Revisited: Jesse and Glenda Drew

15 Apr, 2015

Revisited: Jesse and Glenda Drew

The 2014-2015 Art, Technology, and Culture Colloquium series wrapped up on Monday April 13th with an engaging and probing talk by Glenda and Jesse Drew. This concluding event was the culmination of a year of lectures that focused on how art, technology, and activism interact now, at the time of the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement. Their lecture, “A Hack in the Odious Machine: Digital Organizing Tools for the Precariat”, discussed the difficulties that occur in organizing and unionizing low-wage employees of precarious work. They examined how technological solutions for organizing the workforce can often be inaccessible and poorly designed for those it was intended for, due to various problems such as work schedules as face-to-face communication. When asked for what was needed most, grassroots workers and organizers said that there needed to be a way for people to share their stories.

They also described the making of “Stories of Solidarity”, a social media platform that encourages workers in the low-wage, precarious workforce to build new forms of solidarity. The Stories of Solidarity project arose from a “hack-a-thon” group formed for a conference organized by UC Davis Professors Chris Benner, Jesse Drew and Glenda Drew entitled “Social Media, Insecure Work and New Solidarities” held at the UCLA downtown labor center in the Fall of 2012. Labor and community organizers can use the platform to post content to subscribers, read content, and organize the unorganized. By posting anonymously through the web, text messaging, or the app, creators of content create a visual narrative on a map.

A Q&A session followed the talk, exploring issues of anonymity, how data from platforms such as “Stories of Solidarity” may be quantified, and challenges of how to focus on collective and individual voices when designing technical projects relating to labor. Check out the tweets and photos from the event below!