Dispatch 012

A screenshot of a tweet that says, "Cuomo said the goal is to be 'socially distanced but spiritually connected.'"

A pandemic isn’t a collection of viruses, but a social relation among people, mediated by viruses.

—Ian Alan Paul

We are on the fourth week of physical distancing in Toronto. In the days before the first Canadian-government directives, and for a week or so after they were announced, we were constantly on the hunt for news that could affect us—or, better yet, reassure us. We scrolled long into the night.

Now that people we know have survived the virus, now that the rules are set, now that we’ve seen the infographics, we have found it’s healthier to avoid minute-by-minute updates. We’d rather focus upon the larger questions raised by this extraordinary time and have found the links collected below helpful.

We know the new shape of our days. We’re not playing with background images on Zoom calls quite as much. We are getting fresh air and calling family more often. Through it all, we’re working. Not out of a sense of obligation, but because of our relationships with our collaborators and our love of solving design problems.

Have you found your new habits? Do they seem sustainable? We hope so, and hope that you and yours are maintaining your health, both physical and mental.

Give and take care,
The Frontier team


As grief expert David Kessler notes, part of what we’re feeling at the moment is anticipatory grief, the “feeling we get about what the future holds when we’re uncertain.” And as University of Toronto professor Aisha S. Ahmad adds, “Our essential mental shifts require humility and patience. Focus on real internal change. These human transformations will be honest, raw, ugly, hopeful, frustrated, beautiful, and divine.” Most of all, today's feelings won’t be permanent.

Taking Care of Others

Ian Alan Paul’s ten-point manifesto begins: “A pandemic isn’t a collection of viruses, but is a social relation among people, mediated by viruses.” The rest imagines new ways of organizing social life.

Paul’s text reminds us in many ways how we are all connected, as does Andreas Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos in this philosophically minded essay: “We are all collective bodies, with histories and futures, bacteria and mites, mobile phones and prostheses, moving along like clouds of affects, emanating presence and attachments, fears and desires.”

And Kitchener-based artist Aislinn Thomas draws together the themes of disability, creativity, and care: “We do not have full control over the conditions of our lives. We are acutely aware that we are, all of us, always reliant on others for our survival and thriving.” These can be hope-filled realizations.

Thinking About the Future

In mid-March, designer-researcher Francis Tseng began “keep[ing] track of everything that is normally disallowed (paid sick leave, access to water, no arrests) but clearly feasible based on the coronavirus response.” See his Twitter thread and Are.na channel to be reminded that tomorrow does not have to look like today.

Strategist, designer, and writer Toby Shorin asked himself some questions: “which of my beliefs remain unchanged? What assumptions will remain in place? What trends will be accelerated, which delayed, and which stopped entirely? What do I care about that has become newly relevant, and what no longer matters?” His answers, paired with those of a few like-minded thinkers, touch on the future of culture, brand-building, urban space, time management, and much else besides. These premonitions are worth grappling with—not least to begin shaping our own ideas about what is coming.

In that text, Shorin’s friend Kara Kittel argues, “Curation and real-time editing and presentation of multiple live feeds to tell a story will become more common.” We’d point to curator and designer Prem Krishnamurthy’s Present!, a lecture–talk show–group karaoke hybrid, as a vital and fascinating example of this. Check it out on Instagram.