stem: shoshana zuboff
titel: home or exile in the digital future
bron: the age of surveillance capitalism
I saw him crying, shedding floods of tears upon
Calypso’s island, in her chambers.
She traps him there; he cannot go back home. – Homer, The Odyssey
Can the digital future be our home? The digital realm is overtaking and redefining everything familiar even before we have had a chance to ponder and decide. We celebrate the networked world for the many ways in which it enriches our capabilities and prospects, but it has birthed whole new territories of anxiety, danger, and violence as the sense of a predictable future slips away.
When we ask the oldest questions now, billions of people from every social strata, generation, and society must answer. Information and communications technologies are more widespread than electricity, reaching three billion of the world’s seven billion people. The entangled dilemmas of knowledge, authority, and power are no longer confined to workplaces as they were in the 1980s. Now their roots run deep through the necessities of daily life, mediating nearly every form of social participation.
Just a moment ago, it still seemed reasonable to focus our concerns on the challenges of an information workplace or and information society. Now the oldest questions must be addressed to the widest possible frame, which is best defined as ‘civilization’ or, more specifically, information civilization. Will this emerging civilization be a place that we can call home?
All creatures orient to home. It is the point of origin from which every species sets its bearings. Without our bearings, there is no way to navigate unknown territory; without our bearings, we are lost. I am reminded of this each spring when the same pair of loons return from their distant travels to the cove below our window. Their haunting cries of homecoming, renewal, connection, and safeguard lull us to sleep at night, knowing that we too are in our place. Green turtles hatch and go down to the sea, where they travel many thousands of miles, sometimes for ten years or twenty. When ready to lay their eggs, they retrace their journey back to the very patch of beach where they were born. Some birds annually fly for thousands of miles, losing as much as half their body weight, in order to mate in their birthplace. Birds, bees, butterflies… nests, holes, trees, lakes, hives, hills, shores, and hollows… nearly every creature shares some version of this deep attachment to a place in which life has been known to flourish, the kind of place we call home.
It is in the nature of human attachment that every journey and expulsion sets into motion the search for home. That nostos, finding home, is among our most profound needs is evident by the price we are willing to pay for it. There is a universally shared ache to return to the place we left behind or to found a new home in which our hopes for the future can nest and grow. We still recount the travails of Odysseus and recall what human beings will endure for the sake of reaching our own shores and entering our own gates.
Because our brains are larger than those of birds and sea turtles, we know that it is not always possible, or even desirable, to return to the same patch of earth. Home need not always correspond to a single dwelling or place. We can choose its form and location but not its meaning. Home is where we know and where we are known, where we love and are beloved. Home is mastery, voice, relationship, and sanctuary: part freedom, part flourishing… part refuge, part prospect.
The sense of home slipping away provokes an unbearable yearning. The Portuguese have a name for this feeling: saudade, a word said to capture the homesickness and longing of separation from the homeland among emigrants across the centuries. Now the disruptions of the twenty-first century have turned these exquisite anxieties and longings of dislocation into a universal story that engulfs each one of us.
[Het web is home, alles is er, zoals in het ouderlijk huis, waarvan de muren nog overeind staan. Hoe keer ik terug? Het gevoel van disoriëntatie begint ermee dat websites plaats voor tijd verruilen, pixels veranderen in tijdlijnen, in nu, wat een gevoel van dislocatie oplevert. Er is wel een home, maar dat verandert voortdurend, en je komt zelden door de voordeur binnen, de oprit naar de garage is weg. Als je op back drukt (die knop is er niet), krijg je iets anders dan waarvandaan je vertrok, alsof het de bedoeling is je zeeziek te maken, geen vaste grond. Het web bestaat uit stemmen die verschijnen, verdwijnen, er is geen gedeeld thuis, ieder daalt de river wild af tussen eigen rotsen, botst tegen eigen obstakels, mensen roepen iets op een tijdlijn, gaan iets doen, en als ik omkijk zijn ze verdwenen, geesten, er is enkel vooruit, een stroomversnelling. Zuboff verwoordt de noodzaak van een thuis, en de onrust bij afwezigheid daarvan, het gevoel van ontworteling. Ik verlang naar een weg terug, naar Penelope, Ithaka, het strand waar de zeeschildpad naar terugkeert en zijn eieren legt. ‘All creatures orient to home’ schrijft ze. ‘Nostos, finding home, is among our most profound needs.’]