Techno-skepticism: Between Possibility and Refusal

Techno-skepticism: Between Possibility and Refusal Produced with DISCO Network, June 12-16, 2023

Last June 2023, Book Sprints had the privilege of watching fourteen brilliant minds come together to create Techno-skepticism: Between Possibility and Refusal. Written by the principal investigators and fellows of DISCO Network, the upcoming book Techno-skepticism asks the question of what it means to interface with technology and the digital through the intersectionality of our different identities, and what power we have to explore or refuse it. 

Unity in diversity

Diversity was present during this Book Sprint. In many ways, it is this very diversity that helped drive this process. 

When it comes to bringing powerful stories and voices together, there is a challenge in finding and weaving together the threads that bind. Barbara Ruehling from Book Sprints facilitated the DISCO Network group in overcoming their main challenge: How do we link together our different areas of interest and expertise as scholars? 

DISCO Network is a collaborative research group of scholars spread across five universities who push the frontier of exploration of digital technology, race, disability, sexuality, and gender. In their own words (from the preface of the manuscript): 

We are an intergenerational group of researchers and artists who have come together to create and transmit a new virus into the current thinking about digital technology, race, disability, sexuality, and gender. The network comprises six laboratories, each of which stands alone and a network node to write, talk, and think about the past, present, and future of technology, Blackness, Asianness, disability, and liberation. We are also a modular group of technology scholars and artists that combine to create new ways to engage in transformative politics, build new alliances, and inspire media-making.

This means that each of the DISCO Network scholars had their own voice and perspective to bring to the table during the ideation sessions for what this book would be about. Luckily, they were in a Book Sprint. The Sprint process is designed to bring out the best of human collaboration and the ingenuity that arises from that. Through each activity and day of the Book Sprint, the authors were able to come to a better understanding of how they could relate to each other’s perspectives and fields of expertise while at the same time strengthening their own. And it is now this very diversity that makes the book a powerful and engaging read. 

DISCO Network scholars join voices for the Techno-skepticism book, facilitated by Book Sprints’ Barbara Ruehling

DISCO Network scholars join voices for the Techno-skepticism book, facilitated by Book Sprints’ Barbara Ruehling Photo courtesy of Evan Hoye (DISCO Network)

Diversity was found not only in their fields of expertise, but also in the authors’ chosen modes of creative expression. While many of DISCO’s principal investigators are primarily writers, one of the principal investigators and their fellow are visual artists who use a variety of media to express their ideas.Throughout the Book Sprints process they created a 3D rendered art piece of the gorgeous Highlights Foundation venue where this Book Sprint was held. This 3D interactive piece allows one to use an avatar to explore the space and view videos, art pieces, and other media of the Sprint in the virtual space. These artists also led the group through fruitful exercises of new ways of seeing and exploring our physical spaces. 

Telling the stories that need to be told

An insightful exploration of their rich stories and fields of expertise, this Book Sprint helped the authors from DISCO Network find their collective voice in telling their stories. From mental health to digital nostalgia to blackness and AI, Techno-skepticism gives voice to individual experiences and amplifies them through the shared threads that tie all of these seemingly disparate ideas together. 

“The intermingling of possibility and refusal allow us to envision and enact futures that make space for us and for our kin and our boundaries and to refuse what disenfranchises us, erases us, makes our lives unlivable.”

This is actually the third Book Sprint that DISCO’s lead principal investigator, Lisa Nakamura, has done with us. Her first Sprint with Precarity Lab for the book Technoprecarious was incredibly successful, with the book ending up being published by Penguin Random House and MIT Press and inspiring their participants to write collaboratively and more efficiently. The second Book Sprint took place last year with the DISCO Network’s principal investigators exploring topics around Digital Optimism. They are currently in conversation with publishers for Digital Optimism. 

Book Sprints is excited and honored to always be part of telling the stories that need to be told. Keep an eye out for what happens to this book Techno-skepticism soon! 

Got a great idea? Tell the world with us through a Book Sprint. 

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