Issue 18 / Pivot

December 21, 2022
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Logic(s): The Next Chapter

J. Khadijah Abdurahman, Xiaowei R. Wang

When Logic launched following the 2016 US election cycle, it provided a much-needed platform for critical and nuanced long-form reflection on technology. Five years ago, tech journalism—with its origins in product review—largely mirrored the industry it sought to cover. The founders’ goal—to deepen the conversation around technology—has, in many ways, been realized. Since its launch, Logic has published an interdisciplinary network of organizers, scholars, and artists. With the publication of its fifteenth issue, Beacons, it seemed Logic was on the verge of reinventing itself, with renewed commitments to the Global South, the Black radical tradition, and mixed media.

But Logic as an enterprise was also becoming harder to sustain. The magazine has always run on significant volunteer labor—the core team is mostly unpaid—and burnout is a constant concern. The sole revenue source for the magazine has been subscriptions—rather than institutional or corporate funding commonly raised by many non-profit publications—and this has necessarily imposed significant resource constraints. While Logic has always paid its contributors, its small budget has made it difficult to deepen its commitment to publishing poor or historically marginalized writers, particularly Black, trans, disabled, and/or queer writers of color. Limited money has also made it hard for Logic to find a way to evolve into its next phase. Magazines need to evolve past the moment that produced them in order to remain of use. Is there a way for this labor of love to transform itself in order to meet the needs of the next five years of tech criticism?

Vision

In January 2023, Logic will transfer leadership of the magazine to one of the founding staff members, Xiaowei Wang, and Director of We Be Imagining, J. Khadijah Abdurahman. This will mark the beginning of the first queer Black and Asian tech magazine. Black, Asian, and queer are not only descriptors of our individual identities but also mark the kind of theoretical and political approaches we hope to infuse this next chapter with. Logic(s) will retain the core commitments of the magazine’s founding while laying the groundwork to radically shift both the tech journalism genre and dominant publishing models. The “Beacons” issue of December 2021 was a pilot model for what this transition will look like: deeply interdisciplinary (poetry, visual art, and sci-fi on the same axis as the long-form essay); an ongoing invitation to fields traditionally outside of tech, which offer a set of methods and tools to think through the social implications of digital technologies and data collection. Two core commitments of this transition are “marrying our thought to the poor” and increasing engagement with international issues—particularly an emphasis on Asia and the African continent.

“Centering the most harmed” or “focusing on the impact of vulnerable populations” dominates liberal conversations about technology and data policy. However, “marrying our thought to the poor” means a) drawing on the conceptual frameworks of impoverished Black people, marginalized folks, and jobless people as opposed to delimiting them as a site of harm for outsiders to examine, and b) an emphasis on commissioning stories about the public sector adoption of automated decision-making systems like Medicaid eligibility determination, coordinated housing entry child welfare, UNHCR biometrics, and refugee mobile money payments. These areas continue to be under-attended to, despite the scale of their impact and their role as a site of experimentation before being generalized to the rest of the population. Relatedly, international coverage of tech continues to be limited to stories about social media platforms recognizing an insufficient number of languages or heads of state using internet blackouts to suppress dissent—stories that lack a more capacious situating of technologies in their sociopolitical context.

We echo Georgetown’s Center for Law and Policy’s concern that reliance on the terminology “artificial intelligence” and “machine learning” obfuscates the specificity of technologies narrated under those terms. Like Logic’s original founders, we share a commitment to an anti-capitalist framework. We also believe tech criticism must evolve past simply throwing the terms capitalism or white supremacy onto a story like garnish. We aim to provide the editorial support that writers need in order to do the work of developing these connections between finance and locally-rooted expertise, especially from trans, incarcerated, and Indigenous writers. The editing process at Logic has been very rigorous, partly because, unlike The Guardian or similar venues, there’s not simply a pre-existing reservoir of trained writers to tap into. A core part of the publication process is helping contributors develop the capacity to narrate their domain expertise for a popular audience in real time. We plan on addressing this through significantly increasing compensation, providing pop-up writing intensives, and preemptively budgeting for outside accountability facilitators that will be available when any member of the process feels harmed.

Future Stories

Potential stories or themes we hope to address: examining the impact of digital infrastructure projects like Facebook’s installation of submarine cables in Djibouti, shifts in how mail and other services are delivered by carceral institutions in the US, queer organzing for mesh networks in Appalachia, the revolving door between Safaricom and government digital ID regulators on the African continent, DARPA-funded research at Desmond Patton’s institute, merging algorithmic gang member identification with countering violent extremism algorithms applied to databases on migrant children in the US, changes in federal Medicaid legislation mandating increased interagency data sharing and collection. If you are researching and writing about any of these stories, or have an idea for us, email us at editors@logicmag.io with the topic “Logic(s)” in the subject line.

Programmatically, in addition to intentionally commissioning more poetry, visual art, and science fiction, we plan on incorporating a regular column featuring high school students to support a more intergenerational conversation. We also plan to run book reviews, which, in this field, tend to be pleasant summaries instead of showing substantive engagement. We will provide a platform, and the necessary editorial support, to pursue this deeply necessary line of engagement.

Continuations

Khadijah and Xiaowei will be building upon the foundational infrastructure and editing that has been a labor of love by a network of people over the past six years. This includes: Jim Fingal, Christa Hartsock, Ben Tarnoff, Moira Weigel, Celine Nguyen, Jen Kagan, Alex Blasdel, Sarah Burke, Max Read, Aliyah Blackmore, Jacob Kahn, and many others.

The last issue of 2022 is appropriately themed “Pivot.” This issue marks a turning point for Logic, and is about transitions of all kinds. It features reflections on the first six years of Logic by readers, contributors, and members of the core team.

Check out our call for pitches for issue #19, supa dupa skies (move slow and heal things).

J. Khadijah Abdurahman is the director of We Be Imagining at Columbia University and a Tech Research Fellow at UCLA C2I2.

Xiaowei R. Wang is a cofounder and the Creative Director of Logic.

This piece appears in Logic's issue 18, "Pivot". To order the issue, head on over to our store. To receive future issues, subscribe.