dat in Dockray, Forster & Public Office 2018
are unwanted by official institutions or, worse,
buried beneath good intentions and bureaucracy, then what tools and platforms
and institutions might we develop instead?
While trying to both formulate and respond to these questions, we began making
Dat Library and HyperReadings:
**Dat Library** distributes libraries across many computers so that many
people can provide disk space and bandwidth, sharing in the labour and
responsibility of the archival infrastructure.
**HyperReadings** implements ‘reading lists’ or a structured set of pointers
(a list, a syllabus, a bibliography, etc.) into one or more libraries,
_activating_ the archives.
The easiest way to get started is to install [Dat Library as a desktop
app](http://dat-dat-dat-library.hashbase.io), but there is also a programme
called ‘[datcat](http://github.com/sdockray/dat-cardcat)’, which can be run on
the command line or included in other NodeJS projects.
## Accidents o
s worldwide. When
expanding the scope to consider public, private, and community libraries, that
number becomes uncountable.
Published during the early days of the World Wide Web, the report acknowledges
the emerging role of digitization (“online databases, CD-ROM etc.”), but today
we might reflect on the last twenty years, which has also introduced new forms
Digital archives and libraries are subject to a number of potential hazards:
technical accidents like disk failures, accidental deletions, misplaced data
and imperfect data migrations, as well as political-economic accidents like
defunding of the hosting institution, deaccessioning parts of the collection
and sudden restrictions of access rights. Immediately after library.nu was
shut down on the grounds of copyright in
e as sites for [biblioleaks](https://www.jmir.org/2014/4/e112/).
Furthermore, given the vulnerability of these archives, we ought to look for
alternative approaches that do not rule out using their resources, but which
also do not _depend_ on them.
Dat Library takes the concept of “a library of libraries” not to manifest it
in a single, universal library, but to realise it progressively and partially
with different individuals, groups and institutions.
## Archival properties
So far, the empha
reservation, but ultimately create a rarefied
relationship between the archives and their publics. Disregarding this
precious tendency toward preciousness, we also introduce _adaptability_ as a
fundamental consideration in the making of the projects Dat Library and
To adapt is to fit something for a new purpose. It emphasises that the archive
is not a dead object of research but a set of possible tools waiting to be
activated in new circumstances. This is always a possibility of an a
ting computers running mostly open-source
software can be the guts of an advanced capitalist engine, like Facebook. So,
could it be possible to organise our networked devices, embedded as they are
in a capitalist economy, in an anti-capitalist way?
Dat Library is built on the [Dat
a peer-to-peer protocol for syncing folders of data. It is not the first
distributed protocol ([BitTorrent](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BitTorrent)
is the best known and is noted as an inspiration for Dat), nor is it the only
new one being developed today ([IPFS](https://ipfs.io) or the Inter-Planetary
File System is often referenced in comparison), but it is unique in its
foundational goals of preserving scientific knowledge as a public good. Dat’s
provocation is that by creating custom infrastructure it will be possible to
overcome the accidents that restrict access to scientific knowledge. We would
specifically acknowledge here the role that the Dat community — or any
community around a protocol, for that matter — has in the formation of the
world that is built on top of that protocol. (For a sense of the Dat
community’s values — see its [code of conduct](https://github.com/datproject
When running Dat Library, a person sees their list of libraries. These can be
thought of as similar to a
[torrent](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torrent_file), where items are stored
across many computers. This means that many people will share in the provision
onymous with accessibility — if
something can’t be accessed, it doesn’t exist. Here, we disentangle the two in
order to consider _access_ independent from questions of resilience.
##### Technically Accessible
When you create a new library in Dat, a unique 64-digit “key” will
automatically be generated for it. An example key is
points to a library of texts. In order for someone else to see the library you
unique key (by email,
chat, on paper or you could publish it on your website). In short, _you_
manage access to the library by copying that key, and then every key holder
also manages access _ad infinitum_.
At the moment this has its limitations. A Dat is only writable by a single
creator. If you want to collaboratively develop a library or reading list, you
need to have a single administrator managing its contents. This will change in
the near future with the integration of
[hyperdb](https://github.com/mafintosh/hyperdb) into Dat’s core. At that
point, the platform will enable multiple contributors and the management of
permissions, and our single key will become a key chain.
How is this key any different from knowing the domain name of a website? If a
site isn’t indexed
because they are shared, i.e., held in common.
It is important, while imagining the possibilities of a technological
protocol, to also consider how different _cultural protocols_ might be
implemented and protected through the life of a project like Dat Library.
