Keller Easterling with MANY
MANY is an online platform designed to facilitate migration through exchanges of needs.
Global infrastructure space has perfectly streamlined the movements of billions of products and tens of millions of tourists and cheap laborers, but at a time when over 65 million people in the world are displaced, there are few robust ways to facilitate the migrations of people in response to political, economic, or environmental crises. The nation-state has a dumb on-off button to grant or deny citizenship/asylum. And the NGOcracy offers as its best idea storage in a refugee camp—a form of detention that lasts, on average, seventeen years.
Can the legal and logistical ingenuity that lubricates trade or links millions of strangers in the sharing economy be applied to a global form of matchmaking between the sidelined talents of migrating populations and a multitude of endeavors and opportunities around the world?
While existing help and exchange networks for asylum seekers face intense opposition from nativist right-wing groups, MANY proposes to diffuse or outwit this opposition by more robustly networking short term visas and exchanges that may not involve travel. Deliberately positioned at a distance from the sharp end of migration emergencies, the platform serves those who want to resettle as well as those who want to keep traveling—those who never wanted the citizenship or asylum that the nation withholds or reluctantly bestows. Irrespective of national identity, one-to-one relationships share a visual language of exchange where there are no have or have-nots. Instead, needs and problems are assets to be linked in non-market exchanges. MANY aggregates an abundance of existing networks and reinforces them with underexploited potentials embedded in urban space. As it develops over multiple iterations, the site hopes to alter habits and reduce the violence surrounding migration. Rejecting the characterization of migration as crisis, MANY asserts the reality of migration as constant.
Might another kind of cosmopolitan mobility organize around intervals of time or seasons of a life to form a branching set of options that is both more practical and politically agile? Can the platform guard against the dangers that it critiques and avoid association with the sunny, one-world vision of the sharing economy? And might this exchange be anticipated, celebrated, and accredited as the means to global leadership credentials?