I was on my way back from my meditative walk in our neighbourhood forest. I’ve trained myself to listen to the melodies of the forest and translate them into my own sensual language. Yes, I am developing my own language with sound, image and sensations merging the digital and physical realms. I feel it brings a sense of exploration and connection at the improvisation sessions with my friends who also use sound, symbols and movement to express the feelings and stories that they can’t fit into the languages we speak. We don’t force cerebral understanding; we explore how we can connect.
On my way to my weekly voluntary shift at the Muhabbet* hub, I saw a white butterfly. Every-time I see it, I consider myself lucky for the day. Muhabbet hub is a community space where people can come when they need help understanding if and how they can use a certain technology for a certain purpose, or when they feel they have been mistreated or misled by algorithmic systems. We offer deep listening and together we understand and decode the situation to make a case. We are aware that we infuse our personal views and values into our systems, and we don’t expect everybody to abide by the same values. But, when we face a case of unintended and/or overlooked harm, we convene at the Muhabbet hub in order to disentangle, discuss, change or to shelve the systems involved. This activity brings together the system’s creators, users and anybody else who would like to be involved!
Nature, humans and identities are ever-changing and fluid. Sometimes the answers our minds seek are hidden in the cycles. We understand and observe them: how birds migrate each year, the cycle of a butterfly’s life and death and everything in-between, the changing of the seasons, the phases of the moon and our own phases. How our views, ideas, self-perceptions, goals, limitations, modify, change, transform. There is space for holding contradiction here, and our systems reflect that.
Today is the end of a cycle for me. It’s time for me to look back and assess where I am at. I also look at all the data I created that I chose to share within my community systems and projects. I can continue to share or retrieve all of that if I want to – or not, if I feel I am no longer reflected by those taxonomies and choices. It’s a »data spring clean«. And the data is not about me but about how I am relating to my environment.
I love the »end-of-cycle« season. Sometimes, things are challenging, but I always remember to see this beautiful reflexive portrait evolving within my environment. I see what made me smile, all the strangers who said »hi« to me and my heartbreaks, among many other things. Some people love stability and consistency. They want to keep all their records, and they like deepening their relations, choices. I like change and having multiple facets, I like tabula rasa-ing myself – I attribute this to the Gemini and Scorpio placements in my chart. That’s why my data has an expiry date.
My shift starts. Today we have the community listening to assess an education support algorithm that was suggested by some community members. We send an open call to solidarity groups that represent the most affected individuals, communities and anyone who would like to be heard. Our presence is part of our community service. We discuss the need, the problem, and we look at existing solutions. Finally, we evaluate together whether this proposal is helpful at all.
There was a lot of emotion and debate around this one. Some expressed that they didn’t feel comfortable or represented. Some argued there were already solutions for the problem identified. We took the time we needed, we made sure we grounded our bodies. We brought our inner guidance to the conversation and examined our assumptions. It is always fascinating for me to see that most of the time, people just need a space to be heard more than tools and algorithmic solutions. Sometimes we go the extra mile until we understand that we are together in this. One person’s hurt is everybody’s; one person’s joy can be strong enough to change the dynamic of an entire group.
We decided that day the system was not needed. We created voluntary tutoring and practice sessions instead…
*Muhabbet: A word in Turkish that derives from Arabic. It roughly means ‘friendly chat’ and ‘love’ at the same time. Its Arabic root is ‘to love’. When you are in ‘muhabbet’ with someone, there is affection and you are connected at the level of the heart.