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

instructor melanie hoff
semester Fall 2021 NYU ITP
duration 14 weeks 
time

Overview

💧 What can cybernetics, the study of how we shape and are shaped by systems, teach us about the sexual and social reproduction of gender and sexism? How does sex become gender and what are the politics surrounding who gets reproduced? We will explore how social regulatory systems are encoded into technological platforms and disentangle how they produce social pressure and govern behavior through 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 is core to this class. Together we will read the work of scholars such as Donna Haraway, Ruha Benjamin, Paul Preciado, Silvia Federici, & Audre Lorde. 

💧 Along with lecture, discussion, and in class activities, students will be encouraged to explore their own research interests and 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.

Week 1 ◌ Hello Cybernetics

  • Intentions & Acknowledgments 
  • Introductions & Pronouns
  • Collective orientation activity
  • What is Cybernetics?
  • Code of Conduct

Grounding Resources:

Week 2 ◌ Cybernetic Choreographies

  • Cybernetic Choreographies is a series of movement and feedback generating exercises. It is an experiment in cultivating cybernetic choreographies right here with each other in this classroom using the social context of a class as it’s raw material.

Guiding Resources:

Week 3 ◌ Consensual Hacking Part I

  • Consensual Hacking is a vulnerable space of cooperation and trust. Together we will carefully and consensually access 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.
  • In Part I we will have discussion on the themes of consent and technology and begin the writing the social contract in pairs

Guiding Resources:

Week 4 ◌ Consensual Hacking Part II

  • In Part II we will act out the individually defined consensual hacking (with the option to opt out)
  • Debrief & discussion
  • Closure

Week 5  ◌ Technology as Social Idea, Computation as Material

  • Midterm announced
  • Gender & race encoded: in law in and computation
  • What can software, from algorithms to GUIs teach us about how we enact & reproduce ideology in ourselves and in others?
  • Emoji & Character encoding

Grounding Resources:

Week 6 ◌ Cyberfeminism, Glitch Feminism, Witches 

  • Midterm Idea proposals and feedback
  • A plural feminisms and the harms of “white feminism.”
  • Critique of the Cyborg
  • Wages for Housework

Grounding Resources:

Week 7 ◌ Politics of Desire

  • We will discus the ways birth control has been long connected to eugenicist ideology.
  • Desirability politics have a direct influence on who gets 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.
  • Midterm ideas feedback workshop

Guiding Resources:

Week 8 ◌ Midterm Presentations

Week 9 ◌ Sex, Reproduction, & Labor with Special Guest 

  • Sex encoded: in law in and computation
  • Presentations as an expressive narrative medium

Grounding Resources:

Week 10 ◌ Field Trip: Cybernetics Library

Week 11 ◌ A Choreography of Culture: Artists Interrupting Cybernetic Systems Part I

  • Lecture: Artists Interrupting Cybernetic Systems
    • 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: FlucT & Tino Seghal

Grounding Resources

Week 12 ◌ Artists Interrupting Cybernetic Systems Part II with Special Guest Nahee Kim

  • Artist spotlight: Nahee Kim & Shawné Michelain Halloway

Week 13 ◌ Peer Feedback

  • Rotating group activity for getting feedback on final projects.

Week 14 ◌ 12.11 ◌ Student Project Presentations 

After party at Soft Surplus

 

Grading

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

 

Participation

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.

Homework

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: http://students.tisch.nyu.edu/page/home.html

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.

 

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