Arse Elektronika 2007: A conference about pr0nnovation?

According to a study by Simon Smith, more than 800 items were registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office as sex toys between 1840 and 1997. Among them was a condom with a built-in computer chip that can play music. Progress?

From the depiction of a vulva in a cave painting to the newest internet porno, technology and sexuality have always been closely linked. No one can predict what the future will bring, but history indicates that sex will continue to play an essential role in technological development.

The porno effect accompanies every new technological development. Immediately after producing his famous bible, Gutenberg used his press to print erotica. Photography was utilized just as quickly. In 1874 the London police discovered 130,000 pornographic photos in the course of a single house search. The introduction of cinematic technology also confirmed the close relationship between pornography and technological innovation: in 1896 a pornographic film was shown publicly for the first time, two years after the premiere of the first films of any interest to the general public. Since then, more pornographic films than nonpornographic films have been produced. That in 1977 the first video cassettes to appear on the market featured pornographic content should come as no surprise. The development of the camcorder and the instamatic camera made it possible for anyone so inclined to produce porno in privacy at home. The fact that the first affordable Polaroid model was named "The Swinger" seems to indicate that the industry was well aware of this possible use.

All of these facts could be relegated to the status of curiosities were it not for the important role that pornography has played in the development of new technologies. New technologies are quick to appeal to pornography consumers, and thus these customers represent a profitable market segment for the suppliers of new products and services. Without telephone sex, a sector that has been yielding enormous profits since the 1980s, providers would have had no incentive to upgrade the communicational infrastructure. And of course one should not forget the internet, which is notorious for being flooded with pornography. Porno sites were the first to use technologies like audio and video streaming. They were also a driving force behind the spread of high-speed internet connections and made necessary the development of better data systems. Additionally, porno sites have promoted the development of new cultural technologies like (in)formal partnering, outsourcing, upselling and site tracking. Today a new technology's success with porno consumers is a dependable indicator of the product's overall market potential. Currently, all factors show that high-tech developments like virtual reality owe a great deal of their success to the need for further sexual stimulation. One could cite the example provided by the science-fiction concept of a full-body interface designed to produce sexual stimulation. But it isn't science fiction anymore.

Is it going too far to assume that research in nanotechnology and genetic engineering will be influenced by our sexual needs. The surgical modification of sexual organs is no longer something very unusual.

The question is not whether these technologies alter humanity, but how they do so.

Johannes Grenzfurthner/monochrom (Conference organizer)

Arse Elektronika 2008?

We are currently preparing Arse Elektronika 2008.