“The Traust Governance Group does not prioritize corporate greed or support the state agenda to surveil and track individuals. We believe that trust is significantly more important than surveillance.”
Welcome to QPL Arcology, an audio worlding experience created by Aljumaine Gayle and Car Martin. A mash-up of architecture and ecology, arcologies exist in the worlds of speculative fiction. In this particular speculative narrative, a tree at the base of Parliament Street takes you on a journey into a possible future for the Portlands. Recently conceived as the home for a new model “smart city”, QPL Arcology imagines the neighbourhood rooted in data justice, interspecies collaboration, and trust-based governance.
Aljumaine Gayle is a queer interdisciplinary creative technologist working at the intersections of technology, art, design, and data justice. They are currently enrolled in OCADU’s Digital Futures program and actively co-organizes/ co-designs programming on behalf of IntersectTO. Aljumaine is also a researcher with the University of Toronto’s Technoscience Research Unit. Their art and research practice explores othering of Blackness in contemporary life and aims to subvert this othering through Afrofuturism and the artistic use of technology. Their practice challenges the tokenism and trauma narratives that characterize the majority of mainstream Black art, film and music.
Car Martin is an architect, artist, and facilitator who has recently launched Cyan Station, an architecture studio that focuses on using technology and user-centred principles towards a vision of collectivism, care, and environmental justice. Car is a professor at the George Brown School of Design, where they teach interaction and experience design (UI/UX) at the Waterfront campus, a stone’s throw from the proposed Quayside development. In 2020, Car led a series of student projects exploring smart city technologies from a critical perspective, including prototypes for anti-surveillance fashion and design interventions. Car also recently contributed to a book on the same topic, “Smart Cities in Canada: Digital Dreams, Corporate Designs”, based on research about marginalized communities fighting surveillance in beautiful and creative ways.
In the second half of the episode Aljumaine and Car unpack their speculative utopia and its neighbourhoods. Ideas around power, collective care, and the need for speculative and critical design rise to the surface. How can we learn from natural intelligence and make better technological tools for collaboration and cooperation? How can data be decentralized, transparent, and transmuted into public art? And how can we educate citizens on how their data is used, to return power to the people, and better inform our communities?
Aljumaine Gayle & Car Martin: Quayside Futures
[00:00:00] Hima: [00:00:00] Welcome to Desire Paths. Presented by Luminato with Toronto based foresight studio, From Later. I’m Hima Batavia, one of the curators of this audio experience. What are desire paths? They’re unpaved passages slowly carved into the terrain of a city formed by the citizens own walking tracks, and guided by their belief in a better way.
[00:00:43] In this six episode series, we are exploring possible futures of Toronto through the imaginations of local artists. Each artist takes us on a field trip, one that weaves histories and futures into a vision of what this city could be. [00:01:00] Today artists, Aljumaine Gayle and architect Car Martin take us into a possible future of Quayside.
[00:01:08] Previously, the site of the model smart city, now called QPL Arcology will learn about what life could look and feel like here, followed by a conversation between Aljumaine and Car to unpack their vision for a future rooted in data justice, interspecies collaboration, care, and restorative trust.
[00:01:32] Consider putting on your shoes and going for a walk. Use this episode as a meditation to carve your own desire paths for the city in all its beauty, complexity, and contradictions.
[00:01:57] Aljumaine: [00:01:57] As humans, we have a natural [00:02:00] relationship to the land that dates back to the beginning of existence. This relationship started offering bacteria, water, plants, and then to form ecosystems on our planet earth. These relationships are rooted in intention, entanglement, meaning, interdependence and symbiosis.
[00:02:22] We live in a world that is rooted in technology that relies on physical infrastructure that has been embedded in the land. The lion has been shared with us in partnership, through treaties with indigenous nations and peoples that were here long before we settled.
[00:02:39] Car: [00:02:39] The dish with one spoon treaty is an agreement between the Anishinabek, the Missausagas of the New Credit, and the Haudenosaunee that binds them to share and protect the land in ways that provide mutual benefit. Settlers, like myself have been invited into this treaty and a spirit of peace, friendship and respect. This concept of sharing one [00:03:00] spoon informs our speculative world weaving into ideas of collectivism and trust-based governance.
[00:03:26] The story starts with a lonely Cottonwood tree using its roots to bust through the concrete. At the edge of the Parliament slip, Cottonwood trees themselves are skilled world builders. The efforts of this Cottonwood tree are a powerful metaphor for the often ignored covenants created by indigenous peoples and nations that govern the site.
[00:03:47] Aljumaine: [00:03:47] For roughly three year this tree became overshadowed by an experiment to build a new smart city from the internet up.
[00:04:01] [00:04:00] Sometimes the future is not a possibility in the horizon, but a series of speculative shards force vectors that bear down on a site, tempting it to buckle under the pressure.
[00:04:21] the tree looks out onto the water waiting for a day when it will become what chips turn about to make way for the ambitions of humans.
