During the COVID 19 pandemic the internet became our supermarket, our school, our gym, our club, our cafe. And Big Tech reaped the benefits of this. While restaurants closed their doors and cultural programming halted to a standstill, the wealth and power of tech billionaires only grew. In the last year, the five tech superpowers—Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook—had combined revenue of more than $1.2 trillion. What effects will this increasing saturation of online advertising, infiltrating our work, social, and educational spaces, have on our mental health?
At the beginning of the pandemic, writer and social activist Naomi Klein introduced the concept of the ‘Screen New Deal’ (a pandemic shock doctrine)—arguing that many of the concerns that were emerging about Big Tech, and its ceaseless infiltration into all spheres of life (education, transportation, health) were being swept under the rug. The technological and integrated futures these companies were trying to sell us were being re-sold under the branding that they will help us live a pandemic-proof, no-touch, life. Klein writes that “It’s a future in which our every move, our every word, our every relationship is trackable, traceable and data-mineable by unprecedented collaborations between government and tech giants.” But now, more than a year later and with most of the pandemic uncertainties behind us, how have we changed how we interact with digital technologies and what personal information are we willing to give away in the name of public health and safety?
In this end of the year event, we’ll look back and reflect on the pandemic and how it accelerated our entanglement with, and deep reliance on, Big Tech. The pandemic accelerated many societal shifts, but what impact did it have on the monopolisation of Big Tech? How have our learning environments and understanding of education shifted? How does the corona app and sharing our private health information publicly impact how we move through our environments and engage in society? And how has our increasing dependence on social media for our social interactions impacted mental health? We’ve invited three speakers with whom we’ll start to untangle and explore these questions. Join us at Felix Meritis in Amsterdam, or online!
NEW COVID-19 REGULATIONS
Because of the new COVID-19 regulations this edition of The Hmm ON will take place online. Please take note that it is not possible to attend this event live. Felix Meritis has contacted everyone who purchased a ticket. If you have any further questions please contact Info@felixmeritis.nl
Reijer is a postdoctoral researcher based at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, whose current research project investigates the growing footprint of tech companies in the financial centers of the Benelux. He’ll be joining us to talk about the concept of Big Techification: What is it and why should we care? He’ll be taking us into the history and geography of ‘Big Techification’ and the entanglements between COVID and the ‘Big Techification’ of education.
During the pandemic, our reliance on social media increased. Roze Meike is a queer, Dutch and Guinean visual artist and photographer who takes inspiration from their own lived experiences. They love to research Afrofuturism, rest as resistance, Blackness in online spaces and ways of decolonizing art institutions. They’ll be joining us to speak about the impact of social media on our mental health, self image, and ability to rest—discussing how our connections with others have changed and the ways we can heal from social media and imagine new worlds.
How have our relations to data privacy shifted during the pandemic? Dr. Melanie Rieback is the CEO and Co-founder of Radically Open Security, the world’s first non-profit computer security consultancy company. The company was contracted by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport to peer-review the Dutch cryptographic framework and perform a code review on the CoronaMelder back-end code. Melanie will be joining us to talk about their work on the CoronaMelder app and the technical and ethical trade-offs of contact tracing apps and the ‘corona passport’.