my early learning about archival and library sciences, I made the mistake of conflating archives and libraries (and there’s an ongoing war on the lines between the two, anyway). In my personal life, I’m attempting to preserve my own self and cursorily creating records of sounds and ambient matter around New Haven. I exchange handmade cassette tapes with these recordings to friends in the Philippines, trading their birdsong and commute clatter for coffee shop mornings and routine garbage collection trucks. What does memory look like when everyone’s narrative is preserved? What does a true picture of a city look like? Can we eventually live so that I know not just whatever laws or major events happened in a year, but what one family felt in a fall morning as the light poured through their blinds?
“City-making is always, simultaneously, an enactment of city-knowing — which cannot be reduced to computation,” Mattern finishes her wonderful article with this. Communities are made and preserved by simple virtue of shared knowing and witnessing; people stay in communities because they feel they are witnessed and are there to witness. I could’ve written about the conditions in which archives and documentation are generated, but it is obvious, just as this observation on how preservation presumes witnessing. Any community that grows together writes, watches, and witnesses the growing, and I’m hopeful for a time where we can build upon the proper tools and foundations to facilitate this collective witnessing and memory-making.
(And this is all about never feeling alone, and watching one another, and what technologies might bring us there…)
Community is the generation and distribution of culture. The best example of this and what is still my most important (& ongoing) work is Developh—particularly in its position interrogating the western technology canon in its application to the global south. Since our founding in 2016, we’ve evolved into what we like to call a ‘critical’ technology institute in the Philippines, now removed from our coding bootcamp-esque roots that focused on accessibility and education without a more holistic understanding of the pipeline we were encouraging people to partake in. Our most consistent work is teaching (where we host 50+ events annually, though have been taking a bit of a break this year; consider us as a more extreme Index Space that doesn’t receive any funding) with focus on platforming marginalized & less visible spaces in technology and the creation of social activations and campaigns (from political projects, fellowships, archives, and more). I continue to run Developh with growing engagement from the Filipino diaspora because the question of responsibility by Filipino technologists, the role we play in maintaining and dismantling technology structures, etc. continues to be more and more relevant. As systems that exploit Filipino labor conditions, capital-driven trends that prey on misunderstanding of the field (Filipinos rank #1 in NFT ownership according to some reports; while I’ve been much averse to web3 I do see some practical uses — but can’t help but wonder why this is the case when under the common read of its reliance on greater fool theory), and disinformation that led to the re-election of previously ousted fascist dictators thrive, we fight. We commit ourselves to growing a ‘radical technology movement’. This takes form in the arts & culture, such as promoting creative code; promoting what it means to develop more poetic software in an industry filled with bootcamps, IDEO-brand design thinking, and solely service-level pipelines to design/development careers in everything from student organizations to art school education; uplifting the application of technologies for explicitly leftist, progressive movements and ideals by reclaiming software. Leaning into art and cultural institutions that have upheld local activist movements, we recognize that the production of technology is also the production of culture—it is not a solely commercial or career act (as it is formally treated) and has far more potential to shape Philippine society.
Culture is inherently tied to groups and institutions, and thus propagated by them. The technology that Developh concerns itself with (that is, digital technologies which power the communities and modes of publishing I’m interested in; though publishing/books itself are of course, also technologies) is essential to its culture-building, particularly because it operates under a culture that has been destabilized by its misuse. As we Filipinos are especially subject to many of technology’s adverse effects, our culture has been irreversibly shifted and formed under its authority. Then, it is also our interest to reclaim it and shape it with the same tool that has impaired our country. To do so, we’re presently interested in and heavily engaged with reforming cultural attitudes and norms around our interactions with technology. This begins with student and industry sectors we have long been collaborating with, and in our growing level of collaborations with art and activist stakeholders. In shifting national thinking about technology, we embark on the task of contesting the harmful culture it has presented.
(More specific thoughts on Developh’s role in culture-building to come in our manifesto!)
Outside Developh, it’s obvious that culture is the result of shared beliefs, practices, and customs. It’s possible that culture is especially resonant only in that community space, and that this resonance—if hard to find elsewhere—becomes invaluable where it can thrive. If not only present when participating in the community, I think about how much of myself has been made as products of participation in even the most fleeting of my time in spaces because I witnessed what beliefs and selfhood emerged in their spaces.
