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Memory of the Precariat

This project was developed during the hackathon Coding Precarity and was awarded by the jury in the category “Most Political”.

 

Concept

Precarious working and living conditions have many faces. In this memory game it is your task to discover the similarities in diversity. Click on the symbols and get to know historical and contemporary members of the precariat. Some positions seem to have hardly changed over time, while others have disappeared and new ones came up. By moving the circles together, you discover what links past and present. The different appearances of precarious conditions often disguise the fact hat they are based on similar social and economical dynamics. The memory game attempts to reveal these connections, so that we can ask ourselves: Can solidarity be rethought throw this emerging network?

The figures shown in the game are not real persons. However, their stories are based on historical texts from the digitized collections of the Berlin State Library and the ZBW as well as on contemporary studies and reports from labour unions and newspapers.

 

Implementation

The memory game is technically implemented as a simple, modern web application with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. The persons and their connections are represented as an undirected graph and are drawn dynamically and force-based in the Springy library. Each new connection potentially sets the whole graph in motion. diffDOM ensures that only changes are drawn, which decreases computing time.

 

Links

Memory Game

Springy

diffDOM

 

Code

https://git.adrianheine.de/adrian/coding-precarity

 

More outcomes of the hackathon Coding Precarity can be found here.

 

Precarious Spaces

This project was developed during the hackathon Coding Precarity and was awarded by the jury in the category “Most Educational”.

 

Concept

The digital exhibition “Precarious Spaces”, created during the hackathon “Coding Precarity” at the Berlin State Library, focuses on street as a public space in which precarity is debated and performed.

Those who live and work in precarious conditions are often overlooked and forgotten in public perception. The digital exhibition makes them visible within the fictional street, the center around which other spaces are grouped. The focus on the spatial dimension puts conditions and structures in perspectives, not only individual fates.

Coloured figures act as guides, leading us from the street to other spaces, where exemplary stories about precarious life are told, such as the jail, the grocery store, the inn, the factory. The street riot broaches the issue of protest against precarious conditions.

The frame is set by the historical sources, dating mainly from the 19th and the first half of the 20th century. At the same time, viewers are invited to establish a link to their own experiences, exploring the spaces by themselves. This allows for a low-threshold approach to the complex issue of precarity.

 

Development

In the concept development phase, the group soon agreed on a narrative approach. The concept allowed for telling different stories, throwing lights on topics such as economic conditions, social decline and marginalisation, which were combined to form a critial overall picture. Every group member thus contributed their own part of the project by creating one space. Finally, a clickable prototype was implemented and subsequently converted into a website.

The group worked with a wide range of documents from different data sets provided by the Berlin State Library and the ZBW. The selection was associative rather than systematic. Statistical data, text snippets, quotes from historical biographies, pictures by Heinrich Zille and caricatures are combined in a collage. Fragments thus form an overall picture of precarity in the exhibition.

We would have liked to add further spaces, such as private appartments, schools, orphanages or asylums, as well as other forms of precarity located in the public space of the street, such as homelessness or prostitution. Another interesting aspect would have been the visualization of relations between the spaces, as for example the paths from the jail to homelessness, from the factory to street riots, and from the inn to prostitution.

 

Links

Explore the exhibition

https://codingprecarity.brennsuppe.net

 

More outcomes of the hackathon Coding Precarity can be found here.

Topic data sets – Hackathon Coding Precarity

In September 2020 the hackathon „Coding Precarity – Social Issues in Cultural Data“, organized by the Berlin State Library and the ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, took place in Berlin. During this three-day event, interdisciplinary teams of computer scientists, designers and humanities scholars developed innovative projects using digitised historical documents from the Berlin State Library and the ZBW, addressing questions such as precarious employment, economic uncertainty, and social marginalization.


Data sets


The Social Question

Description:

With industrialisation, economic and social structures change dramatically: inhabitants of rural spaces move to growing cities in search of work, and the resulting oversupply of workers leads to low wages and impoverishment. These problems and their possible solutions were addressed controversially in the 19th century as the Social Question.


