This Annotated Reader is a glimpse into ReUnion Network’s studies on the decentralization of institutionalized care relationships – the basis of our lives and society. ReUnion is a design prototype for a socio-economic ecosystem that helps people organize bottom-up social support systems. ReUnion proposes alternative value systems that forefront care as a common resource. This Reader is made by ReUnion’s Ethics of Care Researcher, Genevieve Costello. A dedicated explanation of ReUnion Network may be found in our paper, Commoning by P2P Care.
This reader is about the decentralization of the relations that maintain our everyday. Such systems of interrelations might be understood through terms such as family, kinship, care, basic social units, and social reproduction. Their forms vary across culture, class, ethnicity, gender, and time. This reader examines manifestations of the ideologies of care relations under particular conditions within western capitalist societies. We do not aim to make a survey, nor to propose unified descriptions or universalities, of arrangements of interrelations of care. Instead, our project, ReUnion Network, champions autonomously-determined and diverse structures of interrelations of care by providing them with technological infrastructure, social frameworks, and philosophical grounding. We acknowledge that there are relevant distinctions between decentralization and diffusion, or distribution; and, autonomous and cooperative, that we cannot address within the frames of this Reader. For the purposes of this text, we use these terms, although unique, to discuss our general interest to move away from the governed and institutionalized interrelations of care.
ReUnion works across three scales of relations: relationships with ourselves; relationships between people; and relationships between many relationships. While care relations greatly vary and are widespread, only limited types of care relations are officially recognized or supported in a majority of western capitalist societies. Care, as a basic resource, is largely sequestered to the informal sphere of domestic and/or romantic partnerships and the familial and/or one’s proximity-to-wage-labor. Otherwise, care is meted out to the severely insufficient supplementary formal market and state spheres. We mean insufficient here in terms of accessibility and perpetuation of poor cyclical conditions of outsourcing, depletion, and neglect of the need of care. Often, as well, these conditions of care are pitted against temporal extremes – lifelong and short-term frameworks – from which reverberations of various levels of security or insecurity may echo behind care actions and the organizational and intimate decisions made.
In the face of such scenes, ReUnion Networks explores an expansion upon the tight holds of the institutionalization of the interrelations of care. Moving away from institutionalized relationships requires that we evolve our conceptions of time, value, and work, amongst others. It also calls into question how we communicate and exchange and what, of our lives, is rendered meaningful. We ask how social formulations of our care relations can better encompass, be reflective of, the lived realities and various temporalities of care workers and their securities?
Our research exists in our lived experiences. As such, this Annotated Reader takes the form of a web page research zine. We have designed it as a processual taster of the piles of text that inevitably accumulate on our glass screens during the process of annotation. It is a bricolage of practical and personal writing, excerpts, and images. The textual annotation below links to pop-up windows of the visual annotations - scrapbooked markings, smartphone-scans, cuts, thinking-out-louds. Intentionally, none of the annotated content is provided as downloadable pieces. This is because they are not complete or in a finished form when independent of each other. Our annotations, in their original state, are realized only in their relationships between one another. Thus, we encourage our readers to make their own content captures and textual frames when they want to take the annotations for themselves, like tearing out a page of a magazine at a newspaper stand. Zoom in and shove around to find the back-of-mind thinking. Make new windows based on intensity of interest. Linger on compelling sentences, turn them into tiny boxes and wrench them to the side, continue reading and glance at the notations; maybe some will just get lost. Open up a bunch of windows at once, pair them up and against each other, screenshot them for keeps.
The Reader includes academic literature, short fiction, and pop psychology dealing with family structures, love, intimacy, free time, work, social formations, and care practices. It concludes with a Live Action Role Play (larp) game script about the motions that make our everyday life meaningful: a prompt for playful embodied experiences and an active exploration of the preceding ideas.
A Bibliography and link to unedited versions of the source texts may be found at the end of the Reader.
This Annotated Reader was created as part of the "Annotating, Institutions as a Way of Life" project, hosted by the Institute of Experimental Design and Media Cultures at the FHNW HGK, Basel.
