Welcome to the online module Bots as Digital Infrapunctures.
Inspired by the potential of digital infrapuncture, a term coined by researcher Deb Verhoeven, this module brings bots and infrastructure together as infrapunctures. Infrapuncture is a portmanteau word which conflates infrastructure and acupuncture, referring to small-scale interventions that have a catalytic effect on the whole. The term emerges from the need to reconsider our digital infrastructures, study their underlying systems of inequality and exploitation, and acknowledge their limits in terms of capacity and care. This module explores what role bots can have as infrastructural stress relievers, by actively engaging with the norms and values inscribed into computational tools and infrastructures.
This module combines theoretical and practical work, bringing the fields of digital humanities, design and media art together, and proposes to use the format of the prototype (and the activity of prototyping) as performative theoretical tool that feeds different practices into each other. We understand the prototype both as a research methodology (to critically engage with digital infrastructures in a hands-on way) and as a prefigurative practice (to imagine possible transformations and interventions, bridging between past, present and future), following Alan Galey's and Stan Ruecker's work on framing how prototypes could act as arguments. In their article How Prototypes Argue1 Galey and Ruecker formulate how "digital artifacts have meaning, not just utility, and may constitute original contributions to knowledge in their own right".
This online module aims to foster what Karin van Es, Maranke Wieringa and Mirko Tobias Schäfer term tool criticism thinking2 (e.g. the skills and practices for critically engaging with the norms and values of our computational tools and infrastructures). The module consists of readings, videos and exercises that help you analyze and reflect on how infrastructural agency, impact or power is shaped, structured and performed.
Through the different tracks we will try to identify some of the norms and values of a digital infrastructures, signal particular tensions that emerge from these norms and values, formulate bots that could potentially address or engage with this hurt, and finally evaluate the implications of bot-making and bot interventions. How do we think with bots?
You can go through this module at your own speed. No subscription is required, you can simply start by clicking on the start button in each section and follow the instructions.
You will need approximatively 4 hours to go through this whole module.
Galey, Alan & Ruecker, Stan. (2010). How a Prototype Argues. LLC. 25. 405-424. 10.1093/llc/fqq021. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/220675438_How_a_Prototype_Argues ↩
Es, Karin & Wieringa, Maranke & Schäfer, Mirko Tobias. (2018). Tool Criticism: From Digital Methods to Digital Methodology. 24-27. 10.1145/3240431.3240436. http://mtschaefer.net/media/uploads/docs/Van-Es_Wieringa_Schafer_Tool-Criticism_publish.pdf ↩