ESR 2 Blog January 2022: Piu-Wai Chan

A lot has happened since I left State of Concept in November. Indeed, because so much has happened, the recollection of the events seems fragmented and dream-like. This was also how I felt when I was digging through my (messy) database as I was prepping for the annual doctoral review—overwhelmingly large yet broken up (‘Have I read this? What was that all about?’) The information age has surely turned us into data hoarders to a certain extend. So much data, yet so little time for reflection. I still remember back in my previous ‘reincarnation’ as a corporate researcher, I informed my managers that having up to eight meetings per day left me no time for research, and the solution they offered me was ‘You do your research during the meetings then.’

It was not long before I adapted to that, plus also programming in the middle of meetings. But I was not exceptional. I was simply one of many.  I could see managers beside me, debugging broken codes, answering instant messages from their teams, and making top-level business decisions all at the same time in hugely demanding meetings. Data become information; information becomes insights; insights become actions; actions become capital flows. All happens seamlessly with hardly a pause in between. And, that is the magic of mass synchronisation. ‘…imagined synchronous mass actions create an imagined community.’ 1(yes, this reference is stored in my database.) There was often a strong sense of community among my close colleagues, but only some years later, like now, I realized that it was the little acts of kindness, selflessness, and respect outside of the ‘synchronous mass actions’ that bonds us together—making time for others despite your own heavy to-do list and deadlines. I still remember how an analyst from a totally different department (i.e.  someone who could totally walk away from their own problems), and I would be running (quite literally, I have managed to run in 2-inch-heels; and I shall aim for three inches in the future!) in-between back-to-back meetings, and we would take advantage of that 10 seconds run in-between meeting rooms in order to resolve some coding problems together. That commitment to others is sublime. This memory played back in my head as I was typing ‘ethics and technology’ in my doctoral review form—the little act of kindness at the heart of a gigantic network of machines, which operates at rapid speed.

These special moments do not come by one’s life very often, but as I was rambling through deadlines, paperwork, and travel arrangement these months, I think I have experienced something so precious again and I am truly grateful.

Happy Lunar New Year.

1 Chun, W.H.K. (2017) Updating to Remain the Same: Habitual New Media. MIT Press.


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