Brie Scolaro, LMSW
- Precarity and Definition
What is precarity? This is a new word to me, yet a very familiar concept for someone who has long been in social justice. However, words and semantics are important, and to consider the intersecting between precarity and digital humanities, it is important to me to have a clear definition of what this means and where it may come from.
DICTIONARY.COM : Precarity | “A state of existence in which material provision and psychological wellness are adversely affected by a lack of regular or secure income”
Merriam-Webster | Etymology of Precarity | “Probably borrowed from French précarité, from précaire “granted or exercised only with the permission of another, insecure, uncertain” (going back to Middle French, borrowed from Latin precārius “given as a favor, uncertain, PRECARIOUS“) + -ité -ITY“
Precarity Lab’s Digital Precarity Manifesto | Precarity | “Precarity is Life in Chains”
“Precarity is Life in Chains – I feel this needs to occupy another line in this post to give this extra weight, as it has extra sat in my consciousness for reflection. I felt this on a logical but also emotional and spiritual level when reading these examples, but to the extent that a White AFAB US-born individual can empathize.
2. TLDR My Main Take Away(s)
Precarity in digital humanities = the exploitation of historically marginalized communities within the tech value chain (as per the Digital Manifesto).
Tech is made for you to NOT think about it and its value chain. Your website page is expected to instantly load, your stored “cloud” data expected to be instantly available (and actively hosted and protected until.. or if.. you ever choose to access it).
If we pull the curtain back of the tech value chain, we cringe at what is revealed, especially this history of precarity. Can we than hypothesize that this will continue, only to intensify, in the future? As the lines between human and technology continue to blur?
I am particularly moved by Manifesto’s citing of specific examples that serve to highlight how to define precarity of digital workers. I specifically mentioned here the Fairchild Semiconductor Plant run by Indigenous workers in 1965-1975.
The technology created here are the grandparents of the technology used in today’s electronics. Somewhere, a decision was made after a weighing of “pros and cons” in the digital tech value chain. However, White profit is typically the “pro”, the “con” being the continued exploitation of already exploited workers.
I still am trying to reflect on what precarity within digital humanities means if not for the examples presented in the Manifesto, and the full spectrum of what is included by the term “digital workers.”