Community is connection. I think the most important thing is for people to feel interconnected and acknowledge interdependence. In a world of nihilism and often facile forms of communication that only breed loneliness, there is already so much value in ensuring that others, feel loved and very present with one another.
I want to see people and be there for them. More than that, I want to connect people to one another. I love to make spaces and then leave them. Seeing what people leave with, most often leaving with less than they have gained, makes me feel most satisfied. My disclaimer to all of this is that nothing needs to be permanent; I’m not forming the space for people to settle down, but I’m interested in forming spaces that provide specific emotional and creative value where sustained care hasn’t historically been found. Navigating this era of loneliness is interesting when you consider the technologies around us. In theory, there is so much around us that could facilitate communication
I’ve most felt meaningful when I felt small and insignificant, but wanted nevertheless. Maybe this is a cruel wording of it. I’m thinking of when I sit in a forest clearing, surrounded by the echoes and song of birds that I can’t see but must be all around me, where my skin is touched by scattering sunlight running from the canopy. Basking in awe, there is no conclusion for me to come to other than belief in the human tendency to create meaning out of nothing and share it with one another—as unnecessary as it is, how intuitive it is to be a part of this life. I feel safest in communities that welcome me and bring about these idyllic positions for immersion while also being transparent about the roughness of the world it operates in, if that makes sense or might also be me projecting self-destructive tendencies. I like it when I can bring myself into a system and help bring it structure, knowing that what I am part of is a collective set of values & beliefs that I can transfer fragments of myself unto without being contingent on taking my whole self. Optionality is meaningful in social spaces like this because it reinforces the continuous commitment of staying and providing and listening as ones we have complete agency over.
Now repositioned as a ‘critical technology institute’ to better carry ourselves and frame our work from hereon, Developh is my life’s work and one of the many things that connects me strongly to home. I’m continuing to work on Developh, figure out the ideal system to maintain it and welcome contributors & more initiatives, be more assertive about our ways of ‘reclaiming’ technology and our relationship with a tumultuous political landscape, and of course — make it more sustainable.
The organization has been in standstill for the past few months as we ended our Fellowship program (many thanks to Bianca and Nikki for co-running it with me and for being amazing facilitators). My latest project for it has been developing the Martial Law Index. What differentiates this from other projects is active conversations with researchers, cultural workers, activist, and art groups. We’ve often operated in a silo or only in partnership with the technology industry, which has always been frustrating because these institutions often have us make many ethical compromises, have us withhold full acting power, or are just boring to work with.
I’m spending these months rebranding the organization, preparing us for a season of new events, and working across exciting projects with focus on publishing and profiling our community.
Before I leave New Haven (and the northeast, potentially) I want to host cute little ‘social engagement’ type events like I used to do in high school under Developh. Dinner party vibes but with a special interest or focus intertwined.
I’m challenging myself to set something up every 2.5 weeks: a HTML writing picnic on Cross Campus with cheese boards, Wikipedia page writing and a little fundraiser of prints for the foundation, ambient music and zinemaking at a coffee shop, burn your own CD and make a mixtape. Paired with little invitations and ephemera that people can take home. I hope to document these events to make them reproducible, and hope that I can leave something special for the few who do choose to make it.
If you’re around New Haven this summer and are interested, stay tuned or text me for details. (Email me or DM me anywhere I am if you don’t have my number yet.) If you want to co-organize or have an idea for a gathering, that would be so exciting.
Label & Press
I want to start a global label & press, because I want to experiment with our relationship to the internet, media formats, & memory, look into what collaboration and creativity means when shaped interculturally, and release not only music or zines solely, but curate, facilitate, and release experiences.
