Week 40 — love and lubrication

It’s Pride month, and yesterday would have been London Pride. I don’t miss the parade or any of that corporate pinkwashing. But, I’m ngl… I miss meandering through different parts of the city, celebrating the joy of being queer together and all the things which I can’t write down.

I’m using this year especially to reflect and be grateful for all the Black, trans, queer women who have fought against every odd to bring us to where we are now. Still a long way to go, but, they have shown us, other worlds are possible

Love and Lubrication in the Archives, or rukus!: A Black Queer Archive for the United Kingdom
by Ajamu X, Topher Campbell, and Mary Stephens

I wanted to interview the folks behind rukus! for my dissertation. Turns out Ajamu and Topher are low-key famous so that went out the window. However, Tohper was kind enough to aware me to this paper about the project.

That’s the very thing about rukus!, it’s not a singular thing, it’s about confusing the notion of simplicity. You have to embrace complexity and diversity when you are dealing with the idea of Black, gay, or lesbian identity. With rukus! we are building our own identity.

I’m sad that the website is defunct but the archive itself still exists at LMA. Signing off everything the way they do from now on.

The Dominant, the Residual and the Emergent in Archival Imagination
by Lawrence Liang

I don’t know why I’m so taken with archives. Especially considering my complete lack of sentimentality or propensity to any kind of personal archiving.

And if the displaced are always looking for a new home which they can call their own, then perhaps one way of thinking about the productive relation between the discarded image is to see it as images that await their activation through the creation of a new house of meaning, and there can be no higher aspiration for archives than to facilitate meaning produced through the discarded.

Queer Surveillance
by Gary Kafer and Daniel Grinberg

This article is good but imo needlessly dense. I hereby commit to writing my dissertation without it sounding like word spaghetti.

…queer surveillance gestures toward the spatial and temporal contingency of identity formations that hegemonic structures of visibility, acceptability, and legality continually make and unmake. Attending to the queerness of surveillance demands a vigilance to the ways in which norms mutate across sites of control and how different intersections of queer and trans identity can be rendered threatening or secure in relation to certain abject Others.

HCI as heterodoxy: Technologies of identity and the queering of interaction with computers
by Ann Light

A bit let down by the premise of this article, which promises to ‘queer,’ ‘subvert,’ ‘think obliquely’ but which examples include

build[ing] ‘‘Fakebook’’ pages with pretend identities

I do like the notion that

we can design for enhanced subversion.

I’m just not very convinced that Light has moved beyond the orthodox at all.

A Cyborg Manifesto
by Donna Haraway

What do you write about such a classic text? I’m gonna go with nothing.

The cyborg is resolutely committed to partiality, irony, intimacy, and perversity. It is oppositional, utopian, and completely without innocence.

…a cyborg world might be about lived social and bodily realities in which people are not afraid of their joint kinship with animals and machines, not afraid of permanently partial identities and contradictory standpoints.

A New Land Contract
by Alastair Parvin

The housing thing really sucks. If you live in London, it REALLY sucks. Parvin goes a long way toward explaining why and presenting new ideas.

The land system is not sexy, it’s not emotive. It’s complicated. But once you see it you cannot unsee it. It sits at the root of so many of the issues that are flooding across our timelines every day.

Also, in case you missed the memo, there is no such thing as a good landlord.

‘wait, what work exactly is it that we’re paying Landlords to do?’

And basically the answer is: nothing. We’re paying them to… not evict us.


Anne Carson and Archive by Alejandra Oliva

“We're given all these things,” she said, “and then we have nowhere to put them, so all we can do is archive it, put it away somewhere safe.”⠀

Interview with Reni Eddo-Lodge by Nosheen Iqbal: ‘The debate on racism is a game to some and I don't want to play’

I’m not looking to tell people what to do. People are very willing to give up their agency and look for leadership when they feel impassioned about something and I don’t want that at all, I want them to use their critical thinking skills to challenge racism and I can’t tell them how to do that.

