A Vision for a Shared Digital Europe. New Ways of Seeing. Climate Rebellion. Wrongheaded nature protection. Cities Are Rising in Influence. — No.76

This week: A Vision for a Shared Digital Europe. New Ways of Seeing. Climate Rebellion. It’s wrongheaded to protect nature with human-style rights. Cities Are Rising in Influence and Power on the Global Stage.

A year ago: City Everywhere by Liam Young (Lecture Performance).


A Vision for a Shared Digital Europe

This new vision for digital policymaking in Europe is packed with clear insights on what needs to change in Europe’s (and roughly everyone else’s) framing of digital. It’s also very well written with some useful phrasings, I could have quoted a lot more than the ones below. They propose four foundational principles; Enable Self-Determination, Cultivate the Commons, Decentralise Infrastructure and Empower Public Institutions.

Seeing the digital space only as a marketplace is short sighted and unrepresentative of its effect on our lives. The digital space is in effect our society – a society that is experiencing a digital transformation. Therefore we cannot accept to define the digital sphere as a place where only market dynamics rule. […]

Digital changes the society, and we need to shape and design technology based on positive social objectives. Digital technologies should facilitate a society that is equitable and democratic, where basic liberties and rights are protected, where strong public institutions function in the public interest, and where people have a say in how things work. We believe that Europe has the capacity to shape such a digital society. […]

Our reliance on platforms and services that have grown to dominance by appropriating the data produced by our daily lives has come to a point where its detrimental effects clearly outweigh the value provided by these services to citizens and Europe as a whole. […]

We need an understanding of the digital space that takes into account that it is a hybrid space, both a market as well as a public space where the commons can also thrive.

New Ways of Seeing

On BBC Radio 4, “a four-part series authored by journalist and artist James Bridle examining how technology is changing visual culture.” The first episode features artists Hito Steyerl, Ingrid Burrington, Trevor Paglen, Olia Lialina, Julian Oliver and Danja Vasiliev. Threads the usual paths of this group (infrastructure, invisitibility, power, surveillance) but very good nonetheless for anyone interested in these topics and a good intro if you aren’t yet.

The microwaves I was following, carrying billions of pounds every day, passed, through two huge dishes atop Hillingdon hospital, a pioneering sixties National Health Center suffering, like much of the NHS, from a shortfall in funding. For a rent of few thousand pounds a year, the machinery of private finance, perches atop the crumbling infrastructure of the welfare state. All that money, flowing invisibly just a few meters above the patients inside. This is how a difference in visibility, translates into a difference in power. Those who can see can understand and thus shape and direct the world in their advantage.

Climate Rebellion

A number of good long reads on climate and Extinction Rebellion this week but for fear of making this too much of an abyss gazing issue, here they are, presented more briefly than the deserve but do dive in for a mix of dread and hope.

A Message From the Future With Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Such a beautiful vision, gorgeously illustrated by Molly Crabapple and co-written and read by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (the link above is an article by Naomi Klein and embeds the AOC video). To say I’m sceptical it can happen would be an understatement but lets hope. Which reminds me of this quote:

Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.
—Antonio Gramsci

George Monbiot believes that Only rebellion will prevent an ecological apocalypse. Bill McKibben’s new book Falter is excerpted in Rolling Stone and 😨😱. Even the Financial Times with Matthew Green is paying attention with Extinction Rebellion: inside the new climate resistance. (By the way, have you watched Children of Men recently?)

It’s wrongheaded to protect nature with human-style rights

Human rights were rarely truly equal (as attested by the fights various minorities had to take on), and it does a disservice to our “varied partners in the dance of life” and to ourselves to base our thinking on a belief in our superiority and centrality, we must instead see ourselves as entangled “in the midst of a lively materiality.”

Tempting as it is, this move must be resisted. For one thing, human rights have proven to be exclusionary – even within our own species. Its emergence as a set of legal and moral norms betrays the fact that the white, European, male property-owner is the paradigm case of ‘the human’: others, historically, have had to fight even to be seen as fully capable of bearing rights. […]

Perhaps we can find ways of understanding ourselves as entangled partners, and sometimes co-sufferers, with nonhuman animals, beings and systems in a ‘more-than-human world’, as the gender scholar Astrida Neimanis at the University of Sydney put it in an article in 2014. […]

Perhaps we should not extend outwards from ourselves, so much as question humanity’s entitlement to act as a model. After all, it is a hubristic belief in our own singularity and exceptionalism that’s partly responsible for destroying the planet.

Cities Are Rising in Influence and Power on the Global Stage

Explains some of the ways cities are historically not given access to power and how things might be changing. For my part, the only government representing me which I’m currently satisfied with and who seems to grasp the magnitude of what we face is at city level, all the others are just pissing around at the margins of the problem.

Cities are more involved in international policy-making, more savvy at navigating the international halls of power, more ambitious about voicing their opinions at the global level, and more influential in shaping global initiatives than perhaps at any time since Italy’scity-states dominated during the Renaissance. […]

National governments increasingly are seen as unresponsive at best, or dysfunctional at worst, in addressing some of the most dire threats and challenges facing humanity, of which the majority live in cities. Cities are stepping into the breach in ways that promise to reshape the international political order.

Why Notre-Dame Was a Tinderbox

A very well done scrolling-page-animation by The New York Times explaining some of what went on in the cathedral’s roof.

After an inspection Tuesday, officials said the cathedral appeared structurally sound. But the damage may present itself over time: We don’t know what fire and water do to limestone quarried over 800 years ago.

Also: The Notre-Dame Cathedral in Art (1460–1921) at The Public Domain Review, beautiful image in diverse styles.

Miscellany