(By global I likely mean the Philippines and United States for now, which is where the people I love tend to be spread around—)
Listening experiences on streaming are vastly different from when we flip a record on our turntable. Archival labels are a form of preservation and re-presentation, but what material accompanies them? I’m a sucker for ARGs and intentional release efforts. I want to put things together from myself and friends that present more cohesive and intentional forms of engaging with ephemeral media, facilitate collaboration, and of course, learn from the entire process of conceptualizing to releasing material
On media: I’ve been personally experimenting with very limited physical releases of material on tape and CD. They’re accessible, reproducible, and the right amount of esoteric & quirked up that interests me. I like to be able to be in control of circulation, and ever since lying about loving Stan Brakhage in my ‘Intro to Visual Thinking’ class I realized I actually really do fucking love Stan Brakhage and wrote 20,000 words on him and Bill Morrison’s Light is Calling that played with degradation of the medium. I’m figuring out what should exist on physical vs digital storage mediums, the ephemerality of the web, and control. I started putting flowers into tape loops after spending hours making silly little tape loops and bending them across surfaces.
I placed my thesis on floppy discs (yes, I bought a reader), flash drives, and CDs. It lives on the internet, but is bundled with different materials on these physical mediums. Changing a tracklisting or accompanying material is a simple way of playing with how material should be engaged with on its area of presentation, but already more interesting than one that just collates a roster and puts things out on a webstore. Curation and distribution can be made far more interesting.
I obviously am not the go-to place for the next bedroom Alex G clone, but I’m interested in the experimental, sound art, and deeply personal/intimate material. This would be positioned as a weird, artsy label that releases material of many kinds.
Metalabel has been propagating this type of thinking about ‘releases’ lately, where Mschf is a strong example. Small labels like Room40 (in its release of artist books and interesting collaborations) and morsels.website (especially the parish council ‘boring conversation’ release that is accompanied by boringconversation.chat) also speak to this.
I’ve been brewing a field recording project that collects sounds from the Philippines and United States, mailing and exchanging sounds and tiny artifacts as ways to preserve a moment. I’m making ambient music for the purpose of (right now, poorly) preserving a feeling when the recording of an environment alone isn’t enough to capture my engagement with the world around me. I’m wondering what these field recording experiments would look like online: places that you can walk to and feel inhabited on the web that soon degrade; journal entries and clippings attached to limited releases of material—control over how things circulate. Crafting experiences that engage on a level more than the listening of a record, the flipping of a book, play intentionally with scarcity, etc. cement even the most mundane narratives into our psyche with a special type of beauty; it becomes an act of preservation that works across mediums to most effectively transcend them.
If you’re interested in these ideas and might want to work with me on a release label (of music, printed matter, games, etc.) or give me advice because I don’t know anything, let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tiny Publishing Projects & Archives
I have other seasonal publishing projects brewing with Developh and independently (for now).
After advisory over the past year from Manuel Miranda under a Yale Independent Study I’ve been thinking about the form philippine.design should take as an archive of national graphic design history, with interest in publishing, interviews, and supporting smaller hyperlocal archives like Vanilla Arucan’s Women in Philippine Postage Stamps and Clara Balaguer + Czyka Tumaliuan of Kwago’s work in presenting Edwin Tayao’s signpainting work in a formal exhibition space.
Aside from philippine.design, Developh has been interested in better understanding the Filipino relationship to technology by dissecting our personal histories with the web and computing through Kakakompyuter Mo Yan (a riff off a common Tagalog complaint on kids who are extremely online, which is anyone). I’m also intent on getting Filipino technologists to just read more and draw from local contexts, politics, and histories better (rather than the tech formula that focuses on zeroing in on some niche field that provides little to no cultural value) through Technology.ph, which hosts essays from me and Bianca. Both projects hope to present digital journals in the next months and hopefully culminate in print issues before the end of the year.
Outside of the Philippine technology sphere, I’ve been thinking a lot about the nature of authenticity on the internet (very original, I’m aware) and what digital intimacy means. Close.events is an online zine (that I wanted to put together during the semester and am hoping to revisit) engaged in interventions, facilities, software, and art that explores internet presence.
Printing out Chia’s teenage journal
I’m compiling entries from this blog and private, password-protected ones in an artists’ book. I’ve written over a million words as a teenager and they’re all weirdly depressing, naive, and pitiful. This is another attempt at self-preservation and a big one towards my fascination at sharing my entire life to an audience of no one in particular.
Journal entries, film stills, tiny software pieces, unfinished games, half-baked assets from over the years… edited together in pastel and crayon illustrations made over the past decade, or something like that. I’m not sure if anyone but myself would be interested in this, but it’s definitely going to jump up in value a little once I die.
Leave a Reply