[-empyre-] on feminism and the cyclical nature of tools and technologies

Renate Terese Ferro rferro at cornell.edu
Thu Feb 26 08:41:24 AEDT 2015

Dear Melinda, 
Your voice is an important one to me and to many of our -empyre-
subscribers and thanks for sharing your recent interests and projects. It
is ironic that you write this generous post just as I return from a
two-hour faculty meeting where our discussion centered around a proposal
to separate digital tool learning from the context of art studios just as
we do with our shop technology requiring all of our first year students to
attend bootcamp taught by technicians. Yikes. My colleague and I (both
women by the way) who are broad cross-disciplinary artists but teach
digital media were horrified at this proposal for the reasons that both
Anne and you cite: 
WHO you earn with is as important as what you learn.

I do not want my young artists to think of digital tools in terms of use
value only but to think through them no differently than any other tool
they use in a studio setting, that is critically with implied social,
political, and cultural implications.  Learning which for me includes
stumbling, researching, problem-solving, a messy venture and one that
technicians do not find very efficient. Sorry, I acknowledge my biases.

You also wrote: So tools and technologies don't need to be new,
specialised, expensive or complex, and often the more straight fwd the
longer lasting and more far reaching their outcomes. Thats why I used the
rather daggy list serv format for -empyre- with plain text messages. It
was, and still is, easy to use, easy to contain, easy to search, and has
no distractions. In 2002 I was hoping
---empyre- would a space were it was safe to make propositions which left
one a little giddy or vulnerable - but I guess the reality is text based
interaction becomes performative in a knowledge based economy and status
anxiety precludes these sorts of risks. Maybe I’m wrong?

Our current moderating team has discussed the possibility of transitioning
-empyre- over to a blog based site.  We have collectively decided thus far
to keep it as a list serve for the many reasons you list but safety was
not one of them. Many of our subscribers are avid readers but choose to be
lurkers and do not post because they fear being judged or perhaps they
feel that more responsive writing and discussion may be held against them
at some point in the future.  Our mission remains though as often as
possible to curate a wide-variety of viewpoints and topics and to be as
inclusive as is possible. We encourage all of our guests not to post
previously published papers or long written conference papers so that
discussion is welcomed and anyone who feels up to it will join in the
discussion.   The hope for a space that can and will work out new
potentials is a utopia but I think most of us do not want to let go of
that ideal. Our own list-serve acknowledges that the tension between
writing as a performative gesture and one that is conversational, probing,
vulnerable or giddy provides an interesting interstitial space. A space
that can be informative but also one that is inquisitive and questioning.
To manage -empyre- is a tremendous amount of work and we really do hope
that younger ­empyreans will step up to take over some of the logistics of
running the list-serv.  Melinda is -empyre- the longest-running list-serve
on new media and networked culture?

Thanks also for the historical background on its conception.

Renate Ferro
Visiting Assistant Professor of Art,Cornell University
Department of Art, Tjaden Hall Office:  306
Ithaca, NY  14853
Email:   <rferro at cornell.edu <mailto:rtf9 at cornell.edu>>
URL:  http://www.renateferro.net <http://www.renateferro.net/>
Lab:  http://www.tinkerfactory.net <http://www.tinkerfactory.net/>

Managing Co-moderator of -empyre- soft skinned space

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