Solidarity means dismantling the system everywhere by Progressive International

An opening is an opening — not an assurance. The scenes that have emerged from these international protests are those of a system at breaking point. But there is no guarantee in which direction it will break.

Racist anti-Black Lives Matter protesters are not far right outliers – they’re shaping mainstream society by Dawn Duhaney

We need to acknowledge as a society that the far right isn’t always an extremist group featured on TV documentaries. Far right rhetoric exists in the mainstream right now, amongst our elected politicians and even potentially in our own families, friendships and social circles.

Survey of LGBTQ+ people in design by Queer Design Club

40% of LGBTQ+ people in design reported having to point out design decisions that excluded queer people to their colleagues.

13% been asked to work for anti-LGBTQ+ clients

I hope you are all safe and well, friends and comrades.

Happy pride. Love and lubrication.

Week 39 — bodies on the line

I hope you’ll permit me a personal story to start this week’s missive.

My job booked a conference for all the designers to attend. Last week when I looked at the lineup, I was very disappointed to see predominately white speakers and no Black folks at all. I mentioned it to my manager who booked the tickets, and she wrote to them about it.

Their response was, quite frankly, ridiculous. I didn’t read it verbatim, but excuses were ranging from a pipeline problem (in 2020, seriously now?) to lack of time. It made me mad enough to publicly tweet them and some of the speakers earlier this week.

There was this moment, for a day or two, where it seemed like something might come from this. Several of the speakers committed to adding diversity clauses in their contracts so this doesn’t happen again. They got at least one Black person added to the speaker list.

But, after a couple days, the studio organising the conference released some lukewarm message about ‘starting work’ for diversity and inclusion. There was almost no engagement from the wider design industry. It made me wonder what could have happened if those who have actual clout and reach in the design and tech industry spoke out and took action against this stuff. What if it wasn’t just some relatively-unknown, mid-career designer like me?

Our industry is so hostile to Black people and people of colour. I feel so bad for the Black folks who were asked to speak in reaction to this, which very clearly communicates that they were an after-thought. I feel horrible about those who saw this play out, and saw the industry show once again how little it cares about them.

It’s time to do away with the studios and designers who uphold white supremacy. The future we need, the future I want to live in, is not going to be built by them.

Captivating Technology
edited by Ruha Benjamin

I read the introduction by Benjamin and the chapters in Part III. Brilliant to understand how technology is part of and upholds the carceral system.

Antiblack racism … is not only a by-product, but a precondition for the fabrication of such technologies—antiblack imagination put to work.

But it isn’t just a critique

This book also asks: To what end do we imagine? How can innovation in terms of our political, cultural, and social norms work toward freedom? How might technoscience be appropriated and reimagined for more liberatory ends? Ultimately, this volume is about what people can do, are doing about it.

Ultimately, my hope is for you, the reader, to imagine and craft the worlds you cannot live without, just as you dismantle the ones we cannot live within.

Various writings
by Mimi Ọnụọha

Really good work about data. The project Missing Datasets and some background on the project.

That which we ignore reveals more than what we give our attention to. It’s in these things that we find cultural and colloquial hints of what is deemed important. Spots that we've left blank reveal our hidden social biases and indifferences.

This piece on Algorithmic Violence

As we continue to see the rise of algorithms being used for civic, social, and cultural decision-making, it becomes that much more important that we name the reality that we are seeing. Not because it is exceptional, but because it is ubiquitous. Not because it creates new inequities, but because it has the power to cloak and amplify existing ones. Not because it is on the horizon, but because it is already here.

On geolocation data, which is as terrifying as it is interesting. I don’t think I’m very data literate, so her approach of learning was interesting.

Once data becomes personal, it is that much easier to educate yourself on how it is collected and how meaning might be derived from it. … this process of learning, understanding, contextualization, and action can be summed up in the phrase data literacy.

