Cybernetics of Sex ✧ Technology, Feminisms & the Choreography of Control

instructor melanie hoff
semester Fall 2021 NYU ITP
duration 14 weeks 
time 12:20-2:50


💧 Cybernetics is the study of how we shape and are shaped by systems. What can it teach us about the ideological and sexual reproduction of gender and sexism? How does sex become gender and what are the politics surrounding who gets reproduced? This class is a hybrid coding, critical theory, and art production class. We will explore how social regulatory systems are encoded into technological platforms and disentangle how they produce social pressure and govern behavior through coding exercises, somatic exercises, discussion, and project making. 

💧 In this class, we will not shy away from difficult conversations and work closely together to cultivate a space of openness and mutual support. Discussion and project-making are core to this class. Together we will express ideas through code, computational consent, and read the work of scholars such as Donna Haraway, Ruha Benjamin, Paul Preciado, Silvia Federici, & Audre Lorde.

💧 Participants will be encouraged to develop their own research interests and explore their personal histories. When projects are discussed, we will practice communicating ideas through presentation as a medium and will co-create a culture of constructive feedback. ↝

9/13 Week 1 ◌ Orientation

  • Intentions & Acknowledgments 
  • Introductions & Pronouns
  • Collective orientation activity
  • Code of Conduct

Grounding Resources:

9/20 Week 2 ◌ Uses of the Erotic 

  • Speculative Liberatory Learning Environments
  • Melanie’s artist presentation

Guiding Resources:

9/27 Week 3 ◌ Cybernetic Choreographies

  • Introduction to Cybernetics 
  • Cybernetics Library 
  • Cybernetic Choreographies

Guiding Resources: 

10/4 Week 4 ◌ Guest Artist: Nahee Kim & Intimate Folder Poetry

10/12 Week 5  ◌ Reproductive Desire Politics & Consensual Hacking I

  • We will discus the ways birth control has been long connected to eugenicist ideology.
  • Desirability politics have a direct influence on who is born. When certain communities are systematically devalued in both intimate and public spheres, this has an impact on who is “allowed” or encouraged to reproduce, whose lives are seen as worthy of reproduction.

Guiding Resources: 

10/18 Week 6 ◌ Consensual Hacking II

Consensual Hacking is a vulnerable space of cooperation and trust. Together we will carefully and consensually enter each other’s computers remotely. What is social and digital consent and how are they interwoven? What does it mean to responsibly give and take access and control to our most intimate digital spaces? Is there pleasure to be found in a bounded exchange of trust and vulnerability? In this workshop, we will learn about secure networking and navigating the terminal. A portion of the class will be about creatively thinking through what our boundaries and desires are by designing and signing sociotechnical contracts; a social and digital protocol towards a loving, secure, & mutual transgression.

  • Consensual Hacking *Session*
  • Presentations as an expressive narrative medium

10/25 Week 7 ◌ Midterm Presentations

🚨 11/1 ◌ CLASS RESCHEDULED to Saturday 11/20  🚨

11/8 Week 8 ◌ Sexual Labor with Gabriella Garcia

  • Sex encoded: in law in culture, and in computation
  • Lecture on the history of sex work and technology from Gabriella Garcia

Grounding Resources:

11/15 Week 9 ◌ Transformations and Glitch Feminism

  • What tyrannies do you swallow? (cc. Audre Lorde)
  • What can software, from algorithms to GUIs teach us about how we enact & reproduce ideology in ourselves and in others?

11/20 SATURDAY Week 10 Field Trip: Cybernetics Library

11/22 Week 11 ◌ Artists Interrupting Cybernetic Systems with Guest Artist Shawné Michaelain Holloway

  • Examples and discussion of artists who synthesize the topics of this class into embedded installations that alter, transform, and dynamically refigure cybernetic systems through feedback, mediation, and sociotechnical codes.
  • Artist spotlight: Lindsay Dye & Shawné Michelain Halloway

Grounding Resources:


11/29 Week 12 ◌ Final Project Development and Feedback

12/6 Week 13 ◌ Student Project Presentations 

12/13 Week 14 ◌ Student Project Presentations



☀︎ Final Project Description

Our class culminates in the development of a project over the course of 5 weeks defined by your individual skills and personal interests. The project should relate to themes of this class. Possible themes include and are not limited to sex, gender, technology, cybernetics, and feminism(s). This project can be in any medium such as software, performance, movement, a workshop/workbook, zine, website, interactive sculpture, installation, animation, oral history, etc. As we will have time to workshop and develop our ideas over time, you are encouraged to try a medium you are currently learning or have not yet worked with before. You are also encouraged to exercise a critical voice in your concept and idea. Be ready to explain why what you made is interesting to you, and what ideas you’re exploring with your work.

In the last two weeks of class, everyone will share and turn in a 10 minute slide presentation with photo and video documentation as well as writing describing the questions you were asking, the challenges you faced if any, and the ideas you were exploring through your project.




category percentage 
weekly homework  40%
attendance and participation  35%
final project 25%



It’s important that you participate in class discussions and give thoughtful feedback to your classmates when they show their work and share their ideas. We all come from different perspectives and orientations, there is so much we can all learn from each other if we are open to sharing. Your ideas developed from your unique lived experiences are a gift.


Every week you will be asked to respond to the readings and discussions from class. The last 3 weeks will be focused towards developing a final project. We will turn in homework using Arena before class starts. If you turn in your homework before midnight on Thursday, I will be better able to provide you feedback.

Statement of Academic Integrity

Plagiarism is presenting someone else’s work as though it were your own. More specifically, plagiarism is to present as your own: A sequence of words quoted without quotation marks from another writer or a paraphrased passage from another writer’s work or facts, ideas or images composed by someone else.

Statement of Principle

The core of the educational experience at the Tisch School of the Arts is the creation of original academic and artistic work by students for the critical review of faculty members. It is therefore of the utmost importance that students at all times provide their instructors with an accurate sense of their current abilities and knowledge in order to receive appropriate constructive criticism and advice. Any attempt to evade that essential, transparent transaction between instructor and student through plagiarism or cheating is educationally self-defeating and a grave violation of Tisch School of the Arts community standards. For all the details on plagiarism, please refer to page 10 of the Tisch School of the Arts, Policies and Procedures Handbook, which can be found online at:

Statement on Accessibility

Please let me know how I can make this class more accessible for you in any way. Academic accommodations are available for students with documented disabilities. Please contact the Moses Center for Students with Disabilities at 212 998-4980 for further information.

Statement on Counseling and Wellness

Your health and safety are a priority at NYU. If you experience any health or mental health issues during this course, we encourage you to utilize the support services of the 24/7 NYU Wellness Exchange 212-443-9999. Also, all students who may require an academic accommodation due to a qualified disability, physical or mental, please register with the Moses Center 212-998-4980. Please let your instructor know if you need help connecting to these resources.