Dear Danae, ehem, ehem:
“¿Y cuántas copias gratuitas de evaluación de Windows Vista
en el vertedero de Sao Paulo?
En el vertedero de Sao Paulo, cientos, al menos una.
El vertedero de Sao Paulo,
no es una metáfora,
sino un vertedero que tienen en Sao Paulo”.
I begin by quoting our idols, Astrud, and their song Sao Paulo Waste Dump (?). Mainly, because with your last letter, I started to read more about that very broad and beautiful verb that resonates so strongly lately: repair. For example, I have been reading things about the right to repair your electronic device, which by the way, in these months, has also gained momentum in the United States. Basically, they seek to demand that companies (especially the technological ones) make their parts, tools, and information available to consumers and repair shops to keep devices from ending up in the Sao Paulo garbage dump and thus not to promote the culture of waste.
Moreover, a few days ago, I found out that there is a race by the big technology producers – among them Apple, Huawei, and Microsoft – to launch the first 100 percent recycled smartphone. This, in connection with a report from the always questionable World Economic Forum (WEF), which came out at the beginning of last year, and which is called “A New Circular Vision for Electronics, Time for a Global Reboot.” WEF talks about the need for a circular economy for electronic equipment, where companies from the beginning of the process should design products with recycling in mind. The reason is mostly economic: e-waste has a great economic value; for example, there is 100 times more gold in a tonne of smartphones than in a tonne of gold ore.
And although the WEF report speaks timidly of the need to design products to be fixed, companies are more interested in co-opting the reuse market, leaving no room for the people’s right to repair. For example, Apple is known for its barriers to the customers’ right to fix their own devices, including physical mechanisms such as proprietary screws and parts that only approved repair shops can access. Microsoft has also arranged an aggressive lobby against the idea.
In other words, electronic recycling will be corporate, or it won’t. This is even clearer when WEF proposes dangerous ideas in the context of surveillance and digital profiling, such as “electronics as a service”: companies would have more incentive, says WEF, to repair the devices if they lease. Workers of the world: you are not allowed to fix nor to own a thing!
Ahhh, dear friend, I miss you. In fact, watching Rohmer’s The Green Ray, I remembered of us: the beautiful ’85 fashion, the Capricorn woman -like me- who obviously believes that life goes against her, how they talk about being a vegetarian, and, above all, because the film’s protagonist, a young woman, finds cards on the street that she interprets as chances for her destiny. Every day the cards seem more interesting to me – I think we have talked about it – as a form of repair or as a hiding place for that overwhelming lie of the data science world: data is the truth, data unveils the future, not as random fact but as a mathematical mandate. As Ruha Benjamin says in Race After Technology, data and algorithms produce subjects; they do not predict them.
So in this bath of repairment, I thought of buying a card deck and leaving forgotten cards on corners of streets, on a bus, in a book at the library. Sometime later, someone will find a card and freely interpret it as a sign of destiny. The card will be mixed with dreams and insomnia. The person will be free to invent a world, entertain, jumping to conclusions. Ohhh, people who overthink signs: maybe that’s our repair tribe, Danae; meantime, we learn how to fix our phones with our own hands.
What a beautiful letter that you sent! I think it is one of my favourites so far. I cannot believe that we haven’t thought of El Vertedero de Sao Paulo before! We should make a playlist with every hit ever mentioned in la gatito, I can think of a couple of loyal readers who can help us <3
And it makes me so happy to know that you watched Le Rayon Vert, it is so beautiful. Why don’t you visit soon so we can travel to all Rohmer’s summer settings? I have always dreamed on visiting Biarritz and Annecy. In the meantime we can listen to the current sound of the weather in Biarritz at this link It is a gorgeous tool that I wanted to share with you called The Conditional Orchestra that builds a unique composition based in live digital parameters of the weather of a specific place. I believe that these are my favorite posthuman proposals: the instances in which we use technology to interpret the million things that we simply don’t understand.
I think in the ending of Le Rayon Vert, in the sun slowly disappearing into the water, it is such a moving moment. Then this ecological sadness leads me to remember the guided tours offered by Google Earth to witness the impact of the climate emergency (Oh the irony!), it is even possible to see the glaciers in Chile melting in real time. Furthermore, this makes me think of a text written by Bifo Berardi that I read last week, it is in this cool book on science fiction and contemporary art published by the Whitechapel Gallery Berardi’s is a quite pessimistic essay titled The Future after the End of the Economy and it says that the planet is tired, that energy is disappearing first because of the exhaustion of the natural resources that maintain so many critical infrastructures, but also because we inhabit an economic system that makes us disappear at the spiritual level, a system that is based in he reverence to an intellect of competition and male aggressiveness. To Berardi, the only way to revert this exhaustion is by renouncing to accumulation and by investing in collective intelligence. And for me, collective intelligence is precisely all these signs we find during a sunset at the beach, the cards that other people have hidden, the transformative culture against the eating the corpses of tortured animals.
Everything has a multidirectional impact, things contain thousands of symbolic and material meanings and it is extremely important to think and overthink about those meanings. I was reading this really cute book called Space Settlements by Fred Scharmen which is about the aesthetics and motivations behind NASA’s projects to build human colonies in space. By the end of the book there is a very important observation made by Carl Sagan who says that the Earth is truly truly special, that it is a super sophisticated system that is incredibly difficult to replicate and maintain in an artificial environment especially in outer space. When I read that reflection, all the previous content of the book seemed so ridiculous to me and I felt this burning desire to kiss each of Earth’s natural technologies that keep us alive: the oxygen, the plants doing photosynthesis, the soil biodegrading waste. While I consider myself an absolute defender of the power of artificiality, I cannot help but thinking that the protection of our ecosystems is the approach that we need to adopt in this crisis, even if it feels more sexy to imagine these seudo futurist scenarios in which we leave everything behind to start a new life in a dome in outer space. We live in a sacred planet full of signs and we do not need more white men wasting everyone’s time with their tiring competitions. In this same book the author commented on how Apple’s and Google’s headquarters have this architecture inspired in space colonies, settings that are half eden, half Noah’s ark, full of white people doing yoga and full of artificial nature that is extremely expensive to maintain. Of course this makes me laugh but it also makes me curious about our society’s digital ark. Is this ark being built by the Silicon Valley dudes? Will it include their insubstantial simulations?
Paz, it is very clear to me that this action we perform every month in our exchanges is the building of our own digital ark of friendship, and since today we are inspired by France, I’d like to propose to carry the memory of Saint Guinefort in our ark. He was a dog who lived near Lyon in the 13th century and now he is a saint who protects the children. I’m always moved when I think about his story and he might be a beautiful example of true collective intelligence that involves non-human animals and all the things we do not understand but we still do.