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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Artificial Intelligence or: How I Ended Up on the Adobe Blog

 

Some time ago, I was asked to answer some questions on automation and creative work for AIGA Eye on Design. I’m quite fond of this magazine, as it is deals with important topics such design education and it promotes laudable initiatives, such as a call for salary transparency. Fast forward one month and I find bits of the interview published on the Adobe blog (no one told me it was online). In the original inquiry there was no mention of a partnership with the company. If there were, I’d have declined the request, or at least I would have asked some money to be turned into Adobe infomercial (I’m a free software fan). Furthermore, the tiny bits extracted from the lenghty answers I gave are both misplaced and misquoted. The very text within quotes has been changed, and with that, its meaning. For someone who advocates the abandonment of any notion of quality (see answers below) the title “Why (good) designers are never going to be obsolete” sounds abhorrent.

As the about page of the magazine says, “AIGA Eye on Design covers the world’s most exciting designers—and the issues they care about”. Turns out I care about my time and ideas and who profits from them (whereas AIGA is a not-for-profit, Adobe is clearly not). This is why I’m disclosing this backstory and posting my answers in their entirety (I was quite happy with them anyway). Of course I’ll also ask the magazine to remove my name from the Adobe blog.

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MoneyLab #7: Two Highlights

Last week I attended the MoneyLab, now at its seventh iteration and dedicated to “feminist economics, social payments, corporate crime and the ‘blokechain’”. Some years have passed since I took part in this cycle of conferences, and I’m glad to see that there is both continuity (I recognized some familiar faces) and transformation (many new ones as well).

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Reshaping Work 2019 – Notes and Impressions

Last week I had the chance to attend Reshaping Work, a 2-day conference on the future of work (this year specifically on the platform economy). I’ve been following the event from a distance (read Twitter) for the last two years and I’m glad that I could be there in person this time, as it made me change my mind about it: my first impression was that of a celebratory event in which the platforms could advertise their services without too much criticism. What gave me this impression was an interface issue: all the “research insights” were buried in the 2019 program under a drop-down menu. What I experienced was instead a diverse environment including academics, policy makers, platform-cooperativists, artists, unionists, activists, entrepreneurs, and pseudo-outsiders (like myself).

Meet the Platform Workers session.

In this post I’ll go through some of the talks, panels and installations that I attended and found interesting or useful. This doesn’t mean that this was all, just that for my work and perspective this is what left a mark, also because some sessions were happening at the same time.

I anticipate that this will be a long text so I’m dropping here some of the main keywords that I will touch upon below:

  • algorithmic management
  • recursive outsourcing
  • competing narratives and self-narratives

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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.