The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), dir. James Whale
Today, it is imperative that we develop an ideological infrastructure that both supports and facilitates feminist interventions within connective, networked elements of the contemporary world…. [W]e propose XF as a platform. (XF 0x07, 0x10)
Rather than pretending to risk nothing, XF advocates the necessary assembly of techno-political interfaces responsive to these risks. (XF 0x02)
In this chapter I consider some new resources for thinking about, and acting within, the interface of persons and things….
As an alternative, we can take the interface not as an a priori or self-evident boundary between bodies and machines but as a relation enacted in particular settings and one, moreover, that shifts over time.
Read in association with the empirical investigations of complex sociomaterial sites described above, “the interface” becomes the name for a category of contingently enacted cuts occurring always within sociomaterial practices, that effect “person” and “machines” as distinct entities, and that in turn enable particular forms of subject-object intra-actions. (Suchman 259, 263, 268)
For someone like myself, who spends a great deal of time thinking about and building digital technical infrastructure, Devil’s Bridges propose a series of resonant questions about how digital environments reconfigure the sense of, and possibility for, acts of connection and the felt experience of connectedness:
• How exactly are connections/links/relations materialized in digital environments?
• How is “bridging” or “mediating” or “making connections” the result of complex processes involving both human and nonhuman objects and agents?…
• How does explicit attention to these acts and technologies of “connection” move us beyond thinking of connectivity as binary or thinking of infrastructure as a form of mediation? (Verhoeven 8-9)
Chap. 5. The Principle of Reciprocity — The gift. Exchange in primitive and contemporary societies. Extension to the laws of marriage. The notion of archaism and its implications. From the exchange of goods to the exchange of women. (Claude Lévi-Strauss, The Elementary Structures of Kinship, ToC)
The excess of modesty in feminist agendas of recent decades is not proportionate to the monstrous complexity of our reality, a reality crosshatched with fibre-optic cables, radio and microwaves, oil and gas pipelines, aerial and shipping routes, and the unrelenting, simultaneous execution of millions of communication protocols with every passing millisecond. Systematic thinking and structural analysis have largely fallen by the wayside in favour of admirable, but insufficient struggles, bound to fixed localities and fragmented insurrections. (XF 0x05)
“Systems” (Suchman/Graham interview, 1:43–4:00 | 5:50–9:00)
“Feminist rereadings of the cyborg replace the binaries male–female, human–machine, and subject–object with the possibility of an open horizon of specific, historically and culturally constituted, sociomaterial relations….
Along with the dramatic possibilities of the feminist cyborg, we need to recover the ways in which more familiar bodies and subjectivities are being formed through contemporary interweavings of nature and artifice, for better and worse.
More than conversation at the interface, it is creative assemblages like these [Tgarden] that explore and elaborate the particular dynamic capacities that digital media afford and the ways that through them humans and machines can perform interesting new effects. Not only do these experiments promise innovations in our thinking about machines, but they open up as well the equally exciting prospect of alternate conceptualizations of what it means to be human. The person figured here is not an autonomous, rational actor but an unfolding, shifting biography of culturally and materially specific experiences, relations, and possibilities inflected by each next encounter—including the most normative and familiar—in uniquely particular ways.
(Suchman 275-276, 281)
… a contemporary renaissance of database management systems design has the potential to further contribute to and amend our thinking about the sociality of archival information and to imagine alternative possibilities for inscribing the world. Whereas predominant relational (SQL) databases, for example, contain, clean, and curate information, new NoSQL (not-only SQL) database formats, including emergent graph database systems, focus effort and attention on navigating relationships between the data. (Verhoeven 18)
Why is there so little explicit, organized effort to repurpose technologies for progressive gender political ends? XF seeks to strategically deploy existing technologies to re-engineer the world. Serious risks are built into these tools; they are prone to imbalance, abuse, and exploitation of the weak. Rather than pretending to risk nothing, XF advocates the necessary assembly of techno-political interfaces responsive to these risks. (XF 0x02)
Intervention in more obviously material hegemonies is just as crucial as intervention in digital and cultural ones. Changes to the built environment harbour some of the most significant possibilities in the reconfiguration of the horizons of women and queers. As the embodiment of ideological constellations, the production of space and the decisions we make for its organization are ultimately articulations about ‘us’ and reciprocally, how a ‘we’ can be articulated. With the potential to foreclose, restrict, or open up future social conditions, xenofeminists must become attuned to the language of architecture as a vocabulary for collective choreoraphy—the coordinated writing of space. (XF , 0x14)
From the street to the home, domestic space too must not escape our tentacles…. If we want to break the inertia that has kept the moribund figure of the nuclear family unit in place, which has stubbornly worked to isolate women from the public sphere, and men from the lives of their children, while penalizing those who stray from it, we must overhaul the material infrastructure and break the economic cycles that lock it in place. (XF , 0x15)
From the home to the body, the articulation of a proactive politics for biotechnical intervention and hormones presses. Hormones hack into gender systems possessing political scope extending beyond the aesthetic calibration of individual bodies. Thought structurally, the distribution of hormones—who or what this distribution prioritizes or pathologizes—is of paramount import. The rise of the internet and the hydra of black market pharmacies it let loose—together with a publicly accessible archive of endocrinological knowhow—was instrumental in wresting control of the hormonal economy away from ‘gatekeeping’ institutions seeking to mitigate threats to established distributions of the sexual…. Without the foolhardy endangerment of lives, can we stitch together the embryonic promises held before us by pharmaceutical 3D printing (‘Reactionware’), grassroots telemedical abortion clinics, gender hacktivist and DIY-HRT [do-it-yourself hormone replacement therapy] forums, and so on, to assemble a platform for free and open source medicine? (XF 0x16)
before a vowel xen-, representing Greek ξενο-, ξεν-, combining form of ξένος a guest, stranger, foreigner, adj. foreign, strange; used in various scientific and other terms; for those not found here, see their alphabetical places.” (OED, “xeno-“)
Sections of the XF Manifesto: