Vice President for Campus Life Rochelle Calhoun was on-hand to present several awards, including the FitzRandolph Gate Award. Also known as the “fan favorite,” the award went to Payton Croskey, Class of 2023, for her research presentation, “The Augmented Undercommons and the Path to the Sun: An Exploration of Liberatory Technology and other Revolutionary Tools.”
Gunshot-detecting microphones, killer drones and baby fingerprint scanners all exist to convince citizens that they are necessary developments for a safe society. Yet, Black technologists and innovators refuse to accept this fallacy. They are constructing beneath the surveillance state in, what I call, the augmented undercommons. The augmented undercommons, developed from Fred Moten and Stefano Harney’s idea of the undercommons, is a parallel location where all who refuse to submit to technology’s watchful eye may freely reside while reconfiguring the world’s understanding of ‘innovation’ and ‘security.’ Through three distinct case studies, I uncover how digital maroons are reconstructing the design process and challenging industry standards. I also investigate the flaws that linger even in systems intended for freedom and how they amplify larger societal issues. Ultimately, there is a multitude of problems troubling the digital age, but the process of building a rocket below ground before sending it flying in the sky reminds us all that we must go low before we can go high.