Oroza studies the people’s innovations beyond an object’s initial capabilities. He curates a collection of the methods and objects of “technological disobedience.” Although Oroza includes ideas of the “moral modulor” and “architecture of necessity” in his collections, the overwhelming nominalism of the artistic intentions forces viewers of the work to distance themselves from the pain and experience of those workers living under the Cuban state. Unable to access the emotional intent and the reasons for “technological disobedience” due to the geopolitical context, viewers of the curated work appropriate the power behind the movement for their own interpretations.
Examples of lack of emphasis on the geopolitical forces which contributed to an innovative movement can be often seen in the United States. As one of the largest sources of capitalist influence, the United States often compartmentalizes the education of social movements. Changes in production or influences on fundamental architecture and urban networks often appears abstractly from its geopolitical history.
For example, jazz music education often distinctly separates from its cultural and geopolitical influences. Synthesizing traditional and spiritual music, folk music, and work songs, jazz originated from the blues. The blues expressed the suppressed narratives of Black slaves. Through this music, slaves could voice their hardships and empower the rhythms of their lives. In the early 1900s, New Orleans jazz musicians popularized an improvised expression of the blues. In the coming years, free jazz musicians popularized the genre through further innovation and improvisation to express their hopes. Even though jazz music inherently roots into the Black experience in the United States, often jazz education abstracts the musical practice from the choices made by the innovators. In the essay “African-American Music: Dynamics of Appropriation and Innovation,” Perry A. Hall explains that “The pattern of separating the art from the people leads to an appropriation of aesthetic innovation that not only “exploits” Black cultural forms, commercially and otherwise, but also nullifies the cultural meaning those forms provide for African Americans…This ironic process seems to reproduce itself perpetually as new forms are subjected to similar processes of cooptation and appropriation” (31-32). Without a discussion of the pain and suffering expressed by the Black innovators who created jazz, others (predominantly White United States citizens) easily misappropriate the importance and fundamental values of jazz traditions and methodology, ultimately objectifying it for commodification. Without illuminating the historical context, we lose the subversive narrative that originally caused its innovation. It is ultimately misguided to separate the geopolitics of jazz as it is to distance the rhetoric of “technological disobedience” from its geopolitical context. Placing acts of “technological disobedience” into a gallery (as displayed in Oroza’s project) only further drives barriers between the practice and its causes. Falling into this rhetoric allows it to be easily misappropriated by other cultural spheres, ultimately allowing it to become another opportunity for capital exploitation.
Rather than abstracting “technological disobedience,” study of the movement should be used as a lens through which to critique the United States’ capitalist instigation of “architecture of necessity.” The United States faces large poverty rates marked with discrimination and prejudice that lead to lack of access to contemporary technologies. A 2013 U.S. Census Bureau poll showed that about 25% of both Blacks and Hispanics lacked access to computers or internet access. The only other two groups that lacked connectivity were people who made $25,000 or less in annual income, or people with less than high school education. The Southern United States showed the highest rates of people without computer or internet connectivity. Although a few years passed since this poll, a 2015 study by the Pew Charitable Trusts shows that the expected family income of children raised in families at the 90th income percentile is almost three times that of children raised within the 10th percentile. These studies prove that people of lower incomes have less (digital) technological mobility, since they have had less opportunities to gain the resources necessary to obtain connectivity.
In the book Education for Critical Consciousness, Paolo Freire determines that “If men are unable to perceive critically the themes of their time, and thus to intervene actively in reality, they are carried along in the wake of change” (6). If education of “technological disobedience” continues without the proper contextualization of its geopolitical causes, it will deteriorate into spectacle. Perpetuation of “technological disobedience” without context leads to its exploitation by more privileged spheres. Like anything placed within the confines of a museum, “technological disobedience” will become an abstract application. The current rhetoric surrounding “technological disobedience” used by scholars in the Digital Humanities incites excitement around the production of new technologies, rather than the lessons that can be learned from the movement. The main sources of education on this movement come from Oroza or his affiliates. Other blog posts take this information and appropriate it for popular consumption. Although few blogs do emphasize the geopolitics of “technological disobedience,” most minimally cite Oroza’s project, glossing over the context of the movement. Blogs like iheartintelligence.com, Digital Do It Yourself, and even the National Science Foundation’s FabLearn Fellows’ blog generally decontextualize the information.
People in the United States should learn from the methods of “technological disobedience” with reference to their own geopolitical context. By recognizing where this movement comes from and why it occurs, we can apply it with more careful consideration to our contemporary practices and industrial trajectory. Ultimately, including geopolitical context in the education of “technological disobedience” leads people to question their own privilege, as well consider other’s access to such privileges. Through this critical consciousness, we can approach resources with sustainable intentions and creativity.
File, Thom. Digital Divides: A Connectivity Continuum for the United States. Working paper. United States Census Bureau, 11 Apr. 2013. Web.
Hall, Perry A. “African-American Music: Dynamics of Appropriation and Innovation.” Borrowed Power: Essays on Cultural Appropriation. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1997. 31-51. Print.
Mitnik, Pablo A., and David B. Grusky. Economic Mobility in the United States. Rep. Pew Charitable Trusts, 2015. Web.
Oroza, Ernesto. “Agua Con Azúcar and La Muestra Provisional.” Ernesto Oroza. Ernesto Oroza. Web.
Oroza, Ernesto. “Architecture of Necessity.” Architecture of Necessity. Ernesto Oroza, 2006. Web.
Oroza, Ernesto. “Technological Disobedience: From the Revolution to Revolico.com.” Technological Disobedience. Trans. Andrea Mickus. 30 Mar. 2016. Web.