JUNE 29TH — JULY 17TH                   

Inertia(noun),
1— a tendency to do nothing or to remain unchanged.

2— (physics) property of matter by which it continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force.


THE SCHOOL


WORKING
GROUPS


TALKS


STATEMENT


PROJECTS










Belsunces, A (2019). The Politics of Technology-Fiction. CCCBLab.
Available here.

Latour, B (2020). What protective measures can you think of so we don’t go back to the pre-crisis production model. AOL Media.
Available here

Prado, L; Oliveira, P (2016). Questioning the critical in speculative and critical design. Medium. Available here
Srnicek, N. (2017). Platform capitalism. John Wiley & Sons.

Feenberg, A. (2002). Transforming technology: A critical theory revisited. Oxford University Press.

Bratton, B. H. (2016). The stack: On software and sovereignty. MIT press.

Forlano, L. (2016). Decentering the Human in the Design of Collaborative Cities, 32(3). https://doi.org/10.1162/DESI
Weber, A. (2019). Enlivenment: toward a poetics for the anthropocene (Vol. 16). MIT Press.


Mark

Statement


Post-Inertia: design for the immediately-after


Mark

Like other crises before, Covid19 has interrupted some inertiae while exciting others. It has thus unleashed new potential becomings.
        Brazil and the US are facing serious populist threats while, in Europe, the health system collapse made it inevitable to reinforce the welfare state. Social tracing algorithms are threatening democratic rights, but at the same time, multiple efforts are arising to strengthen the security of our networks and our data rights. The Virus has proven that our economic system can be put on hold everywhere in the world; and that in human absence, ecosystems blossom. The confinement has shown the Global North a bitter glimpse of the current civilizational collapse, as the human impact on the environment disrupted daily lives and economies. At the same time, collaborative efforts and open knowledge showed a very needed immediate response to emergency when the states were immersed in a shameful market competition for health supplies. Social distancing is now giving city councils the opportunity to advance towards cleaner and walkable cities. We’ve seen, once again, that vulnerable populations are more put at risk by the virus and its impacts, so already existing inequalities increase.
        In 2009, right after the beginning of the financial crisis, Isabelle Stengers published “In Catastrophic Times: Resisting the Coming Barbarism”. In her book, she identifies a potential (and needed) civilizational shift, stating that we were between two stages: what she named First History and Second History
     

  Capitalism is a semiotic machine that frames and kidnaps expectations and imaginaries1.



        One decade ago, First History was speaking through hegemonic powers saying “we have to make a collective effort to save the economy”. Now we know that the consequence of such sacrifice has been the intensification of structural precarity.
        This is what we've been told that reality is: what we have to accept as unavoidable -along with mass extinction, desertification, ocean acidification and growing economic inequalities. This reality -where society has little agency- is the result of past inertiae (specters materialized in epistemic, social and productive habits) that are incapable to deal with our urgent and contemporary challenges. It inflicts paralysis, and in this state, the only possible option is to expect a miracle from the same entities that created the catastrophe we’re trying to escape.
        Second History is what could have resulted from the last crisis: a great agreement for the regulation of financial markets and ecocidal industries, fortification of public and common resources, endorsement of social solidarity and innovation towards an ecological transition. This is an alternative reality where “it is possible to work less, while dignification of (human and non-human) life is equally distributed”.
        The interruption caused by the pandemics has created a short-circuit in our socio-economical code, a hiatus that we can take advantage of to decide where and how to go. At the beginning of the European outbreak, Bruno Latour shared an exercise2, an invitation to think about what activities that were normal before the pandemics we would like to see disappear; which ones we would like to encourage; which ones we should invent; and how we could help those affected by these changes adapt to the new era.
        This exercise was created to make us think about what inertiae we want to follow up, which ones we want to cancel and how we can ease a fair transition towards the futures we deem better. The exercise helps us challenge our imagination about what-is-to-come, but also makes us think about its feasibility. Those are the bars and screws that stabilize new social imaginaries.
        To do so, it’s important to excite more livable visions of the future. But also, as Stengers suggests, we need to acknowledge that any attempt of continuing with the First History -global economic competition at any cost- should be considered barbarism. Some futures are unacceptable.

The Speculative Leaver


Speculative design has been criticised for being a sterile exercise used within an elitist discipline in wealthy educational contexts3. The Virus has stressed a collective sense of uncertainty, and consequently, The Future -this controversial cultural artifact reproducing and challenging old inertiae- has gained some visibility -precisely because of its blurriness. .
        Post-Inertia inquires the role of speculative practices in a temporal regime where The Future has lost part of its structure (due to an interference in the social sense of becoming) and needs to be rebuilt.
        If design is a practice of material worlding (aligning uses, distribution chains, environmental effects, habits nudging, narratives about what we are and should be, etc.), what can we expect from it in a moment where a new era is being built? Design can be a stabilizator, a discipline of semio-material ordering. Indeed, contemporary connected technologies are an assembled surveillance and commodifying system not only because of their business models4, but also because of the design assumptions behind their interfaces and networks5.
        Design performs wanted and unwanted agencies. Benjamin Bratton6 asserts that the nature of the planetary-scale computation is an emergent accident without an invisible hand or conscious will behind its functioning. The fact that our world is wired and surrounded by satellites, and that our life, labor and democracy are articulated and by connected technologies, does not respond to a detailed planification. Is not the result of a blueprint.
        The nascent world ordering will be caused by The Virus, an hyperobjectual accident. If we also understand speculative practicesas rehearsing socio-technical possibilities and urban configurations of the worlds-to-come -as Laura Forlano has shown in her research -, maybe critical speculation can be used as a laboratory for designing inertias.This would allow us to create the conditions to narrow the reproduction of the First History while knitting under-realized but desirable pasts into feasible futures situating the perpetuation of life, joy, cooperation and solidarity -as we’ve learnt from Andreas Weber 8 - in the center.
        In 1940, Jorge Luis Borges published “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis, Tertius”, a short story where a “benevolent secret society” works, during several generations, on the creation of Tlön, an imaginary world that is exhaustively described in a parallel and unpublished Encyclopedia. At the end of the story, we discover that some fictional objects leaked into the physical reality and the Encyclopedia is finally made publicly available. It becomes popular, and the world gradually turns into Tlön.
        Post-Inertia is an open platform for collective  speculation towards History 2. It is an experiment to simulate the stabilization of certain pasts and emerging inertiae, bringing them into the realm of material inevitability that is currently only existing as a potentia.


David Falagán & Andreu Belsunces



Mark