The fool’s plea
Liane Decary-Chen & Jules Galbraith
As systems grow, collapse, and regenerate, we struggle to find exit strategies from capitalism. We become drained and overstimulated by technology, only to have technology further imposed upon us as the solution to overwork and fatigue.
The accelerating mutation of tech will not save us. Neither will tech’s frantic attempts to keep cutting past the bleeding edge. Progress asks for more speed, more power, and more streamlining. We produce too much, consume too much, and discard everything. This process is unsurprisingly violent, especially considering that military projects largely shape and fund technological innovation.
Do not let yourself be leashed by comfort: the speed of our daily lives depends on and is perpetuated by the tools and practices they’ve conditioned us to depend on. You might find yourself in a place of ease, supported by the giants, while also wanting something else.
Know that refusing is not enough: we must also create. There are roads out of living in this deficit, but we must build most of them ourselves. As artists, technologists, technicians, and knowledge holders, it is our responsibility to make our hopes for bright futures legible. We cannot let the tech elite's sci-fi dreams dictate tomorrow's technologies. It is imperative that we write, draw, dance, sing, and live toward joyful and healing futures.
What if technology didn’t have to run at 100% capacity for 100% of the time? What if it followed natural cycles of wake and rest? Degrowth asks us to slow down, work at our own scale, and re-integrate the cycles of the living world. Maybe the alternative to Instagram isn’t a better Instagram; it could instead be a return to snail mail.
It can be difficult to move past the overwhelming scale at play. Tech companies have technology, labor, and data at their disposal, enabling them to act globally; however, individuals can focus their attention on micro- and local levels and make human-scale changes that have human-scale effects.
“Emergence” is a phenomenon that takes place in nature when many agents, acting independently of one another, engage in similar behaviors that appear, from a more macro perspective, to be coordinated. When thinking about how you, as an individual, can make a difference in opposing tech giants, try to conceive of your actions on the appropriate scale. Rather than picturing yourself as a small human facing up against a massive conglomerate, picture yourself as a bird or a fish, in a flock or a school of peers, all together moving as a beautiful, extensive, adaptive multiplicity.
Choosing your own tools, at your own scale, is, first and foremost, a practice of re-acquaintance, and de-alienation. Think of this as cultivating your own open digital ecosystem. What would it mean to give care and attention to each of its elements, rather than being handed a pre-packaged and pre-determined set of tools, interfaces, and access points?
Among the “local practices” to put in place include diversifying your platforms and channels, and supporting those engaged in specialized, ethical services. Think of the process of choosing tools as going to the market, and selecting items based on their quality and provenance—eggs from the chicken farmer, vegetables from the vegetable farmer—rather than running to the nearest fluorescent-lit supermarket and buying produce, proteins, and treats all from some distant, multi-pronged food production company.
Purposeful frictionMuch of the research undertaken by tech companies touch on taking advantage of human biological and psychological mechanisms to create addiction. To take control of our digital landscapes, we need to tune into our sensorial experience of technology and develop strategies and practices of embodiment.
Tech giants prioritize offering convenience and frictionless experiences to users to guarantee we continue using their products. In a context where most of us are at maximum capacity, taking any path other than the one of least resistance is hard. Divesting from tech giants is uncomfortable. The frustration or learning curve involved in adopting new tools often discourages us from switching over.
Deciding to align the technological tools you use with your values will have a ripple effect throughout the rest of your life. It will make you question your communication practices, who you talk to, when, and why. It will make you think about how much discomfort you tolerate and how you've adapted to cope.
There are habits that the apps do for you that might have to be re-grown. To do things yourself means you have more control but also more responsibility. However, engaging more directly with the labor necessary to accomplish tasks isn’t necessarily bad. Familiarizing ourselves with friction and the type of labor that is borne of self-determination and care also ties in with embracing slower rhythms.
Moreover, you can build friction into your process purposefully to move you closer to your goals. Organize your digital landscape so that your newly chosen tool is the one of least resistance while the one you want to divest from takes extra steps. Your default apps, notifications, and home screen icons should be the ones you want to use. Examples of adding friction would be to not auto-complete passwords for tech giants, delete the apps from your phone and only use mobile sites, or delete saved payment information so you have to enter it every time manually.
Divesting from tech giants has many barriers which can be preventative for some, especially when taking accessibility concerns in mind. Many smaller tools can have flaws that make their use more difficult for certain users. Be patient with yourself even in moments of frustration as you continue to distance yourself from tech giants; you can always course-correct and reassess your capacities and goals as you go along.
Using the cards of the tarot, we made a map for travelers like us making the pilgrimage to better digital lands. Here are the first few steps. For the complete divestment guide, please consult our digital zine linked at the end of the article.
The Fool: Starting the journey
The fool is full of joy and curiosity, but also ignorant of the path that lies ahead. This is where we are at right now. We are excited to go toward a bright digital future, but we don’t quite grasp what steps will take us there. If you want, you can stay here, and take as much time as you need. How do you feel about this trip?
The Star: Imagining a bright future
The fool looks up to the sky and sees the star far in the distance. Its shine tells us that moving towards and beyond liberation is possible. The star is free, open, and generous with its light. Close your eyes and call up a picture of a lush digital garden, abundant fruits, rivers flowing strong and gentle. To imagine the future is to build it slowly.
The Moon: Feeling fear
The Moon moves the deep waters. It acts on instincts, gives courage in the face of dismay, and brings light to the dark and unknown. In my opinion, one of the main reasons people don’t move away from tech giants is that the process forces you to confront complex patterns of fear, oppression, anxiety, and addiction. It's easier to just go along with what already is.
The moon asks you to confront the undercurrents pulling on you and recognize the cycles you are embedded in. It offers its slow guidance of waxing and waning as you embark on an unknown journey. How does fear show up in your use of technology?
The Sun: Considering cycles
The sun reminds us that night will always lead to day. It calls for daily renewal. It warms and feeds the earth. Can you name some things you are looking forward to seeing grow online?
Devil & Tower: What are we refusing?
Right before reaching the stars, the moon, and the sun, a tower obscures the sky. At its foot stands the Devil guarding it. He is sharp and resourceful; what he cannot see, he guesses; what he cannot control, he takes. To complete your journey, you will have to confront him and let the tower fall. Take a moment to identify which contaminants need to be filtered out of your digital water source. You can think generally or pinpoint specific apps, sites, accounts, trends, content, etc.
Temperance: Welcoming slowness
Thankfully, before running into the Devil, you meet Temperance. Temperance has walked a long way to get here and understands the complexity of your situation. It can handle duality and knows how to use the resources at hand. Consider your usage of technology. In which ways can you feel yourself rushing toward the bleeding edge? On the contrary, where can you feel the pull toward slowness? What would your ideal speed be?
Judgment & The World: Continue the process of rebirth
Judgment represents rebirth, seeing the big picture, and recognizing a change that has already occurred. The world card tells you that something has been completed and asks you to find a sense of wholeness in your body. You are the master of your world.
Look back at where you were at before you started thinking about all of this and acknowledge your progress, however big or small. Are you closer to your star? Further away from the Devil? Is the warmth of the sun any stronger? Is the view of the moon any clearer? How has your relationship with speed and slowness changed?
This text was developed through TechTechTech, a research project conducted at Ada X (Tiohtià:ke / Mooniyang / Montreal). In this step-by-step zine you’ll be asked to think of what scale of divestment you want to engage in, make a picture of your current situation, assess your capacity, determine your goals and priorities, determine a structure and a schedule, and select alternatives. You’ll also get tips on migrating your data and communication channels.