Mathijs van Oosterhoudt, C/R, Oana Clitan, Lukas Engelhardt, Olivier Auber, Lucas Domínguez Rubio, Lucia Dossin, Niek Hilkmann
Welcome to the 12th issue of the Pervasive Labour Union Zine, the first regular issue to come out under the new name. As such, and to bridge with the last issue to come out with the old name, whose theme was Immateriality, the theme of the current issue is Pervasiveness.
On the call for submissions we wrote:
Pervasive here refers also to the seemingly non-existing boundaries of this reality - an all-encompassing body where to disconnect means either great privilege or a fall into oblivion. With this issue, we hope to explore the continuities and disruptions afforded by pervasive computing: Which players stand to gain the most and what exactly are they gaining? Are there any new players? In which new (and old) ways can pervasive labour take form? Which new layers does pervasive data collection add to the already blurred boundaries between work and leisure? By continuing and expanding the neoliberal transfer of (economical, social, physical, etc) survival responsibilities to the individual, how does pervasive computing affect narratives of community building and organization? How to deconstruct efficiency within this context? What counts as counter-movement within the context of pervasive efficiency? And last, but not least: How pervasive is this reality?
As a response to this, we got a range of submissions that engage with various levels of what pervasive can mean within this context.
Oana Clitan's contribution playfully mixes the aesthetics of work and play, thus underlining the informality adjacent to pervasive forms of labour.
Lukas Engelhardt’s visual poem reflects on the pervasiveness of authorship of digital images via the "personal" experience of the watermark.
Olivier Auber's first contribution is an open letter to YannLeCun, Head of Research in Artificial Intelligence at Facebook, wherein Auber expounds the concerns that led him to leave Facebook, namely, the loss of control over one’s own communications. Auber’s second contribution is an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg; here, Auber takes Zuckerberg on his resolutions for 2018 to present him with the amount of money owed by Facebook for his hours spent there, as a form of exchange for Facebook’s lack of "interoperability of personal data". Here, you will also be able to find a link to generate your own Facebook invoice.
On his contribution, Lucas Domínguez Rubio traces the possibilities offered by science fiction and, more specifically, cyberpunk literature, to reflect on the infrastructural opaqueness of neoliberal control.
Lucia Dossin’s contribution talks to us in jest about the Sisyphean task of infinite scrolls and the cycle of production on corporate social networking platforms.
On this issue, you will be able to enjoy the first Pervasive Labour Union memes! Also, and because this is an issue of many "firsts", the Letter to the Editors section was inaugurated with the concerns of a reader regarding our previous special issue, edited by Silvio Lorusso, "The Entreprecariat".
And if you want to find out how to get a 1 euro tax deduction, Niek Hilkmann’s contribution will surely help you out!
All contributions to the zine, unless otherwise specified, are licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License 1.3 ( https://www.gnu.org/licenses/fdl-1.3.en.html ).
Olivier Auber's contribution is licensed under the Free Art License
(60bpm) When you sit keep your back straight
(65bpm) Then relax and eat your greens
(70bpm) That is it, you're doing great!
(75bpm) Measure your pulse, how is your rate?
(80bpm) Keep on working until it's dark
(85bpm) But break every forty minutes
(90bpm) Go for a jog out in the park
(95bpm) And don't forget to best your mark
(100bpm) Recycle, reuse and abuse
(105bpm) Your prescription for anxiety
(110bpm) Now don't make up an excuse
(115bpm) Finish all that cleansing juice
(120bpm) Leaving all your bills for last?
(125bpm) Your creditor will not approve...
(130bpm) With your ratings dropping fast
(135bpm) Bask in the glory of your past
(140bpm) Is this not set to explode?
(145bpm) Please please please, a helping hand
(150bpm) No credibility to erode?
(155bpm) Time to efficiently self-implode.
"The entreprecariat"; should it be a thing?
