“Criticism of technology deserves a less caricatural debate than the clash between anti-5G and Emmanuel Macron”

FShould we criticize technology more and resist the digitization of our lives? The authors of the book Techno-struggles. Survey of those who resist technology (Seuil, Reporterre, 224 pages, 12 euros) answer unequivocally in the affirmative. “We have come out of the blissful techno-passivity of the 1990s and 2000s. Something is happening”, write Fabien Benoit, journalist for Arte and author of The Valley. A Political History of Silicon Valley (The Arenas, 2019), and Nicolas Celnik, freelance journalist, contributor in particular to Release.

The domination of the Web by Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple (GAFA) as well as the proliferation of screens and algorithms have created a “techlash” which benefits the “technocritics”, they note. “When we started working on these issues [en 2013], the majority of people still saw digitization as something positive. This is much less the case today.” esteemed in the work Matthieu Amiech of the collective Ecran Total, which intends “resist the management and computerization of our lives”.

The book provides an overview of “techno-struggles” : activists against surveillance, such as the association La Quadrature du Net, which opposes facial recognition and smart cities; monitors of screen addiction like the collective Lève les yeux! ; activists like L’Atelier paysan, which develops “the self-construction of low-tech agricultural tools” against agriculture “high tech” ; saboteurs of electric scooters or even the group Faut pas chiper, against the electronic chipping of farm animals; or criticisms of the digitization of education. Some are connected through the Ecran Total collective, inspired by anti-GMOs.

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The authors also describe the anti-5G, favorable to appeals against antennas, even their sabotage, or the anti-Linky, refractory to connected electricity meters. These two “random movements” are compared to that of the “yellow vests”, because “at the origin of a democratization of digital criticism”.

“The Amish Model”

Certainly, these mobilizations are not new: from the beginning of the 19th century, the Luddites had opposed the mechanization of looms in England. And today’s activists have heterogeneous motivations: for Linky, they are ecological, health or related to the protection of privacy. Some points are debatable. “The health risks associated with waves are a complex subject”, note the authors. Finally, technology of course brings benefits, claimed by the inhabitants of “white areas” poorly connected…

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