Nancy Fraser_Contradictions of Capital and Care_New Left Review_2016 foregrounds the general territory in which ReUnion treads. Fraser offers a quick overview of the reproductive and productive gendered division of labor and some dominant ideological formulations of care relations in three periods of capitalism since the industrial revolution.
Fraser focuses on the locus of the traditional family, upon which social systems have been built for centuries, despite the contesting conditions of lived realities to achieve these familial formulations and whether or not they were desired. ReUnion’s proposal for the deinstitutionalization, and subsequent expansion of the support of more multifarious care relations, suggests a different direction from this troubled history and the effects of the institutional formulations of informal organization of care.
Fraser proposes that there is an inherent and contradictory tendency towards crisis of social reproduction within the system of capitalism, as manifested by the reliance upon and simultaneous disavowal of informal care labor. ReUnion directly addresses contemporary expressions of the crises of care – in an age of precarity, the gig economy, and hyperconnectivity – and responds with a non-accumulation-based, non-exploitative, ideological basis for the reformulation of the role of care and our social support systems. Continuing with Fraser’s proposals, we develop ideas that take account of one of the major forces that have affected and delegate how we take care and of whom – communication technologies.
As the design of mass communication progresses, specific attention needs to be paid to the figure of the user, who appears to be tethered to the user profile for social interfacing and sensation-fulfillment – a care-vessel of hyper individualization. A possible provocation to this could be drawing a parallel with the individual household as a site of the basic social unit, integrated into the economic system as a site for domestic consumption of mass-produced everyday objects. As Fraser describes, "Linking the assembly line with working-class familial consumerism, on the one hand, and with state-supported reproduction, on the other, this Fordist model forged a novel synthesis of marketization and social protection" (109).
Domestic ideals run high, as the interface to the community, and as a source of pride or shame – whether this be the inside of the house, or by domestic trails, such as clothes worn and packed lunches for school (or, failure to meet certain ideals of such). We might parallel these unrealistic, and unnecessary, models that implicate meaningfulness and a sense of identity, to the idealized and stylized windows of our personal lives via social media. Just as we interface via certain images of ourselves and others and thereby possibly have the sensation of togetherness, the mechanisms by which we do so are designed as isolated units of production/reproduction.
Yet, communication and social media have served in many ways to expand upon this realm of the domestic and private sphere – for example, by affording a partial anonymity to access communities that would have otherwise been difficult or impossible to achieve. On the other end, digital communication and social media are implicated as a default interface to community. The user-to-user(s) relational activities can invoke sensations of remote intimacy and create great stresses for continuously animating, producing, accumulating, connections. This can deplete energy and consume time that could otherwise be spent with less pressure, with ourselves, and with social connections that might more directly assist in the provisioning of care. A systemic redistribution of care in its infinite expressions, not for its accumulation – in aesthetic terms, this is the antonym of the commercial self-care movement.
Our social movements animate the sharing economy and data production on digital platforms built around individual users, whether or not the user has made a profile or is even aware of the platform. Produced data and collected data without reverence to a conscious decision of the correlating person together constitute a new social factory.
To this end, ReUnion tries to design ways to muddle up data collection, so that data translates as meaningful information to users but as indecipherable and non-patternable by machines; for more on this, see the section, ReUnion System Philosophy of our paper. Further texts that inspire our thinking on contemporary subjectivity and communication technologies are: Jodi Dean’s Communicative Capitalism & Class Struggle_Jodi Dean_Spheres Journal_2004; McKenzie Wark’s review of Yves Citton’s The Ecology of Attention, TL;DR: This Attention Economy Needs Work_Wark_review Citton_2017; Isabell Lorey’s State of Insecurity_Lorey_2015; and Federico Campagna’s Technic and Magic_Campagna_2018.
We dive into post work with Kathi Weeks_The Problem with Work_2011, as a continued Marxist feminist detailing of fundamental preceding historical narratives of the political struggles around social reproduction. Her book is beautiful, complex, and an absolute pleasure to read. Weeks explores how basic income might transform the subjectivity of the economic producer/consumer.
