Retracing the different tracks

The different tracks of this module have intersected, overlapped and sometimes diverted from one another. Roads that were not smooth or straight took us along multiple paths that were exploring:

  • the potential of infrapunctures to address harms caused by digital infrastructures,
  • the differences between the terms digital infrastructure, computational infrastructure and platform and what kind of frictions emerge from the distinctions,
  • how we can start understanding harms around, within and through computational infrastructures,
  • bots as infrastructural embodiments,
  • examples of bots as possible infrapunctures,
  • the proposed term bot logic in relation to platform logic,
  • bot behaviours.

We also proposed two ways to engage with bot logic:

  • by writing a fictional dialogue script to consider the social dimensions in which bots are situated,
  • by running a simple code template which toots on the federated Mastodon instance to dive deeper into bots' materiality.

While this short module is not a programming lesson, a tutorial, or a set of methodologies to understand the possibilities of bots as infrapunctures, we hope that it can point towards a few ways in which bots either support or challenge the relations and interaction that a digital infrastructure makes possible.

Throughout this module we have tried to trace multiple forms of bot making and thinking with as kinds of intervention within a digital infrastructure.

As they do not require to function within server-side conditions and can be run using personal resources, bots create potential for users to express agency within the infrastructure's affordances and possibly even relations between the human and nonhuman actors present.

Bots are of course not a solution to computationally generated harm, nor are they able to repair infrastructures. Let's take for example the dependency of bots on APIs. While there is possibility to run a bot without using the API of an infrastructure, in order to have access to different functionalities than users, most bots will engage with it. It follows that with a change in an infrastructure's internal policy, the bots can easily be rejected. One example of this is the Twitter bot purge from 2018.

Nonetheless, for the purpose of this module, bots enable certain possibilities to get to know and engage with an infrastructure's material, political and social aspects. Bots may point towards ways in which infrastructures could exist differently, sometimes beyond the intent of the makers. In fact, the nonhuman agency of bots is an aspect that we have not touched upon, yet it is another important point of departure.