Dashboarding the crisis

As the Coronavirus crisis evolves, it becomes harder to tell what kind of image the most publicised image of/on the crisis is exactly: Courtesy of the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU), this info-assemblage of charts, curves, numbers, names, map has to be considered as contemporary’s control (or rather: panic) panel par excellence, the iconic polydiagram of the moment. There are other Corona dashboards available (to be used with great care as many have proved to be carriers of malware), but this one (perhaps alongside the sites of the New York Times, the WHO etc.) singlehandedly became the key reference site in the decision-making processes of governments, health administrations, executive boards, stock exchanges and newsrooms worldwide. On the – to date – “virus-free,” website updates on the global spreading of COVID-19 are being merged into a (interactive, zoom-able) sombre black map with feverishly alerting red dots, whose sizes correspond to the numbers of COVID-19 related infections and deaths in the depicted countries and regions (charted on the left and the right side of the central map). For weeks without end routinely opening this site on one’s personal browser faces one with the image that probably features most pertinently in the war rooms of the world. Observing the data at the quarantine called home (in durational performances of anxiety and dread), a prognostic habit is likely to settle as the default mode of perception. At the same time, however, Johns Hopkins’ COVID-19 dashboard is also eerily comforting. For, at least, the numbers seem to be properly quarantined and contained. Imaging the paradox of the control of the disaster, the corona dashboard has done a pretty effective job so far, eliciting alternative kinds of infographic creation, such as the one on the Information is Beautiful site.  TH

March 15th, 2020, 02 / Rosa Mercedes
Interface

David Graeber (1961-2020) on What Would It Take (from his The Democracy Project. A History, a Crisis, a Movement, 2013, p. 193): “We have little idea what sort of organizations, or for that matter, technologies, would emerge if free people were unfettered to use their imagination to actually solve collective problems rather than to make them worse. But the primary question is: how do we even get there? What would it take to allow our political and economic systems to become a mode of collective problem solving rather than, as they are now, a mode of collective war?”

September 7th, 2020, Tom

T.J. Demos on why cultural practitioners should never surrender, via tranzit.sk:  “For artists, writers, and curators, as art historians and teachers, the meaning-production of an artwork is never finished, never fully appropriated and coopted, in my view, and we should never surrender it; the battle over significance is ongoing. We see that battle rise up in relation to racist and colonial monuments these days in the US, the UK, and South Africa. While the destruction of such monuments results from and is enabling of radical politics, it’s still not enough until the larger institutions that support and maintain their existence as well as the continuation of the politics they represent are also torn down. This is urgent as well in the cultural sphere, including the arts institutions, universities, art markets, discursive sphere of magazines and journals, all in thrall to neoliberalism, where we must recognize that it’s ultimately inadequate to simply inject critical or radical content into these frameworks, which we know excel at incorporating those anti-extractivist expressions into further forms of cultural capital and wealth accumulation. What’s required is more of the building of nonprofit and community-based institutions, organizing radical political horizons and solidarity between social formations.”

August 21st, 2020, Tom

Bernard Stiegler, quoted from The Neganthropocene (trans. Daniel Ross): “Does anyone really believe that it is possible to ‘solve’ the problems of climate change, habitat destruction and cultural destruction without addressing the consumerist basis of the present macro-economic system, or vice versa, or without addressing the way in which this system depletes the psychic energy required to find the collective will, belief, hope and reason to address this planetary challenge? Can this consumerism really survive the coming wave of automation that threatens to decimate its customer base and undermine the ‘consumer confidence’ that is fundamental to its perpetual growth requirements, themselves antithetical, once again, to the problems of biospherical preservation?”

August 14th, 2020, Tom
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