There was a definite enjoyment to be had reading the latest issue of the pervasive labour union. The various backgrounds of the different contributions provided several strong points that sound with me personally. I agree with Mr. Lorusso's analysis and thoughts on the precariat and how it merges with the doctrine or even ideology of entrepreneurialism. A process observable in urban areas through hectic cycling food couriers, unlicensed passenger transport and tourists searching for privately operated accommodations. In this melting pot all is navigated, dictated, as well as orchestrated by small gadgets. Such "helpers", often prefixed as "smart", end up being crafted and carefully advertised by marketing professionals, meanwhile creating a monopolised market place for cheap labour. Indeed this is expressed in the coined term "the entreprecariat", where the combination of the words "entrepreneur" and "precariat" show the process of how current forms of work are shifting into other directions. While the problems raised in "the entreprecariat" pervasive labour union magazine currently occupy my thoughts, I couldn't help myself from raising a minor concern with the term itself.
Probably every humanities (or even design) student between Venice and Amsterdam can explain, reasonably, that existing under precarious circumstances is caused by structural problems/conditions. I'm not sure however if they would explain to me that living as an entrepreneur is caused by structural problems/conditions as well, or whether it is a free self-made decision. I'm quite certain if I were to ask business students between Juneau and Shenzhen, everyone will explain me that the life of an entrepreneur is self-made and can be achieved if someone works hard enough. The term "entreprecariat" pulls in connotations from both the "entrepreneur" and the "precariat" along for the ride; connotations that hold tremendous power themselves. For me, for readers of the pervasive labour union magazine and for media scholar the term can describe the current situation quite well and is therefore well received in those circles, but I think another audience can easily misunderstand the term. The entrepreneur is seen by a large part of the public as a great ideal, something to be proud of: Who doesn't want to be their own boss, determine their own work times, do what they enjoy most, make their own things? Therefore, it could be read that labour under the circumstances of "the entreprecariat" happens under freely self-made decisions and the non-self-caused entrepreneurial precariat would be self-accountable for this situation.
To put it crude, but ideally: We need a term that doesn't open up the space for misunderstanding, something that even my retired uncle can understand and leaves no room for a precarious debate on terminology. Which begs the question: Should the term "The entreprecariat" be a thing?
This contribution is an abridged version of the following publication: http://e.issuu.com/embed.html#29170140/53191803
The watermark is like a home but instead of people it houses images. Homes do not discriminate, and neither do watermarks, be it against origin, content or quality, as long as the residents meet the community guidelines. A community sometimes needs guidelines and the watermark knows this—otherwise it might turn into a sketchy neighbourhood and nobody would be happy about that either. This way the watermark can help to make sure that every image inside the community is equal; every image is the same.
IOCOSE, A Contemporary Self Portrait of the Internet Artist, 2015
Sometimes the watermark can become a bit clingy. But this is only because the watermark loves all of its images so much. Because of this, when one of its images wanders off into the void, the watermark does not tire to point out the way home. The watermark is close friends with the seat belt alarm because of their mutual persistence.
Stefan Schäfer, iStockphotoforreal, 2014
When the watermark gets too persistent, people get annoyed with the watermark. They say to the watermark that it is holding the images back, or that it is trying to be the centre of attention. This makes the watermark sad. Usually, then it remembers all the images that still need it before it can let them go wander off by themselves and it gets happy again. The watermark means well.
Bert Schumacher, JstChillin, 2011
But sometimes, even the watermark is doubting whether the direction that it is pointing at is really home—or whether it is actually pointing at anything at all.
Robin Lèsyer, Consistent Ambivalence, 2016
The watermark is a little bit like a pair of glasses. It likes to be looked through, like lenses do, and it likes to marvel at the virtual realities that are being created along the process. Generally people really like these realities as well, but they don’t always like to wear glasses. Lately, however, glasses have gone into fashion again, and the watermark thinks this is a good thing.
Johannes von Gross, Exhibition View at Direktorenhaus Berlin, 2014
Secretly, the watermark would like to be in fashion as well. The watermark is quite handsome after all. But whenever there is a modeling job that the watermark would like to participate in the people who make the decisions about these kinds of things decide against it.
Harm van den Dorpel, Assemblage (everything vs. anything), 2013
The watermark is fearless. It’s a bit like a fireman, rushing into a burning building to save a child, only the child is it’s brand’s visibility and the burning building is the encryption algorithms that make images online more streamable. But the watermark doesn’t take any credit.
Timor Si-Qin, Skull Coffin Manifold KNMER 1813, 2014
Instead, the watermark tries to ensure that credit is given to those who deserve it. The watermark thinks that if someone wins a race they should get a medal for it. Because sure enough, the others are going to arrive at the finish line eventually, and then how is anyone supposed to know who it was that they saw first?
