I’m reposting here the introductory text to the Piet Zwart Instituut’s XPUB’s Special Issue #7, which I had the honor to guest-edit. I take this chance to thank the PZI for inviting me and the PZI students for their enthusiasm during the whole trimester. You can find out more about process, bibliography, and outcomes here.
While technology promises to speed up and simplify what we do, our workload increases and diversifies. Why is that? Is it because we are tirelessly entrepreneurial beings, so that as soon as a new horizon opens up, we can’t wait to move towards it? Or is it that the efficiency required by the systems we inhabit imposes the toll of adapting to them? Or rather is it their very inefficiency that we have to make for?
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Our goal here is to develop a framework that can encompass both the design of things and the design of beings. In order to do so, we need a working definition of design. For this purpose let us consider an unlikely source, Karl Marx’s Capital:
A spider conducts operations that resemble those of a weaver, and a bee puts to shame many an architect in the construction of her cells. But what distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is this, that the architect raises his structure in imagination before he erects it in reality. At the end of every labour-process, we get a result that already existed in the imagination of the labourer at its commencement.
For Marx, the ability to imagine denotes a fundamental difference between man and animal: both fabricate more or less complex objects and structures, but only humans imagine, or more precisely prefigure, these structures before fabricating them. Here we understand design as prefiguration (therefore not the final output, which might differ) and the designer as the one who prefigures. The designer doesn’t need to be a human being since several machines, for instance, are capable of prefiguration. This coincides with Oxford Dictionary‘s definition of design, which is “the art or action of conceiving of and producing a plan or drawing of something before it is made”. Imagination is the initial stage of a plan and uses the mind as a canvas, as an inscription device. Prefiguration can go from the stage of a mere mental image to the stage of a calculated and documented plan.
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I’m jotting down some quick notes on what seems to have become an obsessive thought: the relationship between poiesis and praxis, as understood by Hannah Arendt in The Human Condition. In broad strokes: poiesis means fabrication, it is the activity of the homo faber, the craftman (be them an engineer or a sculptor); praxis means acting politically, taking initiative, while being seen by other human beings. Poiesis implies a shared world of things, praxis implies a public sphere.
The latter was originally considered the highest human activity but nowadays this is not the case anymore. And here I would like to argue, or at least to suggest, that praxis functions today as a surrogate for a poiesis that is hardly achievable by the most. In other words, people act politically (in a broad sense) because they are unable to make (design + fabricate) things or find gratification in this making.
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Il 24 novembre sarò a Milano per WORK AND PLAY AND INSIST, una giornata di workshop, installazioni, panel e live set a cura di Krisis Publishing, che presenta il nuovo ciclo di pubblicazioni e il progetto Undisclosed Recipient.
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ENTREPRECARIAT – Siamo tutti imprenditori. Nessuno è al sicuro.
Imprenditore o precario? Sono questi i termini di una dissonanza cognitiva in cui tutto pare una mastodontica startup. Silvio Lorusso ci guida alla scoperta dell’”imprendicariato”, un universo fatto di strumenti per la produttività, di poster motivazionali e di tecniche di auto-aiuto per risultare ottimisti. Non solo: un mix di ideologia imprenditoriale e precarietà diffusa è ciò che regola social media, mercati online per il lavoro autonomo e piattaforme di crowdfunding. Il risultato? Una vita in beta permanente, dai risvolti talora tragici.
Dal 24 novembre “ENTREPRECARIAT – Siamo tutti imprenditori. Nessuno è al sicuro.” di Silvio Lorusso, con prefazione di Geert Lovink e postfazione di Raffaele Alberto Ventura, è disponibile online e in libreria.
