Communities of Care for Technofeminist Futures: Exploring Narratives of Social Reproduction and Vulnerability in Concepts of Security

PhD academic creative practice in-process
social reproduction cosmopolis TAZ security theory ethics of care technofeminism

I am conducting this research thanks to the receipt of the Leverhulme Magna Carta Doctoral Studentship: Creating Popular Narratives of Security by Royal Holloway, University of London. I am situated between the Media Arts Department and Information Security Group.


Project Summary

My practice-based PhD project imagines collectivist living communities and egalitarian governance in a post-work, post-capitalist, and de-militarized planet by way of artificial intelligence and communication technologies. The project takes shape creatively as an experimental narratives, developed from studies of Nordic Live Action Role Play (LARP) games. The narratives are set in an indeterminate time, in the era after technocapitalist individualism, and in communities founded on an ethical system of care. Working at the intersection of contemporary technofeminist theory, fantasy fiction, and accelerationism, I explore portrayals of media technologies and identity through oral recordings, and the roles of embodiment, ritual, and proximity in relationships shared through digital communication. 1

My project excavates what an affirmationist conception of security may look like in a planet constituted by collectivist communities on three interweaving scales: individual, community, and planetary. In doing so, it unpacks and interrogates notions of security - security from the other, from the unknown; security in being taken care of, being alone; security to act, to be permitted. The project aims to untether security from knowability and privacy, and instead place it within the framework of vulnerability and the leaning towards others without imbued value and dangerous narratives of legitimate bodies.

The project explores how information may be better unknown by humans and rather managed through AI and algorithmic governance for planetary infrastructural fluidity. For example, without knowing geo-locations of the communities, territory-making and commercial extortion of people and lands may be avoided. This could permit communication exchanges to be about learning and not acquisition. In its imaginary and non-patriarchical structures and its oral and literary execution, my research challenges the temporal and visual affronts of the systemic neoliberal subject in which reproductive labor relies solely in the individual - and - refutes acceptance of further iterative domestic models of the divide of productive and reproductive labor, arguably already with many mutations beyond the "two-earner household" of financialized capitalism. 2

This research challenges what it means to know in mass connectivity and resituates the body into collective domestics that are non-territorial, yet in orchestration. It aims to ground the meaning of futurity as secured ongoingness by not looking forward but instead into imaginary time and space by means of lore. The project hopes to contribute to a growing body of theory and political frameworks grounded in eros and vitalism through alienation as method (xenofeminism), rather than the overriding spirit of negation through self-mastery (neo-rationalism) in left-accelerationist discourse. Drawing on theories of care, posthuman ontologies, and social reproduction discourse, the series complicates concepts and practices of security and agency in a computational world.


Narrative Premise

Four children meet at the annual ritual for young people everywhere. The ritual is called Communities of Care. Its site is an enclave modelled as a mini world of the world outside of them in which they live but they only know about through digital communications and oral stories. Each year, every global child at ages 8, 13, and 17 makes the pilgrimage to Communities of Care and lives there for 13 months with the others of their age. The narrative follows the communications of the four friends sharing their daily navigations in growing up and making their way into themselves by and through others near and far. During these years, genders and sexualities are explored as much as the learnings of how each others’ communities are similar and distinct.

The ritual started when Planetary Participants got quite practical in responding to the demise of the earth and beings and started to orchestrate lines of resources differently. The movement of bodies was deemed unnecessary. Communication and the sensations of travel were possible enough through technologies. Infrastructural needs could be managed better without territorial distinctions of humans and conquerers. The Planetary Participants decided that for the ongoingness of its beings, being could take place again in materially grounded sites of communities. Relationships, activities, and exchanges of needs develop and occur in the material space of the communities. Geo-location is a matter only for AI and community members are devoted domestics. Presence, language, and life are tightly tied to the communities’ space, people, objects, and rituals. Because of this thickness, the communities are very rich. But, not so in the performance for others as others do not visit them or even know where they are.

The formulation of the communities were not ordered or determined by blood or pre-existing sites of habitations, whether by choice or birth or haphazardly or force. Some are intergenerational and some are decadeists. All are pan-agentists. Communities are situated in walls of cliffs, deep underwater, some forever dashing through the air. Resources and lines of communication move between the communities are constant yet based on specific changing functions, needs, and wishes in the communities and of the planet. The story of collective living emerging through global individualism and its mass sickness is told only orally. It is told as a story of really concerned settlers, cyborgian Planetary Participants.

