cut along the black lines
and fold along the white lines
The algorithmic ecology is a tool for community resistance developed by Stop LAPD Spying Coalition and Free Radicals. It came out of work both groups were doing against PredPol, a “predictive” policing system used by the Los Angeles Police Department in the Skid Row area. Algorithms like PredPol are not only mathematical operations installed to replicate existing inequities (of course, they do that too). We wanted to visualize the ways punitive surveillance systems are rooted in a living context even before they are used. Who created the algorithm? Who wrote the code? What parties benefit from it? What human logics does it use, and what ideologies does it uphold? Dismantling algorithmic violence requires more than just self-defense; it requires the abolition of the institutions and ideologies that bring them into existence.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t get specific. Once we created the Algorithmic Ecology framework, we also wanted an accessible way for communities to apply it to their own fights. Enter: our zines! Both the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition and Free Radicals use zines as a potent form of expression and political education. Zines have traditionally been used as a way for marginalized people to reclaim popular narratives and defy the status quo. We continue this legacy in all of our work — when we gather to storytell and build collective power, when we do outreach, and as we organize with our communities against the police state. Free Radicals’ zines cover a variety of topics at the intersection of science and social justice, from irreverent critiques of data-sharing down to reflections that use radical speculative fiction to explore personal relationships.
We have also previously collaborated on two zines condemning the LAPD’s use of PredPol, which we distribute at actions in front of LAPD Headquarters. Zines are much more engaging than a flyer, and much more likely to be kept and shared! We also distributed them at zine fests, allowing us to reach an audience beyond the folks already invested in our fight.
Our Algorithmic Ecology zine kept both of those strategic principles and added a third — it’s interactive! The questions on each page of the zine guide you through critically examining any algorithm or technology, and the backside is a blank template for you to map your own Algorithmic Ecology based on your responses. Let us know if you try it out and if it’s useful in your own community’s fight!