Weeks defines basic income via political philosopher and economist Philippe van Parijs as "an income paid unconditionally to individuals regardless of one’s family or household relationships, regardless of other incomes, and regardless of one’s past, present, or future employment status," thus rendering a social reciprocity as something not centered around work or specific types of relationships (Weeks, 138). For Weeks, basic income can be seen as a more up-to-date demand of those articulated by the International Wages for Housework Campaign in the 1970s. She outlines how basic income accounts for the effects of a post-Fordist economy and the ambiguities of labor and nonlabor. Weeks suggests that basic income for all detaches the individual and one’s value from one’s proximity to wage labor, including one’s personal relations, and thus the dethroning of the domination of the family. The inherent value of people in one’s diverse and incomparable abilities and experiences may predicate livelihoods. Through defiance of work culture, infinite temporalities, spheres, exchanges, and relations that contribute to the subsistence and flourishing of our lives may be liberated. In terms of ReUnion, we support the exploration of this possible liberation from the confines of the domination of (any type of) centralized social unit.
Additionally, ReUnion designs a self-contract that asks how one currently spends their time, what activities are a part of it, and how one feels about their relationship with themselves – just as all the other social contracts on the platform. ReUnion uses a constantly evolving self-contract as the base unit of the platform, rather than a user profile consisting of predetermined and outward-facing descriptors. As such, we hint at the possible detachment of users from: the hyper individualization of the sharing economy and gig economy; over-identification with predetermined roles of care relations; and the singularity and situatedness of experiences that need not “add up” or “fit into” the limited externally-determined narratives for their valorization and qualification for material support or ownership. Our small design restructures inform the entire social relation system around acquainting with the autonomous determination of our subjectivity, social lives, and social support systems. Hurrah!
Additionally, we share some informative pieces from Helen Hester & Nick Srnicek here. After Work: The Fight for Free Time_Hester & Srnicek_May 2019 is a nice listen from Jeremy Gilbert’s Culture Power Politics free seminar series in London; and their essay, The Crises of Social Reproduction and the End of Work_Hester & Srnicek_2018. We believe these works are leading into a book to come out in 2020, and they are representative of Hester and Srnicek’s aim to more strongly recognize the incredible role of social reproduction in the economy within the proposals of contemporary left-leaning political discourse. We appreciate Hester and Snricek's accessible, clean lines of argument and four spheres of demands: being open to automation; lowering domestic standards; rethinking architectures; and rethinking living and family arrangements.
Should anyone find these propositions compelling, we would draw their attention to McIntosh and Barrett_Anti-Social Family_1982 (with a worthwhile 1991 post-script) and Doroles Hayden’s Grand Domestic Revolution_Hayden_1981. The former is a poignant and often hilarious text that very much foregrounds Hester and Srnicek's demands (among others’). The latter draws a feminist history of rethinking social and physical architectures in America since the 19th century, indicating the radical and practical experiments and pre-computational designs by demands of changing the designs of social reproduction under capitalism.
If we want to situate ReUnion within these contemporary discourses, we can most immediately identify our approach as involving the use of technology to rethink living and family arrangements, but also, through the foregrounding of care as a resource, the effort to establish a non-central-power as high-sanctioner of our social contracts and investments, through which care pulsates.
Amidst the nation-state conceptions of our above references, a provocative text for us has been theorist Kojin Karatani’s The Structure of World History_Kojin Karatani_2014, in which he provides a history of societal organizations through their modalities of exchange rather than modes of production, with the direct aim of thinking beyond the capital-nation-state system.
We include selections of Karatani’s distinctions within mode of exchange A – gift/countergift. These distinctions concern pooling and reciprocity, associated with a gift economy, but also with the former being the mode of exchange within, internal to, small (kin) groups or nomadic bands, and the latter being an outward expression between distinct groups or clans. Karatani suggests that societies in which gift/countergift is the dominating mode of exchange there is an absence of centralized power. This sparked some of our early thinking around the decentralized distribution, without the intention for accumulation, based on needs by the intimate engagements of people, within freely-movable interrelations, and without hurting the access to care within the community.
