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futuribile / curating futures - Issue #29 Flocking our way out

futuribile / curating futures
futuribile / curating futures - Issue #29 Flocking our way out
By Marta Arniani • Issue #29 • View online
Dear friend, colleague, stranger. Sorry, I left you with no March issue, but I felt overwhelmed by the rampant pandemic analysis pornography. I am navigating the uncertainty of this period with work, good reads, and Jane Fonda as spirit animal (striving for longevity by balancing workouts and good bottles 🤸🏻‍♀️🍸). When I feel in despair, I look at the sky and contemplate the poetry of seagulls attacking surveillance drones.
Marta Arniani

Flocking behaviour basic rules:  1. Separation - avoid crowding neighbours (short range repulsion)   2.  Alignment - steer towards average heading of neighbours   3. Cohesion - steer towards average position of neighbours (long range attraction)
Flocking behaviour basic rules: 1. Separation - avoid crowding neighbours (short range repulsion) 2. Alignment - steer towards average heading of neighbours 3. Cohesion - steer towards average position of neighbours (long range attraction)
Divide et impera
It is a great temptation to picture the digital divide as somebody walking hours to load Internet Explorer on Window 95 in a remote hut. Unfortunately, the digital divide takes also the shape of your aunt forwarding pseudo-science on Whatsapp. Last year I worked on the topic of digital divides (plural, they are a complex socioeconomic construct) together with Digital Future Society, and I am happy to announce that our report is out! It goes beyond framing the divides as a matter of internet access, to address “first world problems” like the gaps in digital skills and digital understanding: owning a sophisticated device does not make it automatically an empowering tool, nor it implies an understanding of the power dynamics entrenched in it.
Apple and Google just released the first version of the API of their contact tracing apps. The deployment of such kind of apps is largely debated. Meanwhile, the one released today could become the default, simply because it will be ready sooner. In lack of global coordination, communities and companies of any kind could easily make it a requirement for social  participation. Or invent their own, like Ferrari. How such apps will interact with the public health system is unknown. Will they produce Formula 1 citizens, getting tested faster?
In the face of this “digital transformation” acceleration, privacy has become the proxy for any other civil rights. The only one it is socially acceptable to talk about. An approach that shrinks citizenship. What is the plan for students with faulty connection if remote education becomes the default? And how do we avoid that students in general transform from citizens with the right to education to clients to satisfy? If a woman’s official job can go remote, what about her unofficial one, care (which amounts to 9% of global GDP)?
When 72% of Europeans owns a smartphone, these apps needing 60% adoption aren’t a bit out of scope, regardless of their privacy? The syllogism is “Something must be done. This is something. Therefore, we must do it”. As the Italian collective Ippolita states in an interview, “The app will be the umpteenth "journal” to be filled, in this case concerning the “perception” that one has of one’s own health. We are still in the illusion that through self-telling, technology can take care of us (…). Prevention is not done with algorithms, but with the spread of anti-infectious practices shared in a physical network of places and people". The complex materiality of our lives can barely be captured: “A "contact” from the point of view of an app isn’t the same as an epidemiological contact. We would have to deal with the false positives (being close to someone else, but separated by a partition or other barrier) and the false negatives (not being close to someone else, but contracting the disease through a mutually touched object).“ Confusing a needed physical distancing with the disaggregation of collective IRL experience is a shortcut we will pay a high price: for a world functioning in remote is a world extremely individualised, a perfect divide et impera playground.
It is not my intention to diminish the importance of a much needed privacy debate. But privacy is a very individualising right, while now we need to socialise our answers to get out of this mess. A serious consideration of digital divides, the inequalities producing them and other rights than privacy would be greatly beneficial. The German Labor and Social Affairs Minister launched the idea of institutionalising rights for the remote worker. It is a good beginning.
Suffering from “Zoom fatigue”? That’s because it is a scheduled commitment, says Zuckerberg. Facebook answer is a virtual room where people can drop by randomly. Great attempt at colonising social spontaneity, Zuck!
All teens ever wanted is a space for expression free from adults. They found it online. But as Danah Boyd reminds us, teens are addicted to socialising, not to screens.
Over time, an increase in remote work will surely shrink real estate business of office space. Right now, less employment is disrupting tenants’ budget: New Yorkers are organising a rent strike for May 1, which is expected to be the largest one in nearly a century. On the same day, front-line workers from Amazon, Whole Foods and Instacart, whose requests for better pay and protective gear haven’t been heard, plan a massive strike and ask customers to boycott their employers.
It is unlikely that Pride events will take place this summer with the proximity and messiness we are used to. Unicorns in Tech is organising a Digital Pride hackathon to come up with creative ideas to cope with this visibility empasse. 🦄🦄Which leads us to the vanishing public square, and how movements can organise without face to face experiences and rallies:
“The coronavirus is giving us the starkest possible lesson in how politics can directly affect our lives; now the job of all good organizers is to convert that awareness into transformative political power.”
Oh, dear!
Evan Greer
is there something later than late capitalism?
That’s all! Share, forward and subscribe to support my work. Hit reply for feedback. Take care.
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Marta Arniani

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