Technologies for Migration
All these people wanting us to go on a detox. We live in this environment of toxicity and the right thing to do is to purify ourselves: from toxic food, from toxic air, from toxic drugs and from toxic internet.
Purification. Nice concept for a fascist era.
“After a near-death experience, Levi Felix left his dream job as the VP of a thriving startup to take a sabbatical from his “always-on,” digitally enthralled reality. Meanwhile his partner, Brooke Dean, was packing her bags to go back to school to further her education of permaculture and sustainable community. So they decided to take to the road together. They traded in their laptops and cellphones for backpacks, and left together to travel the world — seeking balance, studying yoga and meditation, and volunteering for non-profits and farms along the way”.
Last night, Camilo Catrillanca, a young Mapuche was killed by the Chilean police with a shot in the head, I would never found out if it wasn’t for my social media, as my brother who was in Santiago at the riots reporting the situation. It’s 9 AM in the Netherlands and, as every morning, I check the messages from my family and friends in Chile. Yesterday almost everyone went to protest at massive concentrations and despite the habitual police brutality, fortunately all of them are alright. Now it’s 5 AM back there, thinking about the time difference at this time of the day always leaves me sad.
I’m sure it’s nice to disconnect from the people you know and retreat in solitude without any possibility for external communication. But what happens when you’re always away from them? The concepts of connection and disconnection operate very differently for us migrants.
I remember when I just arrived and I had to be checking my phone all day to look for directions, to translate signs, to carefully check the NS app to see which train should I take, to understand very simple words as spoor, richting or toeslag. I think about all the fundamental daily tasks a migrant cannot do without a smartphone, from the translations of absolutely everything like appointments at the city council or the instructions of medicines; the overstated dependance to translated e-commerce services; the live transport information that a local does not need; and especially the very basic need of communicating with close people who is dispersed around the globe.
The celebrated existence of this type of prohibitive device hints at the possibility that the internet detox movement was never about the search for meaningful connections, on the contrary, it is about exclusion and people revolving in their own narcissism while the non-privileged class is prisoner of the data extractivist economy created by men who do not allow their children to use smartphones.
We demand digital security because not everybody can afford to ditch their connected devices. And I mean security also in terms of self care because it is not fair that while the rich can have their retreats of disconnection it is us who are forced to deal with a digital ecosystem of surveillance, data extractivism and unethical design.
Jay, my neighbour from Sint Maarten, says he’s visiting his hometown in the coming weeks. We often chat because his window is over my balcony and I’m always out there since I love watering the plants while I look at the Rotterdam skyline. He lives alone and it’s difficult to abandon a conversation with him so if I’m in a hurry I try to avoid the balcony. He says that his life back in the island was so different, that in Sint Maarten he does not need any of the bureaucracy we have here in the Netherlands, that there he is able to go to the beach, grab a fish and eat it for lunch. While I listen to him, I just wish that I can send all the data detox promoters to an island in the middle of the ocean and see what they really can do without any technology. It is getting dark at 5 PM and the sky is turning pink, Jay takes out his smartphone to take a picture of the Erasmusbrug and send it to his mother.
Blog post in Bits of Freedom