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

Lyn Goeringer lyn.goeringer at gmail.com
Wed Jun 25 01:10:42 EST 2014

In consideration of gendered interfaces and dynamic performance, I think
instruments such as the arp as a problematic model: these are largely fixed
entities. I am afforded a great deal of connectivity within the context of
the patch system, but the inherent structure of the system itself is not
capable of reconfiguration without severe changes.  The instrument, in its
natural state, is not designed for easy adaptable hardware, and it is only
through the use of a specific type of normative connectivity that any
change is possible within the states of the resulting sound.

In imagining currently existing interfaces that allow for different types
of configuration, reconfiguration, and assembly, something that would fit
into a radical queering of the interface (to consider the interface as an
adaptable space for a more fluid gender expression) I am actually drawn
towards considering the Little Bits Synth Kit, where the system is no
longer reliant on patch cables, but looks towards a system that can be
reshaped and reconfiguring by moving the basic components and building
blocks around.  The motion and adaptability of the system is limited not by
a physical object that was created by another person and shipped out where
I must understand their logic and design before I can adapt and work within
the original construct, rather, the system of little bits allows me to have
access to a greater system of adaptability.  This system also works towards
an ideology of equality and access, one that is all but non-existent in
systems such as the Arp, which assume a position where one must have at
least access (usually via financial means) to use the instrument itself:
without access to an institution who owns one, or without the money to
purchase one, people rarely will be able to work with an instrument.
 Within this context, we immediately begin to adapt to, or work within, a
structure of power that reinforces normative (and hierarchical) structures
of music making.  By disrupting the chain of access, Little Bits synth kit
begins to destabilize not only the privilege of access to electronic sound
production, but also enables a different gendered code through different
connectivity systems at large.  It also has the benefit of being able to be
patched into other modular systems, making it another way of changing the
larger systems at/in play.

I think it is powerful to imagine new systems, where the connections
themselves are no longer focused on 'tab A slot B' thinking: we are no
longer confined to the manufacturing morays.  Where Little Bits is not the
perfect solution, it does allow access to larger communities as well as
contribute to a changing way of having modular connectivity that is
malleable during performance.
(interesting thoughts, Asha! Thank you for starting this thread)


Lyn.Goeringer at gmail.com

On Mon, Jun 23, 2014 at 9:00 PM, Asha Tamirisa <ashatamirisa at gmail.com>

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> [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
> subject.
> 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
> responses/criticisms/thoughts!
> --
> - Asha Tamirisa <http://cargocollective.com/ashatamirisa>
> <http://www.ashatamirisa.wordpress.com>
> ashatamirisa at gmail.com
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
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