Anonymous submission to Conflict Minnesota
As rental scooters are poised to re-emerge on the thawed streets of Minneapolis, this call aims to encourage the disruption and subversion of their reintroduction to our city.
Rental scooters are coming back to the Twin Cities. There was little doubt that this was the case, but in the beginning of March the city of Minneapolis confirmed that as winter fades our streets will soon be littered with scooters once more. There will be more than triple the amount as last year, and featuring even more brands than before.
Why does this matter? Because these scooters are a hyper-visible manifestation of the high tech Silicon Valley-ization of daily life. These tech start-ups are reshaping what it means to move around the city with simply a few clicks on an app—smuggled right under our noses with claims of eco-friendliness. Rental scooters are emblematic of a way of living in which every aspect of our lives is made into data. This data is then tracked, studied and used to make algorithms with the intention of not only predicting but also producing normative behavior.
However, their visibility is also a vulnerability. They are easily accessible all over our streets, which means the opportunity to sabotage them is equally accessible. Because of this, the scooters have the potential to spread disruptive practices. While these scooters intend to shape particular ways of living, the ease of their destruction in fact allows for the subversion of this goal.
This potential can be seen already eslewhere, especially in California where companies like Bird and Lime have filled the streets to the brim with scooters since 2017. The most notorious Instagram page, @birdgraveyard, which recently surpassed the official Bird account for followers, regularly posts photos and videos of scooters being knocked over, broken, and even burned. The “guerrilla war” being waged has sparked coverage by the LA Times, which interviewed numerous southern California residents who complained about the scooters for a variety of reasons. In France—also home to rental scooters, which have been used as weapons by more than one yellow vest rioter—autonomous publication Lundi Matin wrote:
Bird Graveyard shows this: animosity towards scooters expresses itself in various ways and seems to have a multitude of reasons. We can make all kinds of assumptions: joy of destruction, not to participate, to be a grain of sand, hate of Silicon Valley, of capitalism, the privatization of the public space, the monetization of the all human activities, speed, obstruction of sidewalks, etc. – Lundi Matin #157, “Une Mystérieuse Vague de Vandalisme Contre les Trottinettes en Libre-Service”
This call is written for the purpose of better grasping this rich potential for disorder. There could not be a more simple and ironic way to undermine the cybernetic impulse than by the trashing of this latest start-up phenomena. To help, here is a brief list of possible methods of sabotage:
• The simplest tactic has also been the most prevalent—knocking the scooters over. This very likely has no effect on the scooter’s functioning, but still makes one’s discontent clear. Because it does not actually damage the scooter, there is almost no risk in doing this.
• Covering up the QR code required to activate the scooter is a quick way to put the scooter out of use temporarily. There are countless ways to cover the QR code, like using markers or stickers. If you really want to go all out, you can also decorate the rest of the scooter too.
• To really put a scooter out of commission, you have to do some damage. Throwing it off of a ledge, snapping it on the ground, cutting the wires, or running it over with a car. People have gone so far as to set them on fire. Whatever it takes to make the scooter unrideable without professional repair.
• Last but certainly not least, scooters can be expropriated—they can be reprogrammed to ride for free. While involving a bit more effort, plus the roughly thirty dollars for a conversion kit, you can make a Bird scooter your own personal vehicle. Search online for the latest info about which scooter models can be liberated and how to buy the kits.
There are no concrete objectives presented here. No municipal measures could be enacted to placate our desires, nor is it likely that the scooter companies will withdraw. The goal is to elaborate a social tension, to spread the practices of disruption far and wide against the easiest of targets. But most importantly, the goal is to have fun—to find the joy in sabotage. Let’s take this opportunity to fuse the passion of creativity with that of destruction.