Speculative Fiction: Tanya’s Shadow

This work of speculative fiction explores the topics of cyberbullying and restorative justice. The world was created using a methodology called Systems Mythology, developed by the Institute for the Future. The story is set in a Green Future, which values inclusiveness, emergence, and creativity.

Photo by Ethan McLeod

Tanya places a coffee in front of her neighbor. “Here you go.” she says with a smile, “Two sugars and a dash of cinnamon right?’’ She just started her shift at Sashiko, the worker-owned coffee shop on the ground floor of her building. The space is bathed in warm morning light. Plants spill off ledges, books are scattered about, and neighbors chat as a record plays softly in the background. The furniture has a lived-in quality, like a pair of well-worn jeans or a leather jacket. Tanya’s fitting a replacement part she printed for the espresso maker when her girlfriend, Sonia, walks in. “Hey, asshole.” Sonia says as she approaches. “Sonia! Can you at least try to be civil?” Tanya sighs with false exasperation. “Why should I be? He wasn’t!” Sonia shoots back as she points at the small black pin on Tanya’s denim jacket. After a quick kiss, Sonia flips off the pin before sinking into the couch.

A few months ago, Tanya had been the target of a mysogynistic and homophobic spear campaign from an XYXX on FriendBook. She thought of herself as someone with thick skin, but it still hurt. She’d never met this guy before. Why had he gone out of his way to single her out? Where had all that rage come from? Normally, in these situations the perpetrator would be banned from the platform for life, but an Anti-Hate group called Walk A Mile had reached out. They told her about Project Shadow, a restorative justice program they were piloting with FriendBook. The concept was simple, all she had to do was clip a pin with a tiny camera on it to her jacket. On the other end, her attacker would watch the live video feed of her going about her day. Their theory was that this unfiltered, immersive experience would build empathy and reduce hate. Tanya was hesitant at first, but she wanted her attacker to view her as a person, not a digital avatar. Sonia was against it, saying she didn’t owe him anything, but Tanya decided to give it a shot. After all, the new economy was built on sharing.

At the end of her shift, Tanya receives 20 Commün coins that she can use at the shops in the neighborhood. She has some time to kill before she needs to be at the Toolshed, so she grabs her skateboard and hits the street. She glides down the smooth pavement with no particular destination in mind, just enjoying being outdoors in the crisp fall air. She stops to admire a window display at the local spice shop and catches her reflection. She’d nearly forgotten she had the pin on. She was participating in one of the first test-cases outside the police academy. Part of what made Project Shadow unique was its intimate, peer-to-peer nature. Tanya wasn’t performing for an audience, it was just her and her shadow as she went about her normal day.

On her way to the Toolshed she skates past a Neo-Quaker meeting house. She has a few minutes to spare so she decides to go in. Over the past decade, attendance levels at religious services in cities had dropped dramatically. What emerged was the Neo-Quaker movement, with its emphasis on social justice, environmental issues, and most of all, community. FriendBook’s CEO was arguably the most famous member of the Neo-Quakers and her belief system had directly informed her operating system. The success of the platform had caused a ripple effect throughout the tech industry. As Tanya enters the meeting house, she is greeted by the comforting sound of silence.

It’s mid-afternoon and the Toolshed hums with activity. Tanya bounces from table to table offering assistance and checking in on her neighbors as they work. Some have come in because they need a specific item printed. She helps them find the right files on OpenArtifact and shows them how to use their Commün coin to print on the 3D printer. Others are there to work on passion projects. Her friend Brian calls her over to look at the latest iteration of the robotic toy elephant he’s been working on for months. It takes two steps before short-circuiting. “Well, I guess it’s back to the drawing board.” Brian says with his hands on his head and a wide grin.

Tanya’s glad her shadow is able to witness her here, amongst the mess of wires and wood shavings. This place is sacred to her and the failed prototypes that litter the workbenches and line the walls are a shrine to the Do It Ourselves (DIO) creed that she lives by. As she locks up for the night she thinks of the reports that someone has been breaking into Toolsheds in the area to print untraceable guns. She still can’t believe it. It’s sacrilege.

As a Design Strategist I am ever curious about people, culture, and technology. I spot trends, uncover connections, and tend to think A LOT about the future.