In the UK, we are heading into phase one of re-opening. We have a four-week wait to see if we can open up some more. In short, there is hope in the air.
Hope feels like a key theme of the last 12 months; hope we would change, hope we would come together, hope we would be better. But how much of this really happened? We’ll have a better idea soon, as we are currently working on our annual Changemaker Report. 👀
But in the meantime, a recent New York Times investigation explored how much fashion has ‘changed’. Last year amidst Black Lives Matter, the fashion industry promised more diversity. A year on, NYT looked into concrete numbers for who is making fashion, selling fashion and representing fashion. What they found isn’t surprising, but, hell, it made me mad.
“Five top designer jobs have come up since the summer. Four went to white men….What we’ve seen is fashion’s version of affirmative action.”
So for everyone reading this, think about your sphere of influence. Consider what your role is in Changemaking. Ask why the brand you work for ran an International Women’s Day campaign if your female factory workers aren’t unionised or paid a living wage. If you don’t know if they are: find out. Outside of your corporate Pride campaigns, ask what your company is doing to support LGBTQIA+ communities. Ask yourself how you are decolonising your industry.
It is about being in action - not just in hope. Blind optimism is stasis. We don’t have that luxury. Individually, we must do better than the generations before us, and collectively, we must use our influence to tip each other towards the future we know we want.
In this weekly ‘thing,’ we share what we are thinking about and reading and what we are learning.
I recently wrote an article on NFT’s and `zero-touch cultural products’ for the wonderful Screen Shot and why we see it as an area to watch (free code - THEAKINFRIEND). As I have continued to explore it, I have also uncovered more about its potential future and uses. Therefore something in the fervour of NFTs I must highlight is the darker side of the cryptocurrency world.
Everest Pipkin sees the recent boom in NFT creation as a “kind of gleeful wastefulness is, and I am not being hyperbolic, a crime against humanity.”
A recent study out of the University of New Mexico estimated that in 2018 “every $1 of Bitcoin value was responsible for $0.49 in health and climate damages in the US”, costs that are borne by those who majority never see any return from cryptocurrency mining whatsoever.
Why we should care:
It sounds like the beginning of an imperialism/ colonial story all over again. And it seems for the foreseeable future, the method that’s used to verify the blockchain and to create new digital coins is deliberately energy-intensive and inefficient. cryptoart.wtf - lets you see the energy cost of any NFT currently.
One of my personal biggest fears around this topic is around ‘growth’. NFTs could have been a new schema to create new ways of defining value systems. Suppose the only way value can increase depends on scarcity and ever more users joining the network and continuing to mine and use resources. In that case, it seems we haven’t learnt anything. This currency will never be ecologically just. Instead, it will fulfil old prophecies.
So, we are still excited to see where the world of NFT’s will take us, but we also have to learn from our mistakes in the past of jumping onto technologies without any vision of our desired future. Finger crossed that soon we’ll have projects to share that align with the feminist economy or doughnut economics, giving us real hope!
The history of technology is littered with cautionary tales of what goes wrong when tools yield superficial convenience with no real human nature. E-mail in the age of Covid is arguably one of the most anxiety-inducing communication tools, and according to the New Yorker, it is making us miserable. “The longer one spends on email in [a given] hour, the higher is one’s stress for that hour,” Their recommendation? “All organisations make a concerted effort to cut down on email traffic.” Yes, I realise the irony of this being shared with you in an email...
Ready for another new social media app that is trying to destroy the oligopolies. Meet Dispo, an app that wants its users to “live in the moment.” Created by Gen Z YouTube celeb David Dobrik, Dispo is designed to operate like a disposable camera. The app has no homepage and no camera roll. Dispo allows users to take pics, but they have to wait for them to “develop” the next day, thus encouraging them to get back to experiencing the moment they are in. The app also allows for creative collaboration with friends based on shared interests.
Heard about Ideamarket? Well, according to them, it is “an attention prioritisation engine” pursuing “a perpetual bounty on improving common knowledge" by offering “an invitation to seek out obscure geniuses and usher them into the light.” Yes, you are correct in asking, what the fuck does that mean? Essentially, it is a stock market for Twitter accounts, and people have already spent $1 million on it. Read more about it on VICE.
The concept of influence is a much-explored topic, but the most fascinating and terrifying part is how space gets culty quickly. “Our new belief system is a blend of left-wing political orthodoxy, intersectional feminism, self-optimization, therapy, wellness, astrology and Dolly Parton….And we’ve found a different kind of clergy: personal growth influencers.” An excellent NY Times opinion piece deep dives into the ‘Empty religions of Instagram’. In large swathes, the Televangelists of the ’90s have mutated to Instavangelist. These new leaders aren’t religious preachers but are Brené Brown’s (3.3 million followers) and Gwyneth Paltrow (7.5 million followers, the neo-religious leaders of our era. Seriously, read it!
Next up a set of schemes that we are very excited about, city-led agriculture initiatives aim to combat food insecurity and eliminate food deserts by giving consumers a direct line to locally grown produce. One of which is in the Atlanta free food forest. The edible landscape will provide Atlanta residents with pesticide-free nuts, fruits, vegetables, herbs, and mushrooms. It is part of the city’s larger mission to bring healthy food within half a mile of 85% of its 500,000 residents by 2022. Over the last twelve months, as borders close and supply chains became more complicated, the west has gained a new perspective around the risk of food insecurity (sadly something the global south face daily) and urban agriculture initiatives like these show how we can democratise access to fresh produce.
A joyful project to shout about is from The Obsidian Experience. A group of forward-thinking creatives is mining the richness of the past and present to create a vision for a Black future through interior design. The Virtual concept house imagines Black domestic experiences in 2025, which consider the possibilities that can emerge when Black families can take up space.
Until next week, stay positive and testing negative.