Chapter 6. Swiping to end hunger: How everyday practices of

6.1 Setting the stage

In 2015, the World Food Programme (WFP) launched its donation app ShareTheMeal (STM), claiming to enables users to ‘change the world’ by making small donations to the organization’s self-declared fight to end hunger with their smartphones. Accompanying the launch of the app was considerable media attention and public hype. As cases in point, the British

newspaper The Guardian reported in a headline that ‘Optimism surrounds roll-out of STM smartphone app after summer trial provides 1.7m meals for school children in Lesotho’ (Jones, 2015) and the popular media platform BuzzFeed claimed that ‘New App Lets You Feed A Syrian Refugee Child With One Click’ (Melville-Smith, 2015). Today, the app is widely recognized as exemplary of how to employ the affordances of mobile media and apps for humanitarian purposes, evidenced, for example, by the many prestigious awards it has won in both the technology and entertainment industry45 and by the fact that—according to numbers provided by the WFP at the time of writing—more than 138 million meals have been donated to people in need by the donation app’s more than seven million users.

The donation app STM is analysed in this chapter as a paradigmatic example of how, today, doing good increasingly intersects with the technical affordances and affective energies of mobile media devices and apps. For just as the most intimate contexts of our everyday—from taking out a loan (Ash et al. 2018) to monitoring our health (Lupton, 2014)—have moved onto mobile media apps, so too has what Richey & Chouliaraki (2018) refer to as

‘everyday humanitarianism’; that is, the emotions and practices employed by citizens engaged in humanitarian action outside of the institutional settings of humanitarian organizations. Indeed, by allowing users to donate as little as

$1 directly from their smartphone anywhere, anytime, donation apps such as ShareTheMeal have radically changed the way people support humanitarian causes by making it more convenient for people to donate by providing new opportunities for engaging with, sharing, and responding to humanitarian appeals in innovative and interactive ways that are seamlessly integrated with

45 To name just a few examples: in November 2015, STM won the Lead Academy's Lead Award for Startup of the Year; in December 2015, STM was named as one of Google's Best Apps of 2015; In March 2016 STM won the Innovation Interactive Award at SxSW; in April 2016, STM won the People's Voice award at the 20th Annual Webby Awards in the Mobile Sites & Apps Best Practices category; in October 2016, STM won the 2016 Lovie Awards in the Mobile & Applications Best Practices category; in November 2016, STM was awarded three Shorty Social Good Awards, including

"NGO of the Year"; in December 2016, STM was selected by Google as one of the Best Apps of 2016; and at Google I/O in May 2017, STM won the Google Play Award for Best Social Impact.

the everyday. Moreover, by providing the public with a tool that allows it to instantly translate compassion for distant others into action, donation apps enable humanitarian organizations to more easily raise potentially life-saving funds in the critical hours and days immediately after disaster strikes.46

Yet, as Richey and Chouliaraki (2018) caution, as ‘the rhetoric and practice of humanitarian good-doing becomes increasingly widespread in our public life’

we must be careful to consider ‘the implications of such practices for the ethics and politics of contemporary benevolence’. While donation apps are widely celebrated for their ability to make the act of giving both accessible and convenient to publics in digitalized societies, this chapter thus instead examines the risks and consequences generated by the ‘appification’ of everyday humanitarianism. To this end, it engages with critical literature on digitally- mediated forms of humanitarianism, which has scrutinized the sometimes-problematic forms of action and agency constituted thereby. This includes the work of scholars such as Hawkins (2018) and Schwittay (2019), who have argued that, because digital-political initiatives such as online petitions involve minimal costs and efforts from participants, they are conducive of ‘clicktivist’

or even ‘slacktivist’ forms of action, which are generally considered to be more effective for making participants feel good about themselves than for achieving specific ends. Another relevant reference here is Madianou (2019), who has claimed that the forms of humanitarian forms of action facilitated by new digital media technologies are ‘technocolonialist’ inasmuch as they reconsolidate an unequal relationship of dependency between the West and the Global South (see also Shringarpure 2018).

By engaging with, and extending, these perspectives to the study of donation apps—which have not yet been the subject of sustained scholarly scrutiny—this chapter examines the everyday forms of humanitarianism enabled by STM. To this end, as elaborated in Chapter 3.3, it combines a walkthrough of the app’s functions and features with an analysis of 10 open-ended questionnaires—that I call media logs—submitted by a small sample of potential app users. Whereas the walkthrough method ‘is a way of engaging

46 An event that is often emphasized as an early indicator of the value of mobile media and apps in this regard is the 2010 earthquake in Haiti when more than $30 million in donations was pledged through SMS.

directly with an app’s interface to examine its technological mechanisms and embedded cultural references to understand how it guides users and shapes their experiences’ (Light et. al. 2018: 882), the media logs provide a glimpse into the many ways in which users perceive, navigate, appropriate, or resist apps in and through everyday life. As noted earlier, the advantage of the media log as a method of data collection is that, whereas qualitative methods such as interviews or observations, where the research setting is more formal and where the researcher is both visible and active, may disrupt the sense of intimacy and mundanity associated with the everyday use of mobile media devices, the media log allows respondents to document their experiences and reflections using the STM app in relative privacy.47

Based on this, the chapter generates insights into everyday forms of benevolence in the digital age. ’ Specifically, it demonstrates that what people do to alleviate the suffering of distant others in their digitalized everyday is shaped in the interplay between the material configuration and technical affordances of apps and the user imaginaries that circumscribe their use in practice. More specifically, the chapter shows how the STM app is designed to manage user behaviour in specific ways and how users adopt, appropriate, or resist these technically-imposed behavioural structures, resulting in a relationship of power that is described as ‘modulatory’ as opposed to

‘repressive,’ ‘disciplinary’ or ‘productive.’ Based on this, the chapter finally discusses the ‘technopolitics of action’ that plays out in and through the use of donation apps for humanitarian purposes and discusses the ethico-political implications of this. Hence, the chapter not only performs a detailed examination of a particular humanitarian donation app but also contributes to the articulation of a critique of digital humanitarianism by showing how the rise of humanitarian donation apps constitutes and perpetuates ethico-politically problematic forms of everyday humanitarianism.

47 It is worth noting in this regard that, of course, the issue of ‘privacy’ in the digital sphere is contested. While respondents might experience privacy in the sense that they are using these devices at home or a similar place, at the same time, most apps collect and

‘leak’ data that document how they are used to corporations such as Google and Facebook whose source codes are part of most commercially available apps today and who use these data sets to analyse the behavioural patterns of users in intimate detail (see also Aradau, Blanke and Greenway, 2019; Blanke and Pybus, 2020)

I dokument The Technopolitics of Compassion A Postphenomenological Analysis of the Digital Mediation of Global Humanitarianism Ølgaard, Daniel Møller (sidor 196-200)