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So often, the dominant tech platforms that offer ‘connection’ leave us feeling more numb and distracted than ever, passively wading through a constant feed of social updates. The quality of our personal relationships defaults to the whims of corporate algorithms working to churn attention into profitability. We want to stay in touch but lose each other amidst a sea of sedative noise.

Two years of pandemic distancing had set forth an abundance of virtual happenings that amplified remote exchanges while bypassing previously assumed barriers of disabilities and geographies. As lockdown policies shift, digital fatigue lingers, and physical happenings start to spring back, what happens to our dynamics of virtuality?

Social media is nothing new, of course. We have been prototyping communications technology since the dawn of time. History holds many ideas for how to send a message across distances, from carrier pigeons and postcards, to smoke signals and dream apparitions. Each of these communication protocols designs the sense, weight, and tone of a message, and the messages over time make up the wellbeing of an interpersonal relationship. A distanced relationship, then, is especially shaped by the protocols at play, with or without our intention.

How can we experiment within and beyond today’s mainstream media platforms in order to establish remote connections that are rooted in intimacy and care?

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(she/her) is a Chinese-American media artist and educator. Her practice operates on cyclical and intergenerational time. Along the peripheries of imperialist imagination, she works to bridge ecology and technology through ancestral remembering, interspecies pedagogy, and translocal solidarity. | @aliceyuanzhang

is an exploratory design and development studio. We create slow, intimate, tools as a means of imagining alternate futures for social software. | @soft_networks