Watdo? Wydo?

This is a frequent question, and not an easy one to answer, but here are some suggestions:

  • Branching: Permacomputing can take many forms. Contexts and situations are different. For someone it may be about writing their own FORTH for a chip reclaimed from e-waste; for someone else it may be about helping artists interested to engage with ecological topics using tools and media in line with this intention; for a family it could be about discussing the use/impact of smartphones in the household; for another it could be about helping a school working with recycled computers; for another it could be about researching how to provide less resource intensive tools and systems for their lab; for yet another person it may be about engaging with politics and policy making to advance tech and enviro regulation in their own institution, town, region, etc. Of course overlaps and interleaving in such branching can be very useful!

  • Experimenting: Do you need to buy it? Could you repurpose an old computer or device instead? If you're going to develop something new, what are you gonna use to ensure you make something that does not end up being harmful or wasteful? Does it need to be a computer anyway? Do you need to acquire new skills? How will you acquire these skills? Can you afford to learn such skills? Could you figure it out with the help of others? With computation and computer tech consumerism taking such a big space in so many activities, it is very likely that a domain, a common/everyday tool, a practice, in which you have interest, professionally or not, could become your field of experimentation.

  • Publishing: Regardless what you do, it will be very inspiring to others if you document it a bit. Successes and failures. It does not have to be extensive, but it can be a much more effective way to demonstrate how to activate critical practices in relation to computer tech. You can do that on your own website if you have one, you can make zines, something individual or something with others, and of course you could use this wiki! More generally publishing does not need to be only about the projects you are involved with directly, maybe it is about helping others writing a manual, a cookbook, a sampler, something relatable and accessible.

  • Participating: Some permacomputing activities can make sense as individual practices or be related to lifestyle choices and experiments, but this is only one aspect. Another equally important point of leverage is to discuss these things within your institution, union, building, company, town council, to collectively, and also infrastructurally, figure out new ways to discus the impact, regulation or guide the usage and re-use of computers. Join a union, join an environmentalist group, join a citizen science lab, etc. It's also important that users of hardware and software feel confident enough to voice their opinion, specially when the development of these projects is done in a relatively open way. For instance, issue trackers can be important activation sites to voice struggles beyond reporting technical faults.

  • Organizing: Consider starting a local group around permacomputing. You don't have and should not try to work on this topic on your own! Talk to local cultural organisations, hackerspaces, squats, town councils, schools and universities to help organising some events, workshops, skill-sharing sessions, show&tell, etc. Try to bootstrap a small permacomputing community. Make use of our code of conduct to get you started with questions of moderation, make use of the wiki, communicate on the existing lists, chats, or start your own!

  • Reading/learning: The question of literacy in relation to computational culture is often reduced to staying in the loop with the latest development of the ICT industry and acquiring technological skills. Of course if someone who is not a programmer or frequent user of computers want to dive into permacomputing related practices, some minimal knowledge and jargon could help a lot. But we rarely talk about the other way around. A lot of the radical thinking in computer science, software and hardware engineering, seems to be too often stuck on the same old 60-70s US countercultural ideas. We think that it's important that people with a strong technological background start to catch up with decades of the various strands of computational critique discussed in feminist studies, gender studies, software studies, cultural studies, and also arts and humanities.

Finally, and most importantly:

  • Breaking the monoculture: Like any other community of practice that emerged from contemporary computer tech circles, permacomputing suffers from very poor cultural diversity. How can we make this space more accessible and inclusive? Like, really. Not just empty words. How can the privileges that some of us have to be able to dedicate time on such topics can be generative of activities that can contribute to breaking the tech monoculture and how can the permacomputing space, including this wiki, can become a platform for less privileged groups to be represented and supported?

Note: the first version of this document was motivated by, and in part inspired from, discussions and contributions from participants of the LIMITS 2023 workshop. THANKS <3