This was day one of our week in Slovenia. Jake and I came to Maribor to pass on as much information as possible about the Zero Dollar Laptop Project. Tomaz and Tina welcomed us at the airport. They are members of the team that will run FreePc, a project inspired by Zero Dollar Laptop, in Slovenia. The afternoon and evening went quick: there was so much to talk about.
Tomaz tried to give an idea of the project we were going to be involved in. The structure is fairly complex so let me explain it here quickly. Tomaz is project manager of Digital Nomadology. Digital Nomadology is one out of seven projects under the umbrella of Urban Furrows. Urban Furrows is a strand within the bigger project Maribor European City of Culture 2012. Even if hearing European City of Culture makes us all feel a bit sceptical, meeting the people involved in Urban Furrows made it clear how it is possible for autonomous islands of critical thinking and practice to exist within such institutions.
The projects within Urban Furrows are:
- Digital Nomadology (including FreePC): The people involved in Digital Nomadology are working on several projects with refugees and migrant workers. One of them is called FreePC and it’s inspired by Zero Dollar Laptop. That is the reason why we were invited to this conference.
- Seed Library: an attempt to start a collection of local and endangered plant species.
- Sustainable Local Supply: working towards self-sufficiency in the production of vegetables and fruits in Slovenia. This project connects local farmers and potential customers (schools, public services, etc.)
- Urban Gardening: Also working towards self-sufficiency this team works on the implementation of several urban gardens and the dissemination of knowledge for growing vegetables.
- Ehtnomobile: A project for the integration of Roma and other ethnic groups in Slovenia.
- Teleport: A project about sustainable modes of transport. This team fights for the implementation of the necessary infrastructure for cycling safely in Maribor, works on the delivery of workshops for bike repairing and other related activities.
- Centre for Alternative and Autonomous Production: a space for all these projects to live into the future and an experiment in alternative economics.
Later in the evening we met Ajda, another member of the team, with whom we visited Kibla, an interesting media arts centre in Maribor. Over a beer, we discussed about the political and economical context in Slovenia today and in the recent past, trying to find in which ways the context of both projects, Zero Dollar Laptop and FreePC, would be different.
The first thing that struck us was how difficult they found it to gather laptops. Long discussions went on this topic. The first difference between our context and theirs we pointed out was that we were working from within organisations with a long history and well established networks of people. People that actually understand and feel for the principles behind Zero Dollar Laptop. And in the case of Access Space, it’s not only a network of people but a space where people go in all the time, and computers go through the doors all year round.
Another possible reason would be that laptops became popular at a later stage, in which case there wouldn’t still be a market for recycling them. Tomaz and Ajda also thought the culture of second hand is something that hasn’t really sunk in the minds of many Slovenes. We speculated it might even have negative connotations. So here it wouldn’t only be about “changing the way we think about technology”, but also changing the way we think about recycling!