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 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)

 

Dispatches from the Quarantine

by Silvio Lorusso and Geert Lovink

“Media: we must work together to go back as soon as possible to normality. Normality:”

During these long days, thinking is hard. Coronavirus updates come from every milieu: friends, family, work, governments, finance, the economy at large. None of them can be ignored. Remember, we used to complain about information overload. What about now? Now that we’re uninterruptedly tuned to different sources, from apps, radio, TV and newspapers, to Whatsapp chats with people in various countries and timezones. Now that our minds are busy processing the conditions and worries of our relatives and acquaintances, the selective scarcity of close-by supermarkets, the permutations of our shaky working schedules, the proliferation of software to set up. We put effort into changing our embodied automatisms, such as the urge to touch our face. In many ways, we are not ourselves.

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Intervista di Angelica Ceccato: Sapere ombra, lock-in e rivendicazione della gratuità

Angelica Ceccato sta lavorando alla sua tesi per il Master in Estetica dell’Université Paris8. Per questo motivo mi ha posto qualche domanda su Entreprecariat, cultura digitale e creazione artistica contemporanea. Di seguito le mie risposte, in cui non ho potuto fare a meno di includere un paio di riflessioni sull’attuale stato d’eccezione.

Illustration by Studio Frames

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The User Condition 02: A Tentative Chronology of the Industrialization of Web Interfaces (work in progress)

 

Apple’s “revolutionary user interfaces”

In a previous post, I hypothesized that the evolution of web user interfaces can be understood as their progressive automation which, following the paradigm of industrialization, produces in turn a proletarization of the user. In this post I propose a tentative chronology of technical inventions as well as future forecasts, formulations of trends, and public admonishments that have contributed to and engaged with such transformation. The term proletarization is inspired by French philosopher Bernard Stiegler. I do not use it in an accusatory or moralistic sense; by that I intend to simply point out that, by means of semi-automation first (infinite scroll), and full automation then (playlist, stories, etc.), the user is turned into a “hand” first and then into a machine operator, someone who supervises the machine pseudo-autonomous flow and regulates its modulations. Following Simondon, the machine replaces the tool-equipped individual (the worker).

There are four main intertwined threads in this chronology: the emergence of web apps, the invention of the infinite scroll, the appearance of syndication and aggregation, the introduction of smartphones and thus the swipe gesture.

As I’m sure I’m missing or misunderstanding some aspects of it, comments are very welcome. There is also a loong Mastodon thread about this. Let us begin.

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The User Condition 01: Infinite Scroll and the Proletarisation of Interaction

These are some notes related to a research project I just started at KABK. It’s entitled “The User Condition” and it follows Arendt’s tripartite model of vita activa to understand user activity and behavior. The initial intuition leading to my proposal was a blogpost in which I hypothesized that the contemporary web is characterized by a sort of ersatz praxis, aka political action, that replaced the fabrication dimension of the early days: whereas users were craftpeople at first, they later became political agents (in a very broad sense). I’m posting my note to self on a single thread on Mastodon, if you feel like following my convoluted thought process. If you like what you read invite me for a seminar / lecture / workshop, so I can keep developing this, or buy my book on the Entreprecariat.

If I were to intuitively point out a fundamental paradigm shift of user activity in terms of interaction, after the advent of the “corporate web” (this expression needs some clarification), I’d say that the user was reconfigured as a “hand”, understood both as a body component and as a someone who “engages in manual labor”.

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