[-empyre-] Day 1 #2: Feminism Confronts Audio Tech - Gendered rhetoric

Asha Tamirisa ashatamirisa at gmail.com
Tue Jun 24 11:00:19 EST 2014

[for those not familiar with modular synthesizers, a google image search
will help!]

Historically, gender and race function as a means of grounding power on the
basis of essentialist differentiation, and I’m interested in how these
structures of power/knowledge find their way into the
development/deployment of technology. Feminizing/eroticizing machines is
not new: Lee Hart likens a turned dial to a nipple rising, automobiles are
often feminized, and more recently the movie Her depicts a feminized
virtual space... Industry standard audiotechnical language falls in similar
traps: cables with protrusions are referred to as male, inverted jacks are
referred to as female. If we carry this over to modular synthesizers, the
machine with all of its inverted connection points becomes feminized, and
the user, using cables with so-called male ends, is produced as a masculine

I’m interested in the ARP2500, which uses a matrix system instead of patch
cables. The matrix system, which allows for scanning multiple points of
connectivity in the system, expresses a more queer logic than its
predecessors. Even with a set destination in mind, the user must scan
through all other connections en route. To me, this expresses a much more
spectral experience of connectivity and a very different gendering of the
user and machine. I’ve thus begun exploring ideas of ‘queering the
interface’ but I wonder: just because a technology reflects normative ideas
in its design, does it necessarily produce these meanings with its use? On
the other side, if I were to, for instance, design a synth that had an
interface that displayed more queer, fluid ideologies, would it necessarily
provoke the type of social effects that it seeks to emulate?

Personally, I am very invested in recuperating an idea of the body that is
not essentialist/unchanging. Technological design shaped by normative ideas
of difference are, to me, an unnecessary rearticulation of traditional
narratives of gendered and racialized power. Moreover, as a technologist, I
appreciate the possibility space that opens up when thinking about spectral
ideas of connectivity and subjectivity. What the material effects of
technologies that follow spectral and mobile logics of power and
subjectivity are, I am not sure…. looking forward to hearing

- Asha Tamirisa <http://cargocollective.com/ashatamirisa>
ashatamirisa at gmail.com
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