Welcome to the Sneakernet of Living Things
Welcome to the Sneakernet of Living Things
Congratulations on being one of the newest nodes to join the planet’s only mutually beneficial information network. The Sneakernet of Living Things is made up of “string figures” of entities like ethernet cables, hyphae, herd animals and now humans that entwine and entangle to create diverse connections of bio intelligences. To keep this network up and running, you need to understand its origins and the important role you play in it.
// Origins + Seedlings
The Sneakernet of Living Things is the relatively recent human name for an eternal system. The term was officially coined during the Third Oscillation after humans began tuning into the network en masse.
Sneakernets, a term dating back to the First Oscillation, referred to rogue information networks where electronic information was shared through the physical movement of hard drives, USB drives, floppy disks and other human media. The Internet of Things, another historic term, referred to the then revolutionary idea of objects being connected to a shared information network that allowed them to communicate with one another. A great example of the Internet of Living Things, mycelium are fungal networks that share information along their masses of threadlike strands called hyphae. They used to be thought of as the “wood wide web” or “tree internet” as a way for humans to understand their power.
Combining these concepts into “the Sneakernet of Living Things” was the best way to help humans understand the nature of such a vast global communications network. Initially, there were hopes that such a network might soften the typical hierarchies that exist between humans and other creatures. If we all depend on each other to ensure smooth transfer of information, then surely we might come to see each other as equal nodes.
// Methods & Modulations for Outer Alterities
To attain this level of adoption by human nodes, the Quartile 78.9221-78131 Systems Administrators, Maria Dominguez, Miriam Young, Merino Sheep and Mycelium, conducted various research studies over several zetazots. They began by collecting information nuggets on the topics of mesh networks, sneakernets, slime molds, animals and fungi.
These nuggets were processed using novel methods. Maria used a variety of printmaking techniques to visualize and bring to life many ways of visualizing alternative networks, while Miriam used poetic text to re-interpret and punctuate these images. In a sense, they followed a mycorrhizal process, shuttling resources back and forth to one another, reinterpreting the information and sending it back.
They also did brief experiments with multispecies ethnographic practices. Miriam conducted an interview with a local rabbit she was in relationship with and documented the process for how others could do this ethically as a first step towards incorporating more non-human perspectives in speculative projects like this.
Maria and Miriam documented their studies in a Project Sketchbook as a way to track bite-sized ideas and expand their chains and linkages of knowledge.
// Inputs & Outputs
After processing the inputs of information nuggets and interviews, Maria and Miriam created three main outputs:
“Active scanning” is when you send a ping to each device to understand what devices are on the network, how they’re performing, and the traffic moving between them. The video was meant to approximate a “network scan” and “error message” of the Sneakernet of Living Things, similar to how such scans work with real IT networks. With a layered, mashed up style, the viewer glimpses the disparate “nodes” that are in relationship.
Inspired by the United States Frequency Allocation Chart, Miriam and Maria created the look of the Training-Modulation Module. It’s a collage of research tidbits and an infinite scroll of connections between them. Hidden within the various colors of the visual are raw information nuggets, almost like data packets. The audience for this are the “new human nodes” to the network in need of a reference of how the system works. It serves as a reading list of sorts or a psychedelic bibliography for people to learn more about the various bio intelligences we looked into, including mycelium, slime and more.
To present the Sneakernet of Living Things, Miriam and Maria drafted a script focused on a key term that emerged in the research - modulation. In IT, this is the process of turning a digital signal (sent from the sending computer) into an analog signal (so that it can be transmitted as electrical pulses). Inspired by groups like The Yes Men and other parodies, the session is set up as a training for new human nodes that keep crashing the network because they are not properly modulating or receiving the signals from their fellow nodes.
Together, these three outputs serve to immerse and helpfully disorient the nodal audience to imagine a fictional Sneakernet of Living Things - a new kind of mutually beneficial information sharing.