Technological Resistances: Learning and Challenges for the Future

On 5 April, we returned to Espai Societat Oberta with the workshop Technological Resistances, which is part of the work line Tools for the Decolonisation of Technology. After the meeting held in February as a presentation at El Canòdrom, this new activity delved into projects at European level that take a fresh and different look at the use of current technologies and promote new narratives to achieve a paradigm shift.

To begin with, fundamental issues such as the difference between the Spanish terms decolonizar and descolonizar were discussed. The term decolonizar responds to the idea of exalting those voices that were silenced during the colonising process and re-signifying their stories through a technology that collects their experiences and places them at the service of the whole community. It is in these type of projects that we see the importance of a narrative or language that leads to a greater understanding of their usefulness in society.

In the workshop, initiatives of technological resistance at the European level were presented because of the proximity they could generate with the public. It is important to remember that in order to challenge the public through geographical, cultural or cognitive closeness, it is essential to use examples that are located nearby and avoid projects that are always based in the United States or other remote regions.

Initiatives to learn and resist

During the session, we were able to learn about different projects and understand the importance of their creation and development as examples of resistance. Below we list them with links and a brief description:

  • Depatrachise design: An association that aims to democratise access to design and its rhetoric. It works to empower and amplify the voice of people from marginalised groups.
  • Feminist Curricula: Directory within depatrachise design.
  • Futuress: Online magazine and community space within depatrachise design.
  • Internet Teapot: Studio focusing on design and critical speculative research on digital culture, critical theory and the vision of design as a social transformative tool.
  • Algorithms of Late Capitalism: A space where Internet Teapot’s creations are shared in the form of a fanzine and Tumblr posts.
  • Database of Us (Underrepresented Symptomatology): Collaborative website that aims to identify the points to be taken into account in the medical diagnosis of racialised people and marginalised genders around the world. 
  • Queering Voice AI: Project that has created a voice interface called Syb by and for the trans community that promotes trans media content and community wellbeing.
  • Q de Virtue Nordics: The first digital voice assistant that is genderless and uses between 145 and 175 Hertz, a range that, according to research, is perceived to be more gender neutral.
  • La banlieue du Turfu: A project on speculative futures that aims to reimagine the suburbs of Paris with residents of those neighbourhoods through the creation of virtual and visual worlds.
  • DING Magazine: Magazine about new and more inclusive narratives, fairer digital futures and the future in times of crisis.

Common characteristics

What do all these projects have in common? As Oyidiya Oji Palino pointed out during the session, the beauty of these initiatives listed above is that they are collaborative. That is to say, these are projects in which people who participate share knowledge and seek work networks with external participants as well. They use this formula to enrich each other. Moreover, they are led by communities affected by their own technologies so that they can work first-hand on new designs and structures that replicate existing exchanges.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that these projects usually involve people with different technical skills, without the need for everyone to have engineering or higher studies in design or programming.

Final thoughts

To conclude the activity, we wanted to open the debate to the public so that they could express their reflections and questions in relation to the initiatives that were presented. One of the questions that arose was how different experiences and ways of thinking are included in the creative process of the systems that drive our daily lives. The participation of communities was also discussed with the aim of anticipating possible problems and issues that may arise. On the other hand, the question of which channels to use to guarantee the dissemination and participation of the projects was raised.

Another topic that was discussed was the use of technology to solve all of society’s problems. We also commented that technology helps many people, but some more than others, and we often do not ask ourselves whether we really need voice assistants, smart watches or predictive systems. 

Often, history is looked at from the perspective of the founder when in fact it should be looked at from all points of view and what it means that some communities gain and others lose from the use of biased systems. In addition, there was a concern to create and develop more responsible technology and good policies around it that can ensure its good use for all users.  

Talking about a single technology limits the scope for action. During the dialogue we had, it was mentioned that we should talk about technologies in plural to take into account more possible scenarios and thus make them more visible. 

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