Flaneur(0)-Workers // Cognitive Mechanics and Spatial (Non)Resemblances
Swiggy Delivery Worker on Horse, (obtained from foodndtv.com, July 2022)
Flaneur-workers are a concept that I have been developing with Posthuman Lab and as a case-study in my dissertation on the possibility of a space between presence and absence. Elaborating on the relationship of flaneur-worker in urban centres, the focus of this entry will be on human posture and the adaptation of form to technology. The demand for food-delivery via interface existed prior to the global COVID-19 lockdowns. Uber Technologies had already began offering drivers the potential to deliver food from restaurants, rather than delivering bodies to destinations.
The substituted presence of the customer by the delivery-agent necessitates a mapping of a foreign desire over the worker’s cognitive behavior. Traveling through streets - perhaps un-travelled - the geo-spatial maneuvers to satisfy the need of the client are enforced upon the flaneur-worker.
To add the 0, in the concept, is a poetic gesture in opening discourse onto the neuro-mechanics involved or disengaged when performing tasks that are fully-programmed and defined by the mediating software applications used by many food-delivery apps that control the worker. Enter scene: flaneur(0)-worker.
In a sense, the worker must dehumanize him/herself for the sake of earning payment for their activity. Often, these tasks are under-paid, considering the amount of empty time waiting for a well-paid (or tipped) opportunity. Sometimes, it is favorable for the flaneur(0)-worker to quickly assess the order-request based on distance + payout, and choose against executing the prompt. This re-humanizes the worker in a form of negative-agency. Sometimes boredom may intervene and the worker will merely take on any order. The entropic nature of deciding under time limits opens the possibility of chaotic flows of distribution. Another worker, assembled as a mesh or fleet, is willing to step-up and handle the order. Statistically, the demand will be met by an unknowable agent to unknowable client.
POSTURE / English Riding Style, Dressage, micro-mechanics to signal commands
English Riding Position and Posture (Pintrest)
Previously, I had taken on the streets and performed the tasks of being delivery-worker. At times, it was rewarding and at other times it was harrowing. Having recently began to take English-styled horse riding lessons, my attention shifted to human posture.
The flaneur(0)-worker is excluded from membership from two landlords: the restaurant-establishment and the client’s apartment-complex. Often un-written codes of organization are built-in. Some fast-food restaurants clearly delineate lines for general order-pickup, while some high-end restaurants ask the deliver-workers to not bring in their box-cubed backpacks. Thus, the environment is curated and attenuated to the diner’s experience - for those who still dine out. Food delivery platforms have generated the appearance of ghost-kitchens, that merely exist for carry-out options. These ghost kitchens often operate as a multiplicity of cooking-styles; while other restaurants and bodegas re-brand themselves as new small/big companies with emblematic presence on the app.
POSTURE / Contortion of body from habitual technological dependence, haptic feedback
above: diagram of Neck postures/ weight pressure while using smart-phones (CNE, 2017) // below: Mindy, AI-rendered model of the future human, based on technology hyper-use (greekreporter.com, July 2023)
These dystopian images are reminders that technology does have a morphological influence on the shape of the human being.
One of the features of delivery-on demand or command, is that absorption of attention does in fact influence the contortions of our body. To return to the English Horse-riding style, the horse directs itself based on the direction of the gaze of the rider. The well-trained horse is attenuated to micro-commands from a rider.
The consumer becomes blind to this fact, when the algorithm is trained on the feedback loops of their own behavior. Favorite meals and restaurants will be repeated and highlighted in the UX image, creating an indention on creative will production. The human form feedbacks into its own habits.
TOWARDS AN OBLIQUE ARCHITECTURE
While working on a thesis on anti-monuments in 2018-2019, this text by Le Corbusier first inspired me to consider the role of delivery workers existence leading to a dystopian society where nobody would leave their modern apartment complexes. One of LeCorbusier’s points was to encourage the development of interior spaces such that the human body would be more inclined to spend time within the space and texture of their homes. Prior to the COVID-19 lockdown’s this static beinghood at home did feel a bit dystopian. Hermit-like behavior at first seemed too anti-social.