On Technodiversity: A Conversation with Yuk Hui
by Anders Dunker

I really enjoyed this text. I think it might be my first brush with philosophy of technology. Or, of the technology area I inhabit. Or of looking at it not just from a western philosophy perspective. That’s the bit that really drew me in.

Instead of a universal history describing one technology with various stages of development, we can step back for a moment and instead describe technological development as involving different cosmotechnics. I call this technodiversity.

Exchanging Perspectives
by Eduardo Viveiros de Castro

A kind of exploration of different cosmologies. It was the text for our reading group, but I was totally in the wrong headspace and struggled with understanding it. Still, the reading group is so special. I really enjoy the nuance of picking apart what is good or dangerous or useful or uncertain about a complex text. I also really liked this quote because it’s about me.

Cultivated plants may be conceived as blood relatives of the women who tend

‘Ch 0: The Wild Beyond’ in The Undercommons
by Jack Halberstam

I read a chapter of this book in a module last year. I wasn’t ready for it. It really affected a close friend of mine, and I felt it scratch at something. But for whatever reason, I wasn’t ready. I’m ready now! I had to get up and walk around midway through to shake off some of the energy. It knocked me clean over.

Revolution will come in a form we cannot yet imagine.

That link is open access.

What Does Pride Mean Now?
by Jericho Brown, Thomas Page McBee, Carmen Maria Machado

Three devastating stories.

But in those years, I also learned that queerness does not protect you — not from domestic violence, not from racism or sexism or transphobia. … Not only does queerness not protect you, it does not absolve you. You are not made better by your body, but what you choose to do with that body, and your life.

“You are not made better by your body, but what you choose to do with that body, and your life.” from Carmen. I had to write it twice, because reasons.

by The White Pube

A very good text, which includes a huge list of resources to learn more about the ideas she explores. I’ve taken to watching Zarina read them on Insta, which is a perfect background for my Sunday lunch break.

I love exhibitions and galleries, even just the act of walking through one regardless if I like the art. The White Pube challenge me to reframe the way I engage with the art world.

Reform presents us with platitudes, the sweet promise of action, of new people and faces, but it is fundamentally the same shape. Overhaul presents us with a structure that has a radically different shape entirely, with different priorities, and different operational models (different people is just an added bonus). We cannot just swap out the people, inject new audiences and new workers into the different roles that already exist, leaving the structure unchanged. The structure is the problem.

Entering The Matriarchy
by Fariha Róisín

These texts are difficult to read, in that way that makes them important. This bit, this bit I felt very much.

Recently, my friend, a white man, texted me saying he was willing to die for this, for justice, for Black liberation. As I read it, I felt truly scared. Because I could feel his truth, and I could feel mine, too. But there’s been an unsaleable part of me that wrestles with it too, wrestles what real allyship to Black liberation mean as non-Black people… Doesn’t it mean literal bodies on the lines for Black people? Isn’t that what we owe Oluwatoyin?

There are a lot of things to do in order to even be there. I’m still figuring out what they are.

I have questions about the efficacy of these massive reading lists. Mostly, where does know how to even begin. But if you are looking for a specific text, here are 2 Google drive folders/collections with lots of texts available for free.

You could also play reading roulette and pick one at random. That sounds v fun actually.

Week 38 — to live

I saw a meme somewhere about how future historians will ask what quarter of 2020 they specialise in. Tbh after the last few weeks, it feels like specialising in a day might be more appropriate.

This week, where 14 million things happened, this is what I’ve been reading.

Yes, We Mean Literally Abolish the Police
by Mariame Kaba

Regardless of your view on police power – whether you want to get rid of the police or simply to make them less violent – here’s an immediate demand we can all make: Cut the number of police in half and cut their budget in half. Fewer police officers equals fewer opportunities for them to brutalize and kill people.

Black Lives Matter is Not a Design Challenge.
by Schessa Garbutt

If any of you signed up because I’m a designer, you probably know by now not to expect design chat that often. I mean, yes, I read those posts about how to optimise shared Figma libraries but it feels woefully out of place here.

