Exe0.2 Marie Louise Juul Søndergaard
Marcelle -- Executing Pain and Pleasure
Technological ideologies enact power and as such, they are inherently violent. Moving beyond technology as a metaphor for human rationality, and beyond the corporate dream of disembodied control, we need to instead move towards an understanding of the uncontrollable and intimate relations between bodies and code as we find them in the mundane everyday life. Everyday life is full of relations between the using, misusing, and abusing of technologies and bodies, and just as networked technologies execute bodies and code, also bodies execute technologies, networks, and code. Looking closer at the structures at play, these inherently violent relations might better be understood through the lens of the complex emotions of networked realities and their fleshy and perverse dreams. An eroticism of technology.
My proposal for exe 0.2 is a prototype speculating upon the relation between execution and eroticism. It draws upon my theoretical proposal for exe 0.1 about sadomasochistic computing. What does execution have to do with desire and violence, pleasure and pain? The aim of the prototype is to investigate the violent power relations in network execution through the language of eroticism. It questions, what if the user becomes more erotically connected to the computer in the future? Would our bodily and affective sensibility adapt to the networked landscape? More generally, the prototype is an investigation into the aesthetical and poetical impacts of intimate technologies’ connection to wider networks.
Marcelle is a speculative and critical design named after the character Marcelle in Georges Bataille's novel Story of the Eye. The design consists of a pair of underpants with modular vibrators that is connected to and relies on network information. It is a wearable sex toy with vibrators that the user can customize to fit his/her sexual needs. However, the execution of the vibrators’ impulses is partly unwilling, since the user cannot easily control the vibrations. Instead of a transparent interaction, the vibrations’ intensity and rhythm are controlled by autonomous network users and the networked landscape. The handmade underpants are (supposed to be) made of leather and all electronic (NodeMCU, battery, vibrators) is sewed into the garment, which makes it wearable and mobile. Vibrators are (hopefully) encapsulated in jelly-like silicone and are modular, and as such the user are able to customize his/her own erotic experience (pictures are coming...)
Marcelle as critique
As a critical and speculative design, Marcelle uses design as a critical medium to discuss social, cultural and political aspects of technology and our technology mediated everyday life (Dunne and Raby, 2013), including its dark and painful aspects as is explored in Dark Design and Design Noir (Dunne and Raby, 2001). Marcelle discusses our dependence on network connectivity and social contact, and critiques the contract we sign when using networked enabled services. A contract, which might be better understood as a sadomasochistic relation building on submission and dominance, pain and pleasure, trust and violence. Marcelle speculates how this might look in a future of IoT, virtual and augmented sex toys, and increasingly complex network connectivity. Marcelle draws on my work for exe 0.1 on sadistic computing, and is inspired by cyberfeminist theory on the relation between sexuality and technology (Haraway, 1991; Plant, 1997; Steffensen, 1998), as well as psychoanalytic notions of fluids (Bataille, 2013; Kristeva, 1982). The technological visions of the tech industry and the possible futures of transgressive (science) fiction, such as Bataille’s Story of the Eye and Ballard’s Crash, might at first appear perverse, but the interweaving of will, sexuality, and technology are trapped between highly countercultural movements and the neoliberal sexual industry. Perversity simultaneously reinforces belief systems and transgresses sexual norms and taboos. Marcelle aims to critique and discuss how the case of neoliberal sex toys and general patterns of cruel optimism and ‘digital empowerment’ reinforce aspects of sex and gender, social relations, and intimate subjectivity. Marcelle investigates how the technological dreams of today are inherently perverse, erotic, deathly painful, and inundated with desire and sexuality. It moves beyond cruel optimism (Berlant, 2011) and designed, spectacular sentimentality, to work with the excess energy and unwillingness, that might transgress the controlled logic and reasoning of technology. The paradox and conflict between pleasure and pain, unwillingness and desire, not only characterises our “sexual” relation to technology, as in the case of users’ “contractual” relation to computers, but also broader existential aspects of the technology-mediated everyday life. Marcelle is an investigation into this form of transgressive design, influenced by dark design and design noir.
- Bataille, G., 2013. Story of the Eye, New Ed edition. ed. Penguin.
- Berlant, L., 2011. Cruel Optimism. Duke University Press Books, Durham.
- Dunne, A., Raby, F., 2013. Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming. MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts ; London.
- Dunne, A., Raby, F., 2001. Design Noir: The Secret Life of Electronic Objects, 1 edition. ed. Birkhauser, London; Basel.
- Haraway, D., 1991. A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century, in: Simians, Cyborgs, and Women. Routledge, New York.
- Kristeva, J., 1982. Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection, Reprint edition. ed. Columbia University Press, New York.
- Plant, S., 1997. Zeroes and Ones: Digital Women and the New Technoculture, 1st edition. ed. Doubleday, New York.
- Steffensen, J., 1998. Slimy metaphors for technology: “the clitoris is a direct line to the Matrix.” Presented at the Discipline and Deviance: Technology, Gender, Machines, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.