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Speculative Futures

Dystopian realities

Human Rights Governance

The Rights Market (TRM),, is a speculative fiction project set in 2035, the era of the Digicene where the digital and physical worlds have become intrinsically enmeshed. In this world, where Late Late Capitalism thrives, TRM offers users a simplified, consumer-driven rights protection experience through their online retail platform where one can buy their digital and other rights. 

The project aims to offer a provocation designed to critically engage with the (non)universality of human rights in an increasingly digital and capitalist world, wherein it is easier to imagine the end of human rights, than the end of capitalism. It was designed as part of the Excavations Cohort with MED Lab at the University of Colorado, Boulder 


The Rights Market

“ is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.” - Slavoj Žižek

The Rights Market (TRM), is a speculative fiction project designed to critically engage with the (non)universality of human rights in an increasingly digital and capitalist world, wherein it is easier to imagine the end of human rights than the end of capitalism. We already witness many nations struggling to ensure basic human rights to their people, and corporations filling in these gaps with stealth and ease especially as our digital and physical realities merge. Covid-19 has made these gaps glaringly obvious, while also forcing us to acknowledge that our systems have been exclusionary and unequal by design and not by default.

With The Rights Market, we take this reality one step further, imagining a Big Tech takeover of
human rights protection and management which promises more efficient and user-friendly rights
systems. The project is set in the year 2035, in an era called the ‘Digicene’ where digital and
physical realms are deeply enmeshed. TRM is a fictional online shopping platform, where a new
breed of customer-citizens are able to pick and choose rights and protections suited for their
lifestyle, available through various payment models.

TRM is looking at the intersections of rights and privileges, of capitalism and the digital, of Big
Tech and Big Government, and of power and justice. We explore the emergent flaws in the
bubbled idea of human rights. We explore the future of capitalism powered by the internet. We
explore the fight for power and privilege across the world. We explore how the digital connects
and divides, builds and breaks, empowers and exploits. What else is possible to ensure the
dignity of human beings? Or should ‘all’ humans even be entitled to a life of dignity in the first
place? We raise questions about human rights in the present day, the already obvious link
between capitalism and human rights, racism, sexism, ableism, and casteism. We want to
speculate a future possibility of human rights and offer a provocation on possible alternatives to
the human rights systems.

The aim of the project is for the audience to interact with this dystopian concept and ask
questions about human rights and the protection they offer. We want the audience to raise
questions about human rights reaching only the privileged who have enough resources at their
disposal to ensure a life of dignity. Furthermore, we want people to engage with the future of
human rights and their evolution as our existence gets increasingly enmeshed with the digital.
With the conversation moving to a 4th generation of human rights, we want the discourse to
include conversations about its implementation. Who gets to make these rights, who gets to
implement them and who does it benefit. It is an attempt to leave the audience with
provocations about the increasing privatisation and the subsequent non-universality of human
rights in our current world.

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