Arse Elektronika San Francisco 2011

Talks and performances

Experiential Technologies for the Performance of Socio-Sexual Identities
Eleanor Saitta

We usually think of technology as something physically embodied in hunks of glass and silicon, but it's now just as likely to refer to a purely virtual object.  Let's take this a step further and look at social patterns and scripts as pieces of experiential technology.

A significant amount of work has been done over the past two decades using performance as a lens to understand how gender and sexuality operate in people's lives.  In general, this work has looked at performance as something mostly unintentional and unconscious -- social learning by unconscious modeling of societal patterns.  However, this isn't always the case, and there are and have been many classes of people who engage in performance intentionally and intellectually.

What happens when we use experiential technologies to weird socio-sexual performance?  This isn't just a theoretical question, and in this talk, we'll look at BDSM, drag, chaos magic, and avant-garde live action roleplaying as starting points to project forward from.

CSS Citizen Sexual Science
Ned Henry, Rich Gibson, others

CSS Citizen Sexual Science. We have the power to make sex better for ourselves. How? By connecting sex research with the growing citizen science movement. We are living in the new golden period for the non-professional in science, technology, and culture. Think wikipedia and open street map, and biocurious.
Citizen Science has advantages over traditional science in exploring sexuality. It is hard to get money for non-pharmacuitical research in sexuality, there are institutional pressures and judgments against people who do research on sex, and it is very hard to get interesting studies past a human subjects committee (try constructing a study on Ďalternative modalities in post scene sub aftercareí past a committee).
This workshop will provide an introduction to best practices for citizen science in sex.

Hacking Health: Queer Machines, Ideal Bodies and What Medicine Can Learn From Sex/Tech
Laura Duncan

Hybrids of sex and technology are flourishing in contemporary culture, from basement workshops where power tools are lovingly re-purposed into "bedroom aids" to sexual media empires with genres devoted solely to robot-human couplings. These sexual technology projects, as well as science fiction portrayals, allow us to question common assumptions about the body, as well as explore what characteristics sex/tech privileges. How do queer desires fit into this brave new world? Machines are often subtly gendered, while most well-loved robot characters display a programmed heterosexuality. Is superhuman ability a necessary component of a cyborg? Do robots have race?

As sexual technologies move off the screen and onto prescription pads, medicine is beginning to tangibly build these futuristic bodies and sexualities. Since Viagra became a market blockbuster, medicine's interest in sexuality has undergone a renaissance, producing tech that seems straight out of sci-fi from sperm-inspired nanobots to orgasmic spinal implants. What can this medical technology learn from its more explicitly carnal brethren though and visa versa? Sex/tech remains stagnant at times, portraying only the most conventional aesthetics, but it's potential for a radical reimagining of sexuality also holds much promise. Might the notoriously procreation-focused medical system begin to consider pleasure in the face of orgasm-obsessed erotic media? Could Fuckzilla teach us about neural pleasure centers? Is a Nexus 6 really your next girlfriend? These issues raised by sexual technology projects are crucial to understanding our future relationship with health technology.

This talk will draw on critical theory, the medical sciences, erotic media and even Star Trek to examine how sexual and medical technology overlap and/or clash in their understandings of sexuality and what this suggests about the future of the body.

Make your own Mind Controlled Dildo
David Fine

You can control a vibrator with the power of your mind, using mostly off the shelf parts. David Fine did it, and he is here to show us how we can do it.

Measurement Electronics for Hobbyists
Ned Mayhem

Important concepts for making sensitive measurements with large SNR. A lot of the concepts are very general, and would be applicable to any project that uses a sensor. This is Nedís area of expertise as an experimental physicist, so he has plenty to say on the subject. It will cover how to think about the frequency domain, noise, bandwidth, shielding, gain, digitizing, etc. It would have to be geared toward people who already know something about electronics, but they will not have to be experts. People who like to fiddle with Arduino boards would be a perfect audience.

Pervertables: A Hands-on Workshop in Being a DIY Deviant
Kitty Stryker and Maggie Mayhem

You don't have to be rich to be a pervert... but it helps. So what's a poor kinkster with an empty wallet and a head full of hot fantasies to do? Fuck that inaccessible classist bullshit! Let DIY deviants Maggie Mayhem and Kitty Stryker teach you how to turn that abandoned found-objects art project or that dusty pile of busted inner tubes and circuitboards into some fun, functional toys. These two will help you channel your creativity to construct a pervertable to be proud of. Check out their supply table or bring your own bits and bobs you've been meaning to make into something cool but never got around to it!

