Coded Bodies – Per/forming Critique

Prof. Dr. Michelle Christensen
Coded Bodies – Per/forming Critique

Block seminar, English, 2 SWS, 2 ECTS, 5 places
Course Duration: 07.- 11.10.2024, 10 -17 h, Introduction: 07.10.2024 at 10 h
Room: Berlin Open Lab, Universität der Künste Berlin, Einsteinufer 43, 10587 Berlin

Registration: Please register beforehand to michelle.christensen_!

Bodies have always been in a constant state of material and discursive transition. From medical to DIY body augmentation, from meticulous self-tracking to life-mining mass-quantification of (bio)data, and from intimate lived reality to mythical metaphor, the body currently exists as a hyper-connected site of contestation and power plays. It can be understood as something that gets updated, altered, needs maintenance and sometimes breaks down and gets rebooted. As something that is not fixed, something collective and transforming, always in flux – as a site of negotiation.

Donna Haraway’s well-known feminist allegory of the ‘cyborg’ from 1985 already inserted an oppositional consciousness at the heart of the debate on new technological bodies and societies, questioning power relations and the making of ethical and political resistance in the age of an informatics of domination. In the ambiguity of the natural and artificial, self-developing and externally designed, Haraway proposes the potential of strategically confusing identities. We are all chimeras, she argued, fabricated hybrids of machine and organism – and should take pleasure in the confusion of boundaries.

In this block-seminar we will discover and debate the topic of per/forming bodies as a site of confusion, negotiation and of critique. Taking an interdisciplinary perspective on the politics and technologies of bodies with a focus on ‘automation’ versus ‘autonomy’, we will discover real-world phenomena and engage personally with the technological systems in which we are embedded and embodied. Drawing on approaches of critical making and designing, as well as feminist and queer theory – we will (ad hoc) prototype concepts for performing bodies differently (no prior experience with design or technology necessary).

– Haraway, D. (2003). A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century. In: Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York; Routledge.
– Braidotti, R. (2013). ‘The Posthuman’. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Michelle Christensen is a visiting professor for Open Science/Critical Culture at the Technische Universität Berlin and the Einstein Center Digital Future (ECDF), as well as co-heading the research group Design, Diversity and New Commons at the Berlin University of the Arts / Weizenbaum Institute. She wrote her Ph.D. in the field of Design Research, prior to which she studied political sociology (B.A.), conflict studies (M.A.), gender studies (M.Sc.) and integrated design (M.A.). She has worked at the Crisis Department of Amnesty International USA, was a Humanity in Action Fellow, and a Congressional Fellow in the United States Congress in Washington DC. As a researcher she has worked for the Design Research Lab and the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence in Berlin. She has taught courses in gender studies, conflict analysis and design methods at universities in the Netherlands and Germany, most recently as a visiting professor at the Anhalt University of Applied Sciences in Dessau. Her work focuses on feminist/queer, decolonial and postanthropocentric approaches to design and free/open technologies.