Software Doldrums

In their recent LibrePlanet keynote, the artist collective Hundred Rabbits discussed dangers and shortcomings of relying on always-online proprietary platforms — and their experience building their own tools for their creative practice.

For five years, we lived in remote parts of the world, and during this time we saw firsthand how the modern-day computing stack fails and degrades beyond the shores of the western world. This experience raised a lot of questions: How do we keep creating when the tools we use eat away at our limited power and connectivity? And how do we make sure they work when we need them to?

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Scoring the U.S. Working Class

At FocaalBlog, Don Nonini considers the pandemic as a turning point for the U.S. working class in the context of digitalization, which is increasingly converging with expropriation:

Working-class people in the United States are now at a turning point – whether to compliantly return to the pre-Covid conditions capital set for them, or to shift toward a new militancy toward capitalism. Now, two years into the pandemic, they have suffered severe personal hardships due to Covid-related illness, hospitalizations and deaths, and sudden loss of employment. These traumas have occurred even as they have experienced an historically unprecedented hiatus of relative economic security, given the Covid-related payments and protections they received from the US state, while many have been praised as “essential workers.”

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A Traversal Network of Feminist Servers

Six groups from around Europe are partnering up to ask what might make a server feminist and what kind of communities might gather around such a server.

A Traversal Network of Feminist Servers (ATNOFS) is a collaborative project formed around intersectional feminist, ecological servers. Understanding servers as computers that host space and services for communities around them, this project exists inside, and in between, roaming servers and different networks.

See also this interview with the initiators of ATNOFS as well as the Feminist Server Manifesto.

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How can we democratically own the digital economy?

The Institute for the Cooperative Digital Economy has published research reports by its 2021 cohort of research fellows.

From Brazil to France, New York to Buenos Aires, and Bologna in Italy to Gujarat in India, our fellows covered topics critical to the development of platform cooperatives in these territories.

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Encounters, coffees and conflicts

The Feminist Internet Research Network, led by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), carried out a multiyear action-research project on community networks and feminist infrastructures in Brazil. They present the outcomes of the project in a new report as well as in zines.

More than reaching answers, the questions has helped us to expand a set of reflections from the encounter between different ways of living and of producing knowledge and techniques that escape to some extent to normative models in the field of digital technologies , such as white male predominance in this field and the processes of concentration of power on the internet by large corporations that use manipulative and non-transparent models of relations with these technologies. The aim of this article is to share part of the reflections that have emerged from our experience, with the expectation of contributing to research and initiatives for technological appropriation that also devote themselves to strengthening diversity in these two fields.

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For Antipode Online, Olivia Butler discusses how the Russian military is weaponizing gig work and gigifying warfare.

The utilisation of gig platforms in the invasion of Ukraine is part of a heady mix of digital interventions in modern warfare, including cyber security and the dissemination of fake news. The latter have, however, received considerably more attention particularly in regards to the role of social media in Russian propaganda. The use of platforms in the enactment of war raises questions regarding the dehumanisation of digital mediation and the role of corporate and individual responsibility.

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Delivery apps’ obsessions with star ratings is ruining lives

In a dispatch from Seoul for Rest of World, Max Kim discusses the power of star ratings in South Korea’s booming food delivery industry.

In South Korea, where mainstream e-commerce revenue recently overtook offline retail, star ratings have quickly assumed huge authority, business owners and experts say. … [M]erchants say that a single subpar review is enough to depress business for days. The dire phrase “star rating terrorism” has entered everyday use. A flood of legislation has been proposed to curb the influence of platforms, including review systems.

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Social Media Influencers and the New Political Economy in South Asia and Africa

Joyojeet Pal and Omolade Adunbi of the University of Michigan are organizing a symposium on social media influencers in South Asia and Africa on April 7-8, 2022.

Social media influencer activity on platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and LinkedIn are now pivotal to social influence in societies around the world, as the ecology of the public sphere gets increasingly crafted, amplified, or negated by what happens online. This is as true, or more so in the Global South, where social media has often served as the gateway for entry into the online realm for millions of technology users with little or no prior experience. The resulting world is one in which the boundaries between the physical and the virtual has fundamentally reshaped power equations between the citizens and the state, their culture, and their communities.

This symposium at the University of Michigan is focused on social media influencers, and brings a host of leaders, artistes, journalists, activists, commentators, and scholars from two of the fastest growing Internet-using regions of the world to discuss how they interact online, what drives their activities and success, and how being public figures online impacts their lives and work.

Online participation in the symposium is possible after registration.

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Digital colonialism

For the Transnational Institute and ROAR Magazine, Michael Kwet outlines the latest stage of the U.S. empire: digital colonialism.

We live in a world where digital colonialism now risks becoming as significant and far-reaching a threat to the Global South as classic colonialism was in previous centuries. Sharp increases in inequality, the rise of state-corporate surveillance, and sophisticated police and military technologies are just a few of the consequences of this new world order. The phenomenon may sound new to some, but over the course of the past decades, it has become entrenched in the global status quo. Without a considerably strong counter-power movement, the situation will get much worse.

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The internet is a force multiplier for Ukraine

In his Platformer newsletter, Casey Newton shares notes on the role of platforms in wartime — and asks whether they may have a role to play in preserving democracy in Ukraine.

Over the past decade, the biggest tech companies came to feel less like traditional corporations and more like quasi-states: borderless empires whose decisions increasingly had geopolitical consequences, to the growing frustration of the nation states in which they operate. … [I]t has been striking, watching the horrific invasion of Ukraine that Vladimir Putin’s Russia began on Thursday, the degree to which social networks have been used in efforts to preserve democracy.

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