Phallic Home Economics
Griffin Boyce

Used for everything from sex to stirring cocktails, cocks are an intrinsic part of most men's lives. But how does one navigate day-to-day life without a penis? More importantly, how do you deal with the TSA? This talk goes way beyond dildos into the economic factors that influence the options available to the modern man and the cultural values that shape his choices.

Postgeographic Sexuality
Willow Brugh

Telecommuting has made it possible for more of us to be nomadic - but what does this mean for the way we relate to others? Explaining you don't need an office is one thing, but maintaining relationships when "you're never home" because you don't HAVE a home is something else entirely. Physical sexual safety with overlapping visiting schedules, emotional aftercare when you have a hard departure date, and timezones on bad days are just some of the worries we digital nomads must negotiate. What sorts of values are we imparting to our lovers and society at large through the relationships choices we make? I'll brush on hacker ethics and digital nomadism on this journey through my own thoughts and group discussion.
Suggested pre-reading for the talk are On Being An Illegible Person and Sex At Dawn.

Proverted Pastimes: Orgasm and Gameplay
Heather Kelley

I want this to be the last time I talk about games and orgasm. I donít know if Iíll succeed, but right now I feel like this is the last word Iíll have to say on the matter.

PSIgasm project
Ned Mayhem / Maggie Mayhem

The PSIgasm project is about investigating human sexuality with the rigor and the candor that it deserves, and making verifiable information about sex and the body available to the public. We create open source technology to record the physiological symptoms of arousal and orgasm so that we can show people exactly what sex does to our bodies.

PSIgasm was conceived in 2010 by an HIV prevention specialist and an experimental physicist, both of whom are sex positive activists and queer porn performers. The project revolves around measurement devices that can be used as sex toys to get people off while monitoring physiological responses to arousal and orgasm. The first prototype was completed in January 2011, and is capable of recording and displaying the contractions of the pelvic floor muscles in real time. Version 2, completed in June, is capable of simultaneously monitoring four different physiological variables during use, and Version 3 (under heavy development) will expand this capability even further.  We are creating more complicated devices, building a web presence, teaching classes featuring the device, and collecting as much data as possible. All of the hardware and software is open source and the design is freely distributed, because we need as many people as possible investigating their bodies. 

This lecture will present the most recent PSIgasm device from scientific, engineering, historical, educational, and sociological perspectives.  You will learn about how our devices are made, see how they work, hear about similar devices that have been used for science and pleasure, and find out how the PSIgasm project could make real scientific contributions which would otherwise be impossible. In case you're not interested yet, you may also get a chance to see some orgasms.

Re-Caste-ing Alternative Sexuality: A Class Analysis of Social Status in the BDSM Scene

Why are there significantly fewer bottoms than tops holding recognizable leadership positions in BDSM communities? Why does a newcomer who plays with another well-known player, the BDSM community equivalent of "sleeping one's way to the top," earn that person disproportionate community acceptance so quickly? Why are those who "play around" this way more likely to appropriate the traits of a bottom than a top? These questions (among others) betray an uncomfortable reality within many subcultures: the nature of their self-identity—the very way they oppose the mainstream—actually replicates certain elements they decry as flawed in the culture they supposedly subvert.

In this talk, maymay examines the effects this reality has on individuals' social status within the BDSM subculture. Here, one's sexual role or one's access to coveted resources (like luxury or "designer" toys) figure even more prominently than the more obvious systems of inequality in mainstream culture, such as gender or race. Similarly, if one's affinity or distaste for the subculture's symbolism (e.g., laughing during dungeon play) doesn't match the prevailing social norm, they're positioned in a minority within the minority—they are viewed as a member of a sub-cultural caste. What can we learn from comparing common behaviors in a subculture to their "overculture" counterparts? What elements of the BDSM community's discourse challenge the caste-like hierarchy and what elements reinforce it?

Screw the System of Objectification.  Objectification is a Lossy Compression of Humanity
Rich Gibson

Objectification is a lossy compression of humanity.  Taking high resolution images brings back some of our complexity. What happens when we take images of people at such a high resolution that people turn into near abstract landscapes? Can we change the way we look at people by looking so closely at the details of how we are put together that we forget to objectify each other? Objectification depends on conveniently forgetting the details that make people human. The processed imagery we see in the culture objectifies people by removing most of the complexities and details which make us human.

