Disrupting Precarization – Talk at Re:Publica 2017

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Short Interview on the Junge Welt [DE]

After my talk at Re:publica I had a brief conversation with Anselm Lenz, journalist and founder of Haus Bartleby. Here’s the interview, published on the German newspaper junge Welt on the 10th of May.

»Der Startup-Kult ist eine religiöse Geschichte«

Forscher redet auf dem Kongress »re:publica« über Schattenseiten der Digitalwirtschaft. Ein Gespräch mit Silvio Lorusso

Silvio Lorusso lebt als Gestalter und Wissenschaftler in Rotterdam, forscht zum »Entreprecariat« unter anderem für das Institut für ­Netzwerkkulturen der Universität Amsterdam. Er ­veröffentlicht online unter kickended.com und networkcultures.org/­entreprecariat

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Collage Craft – Recombining Professional Aspirations

Collage by Benedetta Ettorre, an invasion of design motivation which reminds me of a Typographische Monatsblätter cover by Dan Friedman.

Recently, Michele Galluzzo and I were invited to run a five days workshop on Design Research and Criticism at CFP Bauer in Milan. We decided to employ the techniques and traditions of collage and décollage as a lens to understand –and ideally rethink– the way graphic designers look at their own practice. Our proposal was to consider the making of a (dé)collage as a ritual performed to "manifest" the work of the designer in order to potentially manipulate it. In this sense, our idea of (dé)collage resonates with what Mark Fisher described speaking of Savage Messiah, a book/zine by Laura Oldfield Ford:

She deploys collage in much the same way William Borroughs used it: as a weapon in time-war. The cut-up can dislocate established narratives, break habits, allow new associations to coalesce.

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We, the Doers – Fiverr’s Entrepreneurial Populism and a 3-Days Workweek

Fiverr, the online marketplace that connects freelancers to the "lean entrepreneur", recently launched a new campaign under the hashtag #InDoersWeTrust. The accompanying commercial features the lives of some of these doers. They make Skype calls with the other side of the world ("Ni Hao Ma") from a restroom, they unremittingly pitch their business to family, friends and strangers, they "get shit done" and are constantly available, even while they’re having sex. The portrayed doers are white and mostly female, even though the one ending up on the cover of Entrepreneur magazine is a young man.

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Not Usually a Design Guy but Geez

We, Western people clinging to the middle class, live in a time of depoliticization. The prevailing form of political engagement is well illustrated by the "Not usually a sign guy but geez" sign. It’s a reactive (and sometimes reactionary), "this is too much" politics. Unfortunately, knowing what one doesn’t want is not enough. Throughout the whole presidency of Donald Trump, people were supposed to congregate at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York to deliver the words "he will not divide us", while being live-streamed. This live-stream was ingeniously shut down several times by far-right trolls.

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Diversifying My Business

No need to say that I consider myself an instance of the entreprecariat. At the bottom of this post, in my bio, I identify as “artist, designer and researcher”. While I actually had love stories –or flirts– with these realms, I don’t feel I fully belong. It turns out that my skills are softer than I expected. And I have the impression that many people feel the same. Maybe this is why impostor syndrome is so common among my peers. So why do I use those labels? To “diversify my business”, of course. To appear palatable to potential galleries, cultural institutions or clients. Yes, I have a relatively stable job (who knows for how long), but what you see here is the result of reading and writing in my spare time, during the weekends, after dinner, or while I commute. I guess this affects my tone of writing, making it hopefully more colloquial, friendly. I’m not ashamed nor I’m complaining of my situation. As everyone, I have these moments when I question the purpose of what I do, I ask myself whether I honestly care or I’m just pumping up my ego. One thing is certain, saying things as they are is somehow soothing, therapeutic. It feels good.


She’s Lost Control — On Paula Scher and Unpaid Work

On AIGA’s Eye on Design blog there is a new series called Design + Money. Its first article, design writer Perrin Drumm raises the vexed question of unpaid work. According to Drumm, one shouldn’t always get paid for their work. The apology of some specific instances of upaid labor is backed by Paula Scher, the graphic design giant portrayed in the first season of Abstract, Netflix’s new docuseries on design. Scher’s main argument is that unpaid gigs offer "total creative control over a project".

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Overnight or Night is Over — F.lux and the Absolute Temporality of the Internet

The computer is first and foremost a calculator. Among the main things it calculates, and thus measures, there is the passage of time. As a result, our laptops and mobile phones are also chronometers. But what kind of time do they take into account? On the first startup, these devices immediately require the local time zone, so that they can connect to the internet and automatically synchronize with the other ones in the network. This connection doesn’t only imply a cancellation of spatial distance but also the possibility of experiencing a sort of telematic jet lag: we wake up and chat with a friend who lives twelve hours away and is already at the end of their day. Sunrise and sunset are merged by means of network dynamics, they are obfuscated.

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What Design Can’t Do — Graphic Design between Automation, Relativism, Élite and Cognitariat

"The thing that pisses me off the most is the degradation of the intellectual role of the designer." This is what my friend tells me, as we listen to each other’s anguished outpourings replete with VAT numbers, freelancing and short-term contracts. And that made me wonder what constitutes that role, whether it actually existed, how it vanished and what replaced it. Trying to answer these questions, I’d like to focus on graphic design as it is the field where I come from, and I believe it represents a paradigmatic case within the so-called creative industries.

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A Hauntology of Precarity

Lately, I’ve been trying to clarify the meaning of the precarious condition. So, I started collecting a series of definitions of the terms "precarity", "precarious" and "precariat". Like the one by Guy Standing on The Guardian, which aptly emphasizes the act of feeling something ("The precariat consists of those who feel their lives and identities are made up of disjointed bits"). Or the one by Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi, who focuses on the inability to grasp, to understand ("Precarious is person who is able to know nothing about one’s own future").

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