Anyway, here’s a design one for you. It is sitting heavily on the visual side

When I see your overworked hand-lettering and your redraw of George’s selfie and your retro typography protest poster…

but I think it’s good to think about for those of us who design products and services.

by Annette Joseph

Perspective from someone who works in tech in the UK, with a brief historical outline and lots of resources to learn more.

Last week when we saw these situations unfold before our very eyes, to many of us, it felt familiar. As does the feeling that, like the others, these perpetrators will not be brought to justice. The situation feels real to us because it is real to us. The ancestral trauma is in our DNA and #wecantbreathe.

The End of White Supremacy, An American Romance
by Saidiya Hartman

The tags call this an essay. Though more some kind of beautiful mashup of essay and science fiction. It’s that kind of essay that you can imagine in an anthology. (Is that the right word for a collection of essays?) Brutal.

Few noticed him. Few ever noticed him except in a way that stung. He was outside the world—“nothing!” When their eyes land on him, he feels the gaze like a blade against his skin and his body retreats from the assault, anticipating where a blow might land, flinching before the kick. His flesh has become a sensor. His muscles are tense.

If nobody is racist, then what is racism?
by Sahar Shah

I was looking for a clear, simple way to explain how we are all racist and found this article. I definitely have seen better versions, but now can’t find them. If you have any, please share.

We live in an institutionally racist society, which I would argue is populated almost entirely by subconsciously racist people. … Otherwise, the publicly accepted definition will remain what white people decide and whether they deem their own thoughts racist or not.

Lots of protest tips are available these days. You don’t need more, do you? Well, just in case here’s how to prepare, dug up from the previous historical period that was 2016. Also, some basic etiquette for white people.

In praise of Latin Night at the Queer Club
by Justin Torres

The 4 year anniversary of the shooting in Pulse nightclub was on Friday, and this old article resurfaced. It tips me sideways. Lola says it best, ‘thinking about how to remember our dead & the gift that is queer living’

The only imperative is to be transformed, transfigured in the disco light. To lighten, loosen, see yourself reflected in the beauty of others. You didn’t come here to be a martyr, you came to live, papi. To live, mamacita. To live, hijos. To live, mariposas.

Why we will always take a stand against transphobia in the British press
by Nim Ralph

This article was published in March, before JK tweeted and then published that absolute nonsense. Before Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells and Riah Milton were brutally murdered. It is very pertinent to anti-racism. Black trans lives matter.

For centuries, white women have been actively complicit in the oppression of black women and other women of colour. White feminism finds its lineage in the biological determinism, eugenics and scientific racism of 19th century, which led to the categorisation of bodies within a racial hierarchy that deemed some women inherently more “human” than others.

Queering the map

This project is part of the research for my dissertation, and I am obsessed with it. I interviewed the founder, Lucas LaRochelle, and we had such an amazing conversation about queerness, data, the internet. The gift that is queer living. Here is a description of the project. And a couple text spinoffs:

Boundaries as invitation, rather than limitation by Lucas LaRochelle and rudi aker

Fragments of a Shattered Urn: Queering The Map, Stonewall, and the Question of Collective Memory by Ali Adenwala

I’m Queer and I Dance and had a lot of Feelings Here: The Archive and History’s Returns in Queering The Map by Jacob Carter

Image: My poorly-thought-through addition when it first launched years ago.

‘Collapse of civilisation is the most likely outcome’: top climate scientists
by Asher Moses

I don’t know why I read these articles. I already know we are doomed and it just gives me stress insomnia. Anyway, it’s an article about how we are doomed.

I was very underwhelmed by their view on how we need to live in the future.

Turner believes it would be possible to provide for everyone’s needs in a sustainable way but we would have to live a 1950s or 1960s-style lifestyle with limits such as one car and TV per household. We wouldn’t be living in caves and we’d still have technology but the rate of change would be a lot slower.