[00:04:36] The scraggly tree invites you to explore a place with multiple histories. And multiple futures.
[00:04:57] Car: [00:04:57] Trees are connected underground through a [00:05:00] symbiotic relationship with fungi in a network that some have likened to the internet. The Cottonwood tree invites us to consider how they connect in a non-hierarchical way and share information critical for their survival. They monitor each other by peer to peer networks, much like the early days of the internet before digital surveillance and data became big business.
[00:05:26] Aljumaine: [00:05:26] QPL Arcology is a worlding proposition, built an audio. It’s an attempt to build something that is layered, messy and built from the dirt up, from the wind up, from the fungi up. Arcology’s are human build ecosystems that are self-sustaining and they’re designed to contain and reduce human impact on the environment.
[00:05:54] The term is a mashup of architecture in ecology. And even though it was coined by an [00:06:00] architect, consider that all arcology’s are fictions. But when you break up in a fiction, you can find a nugget of a possibility.
[00:06:34] We skirt the river gambler,
[00:06:39] walking through a vast parking lot. We avoid pieces of wood and steel, stranded out
[00:06:54] looking at the silos. We want to get closer. The concrete formed [00:07:00] ridges are worn and streaked. Hawking monument is a steadfast as the Cottonwood calling on the weight of the history and the sheer weight of its mass. The silo is the antithesis of the cloud. The form of the structure describes the volume of what it held.
[00:07:20] The silo itself is a form of data.
[00:07:29] Turning back around to face the water from the silo. We hear they’re circling because of gulls.
[00:07:37] The gulls don’t know is that they were almost replaced by trash robots.
[00:07:47] Car: [00:07:47] Seagulls can live up to 49 years. They are resourceful. Inquisitive. And intelligent. However, they have been known to band together and mob intruders, and they sometimes use food to trick [00:08:00] and capture prey. They sometimes perform lepto parasitism, meaning that they steal food from other animals after it has been killed or prepared by them.
[00:08:10] In other words, they have learned to overpower Eve and exploit fitting comfortably within contemporary capitalism.
[00:08:25] Aljumaine: [00:08:25] The term Nearshore is defined by the Toronto Region Conservation Authority as an area where land streams, marshes in the Lake, all meet in an area where humans interact with in effect the natural environment.
[00:08:44] Nearshore is neither a park nor a parking lot. It is simply a place near the shore, the effective boundaries between the shallow coastal waters and the deeper waters. The area surrounds the silos and extends to [00:09:00] roughly 30 meters beyond the boundary we perceive as shoreline.
[00:09:12] the underwater plants in near shore are bound with humans in our data exchange towards collective benefit cloud for allergies and grow here and have formed a collaboration with humans. Network of sensors, combined with the allergies own sensitivity, allows information about pollution and oxygen levels to be shared in real time.
[00:09:36] So humans can properly maintain the health of the Nearshore water network. Give signals back to the algae that aid them in monitoring population pollution levels in tracking food sources since algae feeds on waste and contaminants sensitive network arguments and optimizes an existing symbiotic [00:10:00] relationship.
[00:10:12] In Nearshore the sheep graze and the insects bite, like the all do in the city parks.
[00:10:22] The shepherds are city staff, they guide the flock with care and empathy. And are experts at making conflicts productive. What are you seeking to monitor to make people behave?
[00:10:40] According to features in the post policing city, the shepherding profession has grown to be a well-respected and important part of our urban environment.
[00:11:06] [00:11:00] we walk along the boundary of the silo, dragging your hands lightly along the convex concrete, a small bit steep incline rounds. The corner near unbroken chain link fence.
[00:11:24] If you look closely, you can walk right into the silo.
[00:11:31] You can look up and see sunlight slicing through the dirty air.
[00:11:54] In Nearshore the birds sing every song,
[00:12:01] [00:12:00] the gulls circle above occasionally stealing food, but never overpowering the orchestra.
[00:12:27] As we walked North through the grand cellar parking lot exit we are quickly embraced by bustling sounds of vehicle traffic from an under the gardener expressway.
[00:12:45] As we make our way West towards the crosswalk, we encounter cyclists and people enjoying the grassy mini pockets. Across the street is the head office for the Traust governance group of the QPL [00:13:00] Arcology. The group operates from a newly renovated office building left vacant by sidewalk labs,
[00:13:10] Just a reminder data detox, and the cyber security workshops, are available free of charge. As we crossed the street, the sounds of birds, animals, and people enjoying a sunny afternoon welcome us.
[00:13:31] we encounter small digital display at the entrance of the building that states the following: The Traust governance group does not prioritize corporate grade or support the state agenda to surveil and track individuals. We believe that trust is significantly more important than surveillance where you serve their predictive and anticipatory risk management is harmful the grading and fueled by corporate grade.
[00:13:57] We will not commodify your personal data without [00:14:00] cause
[00:14:03] prioritize the comfort and security of the few at the expense of terrorizing black and indigenous people and people of color.
