2022 convening:
repair and 
refusal

DEEP SUSTAINABILITY RESEARCH SEMINAR

The Deep Sustainability Research Seminar deepened the idea of sustainability through different research-related practices based on previous discussions in our working group. The twenty participants, with social science, civil society and artistic practice backgrounds, moved beyond critique of data and AI systems to repair. The seminar developed a “circuit of sustainability” mirroring Stuart Hall’s “circuit of culture” as a way to think deeply about all aspects of sustainability - the way we define it, build it, present it, and whether it can be repaired. An interdisciplinary approach was the only way to think about a circuit comprised of ideas, behaviors, consumer actions, and regulatory frameworks. So, we invited people with expertise around the circuit to come together to think about the complex relations of sustainability and used the concept of repair as a mechanism for ethical reflection on the un/sustainability of AI and data-based systems. 

 

On day one, Alison and Teresa ran a group dialogue on repair, and then the group visited the “Eternally Yours” art exhibition at Somerset House featuring work on care, repair, and healing. The conversation continued over drinks and dinner. The next day, the group mapped and re-mapped how repair connects with deep concepts of sustainability by plotting scales, locations, and processes in which to intervene across this complexity.This involved situating participants' projects and working through prompts designed to interrogate sustainability from the sides of culture and practices as well as technology. In our small group sessions we collaboratively built out additions to a set of 'Repair Cards' to deepen the concepts we worked on: https://repair-cards.glitch.me/. Overall, this event built research connections and interdisciplinary capacity through JUST AI’s community engagement strategies.

 
Twelve individuals sit around a table arranged in a U. There is a projector with a yellow slide displayed at the front of the room

Initial dialogue on repair

A cropped shot of a larger whiteboard. The words "Circuit of Sustainability" are at the top with lines, circles, and post-it notes below. Inisde the shapes and notes are names and words like "affect", "Joe", and "memory machines"

A portion of our "Circuit of Sustainability" 

 
A cropped shot of a larger whiteboard. The words "Circuit of Sustainability" are at the top with lines, circles, and post-it notes below. Inisde the shapes and notes are names and words like "affect", "Joe", and "memory machines"

RIGHTS, ACCESS, AND REPAIR WORKSHOP 

A portion of our "Circuit of Sustainability" 

The Rights, Access and Repair Working Group met in person for an extended workshop in the summer of 2022. The group spent two days sharing and building on discussions relating to AI ethics, descriptions (as a methodology), VR technologies and the ethics of care. These discussions were shaped by the interdisciplinary backgrounds of those present, including anthropology, media and communications, and literature. Over the two days, we explored access using 3D prints, audio descriptions and a re-enactment of access building in previous workshops using VR tech. The 3D prints created in previous workshops were used to prompt discussion around different forms of embodiment and description in the space of VR. 

 

Three themes emerged: horizon, disorientation and refusal. 

 

How do we encounter the horizon? The group explored these themes by exploring other modes of orientation and modalities that are shaped by sound, cultural knowledge and haptics. The group explored these modalities through a series of performed viewpoint exercises that were developed by Mary Overlie. These exercises foregrounded how other people can build, share and move towards multiple horizons. The shift to refusals was drawn out in the final session, which discussed ways of subverting technical systems by misusing them. Through exploring the themes of horizon, disorientation and refusal, the group unsettled dominant narratives of VR as a frictionless "one size fits all" technology and opened the path to further work on embodied ethics and disability-led design

Explaining a model of technical refusal 

Group discussion on the patio

three people sit in chairs with notepads on their laps. One of them is speaking. There is a chair in front of them covered in post-it notes.
three people sit in chairs with notepads on their laps. One of them is speaking. There is a chair in front of them covered in post-it notes.
 Picture of a group of five people sitting around a table on a garden patio. There are snacks and writing materials on the table.

 Experiencing the VR environment