Entreprecariat (Onomatopee) out now!

Entrepreneur or precarious worker? These are the terms of a cognitive dissonance that turns everyone’s life into a shaky project in perennial start-up phase. Silvio Lorusso guides us through the entreprecariat, a world where change is natural and healthy, whatever it may bring. A world populated by motivational posters, productivity tools, mobile offices and self-help techniques. A world in which a mix of entrepreneurial ideology and widespread precarity is what regulates professional social media, online marketplaces for self-employment and crowdfunding platforms for personal needs. The result? A life in permanent beta, with sometimes tragic implications.

“A compelling and relentless j’accuse: debunking the social and political myths that push an increasing number of persons to perform in the entrepreneurship circus — with no safety nets.”
— Antonio Casilli, author of En attendant les robots, 2019

With a foreword by Geert Lovink and an afterword by Raffaele Alberto Ventura.

Order the book on Onomatopee’s website.


The User Condition is out!

I’m glad to announce that I’ve just published The User Condition, a micro-interactive essay on computer agency and behavior. The essay concludes the blog post series on this subject.


No Problem: Design School as Promise



– Sticker found in Berlin

The Promise

A promise is something that is put forward. It involves intent and expectation. It is a performative speech act: an utterance that, hopefully, does what it says. A promise is fulfilled when an intended future, now become past, finally aligns with the present. That’s when the speech act meets its condition of felicity.

What kind of promise (from now on simply “the Promise”) does design education involve? Does that relate to the present of education or to the future of work? What are the forces that shape it? How is it fulfilled and by whom? Who has the authority to sanction its fulfillment? Let us consider educational promises in general. First, they are not unilateral but reciprocal. It is not just the promisor, namely the school organization, in cooperation with or in opposition to the market and society, that is supposed to fulfill it (“We’ll give you knowledge, skills and a space to develop them”), but the individual promisee as well, the student, as they guarantee effort and participation (“I’ll make it worthwhile”).

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1h call = 2h work

These last few days, inspired by Geert Lovink’s upcoming essay on Zoom Fatigue, I’ve been thinking a lot about videoconferencing and telework. And then today I was asked to borrow a non-Linux machine to participate in a live talk because Teams’ “Live” function is not supported by the Linux version of the software. Lock-ins ahead. Luckily, the other speaker is also a Linux user so we didn’t have to feel weirdos… Anyway, everybody seems to agree: videoconferencing is exhausting. But how can one turn exhaustion into a political demand? My proposal is to consider videoconference work (Zoom, Teams, Skype) from the prism of recovery time, namely, the time needed to regain mental and bodily energies. My empirical assumption is that videoconference work (Zoom, Teams, Skype) requires twice as much of recovery time as the same activity performed in a physical setting or as regular, async digital communication (email, chat, etc.). And what is recovery time if not just another name for work? If that is the case, one can formulate a concise slogan reminiscent of the “8 hours labor, 8 hours recreation, 8 hours rest” one. Here’s some versions of it:

1h call = 2h work




Not sure which one works best. I tend to like the one with work because it logically leads to a reduction of working hours. But then I’m also a fan of the exploding head. I also realize that the one with the hammer and wrench, if taken literally, brings in the complexities of physical vs mental labor… So I leave the choice to you, dear asynchronous reader.


NPC.CAFE, Texts on Videogames

Gui Machiavelli and I didn’t really know where to publish our weird takes on videogames so we came up with our own text repository. It’s called npc.cafe because non-player characters are our friends. When I say ‘text’, I mean it: no images whatsoever, except for a bunch of emojis. It’s either read or play.

The text on Angry Birds vs Flappy Bird is quite connected to The User Condition’s posts, so if you’re into that, make sure to check it out!


The User Condition 06: How to Name Our Computer Monoculture?

A general question, to start with:

What are today’s socio-technical conditions embedded in hardware and software that shape a computer user?

There are various issues that make such question too broad. The first has to with the word computer: a Roomba, a Raspberry Pi and the laptop I’m using right now are all computers. In this respect, I tried to refine the question by offloading the problem to Google Images. According to it, the computer user is one who uses either a laptop or a desktop. I think such framing is reductive as it excludes the computer device that is most used nowadays: the mobile phone. So, the computer I’m talking about is an explicitly pseudo-general purpose device (pseudo- ’cause smartphones often need jailbreaking) which can be on one’s desk, lap or pocket. Problem solved.

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The User Condition 05: On Movement and Relocation

In a previous post I stated that one of the features of interface industrialization (and therefore of user proletarianization) is “movement without relocation”. Here I’d like to characterize a bit better what I mean this two terms, especially the latter, and how they apply to computer software.

Automated Depletion Strategy by Josh Katzenmeyer

I guess it’s unavoidable to mention the very word cybernetics, coined by Norbert Wiener in 1948, which comes from the Greek kybernḗtēs, standing for the “helmperson” of a ship. The helmperson drives or better governs the vehicle. Here, the emphasis is more on movement and trajectory than relocation. We can imagine this ship traversing a boundless sea with no island and still have a sense of this activity of governing.