In his Closing chapter, Karatani makes a proposal for the mode of exchange D, which is a mixture of a return to mode of exchange A – reciprocity, but “in a higher dimension.” For a brief explanation on where Karatani finds some short-lived historical inspirations for mode D, created by colonialists, such as in “Ionia from the seventh to the sixth centuries BCE, or Iceland from the tenth through the twelfth centuries CE,” see page xxi.
Influenced by Immanuel Kant’s world republic, mode D, does not actually exist and Karatani suggests it as something to work towards with the aim of transcending the domination of the other modes. His descriptions of possible situations of pooling that are connected to, but not limited to, nomadic groups as informing social orchestration is compelling, considering some of the complicated sites in which such pooling occurs today. It points to how and where they may or may not exist as an experience and care-action in contemporary life.
While not constituting a world republic (yet!), there are many actively practicing experimental groups organizing with aims for radical cooperativity, which prioritize diffusion of power and non-rivalrous relations.
As we continue in our explorations of different approaches to social organization and relationality, we share Jorge Luis Borges_The Lottery in Babylon_1941/(1962_eng), a short fiction piece about a society in which chance rules and roles are not maintained throughout social life.
This enables us to consider a world in which one’s ability to accept an ever-changing social position and role is the center of your game (life) experience, despite it being left wholly to chance as your actions are futile in relation to building or securing a future. Because the game is wholly non-logical, can it be competitive?
In Borges’ world, generalized chance applies to all lottery players, making it impossible for life patterns to evolve, impossible for identities in roles to be built upon and solidified. This chaos can be understood as the dissolution of free will and individual power. In the context of ReUnion, this ultimate chance applied to all, underscores that in all exchanges, relationships, there is not equality in power or experience. Instead of the accumulation of power, and thus a hardening of systems that result in the exploiting of the inequalities of being, instead of hoarding and making rigid power structures, types or amounts of power, in social systems and roles – how can we define ourselves as people with agency that move in and out of different states and scenes? How can we assume and leave positions and experiences, while remaining accountable? What renders people capable of handling impermanence?
We have some initial explorations with these questions in mind, and specifically related to intertwining them with approaches to cooperation, through the vehicle of Nordic Live Action Role Play (larp) methodologies and fundamentals, in The Golden Rule of LARP (Live Action Role Play)_Simo Järvelä_States of Play_2012.
Larp, is a collaborative form of play, in which an agreed-upon narrative (ranging from clear to abstract), is co-created by players, similar to improvisational theatre, but importantly, without an audience. LARP creates a space in which a distinct type of presence and awareness is possible and a distinct set of skills is necessary and practiced. In LARP, we can experience additional subjectivities including gaining the opportunity to play out and understand the complexities of the one we inhabit, in a space where nothing is irresolvable because everything is possible – can be built between the invisible walls of co-constructed, non-competitive play. All of this is dependent on how the game is entered – this often takes significant workshopping, in which players are taught everything needed to know to enter into this space.
The golden rule of larp points to an underlying necessity of how to approach, to enact, affirmative consent, negotiation, and active presence. This is not unlike the liminal spaces ReUnion aims to inspire in the peer-to-peer relationship-contracts and their care activities.
Where we might not all want to enter into game play, it can still be useful to pay attention to how our orientations may become troddened in social prescriptions or simply everyday patterns of movements. Our awareness, attentiveness, and keen execution is less required, in sites and experiences that have regulated prescriptions, or simply familiar, of forms and behaviors. We don’t find it a coincidence the current popularity of being present and surge for mindfulness in pop culture, and the need for being more aware of how our actions are given to and received by others (just one example, #metoo). With this in mind, we share another little listen, Parenting: Philippa Perry_13 March 2019, from the beloved Woman’s Hour BBC Radio 4, with some other golden rules that are relatable in our day to day orientations that are delightfully refreshing.