The series concludes with the children meeting for the first time in four years in the final act of the Communities of Care ritual, which is also their last physical encounter of their lifetime. With the other global children, they must reflect upon and argue with one another to determine their generational planning for what knowledge should or shouldn’t be revealed or re-delegated, which technologies must be destroyed or reallocated, and which communities have become disturbed and isolated in their collectivism.


Positioning

There is no shortage of digital dystopias and fear-mongering security narratives in popular fictional medias, contemporary politics, urban planning, science and technological development, and the arts. While cultural objects show a long history of society’s fear of manmade technological advancement and its effects, particular urgencies from the last century surface. This includes the collection and orchestration of data information for the execution of mass genocide, systemic racism, sexism, and impoverishment, and exploitation of citizens by both governments and corporate entities. We are in an era in which computational technologies increasingly permeate life and technocapitalism infrastructures prevail in both biopolitics and necropolitics (control of life and determination of death) through systems of hyperindivdualism. These systems must be differently secured.

What and how these core agents collect, shape, and depict information determines the futurity of people and the planetary. This prosperity not only creates new realities and histories deeply effecting and threatening the lives of many, but also is rapidly destructing the materialities upon which these technologies rely, of the planet and its entities. Narratives of security must be rethought beyond dystopian futures because we are living them already.


Methodology

I combine artistic research with cultural analysis. I conduct close-readings of LARP zones as temporary autonomous zones (TAZ) and study the methods of creating these zones. I investigate how LARP can be a site where political becomings are forged. My studio practice takes form as lo-fi pop digital media expressions, creative writing, and auto-ethnography.

Guiding questions are: what are the fields/architectures of care relations, what are the assets, what is the lineage of asset handling, what is the logic of the system, what are the conditions of interoperativity within the system, what are the relations of power and their (information access) structure, what is the relation to the outward boundaries of the security territory?

I work with movement, material, and novel forms of documentation of LARP zones in order to study embodied, autonomous social collective units and the action of their ethics. I focus on non-invasive forms of recording the “imprints” of the social constitutions collaboratively created during the LARP; the ongoing and nuanced negotiation methods of game play; and flexible calibration tools.


Ideas
🝏 I propose re-conceiving the concept of social reproduction by way of Italian political theorist Silvia Federici, through the examination of modalities of exchange and thus economics, as proposed by Japanese theorist Kojin Karatani in his book "The Structure of World History: From Modes of Production to Modes of Exchange" (2014) - what I argue must be a feminist economics. I investigate applications of commons-based ideology and social relations in organizations such as P2P Foundation, Enspiral, Loomio, unMonestary; projects responding to mutations in social exchange, such as Re.Union Network and MANY; and consider how protoypes may be played out and challenged through LARP play and methodology. The intersection of these objects and concepts ingnite new conceptions of the civic, and connections with stewardship and care theory.
🝏 I consider different relations between machine and human intelligence in terms of territory- making. What information may be better unknown by humans and rather managed through AI and algorithmic governance for planetary infrastructural fluidity. For example, without knowing geo- locations of the communities in my PhD's creative narrative, territory- making and commercial extortion of people and lands may be avoided. This could permit communication exchanges to be about learning and not acquisition, construction of terror, or propaganda.
🝏 In taking globalisation as the paradigm and phenomena of the capital-nation-state system, I con- sider the planetary's phenomenas. Focal points are the urban and architecture designs of commons, co-determinations, and co-operations, through which may expose comprehensions of the civic in the planetary paradigm. What are cosmopolises if not global cities, subjectivities of legal units if not citizen-subjects of nation-states, households if not the nuclear family? I make inquiries into legal unit(s), house, polis, through artistic investigations of moving in and out of the TAZ. I question the relevance of traditional law in such formulations.


Applied Investigations
🝏 Currently, my research helps shape new social contracts of care and forms of social units in my participation in Re.Union Network. The project proposes circumventing the ever shifting legal-institutional framework and explores ways in which new technologies, particularly decentralised platforms, can facilitate social organisation of care relations.
🝏 To speculate the cultural identity of the planetary as paradigm following globalization and its implications for cosmo[s]polises- and citizen(ships)- conglomerations, I co-created a public reading group series (2019). We assume a post-state scenario and discuss themes of alliances, kinship architectures, lineages, rituals, legal entities, group conflict, and economic mandates for planetary-stewardship, with invited guest participants. Guests have included Victoria Ivanova, Emily Jones, Jack Self, Jaya Klara Brekke, and Ben Vickers. https://genevievecostello.net/portfolio/reading-group🝏