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The User Condition 04: A Mobile First World

Nowadays, computers can be found inside cars, fridges and watches. So, what do we envision when we think of a computer user? Google Images will provide you mostly with images of people sitting in front of a laptop or desktop computer, somehow confirming the concern that the computer, in the very moment when it becomes truly pervasive, disappears not only from sight, but also from the imagination. Here, I want to briefly argue why the most productive conception of a computer user today is that of a smartphone user.

“Computer user” search on Google Images.

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Intervista di Alessandro De Vecchi: design come adolescenza, deprofessionalizzazione, artigianalità digitale

Alessandro De Vecchi studia design al Politecnico di Milano. Per la sua tesi mi ha posto alcune domande sulla questione professionale, i progetti self-initiated, l’automazione, Instagram e il rischio imprenditoriale.

ADV: La tua formazione nel graphic design guida gran parte del tuo lavoro di ricerca, in quanto settore emblematico nell’industria creativa quando si parla di imprendicariato. In un saggio del 2017 sottolinei come parlare di graphic design come linguaggio ne farebbe emergere la componente ideologica, invece di parlarne in termini soluzionisti, come spesso invece viene fatto. Inoltre, sottolinei come la strada politica possa essere una strada per riaffermare il ruolo intellettuale del designer. Nell’ottica di innescare questa riaffermazione del ruolo intellettuale, credi che la strada politica sia l’unica strada? Ci sono collegamenti con il tema del linguaggio, dato che lo colleghi al tema dell’ideologia?

SL: Innanzitutto andrebbe discusso il valore di un eventuale affermazione o riaffermazione del designer come intellettuale. A distanza di alcuni anni dalla pubblicazione di quel saggio mi rendo conto che l’intellettualizzazione stessa sta al cuore del problema. Con essa intendo la produzione di un’immagine del designer quale detentore di una certa influenza culturale. Non esiste il designer; esistono i designer. Tra di essi i designer-intellettuali sono pochi. Tutti gli altri sono quasi del tutto ininfluenti a livello di discorso pubblico. Ed è proprio qui che si innesta il discorso politico. La politica che auspico è una micropolitica del lavoro, focalizzata su istanze specifiche come il reddito, il tempo di lavoro, la questione abitativa. Ciò è l’esatto opposto dei tentativi perlopiù fallimentari di lobbying professionale, come il tema dell’educazione del pubblico alla cultura progettuale. Per fare politica i designer si devono spogliare della propria veste professionale e disciplinare. Devono porsi non come progettisti ma come lavoratori della conoscenza. Devono allearsi e riconoscersi con mondi a loro estranei piuttosto che cercare di distinguersi da essi.

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La regola di A G Fronzoni

[Articolo pubblicato su Progetto Grafico #35. Il Pdf dell’articolo è scaricabile qui.]

Il lavoro di Fronzoni è spesso accolto con fanatismo, ma c’è chi guarda con sospetto al suo purismo monastico. Tuttavia entrambe le fazioni hanno assorbito il suo insegnamento più di quanto credono, dato che questo consiste non tanto in una lotta contro l’inessenziale, quanto in un’ortopedia operata sulle cose, su se stessi e sugli altri.

Tra i progettisti grafici italiani attivi durante il secolo scorso, A G Fronzoni è colui che più radicalmente ha tenuto fede alla missione moderna: quella di innalzare la progettualità a principio di vita fondamentale. Attraverso un’attività che può essere considerata una lunga serie di esercizi, Fronzoni ha inquadrato lucidamente l’analogia tra design e pratica ascetica, ovvero tra progetto delle cose e progetto del sé, offrendo un esempio da imitare a generazioni di designer. È forse questa la vera ragione del culto particolare che avvolge la sua vita e il suo lavoro, un culto che va oltre l’intensità e la coerenza di un’opera talvolta in contrasto con i rigidi precetti del modernismo. In questa sede mi ripropongo di indagare, purtroppo soltanto tramite fonti secondarie, la dimensione ascetica presente nel lavoro del progettatore Fronzoni (come amava definirsi) soffermandomi sul rapporto tra progetto delle cose, progetto del sé e progetto degli altri.

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The User Condition 03: User Proletarianization, a Table

I’m posting this table, as I think it fairly elegantly summarizes what I called “proletarianization” in the previous User Condition posts. The step forward I made here is to connect the level of user gestures to that of the algorithm. The table as image can be found here.

User Proletarianization
Feature Platform Factory
repetitive, semi-automatic, “mindless” gestures infinite scroll, swipe assembly
movement without relocation feed (the user doesn’t leave the page) conveyor belt (the worker doesn’t leave their position)
externalized, opaque, inaccessible knowledge (savoir) algorithm (arranging data into lists) industrial know-how (arranging parts into objects)