[00:14:15] we continue our walk West and we pass the residential area where families watching their children enjoy the nice weather
[00:14:31] as he walked down the street, we encounter a hologram rotating display of details about the Traust groups activities and objectives. The Traust governance group develops programs to help residents overcome obstacles, tied to race, class, age, and education level while sparking passion and energizing, a desire to care for the land and each other through sustainable ways of living broody, you have to trust [00:15:00] the trials, governance insurance.
[00:15:02] All individuals are treated with dignity in respect, connectively access food. And affordable housing in physical and mental health assistance and trust governance group fosters a physical and virtual space that normalizes conversations about equity, inclusion, diversity, and anti-oppression in a respectful way that encourages collective approaches to living.
[00:15:28] We trust the people to create communities of care.
[00:15:43] as we continue our journey along Queens Quay, we take none of the noise with the gardener expressway, packed with vehicles above.
[00:15:58] We encounter the entrance of the [00:16:00] Plumo district. At the entrance of the district, you began to hear the noise of wavelengths of data accumulating from the activity. In the Plumo district,
[00:16:22] the people stand and stare the spectators begin to clap uproariously as the data explodes in a cavalcade. As if it were multi-colored fireworks,
[00:16:40] there is a hush in the crowd as the data slows to a delicate hum. We hear beautiful piano notes, confirming the rival and subversion of data.
[00:16:56] As we approach the center of the Plymouth district, the sound of the data pulsates [00:17:00] loudly, the sounds of the data requests become louder. Okay.
[00:17:09] Tucked behind two industrial buildings is the Plumo district town square. The sounds of the successful data requests. Beep there’s a bold line of red light that represents an underground network cable. If you look down the street, you can see the light reaching towards a cluster or the cables intersect.
[00:17:32] Car: [00:17:32] If one were to look at a submarine cable map, you would see fiber optic cable stretching under Lake Ontario. These cables connect to an underground network that connect to data centers that use energy to store your data. The illusion of the internet as a massless cloud of data is false.
[00:18:01] [00:18:00] Aljumaine: [00:18:01] we walked through the square and cut across a well-formed desire path. We encounter a boisterous crowd watching and busking performance of an individual playing a date of violence.
[00:18:16] I noticed that the music makes only incoming data near the musician dance as if it were waltzing
[00:18:25] In Plumo, there is room for sadness. We have joy as we dance together, and then also find space for the full range of human emotions that the renderings or erase.
[00:18:58] My name is Aljumaine Gayle [00:19:00] I am a creative technologist, passionate about technology, art, digital justice, and, uh, finding ways to explore themes, uh, related to technology, how it connects to Blackness and rooted within experimenting and finding ways to use Afrofuturism as a means to sort of articulate complex things related to technology and social justice.
[00:19:23] Car: [00:19:23] My name is Carl Martin. I would describe myself as an architect designer, artists sometimes, and also educator. And I have been for a long time working with participatory design. So working a lot with communities towards realizing complex design goals. And I’ve also been working more in the traditional architecture world.
[00:19:43] And I’m also professor at George Brown in the school of design. So working more in technology interaction, design, uh, digital experience design. And I recently launched my own practice architecture and design studio called science station. And the [00:20:00] idea behind that is to develop new approaches, to increase access to beautiful and interesting spaces to a broader public.
[00:20:07] So trying to think about new project delivery methods that can sort of promote collectivism different models for affordable housing, and also looking at sort of nonsense human collaboration and how we can make some of those things stronger. In our world, um, trying to look at design as a bit of a problem solving mechanism, as opposed to what it has become, which is essentially just serving a very small, wealthy population.
[00:20:40] So we kind of got to know each other through sound, actually through exploring sound as like slight novices towards sound, but I’m exploring it that way.
[00:20:48] Aljumaine: [00:20:48] Formulate these design challenges based around particular themes of things that we would either read or things that we found interesting have conversations about them and then sort of structured these challenges where we would [00:21:00] create something, um, to sort of embody.
[00:21:03] That particular theme or
[00:21:04] Car: [00:21:04] idea. Yeah. So QPL Arcology is a place that sort of takes into account a variety of histories and also a variety of potential futures. So it is kind of a blended place. And we imagine it as a place that does not erase the history. It’s not a sort of sanitized future that is often sold in renderings, but it is a place that has sort of elements of the industrial past that has elements of the present biological community, making space for itself, and also sort of slowly evolving places for housing places for people to interact, um, places for people to steward the environment.
[00:21:48] And to experience a new form of art that we’ll talk about a little bit more later on.
[00:21:54] Aljumaine: [00:21:54] The name is sort of like a quiet nod towards, um, the Quayside Portland’s [00:22:00] area. That’s particular site has been talked about for years and years, and there’s a lot of articles and research about it, but we didn’t want this project to be rooted too much on that history.