Certain aspects of this might be accomplished through library metadata, but
ultimately it is through people hosting their own archives and libraries
(rather than, for example, having them hosted by a state institution) that
ic group, but rather that
it should generate spaces that people can inhabit as they wish. The poet Jean
Paul once wrote that books are thick letters to friends. Books as
infrastructure enable authors to find their friends. This is how we ideally
see Dat Library and HyperReadings working.
## Use cases
We began work on Dat Library and HyperReadings with a range of exemplary use
cases, real-world circumstances in which these projects might intervene. Not
only would the use cases make demands on the software we were and still are
beginning to write, but they would also give us demands to make on the Dat
protocol, which is itself still in the formative stages of development. And,
crucially, in an iterative feedback loop, this process of design produces
transformative effects on those situations described in the use cases
themselves, resulting in furt
most invisible. On the other hand, if the
issues are presented together, with commentary and surrounding publications,
the political environment becomes palpable. Wendy and Chris have kindly
allowed us to make their personal collection available via Dat Library (the
key is: 73fd26846e009e1f7b7c5b580e15eb0b2423f9bea33fe2a5f41fac0ddb22cbdc), so
you can discover this for yourself.
### Academia.edu alternative
Academia.edu, started in 2008, has raised tens of millions of dollars as a
social network fo
academiaedu-mean-open-access-is-becoming-irrelevant.html) that “its financial
rationale rests … on the ability of the angel-investor and venture-capital-
funded professional entrepreneurs who run Academia.edu to exploit the data
flows generated by the academics who use the platform as an intermediary for
sharing and discovering research”. Moreover, he emphasises that in the open-
access world (outside of the exploitative practice of for-profit publishers
like Elsevier, who charge a premium for subscriptions), the privileged
position is to be the one “ _who gate-keeps the data generated around the use
of that content_ ”. This lucrative position has been produced by recent
not-be-decentralised-blockchains/)” of the internet, which in Acade
ies, personal web pages, and
Is it possible to redecentralise? Can we break free of the subjectivities that
Academia.edu is crafting for us as we are interpellated by its infrastructure?
It is incredibly easy for any scholar running Dat Library to make a library of
their own publications and post the key to their faculty web page, Facebook
profile or business card. The tricky — and interesting — thing would be to
develop platforms that aggregate thousands of these libraries in direct
competition with Academia.edu. This way, individuals would maintain control
over their own work; their peer groups would assist in mirroring it; and no
one would be capitalising on the sale of data related to their performance and
We note that Academia.edu is a typically centripetal platform: it provides no
tools for exporting one’s own content, so an alternative would necessarily be
a kind of centrifuge.
This alternative is becoming increasingly realistic. With open-access journals
already paving the way, there has more recently been a [call for free and open
access to citation data](https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/12/06
access). [The Initiative for Open Citations (I4OC)](https://i4oc.org) is
mobilising against the privatisation of data and working towards the
unrestricted availability of scholarly citation data. We see their new
database of citations as making this centrifugal force a possibility.
### Publication format
In writing this README, we have strung together several references. This
writing might be published in a book and the references will be
suppositions that amount to a
set of social propositions.
### The role of individuals in the age of distribution
Different people have different technical resources and capabilities, but
everyone can contribute to an archive. By simply running the Dat Library
software and adding an archive to it, a person is sharing their disk space and
internet bandwidth in the service of that archive. At first, it is only the
archive’s index (a list of the contents) that is hosted, but if the person
ise together to
guarantee the durability and accessibility of an archive, saving a future
UbuWeb from ever having to worry about if their ‘ISP pulling the plug’. As
supporters of many archives, as members of many communities, individuals can
use Dat Library to perform this function many times over.
On the Web, individuals are usually users or browsers — they use browsers. In
spite of the ostensible interactivity of the medium, users are kept at a
distance from the actual code, the infrastructure of a website, which is run
on a server. With a distributed protocol like Dat, applications such as
[Beaker Browser](https://beakerbrowser.com) or Dat Library eliminate the
central server, not by destroying it, but by distributing it across all of the
users. Individuals are then not _just_ users, but also hosts. What kind of
subject is this user-host, especially as compared to the user of the serve
ly written in a
Git is a free and open-source tool for version control used in software
development. All the code for Hyperreadings, Dat Library and their numerous
associated modules are managed openly using Git and hosted on GitHub under
open source licenses. In a real way, Git’s specification formally binds our
collaboration as well as the open invitation for others to participate
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