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Seamless Life: The imaginaries, experiences and peril of data-driven life ​​​​​​​

ASG 2023

The advent of so-called  smart solutions promises to deliver a frictionless society or what has been described as a “seamless life.” Data-driven solutions includes  refrigerators that tells you what you need to buy, routes that navigate autonomous vehicles beyond time tables, waiting and bus stops, and companies that trace and immediately react to the perceived needs of consumers. This ASG will examine how these dynamics play out in the home and in the street with the aim to unpack and interrogate the seamless life.

We are currently witnessing a development where various so-called smart technologies are being promoted to optimize different spheres in society. Smart technologies are often described as demand driven and people-centred, indicating that it is the aggregated perceived needs of the individual that is set centre-stage.

This data is used to promote information that is considered relevant for its users – but it is also translated into new forms of infrastructure in our everyday environment, including refrigerators texting us what we need to buy, and vehicles using real-time information to provide an optimized trip. Taken together, these smart technologies create what is currently being promoted as a seamless life or a life without friction –omitting waiting times, detours, irrelevant news and bad music from our lives. As the ideal of a seamless life is data-driven, it is often promoted as politically neutral. However, these visions have normative and sociocultural assumptions that are largely unquestioned: is the friction-free and seamless life a good life?  

The aim of this ASG is to unpack the seamless life in its current practices and future imaginaries, and to reflect on its implications. We will analyse these dynamics on two different sites, the home and the street, thus including both the private and the public sphere.

Three questions are addressed:

  • First, we interrogate the underlying norms and values of the seamless life, including which assumptions of the human condition it builds on.
  • Second, we examine the lived experiences of the seamless life at home and on the street.
  • Third, we zoom in on the power relations of the seamless life, including gendered and racialized practices, as well as the hidden work that is performed in order to uphold and realize it. Here we also open up to questions relating to the stiches, resistance and margins of the seamless.