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IAM Journal

Imagining Intercitizenships

A proposal to collectively envision sustainable futures for the internet(s) and the theme for our 7th annual gathering: IAM Weekend 21 (Barcelona edition: November 11–13, 2021 / Planet Earth edition: November 11–18, 2021)

What if? 🌍

What if humanity became aware that Planet Earth is not a place where billions of humans just happen to live and instead start to really understand that we are (just) a small living part of a vast and deeply beautiful living organism?

In other words, what if humanity really embraced that we are a living part of Planet Earth and therefore that our survival is interdependent to planetary wellbeing, including the health of the oceans and forests?

An existential crisis of imagination

Humanity is experiencing a critical situation as our sociological imagination, “the awareness of the relationship between personal experience and the wider society” and the “ability to see the context which shapes your individual decision making, as well as the decisions made by others”, is under threat.

At IAM, we consider hypothetical questions fundamental to address the multiple dimensions of the environmental emergency that is already threatening human and non-human life on Planet Earth, as sadly humanity has reached a point where the next generations could face extinction, a process that is already experienced by hundreds of species because of unsustainable human lifestyles.

A common sense of responsibility, solidarity and collective action needs to exponentially grow during the following days, months and years to face an uncomfortable truth:

The environmental emergency is not only about extreme weather events, it is also a consequence of the social injustice derived from extractivism and a major threat to the survival of humankind in the next few decades.

Today everyone is talking about carbon emissions, and that’s great (a bit late but still a step in a good direction) but we also need to talk more about one of the main drivers of the environmental emergency, which is a very human-centered thing: selfish greed. A product of individualism, the driving force of extractive capitalism, that has lead to unimaginable wealth concentration and to toxic mindsets and lifestyles that have been exponentially growing in recent years inside and around the digital economy.

At IAM, we believe that the complex entangled ecological, social and climate crises threatening life on Planet Earth today have a common -and in many ways strategic- denominator that, as a creative research lab, we are decided to address: a crisis of imagination.

Humanity can not lose its capacity to collectively imagine how our digitally-driven everyday lives can change from a “move fast and break things” to “move slow and repair things” mantra.

Becoming Intercitizens

Earlier this year, we decided to create The Billion Seconds Institute, a lifelong learning initiative to organise a network of specialists, advisors and communities of practice to reimagine the ways we understand and shape the mental, social and environmental impacts of the digital economy.

The direction of this (re)imagination journey is defined by a long-term purpose:

To contribute to a transition from the individualism of a user-centric digital economy to the interdependence of digital ecosystems driven by responsible citizens of Planet Earth.

In other words, collectively learn how to become intercitizens.

Words shape worlds

Words contain shareable thoughts and shared meanings, bits and pieces of our imaginations that come together in stories about possible worlds, or futures, as many of us like to call it these days. These stories end up influencing decision-making (a.k.a. designing) at different temporal, spatial and emotional scales, shaping behaviour and resulting in (re)building worlds, which are nothing else than the collective existence of humans.

This is why we decided to invent a new word: Intercitizenships. Our intention is not to define a singular definition but instead to use it as a thinking tool to co-create meanings in different contexts and cultures, and then find common patterns.

Intercitizenships is a word intended to be created, used, understood and shared in a plural-first form. It is more about dynamic processes than an inherited status or fixed label. More about BECOMING than BEING. A trigger to collectively imagine how reframing the 20th century institution of citizenship can become a starting point to address the crisis of imagination society is experiencing today.

Expanding our sense of identity and belonging

The idea of finding meanings for intercitizens and intercitizenships is also a way to reimagine our shared sense of identity as humans, in relation to the digitalised society we are all building, where billions of persons are reduced to individualised consumers of digital technologies or users of the internet. It is also a tool for thinking beyond the conventional (and often obsolete and market-driven) notions of citizenships that are tied to nation-states, fictional borders and anthropocentric ways of being.

The prefix ‘inter’ means reciprocal interrelation. Adding it to the concept of citizen is a proposal to imagine and activate a broader sense of belonging to Planet Earth enabled by the internet(s) that can also be accompanied by collective rights and duties and that includes non-human beings putting in practice values as humbleness, responsibility, accountability, plurality, empathy, tolerance and the most important of all solidarity.

Related note: You can read more on the why of these values in The Everything Manifesto.

Metaphors matter

The idea of intercitizenships can also become a way to challenge the common metaphorical misconception that internets are abstract spaces or imaginary places, a problematic way of understanding our relationship with the digital worlds that was seeded in 1996 by the Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace.

Instead we consider critical to this proposal, the need to understand the internet as physical, entangled, public networked infrastructures, that enable complex entanglements of algorithms, digital data, hardware and interfaces, by consuming gigatons of energy, minerals and gigaseconds of attention, while producing gigatons of waste. Understanding the material dimension and scale of the digital economy is becoming a critical factor for human survival.

Wealth concentration is not sustainable

Business leaders in particular, but also all of us participating in this huge digital economy, need to become more responsible and hold big data extraction corporations and each other accountable for the energy consumption of digital resources we use, the minerals required to make our iPhones and the ways we design or use digital technologies, services and products.

In fact, the ongoing debate emerging in artistic and venture capital circles about the ethical, ecological and economic dimensions of cryptographic tokens (NFTs), unexpectedly became a signal to the invisible and complex ways that the digital economy is interconnected to the massive socio-ecological crisis we are all facing today.

As Satish Kumar and many other activists have been telling us for decades

we can not understand the concept of a digital economy, or any other economy, outside of an ecological framework

The wealth concentration accelerated by the current dynamics of a digital economy driven by individualism is leading to a critical transgression of planetary boundaries. While Jeff, Mark and Elon are burning their billions in rocket fuel trying to escape to Mars (LOL), many of us, who truly care about the wellbeing of Planet Earth and the role we could play in changing the digital economy, need to organise in solidarity networks and learn how to reclaim the value of our collective attention and imaginations.

Co-creating a proposal of a declaration for intercitizenships

Overall, our intention is not to come up with simplistic solutions or absolute truths of any kind but to explore, discuss, exchange possible meanings for intercitizenships that allow for better ways to understand how we can become more responsible citizens of Planet Earth, by increasing the self- and shared awareness of our interdependencies, in transnational and intersectional ways.

As a starting point, we are working on two interconnected action plans with a common goal: to collectively create a proposal of a declaration for intercitizenships, a source code/recipe book for hopefully many stories about possible worlds that we can all start imagining and building today with our everyday life choices.

Action plan #1: Call for proposals for IAM Weekend 21

We are looking for proposals for remote and in-person presentations, workshops and other formats addressing the theme of ‘Imagining Intercitizenships’ to become part of the programme for the Barcelona and Planet Earth editions of IAM Weekend 21. More info >

Action plan #2: Activating the Intercitizen Council

The second part of the plan is the activation of the Intercitizen Council, a transnational group of specialists and mentors — early believers in our vision for The Billion Seconds Institute — who will help us shape the open research agenda for the Institute and the collective proposal for the declaration.

Our aim is to publish the first draft of the proposal for the upcoming Earth Day, April 22, 2022.

If you are interested in this topic, we invite you to join us this November in Barcelona or from home for IAM Weekend 21.

Barcelona edition: November 11–13, 2021
Planet Earth edition: November 11–18, 2021

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