The Digital Periphery: Technology, Migration and Racial Capitalism
Anti Dystopians #8 with Matt Mahmoudi
Wow, have we got an episode for you! This week, I talked to Dr. Matt Mahmoudi who just completed (~2 weeks ago!) his PhD in Development Studies at Cambridge University as a Jo Cox scholar in Refugee and Migration Studies.
We talked about his research into how technology is affecting migrant and refugee communities in New York City and Berlin, how seemingly innocuous technology, like free WiFi kiosks, can become de facto digital borders, what racial capitalism can tell us about Shoshana Zuboff’s “surveillance capitalism” (and if it’s really a “perversion” of capitalism), and if a decolonial neo-Luddite approach to tech is possible. Plus, why New York City should ban police use of facial recognition scan.
Meme of the Week
Mentioned in This Week’s Podcast
A post by Matt on his research in The Sociological Review, Race in the Digital Periphery: The New (Old) Politics of Refugee Representation
Notes Towards a Neo-Luddite Manifesto by Chellis Glendinning (is Neo-Luddite your favorite academic term now too?)
Do you know that in the mid-1800s, a prospective emigrant from Germany had to inter-alia, “fill out elaborate forms, relinquish his citizenship . . . [and] be officially informed that he was being foolish.” Sounds a bit like trying to cancel a subscription to the New York Times, TBH.
Utopia for Realists by Rutger Bregman—by the way, if you haven’t watched the video of Rutger Bregman making Fox News host Tucker Carlson have a meltdown, you should. The relevant section in his book about open borders:
“Sure, we still have a few trade barriers. In Europe, for example, we have tariffs on chewing gum (€1.20 per kilo) and the U.S. taxes imported live goats ($0.68 a head), but if we scrapped such barriers, the global economy would grow only a few percentage points. According to the International Monetary Fund, lifting the remaining restrictions on capital would free up at most $65 billion. Pocket change, according to Harvard economist Lant Pritchett. Opening borders to labor would boost wealth by much more – one thousand times more. In numbers: $65,000,000,000,000. In words: sixty-five trillion dollars. . . . Four different studies have shown that, depending on the level of movement in the global labor market, the estimated growth in “gross worldwide product” would be in the range of 67% to 147%. Effectively, open borders would make the whole world twice as rich.”
-Bregman, Rutger. Utopia for Realists (pp. 216-217). Bloomsbury Publishing.
We Have Been Harmonized: Life in China’s Surveillance State (review by John Naughton)
The Subprime Attention Crisis by Tim Hwang (review by me!)
Previous Anti-Dystopians podcast with Stefanie Felsberger on gender, colonization and the limits of surveillance capitalism
More information about Matt’s day job with Amnesty’s campaign to #BanTheScan
What I’ve Been Reading
No one likes to hear I told you so—but if you’ve heard me rage about the insecurity of all of our critical infrastructure and also anything connected to the internet, then the remote hacking of a Florida city water treatment plant that attempted to raise chemicals to toxic levels should keep you up at night.
Someone who did more than rant about the vulnerability of critical infrastructure was Nicole Perlroth, whose book “This is How They Tell Me The World Ends” about exactly this type of critical cyber vulnerability came out this week. (She sees the irony.)
And if you want to hear another Alina-rant about how you should never, ever buy a car that connects to WiFi, here’s a CYBER podcast about How a Hacker Tracked Thousands of Cars and Gained the Ability To Kill Their Engines.
In more “tech’s destruction of labor laws will make you furious” news, a DoorDash Driver's Van Was Stolen With His Two Kids Inside because gig workers are forced into these kinds of impossible situations due to not having access to things like child care. Plus, while all eyes are (rightly) on Amazon warehouse employees in Alabama’s attempts to unionize, Lauren Gurley talks about Amazon delivery drivers’ conditions (also very bad).
Jeff Bezos didn’t step down so much as he stepped aside and behind the throne of Amazon’s new CEO Andy Jassy. (I suspect Bezos just didn’t want to have to testify in front of Congress or deal with anti-trust laws anymore.) My thread on what changes with new Amazonian leadership. Tl;dr: very little, but Jeff may have more time for space adventures.
Interesting article about the theological implications of AI — can a robot pray?
And in some “satire, but is it though?” news, the Stanford Flipside reports “SEC realizes that entirety of Stanford University is and elaborate, multi-tiered marketing pyramid scheme”
We Want to Hear From You!
If you have any good books or long reads about crypto-currency—or about the history of currency and non-state actors—send them my way. Additionally, if you have any recommendations or ideas for topics we should cover or folks we should interview, please get in touch to let us know.