Materials:

Historical prints from the period 1844-1919 in German with reference to all subjects


Scope:

32 works / METS files; a fraction of the relevant SBB and ZBW stock


Licenses:

Public Domain Mark 1.0


Links:


Contact persons:


Misery and Care

Description:

Due to the mass social misery in the cities, institutionalised and professionalised social work emerged alongside the tradition of upper class private charity, regarding poverty, crime and social problems as economically induced. Nevertheless, the view of self-inflicted poverty and misery also persisted and led to attempts to enforce moral conformity through prohibition and social control.


Materials:

Historical prints from the period 1845-1925 in German with reference to all subjects


Scope:

54 works / METS files; a fraction of the relevant SBB and ZBW stock


Licenses:

Public Domain Mark 1.0


Links:


Contact persons:


Textile Industry and Agriculture

Description:

Surveys and statistics documenting the economic and social situation of specific professional groups provide insights into the working and living conditions of the working class and also show the efforts of labour unions and movements to constantly improve these conditions.


Materials:

Historical prints from the period 1792-1920 in German with reference to all subjects


Scope:

38 works / METS files; a fraction of the relevant SBB and ZBW stock


Licenses:

Public Domain Mark 1.0


Links:


Contact persons:


Women as Social and Factory Workers

Description:

Women were generally more affected by social changes and their economic position was even more difficult than that of male workers. At the same time, new fields of professional activity were established for women, for example in social work, which led to help offered by women for women.


Materials:

Historical prints from the period 1792-1919 in German with reference to all subjects


Scope:

27 works / METS files; a fraction of the relevant SBB and ZBW stock


Licenses:

Public Domain Mark 1.0


Links:


Contact persons:


Commercial Profit and Work Reform

Description:

Under the pressure of the labour movement and increasingly strong social democratic parties, social insurance schemes were established in 1883-1891, and there was an ongoing fight for better conditions, such as higher wages and regulated working hours. However, these reforms were sometimes regarded as a danger for economic profit and therefore prevented by the employers.


Materials:

Historical prints from the period 1828-1924 in German and French with reference to all subjects


Scope:

42 works / METS files; a fraction of the relevant SBB and ZBW stock


Licenses:

Public Domain Mark 1.0


Links:


Contact persons:


Marginalisation and Criminialisation

Description:

Marginalised and criminalised groups, such as sick and unemployed persons, orphans, widows, unmarried mothers, alcohol addicts or prostitutes, were most dramatically affected by economic and social pressure in the 19th century. In the efforts to help these persons in need, both supportive and regulatory tendencies can be identified, offering help only in exchange for moral and social control.


Materials:

Historical prints from the period 1736-1925 in German with reference to all subjects


Scope:

54 works / METS files; a fraction of the relevant SBB and ZBW stock


Licenses:

Public Domain Mark 1.0


Links:


Contact persons:


Socialism and Liberalism

Description:

With the emergence of the labour movement and the rise of socialist parties, the question of interaction between the economical and the political system became crucial. While labour unions advocated for the protection of workers, proponents of liberalism and nationalism saw this as a weakening of economic power and thus as a danger for the prosperity of the national state.


Materials:

Historical prints from the period 1876-1924 in German with reference to all subjects


Scope:

37 works / METS files; a fraction of the relevant SBB and ZBW stock


Licenses:

Public Domain Mark 1.0


Links:


Contact persons:


Housing Shortage and Food Prices

Description:

The growth of cities led to housing shortage and overcrowding of flats with poor hygienic conditions. Moreover, the income of many working class people didn’t allow for sufficient alimentation. Also in rural areas the job scarcity often led to difficult living conditions. Proposed solutions for these problems were the establishment of worker’s colonies, the construction of garden cities in the suburbs and the increasing industrialisation of smaller towns.


Materials:

Historical prints from the period 1870-1920 in German with reference to all subjects


Scope:

21 works / METS files; a fraction of the relevant SBB and ZBW stock


Licenses:

Public Domain Mark 1.0


Links:


Contact persons:


Stand: 23.11.2020


 

Historical Memes For German Teens

This project was developed during the hackathon Coding Precarity and was awarded by the jury in the category “Most Innovative”.

„Historical Memes For German Teens“ uses the meme format to provide insights into economic and socio-political questions of the late 19th and early 20th century for a young generateion with an affinity for the Internet. Natural Language Processing (NLP) was used to select appropriate texts from the data set “Socialism and Liberalism”, which were then inserted into the image template.