Sex Work, Disability, and Stigma
Kitty Stryker

Stigma is something that hurts both sex workers and people with disabilities. When those marginalized groups combine, it can really shatter perceptions. Social media helps to break down the walls by giving both my clients and myself a voice when the mass media silences us. I will be speaking on my experience as a hands-on sex therapist for people with disabilities, and exploring how different cultural responses to sex work affects accessibility, affordability and stigma (or lack thereof). I will also be pulling apart some of the myths of "the john", and how that archetype is actively harmful for sex positivity.

Venereal Disease Helps the Enemy: Biopower at War
Adam Flynn

The first half of the twentieth century marked the apex of state power, particularly during the two world wars. Naturally, the drive to standardize, regulate, optimize, and if necessary, discipline and punish the individual members of the nation-at-war also extended to sexuality. From french hand-wringing over declining fertility to the clinical challenge of venereal disease, states sought with varying success to solve these problems by organizational and technological means. In so doing, they engendered serious and inevitable cultural contradictions.

From the legal and design evolution of the condom to military sex trafficking of comfort women to the revelatory experiences of black American servicemen abroad, states and militaries wrought massive and unintentional cultural shifts as they sought to extend biopower over their subjects. This talk will describe a few of them.

Designing Desire: Meditations on Technosexuality
Gopinaath Kannabiran

Sex and technology – the complex relationship between these two has been debated, analyzed and theorized for some time now. This talk is a meditation on the question "What does it mean to be a technosexual?" I begin by analyzing existing notions of a technosexual, and briefly outline three common attitudes towards technosexuality in academic discourses to understand the relationship between sex and technology. While the predominant mode of viewing this relationship is that we, as individuals, use technology to achieve specific goals and intentions, I bring forward a more nuanced understanding that takes into account the politics of sex and sexual identity. Such an account steps away from the pro vs. con debate, however useful that may be, and frames the design and use of such technologies as a political activity.

I build my argument with the help of the theoretical conceptions provided by the philosopher and historian, Michel Foucault. There are two central claims that I make in this paper. First, technology is not just used as a means to fulfill our desires as sexual beings but plays a pivotal role in defining desire itself. Second, by implication, we are always already technosexual since these technologies are perpetually (re)defining desire itself. I reason my claims through two specific examples to show how our definition of sexuality has shifted its horizons with/through the agency of technology. After establishing this, I then put forward the question as to how do we design such technologies? By pointing out an existing gap in research and design methodologies in the realm of sex-and-technology, I provide a few pointers in the hope of sparking possible future directions for this topic.

Witchhunt 2010
Douglas B Spink

On the morning of April 14th 2010, twenty heavily-armed SWAT team members invaded the home of previous Arse Electronika presenter, cross-species researcher, and anti-censorship activist D.B. LeConte-Spink. Next came an orgy of yellow journalism, fed by intentionally-spread disinformation circulated by corrupt American law enforcement officers. Eventually, he was accused in court of "holding unconventional opinions on a variety of topics," supporting anti-censorship efforts worldwide, acting as CTO for Baneki Privacy Computing (a leading network encryption provider), and asking "forbidden" questions in the areas of cross-species emotional symbiosis, non-human sexuality, and minority sexual orientations.
Finally, although never charged with - nor convicted of - any crime whatsoever, he was sentenced to three years of federal imprisonment (which he is now serving). He also faces a federal court order requiring him to censor a broad swath of legal, Constitutionally-protected news & discussion websites, or face additional years of imprisonment. Naturally, he has announced his refusal to cooperate with this censorship order, in any form.

How is it that governmental "law enforcement" resources can be hijacked for use in this sort of extra-legal, modern-day witchunt? What role do mainstream journalists - increasingly frantic for survival - play in this kind of lynch-mob persecution, which is itself fed by government-generated disinformation & slander (think Assange/WikiLeaks)? What organizations, groups, and individuals stand bravely in favor of a genuinely diverse society... and against these forms of bigotry, censorship, & rank demagougery? On a personal level, how does it feel to be an American political prisoner?
In this presentation, LeConte-Spink will explore the etiology of Witchunt 2010, the forces which urged it forward, the corrupt government agents who enabled it, and the lessons other researchs & activists can learn from it in order to best protect themselves from similar hate-based campaigns in the future.