This meeting is part of a series of conversations about the transiency of FoAM bxl. This time we asked ourselves “How do we work as a distributed network in the near future?”

28 January 2016

  • Past experiences
  • Online stuff
  • Internal communication
  • FoAM Studios:
    • Needs and offers
    • Update on past, present and future plans 1)

29 January 2016

  • FoAM 'membrane'
  • Joint activities
  • FoAM people
  • Next steps

Think of a time in FoAM's recent past when you felt that you were a part of a thriving network. What happened? How did you feel? What made this situation possible?

  • Machine Wilderness
  • Fo[am]tones
  • bxl visit to kernow
  • Lucid dreaming workshop
  • Helping each other with funding applications
  • GroWorld bazaar on gRig Froesjels
  • Futures of Unconditional Basic Income

What made these situations work?

  • overlap of interests
  • mutual support
  • connections that didn't require a central HQ
  • ideas developed by foam, taken up by an individual, transformed, fed back into the foam network, in different locations and contexts, with different people (project embedded in FoAM, but having a unique personal expression)
  • it looks and feels like foam, no matter where it is: hosting culture
  • feels like being a part of a shared, experimental culture
  • things need to be experienced, just talking about foam's work rarely makes sense to people (but we 'know' what is and isn't foam…)
  • feels like a family, ease of relationships, willingness to help (and be silly together): things happen and everyone has fun.
  • doing something on your own, but knowing that this couldn't happen if it wasn't a part of the network; like dropping a pebble in a pond and watching the ripples (often being surprised by them)
How do we (more effectively) share sysadmin tasks and server costs?

FoAM Kernow would feel more comfortable doing sysadmin on FoAM servers if they can share the costs (feels more like it is co-owned). FoAM bxl will communicate the exact costs from 2015 to Kernow, who would be willing to pay 1/2 of the total price. Alternatively Kernow won't directly pay this price to bxl but use this amount of money to pay someone (Dave/Francesca/Alex) to fix most urgent problems with updating the FoAM website (e.g. including images).

Dave is the primary sysadmin for FoAM in 2016. Nik will help when needed, Francesca and Alex might become involved as well.

Questions for Nik and Dave to clarify before the 8th of February

  • How to share sysadmin in 2016?
  • What can Nik do in 2016?
  • How to test new things?
  • Should we add more servers on linode?
  • How much was the total cost for servers and other online services in 2015? How do we share this cost in 2016?
How do we consolidate and/or expand our online infrastructure?

It is not clear to anyone (except Nik) what are ALL the online services that FoAM is using. Nik will create a list/map of everything that exists and share it with all. During 2016 we should observe and document what our workflow is (which services do we use and which not) and make this apparent to all. Obviously this will keep changing as the tools evolve, but we should develop an intuition on what is most appropriate about for the people in the FoAM network. Pswds should be known to all: if you don't know what they are, ask Dave or Nik. All should get better educated on encryption, and Dave is keen to organise a crypto party at the FoAM retreat in 2017.

How do we improve the workflow of updating the current website? Do we need a new website?

The biggest problem on the current site is the content management system (and its interface), in particular:

  • inclusion of images (delayed appearance of images through flickr tagging, nor editing the source is conducive to a streamlined workflow; however there are also problems with uploading images from people's computers).
  • list of people in the administrative interface should be in alphabetic order
  • ordering activities (which ones show up on the top of the http://fo.am/activities/) is cumbersome (drag and drop interface was best, but it stopped working at some point)

Appearance

  • “archived activities”: there isn't sufficient difference between active and archived activities
  • category studios/geographic distribution: Kernow finds it useful to group all website content related to their work on one page. at the moment they have 'kernow' as 'activity', but this is problematic as related activities can't be manually ordered. also semantically it isn't correct - kernow is a studio, not an activity. Instead, we should be able to categorise all content per studio and/or geographic distribution.

What is our position on cloud hosting? If the current infrastructure proves too heavy for organisations without structural funding, perhaps cloud hosting would be our plan B: we might have to switch to something so we don't need such overhead (time & resources).

Open questions (for Kernow):

  • How much work would it be to improve the content management system and how much would it cost?
  • Can redesign of the website be included in the Weaving Codes project, which would help with the issue of costs and time (i.e. the project would like to use the FoAM system to design their website; by doing this Dave (and others) can learn more about the system, and can more easily make changes on the FoAM website too.)?
    • If this doesn't happen, how can we make sure that the necessary updates still happen? Can we share costs? Is there funding available for covering such things?
How do we improve our public online presence?