[00:22:10] Uh, that’s tied to sidewalk labs. You know, our, our qualities are human built ecosystems that are self-sustaining and they’re designed to contain and reduce, you know, overall human impact on the environment. And so it’s also like a combination of architecture and ecology. It is an architectural term. And another thing, I guess it’s important to note that like Arcologies are speculative in nature.
[00:22:35] And so by combining a QPL, which is Quayside Portlands and our arcology, we’re sort of taking, uh, the speculative idea that, that particular site and sort of creating this fiction around it.
[00:22:48] Car: [00:22:48] Yeah. And one thing I would add to that is that like Aljumaine was saying, there are fictional speculative ideas that have never been realized, but they are tropes in science fiction.
[00:22:57] And I think one of the reasons that they are [00:23:00] specifically just tropes in science fiction and not real is that they are these sort of idealized closed loop systems in order to make our colleges real and to ground them in place, we have to sort of break open the closed loop nature of them and have them relate more to the city around them.
[00:23:15] Aljumaine: [00:23:15] Yeah. So I think what separates QPL Arcology from our current systems, it’s sort of like a place that rejects a lot of the things that are tied to late stage capitalism or a lot of the negative things tied to it. You know, classes of things tied to race. Uh, things derived around specific stigmas of how people should act and behave.
[00:23:35] It’s effectively an area where individuals that are focused on collective living and, you know, want to lead lifestyles based on care for the land and care for each other, and to move directly away from a lot of the things that sort of negatively impact our current contemporary society.
[00:23:55] Car: [00:23:55] Yeah, absolutely.
[00:23:56] I think the word class in this context is pretty interesting. [00:24:00] One of the things we sort of picked apart with this is these possible futures. And one of them is of course, this future that is sort of sold by developers for these areas. You know, there’s a lot of. Positive parts of it, but there’s this language that surrounds the development of the waterfront that is they use the term.
[00:24:18] World-class a lot. So trying to create this particular area of the Parliament slip is sold as a place where the activities can be world-class and taking apart that word class, really what they’re selling is this future. That’s very tech focused. The vision seems very expensive and make space for people that have a lot of means.
[00:24:40] And there’s a rejection of the industrial and productive capacity of the waterfront as well, which. In my opinion, sort of tends to help blend aspects of class and various types of people. One of the problems with design is that there’s such a [00:25:00] separation of theory and speculation operating in these sort of idealized.
[00:25:04] Often academic, but not always academic, but academic worlds, where people have a lot of freedom to really think about what is ethical, what is good, what is exciting and interesting. And then there’s professional design on the market and there’s so many constraints and there’s so little communication between those two sectors, even though they are, you know, from the outside, they’re considered sort of the same sector, but there’s very little communication between theory and practice.
[00:25:34] And for me, that’s one of my goals as a designer is to try to bridge those worlds. And that’s, that’s why I haven’t, you know, become an academic. I instead really want to try to practice, but also fold in critical design in an interesting way. And I think I’m still figuring that out. I think it’s really hard to do.
[00:25:53] Aljumaine: [00:25:53] Yeah. So I think for me, when I think of speculative work, it’s an opportunity for me to create room [00:26:00] for critical discussion about very specific themes. In ways that, uh, would be challenging to sort of address like through like a research or academic approach, because I don’t view myself as an academic, even though I do research, uh, for that prioritizes academic research.
[00:26:19] But, and I guess in many ways, a lot of the speculative of the work that I do shows up through interactive work research, that’s sort of, um, there to question or be critical of very specific complex concepts allows me opportunity to sort of play around with different ideas to sort of, um, imagine or re-imagine current or existing systems.
[00:26:47] Car: [00:26:47] What we did in order to create this was we did a visual collage collaboratively that talked about the different sites and the Plumo district was using a wind [00:27:00] Rose, which is a type of diagram that brings in different. Um, basically it describes the wind coming to a specific location. And it’s a really beautiful type of diagram that I liked quite a bit.
[00:27:11] And it speaks to this idea that we’re trying to use non-traditional materials in this world building process. So I like to think about the wind as an actual material. I think things like wind or sound are often thought of and designed as things that need to be managed. You know, there are these elements that we have to mitigate and manage, but I think it’s really interesting and productive to think about how things like sound.
[00:27:37] where wind can actually be materials in our design process. When we went down there the first time, it was a very cold and windy day, and I became very fixated on this tree. And we, we got an arborist friend to go down there and identify the tree. It’s a Easter Cottonwood tree. We thought of it as a sort of.
[00:27:57] You know, a host that invites you into the [00:28:00] story. And I found myself instantly drawn to the tree specifically because it provided a small amount of wind protection, but it was also just situated on this, you know, it’s basically, uh, if you can imagine a sort of big concrete parking lot. With a variety of, uh, boats docked around the water’s edge.