Extremely American and unimaginative. Mate, I live in London. We don’t even have ‘one car’ and good luck finding a flat with space for multiple TVs. To say nothing of the rest of the world. If you are looking for generative ways of imagining our future in the ruins, you won’t find it here.

No house of straw: Sarah Wigglesworth's eco-home, 20 years on
by Nell Card

One for the architecture nerds. I like this idea of caring for your home.

Your home should be treated as if it were a part of your body – which in a way, it is … You need to look after it


Making It Count: Resisting the Authority of Ignorance by Sita Balani for some political takes I couldn’t possibly comment on due to my contractual ‘impartiality’ which is, as always, very tenuous.

Why Sleep Deprivation Kills by Veronique Greenwood where the point is absolutely not animal cruelty but my stomach turns at the descriptions of what is done to these poor animals (yes, the flies too).

The Wave by Andrew Key on how art can hit you.

Girl by Jamaica Kincaid to feel something.

We Share the Same Tears by Sophia Al-Maria responding to Le Guin’s Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction (which I recommend to everyone, all the time). I first discovered Al-Maria’s work from a collaboration with Victoria Sin. Both artists are doing stunning work.

Angela Davis has a bunch of speeches on Spotify. I’ve been listening to them while cycling, starting with The Prison Industrial Complex.

This video about the Black Panthers by Agnes Varda is fantastic. It is depressing how little has changed structurally since 1968. But Angela says, ‘This moment holds possibilities for change we have never before experienced’. So I’m holding on to hope.

Week 37 — black lives matter

Wasn’t sure whether to send something this week. I do think educating ourselves is important, and should be ongoing. I also don’t think education is enough. It is well past the time for action.

So, instead of reading this, I recommend you support the movement. Donate, volunteer, protest safely if you can, write your MP, etc etc (listen to black folks).

Minneapolis residents commandeered a hotel for homeless
by Max Nesterak

“People are organizing themselves. We take care of each other,” said Rosemary Fister, one of the community members who helped commandeer the hotel.

Lose Your Kin
by Christina Sharpe

One must be willing to say this is abhorrent. One must be willing to be more than uncomfortable. One must be willing to be on the outside. One must refuse to repair a familial rift on the bodies cast out as not kin.

Refuse reconciliation to ongoing brutality. Refuse to feast on the corpse of others. Rend the fabric of the kinship narrative. Imagine otherwise. Remake the world. Some of us have never had any other choice.

We can’t breathe
by Gary Younge

None of this will heal the sick or bring back the dead. But it could help us develop a more sophisticated and nuanced understanding of how race is experienced and how racism operates. For the left it would help end the futile attempts to engage race and class separately. They do not exist in silos but are two interdependent forces, among many, and they are either understood in relation to each other or are misunderstood completely.

There’s One Big Reason Why Police Brutality Is So Common In The US. And That’s The Police Unions.
by Melissa Segura

Like in Minneapolis, police unions across the country have bucked reforms meant to promote transparency and racial equity in law enforcement. Many of these unions have pushed collective bargaining agreements that make it all but impossible for departments to punish, much less fire, officers. These agreements defang civilian review boards and police internal affairs departments, and they even prevent police chiefs from providing meaningful oversight, according to community activists and civil rights lawyers. Meanwhile, the unions have set up legal slush funds to defend officers sued for misconduct.

Systemic racism and police brutality are British problems too
by Kojo Koram

… we should be anything but complacent when it comes to our own structural problems with racism or policing. Institutional racism exists at every level of our criminal justice system, from who gets stopped and searched, to who gets arrested, to who gets charged, to who gets convicted.

Is Prison Necessary? Ruth Wilson Gilmore Might Change Your Mind
by Rachel Kushner

Digging this one out of the archives because it’s v good.

Prison abolition, as a movement, sounds provocative and absolute, but what it is as a practice requires subtler understanding. …Abolition means not just the closing of prisons but the presence, instead, of vital systems of support that many communities lack.

