• Digital aftercares: Digital retooling for agency, value, and co-vulnerability as artistic practice

Kawash, Ameera, 2022, Thesis, Digital aftercares: Digital retooling for agency, value, and co-vulnerability as artistic practice PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

This practice-based thesis develops digital retooling as an artistic methodology that ties together socially engaged practice, speculative design, and digital arts to create original artworks and projects that rescript how dominant digital media functions. Digital retooling is a propositional, practical, creative, and critical method that transforms existing technologies through artistic practice to break from hegemonic structures rooted in digital capitalism and data colonialism. Staying with embodiment and vulnerability, my research and practice centers architectures of agency, care, and community in overwhelmingly nonconsensual and traumatic digital systems.

As a practice-based methodology, digital retooling moves beyond image and interface to emphasise infrastructure, contextuality, and the processes by which media acquires meaning and form as it moves in the world. The artistic projects I develop in tandem with critical research innovate at the visual, infrastructural, and social layers to contest default modes and plug-and-play forms of exploitation that come loaded into dominant digital media systems. Through speculative hacking, backend redesign, and an expanded trauma-sensitive approach, my research develops digital retooling as an artistic methodology that integrates speculative, decolonial, and care-based approaches.

Drawing on post-colonial, decolonial, and critical race media studies, my art projects stress local contingencies against the grain of universalist computing and the alleged neutrality of digital systems. To understand digital media as a multi-layered affectual, psychological, social, and financial medium my research comingles situated self-awareness as a digital user with an analysis of the medium’s structural, economic, and
political layers. In this thesis, I refer to and make use of the multi-layer entanglements brought to bear by digital technologies as ‘nested intimacies’ and ‘strangely intimate digital assets’.

For this PhD, my practice incorporates diagrams, writing, talks, performance, and digital art and wearables. This thesis presents four art projects: ‘Bath Motes: Liquid architecture for Pain Relief’ which proposes a fantastical product for technologically mediated self-care; ‘Black Body Radiation: Rescripting Data Bodies’ a collaborative work that retools body sensor networks and blockchain architectures to consider value in performance artworks and in relation to colonial legacies and practice; ‘Virtual Keffiyeh’ which encompasses critical research, advocacy and a digital wearable to draw attention to Palestinian digital rights in metaverse and virtual spaces; and ‘Or:bital Bloom’—a start-up that recycles environmental performance data into digital artworks that express transitions to sustainability and net zero.

The research and artistic interventions I present in this thesis are concerned with lived experience, critical research, interfacial and infrastructural design in digital and hybrid worlds with the aim of creating new spaces for ‘digital aftercares’. ‘Digital aftercares’ suggest both speculative aftermaths beyond dominant and traumatic digital systems as well as the discovery of new modes of care in emergent mediascapes and infrastructures. This PhD serves as an example of and provocation to radically retool dominant digital media through artistic practice, recovering relationality, agency, and covulnerability through the digital arts.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W100 Fine Art > W190 Fine Art not elsewhere classified
Creative Arts and Design > W900 Others in Creative Arts and Design
School or Centre: School of Arts & Humanities
Uncontrolled Keywords: Digital retooling; digital agency; care; co-vulnerability; speculative hacking
Date Deposited: 07 Nov 2022 17:44
Last Modified: 07 Nov 2022 17:44
URI: https://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/5201
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