A short visual essay about social and digital divides, civic unrest and the notion of a digital public square, composed of an essay and a manipulated image of the public demonstration against racism, organised by the black African and Afro-descendent community in Spain, on the 7 of June 2020 in Madrid.
Part 3 of a new series of works titled the new digital divides about the divisions and conditions of our digital sphere.
Visual essay for instagram, June 2020
Today, the digital divide signifies more than just the gap between those who can and those who can’t effectively access the online sphere (a fact that inexcusably to often coincide with black and brown communities). Moreover, it now also refers to the social division that the modern digital world is creating, with its key role in the increasing polarization of public opinion. Be it through the viral spread of misinformation, the narrowing of reality perception trough filter bubbles and echo chambers, the exploitation of cognitive biases for endless scrolls, or the preying on inflammatory prejudices for ad profit, our digital sphere poses many problems that help intensify cultural and ideological divisions in our society. Divisions such as the widespread systemic racism that is not only prevalent but also actively growing.
Especially problematic is the profit-driven foundations of our digital public squares — the online platforms where the vast majority of the population congregates to communicate, share and consume information. These seemingly free platforms have grown to become a vital and powerful part of our public space, essential to the way we express ourselves and take part in public debates. Yet, at their root, they remain private machines oriented towards the profitability of any and all human interactions, including civil unrest. However positive the connectivity that they allow might be, these digital public squares have become too big and too important for social and political participation to be dangerously held in the hands of a few companies with vested interests in keeping the social order intact.
As we take to the streets and to social media to march and fight against systemic racism, reclaiming the function of public space as a crucial ground for civic action, we should keep in mind that while the streets belong first and foremost to the people, their digital counterparts do not. In the long run, in order to build a truly equal society, we must demand that our digital public squares be truly free and democratic, rightly recognized and protected by law as an essential part of our public space.
@makeartinquarentine, Madrid, June 2020
June 2020, @makeartinquarentine, an instagram project by Felícia Teixeira, João Brojo, João Teixeira (March-June 2020)