Autonets – Local Autonomy Networks
Posted on November 4, 2011 by michamaya
Autonets – Local Autonomy Networks
Local Autonomy Networks (Autonets) is a project focusing on creating wearable autonomous local networks that don’t rely on corporate infrastructures to function. I imagine these having a broad range of possible uses, but the initial inspiration was to create technologies to facilitate communication to prevent gendered violence, inspired by community based, anti-racist, prison abolitionist responses to violence. As part of this project, I also created a prototype line of clothing and accessories [Photos] [Video] exploring the possibilites for anti-capitalist fashion by experimenting with how EL wire might serve as a useful indicator for safety devices.
Local Autonomy Networks (Autonets) includes the development of technologies including mesh networked wearable electronics to provide locative data, community building methods, theory and poetry. These technologies will be developed through workshops and collective design processes, inspired by existing networks of horizontal knowledge production in queer, transgender, survivors of gender violence and diasporic communities.
Autonets empower communities to become more autonomous through collectively agreed on networks of communication. A group of sex workers collectively organize to protect each other from violence. A group of protesters need information about where other groups of protesters are in order to take improvised collective action. A group of activists agree to know where each other are at regular times to be able to know immediately of state and paramilitary violence against their collective. A community of people of color agree to come to each other’s aid in the event of police harassment. A polyamorous group of friends want to let each other know when they are available for a date without using text messages. People finding themselves in an environmental crisis need to know how to find each other. A group of bicyclists want to flock together for a group ride. A group of women, transgender and cisgender, agree to let each other know when they are walking home and when they’ve arrived home safely. All of these communities can benefit from Autonets, remapping urban environments.
An initial approach in the series will be a series of wearable electronic devices that use a 3 part grammar to signal to other wearers of similar devices. The approach I am starting with will use Xbee wireless transmitters, led lights and vibration motors to be able to send direction and distance information, along with three different messages, whose meaning will be decided among the community sharing the devices. The devices may be used to signal an impending danger of personal violence, or that a violent incident is taking place, or that another bicyclist is nearby who wants to share a biking route. These devices arose from discussions with collaborators including Grupo 0,29 in Bogotá, Elle Mehrmand, Anne Balsamo and François Bar’s Mobile Technology Hacking class at the Annenberg Innovation Lab and Addie Tinnell, recent graduate of Otis College of Art and Design’s MFA Public Practice Program, as well as discussions with Jack Halberstam and faculty from the Media Arts and Practice (iMAP) Program.
Autonets focus on building community autonomy for informal networks to create collective responses to social emergencies created by capitalism, white supremacy and neo-colonialism, inspired by the prison abolitionist movement and movements to end gender violence. As Morgan Bassichis writes in “Reclaiming Queer & Trans Safety” in The Revolution Starts at Home, “safety comes through stronger relationships, more healing , and increased support, not more prisoners or police or longer prison sentences.” As global capitalism continues to produce new forms of emergency daily, from ecological to economic disasters to mass uprisings, it is clear that people can no longer depend on corporate networks of communication. Both because of the logistical failures of top down centralization and because of their ability to be shut down by governments, such as in the case recently in Egypt as well as in San Francisco during #OpBart. Autonets will help people create local, informal networks through collective action.
This project has received support from the Annenberg Innovation Lab and the Media Arts and Practice Program at USC. It was presented at the UCLA Queer Studies 2011 conference and the Queerture QUEER + COUTURE Fashion Show.