This week → Sunshine Machines: Towards a feminist future of digital care ⊗ To doubt, to question, to say ‘enough’ ⊗ Worldbuilding, Pt. 1 ⊗ Brian Eno reveals the hidden purpose of all art
A year ago → A favourite in issue No.197 was Against Technological Inevitability – On 20th Century Critics of Technology by Z.M.L.
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.
Anab Jain, writing for CIVIC SQUARE’s Reimagining Economics Possibilities series, introduces in more detail the practice of “critical activism.” Jain builds on the writings of Ursula K Le Guin, Murray Bookchin, Peter Kropotkin, and Anna Tsing to develop a lexicon to help us go from capitalist modernity—“an unrestrained form of capitalism, ‘further disengaged from the needs of ordinary citizens and workers than anything we have known since the nineteenth century’”—to a precarious flourishing “where unexpected alliances emerge from the debris of what has passed (Anna Tsing).”
The article goes into some detail on how the practice and the lexicon were evolved, I’ll let you have a closer read and mention that the visual with two columns of terms is especially evocative, showing interdependence taking the place of individualism, entanglements of autonomy, ecological resurgence of human progress, and emergent mythologies of grand narratives.
“Whilst writing from inside capitalist modernity, I want to focus on that which lives on in the cracks of it, grows out of it organically, sprouting and entangling. I want to look forward, into the ruins of the Anthropocene, its uneven landscape, its many textures and viscosities, its pluralities and multiplicities.” […]
[M]any interdependent, multidimensional worlds coexist at once. This is to say that the world is plural; it is inclusive of different voices in dialogue, rather than opposition or competition. As such, it is founded on care for one another, for all beings and the planet, and this care holds us together. This world sees diversity in perspectives as a strength, and actively welcomes divergent views to tackle common goals. Technologies within this world are non-extractive and create a greater connection to-and-with the communities they serve. […]
Myths are atemporal; they are as old as they are new, they have been around forever and are yet to come. They help us move past ideas of ‘new futures’ to a deeper understanding of our place in history, embedded in those countless sedimentary layers of our landscapes. […]
Critical activism is activating our capacities for questioning, that in turn ignites in us the knowledge that things don’t have to be the way they always have been. Such knowledge is already in our intuition, our instincts, our spirit and to approach it with criticality — to come to it with empty hands — (and to quote Le Guin one final time) — we will seek to ask questions rather than come up with answers.
At Dirt, Terry Nguyen starts a promising series on worldbuilding with a bit of history and a number of example from the recent past. Worldbuilding as always be around—even The Iliad and The Odyssey are given as examples—but she makes a good case that increasingly worldbuilding is the thing people start from, and the stories are then set in that world, instead of constructing the world in the service of one story. Also shared for the mention of R. R. Martin’s architects vs gardeners, which I hadn’t heard before, and for the conclusion (last quote below), which is something seen around this newsletter before, though not regarding worldbuilding. I think it’s an intriguing connexion to make.
“When I first started, you would pitch a story, because without a good story, you didn’t really have a film. Later, once sequels started to take off, you pitched a character because a good character could support multiple stories. And now, you pitch a world because a world can support multiple characters and multiple stories across multiple media.” […]
More people, increasingly dissatisfied by these corporate offerings, are compelled into creating their own virtual worlds. The future of the internet, as some have theorized, might consist of micro-communities, enclosed worlds with fewer but more engaged members.
Q&A with Brian Eno at the NYT, on the occasion of the release of his latest album. Of course, Eno being Eno, the conversation is wide-ranging with good insights on art, intelligence on the planet, the atomization of everything, and “a hard ride for maybe half a century.”
We don’t find uncertainty charismatic. Uncertainty doesn’t work for anybody very well, because in general the media don’t appreciate people like that. I would like to cultivate a charisma of uncertainty, a charisma of admitting that you’re making it up as you go along. […]
There has never been more intelligence on the planet than there is now. Not only because there’s more brains than ever but there are also more augmentations of brains. There are more connections among all these brains. We’re in a sort of intelligence explosion. I hope. […]
What happens to humans when they multiply their feelings together? We’ve been so atomized over the last 50, 100 years and told that we have to have our own completely independent lives and that the real human is the one who can stand alone. The real human, to me, seems like the one who can support his neighbors and work with them. That’s a feeling that I pursue. Whenever I see it, I want to encourage it.
Futures, foresights, forecasts & fabulations → IMPACT: A Foresight Game by Idea Couture “that teaches you to think critically and imaginatively about emerging technology and the future of society.” ⊗ Futures Thinking Educators. “We help you to teach futures-thinking skills to students and educators around the world and to inspire them to influence their futures.” ⊗ Exploring Afrofuturism in St. Louis with David Kirkman’s sci-fi epic ‘Underneath’.
No.243 Asides ⊕ See Note
- The Sample has proven useful to find excellent newsletters, if you sign-up here to try it out, it also helps to get Sentiers in front of more people.
- 😍 👻 🇪🇺 🇳🇱 Abandoned and Lost Places in Europe features lots and lots of pictures of lots and lots of decaying places, like this panopticon-ish prison in Haarlem, Netherlands. (Via Dense Discovery.)
- 😍 🧠 🤖 Blueprints for intelligence. “A visual history of artificial neural networks from 1943 to 2020.” (Via HOLO.)
- 🤔 🛰 🇺🇸 I’m always curious about this thing when information comes out. The Space Force’s X-37B spaceplane returns to Earth after over two years in space. “While the agency is pretty tight-lipped as to what exactly the Boeing-built spaceplane does, it did reveal that it deployed the FalconSat-8 developed by the US Air Force Academy in October 2021. This small satellite carried five experimental payloads and is still in orbit now. It hosted the Naval Research Laboratory’s photovoltaic radiofrequency antenna module as well, which is designed to convert solar rays into microwave energy and ‘transmit power to the ground’.”
- 😍 🏟 🇳🇱 Artistic Duo Uses Drones to Visualize the Future of Architecture. “DRIFT's project is an incredible marriage of art and technology. In seeing the potential of drones, the duo has been able to apply its capabilities in new fields and, thus, give architects a new tool to visualize the future.”
- ⏳ 🇵🇰 Pakistan’s lost city of 40,000 people. “Mohenjo-daro – which means ‘mound of the dead men’ in Sindhi – was the largest city of the once-flourishing Indus Valley (also known as Harappan) Civilisation that ruled from north-east Afghanistan to north-west India during the Bronze Age. Believed to have been inhabited by at least 40,000 people, Mohenjo-daro prospered from 2500 to 1700 BCE.”
- 💪🏼 ⚖️ 🕵🏼♂️ 🇺🇸 Google Agrees to $392 Million Privacy Settlement With 40 States. “Under the settlement, Google will also make its location tracking disclosures clearer starting in 2023.”
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