How far are we through the economic crisis? Some fools probably thought it was 80% of the way, whereas now are discovering that it's less than halfway. Martin Wolf sagely points out that a "double-dip recession" would require the first dip to have come and gone, which was never really the case. So lets call it a "single-trench recession" (aka a depression). Meanwhile, we entertain ourselves by competing for the silliest micro-explanation for this most macro of shit-storms, the latest being 'sexio-economics' (the perfect complement to Catherine Hakim's risible 'erotic capital'), just as a sufferer from tooth-ache flicks through back issues of Hello in a dentist's waiting room and tries to ignore the pain.
Science and Technology Studies has made an artform of discovering the micro in the macro, including the design of new mediations between the two. Consider Andrew Barry and Lucy Kimbell's 'Pindices' artistic experiment, which offered the public a choice of badges, containing various declarations of civic participation, such as "I obeyed the law", "I shopped ethically" and "I protested". As the project explains:
The badges were arranged in 2m-high plastic tubes which from a distance resemble physical bar charts. As people take the badges, the levels in the tubes vary presenting an aggregate view of political activity.
They are each given a different colour, and unpopular forms of political activity remain glaringly obvious, as the tube remains more full (see the image above).
Why not adapt this experimental device, and install an equivalent near Canary Wharf tube station, with badges specially designed for people working in financial services. The text on the badges could read:
- I paid the legally-mandated level of income tax
- I passed on an interest rate cut
- I used customer savings in order to make a loan
- I advised someone not to buy a derivative because I had no idea what was in it
- I recognise that I work for a semi-nationalised industry
And so on. Watch as these buttons get snapped up, creating new norms to behave in a vaguely civil manner, and nudging us out of the financial mess we're in! It's similar to how all footballers are now required to wear 'Kick it out' anti-racism badges on their shirts. Alternatively, the badges that have not been selected will remain glaringly apparent, highlighting the refusal of the financial services industry to take any responsibility for its public impact. Adapting another piece of wonk wizardry, anyone with an entirely badgeless lapel will then be required to travel to and from work wearing a day-glo jacket.