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Performing, narrating and calculating the future of democracy: the complex digital futurities of Spain’s Partido X

May 2, 2014

Postill, J. 2014. Performing, narrating and calculating the future of democracy: the complex digital futurities of Spain’s Partido X. Paper to the Studying Futurities conference, Leiden University, the Netherlands, 26-27 June 2014.

Abstract

On 8 January 2013 a new political party was launched in Spain. But this was no ordinary launch – and indeed no ordinary party. For one thing, its creators chose to remain anonymous for the first year of its life. In addition, their first ‘press conference’ was a YouTube video in which two unnamed actors opened with the gambit: “This press conference from the future is to announce in our past (your present) that the X Party, the Future Party, has won”. Far from being a joke, this audiovisual performance was a serious political intervention by a group steeped in Barcelona’s free/digital culture and indignados (15M) scenes, which I have been researching since 2010 (Postill 2013, 2014, in press). This was the first in a series of ‘anticipatory’ actions (Anderson 2010), both online and offline, accompanying the steady growth of Partido X over the past 16 months. As I write these lines, its candidates (including the HSBC whistleblower Herve Falciani and the free culture activist Simona Levi) are busy campaigning in the coming European elections of 22-25 May 2014. In this paper I retrace the extraordinary trajectory of Partido X, paying particular heed to how ‘different forms of the future… affect our global present’ (Pels 2013) and putting forth two main claims: 1) Partido X is making intriguing use of Anderson’s (2010) three forms of anticipatory practice (i.e. performing, narrating and calculating the future), and 2) its expert and lay participants are collaboratively developing an ‘anticipatory democracy’ model (Toffler 1970, Bezold 1978), albeit one that displays marked historical, cultural and technological differences from Toffler’s original 1970 conception. I conclude by arguing that Partido X’s complex ‘techno-political’ praxis (Toret 2013) invites us to interrogate current academic typologies and divisions of labour around the study of futurities.

References

Anderson, B. 2010. Preemption, precaution, preparedness: Anticipatory action and future geographies. Progress in Human Geography, 34(6), 777-798.

Bezold, C. (Ed.). 1978. Anticipatory democracy: People in the politics of the future. Random House.

Pels, P. 2013. Call for papers for a conference on FUTURITIES. Leiden University, The Netherlands, June 2014.

Postill, J. 2013. We are the 1 percent: rethinking national elites as protest participants. Reviews & Critical Commentary (CritCom), 26 November 2013.

Postill, J. 2014. Democracy in an age of viral reality: a media epidemiography of Spain’s indignados movement Ethnography 15 (1): 50-68.

Postill, J. in press. Freedom technologists and the new protest movements: a theory of protest formulas. Special issue of Convergence journal, “New Media, Global Activism and Politics” Vol. 20, no. 3 (August 2014).

Toffler, A. 1970. Future shock. New York, Bantam.

Toret, J. 2013. Tecnopolítica: la potencia de las multitudes conectadas. El sistema red 15M, un nuevo paradigma de la política distribuida. IN3 Working Paper Series.

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