A picture taken for the logic magazine. A figure is clad in garb against a semigray dark background

Issue 3


The Logic(s) of a Magazine: A Conversation with Michael Falco

written by Jessica Dai

Jessica Dai is, among other things, Editor-in-Chief of Kernel Magazine.

Michael Falco is Executive Director of Incite at Columbia University. They play a leadership and project design role on several projects, including as interim managing editor during the relaunch of Logic(s) Magazine.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

From Logic to Logic(s)

Jessica: How did Logic become Logic(s)?

Michael: In December 2021 our Editor in Chief Khadijah Abdurahman produced a special issue of Logic called Beacons, which was an opportunity to do something a little different than what Logic had been doing at the time. There was creative fiction, there was poetry, there were visual essays, and it was primarily with Black, Asian, Queer individuals. It gave platforms to people who are engaging in technology, many of whom were outside of academia.

Around that time, Logic was thinking about closing up the magazine operation; they were ready to put their energy into something different, and in the midst of those conversations, Khadijah proposed taking it over, moving it to Columbia where she had worked with Incite since 2019, maintaining its mission and values, but also thinking more critically about engaging voices that are outside of the normal discourse around tech. All of this with the goal of really investing in people, supporting them not only in the development of their pieces, but also in the development of their careers. She also wanted to ensure we focused on the global south and linked with orgs doing on-the-ground work across the globe.

I should be really clear: we’ve very much been rebuilding the plane mid-air. The former Logic team has been tremendously supportive, and they built a really impressive organization. At the same time, we started fresh with an entirely new editorial process, including fact-checking, a new editorial team, and a new way of development-editing pieces and compensating people. Our team is growing so much and it’s been so fun building out the team with so many talented people.

Why the name change? With the parentheses-s? I read this as having a plurality of people speaking, a coalition of voices, and less of a single, idealized, "true” logic.

Your read is exactly right! Of course, it was also important that we kept the name to maintain continuity with Logic Magazine, its brand recognition, and our commitment to its founding mission, which is also why our supa dupa skies issue is number 19. Second, as you say, adding the “(s)” represents what we are doing: representing a multiplicity of viewpoints and logics to deepen the conversation around critical tech, not just implying there is a singular solution or vantage. So the name reflects our effort to elevate perspectives outside traditional tech discourse that offer new ways of thinking and approaching the problems of today.

From Knowledge to Action

So there’s the continuity from old Logic of — we want to talk about tech, and we want to talk about it critically. What’s the vision for the role of Logic(s) moving forward?

What we want to do is to create spaces for people to be together, to think together, to dream together. We think of the magazine as one mechanism for actually doing that — both for the writers and in its creation by our staff.

In our first editorial note, we really emphasized getting rid of the dread of just recounting that “the sky is falling” — that these are apocalyptic times that we can’t do anything about. We wanted a dynamic magazine that creates room for people who have been impacted by tech in all sorts of ways — whether they’ve found community through it, or organized against it, people who are incarcerated and surveilled inside and outside of prisons. We wanted to create room for possibility, and also highlight the exciting things that are coming out of the organizing space. We want to make room for creative expressions, for people who have the capacity to imagine beyond the constraints imposed by existing structures and institutions.

You have a very specific vision for what kind of content you want to cover. Something we think about is — as a magazine, we’re producing words, knowledge, not physical action. How do you think of knowledge production in relation to a broader project of justice in a material sense? How do you think about bridging the two?

As someone who came to academia in a roundabout way, the way that some within universities conceive of “knowledge production” has always been so interesting to me and a little divorced from the on-the-ground processes that influence and move people. Often it feels like — we can design a study, then run it, it’ll end up in a peer-reviewed journal, someone will use it, and we’ll have some impact. That’s a very passive way of thinking even if it can reflect so much work and energy.

So how do you move knowledge to action? You have to start with — where does knowledge come from? Who can speak authoritatively about any given subject? If someone wants to understand the implications of low-wage work on a gig worker, you can certainly design a study on that person’s life and their freedom of movement, on how they’re surveilled, on how they perform the functions of their job. If done right, it can influence policy and the future course of study.

But to do that you need to start from the experience of that person, what they know from having lived that experience, what it feels like to have hours cut short or to not have insurance or not have access to a bathroom or for their every movement to be tracked and parsed in search of greater efficiency, the precarity that comes with all of that. They hold so much expertise and understanding of how these structures work and how they feel. When you start from there, you realize reducing people to categories for study may be efficient for producing “results,” but it cleaves off any possibility of understanding the textures and unknowable possibilities for an individual’s life that only come from direct engagement and personal investment—listening more than speaking.

Academia has a financial incentive to say that, you know, there’s a methodology and a process for creating knowledge, and to do that you need to pay for an education, get their credentials, keep the work sealed within the walls of the university, and so on. But that can’t be the only — or even best — way to say something meaningful to enact change. Universities are important and essential to knowledge production, with profound resources and capacities, but consequently they often diminish — and sap resources from — other important sites of knowledge, other repertoires for inducing change. So part of the challenge is removing ourselves from that orientation, and figuring out ways to privilege, fund and engage with ideas that surface outside of ourselves, and to do it through bureaucracies not always designed to work well with outsiders.

Many readers won’t have the first-hand experience that your writers do. What do you hope your readers come away with, and what do you hope they do within their own spheres of influence?

For me, I hope that readers think critically about the structures they work in, that they may be reproducing. Some — not all — of our readers have the ability to alter their conditions of work, the contracts they enter into, the systems and products that they create — even in the day-to-day of designing an A/B test, for example. As with the old Logic, we’ll continue to think about the way that labor is structured within — and well beyond — the tech industry: the university, manufacturing, all sorts of places.

Separately, there’s something really powerful about storytelling, and the ability to share experience. It’s hard to ignore, for example, the story of what it’s like to be locked in a box, to write a letter, to have that letter scanned, for the cost to be carried by your family that is already struggling to support you, for them to now be surveilled too, and to have a delay in the receipt of that information that further frays your connection to others, and what that does to you personally. And, by the way, what it means to be told that these systems are justified, all-knowing, that they’re rational — to do this under the guise of, for example, trying to stop contraband from entering prisons, even as we know that’s not what it’s really about; that it’s about expanding surveillance beyond the walls of prisons. So I think in reading those stories, I hope that folks get a deeper sense of the long tails of what tech is putting into the world, and the unintended consequences that reverberate out into the particulars of people’s lives. I should say, too, as more people get involved in the magazine, there are going to be so many more possibilities for what we can achieve in the pages. It’s so exciting to be part of that.

Activating All Parts of the Self

But also, the magazine is an object. It’s a physical object. We’re really proud of it. It’s very beautiful. We’ve switched from a more book style to a full color magazine.

That’s so funny. We’re switching the other way.

Oh, really?

We started with 8.5 x 11 and now we’re going to 5.5 x 8.5.

What was your rationale?

For us, it was partially because printing and shipping, the big magazines are really expensive — Yes, ma’am — Just changing the size, even with the same number of pages, cuts the printing cost more than in half.

The physical object is important. The magazine format lends itself to allowing people to design inserts, visuals, “how-to” explainers, and to design and think in color. It just made sense for us to make the shift.

With a magazine like this, there’s a challenge of audience. Because we do have pieces that are profoundly, undeniably academic. They come from ethnographic research, quantitative research, really rigorous ways of thinking about and trying to understand how things operate. These pieces need to stand alongside fiction and poetry and other pieces that activate a different part of your mind. It helps that at this point, we are all technologists. We are all connected to technology through our work. We are all implicated in its processes and logics — we all have something to say about the tangible ways technology contributes and intrudes into our lives, our relationships, our artistic and professional practices. So, if you are looking to create new ideas and visions for tomorrow, we have to make room in our pages to engage everyone in this dialogue and we have to think more expansively about who we are writing with and for.

At the same time, we’re thinking about the ways that people learn, the ways that we’re motivated, the ways that we’re inspired. It isn’t just through an academic text, it’s also through the arts, fashion, storytelling, poetry. Our responsibility is to create something that activates all parts of the self, that makes you feel something about the topic and the interconnectedness and asymmetries of our experiences and perspectives. If you put a poem that really hits and resonates alongside a piece about incarceration or a piece about indigenous technologies or how the blueprint for modern computing came from the plantation — it just does something to you. It lights up a part of your thinking, and you end up internalizing the implications of the essay very differently. It’s hard to describe. When you go to a show and you’re just floored by what it is you experience — that’s what we want to create.

It is a different form of knowledge production, but I almost feel icky calling it that — “the academy” is always trying to_ _make things legible as knowledge production.

With this project, I think a lot about legibility from the perspective of administration and the academy. There’s a certain type of approach that generally makes sense to them, a funding process that makes sense. University bureaucracy imposes a host of obstacles that attend to a very specific person, hierarchical structure, and way of working. Those paint-by-number processes aren’t meant for the nuances of a person’s life. Legibility is one of our real challenges. Who is reading this and how do they understand the project — and how does the university understand it?

So what are we doing? We’re creating a magazine that doesn’t look much like a traditional academic publication — and we don’t want it to look like that, even as we think academics will find tremendous value engaging with it. We’re seeing how things can fit together. A piece that’s maybe more strictly academic can really resonate if it’s standing alongside a fashion centerfold where the designer is thinking critically about, for example, who gets resources and who doesn’t. But that is our challenge. I think that’s the same challenge as finding an audience: how do you make something that resonates? How do we use the pages of our magazine to queer the tech space and reclaim it from capital and the tech-bro mindset? So part of the work of legibility is being seen and understood at least enough that you continue to exist — as a queer person this is the struggle we face all the time, living in worlds and structures that don’t look like us and so try to actively bend us toward their will.

I really like this point about flipping legibility because it’s also about accessibility — having this range also means that the entire magazine is more accessible to a much wider range of people. Maybe someone doesn’t care about the academic stuff, but they’ll enjoy the poetry, or maybe someone hasn’t had a lot of background in art, but the more academic work can be an entry point for them into the entire package.

Exactly. And it’s fun, it’s playful. We’re still thinking, how do we do calls that reach people that are outside of ourselves and outside of our networks? Those are things that happen with time, and they happen, as you say, through different mediums. But it’s not just mediums within the magazine, but also beyond it. Our fashion designer, Bones, did a show on Pride, and it was an opportunity for him to think about the topics and themes in the magazine that he discusses. And at the same time, it was an opportunity to open the doors to an underground club to 60 queer, gender-nonconforming and trans people during Pride, to celebrate, to enjoy each other, to enjoy a show, in this unending moment where our community remains under assault and at risk of erasure. That was also a way to sit with the ideas that reside within the magazine, but in a much more visceral, lived-in way.

Logic(s) as Community Investment

Earlier, you mentioned the idea of Logic(s) as a community-building project, maintaining a commitment to the people you’re working with. What do you mean by that?

To the point of legibility, and defining impact: it’s hard to know ahead of time what kinds of ideas readers will be influenced by. What you do know for sure is about the people you interact with, the people you support; you have an opportunity to really shape that relationship. And those individuals, if they’re treated with respect, if they’re compensated in a fair and transparent way, if they’re given the room to create and think, and then to also get feedback and the opportunity to improve, if they have the opportunity to produce something that nobody else would ever commission — those investments in people are how you can actually feel impact.

“Impact” is a loaded term because foundations, for a long time, were obsessed with it. I was obsessed with it, creating metrics that would astound whoever read our proposal. “What is the impact of this study?” They want to hear concretely that this touched 25, or 100, or 1000 people, that it influenced a policy that led to xyz measured in abc way, but from my own life experience, and from our own work, the impact that you have is not always as clearly measurable. They’re in the subtle things like treating people with dignity and respect, like taking their perspectives seriously, and helping them experience how powerfully Universities can marshal ideas and resources.

So the magazine is just one part of what we’re hoping to do; our real objective is to support a whole new set of individuals to create and to tell their stories — and to forward their solutions — and to invest not only in the development of their pieces but also in their ability to tell those stories and find those solutions. It means thinking about where they’re trying to get beyond the life of the magazine. That’s essential to us — we’re trying not to be extractive. Sure, somebody writes something for the magazine, they get money, we get a publication, everyone wins.

But the longer term commitments really require thinking about: how do we help this person tell the story the best that they possibly can? How do we dedicate the editorial resources to helping them flesh out that idea? How do we support them to capture what they need to, especially if they’re a creative or a producer of some kind? How do we help move their ideas toward solutions? And as we all know, tech has these very powerful networks that open up a lot of doors, so how do we leverage those for them? I’ve mentioned, too, the team we’ve been building. They bring so many visions to the work — so we also have to leverage and invest in that energy, and compensate at the same rates we give ourselves and other academic professionals.

Sure, we’re putting a magazine and ideas into the world, and we hope those ideas might transform and shift something — that our readers understand something new about technology. But materially, we know that we’re directly impacting our contributors, staff and collaborators. We want to help them get to where they want to go; we have the capacity to do that, and that’s really powerful. Our goal is for them to find other ways to keep telling stories, or tell new and different stories, and so we want them to leave Logic(s) with access to a network and a set of tools and validation of their work and ideas. That will outlive whatever we do for any single issue of the magazine.

headshot of Jessica Dai


Jessica Dai

Jessica Dai is, among other things, Editor-in-Chief of Kernel Magazine.

headshot of Michael Falco


Michael Falco

Michael Falco is Executive Director of Incite at Columbia University. They play a leadership and project design role on several projects, including as interim managing editor during the relaunch of Logic(s) Magazine.