ChattyPub is difficult to define. It could be described as a design software, a workshop, a platform for discussion, a publishing experiment, or a tool for collective organizing. ChattyPub encompasses all these characteristics and has played an instrumental role in the way H&D's collective practice has and continues to evolve.
ChattyPub was inspired by a workshop that was facilitated by designers and educators XinXin and Lark VCR during the 2020 edition of the H&D summer academy (HDSA). 2020 was an exceptional year for H&D. Due to the global pandemic, we decided to host the intensive workshop program for the HDSA online for the first time. The program consisted of fifteen workshops that were hosted by different designers, artists, and programmers from various geographical locations.
The “Experimental Chatroom” workshop particularly resonated with H&D members for its attention to detail and commitment on the part of the workshop hosts to respond to the different needs and knowledge levels of a diverse group of participants who were distributed across the globe and across different time zones. The workshop impacted H&D in various ways. The subject of the workshop, that of designing and building experimental chat rooms, sparked the idea to co-design a publication that utilized a chat environment. This would allow for several people to participate in the design process at the same time.
In the next iteration of the HDSA in 2021, which was organized as a hybrid format on and offline and in four different locations, we started using an open-source chat platform called Zulip to streamline communication with workshop participants and co-hosts. The Zulip software combines real-time chat functions with an email thread model.
ChattyPub is built on top of the chat platform Zulip. The publication can be designed collectively by sending messages, reacting with emoji, and writing simple CSS rules. Different CSS styles (font-families, font-sizes, font-styles, margins, text alignment, and colors) can be applied through Emoji reactions. Discussions in Zulip are organized in “Streams” and “Topics.” In ChattyPub Streams correspond to a publication and Topics represent the chapters. To add content to your publication you can go to the corresponding Stream, pick or create a topic, and write your message. Thus, ChattyPub is a website that acts as a different interface to the Zulip service. ChattyPub takes a stream from Zulip, combines messages into long-form articles, and uses a design system combining Emojis and CSS syntax to style the messages, which effectively turns the stream into a (printable) webpage.
ChattyPub was further developed in workshop iterations hosted in other contexts. In autumn of 2021, H&D self-published the book Network Imaginaries, which was designed with ChattyPub. Among others, contributors included Lark VCR and XinXin, who wrote a contribution about their “Experimental Chat Room” workshop within the various chat rooms that were built in their workshop.
The ChattyPub workshop script now exists in various versions and has been activated in various workshops. For instance, it has taken shape as a walk-in style workshop at GfZK Leipzig in August 2021, followed by a work session during the symposium Open* – Tools for Collective Organizing” in Amsterdam, November 2021, and another iteration of the walk-in workshop has been tried on the occasion of the workshop sequel "Figuring Things Out Together" at Page Not Found in The Hague, June 2022.
In August 2022, H&D was invited by Jatiwangi art Factory to host a two-day walk-in workshop at documenta fifteen on the occasion of the launch of the book Making Matters. A Vocabulary of Collective Arts together with Elaine W. Ho (Display Distribute) and Florian Cramer.
The ChattyPub workshop invited passersby and visitors to documenta fifteen to join the publishing process at any moment. Participants could join ChattyPub with their own devices (computers/tablets/phones) or use one of the computers available at the location. We installed two thermal printers on which zines could be printed out instantly. The workshop accommodated different levels of engagement. Participants could get involved in every aspect of the publishing workflow—writing content, designing the publication with ChattyPub, coding the CSS styles that determine the design—or choose to focus on just one part. Our prompt: Add a term to the growing vocabulary of collective material practices (the subtitle of the Making Matters book). The simplicity of the prompt along with the offering of a concrete tool that could be learned together sparked fruitful conversations, both verbally and in writing.
Across the two days, a several meter long publication came into being. In addition to serving as a publishing tool and workshop, ChattyPub became a discussion platform that facilitated conversations about the controversies of the fifteenth edition of documenta.
Traces of the different workshops and publications that were produced can be found on the growing archive of ChattyPub publications.
Installation Manual https://github.com/hackersanddesigners/chatty-pub/tree/master/front
Credits & References ChattyPub has been explored and challenged during various workshops and open work sessions, opening up its making process, its possibilities, and its limitations.
With thanks to Xin Xin and Lark VCR whose Experimental Chat Room workshop has inspired ChattyPub. Creative Industries Fund NL which has supported H&D's activities since 2015. HDSA Workshop participants who used and tested ChattyPub for the first time. GFZK Leipzig, Bergen Art Book Fair, Page Not Found, and Jatiwangi art Factory who let us host ChattyPub workshops. The maker of the open-source fonts: Authentic, Companion, Anthony, Literata.
- Heerko van der Kooij is a creative technologist/web developer/artist and many more. During his workshops with Hackers & Designers he teaches hands-on approach to technology and DIY electronics.
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