Supremacy of Symbiosis? The Gendered Affordances of Embodied Technology Design
City University of New York, GC/BMCC, United States of America
How do gendered power structures colonize wearable tech and biodesign practice? This paper contends that it is not just the practitioner’s gender, but the gender of the practice itself, that affects the sense of the body being designed for, as well as design goals.
Drawing on participant observation and interview data from the wearable tech and biodesign communities, this analysis explores the concrete effects of symbolic gender dichotomies on wearable tech and biodesign practices and outcomes. Extending critical race and technology studies’ claim that design settings’ lack of diversity can lead to biased outcomes, it looks at the lack of diversity in design methods, especially regarding gendered design practices, such as sewing or knitting, in the realm of embodied technology. It examines gendered assumptions in both digital wearable tech, and biodesign, which incorporates living organisms into its function, such as weaving conductive protein nano-wires into mushroom grown textiles. The paper shares three key findings. First, gendered meanings in personnel encounters affected who is considered an expert; female engineers and designers told of having to dress and talk like a man to be taken seriously. Second, less value is accorded to ‘feminine’ ways of making such as knitting, even though these practices can create more cooperative, comfortable, less harmful user/device interactions. Finally, mapping feminine and masculine-oriented design concerns and practices onto post-human or trans-human frameworks, reveals how masculine associated techno/supremacist ideals contrast with feminist informed symbiotic interdependencies between user and technology, which produce designs that envision a more equitable technological future.
Visual Cultures of CRISPR: Human Genetic Engineering in UK, US, and Chinese Social Media
University of Sussex, United Kingdom
A cursory scroll through Instagram’s ‘CRISPR’ hashtag reveals a collection of images balanced on the border between science and fiction: mutant embryos, sickly children, doctors standing beside lab equipment, etc. Assuming CRISPR (i.e., human genetic engineering technology) as our central artefact, we examine the visual cultures of science communication within and across UK, US, and Chinese social media. Interrogating the discourse surrounding human genetic engineering that is produced in and about these regions, we seek to contribute to the decolonisation of the internet by (1) methodologically integrating Chinese social media analysis into discussions about CRISPR technology, (2) critiquing and disrupting xenophobic narratives that frame Chinese human genetic engineering practices as illegitimate or dangerous (whilst celebrating Western scientific practices), and (3) centring stories of Chinese scientific advancement and the voices of Chinese scientists, researchers, and hobbyists. Finally, we investigate how the visual representations of the human subject (e.g., embryos, babies, and patients) that emerge within international CRISPR narratives allow the technology to maintain its intelligibility and affective charge.
Effective Design for Trust by Centering Disabled User Experience
1Virginia Tech, United States of America; 2Old Dominion University, United States of America
While conducting multidisciplinary research, spanning engineering, social sciences, and humanities, on Internet of Things device (henceforth, IoT) adoption and use within disability communities, the authors noticed differences in the conceptualization and operationalization of “trust” across practical and disciplinary settings in the context of data privacy and IoT devices. We seek to present a conceptualization of trust which we believe, when pursued earnestly by designers, will be most broadly and universally effective in generating trust among users.
In this presentation, following a review of conceptualizations and operationalizations of trust in a data privacy context, we will present a critique and reformulation of “trust” that centers marginalized perspectives, focusing most of all on disabled experience but also seeking to decenter privileged perspectives and keep experiences of BIPOC, LGBTQ+ persons, and women closely in view. Since power is most visible at the margins, centering marginalized perspectives is most likely to find the outlines and structures of power, and design centered on marginalized experiences is likely to be more universal than is a focus on privileged experiences even when supplemented with post hoc and ad hoc accommodations. We conducted this analysis from the frameworks of disability studies, phenomenology and postphenomenology, and feminist ethics of care.
TIKTOK AND TICS: THREE MEDIA THEORETICAL DIAGNOSES
1University of Toronto, Canada; 2University of Turku, Finland
In 2021, the Wall Street Journal reported that medical experts had witnessed a surge in patients with tic-like behavior such as repetitive, involuntary movements or sounds. Common to these patients is that they are said to have watched videos of TikTok or YouTube influencers who had Tourette syndrome or tic-like behavior. In this paper, by using three media theoretical frameworks – soma-technics, digital pharmakon, and virality – we examine a corpus of texts, including research articles and editorials, published in medical journals in 2021 to investigate the potential and alleged impacts of social media in this phenomenon. Soma-technics provides a framework to understand user experience as a bodily attunement. Digital pharmakon helps us to analyze the relationship between illness, technology, and the digital environment. Finally, virality enables us to unpack why this condition is diagnosed as ‘mass social media-induced illness’. Our three media theoretical approaches render visible and build a new theory of the complexities of being a psychosocial entity in the midst of changing media technological rhythms and processes.