[00:28:21] And it’s a very point or corner of the concrete there’s this tree really just breaking up the concrete and, uh, The Cottonwood tree made me think about, about energies, I guess, and about these sorts of networks and energy as that trees have to connect with one another, these systems that we’re only now beginning to understand that are very advanced, very similar to the internet in a way, or maybe earlier days of the internet when things were a little bit more non-hierarchical and collaborative.
[00:28:52] So I think that tree really inspired conversations about energies on the site and how in this future potential [00:29:00] world, how can we sort of work with those existing energies that the trees already provide? And the wording the tree is already working on instead of sort of erasing it and creating these totally new things.
[00:29:26] the QPL Arcology pathway goes through three different sites. Um, it starts with the tree that I was speaking about. And then moving back from the tree, you go to the parking lot in the silo, and then over to the previous sidewalk labs building, and then onto Bonnie castle street. Which is a little bit further West, just North of Queens Quay.
[00:29:48] So we’ve got three, three chapters in the soundscape that describe different locations within this fictional world. And the first site is called Nearshore and [00:30:00] it is a zone near the shore. That is really about the underwater environment, specifically, the more sort of shallow coastal waters interact with humans.
[00:30:08] So we wanted to use Nearshore as a way to reframe. Just thinking about a site as ending at, you know, the place where the water starts and thinking about the seaweed environment as actors in our site. So probably the site is actually much larger than it appears when you’re standing there. And you think about the end of the land as private property.
[00:30:33] And it also has a sentiment in it and about, you know, it being named exactly what it is as opposed to being branded as something else. So it’s, this was imagined to be a silo park with sort of rolling Hills and this very sort of tended and cultivated, uh, environment a little bit romantic. And in my view, a little bit of a controlled.
[00:30:58] Natural environments,
[00:30:59] Aljumaine: [00:30:59] the [00:31:00] themes within Nearshore, um, focus on the importance of like having shared relationships with the land and the other animals and creatures that inhabit it and sort of remember that. Not because we’re at the top of, I guess the food chain or top of the intelligence, the food chain that we have a responsibility to
[00:31:20] care for them as well.
[00:31:21] Car: [00:31:21] And this major theme is really about that. Non-human collaboration and ideas about environmental justice as they relate to data and thinking about data as a reciprocal exchange, as opposed to framing it as surveillance or. The commodification of data, that whole site is really rooted in that idea of exchanging data.
[00:31:47] We talk about LJ as a exchange for sort of stewarding the water environment, and I’m really interested in technology as a way to make humans more [00:32:00] sensitive. And as a society in general, we have this desire to make things more efficient, to make things more convenient. And often what I would like to see with technology is how can we make ourselves more sensitive?
[00:32:13] How can we make ourselves better able to cooperate and collaborate with one another and technology I see as a sort of super power that it could enable us to do that. So I think we trying to draw out some examples of what that could look like. And one of them was this idea of the sheep grazing and the sheep would then sort of.
[00:32:33] Mow the lawn. Uh, they would also get to eat and then they would also have a relationship to the shepherding profession. And then there’s this whole other thread about seagulls and the seagulls here are sort of envisioned as this sort of mobbing, thieving, uh, crew flying above. And the seagulls are that, but they’re also, you know, they’re preying on things that prey on waste and algae and seals both sort of help us to [00:33:00] decontaminate the environment and.
[00:33:01] In this future that has sort of robots that take care of all the trash really efficiently. What happens to all that things that, that we’re already sort of doing that job. So I think that the idea of exchanging data is more about how can we work with the biological agents that are already doing some work and.
[00:33:24] Make that relationship stronger.
[00:33:26] Now, the important part about that is sort of like finding ways to live cohesively the environment, um, in a way that we’re trusting and not displacing the like stop displacing animals that already exist there in ways that are very damaging for the different parts of the ecosystem.
[00:33:42] And that’s usually of course, costs due to a need for convenience and efficiency and, uh, and. In many ways, unfortunately, as well, people sort of view animals like raccoons as an inconvenience. Um, but really the land is also theirs as well. [00:34:00] Another thing as well, I also wanted to sort of think about is this connection that exists with allergy, forcing me to remember, um, how we’re all like, how we all originate from different parts of the environment, like bacteria through water and through different parts of the land.
[00:34:15] love that you brought up raccoons. I think they have potentially this role to be these sort of, you know, citizens or, you know, how can we think about these, I guess, reframe what are pests into something that is an important civic role in, in these zones? And I think that is a role that designers can play.
[00:34:36] I think in telling stories and trying to essentially reframe the way people see different types of animals. Pests bacteria is a great example. You know, the way we culturally understand bacteria. And relate to it. How can we make that a productive relationship? And I think designers and also a critical design practice has a [00:35:00] big role in telling those stories and trying to reframe the way people understand those things.
[00:35:05] And I think it’s kind of both, there’s a brand new green standard for buildings that was published just a couple of months ago for this whole zone for the waterfront zone. And there’s a lot of really great stuff in there. That sort of put specific numbers on say urban agriculture, like a specific number of residents in this area need to have access to urban agriculture or bicycle infrastructure, electrical vehicle infrastructures.
