The Underdistanced

In these first months of the pandemic, many have practiced social distancing, but others could not do so. Those without a home, a stable job, legal protections, documents or access to digital technologies have fewer chances to protect themselves against contagion. We call them “underdistanced and undernetworked,” as they have more difficulties to isolate themselves physically and to access networks of care. We propose this workshop as we believe that the social and political implications of being underdistanced and undernetworked risk to remain in the background in this time of crisis. Considering the many tech-driven solutions mentioned by the media (smart bracelets, tracing apps, drones…), we wonder what life the “new normal” will offer to those with less access to online/offline care networks. With a speculative making approach, we want to materialize fictional but plausible objects that the underdistanced might self-build to navigate the “1,5 m society” to take care of themselves.

We are concerned that the “new normal” of Covid will push some people even more to the margins. We aim to explore the social, cultural, and political effects on disadvantaged people of the technological solutions proposed to mitigate the pandemic, and we want to do it by creating speculative objects set in July 2021. To do so, we will take a critical look at the current Covid solutionist craze, we will extrapolate which technologies might be deployed in the next year, and we will speculate about which hacks might be necessary for the underdistanced & undernetworked. We will materialize them into speculative artifacts with the objective of understanding better how it would feel to be marginalized in a (probable?) scenario where Covid-19 is dealt with through top-down tech-driven solutions. Finally, we will loop back to the present and reflect on the ethical takeaways of our speculative experiments: what could be designed and implemented now to make the pandemic response more inclusive?

It is a 5-day workshop that can be done autonomously. Everyday has a specific theme and is a step in the process. There is instruction material provided every day, either live or prepared. Participants contribute to a shared collection of artifacts at the end of the week.

Attendees: 10 participants max.

Please note that this workshop will require you to work on your own around 5 hours per day and could prevent you from attending other workshops.