Web Residents »Engineering Care«

Under the title of »Engineering Care«, the call for Web Residencies No. 8 looked into automated care’s possibilities and limitations, gains and losses. Curator Daphne Dragona invited artists, designers, technologists, and activists to submit proposals for new or ongoing works that capture how we will live and work with machines, and how relationships and dependencies might change. Challenging the common narratives about artificial empathy and the robotic imaginary, it welcomes projects that address care’s economization and instrumentalization, or shed light on forms of radical, collective, and critical care.

»Engineering Care« aimed to address the role of contemporary technologies in the generalized crisis of care experienced in the world today. Keeping in mind the emergence of services and products that manifest the instrumentalization and economization of care, the call was an open invitation to reflect upon how the politics and ethics of care change, and to underline the need for substantial and radical responses. A central question was: Which tools and infrastructures can assist in building, maintaining, and repairing relationships and bonds that fell apart in the period of financial capitalism?

The numerous submitted proposals involved concepts, initiatives and prototypes that discussed how technologies can be designed or appropriated in order to overcome existing binaries, divisions or constructions, acknowledging the needs of different worlds. Within this context, the four selected projects discuss the problematics of the emerging technologies of care in relation to different fields, and introduce speculative or viable alternatives. They inform, raise awareness, or address a call for collective action, and remind us of the urge to build, hack or modify systems and machinic assemblages.

»On the Apparently Meaningless Texture of Noise«

Pedro Oliveira will focus on the automated systems which are being used under the guise of humanitarian care and in reality support acts of dehumanization. Following his previous work on the utilization of accent recognition software in asylum procedures, »On the Apparently Meaningless Texture of Noise« is a proposal to intervene, appropriate and repurpose the training datasets of such systems. Taking advantage of the gaps found in the systems, a new textural exploration becomes possible, offered as a technology of care and act of resistance.

»Care Bot for the Un-Caring Social Media Landscape«

Caroline Sinders is planning a »Care Bot for the Un-Caring Social Media Landscape«. As somebody who has worked a lot on the topic of online harassment, she wishes to design a care bot that can assist victims but also inform other users. The bot will be built to discuss practices, guides, and suggestions. Shedding light on behaviours and situations, it will provide valuable resources and expose the lack of care and support by today’s popular platforms.

»Brittle Joys & Nano Engineered Desires«

With her project »Brittle Joys & Nano Engineered Desires« (working title), Johanna Bruckner will refer to the desires and the sex/care regimes that the contemporary economy shapes. In accordance with an artistic practice that focuses on practices of refusal and resistance, she will look into how the heterormative technology-led world with its sex and care robots can be liberated and opposed. Bruckner will develop sound files for robots to be listened to, used, and shared, exiting the standards and norms that the system encourages.

»As Air Became This Number«

Hanna Husberg and Agata Marzecova will examine the politics and problematic aspects of atmospheric care. »As Air Became This Number« will discuss how the datafication of urban air and the exposure of pollution data is now being introduced as a form of care by governments or municipalities. They will underscore how responsibility in such cases shifts hands from the state to the citizens, and reinforces one more neoliberal form of self-care undermining reflection and collective action.

Text: Daphne Dragona
Main image: Software Garden, 2018, Rory Pilgrim, Courtesy of andriesse eyck galerie