Stories of resistance and reclaimed futures
10 Feb 2022
In a series of interviews we portray our Culture of Solidarity Fund grantees. The grantee featured here successfully applied to round 4: Culture of Solidarity in times of an infodemic.
European Digital Rights (EDRi) is a European network that brings together 45+ grassroots organisations, as well as advocates, academics and experts, to defend digital rights and freedoms. Amongst a whole range of activities, EDRi devises campaigns, features publications, and creates document pools to protect human rights and democracy in the face of surveillance capitalism. EDRi empowers the vision of a fair, healthy and dignified digital environment where everyone can flourish and thrive. To see the victories of the members of this Brussels-based network, visit their page here.
Supported by European Cultural Foundation’s Culture of Solidarity fund, EDRi is leading ‘Stories of resistance and reclaimed futures’: a project venturing to create and disseminate stories that address prominent issues regarding the European digital public space. Alongside bringing attention to already lived realities across Europe, the incentive promises to creatively propose alternative utopian visions for a more democratic, inclusive, and diverse digital rights field. To this end, EDRi mobilises storytelling as a tool for advocacy and solidarity.
We have interviewed Gail Rego, the senior media and communications manager of EDRi, regarding the project.
What has inspired you to devise ‘Stories of resistance and reclaimed futures’?
The digital rights field is dominated by complex language, jargon and policy-focused dialogue, which makes it more difficult for individuals from non-digital or policy backgrounds to understand and relate to these everyday threats to our digital rights. That is why we would like to use stories and a hope-based approach to reinforce a narrative with inspiring ideas to regain control against power imbalances and promote healthy alternatives to toxic technology uses. Through storytelling, we can better illustrate what the problem is and what it means on an individual level; how people can be part of the solution; and what our collective futures could look like once we have resolved the issues threatening our freedoms and rights.
What is the role of creative writing in advocacy?
We’ve chosen storytelling because we know that powerful writing can transform our imaginations and ignite fervour and emotions in a way that data and facts often can’t. This storytelling project uses creative writing to counter a narrative and reality around the huge power imbalance between those creating and deploying the technology, and those who can be targeted for control or manipulation. Stories can help capture the increasing digitalisation of society from the perspective of the communities most marginalise. These fictional stories would show a glimpse into what our collective futures could look like by re-imagining and reinforcing alternatives to the current Big Tech model, that would finally prioritise us and our communities rather than corporate greed.
Who is marginalised in the digital public sphere? Whose voices would you like to give precedence to, and who do you expect will contribute?
Online experiences mirror offline realities. Racialised people, queer and trans people, migrants, undocumented people, sex workers, environmental activists, women, journalists, human rights defenders face online violence and censorship in ways that are both a reflection and an amplification of their offline experiences. Similarly, tech is being used to surveil and control workers to produce and work at an inhumane pace for the benefit of the people in power. These are the people, stories and perspectives that we would love these stories to reflect and include.
How is the digital rights field entangled in colonial structures, and how does this project contribute to your parallel endeavour to decolonise the digital rights field?
The growing use and deployment of digital technologies have the potential to affect almost every aspect of our lives, as they become involved in everything from hiring processes to the operation of the “welfare state” and the criminal justice system. Uses of digital technologies can reproduce but also amplify existing forms of oppression, such as racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, and transphobia. These forms of oppression have their roots in a history of domination and colonisation and are maintained because of structural power imbalances.
This storytelling project will hopefully show these imbalances and centre the lived experiences of communities at the margins.
But sustainable change must go further, deeper, and this is why we are part of a collaborative process to imagine a decolonising programme for the digital rights field. The digital rights field exists to promote and protect the rights and freedoms of everyone in the digital sphere. To do so, it is crucial that the field reflects the society it works to safeguard. The decolonising process is a joint initiative with the Digital Freedom Fund that aims to question and challenge the field composition, power and exclusion dynamics and to create a bold, decolonial, inclusive field protecting the rights of everyone.
What will the committee be looking for when evaluating submissions?
To successfully reimagine a more inclusive future, we’re looking for partners to help us both decide on the themes of these stories as well as storytellers to write them. Ideally, many of these partners and writers will help us better understand and include the lived experiences and grassroots activism of those who have been surveilled, excluded and marginalised in the digital era. These partners will also act as a sounding board to help us best represent the struggles and hopes of those most affected by technology. We will be looking for creative, utopian visions of what a world where tech benefits and coincides with society would look like, told in a way that inspires hope.
We are particularly interested in stories and perspectives from human rights, social justice and digital rights activists, advocates and researchers. We are looking for people with either lived experiences or a sound understanding of the challenges of technology that marginalise and oppress. Some knowledge of EU policies around digital rights and the intersection between technology and oppression would also be valuable.
What will your project contribute to Europe?
EDRi’s book of short stories will provide a much needed and missing narrative of healthy, sustainable and inclusive alternatives to the current internet and technological ecosystem that leaves people trapped and vulnerable and contributes to the homogenisation of public discourse and the spread of disinformation. The stories will be created using elements from different cultures across Europe to imagine a Europe centred around rights, solidarity and common public values. The chosen themes and narratives will be relatable, based on lived experiences, inspiring and promoting alternative, utopian visions of digital spaces.
Granted: 39245 euros