Wk. 1: A Good Life & Flexing a muscle

I’m less and less sure my decisions are my own. I take the route I’m recommended, I listen to what’s up next. My impulse has been, when cognisant of being manipulated (guided?) in this way, to vow to secede modern life, delete a load of apps and clear some cookies.

It can be a kick in the ego to discover you behaviour, or your even your taste, is not your own. However, I think we can agree it’s futile to try and disavow our symbiotic relationship with technology and ‘the good life’ your way to autonomy. Would you want to if you could?

When reading this week’s set text A fish can’t judge the water’ by Femke Snelting, I was reminded of a work by the technology and design studio IF. The work, Data Licenses, (2015), was displayed as part of ‘Big Bang Data’, a 2014-15 exhibition at Somerset House, London. Visitors to the exhibition were invited to scan objects representing different types of personal data. When an object had been scanned (for example a bank card representing financial transactions), users were given a run down of the risks and benefits of sharing that data – you location may be traceable by using a card on public transport but that data could be used to improve/optimise a public service. Do you opt in? After making a series of these choices the visitor is then given a print out of their ‘licence’ for their records.

As Snelting alludes to in her writing and is implied in the Data Licences, a fuller understanding of the uses of ubiquitous technology grants us the ability to make informed decisions or make radical interventions. Seceding from the network, as I have been inclined in the past, does nothing to stop it functioning. As Laboria Cuboniks state in the Xenofeminist Manifesto, ‘slowing down and scaling back’ to a fictional, simpler time is a privilege few can practically afford.

My first class with Dr Helen Pritchard was reassuring in several ways. My colleagues are clearly very talented and experienced in a variety of fields. I hope to both contribute to and draw from what is clearly a wealth of collective expertise. The text I recommended as a representative of my interests and practice was Art Without Death: Conversations on Russian Cosmism, an edited collection and part of the e-flux book series. Artists and philosophers, including Hito Steyerl, Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi and Anton Vidokle discuss an obscure Russian philosophical movement. A blend of eastern philosophy, the Russian Orthodox church and Marxist ideology the movement is centered on the idea that it is our moral and ethical obligation to work towards permanently curing death, and then reviving all those who have died. Although, these goals may at first appear incredible, they have pervaded within the transhumanist movement. Personally, I am interested in how art in particular could literally, physically heal in a world where access to adequate healthcare is uneven. 


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