Behind the Scenes

Tech Issue Out Now!

October 29th, 2014     by Sheila Sampath     Issue 27: Issue 27: The Tech Issue     Comments

Illustration: Erin McPhee

(To order a copy of the tech issue, click here)

While I’m almost always tethered to some sort of device — a smart phone or a computer — and almost always connected to global, national and community news, I have to admit that keeping up with the world of tech isn’t really my thing.

I’ve tried, I really have, but everything I read (especially in the past little while) manages to really bring me down. There was the public shaming and on- and off-line harassment of game developer Zoe Quinn — a mob-like attack stemming from some of the most personal details of her life; there was the digital sex crime in the form of stolen celebrity nude photos, including those of Jill Scott, Rihanna, Selena Gomez and Jennifer Lawrence; and I’m not sure if any of us will ever feel safe on Facebook again after we found out about that time they experimented with our feelings — without informed consent.

It seemed like every time I learned something new about the tech world, I wished I hadn’t. Takeaway lessons? Humanity is over. Nothing is safe. We are being controlled by ubiquitous super-villains. Give up now. Build a bunker. Hide forever.

As I write this, there are are protests in the streets of Hong Kong. Thousands of protestors, holding umbrellas (both a symbolic and pragmatic object of resistance to tear gas and militant police tactics), are taking to the streets in pro-democracy actions. While the volume of cell phone activity has put a strain on 3G technology for communication, protestors have shifted to a creative use of bluetooth transmission, challenging the dependency on a strained system which could, in theory, also be cut off or limited to muzzle dissent and collective action.

This is just one example, but it offers a counter-narrative to what’s been informing my (admittedly cynical) relationship with technology. This is tech, like those other things are tech, but this is tech-as-resistance, as community-building, as a way of dismantling and re-defining our boundaries and connections to one another. For every oppressive technology is there to highlight, there is a hack, a resistance.

And that’s the sprit with which we assembled this issue of Shameless. In it, we unpack the hack (p.8), discuss the role of technology in community building (p. 18) and explore Afrofuturism (p.15 and p.46). We talk smartphones (p.10), sexting (p.12) and selfies (p.13). And we get to know some of the groups and individuals who are using technology to build a better world. We hope that with it, you feel inspired to decode our pasts, hack our realities and reprogram our futures. (Oh, and don’t forget to hashtag everything (hint: #shameless10).

Yours shamelessly, Sheila Sampath

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