How We Might Live

That the internet has become corporate over the last decade is hardly news to anyone. Being an internet user today means encountering infinite forms of digital advertisements, from classic brands ads to targeted content, from political filter bubbles to diffused forms of (self-)promotional strategies. Our awareness of the algorithmic control of our subjectivities, but also of the impact of our digital carbon footprint has grown just as much, and it can sometimes feel like the only way forward is the way out, disengaging, switching off. Yet, it sounds like an impossible thing to do, a fantasy. Worse, one for the privileged. Advocating for digital disengagement would certainly tend to reproduce and intensify existing marginalization and injustice. Digital disengagement is thus not a goal, but something more akin to a theoretical paradigm, a way to think of and engage differently with the digital, our uses of time, sociality and everyday live. And in fact, on the internet, examples abound that invite us to do just this: spend more meaningful time offline, have more agency in the physical world.

Every month, the bookstore La Dispersion sends out a newsletter. It is one that, for once, is greeted with a smile and treated with attention and care when it lands in my mailbox. Their selection of reading recommendations does not only include books that just came off the press ; it reflects more accurately the commitment of the people who run this irreplaceable physical bookstore housed in the Bâtiment d’Art Contemporain in Geneva, to shelve past and current, new and second-hand publications of art, literature, critical theory and, not least, children’s books that have the ability to convey and inspire feminist, anti-racist and anti-capitalist thinking and struggles. La Dispersion also organized very recently its first annual book fair, the Salon des Disperséexs, gathering many of the publishers whose books they carry at the bookstore, encouraging encounters, conversations, offering workshops and a dedicated area for children with books to browse.

Mapping, drawing or rendering maps and making them available is likely to be the most powerful and useful way to help understand the environmental stakes associated with contemporary life, how we live, and how we might live. For example, In France, where I reside, Les Soulèvements de la Terre (Earth Uprisings), a network of dozens of local collectives, farms, and unions, builds and updates an online calendar of actions of land occupations in order to establish, on the ground, a new balance of power against extractive and privatizing projects and infrastructures. The maps shared on their website, such as the one listing every private water storage project (“mega-bassins”) in development, offer a detailed picture of the current politics of corporate extraction that otherwise stay under the radar of national media and public attention. They help bring together and unite each time anew a wide group of citizens (not only dedicated activists) with ecological, social and agricultural concerns. Mapping, localizing where standing up collectively and in solidarity can still happen, be needed and effective on a given day, is a way to state that nothing, no gesture, no form of care, even the smallest of ones, can be held insignificant or inadequate anymore in front of the climatic, environmental, social and antidemocratic perils that we are facing.