Intermittent Social Media

EMM lab plans to build a Mastodon server wired to a solar panel and modest battery. Mastodon is open-source alternative to Twitter, creating federated social media networks. By powering our server with 100% solar energy we will be able to explore the technical, social, and aesthetic character of intermittent access to digital communities. Because solar energy is contingent on the presence of sunlight, the server will go offline in the middle of the night or during periods of extended cloud cover. The limited size and power of the server, moreover, will contour the look of the user experience, rendering the material infrastructures of digital networks and their climate impacts palpable through energy data visualizations and low-res aesthetics. This energy-contingent access simulates wider dynamics in low-carbon futures, and makes those constraints visible and affective to users. By interviewing users and monitoring evolving norms and use cases for the server, we will analyze how intermittence impacts perceptions about networked cultures and speculative energy futures.