Healing and empowerment over profit maximisation and tech-solutionism.
Algorithmic decision-making systems and facial recognition tools used by governments and industries currently obscure and reinforce existing injustices. Instead of creating safer spaces for discourse and exchange, social media networks capitalise on trauma and hate speech. More broadly, digital technologies surveil, control and radicalise their users. To ensure collective and individual well-being and flourishing, technologies must center around the needs of communities rather than prioritising profit maximisation above all.
»Centring healing allows for trauma and inequality in death to be identified as the main products of the oppressive systems we live in. Prentice Hemphill writes that ‘systemic oppressions are, in many ways, enforced through trauma’. Trauma is an extremely efficient tool of white cis-heterosexual capitalist patriarchal systems. It also organises what Ruth Wilson Gilmore defines as ‘the state-sanctioned and/or extralegal production and exploitation of group-differentiated vulnerability to premature death.’ Black women are dying in childbirth at a higher rate than white women. Trans women of colour are dying prematurely. Significant disparities in life expectancy exist for people of colour, specifically Black and indigenous people in settler colonies. Women of colour – the majority of women on the planet – are disproportionately confronted with death.
The most relevant way to approach gender-based issues from an intersectional perspective is thus as a public health issue. Patriarchy is a public health issue. Racism is a public health issue. Queerphobia is a public health issue. Poverty is a public health issue. These systems of oppression produce trauma and premature death as necessary to their functioning. They can´t be eliminated by individual modifications – they require systemic change.
Thinking about feminist tech without centring healing in a way that is collective will reproduce the very mechanisms of oppressions we wish to dismantle. However, the current trend in tech is to lean on our collective trauma to generate profit, posing consumption as compensation for isolation and exhaustion. The rush toward more surveillance nourishes an unending appetite for control that maintains and reinforces the current social order. These objectives are all imbued with the patriarchal ideals of domination and invulnerability.
What role does tech play in worsening the current public health crisis? How could technology support our collective healing? Can we imagine technological modalities that aren´t based on exploitation, displacement and/or extraction? Do we actually need technologies to learn/re-learn how to centre care? Do we really need technologies to collectively slow down in a way that supports the healing of the planet? Because no technology will solve societal problems, a feminist approach to tech could reshape our priorities, centring reproductive forces and healing instead of trauma and obsolescence.«
Who can inspire us with their work?
»The report by Africans in the Diaspora, Practicing Liberation, is extremly rich with examples of feminist practices of organising, notably the initiative Nous sommes la solution led by women farmers working on land sovereignty. They network and organise over complex issues that involve key decision-making processes – they use many technologies extensively, though not exclusively in the corporate sense.
Whose Knowledge questions the western understanding of knowledge that dominates the contemporary internet to find creative ways of ‘building and defending an internet of, for and by all.’
The report Afrofeminist Data Futures, written by Neema Iyer, Chenai Chair and Garnett Achieng, also provides plenty of good leads for ways forward.
Finally, in Digital Black Feminism Catherine Knight Steele writes about how black women have used blogposts to discuss, develop and reflect on their realities, thereby enriching black feminists’ thoughts, mobilising writing in a community of trust as a healing practice.« — Laurence Meyer
The Numun Fund is a feminist tech fund created in response to Covid-19. It aims to support feminist groups, organisations and networks led by women, non-binary and trans people who use technology to advance feminist organising and gender-just outcomes. Numun is the Sumerian word for “seed.” Over 6,000 years ago, the Sumerians, who came from what is now southern Iraq, established the earliest known writing and arithmetic systems in the world. The Numun Fund honours the ways that art, literature, science and technology have flourished across the world and been led by communities in the Global South for millennia.