Likewise, time and again we have returned to The Dance of Intimacy_Harriet Lerner_1989, which gets into some irresolvable intricacies of care, love, and subjectivity. A friend's spiritual guide named Red Bear once advised Genevieve and an old romantic partner to read it before moving together at age 22. While certainly dated and sometimes-cringy due its self-help genre, we like Lerner as a reference because she raises the complexities in interrelations in culture, familial, and personal dynamics and moves between ambiguities and their tensions that we all encounter in “this business of navigating separateness (the “I”) and connectedness (the “we”)”. These include points that span ReUnion’s three levels of interrelations, such as autonomy and togetherness, and the extremities that we act out because we cannot see the paths for change, or because they are too slow, or because we can’t be heard or can’t understand, or because we can’t find a starting string in the intertwinement of problems. While Lerner’s text outrightly points to the grotesque of our gendered history, ReUnion tries to work from the fact that reproductive labor touches everybody.
Within ReUnion, we also encounter the question of what a healthy self is, what is wellbeing, as we believe that the resiliency of an individual’s psyche is a fundamental element in creating a sustainable and meaningful commons of care, yet the categorization or guidance towards such a self is not something that we believe can nor should be crystalized. How, then, do we foster care as a common resource?
ReUnion starts by envisioning an environment for which there is space to always reassure the space between the site of oneself and everything else – such as, the roles we play in our relationships, the care activities we perform. This is one reason why our basic design and data units are a contract with oneself, rather than a user profile. We do so to draw strong lines to awareness of the actions that one takes – things that are determinable; things that are changeable (describing the scenes in which they occur and informing them, not assuming them); and, centering within common conditions, from which the unique (the previous two points), stem and intersect.
Some guiding propositions are that every body needs care, that we are all interdependent, that vulnerability (this interdependency) is not a weakness, and that common conditions do not implicate equal experience of a condition. “What is connective is not a pre-existing common good to which one could have recourse; instead it is something that is only engendered in political and social agency” (Lorey, 19). Isabell Lorey proposes three dimensions of the precarious: precariousness, precarity, and governmental precarization, in terms of security and vulnerability. These notions help situate ReUnion’s grasps into thorny grounds, with hopes to pull up the connective tissue – needing care, vulnerability, inequality in flux – within the crises-creating and collectively-occupied socio-political territories. Lorey’s text provokes us to consider the tools we have that could support the reorganization of resources to additively engender our political and social agency – through modalities of actions – to steward common wellbeing.
In her classic care text Tronto_Moral Boundaries_1993, political scientist Joan Tronto provides an overview of an ethics of care. Tronto commences with a critique of psychologist Carol Gilligan’s fundamental work on the ethics of care in the early 80s, and then moves on to determine her own approachable outlines of care for its revauling by society.
Tronto defines care as a practice with four stages: caring about (noticing the need for the care in the first place); taking care of (assuming responsibility for care); care giving (the actual work of care that needs to be done); and care receiving (the response of that which is cared for to the carer). From these four elements of care arise four further ethical qualities of care: attentiveness, responsibility, competence, and responsiveness. Crucially, Tronto later adds a fifth element of care: caring with, emblematic of caring being a democratic practice and a political issue.
We argue that, at least conceptually, caring with circumvents the other stages, and implicates care as a collective obligation. The collective political obligation of care challenges care stagnantly residing within prescribed identity roles of care that slide between productive and reproductive spheres and between the roles of our intimate and professional relations, all of which only contribute to the accumulation of care in a commodity-exchange economy.
Instead caring with is a civic – person to person – a horizontal and diffuse – responsibility that demands that people are enabled to conduct the full spectrum of the stages of care. Thus, ReUnion starts with care as a commons to expand upon these enclosed normative spheres and groups of care-provisioning. Care as a commons informs an interrelational, ongoing, collectively-determined socio-economic system. All humans have needs that others must help them meet. We are, inherently, interdependent and interrelated.
In the ReUnion System, creating a contract with another is a symbolic recognition of our shared condition of vulnerability, as a rally for radical relationality. In making a contract, non-circulatory personal tokens come together to mint the circulatable composite coin. This composite coin can enter into the ReUnion ecosystem with a fiat-money value only after it has been recognized as emblematic of the common condition of vulnerability of ourselves and the other. Yet, we are not defined by these conditions. This action is intricate, and is a practice, an orientation, a disposition, and work. Not all are contingent upon one another, and are differently tangible – care is evasive, visible, and invisible.
Via an Email Exchange_Aiwen & Genevieve_2019 between ReUnion initiator, Aiwen Yin and Genevieve, we entered a land of exchange types, value, and different approaches to social resources – i.e. the skirting around a (care) economy and ReUnion’s challenges with the bind of existing within a monetary economy. How to approach cultivating care as our common resource – as an ecology first, not economy – about non-quantification of exchange in reality and in speculative design.
We have already encountered these concerns to some extent via Fraser, Weeks, Hester and Srnicek; and will shortly reencounter them by way of Silvia Federici. ReUnion wants to create a system for an inclusive account of the variety and number of care relations that people build for themselves for one’s everyday and long-term wellbeing – we do not condemn any preferred forms of relations of individuals. We do condemn the domination of any form that thus inhibits others. We believe that there should not be mandated forms as solely valued and supported in society, and that society should support individuals to develop and change one’s relational accounts and exchanges according to one’s unique conditions of life. ReUnion wants to inspire better valorization of, not quantification of, care relations and interchanges. We are experimenting with different ways of connecting such relations with social resources as they exist now, as a response to resist the tendencies of monetization, exploitation, enslavement, and abuse of care as experienced in the dominating social systems today.
We share this Gmail illustration as a token of how many of our transcontinental conversations unfolded in 2019, trying to share our experiences, ideas, and wrangle them into our first project paper.
As we all have the need for care, and most of us have the capacity to learn the skills to enact and foster such, ReUnion approaches care as a common resource. Care is a resource which people orchestrate and manage with shared values, rules, and negotiations, as much as the particular types of orchestration and management – i.e., systems and institutions, social forms – themselves shape and change the value of care as a resource. In the hegemonic orchestration of capitalism, stages of care have been divided up, individualized, and privatized, with the aim of achieving the socio-economic ends of the accumulation of a workforce for capital gain. The re-commoning (rewilding?!) of care is a political double-act of decentralization and revaluing.
The following readings concern value(s) of care, a commons-based economy, and how social structures can be organized differently based on exchange beyond the market. ReUnion underscores descriptions of the qualities of exchange in intimate-personal spheres, ones not related to reciprocity or transaction.
The two extracts from Yanis Varoufakis’ text, Talking to my Daughter about the Economy (embarrassing? but pleasant)_Yanis Varoufakis_2017, are illustrative of the situated and intertwined zones of care with love and/or intimacy (echoing back to Lerner and Karatani here). They are a gentle story of Varoufakis’ grandpa describing a micro economy based on the value of cigarettes during war; and a mini-scene of affective exchange within a familial kitchen.
We include Value in the Commons Economy_Bauwens, Niaros_2017 & Toward a Synthetic Theory for P2P Alter globalization_ Jose Ramos; Michel Bauwens; Vasili Kostakis_2017 to offer propositions of commons-based peer-to-peer production as a grounding for social and economic reorganisation. These texts suggest the requirement of a partner state (which has only a limited formulation thus far) – but ultimately the authors stress the absolute necessity of the dissolution of the state, in order to make non-capitalist accounts of value, time, labor, and society, which is arguably impossible within the nation-state-capital tripartite.
These texts would be ideally read in parallel with Caliban & the Witch_Silvia Federici_1998 (and Kojin Karatani’s The Structure of World History_Kojin Karatani_2014), as Marxist feminst Silvia Federici provides a critical historical narrative of the inscription of the female, peripheral peoples and slaves, bodies as elemental to the primitive accumulation period of capitalism.
