[Project in progress]
– In collaboration with Luis Rodil-Fernández –
This project proposes the exploration of a virtual nation-state called SCION; a country that exists as an itinerant network where its cultural assets, traditions and participants are real people. Our goal is to explore the representations in the digital realm of the notions of sovereignty, community, tradition and belonging, and the identities that are generated around these representations. In this sense, SCION becomes a project without authorship, a non-space free of connections and outside the governmental control of any country.
This idea has its origin in our research work on mesh networks, such as Freifunk, in Germany; GUIFI.net, in Catalonia; and SNET, in Havana, Cuba. This network is proof that there are other less polluting and more democratic ways of connecting people, while proposing an ideological counterpoint to the Silicon Valley model of innovation.
This project proposes the exploration of a virtual nation-state named SCION. A country that exists as an itinerant network but where its cultural goods, traditions and participants are actual persons. Our goal is to explore ideas of sovereignty and how they can be represented in the digital domain and how identities form around these representations.
In this context we highlight notions of sovereignty, community, tradition, belonging as well as voluntary disconnection from a global context. We see these socio-political trends growing in contemporary life, with nations in the west becoming more inwardly focused and questioning the hegemony of what has come to be called “globalism” which seeks policies that align with global interests which appear to be perceived as a threat to people’s sense of sovereignty.
This nation serves the artists as a conceptual framework for various activities that allow us to interface with audiences. There are two primary tools to stimulate these interactions: The People’s Node, which is a network node that constitutes the territory of the nation- state of SCION, it is infrastructure that doubles as a physical territory. And The People’s Archive, which is a kind of meta-institute dedicated to the gathering, preserving and presenting of the cultural heritage of SCION. In this sense SCION becomes a project without authorship, it is a non-space free of national connections or control.
This idea originates in our research work on mesh networks such as Freifunk in Germany, GUIFI.net in Catalonia and with a special focus on SNET in Havana, Cuba. Each of these initiatives has built citizen-owned networks that cover wide areas and provide a variety of services, in some cases more efficient than existing commercial offerings. These networks play a role in the objectives of digital sovereignty established in the laws of their respective countries. In the case of SNET this community network allows users to play games, chat, send messages, debate in forums, share files in FTP or host blogs and websites, activities that are not always possible using national infrastructure for various reasons. «SNET is the largest offline community in the world with some 120,000 people in Havana connected through it at the beginning of 2019».
At its peak, the SNET was not only a citizen-owned infrastructure, but also the nation’s digital archive. Inspired by SNET’s emerging cultures, we borrowed its DIY roots and its unplanned approach to network building to propose an alternative to today’s digital infrastructures. This network is proof that there are other, less polluting and more democratic ways to connect people as proposes an ideological counterpoint to the Silicon Valley model of innovation.
SNET inspires and informs SCION in the following ways:
- Autonomy from national and supranational infrastructures. – Identity and native culture of the network.
- Connections between neighbors.
- Sovereignty over all data and all contributions.
- A digital archive “of collective origin” that truly reflects the interests of its citizens. – Socialized media (as opposed to social media).
- Resistance to censorship.
- Decision-making processes.
- Decentralized economies.
- Ecological and environmentally friendly physical structure.
A land: The people’s node
The People’s Node functions as a technical object or gateway and border control to the virtual nation of SCION. The People’s Node is a network device that is not connected to the Internet. It behaves like a normal Internet service but voluntarily disconnects from the global network. Like a nation that voluntarily decides to separate itself from supranational structures. The People’s Node exists apart from other supranational networks.
A free manual containing technical details on how to create a node and therefore expanding the territory of SCION will be provided.
In physical and technical terms this project is made to parasitize flagpoles and other high places that symbolize national identities. The NODE uses the flagpole as a support to extend the range of its wifi signal to reach more users, the extent of its reach is also the extent of its territory. Most people interact with The People’s Node using their cell phone or creating their own infrastructure that on a simplified level replicates the NODE itself.
A culture: The people’s archive
A nation needs more than a territory and a defense to become an identity. Without cultural heritage citizens might struggle to find their place in such a nation. This is why SCION needs The People’s Archive.
The People’s Archive constitutes the growing cultural heritage of the virtual nation of SCION. It is the digital space in which different archives and users contribute with donations of digital materials from their own repositories that will make up the contents of this popular archive. Thus, creating an alternative network for the archiving, presentation and distribution of images with infinite interactive possibilities.
The structure and concept of this archive could be read as a kind of itinerant edition of the Cuban Paquete Semanal (Weekly Package), where the different users and entities we interact with act as content curators. «The Weekly Package is a collection of one terabyte media that is collected weekly in Cuba and distributed throughout the country, through the exchange of files hand in hand with an approximate reach of 10 million users».
In the case of The People’s Archive, the structure of information collection will be decentralized and spontaneous. This archive is conceived as a living body that learns and grows through the contributions that will modify and increase its own content structure.
Currently The People’s Archive contains a collection of digital micro phenomena created in the Cuban context especially to be distributed in the Weekly Package as digital magazines, PaqueTuber’s (Cuban influencers who make videos to be distributed in the Weekly Package), private business advertising in Cuba, software and apps developed in Cuba and the archives of the special sections including the 32 artistic projects presented in the !!!Sección ARTE as well as the codes of conduct and other foundational documents of Copincha, Habana’s first hackerspace.