[00:35:30] But it’s not really enough. You have to have designers that respond to those things in much more boundary, pushing ways that actually reframe the way we look at things. I think because the policies only go so far, they don’t actually change the way we look at things. They just sort of create a. Lowest common denominator that is better than the last one.
[00:35:49] You know, people who work with the land intimately and understand things that we don’t. We kind of ignore in the development process. Like I’m thinking like farmers, gardeners, people who just like understand the [00:36:00] sort of rhythms that we can tap into and scientists to write scientists that understand all of these, this incredible richness that we have with biological life, um, that we.
[00:36:11] I think as a society, ignore a little too much. And I would also put in there indigenous ways of knowing that we also tend to really ignore. I think that could go a long way to, to making some of these things possible.
[00:36:27] After we situate ourselves in near shore, we walk on to the next site, which is called Traust. And I’ll, I’ll let, Aljumaine talk about it just a little bit.
[00:36:36] Aljumaine: [00:36:36] is sort of like this interesting idea we had that we want to explore. There are differences between private and public. Like what could a governance group of individuals from, you know, different diversities backgrounds, levels of education, different class in a really diverse group of people that can focus on creating a community of care, to sort of foster this idea of [00:37:00] giving people the benefit of the doubt to create sort of like this governance group that embodies the ideas of creating, uh, spaces that are community focused, that.
[00:37:10] People can engage with that are not stigmatizing that exists with current communities. We sort of came to up to this idea of trout electrolysis, sort of like this word, this old Norse word, uh, which means. To help confidence protection support has like this weightiness similar to the word conviction to believe, or to have a strong opinion.
[00:37:32] And so what if we, there was an organization that believed in the people that place, that aims to foster collective living for individuals that want to move away from ideas that are deeply rooted within capitalism that are focused more on profit corporate gain. We want to create this space or this group of people that embody the ideas of creating opportunities for individuals to live their lives [00:38:00] with dignity and respect and, you know, access to
[00:38:04] To formal housing and, you know, physical, mental health and access to food, which are current problems that are pervasive within most contemporary developments right now. Like what we want to do is we want to create a space that operates and functions in a way, very different, two words, you know, the organization that existed prior to, to trust.
[00:38:27] And there’s ways of doing that. We’ve actually situated this governance group within the previous building, uh, which was occupied by sidewalk labs is his way of being sort of being the opposite of the things that were valued by, you know, large tech giants, uh, per se. I think
[00:38:45] Car: [00:38:45] the Traust site in the scape has a bit of a different tone to it.
[00:38:51] And I think that is intentional in terms of creating this. This idea of governance that is really [00:39:00] shared by a lot of different voices. So there’s a sort of clarity and explicitness to the trout. It’s a, it’s a little bit like a manifesto. And the idea is that in order to bring in a lot of different people, you have to state things in a pretty affirmative way and make.
[00:39:20] Sure that people understand what you’re talking about. It’s not sort of, whereas I think some of the other themes are a little bit more about exploration and a little bit more poetic. This one is kind of about stating the values of the space and making that clear so that people know. What they’re participating in at a sort of basic level.
[00:39:42] Aljumaine: [00:39:42] Thank you for mentioning that. And so I sort of wanted to mention the importance of like intention of being direct about doing the things you say you will do, which is currently a problem with a lot of organizations that exist that don’t have diverse, equitable, or inclusive leadership [00:40:00] organizations.
[00:40:01] And as a result of that, um, a lot of services and things that are offered to communities fall short of the promises that
[00:40:09] they make.
[00:40:10] Car: [00:40:10] Yeah. That kind of relates to a thread that goes throughout this whole thing and manifests itself in different ways, which is this other future that was proposed for this site.
[00:40:20] And similarly to a lot of developments that are sold, they have this quality of being quite energetic and happy and. Full of this sort of, uh, romantic, very S almost sterilized sort of vision of humanity. And they’re very seductive, right? They’re really beautiful renderings out there that really seduce you.
[00:40:42] You want to live in this place, you see all the newest sort of like material expressions and, you know, they look sustainable and beautiful and they use words like inclusive, but. The images also sort of just negate the fact that we don’t live in a society like [00:41:00] that. Things are a lot more messy. Things are broken and by creating images like that, What you’re leaving out is just as important as what’s in the images.
[00:41:10] And I think that’s a thread that comes out with the Traust group, you know, trying to really state these sort of fundamental values instead of selling PR about this perfect future.
[00:41:30] Aljumaine: [00:41:30] So it would be final site within QPL Arcology. Is this place called Plumo hill centers around the idea of making data visible, specifically focusing on making things such as infrastructure visible. And when I’m referring to infrastructure and referring to personal data, the, we have data that exists, moves to and from the way how data is created and aggregated.
