Sustainable Socio-Economic Models

Physicalising the pluriverse (ESR 10)

Rethinking technologies and data from an indigenous knowledge perspective

As part of my project, I have identified and connected with an indigenous organisation in Mexico who are becoming collaborators in this research, a union of cooperatives integrated by Masewal individuals (Nahua and Tutunaku). Its members are setting up new technological projects, which aim to become decentralised tools that individuals in the territory can contribute to, adapt and appropriate, while maintaining their identity. Such efforts will be addressed from existing Masewal practices.  

Through a first on-site fieldwork exploration and collaboratively with members from the coop we developed a participatory workshop, where we aimed to start generating strategies for the ownership and adoption of such projects, approached as community technologies that can be co-created and used by the people of the territory. Furthermore, these have the potential of becoming a data-driven reflection and plural representation of the worldview, knowledges, language and cooperative values that the Masewal have practiced and defended for centuries. 

The activity we developed, intended to explore and generate physical interpretations of their own Indigenous values, already embedded in community, and which they’re interested in implementing into their technologic efforts. The workshop aimed to reflect on how these practices could be explored or re-interpreted from a material perspective and if such approach could provide insights or change the way people reflect upon these values. The 40 participants were people from the union, who are familiar with and practice indigenous and cooperative values; a vast majority of them self-identify as Masewal.   

Participants were given a selection of materials to build a prototype or ‘machine’ and they had to ideate and imagine how it would function if it was driven or powered by two specific indigenous values, previously decided by the co-organiser coop members. This provided information about how designing with a local set of values could facilitate participants to imagine and build speculative objects focused on familiar cooperative interactions, non-monetary exchanges and indigenous knowledge. This will also lead to further analyse how these ideas relate to more concrete practices of cooperativism understood from the specific Masewal worldview.   

Following research efforts such as Sanders’ Generative Tools and Anderson’s The Magic Machine Workshops, this participatory activity focused on making and doing as methods to access alternative layers of knowledge from participants’ own interpretations and reflections. A creative, performative discussion process was prioritised, instead of aiming for a fully formed idea or a co-created final outcome.  

Eventually, this could facilitate linking these intangible, meaningful practices to new outputs that could inform the process of ownership and adoption for the ongoing projects of the coop. This could help envision scenarios and ideations for the organisation’s technological aims, which could see the translation of cooperative and care-driven indigenous practices from intangible concepts in their imaginary, to material or digital outputs. 

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