Xin Xin is an interdisciplinary artist and community organizer working at the intersection of technology, labor, and identity. Xin co-founded voidLab, a LA-based intersectional feminist collective dedicated to women, trans, and queer folks. They were the Director and Lead Organizer for Processing Community Day 2019, a worldwide initiative celebrating art, code, and diversity, and they currently serve on the advisory board for the Processing Foundation. Their work has been exhibited and screened at Ars Electronica, DIS, Gene Siskel Film Center, Tiger Strikes Asteroid and Machine Project. Xin received their M.F.A from UCLA Design Media Arts and teaches at Parsons School of Design as an Assistant Professor of Interaction and Media Design.
What do you plan to do during Phase 1 of Rapid Response?
Togethernet is an open-source communication tool designed around the values of transparency and consent. It is both a p2p messaging app meant for casual conversations as well as a publishing app that archives conversations as public records. As a participant of social media, I often find myself caught in between wanting the right to be forgotten and wanting selected content to be displayed in the public space. By making the boundaries between the public and the private explicit, Togethernet prioritizes users’ intentions behind every instance of online communication and sets out to transform digital rights into an embodied practice.
In the first half of Phase 1, I will be prototyping a series of p2p and server-based chatrooms to explore alternative forms of communicating, organizing, and digital archiving. The goal at this stage is to gain a deeper understanding of the strengths and challenges of the p2p and centralized protocols, and to explore the various notions of ephemerality and permanence on the web. Some ideas for the prototypes are:
• a chatroom that toggles between p2p and centralized chat mode, so that only chosen messages are copied to the server
• a chatroom that takes the form of an event poster, and the identity of the event evolves based on attendees’ inputs
• a chatroom that functions as an oral history recorder
In the second half of Phase 1, Togethernet transitions into a community-centric project and instead of following the conventions of user-testing, I will facilitate different ways communities can build narratives and relationships using the tool. Concepts and feedback generated throughout the process will be incorporated as guiding principles for subsequent iterations.
The intended communities for this open-source tool are people who work under the broad umbrella of art and technology, including but not limited to artists, designers, technologists, educators, administrators, and cultural workers. I am excited for the opportunity to test, critique and explore these experiments with the Eyebeam community and beyond.
How does your work relate to the theme of the open call?
Togethernet reflects on digital rights policies such as the right to be forgotten on an infrastructural and user experience level. Some of my inspirations are drawn from the Consentful Tech Zine by And Also Too and The Design Justice Network — by considering transparency and consent every step of the way, the source code serves as both a technical and a moral document that seeks to reveal systems of power and uncertainties embedded in network technologies.
The project also seeks to increase accessibility through collaborating with its stakeholders. In thinking of how we might begin to exit established forms of social media and its infrastructure of surveillance, I continue to return to the notion of placemaking — an approach that frames the designing and management of the public space by acknowledging and responding to the assets, inspirations, and potentials of its stakeholders.
What does the future look like to you?
The future I’d like to pursue is open, equitable, and plural. Within the tradition of Western techno-narrative, you either have the option to create a pervasive tool that’s monochromatic and one-size-fits-all, or an esoteric tool that’s only digestible by a limited audience. Instead, I’d like to see the creation of more open-source technologies that can be easily customized and made useful by different micro-communities based on a nuanced assessment of their culture and needs. In the current iteration of creating on the web, we have to become more inclusive, collaborative, and considerate not only as to where we build the space but also how we hold the space. I’d like to think of software in the future as community centers, where technical implementations are always in response to a set of values shared by the people it’s meant to serve.