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 fantasy-fiction cyberfeminism contribution exchange posthuman security cosmopolis urban TAZ PAZ security theory kin ethics of care

Project Summary

My practice-based PhD project titled "Communities of Care for Technofeminist Futures: Exploring Narratives of Social Reproduction and Vulnerability in Concepts of Security” 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 children’s radio program combining oral folklore, architectural writing, and field recordings to explore how societies might grow with technology through co-learning and civic design grounded in interdependency between nonhuman and human agents. Theoretically, my research puts into dialogue concepts of care as an ethical practice with security theories to provoke genealogies of future security logic(s) beyond the national, societal, and human.



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Research Premise

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.

The series is set in an indeterminate time, in the era after technocapitalist individualism. The narrative follows the communication of four children living in different genres of collectivist communities. Each community is 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 storytelling 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.

The research refutes the overly simplistic depictions of digital device functions in pop media (ex. actor looking at smart device with message on screen; standardized audio sounds on keypad for each stroke). Rather, it constructs affective, immersive spaces via aesthetic distances the listener creates with the descriptive world, shared at a set time of the program. The intended audience is broad, including children ages 10-17 and adult listeners in the genres of science fiction and technology. Listeners incline towards the story over time rather than meeting screens projecting speeding images of hyper-consumerism now native to broadcast and online streaming TV. Contemporary TV restrains challenging outmoded pop-portrayals of family and conflict that demand re-conception in the globalized world.

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 reproductive labor perspectives, the series complicates concepts and practices of security and agency in a computational world.

Narrative Premise

The four children met 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 other 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

For the development of my traditional academic dissertation, I work in the methodology of cultural analysis with influence of systems risk assessment and security theory analysis. In the close-reading of contemporary TAZ and PAZ (temporary and permanent autonomous zones) as cultural objects, guiding questions are: what are the fields/architectures of security, what are the security assets, what is the lineage of the assets 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?

In my creative practice, I work with writing, popular device medias, world- making, and role play. I undertake research of environments like LARP games, collective living structures, emergency infrastructure, and flexible architectural configurations as microcosms of reality-systems. I examine the methods in which they co-craft the environment and how they deal with its parameters - that is, seeing its edges, not assuming it as its own, and only, reality.

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).
  • 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 consider 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 cosmo-polises if not global cities, legal units if not citizen-subjects of nation-states, households if not the nuclear family, and so on. I make inquiries into legal unit(s), house, polis, through investigations of the TAZ and PAZ. I question the relevance of the law in such formulations.

Concluding Questions

  • 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 (from 2019). We assume a post-state scenario and will discuss themes of alliances, kinship architectures, lineages, rituals, legal entities, inter-federation conflict management, and economic mandates for planetary-stewardship, with invited guest participants. Confirmed guests include Victoria Ivanova, Jack Self, and Ben Vickers. https://genevievecostello.net/portfolio/reading-group🝏