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For Mindy Seu, Digital Archiving Isn’t Only a Job—It’s a Life-style

The meatspace has been blurring for some time. Since no less than 1985, when feminist scholar Donna Haraway’s essay “A Cyborg Manifesto” argued that the boundary between man and machine has by no means been all that clear, the muddling of our humanity with the know-how we’ve created has solely gotten extra complicated. Lately, AI bots pump out artwork and philosophy, whereas we optimizable people spend a not insignificant a part of our time serving the bidding of some algorithm someplace. The {hardware} on our desks (and in our palms) just about perform as pure extensions of the squishy wetware operating our skulls; in case you haven’t heard, on-line life is actual life.

However Haraway made this blurring really feel radical, not miserable. Her manifesto has since turn into a necessary textual content of cyberfeminism, a important motion that largely arose within the ’90s in opposition to the “large man make large machine” narrative dominating the web age. At this time, that motion finds definition—and documentation—within the designer and digital archivist Mindy Seu’s Cyberfeminism Index, a hefty assortment with greater than 700 entries of artwork, activism, and experimentation from the final 30 years made in pursuit of interrogating our technological actuality. Consider Seu’s index, printed earlier this yr and in addition accessible on-line as a dwell database, as a chilly, arduous, page-turnable anti-canon of web historical past—albeit a fairly esoteric one. What’s in it to your common TikTok-glutted normie who’s nonetheless feeling uneasy about all this online-offline meld?

On a current Thursday afternoon, I’m visiting Seu at her Brooklyn Heights condo. To be sincere, I’m not searching for a cyberfeminism crash course from Seu a lot as I’m hoping to seek out inspiration—an outlined credo, even—for dwell, work, and easily course of our lives of utmost online-ism from this barely completely different kind of web professional. There was the enchantment of Seu’s credentials, after all. She has a grasp’s diploma from Harvard’s Graduate College of Design (the place she first started engaged on Cyberfeminism Index on the Berkman Klein Heart for Web & Society), she now teaches at each Rutgers and Yale, and he or she collaborates with cultural establishments together with the New Museum, the Ford Basis Gallery, and Spike journal. As a skilled graphic designer, Seu has made a profession out of being knowledgeable on-line hoarder, creating and stockpiling compendiums, PDF libraries, and freshly digitized counterculture magazines with a world community of fellow artists and technologists. She identifies as a “gatherer” in maybe the truest sense of Ursula Ok. Le Guin’s “Provider Bag Principle of Fiction,” which proposed the basket—not the spear—as mankind’s earliest innovation. A current Yale class Seu taught was merely titled On Gathering.

In consequence, Seu has minimize a uncommon determine within the tech scene not solely as an aesthete and mental and an really communally minded particular person, but in addition, as I’ve observed in her interviews and throughout her writing, as someone with the particular, serene knowingness of getting it found out—“it” being a contract with the technologized life primarily based, nearly unfathomably, upon intention. Plus, I’d be mendacity if I didn’t add that Seu appears to make all of it look moderately glamorous too—what number of web nerds have you learnt land soft-focus photoshoots in area of interest way of life publications? Perhaps Mindy Seu is the life-style influencer all of us really want.

Seu greets me on the door. Barefaced, barefoot, and model-tall, the 32-year-old is carrying her go-to uniform of classic Dries Van Noten males’s trousers and an outsized sweater tucked in. Her condo, the place she’s lived since 2021, is as spare as a gallery, anchored by a potted olive tree and a protracted wood eating desk upon which a single gleaming MacBook rests. We sit on her suede Togo couch, snacking on grapes and hojicha tea. It’s humorous how the absence of basic stuff focuses the attention: I be taught that her eating chairs are from a Dumbo-based studio that makes Judd-esque furnishings from scrapyard wooden and salvaged supplies. A portray by Earl Swanigan, the Hudson people artist who famously painted on equally reclaimed supplies, leans on the barest sliver of a metallic shelf. “I’ve actually tried to concentrate on buying issues slowly,” Seu explains of her dwelling. That’s, if thine artwork is digital hoarding, thou should preserve the meatspace as minimalist as doable—gathering requires curation, in spite of everything.

So, certain, Seu and I discuss AI and social media and Cyberfeminism Index’s better level, which is that we should always spend extra time contemplating the ability of the web a part of the web itself—the change of concepts, the hacking of present buildings to create one thing fascinating and infrequently radical—however I got here right here to be influenced! I got here to Hoover up any tenets of Seu-ist dwelling I can discover, as a result of certainly somebody who dredges themselves every day within the annals of the net and retains her life this gallery-esque should have a improbable system in place for all the pieces.

And I’m not mistaken. It’s readily obvious that Seu is an individual who thinks and cares deeply about construction at each degree. Speaking about New York and her determination to maneuver right here, the Orange County native described the town as “a naturally filtering ecosystem”. Once I ask concerning the slog of her worldwide guide tour, she gestures towards her luggage by the door, which apparently stay all the time packed and on the prepared together with her probiotics, protein powder, and stomach bands. She is a hardcore time-boxer, utilizing Google calendar to carve out time for all the pieces from commuting and steaming garments to recurring month-to-month social calls; a standing New Yr’s Day annual hangout with a good friend is arising quickly.

Perhaps this meticulousness began together with her household historical past, Seu theorizes. Her mother and father immigrated to Southern California from South Korea at a time once they have been solely permitted to deliver one or two luggage per particular person and a set amount of cash, opening up a flower store in Orange County. It might need been set to movement even earlier, again when her grandfather modified the spelling of the household title from Suh to Seu. Which means that Seu, who confesses she’s additionally by no means really felt like a Mindy herself—“It appears too cute or one thing; once you say Mindy Seu collectively, it feels like a rustic title!”—has all the time felt a little bit mislabeled.

Seu reveals me her Notes app, which features a every day to-do checklist, a month-to-month to-do checklist, a listing of issues to promote on Depop, a listing for recipes, a listing for TV and film suggestions, a be aware titled “Flight Hacks,” and one other one known as “Presents”—and that’s simply to begin. “If it’s a critical be aware, I transfer it to Google Docs, as a result of these should be far more longform,” Seu explains. A lot of those notes are stuffed with snippets and references from even probably the most passing dialog with buddies. “If they are saying one thing that feels resonate, I’ll make a remark of it with some metadata, in case I must accused it in a while,” Seu says with complete seriousness. (As a kind An individual, this expertise was not not like what I think about watching an aspirational HGTV dwelling makeover seems like. Life might be like this?)

Okay, however generally all this intention goes out the window, proper? Like she nonetheless doomscrolls, proper? “In fact,” she assures me, however after all, she’s even given this a variety of thought. “Once we doomscroll, it’s not as a result of we’re undisciplined or no matter—we’re basically utilizing an app the way in which it was designed for use…. It’s extra spectacular once you’re not doomscrolling, as a result of meaning you’ve been actively in a position to change your psychology to not be attuned to these issues. And we will all do this, however it requires a variety of intention.”