Decades of UK anti-racist organising reminds us to prepare for the long fight ahead
by Leah Cowan

Next week, when white people and corporations alike are bored of publicising their meagre donations and conducting their self-serving check-ins, we will still continue to be black. Our chests will still be at risk of asphyxiation when the timeline returns to stunting and influencing as usual.

Instead of feeling defeated once the news cycle moves on, we can strategically plan for the fight ahead by learning lessons from anti-racist organising that has come before us. Heart-break is devastating and perspective-changing. Together we can evolve healed and equipped for the next encounter.

Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness
by Simone Browne

…rather than seeing surveillance as something inaugurated by new technologies, such as automated facial recognition or unmanned autonomous vehicles (or drones), to see it as ongoing is to insist that we factor in how racism and antiblackness undergird and sustain the intersecting surveillances of our present order.

What Is an Anti-Racist Reading List For?
by Lauren Michele Jackson

The books are there, they’ve always been there, yet the lists keep coming, bathing us in the pleasure of a recommendation. But that’s the thing about the reading. It has to be done.

Digital Resources for a Movement Against Police Violence by Rhizome

Mapping Our Roles in Social Change Ecosystems by Deepa Iyer

Self Care Toolkit For Your Spiral by Arabelle Sicardi

Templates to write to London galleries and museums (and other resources) by The White Pube

Week 36 — acab

I don’t have the words for how angry and disgusted and sad I am about what is happening in the US right now. A family member made some comments against protests. It made me so mad I couldn’t sleep and all I wanted to say is ‘fuck you’. fuck the police. fuck the surveillance state. and fuck everyone who is watching silently, or worse, defending those with power upholding this violent and disgusting system.

I’m assuming, by nature of you being here, that you are on the internet and have seen many lists of things to do and ways to help. I urge you to do something.

Ok. Exhale.

I started a project with Digital Future Society. It is a speculative design brief to accompany a report on gender and automated decision making in welfare. Of course, I still have a job so reading this week is a little light.

The Protests Against George Floyd's Death Make Some People Uncomfortable. That's The Point.
by Scaachi Koul

The priorities in American life are wildly disordered. First comes white health and safety. Then comes white property and goods. Then white economy. Then white comfort. The safety of black and brown bodies, the right to not be killed by the police when you’re not a threat, the right to not be pepper-sprayed or teargassed while a respiratory disease is already ripping through your community at an alarming rate, is miles behind white comfort.

Emoji summary: 🧨 🚓 🔥

by Andrea Long Chu

I really wanted to like this book. And I did, but not as much as I was expecting. It was way too light on theory, for one. I should have expected that based on the length. I like Chu’s previous work on desire, and this had a bit of that, but not enough. Basically, I didn’t like it as much as some of her articles. Still… light and easy reading, purposefully provocative in funny ways, and short.

Emoji summary: ⚢ 👯‍♀️ 🤔

Where Did Software Go Wrong?
by Jesse Li

Ella shared this on twitter. An Ella recommendation is an instant bookmark.

Our websites are slow and insecure; our startups are creepy and unprofitable; our president Tweets hate speech; we don’t trust our social media apps, webcams, or voting machines. And in the era of coronavirus quarantining, we’re realizing just how inadequate the Internet turned out to be as a home of Mind. Where did it all go wrong?

Emoji summary: 🕸 👩🏻‍💻 🤖


It’s Time to Take California Back from Joan Didion by Myriam Gurba

Amado Vazquez, a Mexican botanist, named an orchid after Joan Didion. While that was a chic gesture, I don’t think of her as an orchid. I think of her as an onion. She’s very white, very crisp, and she makes people cry.

Twelve Assignments by Wayne Koestenbaum is one of those prompt lists. This one for writers. It’s a cute list.

On Watching Violence, and Elena Ferrante’s “My Brilliant Friend.” by Fariha Róisín. This one for the book club crew. We read the first book in the series last year. I loved it.

Verso is giving away a free ebook called The End of Policing.

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