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Peer-to-Peer Folder Poetry

What if we could transform our online networks from something we passively receive to something we actively create? Folder Poetry is the practice of using the structure of computer folder organization as a new kind of poetic form like the haiku or iambic pentameter. By naming and nesting folders and files, we can create unfolding narratives, rhythmic prose, and choose-your-own-adventure poetry. In this workshop we will collectively create peer-to-peer folder poetry using the command line and Dat. Through lecture, examples, and writing folder poetry as meditation, we will explore the narrative qualities of folder structures and Dat as a tool for building digital spaces with and for our networks.

In this session we will get intimate with computers and write poetry with their logic. This workshop is an introduction to writing folder poetry, the P2P protocol Dat, and navigating the command line interface using Bash.

Together, we will create living networked poetry through connecting folders on the peer-to-peer web for each other to inhabit and explore.

This workshop assumes no coding experience and simultaneously takes the position that everyone who interacts with computers in some way is already a programmer.

Always Already Programming

Workshops

P2P Folder Poetry has been taught in multiple places. These are the notes and slides for each place.

Resources to Review Before Class

Prerequisites

  • A computer running macOS, Linux or Windows 10
  • An Internet connection to download software packages
  • Administrator access to your computer to install software packages
  • In this workshop we will use Bash, Node.js, and Dat.

Session Objectives

  • To create a space where we are getting intimate with computers and writing poetry with their logic
  • To develop a taste for creating emotive and community-centered software
  • To introduce Dat and navigating the Command Line with Bash
  • To create poetry through building a folder-based city on the peer-to-peer web for each other to inhabit

Vocabulary

Word Notes
Folder Poetry The practice of using the structure of computer folder organization as a new kind of poetic form like the haiku or iambic pentameter. By naming and nesting folders and files, we can create unfolding narratives, rhythmic prose, and choose-your-own-adventure poetry.
terminal A desktop application to control and make changes to your operating system by typing text commands. In this class we'll use the terminal to create folder poetry.
terminal commands text commands to control your computer when entered into a command prompt like the terminal. The commands we'll learn will be in a language called Bash.
Bash is the programming language we use in the terminal, often one line at a time, but we can also put Bash code in a file and run that file.
Peer-to-Peer Peer-to-peer computing is a way to make distributed networks in which each computer can act as a server for the others, allowing shared access to files without the need for a central server.
Dat is a data distribution tool for publishing on peer-to-peer networks.
folder (also referred to as directory) is an organizational regime imposed on your computer used to store and organize files and other folders
file is an object on a computer which stores data, information, settings, or commands to be used with various computer programs
file types/formats/extensions indicate how data has been stored and how to read or open files in specific programs. for example, .txt files open in a text editor, .jpg files open in an image viewer/editor. full list of file formats and extensions here
file path tells you the location of a file in a system. for example users/username/desktop/folder_poetry_club

Always Already Programming

Every time you make a folder or rename a file on your computer, the actions you take through moving your mouse and clicking on buttons, have an equivalent text command. When you use a visual interface (called a GUI) text commands are still being fired in the background which eventually compile to binary. Using bash in the terminal is a way to get a little closer to the metal and a little further along in uncovering the mechanics of our most common devices.

Everyone who interacts with computers has, in very real ways already been programming. The distinction between programmer and user is maintained by a tech industry that benefits from a population rendered computationally passive.

Together we can build up and cultivate one another’s agency to shape technology and online spaces that support and care for each other and our communities.

To create our folder poetry, we will use Bash in the terminal. To share our folder poetry, we will use Dat.

"Dat is a p2p protocol that enables people to publish content and information to the web from their personal computers. This fundamentally changes the relationship people have to the internet by breaking the client server hierarchy and opens the realm of self publishing to everyone." - New Computers Working Group

Notes on why we're using a spatial and narrative metaphors for learning bash and creating folder poetry

Using the command line and computing in general is a relational practice. You are never using the command line from a “global” perspective. When you issue commands from the command line, you are doing so, from a particular position within the hierarchy of your computer’s file system.

Similarly, when we are inside a house, we are never simultaneously in the kitchen and the bedroom. If we tried to “get into bed” while in the kitchen, we would not be able to. However if we wanted to wash dishes while standing in the kitchen, we would be able to.

From the command line, if we have navigated to the Desktop folder but try to perform an action on a file that’s inside your home directory, this would not work. You would have to navigate to the home folder by navigating your file path.


Bash Drawings made for Folder Poetry by Taeyoon Choi

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