Note — Nov 20, 2022

Sunshine Machines: Towards a Feminist Future of Digital Care

In the first two articles, Rachel Coldicutt and Anab Jain are doing roughly the same thing, taking lessons from a number of thinkers who have preceded them, and constructing a new lens to address challenges today and going forward. Of course, all thinking and creativity builds on predecessors’, but in these two cases they are specifically showing their collage of inspirations.

In Coldicutt’s case, she is looking at the internet, digital society, and care, proposing a more progressive and collective vision of “Digital Care as Community.” She proposes five steps for a more caring, feminist digital society: Universal basic digital access; decarbonised hosting and hardware; the decoupling of Digital Skills from STEM; cultivating alternative tech beyond the market; and normalising shared governance. Coldicutt spends the most time on decoupling digital skills from STEM, and for good reason, as one could see this as a precursor to the others. Bringing a greater diversity of people in the building of all things digital, from creating personal websites to leading large companies, is a first step in thinking differently about what the internet can do for society, beyond what it can for businesses.

Our relationship with what media historian Rachel Plotnick calls the Power Button is not so new either. The “complete your order” button in an app is not materially different to the service button or bell in grand nineteenth-century homes that summoned servants to do their employers’ bidding. It’s an interface that obscures unseemly effort and creates an illusion of control, while simultaneously enforcing hierarchical power relations. The labour that takes place behind the button is out of sight and out of mind. […]

One way to achieve this is to modernise education policy to reflect the fact that digital is now a fact of life, not a specialised subject, and to weave digital production and creation skills across a lifelong learning curriculum. This would lead to a more socially and culturally representative digital workforce, drawing on a greater range of influence, which would in turn lead to fewer extractive products and services being created, and a greater diversity of more sustainable visions and ambitions being achieved. […]

The most transformational part of Web3 culture is the will for transparency and collective decision-making. While the execution of this may still be imperfect, taking digital governance out of the board room and moving from a focus on compliance to one of collective good could be transformational for the Digital Commons. Nurturing this, and using it to develop shared governance methods that foreground care and equity, could be transformational for the waves of technologies yet to come. […]

A Feminist Internet is not a place of polarisation, but one of exploration and adaptation, in which new cultures, communities, and connections are fostered. It is possible to build it, we just need to start.