Updated: Feb 4, 2020
Welcome to e-carity. This website is a collaborative effort to explore the interconnections of contemporary circumstances of precarity, relations of care, and new technologies ranging from dating apps to social robotics. To date, there has been sparse dialogue between those thinking about precarity, those thinking about care, and those thinking about technology. Our goal is to foster cross-disciplinary conversations among these thinkers, as well as among theorists, practitioners, creatives, and makers. Through e-carity, we will foreground perspectives on the intersections of technology, precarity, and care shaped by anti-racist, decolonial, feminist, queer, crip concerns about how vulnerable bodies interact with forces of techno-capitalism and each other.
Precarity studies focus on conditions “in which certain populations suffer from failing [socioeconomic] networks” with greater exposure “to injury, violence, and death” (Butler, Frames of War, 25). To understand life as precarious is to understand our dependency on the physical, social, economic, psychological and affective care of others. Precarity emerges when these systems of care are fragmented by uneven impacts of capitalism, racism, sexism, ablism and other inequities. Known as a material condition, precarity is experienced by poor, marginalized, and disenfranchised people who are exposed to economic uncertainty, physical and psychological violence, forced migration, and other factors.
As an existential condition, precarity exhibits itself as feelings of vulnerability, displacement, hopelessness and anxiety. Cultural theorist Mark Fisher describes “a generalised anxiety, a constant twitching, an inability to settle” as an existential predicament accompanying normalization of our anxieties. With the advent of new technologies, work now transcends all times and places, leading to “anxious checking of our messages” and “our status, constantly under review.” As “[w]ork . . . colonises weekends, late evenings, even our dreams,” . . . we all become ‘human capital.’ [W]e not only have a job, or perform a job. We are the job” (Fisher, "Time Wars")
Under circumstances of “harassed busyness,” our urgent political struggle is a struggle over time which is “not only quantitatively short but qualitatively fragmented” (Fisher, "Time Wars"). A new global class of workers named "the precariat" lives in a continual condition of unstable employment and interrupted attention (Standing, The Precariat). The lack of control over time is linked to multiple factors, including concierge economies, job insecurity, surveillance systems, and technologies blurring lines between work and play and workplaces and homes.
Unable to care adequately for ourselves, much less for others under circumstances of precarity, we become further dependent on surveillance systems, social media, artificial intelligence and other technologies to sustain the communities of care we collectively need. E-carity seeks to explore how technologies of care both reproduce and resist precarity.
... under circumstances of material and existential precarity, we become further dependent on surveillance systems, social media, artificial intelligence and other technologies to sustain the communities of care we collectively need.
Changing practices of care (and carelessness) under evolving technological regimes raise urgent questions for queer, disabled, and colonized subjects. Who is seen as worthy of care? Who cares for whom and by what means? Who determines what forms of care are appropriate? How are technologies of care distributed? How are such technologies gendered and racialised? What are the geo-political contexts of their technological production?
Because these questions are being addressed (with varying degrees of care and carelessness) in popular culture, this blog will introduce academic theories into conversation with popular film, television, art, music, social media, dating apps and so forth. As this website itself demonstrates, scholarly books are not the only relevant sources for meaningful dialogue about the relationship between technology, care, and precarity. We hope to engage a wide range of conversational partners in exploring the complex intertwining of precarity, care, and technology in diverse cultural locations. To this end, we welcome your suggestions, creations, and analyses.
Image description: Cobalt blue background with translucent Stone Age figurine situated adjacent to a transparent robot with a long, transparent pink tinted petal attached to its apparatus
Image credit: Mumtaz Hammad