Feminist technology

September 15th, 2014

At the moment a pre production period is taking place for the first iteration of Pataphysical Salon at ESC in an exhibition Ministry of Hacking curated by Reni Hofmüller, co produced by the steirischer herbst festival in Graz.

The leitmotif of  the Ministry of Hacking is summed up by these eclectic departments: ‘Department of Trust’, ‘Department of Shadows and Waves’, ‘Department of Care and Wonder’, ‘Department of Anonymity’, ‘Department of Difference’, ‘Department of Tactical Feminism’. Feminist hackers from around the world working creatively with technology are invited to the event which will attempt to outline upon the current questions around what feminist technology may be, and what are the distinguishing characteristics of a feminist run server.

A feminist ‘hacker’ has a reflexive and playful ethos and encourages the continual questioning of implied rules and protocols to technological production and reception to foster modes of radical subjectivity in the broadest sense.

But is this approach necessarily feminist per se?

There is a significant theoretical divide in the way that technology is conceptualised and explored, arguably feminist hackers unpack and interrogate the historical conundrum between the black box duping apparatus and specious expertise, a thread common to hacking (especially hardware hacking) is the curiosity interest and desire to creatively explore technology and find out how the object can find another life. By being interrogated, taken apart and repurposed, everyday electronic devices and computers take on a new role as they shift our vision of the use of data and purposes of technology.Is it that feminist hacking of technology conceptualises a process of undulation and alternation, proposing a distinctly different subject–object relation to the one developed in a patriarchal culture through the isolation and depiction of objects instead humans/mediums/materials are understood instead as conduits?

It is suggested that these predefined ‘lock in’ strategies over time may limit the human condition and the possibility of becoming something other and highlights the necessity for feminist technology on these grounds. Emphasis placed on experiential engagement rather than an external set of values and absolutes to which one should aspire. In a world where market-compliant sex-appeal is directed by multinationals, for some, feminist technology is where joy, disgust and life itself manifests. Including the potential for extension or synthesis in the transformative moment of an idea coming to life through a mechanism. Feminist technology opens up entirely new sets of possibilities from ubiquitous domestic items towards which we develop habitual use patterns. The repetition of imposed routines leads to a stagnation locked within a repetitive ‘grid’. This produces a restricted body that is regulated and linked to the schema of a cultural field, which conditions the body in certain ways (by rewarding the person for some ways of being and discouraging others). Playing with frontiers, such projects not only challenge a standardized conception of technology but also of art, code and design. Feminist technologies reveal the power of subjective approaches and how modding tools can arouse social reflection and alternate participation.

I will be continuing these thoughts in a paper for Peer Production Journal over the coming months.

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