Thinking With Shells ~ Decolonising Digital Culturescapes through codework

Thinking with Shells: Decolonising of Digital Culturescapes through Codework

Nancy Mauro-Flude presented the first RUSTLab lecture for 2023 winter term.

A core intention of this lecture is to transmute colonial geographies through a spiral force that destabilises hierarchies of knowledge and practices, reverberating along the lines of a nautilus shell.

This to intervene in contemporary digital culture and heritage practices to describe how increasing reliance on “Big Tech” platforms compels the public to participate in “microelectronic transnationalism” (Spivak, 2012), which comes with oblique ecological costs. As an alternative, I consider the intricate literacies of code work that support the foundations of digital ecologies. I draw inspiration from the place-based informal economies of seashell stringing in lutruwita/Tasmania. By exploring context-based hands-on forms of knowledge transmission, I examine the resonances and dissonances that arise when applying stringing models to code work with computational materialities. Exploring shell practices, including their dynamic formal structure, cultural significance, maintenance methods and collection contexts, I highlight their capacity for transformative decolonial processes that further enable new forms of literacy that allow us to navigate challenging futures for digital heritage. The findings reveal how holistic and self-determined forms of inheritance can reconfigure and transcend the limitations of dominant tech narratives.

Emphatically, this research seeks to emphasise how context-dependent processes with materialities can intersect with close readings of software studies and practices of computer culture. To consider the potential of a more holistic world emerging through the turbid and tendrilled realms of kelp, shell and seaweed. The lovingly hand-coding and thinking with shells are tacit instances of knowledge transmissions and texts intertwined, such as codes, fibres and strings. Taking guidance from the acumen of Indigenous knowledge systems the aim is to cultivate reciprocal awareness of communication in digital culture as part of our shared ecosystem. Stringing together ecological, cooperative, and feminist server peer-to-peer approaches to weave an intermediary fabric or “culturescape” (Gough 2014) of place-based cultural inheritance. To determine how the perpetuity of comprehensive Indigenous knowledge systems can pave the way for codesigned post-patriarchal technological futures.