Digital infrastructure alone does not give us perfect autonomy. To be effective, we must own and operate our own community infrastructures. Operating such infrastructure requires knowledge in various realms, including community building, philosophy, poetry, hacking, art, activism, technology, local issues, and more. This knowledge must be freely available, unencumbered by legal or physical constraint: no longer a hierarchy, but a horizontal movement.
Digital is different than analog. E-things, whether e-mail or e-books, should not replicate the constraints of their physical counterparts. Rather, they should combine the best of both. This combination, realized for free, once bore the mantra, “free as in Freedom.” Today, our handheld devices make it possible for us to command more computing power than is necessary to put a human being on the surface of Earth’s Moon, yet so-called “Digital Rights Management (DRM)” technologies intentionally hobbles most people’s access to this power. But we know that money is not a required, a just, nor an effective means to acquire knowledge.
Libraries have never before had more ability to distribute more knowledge more freely. By using Calibre, free software which provides cataloguing functionality, metadata retrieval, Web-based distribution, and more out-of-the-box, we can easily strip DRM off e-books, re-liberating them and thus oursevles. Free software e-book readers such as KyBook Reader (for iOS devices) or FBReader (for Android devices) make it possible to easily browse an Open Publication Distribution System (OPDS) data feed, allowing us access to vast collections of digital texts for the betterment of ourselves and our communities.
None of this requires The Internet. We should have—and do have—the ability to decide for ourselves to whom the resources that our labor realizes are made available. The resources we are making available are first and foremost intended for the people closest to us: accessing this text requires you to be physically connected to this Wi-Fi network. Our interests do not lie in interconnecting a planetary, globalized economy that exploits and homogenizes a multidude of cultures for corporate profit. Rather, our interest is in creating better material living, learning, and loving conditions for our friends, neighbors, and comrades. Therefore, we will use these machines without The Machine.
In our current landscape, the notion of liberation via digital means is uncommon. But the very purpose of telecommunication is to communicate across distances, and this is an ability we wholeheartedly welcome, so long as it adheres to a simple demand: our telecommunication infrastructures must facilite unhindered, uncensored, unsurveilled communication between individuals. We know that this, too, can be freely and securely accomplished.
To be ethically built, infrastructures must make their own construction transparent to those inspecting them, and the choices that we make should be taken after we have had an opportunity to understand the implications of taking them.
When you connect to the chat rooms provided here for the first time, you will be warned of an “unsafe connection,” and asked to confirm that, yes, you really do want to connect. The warning is issued because we generated the security certificate we use to protect your password ourselves. Like your government distrusting a self-made fake ID, the ID still works, despite the fact that the ID wasn’t officiated by an external authority. Trading security for autonomy, your Web browser will make it more difficult for you to visit sites that it cannot verify have been officially registered with a third-party certificate authority. However, when you’re chatting here, the whole point is that no authority can intervene, so the “warning” is normal. The certificate with which you will be presented when you connect will have a SHA-256 fingerprint of TK-TODO. Note this fingerprint if you’d like to manually validate that you are connecting to the same chat server when you return next time.
Finally, our efforts do not necessarily imply a separation of but rather a diversification of communities. We must be able to celebrate, compete, and challenge one another. This is the technological embodiment of the queer-hacker-part-of-you, expressed in bits and bytes and copper and radio and the uncomprosing optimism of the visions of the Tech Autonomy collective. Please enjoy responsibly. ;)