From the Google walkout protesting the company’s sexual harassment issues to the letter from Facebook employees of color detailing the micro (and macro) aggressions they say they’ve experienced at the company, tech workers have been trying to demand better from their employers. Some Amazon workers demanded that Jeff Bezos stop providing its Rekognition technology to law enforcement departments; others have asked the company to strengthen its climate policies. Now that these techniques have been proven to work, how else can tech workers organize to change their industry? As part of a new online school, tech workers will explore how else to organize creative protests.
Logic School, from tech publication Logic magazine, is an initiative meant to empower tech workers to transform the industry, without waiting on higher-ups and CEOs to make changes. Logic, a print magazine that publishes three times a year, was founded in 2017 to change the conversation about technology away from surface-level observations on the same tech tropes and prominent people. (“Tech is either brilliant or banal, heroic or heinous,” the editors wrote in its manifesto.) Much of the magazine staff still works in tech, says Xiaowei Wang, creative director of the magazine, and they were inspired to create Logic School by the calls for a greater sense of internal ethics in tech.
“Now that the techlash has gotten a lot of media coverage, what’s next?” Wang says. With millions of tech workers now working remotely and less connected to coworkers, it might be more difficult to organize movements. “Logic School is really an experiment in trying to figure out, what does the next step look like? We’ve seen walkouts, we’ve seen letters to employers, so what are other ways—thinking through creative protests—that we can start to tackle these broader systemic issues in tech?”
Those systemic issues can range from surveillance to structural inequalities exacerbated by technology, and the trend that much of the tech world, Wang says, is driven “more by financial interests than societal good.” There’s also the broad issue of misinformation, and what responsibility tech companies and their workers have when it comes to curbing the spread of fake news. But even if they don’t agree with how things are, lots of tech workers feel helpless, resigned that this is how things work, or afraid to speak up for fear of losing their jobs, Wang says.
Logic School is about a “grassroots theory of change” and finding ways to remaking tech “from below,” the website explains. And it’s not only for engineers: Wang says they’re excited to hear from gig workers, consultants, and contract workers, too. Whether you’re going through your computer science undergrad or you’re a gig worker for Instacart, it might be too risky to join a picket line, but you might still want to try to change the internal or external policies of your workplace. The Logic School founders want to educate and empower this full spectrum of tech workers.
The school includes 12 weeks of courses, with a curriculum that draws on activism, design, and software engineering, through which the students will learn about different approaches to making these issues more visible and work toward their own final project of a creative protest. The site lists the Anti-eviction Mapping Project, which documents evictions in the Bay Area; قلب, an Arabic programming language created by Ramsey Nasser that highlights the English language bias in tech; and everest pipkin’s Image Scrubber tool, which blurs faces from protest photos, as examples of creative protest projects.
Beyond those projects, Logic School hopes to empower people to better advocate at their workplaces and also build a community of support and activism across companies. “You’d be surprised how difficult it is to have conversations about inequities and then figure out what to do about them,” Wang says. “How do you communicate and build up this force at work?”
The first Logic School cohort will be 20 people, and courses will be entirely online with digital guest lectures, workshops, and mentorship meetings. Applications are open through December 22. The application asks questions about what you hope to gain from the experience, how the courses could support work you’re already doing to organize, and if you already have a project idea in mind. Applicants can write their answers or upload audio. More than looking for the best project, Wang says they’re looking for people who seem thoughtful, like good listeners, and open to exploring how to make the most effective change while working with others.
The cohort will be finalized by January 20, and the courses run from March 8 through May 31, 2021. It’s also completely free for participants, thanks to funding from investment firm Omidyar Network, and all materials will be made public, so if you don’t make it into that cohort, you can follow along yourself—or even start your own Logic School. “It’s really designed to be decentralized in that way,” Wang says.