DIS, Positive Ambiguity (beard, lectern, teleprompter, wind machine, confidence), 2015
In these moments the watermark feels at home in the image instead of the other way around. Finally, the watermark can relax. Not even the watermark likes to always be the bad cop!
DIS, Watermarked for KENZO, 2012
The watermark is at home but instead of in a house, it’s in an image. Sure, it sometimes discriminates, but then, so do people in houses.
Sucuk und Bratwurst, Watermark (Identity for Watergate Berlin), 2014
From Olivier Auber, researcher, Free University of Brussels (VUB)
Subject: Quit Facebook
Olivier Auber (Olivier.firstname.lastname@example.org)
To: Yann LeCun (email@example.com)
as a researcher as you are too, but in another field, that is Natural Intelligence (NI), I would like to address you publicly to let you know that I'm leaving Facebook, probably definitely.
The reason is simple. Facebook is obviously a powerful tool of communication. Many researchers I work with have become accustomed to using it without asking too much questions for their informal exchanges. The conversations that are conducted there are sometimes futile, but often also of the greatest interest.
But I realize that these conversations, in a way, no longer belong to us when they are conducted on Facebook!
The proof is that when you want to leave Facebook, the platform offers to bring with you a summary archive. But this archive does not contain:
- Links included in your personal posts (just that!).
- Links that are supposed to be saved (disappeared!)
- Discussions following your personal posts.
- Comments left on other posts.
- Links of posts that you repost.
- Your address book (you get the names, not the emails and other coordinates theoretically shared with you).
Facebook retains about 90% of the data we are interested in!
In addition, when you leave Facebook, beyond a certain number, messaging forbids sending a word to each of the contacts to inform them and collect their details!
It's a real hostage taking!
In other words, Facebook looks like a sort of Far West saloon in which alcohol would be free. If you go in, not to drink, but to simply chat with your friends, you realize when you go out that your conversations and your address book no longer belong to you. They belong to the boss of the saloon! To top it off, when you leave the saloon, the boss forbids you to say goodbye your friends!
By this open letter, I wish to alert my colleagues and more generally all professional or independent intellectual workers. Do not post your ideas on Facebook! Do not lead any interesting conversation on Facebook! Instead, choose to chat on free distributed social networks such as Diaspora or Mastodon, shared intelligence platforms like Seenthis, collective drafting tools such as Cryptpad that gives its provider no rights or visibility into what users write!
In particular, my friends, independent researchers or independent artists, do not wait until Mark Zuckerberg, enriched to the extreme by your free work, wants to pay you a basic income. He has no legitimacy to do that at all! Instead, experiment with distributed free money creation networks such as Duniter.
Dear Yann, to conclude, I do not doubt that thanks to your talent and that of the researchers you have gathered, Facebook can one day realize the most powerful Artificial Intelligence. On this day, however, your AI might reign on a desert. Indeed, by behaving like this, Facebook is likely to be emptied of its users. Gone!
Attached document: MyFacebookInvoice
Original publication: http://perspective-numerique.net/wakka.php?wiki=YannLeCunEnglish
Olivier Auber (firstname.lastname@example.org)
To: Mark Zuckerberg (email@example.com)
Best wishes and congratulations on your good resolutions 2018!
1) you tell us that you have realized that "with the rise of a small number of big tech companies — and governments using technology to watch their citizens — many people now believe technology only centralizes power rather than decentralizes it."
Only a belief? Isn't it a little real? And you're here for something, aren't you?
On top of that, you tell us that you are "interested to go deeper and study the positive and negative aspects of these technologies (of decentralization)"
That's cool ! You should know that others have been working on decentralized networks for a long time - already long before Facebook was created - to create the conditions for a more equitable and healthy society. If your awareness is real, you can probably help us. We lack developers!
2) You also seem to have understood that your algorithms made people crazy by flooding them with sponsored posts and fake news. You say: "strengthening our relationships improves our well-being and happiness." So you're going to modify some lines of code to reinforce what you call our "strong ties" that have a lot of "value" according to you. In the end you want "the time we all spend on Facebook is time well spent".
That's cool ! However, my dear Mark, you must understand that this time is even more precious than what you imagine.