Why would we want to do this in the first place?

  • We are a distributed network/community and need to be able to stay connected through online means
  • We have a larger group of people interested in our work that would like to know what we're up to
  • We would like to reach new audiences/collaborators/members, and like to be pleasantly surprised

Why doesn't it happen? The problem is the usual: time and money. There are so many existing channels and it isn't clear what makes sense to use, how and why. But still, we'd like to try to improve the current situation (again):

FoAM website:

  • FoAM Blog, use it as you see fit! Its primary function is to be like a journal of what's going on in the network. However you like to share this is FINE. The diversity of voices and formats is encouraged. Really!
    • Cross-post from personal blogs on the FoAM blog: when personal interests overlap with FoAM's. Don't be shy or humble, we're sure all foamies have interesting things to say. If you're worried about the quality of your writing, get help from people who like to write and edit (alkan, lies, nik, maja, amber, dave…). Posting things in multiple languages is encouraged.
    • If you see something interesting on someone's personal blog, ask each other to re:post - it feels good to know that someone is reading what you wrote…
  • Events: post them as soon as you are sure of the dates, you can always edit descriptions as things become clearer
  • Residencies: add people when they arrive, and encourage them to make the website and libarynth part of their workflow
  • Activities: when there are new activities 'push' them to the top of the page, otherwise they get lost in the archived projects.
  • People: keep the people page up to date.

Social media:

  • Twitter: continuous 'ambient noise' emanating from FoAM. All of us are on twitter, so all of us should tweet/retweet from @_foam account as well. So far Nik and Maja have been doing the majority of this, but we hope that others will take it up too: https://twitter.com/_foam
  • Medium: shared publishing platform for considered articles, papers, reflection pieces, manifestos… The quality of the pieces published on medium is more important than the informal blogposts: https://medium.com/@foam/
  • Slack: synchronous chats and informal conversations: https://tangle.slack.com/
  • Facebook: page we currently use to 'broadcast' updates and events. If others are more active there its use could change as needed https://www.facebook.com/foam.network/
  • TinyLetter: seasonal FoAM digest where we present activities, people, events… of all studios in one place. https://tinyletter.com/_foam/
How do we share information and tangents between ourselves?

How do we communicate within the network (updates, problems…) How do we share our emerging topics of interest?

Tangle mailinglist:

  • weekly updates from all studios
  • post emerging interests, tangents and other curiosa you find worth sharing. we're all interested, just don't always have time to respond. don't let that discourage you!
  • who is on tangle? alkan, amber, anna-maria, angelo, bart, christina, cocky, dave, francesca, lies, luea, maja, michka, nik, pieter, rasa, barbara, theun
    • to do: check if all these people want to still be on tangle. if not, unsubscrube
    • to do: subscribe new people if they are interested in what's going on in the network (e.g. long term residents, project collaborators, etc.)

info [at] foam:

  • general info email for the network.
  • it's an alias going to: nik, maja, rasa, dave, theun.
  • a place to ask general network governance questions, or give to people who want to know more about FoAM. the “info people” can then distribute the questions to other appropriate people.

skype:

  • monthly conference calls: every last friday of the month at 4PM CET / 3PM UK
  • rasa to co-ordinate (in the beginning): reminder email to tangle, moderate conversation…
  • these calls are meant to ask each other questions, ask and offer help, discuss ongoing conundrums, etc. we don't want them to be dry updates…
How do we share our learning, explaining, reflection, writing, publishing, etc.?
What should we do with our digital and physical archive (at FoAM bxl)?
  • Spring cleaning
  • Garage sale
  • Gypsy caravan to FoAM Amsterdam
  • Going through the archive and putting most interesting stuff online (Maja is doing this as part of writing the F15 publication here: http://lib.fo.am/f15/overview)
  • For the rest…. hmmm… demolition party?

What are the needs and offers from different studios?

How to scale up FoAM Kernow to support and work with more people?

Why? There is a need an an opportunity to create a good environment for people to work in. It also provides diversification of perspectives, networks, etc. for FoAM. Kernow could become a shelter from neoliberal institutions and corporations, a unique place for alternative higher education… The location in Falmouth makes this possible (sandwiched between two big institutions).

What's the current situation?

  • There is no core structural funding
  • Majority of money is from client commissions
  • A new residency programme started (3 people for a year) without appropriate resources. A funding proposal for residencies has been submitted, but even it it is accepted, it won't cover costs for getting another space.

What is needed?

  • To double the size of the space, and have enough room for six people.
  • Some way to cover the core structural cost of the space and the staff

What could be done?

  • Map the funding, support and financing landscape possibly available to FoAM Kernow, with the eye on diversifying funding
    • Identify key people to approach, find appropriate ways to communicate to them about why they cannot NOT fund FoAM Kernow
    • Find out if the city has spaces they give to non profit organisations for free or low cost
  • Move to a bigger, but cheaper space away from the centre, then rent central spaces only for workshops
  • Build core overhead in commissions and funding bids (7-20%)
  • Charge a higher daily rate
  • Do workshops for money (team building, training courses for phd students…)
  • Become a place for people to do their postdocs (like Alex)
  • Find a way to have a good mix of people in residence (some who need full financial and professional support, others who bring in money, others again who can offer their skills to be included in FoAM's paid workshops, etc)
  • FoAM bxl to share successful funding bids (in English and Dutch)
  • Be careful to have a well balanced programme of activities (watch out for energy/resources drain and burnout…):
    • that you get energy from
    • that support others
    • that bring in money and other resources…

(Decision: we'll take it slowly; there are many other things that are more pressing atm…)

What is the role of the FoAM network in the transiency of FoAM bxl?

In one word: support and initiative. Taking over some of the essential tasks, such as sysadmin and online communication. Dave and Theun both volunteered to take up some of these tasks.

We're interested to see what happens to the network when Brussels isn't 'pulling the cart' for a while. To evaluate after the year is over…

What if Maja and Nik operate in between studios as an entangling jellyfish?

(moderating, knitting, horizon scanning, long term strategy, etc.)

All studios are interested, but it depends how feasible this is. It would require N&M detaching from the daily management of the Brussels studio… Not sure about how much time away from other work this would take… etc. To be prototyped and experimented with in 2017.

What is our shared vision and purpose? What should be written on the “about” page on the FoAM site?

FoAM is…

  • a lab for speculative culture, a school of jellyfish, a work in progress
  • a clothing kitchen with unusual set of ingredients, tools, utensils and expending/shrinking family around the table with lots of anecdotes to tell.
  • A collection of various agency, various approaches, skills, knowledge, practice, attempts, explorations, disciplines
  • wonderful, thoughtful, flexible, aware
  • A brain. Each of the FoAM studios is a region of the brain. Within each region, each person is a neuron. Each neuron is sending signals along neural pathways to other neurons in its region, and to other parts of the brain, as connections, cooperatives, collaborations and shared interests emerge. The more these pathways are used, the better established and more efficient they become. As particular pathways become relevant their use increases, while others may become dormant and gradually recede. The brain is constantly adapting, forming new connections and solving any problems put to it. It is fit for purpose for any task it is set, because it can adapt.
  • A distributed network of people from disparate fields and cultures, working and living together in uncertain times, guided by our motto “grow your own worlds”.
  • Inter/postdisciplinary platform
  • a way to exist between hard and well defined structures

We exist because…

  • as an experiment in possibility.
  • there is a need to mess up peoples mind and perception, fill up existing gaps with different colours and build non existing bridges from diverse materials.
  • nothing else is quite like us
  • We are resilient given the diversity mentioned above. Because we are open to explore. Because take attempt at the tacit
  • We have an opportunity. The brain has evolved in a way which means that more connections can be made than ever before. More neurons, more power.
  • Existing institutions, economic and operational models don't allow us to be human beings we want to be and do things that would make our species evolve beyond its current wasteful and unsustainable state
  • there is a need to connect unlikely bedfellows

We do this by…

  • exploring interstitial spaces, building bridges, making hammocks, prototyping other worlds, approaching the inexplicable…
  • experimenting, recording, failing, caring and celebrating.
  • Staging experiences. Immersing audiences in knowledge and in our research. We take the 'everyday' and put it under a microscope - enlarging it and in the process melting it with an acute awareness which stays. Through embodying knowledge, the audience comprehends through the body and not just as knowing of.
  • Connection, communication and evolution.
  • Communicating honestly, finding things where they aren’t often found
  • Daring to ask “what if”, prototyping possible futures as alternate presents, redesigning education, reinvigorating our living environments, contemplating, hosting and otherwise encouraging serendipity and synchronicity to allow new possibilities to emerge.
  • Prototyping, artistic research…
  • being a jellyfish, maintaining outside perspectives while working to understand others