In the late-60’s Virilio and Parent’s collaboration led to an analysis on the behavior of human bodies in shape. Some of the anticipations of modulating architecture’s static planes, by disrupting anticipation would lead to new human body relationships to space.
The geometry of the human body would contort to the environment based on architectural hints. The body’s own mechanisms of maintaining balance in the world, would be tested and require an cognitive evaluation of self in space.
To question the standardized shape of buildings can also influence the meaning of such. Should housing development focus on keeping the body inside - sheltered from external elements (cultural or natural(weather systems, warfare), or rather should the architecture encourage a forced encounter with the urban or rural spaces they inhabit.
Images: 1) Cover of Le Corbusier's Towards A New Architecture. 2) Church of St. Bernadette in Banlay, Paul Virilio (1966). 3) Sketch from Vivre L'Oblique Claude Parent (1970).
BECOMING-INTERFACE / CYBERNETIC STIGMATA*
xNT NFC Chip bioglass implant, dangerousthings.com
*Cybernetic Stigmata is concept is influenced by a course taught by Bogna Konior (NYU-Shanghai) on her concept "Nuncore" at School of Materialist Research.
One of the haunting features of COVID-19 lockdown delivery is the normalization of “Contact-Free” delivery. In this case, the delivery worker carries out the pick-up of the items and drops them off beside the door of the client. This is followed up with a photographic proof as evidence that the food items were dropped off in front-of the correct door, protecting the interest of all parties involved. In a way this resembles sousveillance, where the worker captures from below evidence of his/her own labour. The imprint of presence is evidenced by the photographic debris, found in data-stream of these software mediations.
Along with the sousveillance of the worker, the customer has active GPS mapping and rendering of the worker within the application. This is combined with ETA and distance tracking. In a sense, the substituted presence is vicariously witnessed and executed by the customer. Their reward will be the meal or item that was ordered. As agents of potential labour, the flaneur(0)-worker is an agent of standing-reserve, localized in their own spatial patterns of approximating demand. Sometimes the application suggests hotspots for which the worker can await, but never arrive at.
Near-Field communication technologies are not new, but in the realm of a techno-biopolitics, there can be some inclination in the redemption of such technologies. Since speed and precision are rewarded, should the implementation microchips be encouraged? Picking up the wrong order and then subsequently delivering the wrong order to the wrong person is humiliating and upsetting for everyone involved in the exchange process. Could microchip technologies accelerate and efficiency and pickup when collecting the orders? At the moment microchip use have either techno-utopian or dystopian connotation depending who is being addressed. Some biohackers self-inject microchips to make contact exchange seamless, so long as their is NFC reader app installed on your phone.
Piaffe (2023) film poster
A film released this year, Piaffe (2023), can serve as an example to re-humanize the human, by first becoming-Other. In the film, a sound studio audophile is scoring the soundtrack to an anti-depressant commercial where the video is of a horse performing piaffe, which is a maneuver English Riding style known as dressage, where the horse performs a type of standing dance. The protagonist struggles with finding their tone, being first criticized by the director of the commercial as not being human enough, he suggest that she live a little more. Throughout the course of the film there are different relationships that are being elaborated from romance, to the interior process of tracking artificial sounds through technology. In a Kafka-esque turn of events, the protagonist begins to grow a horse’s tail over her body. To what may be described as body-horror genre, doesn’t quite affect the protagonist, instead she sort of grows a pride over the new modulation, that the film never quite explains the origins of. More it just reflects back onto the social landscape of mechanization of relations of self to other through body.
CYBERNETIC COUCH / AI FREUD
"Cybernetic Couch," Moises Ramirez, Posthuman Lab - Foreign Objekt, 2023
A final motif to consider is the virtualization of mental health technologies. The flaneur(0)-worker may not have the answers while society’s body contorts due to the accommodation. Tele-therapy existed before COVID-19 pandemic, but took on a new dimension of the everyday life of mental health. Today, tele-health can be seen as mode of rendering efficient an un-meetable demand to accommodate the psychical needs of the masses. Spirituality looms, but many practitioners are returning to both Freud in Lacan as psychodynamic methods that include support of establishing dyadic relationships in the binary logic of the analyst and the analysand. A cybernetic couch is just around corner, either in meta-space or in living-spaces to come.