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DTES

Everything seems like an unruly blur where my experience post-graduation has become permanently curtailed by career narratives. I often find myself fluttering between stability and instability – recognizing the obvious colossal downfall of craving things in place. The hunt for permanent employment has not let up, and the flux of casual labour has me temporally stunted. Among many people I know in the field (or out of the field more like) there is an insecure trend of non-opportunities that seems to be growing progressively worse. Much of my experience at SLAIS was spent cultivating research around this notion of precarity as it culminates and is amplified in commercial social networking technologies. My directed study, “Revolutionaries will not be friended: owning activism through social networking,” provided a critique of these networks as a space for radicalism employed by social agitators (a term I first heard from Antonis Vradis and Dimitris Dalakoglou of Occupied London).

I come at the onset of new information technologies in a totalizing fashion; I think a curated event on Facebook should make everyone, particularly social agitators, discomfited and hesitant. In retrospect, I think a lot of my apprehension and radical critiques came from being inundated with community rhetoric, especially in the discourse of Community Informatics where bridging the technological gap between digital ‘natives’ and ‘non-natives’ is the primary concern. Identities were treated as givens. As a Downtown Eastside Tech Hub, part of Vancouver’s Digital Strategies, is under negotiations, I’m starting to visualize a continuation of this project on precarity as it pertains to media communication and depersonalized time – here I see a clash of precarious subsets, the valorization of signs and symbols via info-labour and the struggle of the marginalized populations in the DTES. Franco Berardi writes, “An experience that derives from worker’s struggle in the last years, is that the struggle of precarious workers does not make a cycle” and I keep pressing the notion precarious labour is in itself stratified and discombobulated. As someone who has worked extensively in the DTES and also continues to pursue a career in information studies (librarianship, research, archival projects), my writing builds upon these experiences in order to establish a discourse of strategy.

My critical thinking is still taken up by the siege of global capitalism on the planet, and I’ve found focus in the attention given to precarious labour by Franco Berardi, Matteo Pasquinelli, Silvia Federici, and Christian Marazzi. The problem, I’ve noticed, is how much the critical writing I’ve read has become a foil for my own renderings of life. Things aren’t going as planned, and the more I come to terms with the larger picture the more it’s difficult to keep on going. Last night I had dinner with my best friend, and I spoke out loud about waiting for an end and the madness that resumes in narrativity. She asked, what do you mean by ends, and I had to think twice, because lately ends have meant, not the real philosophical question of suicide, but the shape of life as a disc such as how ancient cultures believed the Earth was flat. I’ve been thinking I’ll fall into something else, a new body even. I said instead (the alternative thought wasn’t clear until now), to this financial and unemployment struggle. Realism sits next to the symbolic sensation of this given situation.

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After I almost lost my eye opening a bottle of German mineral water, the PLGers discussed Matteo Pasquinelli’s “Digital Neofeudalism” and “Immaterial Civil War.” Pasquinelli and Franco “Bifo” Berardi were the organizers behind Rekombinant, a listblog, that lasted between 2000 and 2009. The listblog was “a minimal blog running as a web interface of a collective mailing list” that evolved out of the “intersection of radical philosophy, digital culture and post-Seattle global movements focusing also on art avant-gardes and university activism.” It predominantly circulated through the Italian intellectual skools.

Pasquinelli’s work, much like Bifo’s, focuses on the networks of cognitive labour, adapting Hardt and Negri’s “there is no outside” (from Empire) into a digital context. Class divisions are no longer clear, because of the shift from material to immaterial production. This shift changes our relationship to time and space: everything is now, there is no future, and all is here…

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