[00:41:56] And of course used by different government [00:42:00] groups in different. Large organizations or tech companies and so on. There’s also this whole order of, um, this disconnect that sort of exists where people don’t actually understand the different types of data that they interact with and create and how that data is aggregated pulled together and used to either sell products to them.
[00:42:20] To build profiles about them. And so an inspiration for Plumo is sort of like this town square or central district where individuals can sort of go and aggregate together to see visual representations of data flowing through infrastructure, such as like the internet, the internet sort of like this thing.
[00:42:41] People sort of view as being based in, in the cloud, but really the cloud really isn’t a. Thing that is in the sky per se, the cloud actually exists directly rooted within the land and the internet operates and functions through data flowing through cables that have been dug and they’ve routed [00:43:00] really deep under the land.
[00:43:01] And so the internet is actually a very physical thing. It’s a very intentional, very precisely designed network.
[00:43:08] Car: [00:43:08] The Plumo name came about because of two, two related meanings of the same word, which are plumage and plumage is both something that could be smoke that comes from a building. So something that emanates from a building, uh, similar to visualize data might be emanating from a building.
[00:43:29] And then plumage also relates to clothing or feathers the way we adorn ourselves and the relationship of that to personal data and thinking about data as a sort of medium. Of personal expression, how we sort of use both data as personal expression and also as, as we use sort of our plumage to subvert data transmission.
[00:43:54] What are the implications of, you know, if we could see all that sort of data transfer and make that hyper-visible, [00:44:00] what would it look like? What are, what is the artistic expression that would come out of that? And also, what is their sort of activisms that come out of that? What are the new sort of movements that would come out of this ability for hyper visibility?
[00:44:16] And then of course, there’s also also potential problems with that sort of hyper visibility that really too. Privacy or, you know, people. Making use of a platform to do whatever they want, and that could be hateful or discriminatory. So there are conflicts within this potential zone as well. You know, it’s similar to something like the dark web where, uh, if facilitate certain things, um, that are really positive, but also things that are really nefarious.
[00:44:43] Aljumaine: [00:44:43] And so this particular site is located right below the gardener expressway. And it’s the final site where individuals get to spend time together, either taking in music. Learning about different types of things will relate to their data. You know, finding ways to [00:45:00] sort of get further away from this corporate clean experience as tied to capitalism.
[00:45:06] It’s also a place that prioritizes boisterous crowds, the place that’s whimsy, it’s the place, you know, a full range of human emotion. And, um, the human experience can be made visible. And when I think about Plumo I think of places sort of, uh, in Toronto, like Kensington market, for example, there’s like a pedestrian Sunday that takes place where there’s a large group of different people from different backgrounds that are sort of congregating together this one moment.
[00:45:35] And this one day sort of just existing and being in, being embedded within the land, which is many ways outside of your traditional use of, um, particular locations and sites. And so Plumo sort of embodies that, that sort of messy space for people can gather. And it’s also a space where people are allowed to protest and, you know, show their discontent with different things that exist within society.
[00:46:00] [00:46:00] Car: [00:46:00] There’s an idea in there that maybe you can talk a little bit about algebra and you had this idea about a data violin that comes out in the soundscape. Can you describe what that actually is? This idea
[00:46:10] Aljumaine: [00:46:10] of, um, data violin. So it’s sort of like this process of busking where individuals playing a violin, but since the data that exists, um, that people are creating by having their cell phones or being within that area is made visible.
[00:46:24] That’s individuals able to sort of choreograph and move the data around in a very beautiful and interesting manner that could be similar to, you know, a cavalcade of fireworks to showcase that this infrastructure that’s invisible. Is there and is always there. It doesn’t go away because we can’t. Yeah.
[00:46:42] There are tons of different ways that technology can be used to educate people, to get them engaged and interacted, to sort of come to understand complex concepts, um, that are not made readily available or accessible. And history has already shown us like 2016 election. For example, [00:47:00] if you can control data.
[00:47:01] You can control the people. You can control the culture, but when you educate people about how their data is used, and when you educate people about how data is used to control culture, you can give that power back to the people to have, you know, more of an influence on the things that happened within their communities.
[00:47:20] Um, that happened within, you know, their day-to-day lives. And this shift away from technology is always being the solution. It’s not always the solution. It’s, it’s just sort of a thing that helps people hone in and focus on or socially based problems that exist. An example of that I can give you right now is, is the George Floyd protests.
[00:47:40] You know, the reason why that was such a huge moment was specifically because people had the means to use technology, to sort of. Point really, really super focused lens on a very particular type of violence that exists, that people were not educated about that people did not have a proper [00:48:00] understanding about Pluto embodies using technology to.
[00:48:05] Augment our lives in positive ways to sort of bring forward things that people don’t understand and see. And so it makes different types of requests or if the different types of data visible and audible in a way that people can sort of grab onto it and focus on it and engage with it in a way that you couldn’t normally engage with data to take away the uncomfortable ideas associated with the act of being something that people shouldn’t care about.
