Digitalisation has changed every single domain of our lives. Still, when we think of the digital world, we tend to think of smartphones, MacBooks, and slick apps. So shiny! Or Google, Amazon, Facebook, Skype: so convenient! interconnected! in real time! Digitalisation has helped us defy the boundaries of space, time and self. Very cool indeed.
But behind every shiny interface there's the backend. Algorithms you do not see. A set of rules that defines a whole architecture of power, which often and for many reasons is deliberately kept obscure. And on top of that, there is a "global backend" that we chose to ignore: digital waste dumps in Africa, and devastating working conditions for people assembling our devices in Asia, or lately Latin America, among others.
Digital technologies solve problems, they create problems, and we use them to address the situations they created. No matter whether you focus on utopian or dystopian scenarios: that everything is linked to data-driven technologies today – work, politics, the economy, the environment, social relations – is nothing short of a paradigm shift. This does not mean that we don't have a say in it.
Estonia is a frontrunner in this digital world, especially in the political sphere. E-governance, e-residency and the whole idea of the e-state is sold as a model for all states fit for the future – well aware of the fact that at this point in history, this is an e-journey into the unknown. How will it change our understanding of democracy, if countries are run like start-ups, states understood as services, citizens addressed as users? Who writes the terms and conditions? What architectures of power are being built? Who has agency, who profits, who cares?
The artists and thinkers of this interdisciplinary symposium will address these questions and more: exploring the local and global histories of the state we're in, applying their creative imagination to visualize where the journey might take us. "Us" being the key word here – because after a decade of selfies, it is time to focus on our relationship to others, including nature and machines. Here are two days to rethink and envision models of community, agency and care in the digital sphere.