Expanding upon Marx's theory of primitive accumulation, by which the processes of expropriation and dispossession of commoners separated people from their means of production (commencing in the 1500s), Federici argues that the gendered division of labor, both productive and reproductive, is implicit in this major shift from a subsistence economy to a wage-labor economy (Federici, 102,74). She describes an unwaged, devalued, depoliticized, and privatized informal economy taking shape within the institution of the domestic household or family, to support the formal economy. Trust, security, and love, have been rendered invisible within this presiding socio-economic formation.
Federici shares two cases of the transformation of the individual and social life. The first are vagabonds – de-socialized, outcast, and illegitimate bodies that refuse a relationship to wage-labor within the shift from feudal society. It becomes a crime to be a non-working body in the terms prescribed by the ruling class (and it was much more difficult for vagabond woman due to the attendant dangers of pregnancy, children, physical abuse, and rape). The second case is the small section about the French Jesuits trying to set up a fur trade with the Montagnais-Naskapi in Canada (110). To do so, they instilled the concept of private ownership of people into the men of the tribes – that is, the private ownership of specific women and children. Previously, every person was understood as a free being within the tribe, under the care of everyone.
This allows us to address another underlying tension in ReUnion: the dimension of long-term relations, as linked to legitimacy and ownership. Within often life-long temporal framing, practices, patterns, and positions can tend to crystallize. Within such parameters, depth, trust, familiarity, and intimacy, as resilient features may manifest. These can come to contrast against intense, impermanent or less-long-term experiences and scenes, possibly repetitive yet at random, over periods and episodes of life.
We collide with these two extremes, because we are promoting long-term relationships that are difficult in today's globalized world and using digital communication technology which can easily be biased towards short-form exchange for immediate gain. However, by making social investments from the site of care, the ReUnion ecosystem helps to build social value in non-extreme, non-pressurized conditions without temporal frames. In doing so, we aim to move away from life long inflictions and challenge the short-term transactional exchanges of the sharing and gig economies and recognize social value in an array of temporal manifestations of relationships.
While the digital commons are constantly enclosed, as Lorey says: "[it is] especially because precarious knowledge workers act in the presence of others, they are not only more individualized to an extreme degree, but are also part of the production of new socialities." (105). Lorey describes how, "in the post-Fordist conditions of precarious production, new forms of living and new social relationships are continually being developed and invented. In this sense, processes of precaritization are also productive" (104). Adding to this, we might consider sensations of revolt, exodus, and constituting – being able to live as expression of a divergent life, within civic practice. In other words, the disobedience we are interested in includes possibly taking advantage of certain aptitudes that are nurtured by the conditions of survival in communicative capitalism.
Communication technologies are sites of different experiences of the long-term, where movements oscillate between proximity of physical and non-physical locality and of finding commonalities and sharing spaces where you are searching for a grounding, alone or with others. Networks are not lost through digital communications, and new intimacies, and values, are fostered.
Cultures of Intimacy & Care Beyond the Family_Sasha Roseneil & Shelley Budgeon_2004 illustrates a study of people whose livelihoods are constructed in friendship relations rather than romantic partner relations. It should be noted that these are referred to as “individualized” existences, that legally, without a romantic partner, adults are rendered in their civic life as singular units. We include this text for the simple reason that these kinds of structures are still not very common, nor visible, nor depicted as positive alternative social formations.
ReUnion hopes to boost the accessibility of such alternative livelihoods by normalizing social investments in self-determined relationship types, being open to what roles friends, romantic relations, and chosen-familial relations can play in life-building. As well, we aim to practically support bespoke social formulations by providing modular and flexible contracts that users and state-led social welfare can consecrate through financial and legal co-investments, such as occurs in our contact-stage 3, in which, through social validation of the relation within the network, a funding body can provide financial support as tokens. For more on this, see the Welfare for the Commons section of the ReUnion paper.