 

Why Memes?

Memes are small pictures spread in the Internet, often scenes taken from films, which communicate new content by adding text to the picture. Memes can be harmless jokes, but also convey satirical content and social criticism.

Since the creation and distribution of memes is very simple and young people feel particularly addressed by them, memes are nowadays also uesd in online marketing. If the aim is to communicate political content, memes have the advantage of reaching also a non-political audience and can normalize previously radical ideas through their funny presentation.

The meme we use became viral in 2011 and shows a scene from a Japanese animated film by Katori Yutaro, Taiyou no Yuusha Fighbird (Brave of the Sun Fighbird).

 

How does the text get on the picture?

In order to select text parts from the data set, Natural Language Processing methods were used, namely Topic Modelling and Named Entity Recognition (NER).

In a first step, Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) is used to calculate the topics occurring in the data set. A topic is a collection of words, e.g. “housing issue, housing policy, rent, building, floor plan, municipality”. In a second step, named entities, i.e. proper names, are recognized. These can be organizations, persons, or places, such as “Berliner Beamtenwohnungsverein”, “Ira Stewart”, “Königs-Wusterhausen”. In a third step, proper names are assigned to topics, if a word from a topic occurs in a proper name.

The last step is the actual meme generator: a topic is randomly chosen and combined with three proper names assigned to the topic, which are placed on the image template, thus creating funny and surprising results!

 

Links

Project presentation

Jupyter Notebook

 

More outcomes of the hackathon Coding Precarity can be found here.

 

 

Projects Hackathon Coding Precarity 2020

In September 2020 the hackathon „Coding Precarity – Social Issues in Cultural Data“, organized by the Berlin State Library and the ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, took place in Berlin. During this three-day event, interdisciplinary teams of computer scientists, designers and humanities scholars developed innovative projects using digitised historical documents from the Berlin State Library and the ZBW, addressing questions such as precarious employment, economic uncertainty, and social marginalization.

Short descriptions of the projects realised during the event and awarded by the jury can be found below.

 

 

Housing Shortage Tetris

This project was developed during the hackathon Coding Precarity and was awarded by the jury in the category “Best Metaphor”.

 

Idea and Concept

In the Housing Shortage Tetris game, players are requested to place a certain amount of tenants inside a given living space. What comes across as a colourful and popular classic game reveals its conceptual intricacy at a second glance. For the Tetris figures are typical inhabitants of a 19th century town. Here, homeworkers spend the night next to migrant workers, and during daytime the same beds are often rented by the hour to so-called sleeping lads. Saleswomen, girls for everything, and factory workers share the crowded living space with retired relatives and many children. The Tetris game thus serves as a metaphor, visualizing the housing conditions in large cities.

 

Realization and Implementation

For the realization and implementation we used Figma, a collaborative interface design tool and Godot, an open source game engine. Godot allows for designing Tetris figures individually. We developed nine different figures representing the typical tenement house inhabitants in 19th century Berlin.

With each game level it becomes more difficult to place the necessary number of tenants inside the given living space, as their number and speed is constantly increasing. Through this gamification approach, the important (and today again extremely prevailing) issue of affordable and appropriate housing might also reach politically less informed groups.

 

Outlook

The Tetris game idea could be further developed, e.g., by including other housing shortage scenarios provided by the data sets, such as housing conditions in the countryside, in smaller towns or from other metropolitan areas such as Hamburg. Hourly bed rentals to sleeping lads or the accommodation of homeless people in asylums could be modelled into separate playing arenas with their own game logics.

 

 

Links

Interface Design Tool Figma

Godot Game Engine

Code

Game on GitHub (https://brunibrun.github.io/CodingPrecarity)

Project on GitHub (https://github.com/brunibrun/CodingPrecarity)

 

 

Gameplay video:

 

Team

The team behind Housing Shortage Tetris is: Bruno Puri (B.A. in Computer Science, Technische Universität Berlin), Maryna Honcharenko (Interface B.A., FH Potsdam), Manuel Pfeuffer (M.Sc. Statistics, Humboldt-Universität Berlin), and Anna Meide (Interface B.A., FH Potsdam, https://www.instagram.com/meideanna).

 

 

More outcomes of the hackathon Coding Precarity can be found here.