My PhD is concerned with the present and futures of workers, either humans or machines. I pursuit it through a hybrid methodology, part theoretical, part through participatory and speculative design practice. The former revolves around examining the philosophies of work and technology, trying to understand their role under capitalism, and what is different in times of data and artificial intelligence, if any.
The latter consists of what I provisionally call “Social Design Fiction”, a version of design fiction that focuses on the social, and its entanglements with the technological, rather than on tech-driven innovation. It will be inspired by ethnographic inquiry on the stories, experiences, and struggles of people in and outside the waged workplace. I will then blend these with transmedia narrative techniques and designed artefacts inspired from films, novels, and comics of social, speculative, and magical realism, rather than traditional science fiction. Think of a Black Mirror episode writen by Ken Loach.
My method is neither descriptive (what is), nor anticipatory (what is expected to be), even though it necessarily contains elements from both. I consider it to function on two interrelated levels. On one hand, it aims to inspire (or remind) ways of conceptualising and organising work around values that go against and beyond the economic objectivity and antagonistic relationships of capitalism. But I also hope that, like any good story, it is aspirational. That it will create an affect, and will enact reflexivity towards the latent potency of the present, the realisation of what people are and do in the here and now.
Here is a collection of resources and relevant projects
Work Fictions is a design fiction artwork and essay I wrote for the Digital Societies group based on a film by Jim Jarmusch.
I curate a list of work-related films.
Work Aesthetic is an ongoing photography project that documents the aesthetics of work media in urban environments.
I have no ambitions nor desires.
To be a poet is not my ambition,
It is my way of being alone.*
This doctoral project is the result of two years of research, proposal writing, and artistic projects I did on top of my waged work. I am happy I somehow managed to weave together my studies in engineering and design, my artistic skills, my interest in philosophy and society, and my memories from working with builders in Greece, warehouse workers in Italy and academics in the UK.
To do something that personal in a way that matters to others, and to frame it in a way that could be funded, was probably the hardest thing I ‘ve done.
Perhaps this why I find it hard to talk about my research in academic jargon.
I did it once.
I got the money.
I will do it again in 3 years.
(Ok, might be more.)
My project is funded by the department of Management, University of Bristol. People here are really sweet.
*Fernando Pessoa as Alberto Caeiro, I, from ‘The Keeper of Sheep’, in Federico Campagna’s Beyond the Anarch – Stirner, Pessoa, Junger, Anarchist Studies 21.2, 2013.