10,5 x 21 cm
carta lucida / carta usomano
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Sei mesi di astinenza da Facebook. Nel senso che per sei mesi non ho pubblicato nulla, se non in maniera per così dire omeopatica, ovvero attraverso la pagina che gestisco (i cui follower si contano sulle dita e il cui unico commentatore è un mio amico d’infanzia). A dire il vero avevo già sfrondato radicalmente i miei contatti e smesso di mettere Mi piace: se davvero ho qualcosa da dire, mi tocca commentare. La cosa più difficile? Resistere all’urgenza promozionale: ehi, ho fatto una collaborazioncina qui, ho scritto una cosina lì, sono bravo no? Ti prego, dimmi che lo sono… E magari contattami, ché il lavoro non è mai abbastanza. A cosa è servito tutto ciò? Non a molto. Forse, data la mia tendenza a inveire, mi sono fatto qualche nemico in meno, però non sono certo riuscito a intervenire sulle mie nevrosi da timeline. Continuo a scrollare e scrollare come facevo prima con la sola differenza che se mi viene in mente qualcosa lo tengo per me o lo dico altrove (ad esempio su Mastodon, che è proprio un bel progetto ma ci stanno tre italiani in croce). A detta degli scienziati di Facebook consumare contenuti senza produrne di propri rende gli utenti tristi. Ma la cosa veramente triste è che a nulla hanno portato gli schiamazzi intorno a Cambridge Analytica, i vari #deletefacebook, i rimbrotti dei pionieri del web che ci esortano a cancellare i nostri account. Siamo ancora tutti qui, immersi in questo tedio digitale, a ballare e cantare come si faceva durante i giorni più bui della Peste nera.
let us be honest: we cannot easily put into words why this show is entitled “Lifelong Learning”. For this to become clear, it’s best to start from the beginning since Lifelong Learning is the material manifestation of endless conversations we have had for years.
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The writing of this essay, which was originally published on Modes of Criticism 3 under the title “LinkedIn Society”, was concluded just before a quite drastic redesign of LinkedIn’s interface. In its conclusions I somehow predicted the elimination of the anomalous functionalities that made LinkedIn peculiar in comparison to the standards of other generalist social media platforms like Facebook. As I argued, these now obsolete functionalities illustrate a utilitarian transparency more genuinely adherent to the ideology and the aims driving the design of the platform than the full “rhetorical turn toward conviviality” (Davies 2016) that characterize other dominant social media and guided the current redesign of LinkedIn. Instead of updating the essay according to the new design, I decided to preserve my original analysis in order to provide a chronicle of the recent history of social media and a proof of the difficulty to formulate a timely critique in a medial ecosystem that is in “permanent beta”, just like contemporary workers must be according to LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman (2013).
“Linkedin is a Waste of Time”
In the last years, much has been written on the Facebook Like Economy, on the grassroots genealogy of the Twitter hashtag, on the formation of a narcissistic subjectivity on Instagram. During this period, LinkedIn has been almost completely ignored. In the Social Media Reader, published in 2012, it is not even mentioned once. In the Unlike Us Reader, published the year after and focused on possible alternatives, LinkedIn appears five times, but only as a fleeting example. Unlike generalist social media, LinkedIn has a specific focus, the world of professionals. IHowever, it is a platform where it’s possible to identify , both in its interface, its communication and its origins, some latent dynamicsthat presently orient social media and, therefore, society at large. This is what makes it unique and therefore valuable in the current social media landscape. In this essay, I discuss LinkedIn’s unique functionalities, rhetorics and principles.
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Originally published on Pagina99 under the title “Vi racconto gioie (poche) e dolori dell’imprecariato“. Illustration by Krisis Publishing
At first glance, the main common denominator for the large demographic segment that goes by the name of Millennials is technology. Those born between 1980 and 2000 are the first to have fully experienced the digital revolution, and already nostalgically commemorate its beginnings. Yet there is another aspect that distinguishes this generation from the previous ones. While the baby boomers have been able to count on a stable career and Generation X has complained about the limitations, for Millennials, a path deprived of detours is unrealistic if not outdated. It’s the very idea of a career that falters against a shared horizon characterized by constant uncertainty.
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Tomorrow I’m giving a talk at Sandberg Instituut and that’s why I was blessed with a flyer designed by the students of the graphic design department. Come and say hi, here’s the abstract:
Be Like Elon: Entrepreneurial Spirit, Bureaucreativity and Self-Design
“You must become an entrepreneur”. This is the obsessive refrain one can hear at any level of society and education. But what is entrepreneurship? What’s behind the elusive notion of entrepreneurial spirit? In this Quicksand talk, Silvio Lorusso will delve into the entrepreneurial culture formalized through the work of, among others, Joseph Schumpeter, Peter Drucker and Tom Peters to show that a radical attitude, one that passionately asks for change, might not be so different from the mindset prescribed by entrepreneurialism. When one’s disposition is instrumentalized to please an expanded bureaucracy that indifferently requires to think differently, design becomes first and foremost a matter of self-design.