Who is we?
The WeUsed.To platform carves out space for people to share their experiences of COVID-19. Perhaps through the wide spectrum of individual contributions we can find what thoughts, feelings, realisations, and insights we have in common. When writing a statement, users choose to frame their contribution using ‘I’ or ‘we’. An ‘I’ signals a clearly individual perspective, of course. A ‘we’, however, it more ambiguous. What perspective does that ‘we’ represent? Whom are we speaking for? ‘We’ can be an inclusive pronoun, acknowledging a broader community with shared concerns. And ‘we’ can be exclusive, sometimes inadvertently leaving out groups or elevating one ‘we’ at the expense of other ‘we’s. A particular use of ‘we’ is innocent to one user but will be exclusive and even unjust to others. As WeUsed.To has unfolded, ‘we’ the project initiators have witnessed this. And the complexity of ‘we’ has afforded in-depth conversations about how to deal with the term. Not only do COVID-19-related topics appear on the platform, but also concerns related to political events and race discussions. As authors of the site, we find it important to acknowledge the potential friction in ‘we’ statements while retaining the option for users to choose their perspective. The ‘I’/‘we’ choice is an invitation to actively become aware of and reflect on the communities we participate in, their scope, and their co-existence and/or overlap with other communities – or lack of the very same. It is an invitation to reflect on who speaks and for whom, and on what these speech acts do in the world.
WeUsed.To was conceptualised by Studio Olafur Eliasson in Berlin in collaboration with Andreas Roepstorff and a group of researchers at the Interacting Minds Centre at Aarhus University, along with Alan Woo and Daniel Massey. It is part of the ongoing research collaboration ‘Experimenting, Experiencing, Reflecting’ (EER), funded by Carlsbergfondet.