[00:48:30] Because when you care about data, That means you care about culture.
[00:48:35] Yeah. I mean, I think it allows for more people to participate that feel alienated. You know, it’s also related to why, why we use sound for this, you know, it’s a very immersive medium, but also incredibly open to imagination. Right? You can envision whatever you put into the world.
[00:48:52] And I think if we want to get into actually. Having real conversations and bringing other people to the table [00:49:00] from a development perspective and space, then yeah, we need to, we need to stop making everything look so perfect.
[00:49:06] I agree that as well. And I find that like another important thing, as well as sort of like this whole idea of, um, through these renderings were projecting a specific idea or a specific intention of who belongs, where, and when, and by doing that.
[00:49:21] It excludes large swats of individuals from different identities, whether that be black people or indigenous people, or other specific types of people of color, like one of the main resources or main energies like that would exist to keep you all as this like whole thing of, of care being a priority and other things, as well as, uh, I guess what will be scarce to QPL would be sort of like this prioritizing corporate agendas and corporate needs specifically over people.
[00:49:50] Um, in many ways, similar to, uh, large tech giant sort of a prioritized people’s individual needs.
[00:50:11] [00:50:00] Car: [00:50:11] I mean, I think care at a societal level, it is looking at collectivization of resources and a way that we can sort of set up structures to enable the most vulnerable, to have sort of basic needs taken care of at all times. You know, the idea of having people that can invest in these types of projects that are maybe less profitable, less market-driven.
[00:50:34] You know, it’s a society that provides a sort of basic income and, uh, benefits to everyone really allows people to go beyond themselves and go beyond their sort of, um, their need to. Make a living and survive all the time because that’s kind of what Toronto has become. Just a place where people are constantly trying to survive and not able to really get creative about these things.
[00:50:58] Then I think there’s also an [00:51:00] extension of care to the non-human environment. And I think that’s fundamental to caring for ourselves as well. That being a sort of a loop that reinforces itself. I really thought a lot about care in crafting that idea. Me. And Aljumaine talked about these sheep that are sort of grazing in city parks and imagining the shepherds almost negating the role of police.
[00:51:27] So we’re thinking about a post police city and. The shepherds being this sort of conflict, resolving and guiding profession, that is, that is rooted in care and also trust. Um, but I think that, you know, that the fact that we’ve gotten to a place in society where people are getting. Terrorized for the color of their skin.
[00:51:53] That’s sort of the antithesis of care as, as a society. And we need to, we need to fundamentally rethink that.
[00:51:59] Aljumaine: [00:51:59] Uh, [00:52:00] yeah, I think for me, my, my motivations for wanting the space to exist is sort of a, it’s really within like, you know, my blackness of course, and yeah. As most black queer folks or black folks in general, the ways in which black and indigenous folks, the ways in which you move through spaces and where you spend your time within different parts of the city.
[00:52:22] For example, there had been not haphazardly selected. There they’re like the Rudy with intentional decisions, specifically with safety in mind, and specifically wanting to be in spaces where there is near no way LA alienation or. Spaces that you feel like you can belong in, in a sense that, you know, aren’t designed to sort of make you feel excluded or make you question whether you’ll be, you know, observed a proceeded very specific, a particular way.
[00:52:52] Yeah. I have a desire to create a space where I could see my friends and family live in and feel glee comfortably and safely [00:53:00] a space where. Where those needs and those little experiences will be valued and cared for in a way that isn’t purely based on fear.
[00:53:09] Car: [00:53:09] Yeah, for me, I think, I think it would be really interesting if the people who are developing designs for this site, you know, there’s a request for qualifications outright now for big design global design and development teams to actually.
[00:53:23] Takeover this, the Parliament slip and this, this very site we’re talking about. So I think it would be fascinating if they would actually listen and consider not just our story, but also just the act of listening to the space itself and finding, you know, what else can you learn from just hearing the Sonic environment of the zone?
[00:53:44] It would be really great if you know, a larger variety of different people from different lived experiences could hear this vision to sort of imagine what a QPL archeology could look like whether this be youth in Toronto or, you know, in different parts of [00:54:00] the world in different cities, it would be really great.
[00:54:03] If this could inspire the people, sort of, you know, think about an approach of the power of speculative design or worlding overall to sort of think about new approaches to living within. For user new purchase to development that prioritize people and their needs. Overall,
[00:54:36] Hima: [00:54:36] thank you for listening. If this episode sparked something in, you consider sharing it with a fellow citizen. We are all imagining possible futures for Toronto into being, find us on Instagram at Luminato festival and watch out for episode four. Launching next month, this episode of desire paths is produced by Alex Rand and co curated by Alex Rand and [00:55:00] myself.
[00:55:00] Hima Batavia with creative producers, Macy Siu, Jeremy Glenn and Robert Bolton of Toronto based foresight studio From Later.