SU Augmented reality glasses: A top player in ‘Grand Theft Bike
My name is Kikker. It’s raining again today. After a few months, I’ve learned that rainy days are good days. Except when the rain is too strong, it’s hard to keep your sight clear.
Lesson number one: there are more orders in bad weather. Luckily, bad weather is all we have in most of the year.
I joined this game around 1 year ago. Fresh out of the bedroom town. I was excited when I could finally leave where I lived since I was 5. We moved to this new country where there is no mountain. I thought I would meet some locals, but most of my neighbours and schoolmates are newcomers like us. I like them but… sometimes I feel I have never ‘really’ lived in the country. After high school, I decided to move here. I study in the computational science program. Although here is not the best place to study computational science, but fuck it! You only live once man, I don’t want to spend my student life in some town packed with nerds.
So I am here! The first thing that shocked me before I moved was that the school told me there is not enough student housing for all. I can sign up for the queue but there is no guarantee when I will get a new house. That’s a really good start, right! I was crazily looking for rooms on the internet, but probably because of my profile picture or name, I am always considered a foreigner. In the end, 3 months later, my new study fellow found a place, now we share the apartment together. The rent is 1,300 euros per month for two people. It’s not so bad, to be honest. But I do have to have extra part-time work because my study loan is not enough to pay.
Compared to a bar or supermarket job, doing this is more flexible. At first, I thought I just have to work till I earn enough money for my monthly expenses . Soon after I started doing it, I realized it takes time to be visible as a rider and be engaged with orders in the hood.
Lesson number two: The algorithm does not “recognise you’’ until you have done some hustle for them. Try it for yourself: no orders, no money.
As a matter of fact, this city is not that big. But in the city centre, canals and bridges, cars and bikes and tourists always clash together. You need to find ways to bypass these assholes, otherwise, it’s easy to get into the cranky boring mood. The same streets all the time. Cars and trams are even more annoying on rainy days. Those white vans delivering packages always park on the street. Then all other bikes and scooters have to take the tram line, there are always people falling from their bikes while crossing the slippery metal tram tracks. Then other bikes and sometimes even the tram have to stop waiting for the accidents to clear out.
One time, I also fall. The asshole delivery guys on scooters bypassed me without lowering their speed. I had to press the break otherwise we would have crashed together. It was right after the rain, I fall badly on the tram track. Even worse, my bike was destroyed. The whole front wheel was distorted. I didn’t have enough money to buy a new bike. While I was struggling whether to borrow money from my parents, I saw the Swapfiets shop on the way to school. It was newly opened in the school building. I found that if I pay 75 euros per month (which, I have just enough amount), I can subscribe to their e-bike! How cool it is! With Ebike my job became way easier! I am faster and definitely can take more orders!
Well…I just forgot that every month I have to pay 75 euros. For this I have to work more to cover the subscription fee. But what other choice do I have?
‘Grand Theft Auto’’ has always been on my top 3 game list. After a while working with EBike, I started to imagine myself in the reality version of ‘Grand Theft Auto’. Round and round in the city, you found the best spots to turn. Fastest shortcuts from here to there. I particularly enjoy it when I overtake other deliveries. Whenever I do it, ‘another bonus point Kikker! Good job!’ I shouted to myself, then the background music would autoplay inside of my brain.
Gradually, when I hopped on my bike, the city transformed into a different dimension in my ‘Grand Theft Bike’ reality: restaurants are just pick up points and more importantly the departure points of each round of the game. My favourite route is from centrum to the west. This route is inevitable to bike among canals and bridges. Those lands are quite narrow, when there are other cars, it’s a fun time to compete with them and show my skill.
Lesson number three: the street is not a place for strolling and gazing, it’s a death zone.
Last year during the lockdown, I found that some service staff who used to deliver food to me in the restaurant also became my fellow ‘professional’ cyclists. These newbies are very often way slower. How do you know they are newbies? When you wait at the traffic light together with other deliveries, the one who asks you where to pee is the newbie. Every rider has their own secret spots. You don’t just ‘ask’ people. You figure it out. For me, I know hidden corners in the canal areas where you can pee without getting into trouble. Parks are good places to be. There are as many bushes you can pee under, also free taps and nice places to chill out. Sometimes I have a beer with friends in the park. Then I turn on my app. Multi-access in parks is really convenient to get through different neighborhoods as well.
Lesson number four: peeing is not for everyone.
It’s not a bad job overall. Sometimes I also make friends. Like this guy who lives in the south. He has a decent job as a software programmer in Airbnb. That’s like my dream, you know! Obviously since the lock down, he can only work from home. Without the company kantine, almost everyday he orders food. At some point, he became the one I met most frequently apart from my housemate. We actually live quite close. Sometimes he will let me pee in his place and we have a small talk. That’s nice. But poor him, I thought being a software programmer is a fun job! Like you play games with codes everyday. Last winter he had burned out because Covid changed too many things in the holiday rental markets. His company laid off the junior ones. He is lucky to have a permanent contract, but after a couple of months he was on sick leave. Sometimes I get confused. What is a good job?
Every good storyteller has a twist up their sleeve. I have no such twist. Kikker is just one out of many, a banal platform economy worker. What the story does instead, is that it poses a thoughtless question: Who is Kikker? What is the gender, age, class and race of that capitalist gravedigger?
When you have a clear picture in your head- an image so vivid that you might recognize your own delivery person – then you know: a conversation on intersectional solidarity must take place.
Lets us call that contribution to the conversation a Kikker test. While intersectionality lens allows us to see that race, class, and gender of Kikker are not separate, but entangled and mutually shaping layers, we suggest that an ultimate opening for an intersectional solidarity in the platform urbanism era is a collectively safe peeing. In other words, we must ask ourselves: Can Kikkers pee equally comfortable? Can Kikkers cycle equally safe? Can Kikkers kick capitalist death cult with equal enthusiasm? Our suggestion is to think of these bodily and almost banal activities of primitive accumulation and revolt against it as the prism to build and cherish such solidarities.
In other words, let Kikkers pee together, because peeing is political.
First published 28,10,2021 at PANEL DISCUSSION ON PLATFORM URBANISM, Venice Architecture Biennale 2021, Austrian Pavillion