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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Programmed Leisure

Recently I contributed a piece to #exstrange, a curatorial project by Rebekah Modrak and Marialaura Ghidini “transforming eBay into a site of artistic production and cultural exchange as an artistic intervention into capitalism.”

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Trentenne precario si suicida

Un trentenne precario si ammazza lasciando alle spalle una lettera aperta. Per quel che ne so potrebbe addirittura essere falsa, ma la rabbia e la disillusione che essa esprime fanno indubbiamente parte della realtà collettiva. Può una lettera anonima, magari addirittura falsa, diventare un manifesto generazionale? Perchè no? Non viviamo in ogni caso di fiction e di astrazioni come la carriera, il “personal brand”, il debito? La lettera può pure essere falsa, ciò non toglie che sia comunque reale.

Il tono è drammatico, senza speranza. Tuttavia i commenti dei miei coetanei risultano ancor più desolanti. Quelli che si scusano per il proprio cinismo si sbagliano. Ciò che orienta il senso comune non è il cinismo, bensì una forma di darwinismo sociale denso di paternalismo. Una prospettiva del genere può soltanto inquadrare un lucido –seppur disperato– atto di protesta nella categoria del disturbo mentale. Tale interpretazione è a dir poco necessaria poiché se si dovesse ammettere che non si tratta di un gesto folle, ci si troverebbe costretti ad accettare il fatto che a essere folle è il sistema di valori dominante.

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Generatie B – A No-Bullshit Show about the Bullshit Job Generation

Recently presented at the IFFR in Rotterdam, Generatie B (2017) portrays a near future in which the credit rating of Belgium drops from AA+ to B. The TV show is set in Bruxelles, where a job that is not a bullshit one seems impossible to find. And the bullshit ones truly live up to their name, like a gig in a call center where employees are required to speak with Indian people, simulating their English accent. After a shift that rigorously takes place at night, the main character can finally go to his rented sofa, since a room would be too expensive. This state of affairs recalls even too closely the case of the United Nation intern who had to live in a tent because of the steep rents in Geneva. As in the best tradition of tactical media, David Hyde’s action was a fiction, but a convincing and therefore scary one, exactly like Generatie B not-so-far future.

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On ‘Pausing Precarity’

The Institute of Network Cultures just launched its podcast Zero Infinite. I’m very glad that the first episode is dedicated to precarity and proud that the entreprecariat is mentioned in there.

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Squatting the Continuous Office

Bea Fremderman, Kafka Office (2013)

The use of mobile phone testifies the way in which cognitive work has slipped out its canonical environment –the office– to become an uninterrupted presence in our lives. Work that exists both as actuality (the email we’re replying to) and as potentiality (the red badge notifying that there are still emails to read). Clearly, there have been some antecedents, such as the laptop and, before that, the desktop computer. Even with the telephone, work outside the office was possible. However, the mobile phone represents a qualitative shift since it radicalizes the mobility and ubiquity of work.

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Knowing Nothing

How should we conceive precarity? What characterizes this condition? I republish here a definition of precarity found in the glossary of Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi’s Precarious Rhapsody (2009). Berardi’s definition seems to confirm the idea that precarity is first and foremost a matter of perception and subsequent emotions, it is a kind of feedback loop between the two. Material deprivation and poverty play a central role in the precarious experience but they are not its determinant feature. When they aren’t really part of one’s life, they still function as a presage, a presentiment, that in turn affects daily life and decision making. Bifo describes the inability to imagine one’s own future and the constant presence of anxiety. Clearly, this state of affair is not exceptional anymore. In order to change it, the precariat needs to formulate and articulate a series of demands, but how to do so when you can’t foresee your own life in a year from now? In other words, how to act against precarity if your time and thoughts are occupied by the state of being precarious? It seems that one needs stability in order to address precarity.

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