For my part, let's say I spend(t) about an hour a day on Facebook developing these strong ties and my own professional documentation. Apart from that, I also spend(t) some "recreational time". This point is mentioned below *.
As my strong ties and my documentation are irrecoverable by the Facebook backup system as I explained to your colleague Yann LeCun, I must note that Facebook stole them from me.
Let's see how much it costs ...
365 hours a year, that is round to 50 days. If I count my day price at USD 1,000 (it's very reasonable, FB's lawyers are paid USD 1,000 per hour), that's USD 50,000 a year. Since I have been on Facebook for 7 years, I will send you a USD 350,000 bill
All the statistics indicate that I am an average user of Facebook in terms of duration of use. Hence we can multiply this cost by the number of users (not the current 2 billion but say 1 billion as an average number during the past seven years). Thus we obtain the figure of:
Three hundred Fifty Thousand Billion Dollar
In conclusion, my dear Mark, you provide a true interoperability of personal data that would allow people not to be hostages of Facebook and its centralization, or you repay all of them!
Attached document: MyFacebookInvoice
(*) The recreational time is not counted. Indeed, the entertainment provided by Facebook is funded by advertising. That is to say that everyone pays for this entertainment through its daily consumption of products overcharged because of the advertising budgets of the brands captured to a large extent by Facebook ..
1) Mark Zuckerberg's resolution #1: https://www.facebook.com/zuck/posts/10104380170714571
2) Mark Zuckerberg's resolution #2: https://www.facebook.com/zuck/posts/10104413015393571
Facebook Invoice Generator: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfKtqRF8tTEJ3mzz7YhjvTmZQ72JyG9tbQ0mQIhTna73o0ciQ/viewform
Original publication: http://perspective-numerique.net/wakka.php?wiki=MarkZuckerbergEnglish
In the early nineties, a new political utopia around internet had developed in a mailing list called cypherpunks. In his brief texts, Timothy May imagined that we had finally found the dreamed island of "Libertaria". Internet seemed uncontrollable. Cryptography could allow infinite privacy for free trade and the idea of cryptoanarchy appeared in the libertarian American tradition; at last, we have found the “technological solution to the problem of too much government”. Though, of course, this cryptoanarchism turned to be no more than a certain enthusiasm for individual liberty and privacy. 
However, in retrospect this weird optimism was an exception. Some years later, it was obvious that internet proved to be one of the most controlled spaces. Indeed, at the beginning of the new century, some isolated voices advised that certain practices involved in internet could develop in a dystopia. How could we imagine this potential scenario? Of course, at this point, a rediscovery of science-fiction allowed new readings. Being a subject difficult to write in an academic format, science fiction allowed to proposed hypothesis without needing greater justifications. In fact, all works on privacy have proposed some literary metaphor to think about the matter.
The first literary metaphor survived as an obligated reference. The cultural battle of the Cold War had its symbolic beginning in the continuous re-editions of George Orwell's 1984 philo-trotskyist novel published in 1949. At least from there, totalitarianism made us think in the possibility of systematic control and deception.
Phillip K. Dick took these problems to another level. For example, in his post-orwellian passage, in The Man in the High Castle (1962) and in The Penultimate Truth (1964), he developed Orwell’s metaphor to a spectacular degree: what if, in order to definitively exercise its domination, the Reich, after winning Second World War, would find out that the most effective way to keep control was that of making all Americans believe that they had a free and happy life in their homes...
Secondly, in this direction, another retaken metaphor was that proposed by cyberpunk literature. Without getting too far from Dick's questions, cyberpunk was born as a subgenre of science fiction in the early eighties with its own aesthetic and political marks. Through the mirror shades of protagonists in quixotic combat against gigantic corporations of ambivalent existence, we see ecologically devastated environments. The dystopia functions in a political order determined by different indecipherable economic powers hidden one behind another. In this way, political and economic actors become unfathomable behind the merchandise and the tool of dominance that they themselves control: information. Security computer experts, those capable of manipulating and stealing the precious information, take here a new protagonist role. With the punk anxiety of destroying everything, they live under the paradox of the hacker: that last romantic hero with the potential capacity of imploding the system or making some justice, but whose life is diminished by their own tool of combat.