We aim to achieve…

  • whatever we set out to achive using unconvetional means to find techniques for thriving in uncertain times.
  • a more including, beautiful, holistic worlds and spaces to breath, connect and have fun.
  • A deep commitment to issues at hand, To the environment, to food particularly (for me)
  • The freedom to explore and make the most of this opportunity.
  • provoking conversations, sharing of information and knowledge freely, supporting understanding & being generally nice people
  • A more holistic, inclusive, interstitial culture growing out of cracks of decaying global capitalism… and take over the world!
  • a way to make this possible, to move beyond where we are

How do we encourage more joint activities? How do we share and make the most of new opportunities?

To begin with: more frequent informal contact (weekly tangle updates, monthly conference calls, slack chats, posting interests, following each other's work…).

Who is currently in the FoAM network?

http://fo.am/people/

→ should be more frequently updates (people added and taken off…)

it is possible to include non-human entities (oscar, hiccup, etc.), as long as they are connected to some activities/events/blogposts…

How do we streamline the selection (and movement) of people, projects, new studios, etc?

People: We do this informally by talking about it to each other, also introducing new people on our communication channels. By now most of us have an intuition who is a good fit for the network, so no need for strict selection criteria. We know we'll make mistakes too, but that's a part of the process…

Projects: Questions to ask yourself are here: http://lib.fo.am/foam_projects

New studios: This needs more work on the part of the 'jellyfish', to support the embryonic studios in their inclusion in the network, the financial and infrastructural support, etc. We would need to contact with Maki, Hans & Veronique to see about how to establish studios is Tokyp/Okinawa (JP) and Treasure Beach (JM)… to follow up after the fallow period of foam bxl…

Sysadmin

Nik (& transfer tasks to Dave), by 8th of February

  • Document essential services of FoAM’s online infrastructure:
  • Caclulate and communicate total yearly cost for Linode and other online services
  • Make a psw file on repo
  • Update members on tangle
    • ask existing members if they want to stay on the list
    • subscribe new members (Dave)

Website

All, whenever appropriate

  • Blog (v): use the blog as you like, so it becomes more of something you like!
  • Add new events, so the page doesn’t look so empty
  • Add new humans on the people page (with Dave’s assistance)
  • If you have new 'activities' and push them 'up' in the activity order (with Dave’s assistance)

Dave, by April (ask for Nik and Maja for help if needed)

  • Work on changing contract for weaving codes, find out possible website funding available, make the weaving codes site based on the FoAM system, then make changes to the FoAM site… TBC
    • To follow-up in April: if weaving codes doesn’t work, find out how much it would cost to patch-up most annoying issues with the current interface, discuss sharing costs, etc.

Social media

Theun (sometime in February)

  • send email to tangle asking for contributions for the next digest
  • write draft digest, ask Maja and Alkan to edit
  • send digest out through tinyletter and put it on the FoAM blog

All, whenever appropriate

  • (re)tweet more using the FoAM account
  • spread word about FoAM, its people and activities through any social media you are using in your practice (facebook, instagram, slack, medium…)
  • respond to Theun’s request for materials for the next FoAM digest, contribute relevant materials and links (see above)

Nik, Maja (& Amber?)

Internal comms

All:

  • Tangle: for updates and sharing interesting stuff
    • Weekly updates from all studios, on Fridays if appropriate
    • Share interesting and emerging topics, links to things people are working on, and other things
      • send directly to tangle
      • forward text/images/voice memos/… from instagram, tumblr, pinterest… possibly using something like https://ifttt.com/
  • Skype, for open questions, cries for help, twisted conundrums and just saying hi
    • Monthly skype chats every last Friday of the month at 4PM CET (Rasa will co-ordinate)
    • Bilateral whenever questions arise
  • Sparkleshare
    • Share funding applications (Maja to upload relevant ones asap)
  • Slack: use for synchronous, informal conversations: https://tangle.slack.com/

The membrane

All present at the January meeting

  • Upload your draft 'mission' statements to this page

Alkan? (with Maja’s help)

  • attempt to consolidate common threads from individual mission statements into a new 'about' page on the FoAM website

All / Kernow


1)
there are no notes from this discussion, as it was part of FoAM's AGM. the plans should begin emerging on the FoAM site in the coming months as events, blogposts, activities…