feature image via Shutterstock.
I’m really down on technology right now. Mostly because the industry is doing things like this:
— Nick Arner (@nickarner) December 6, 2016
Algorithms are one of the reasons we’re in this mess. Humans falling for computers tricked by other humans. It took Twitter until after white nationalists won an election to suspend white nationalist accounts. I wonder day in and day out why Donald Trump, a white nationalist, still has his Twitter account. Does Twitter have an obligation to shut down his account if he’s using it to provoke China? Do they have an obligation not to, due to some very romantic idea about equalizing speech on their platform? Ack.
It is so, so hard for me to focus on anything but the ways in which technology has failed us right now. I’ve tried to be productive. I’ve tried to be instructive. But this week, I was just angry. I almost wrote an essay about all the technology I’d like to punch—and there have been plenty of those. Rachel had to talk me down. She suggested I try something I haven’t yet — productive, instructive… maybe positive?
So here are a few ways in which very smart people are already using technology to resist and tell truths. Let’s hope this can be a turning point in the ways we allow cyberspace to impact meatspace. And no one but no one follow Donald Trump on Twitter DON’T DO THAT.
Sherman Alexie is talking writing in the time of Trump on his once-defunct, now-returned podcast entitled A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment.
Technology used: audio production, podcast syndication
Why this is good, from his interview with The Stranger:
“I’m not one of those artist-writers who thinks they have any real power. I’m laughing because they’ve already begun the calls for Poets Against Trump anthologies — talk about the most powerless gesture in the history of the world. But what we can do with art is become spiritual boosters. I think we can be spiritually nourishing even if we have no political power. We end up being the equivalent of noise-canceling headphones.”
Stop Normalizing Alt-Right
This plug-in changes any mention of alt-right to white supremacy. If you already have this plug-in, that sentence was confusing and also very, very true.
Technology used: Chrome plug-in
Why this is good: while it doesn’t actually stop the media from normalizing white supremacy, I like to think of Chrome plug-ins like this one (or like this one) as hyper-modern performance art for the masses. I disagree with Alexie; I DO think art can change things. Experiencing this type of art in browsers everywhere is a pretty cool thing. I’m not NOT gonna tell you to install it on every public computer you come across.
You might recall Emily Ellsworth’s series of viral tweets about calling Congress. She knows what’s up, she’s worked for Congress for six years. She has some good advice for calling Congress (though it should be known that you can really only talk to your own representatives). She’s turned some of that advice into a digital book and worksheet, available at a sliding scale. It’s called Call The Halls.
Technology used: Twitter, Storify, Gumroad
Why this is good: Using self-publishing and digital media to spread useful information in times of crisis is one of the ways we can be using technology for good instead of for Voldemort. It’s faster than making a zine and because digital files can be copied an infinite number of times, it’ll never run out. Plus it’s sliding scale, so if you can’t afford anything, you can still has info.
Do A Thing and Wall-Of-Us
I’ve seen a proliferation of email newsletters designed to ease people into political action (we covered some of them last week). The two I subscribe to are Do A Thing by Shannon and Jane (also has A+ animal photos) and Wall-Of-Us. Do A Thing is daily and has one thing to do a day. Wall-of-Us is weekly and has four things to do a week.
Technology used: email newsletter
Why this is good: Email newsletters feel personal and this should feel personal. We can’t ever stop taking it personally. Plus bite-sized chunks are excellent for people new to calling representatives or being politically active. These also focus our energy on completing concrete, accomplishable tasks.
We The People
While it lasts, let’s make use of We The People. It probably won’t do shit during Trump’s white nationalist administration, but right now there’s a petition to commute Chelsea Manning’s sentence to time served. Regardless of how you feel about Manning’s specific case, her treatment in prison has been objectively vile, and it’s reasonable to think that her treatment will be much worse.
— Chase Strangio (@chasestrangio) December 9, 2016
Technology used: online petition
Why this is good: Trans women shouldn’t be in men’s facilities in general, Chelsea Manning is in danger specifically, and also let’s make our voices heard while it still counts.