The political metaphor of the cyberpunk insists on the impossibility of determining who the political actors at play are. This literature advances through false certainties and revelations to discover that the horizon has moved; there were other elements to take into account, a new dimension that has changed everything, a larger and more powerful social actor that seems to unify contradictory interests. Where you cannot determinate who owns the companies, who their investors are, what their interests are, where it is not possible to know the production chain of a consumer good, you cannot improve your knowledge about the world. Without any doubt, cyberpunk thought big issues of neoliberalism.
In a direct reference, from cyberpunk to cypherpunk, Assange's book Cypherpunks (2012) took back the name of that mailing list and, at the same time, preserved certain features of this science fiction subgenre: the fear of a dystopian political environment, the quixotian combat against unknown corporations, the potential ambiguity of the tools of emancipation and the anti system positioning of punk marginality.
In the third place, ten years ago Daniel Solove proposed an unexpected literary metaphor to think this kind of topics. He is one of the most well-known academic on privacy. His project is to develop a theory about privacy for its legal protection. But his case becomes especially representative and problematic in the literary metaphor that he chooses to think privacy political problems. The Big Brother metaphor does not go any longer, says Solove: oppression is not so explicitly bloody. Instead, he proposes to take as a reference the type of domination presented in “The Process” (1925) by Franz Kafka. There, the protagonist moves under the force of an abstract and unintelligible power in front of which he is disoriented. The remarkable thing is that his libertarian militancy makes him leave a side the need a better understanding of the new type of relation between individual and society. Because of this, he also decides to disregard the most current and powerful metaphor on the subject provided by cyberpunk. Against Solove’s position, identifying the actors responsible for infrastructure and content behind the internet is essential.
It is not by chance that Solove has chosen a non-politic literary metaphor. Since, in addition to his role as an academic, he has founded a digital security company, which mainly provides courses on how to protect personal and corporate information. As many texts on this subject, Solove's analysis makes clear that his goal is only to problematize in a general way “the dangers of State surveillance”. According to him, we do not need further investigation.
Against this opinion, cyberpunk metaphor allows to keep open the question about the functions of companies of the same flag and their government. Meanwhile, in order to rescue something of cypherpunk, its lemma —"transparency for the powerful, privacy for the weak"— remind us, more than ever, that nowadays transnational corporations handle more capital than the gross domestic product of many countries.
 Even today these texts of Timothy May serve for example to the Nakamoto Institute to feed from a utopian philosophy the guarantees of private economic interactions provided by the Bitcoin. His tetralogy is conformed by The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto (1992), Libertaria in Cyberspace (1992), Cyphernomicon (1994) and Crypto Anarchy and Virtual Communities (1994).
This receipt is printed by a coin-operated machine at a place called Varia in exchange for one euro. It is tax deductible.
The call for submissions for the next issue of the Pervasive Labour Union zine is now officially open. As it will be the first regular issue to come out after the name change from Immaterial to Pervasive, the theme will be, correspondingly, "Pervasiveness".
DEADLINE: December 15th
As I wrote on my explanatory article for issue #11 - "Immateriality":
"(...) smart urbanism, the Internet of Things, self-tracking and self-quantification devices, productivity apps etc, promise a more efficient and productive way of life by means of data collection, management, visualization and analysis. In much the same way that data collection, management, visualization and analysis allowed us to become unpaid workers for corporate social networking platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Google, whose profits derive from user data being sold to third party advertisers, these continuous developments are promising to submerge us in a state of pervasive labour."
Pervasive here refers also to the seemingly non-existing boundaries of this reality - an all-encompassing body where to disconnect means either great privilege or a fall into oblivion. With this issue, we hope to explore the continuities and disruptions afforded by pervasive computing: Whose players stand to gain the most and what exactly are they gaining? Are there any new players? In which new (and old) ways can pervasive labour take form? Which new layers does pervasive data collection add to the already blurred boundaries between work and leisure? By continuing and expanding the neoliberal transfer of (economical, social, physical, etc) survival responsibilities to the individual, how does pervasive computing affect narratives of community building and organization? How to deconstruct efficiency within this context? What counts as counter-movement within the context of pervasive efficiency? And last, but not least: How pervasive is this reality?
We will be needing:
- Texts (max. 1000 words). Texts can range from satire, theory, poetry, propaganda, educational etc. to personal rants;
- Images (illustration, photo montage, photography, etc.);
- Any other creative interventions that you might consider fit with the theme.
You can submit your contribution to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com