The text Nordic Style Larps in Other Traditions_Larp Design_Brown & Skirpan_2019 provides an overview of the non-competitive and cooperative play qualities of Nordic larp, compiled by competitive larpers from various larp cultures. The how-to qualities and descriptions of this short text are reminiscent of some cultural comparisons between interrelations of communicative capitalism/globalization (competitive, individualization, institutionalization in vertical hierarchy and horizontally parochially) to interrelations grounded in an ethics of care.
Crucially, no situation is prescribed and ongoing revisions of consent and negotiation – the mechanics through which players must learn in workshop before play – are particularly important when larpers from different play-styles engage. Qualities of Nordic larp are interconnectedness and a relational approach, acknowledging participants are all involved together, i.e., others are not a threat to your being. This is distinct from a morally judgemental approach of autonomous individuals who are judged as either right or wrong, against each other. The text articulates qualities of empowering skills and agency of each player to determine their own story that is simultaneously, non-competitively, determined with their co-players.
For the most part anyone playing in a larp is someone who chose to be there, thus making this text not exactly immediately transferable to situations that one did not enter into wanting explicitly to change (although we do presume that the people/institutions that choose to use ReUnion are interested in changing their forms of care). Still, we believe this text can be helpful when we seek to empower people in trusting and building upon their skills for co-creating (peer-to-peer) care relation systems and transcending an ethics of care into practice.
Data Wilding_Costello_Summer 2018 is a short fictional text written by Genevieve before she knew about ReUnion – upon rereading, it feels like seeds of our engagement had already grown in an alternative universe. It takes us back to a moment when our research and personal experiences with technological collective care structures were brought together. In having moved around a bit, the relations by which we subsist and the sites and styles of their stewardship have been intensely shaped and developed by technological means, as well as mutating in ways that are not well-represented in examples encountered in/by my non-chosen education/family or pop culture imagery. With this backgrounding, we were concerned with the parameters that we could control to more effectively support conditions of life and where and what we steward – where do we place our concern. We considered the practical sites and peoples upon which we relied in our long-term and short-term movements.
ReUnion, in an ideal world, might help to adjust such movements away from contemporary nomadism, devastations of unchosen displacements, and intermediary states, by inspiration of the mesh network, a local network that is maintained by multiple adjacent nodes (i.e. bridges, switches, and other infrastructure devices), which connect and exchange directly, dynamically, and non-hierarchically. Importantly, if one or several nodes go offline, the local network does not cease to function. The network will immediately redistribute the data and exchanges among the remaining nodes – or, in ReUnion, long-term caring relationships.
Finally, we are delighted to share a larp script, Strangers_LARP_Script_Essendrop_to play_you should run this, by the magical larp designer and artist Nina Runa Essendrop. Essendrop's script includes all the directions needed to run and play the larp. This larp can help manifest a unique, temporary, co-constructed space and time and embodiment(zone), shared with people who may very well be strangers. An intersectional site of embodied observation, situated embeddedness, with a vantage of at least the three relational scenes that ReUnion spans. The larp is about learning from others, and observing ourselves as we become forced to become strangers or have our world changed by them. It is about migration and community, difference and response.
Nina, the namesake of the ‘the Nina method’ in the larping world, is a very special person. Genevieve was fortunate to have met her at the beginning of her larp experiences, just briefly, before being instructed to blindfold herself and lay her head against a mattress in a small room with the windows sealed up amongst seven other strangers. No words were to be spoken as Nina led us through a series of making soundscapes together, with our bodies or mouths, and workshops for learning how to touch one another, how to read our physical and imagined environments. All players remained unknown to each other as Nina periodically paired us up, experienced wicked tragedy and learned of new islands for inhabitance. It was an incredibly immersive experience; one which permitted an unforgettable lesson in co-creating and trusting and arriving at an ultimate state of vulnerability.
While this ‘immersive reality’ play might seem a far cry from a technology-driven contract-making design system, it is such learnings of perceptions, with and by proximate others, and acting on them always through our interrelations as the premise for our liminal, world-systems, that the ReUnion system – and possibly any form of decentralizing power – depends upon.
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