Feminist Hacking is an international art-based research project, which proposes a strategy and method for empathic, eco-sentient, de-colonial and anti-racist action in the field of art, science and technology. . Feminist hacking involves an intensive knowledge-sharing process, through workshops and other forms of exchange.
FWF – Austrian Science Fund | PEEK (AR580)
Through artistic residencies and open workshops, Feminist Hacking develops, prototypes, tests, analyses and shares specific tools for media art-making grounded in fair practices of hardware production and its future open access and modification (licensed as open hardware). It intervenes in hardware production cycles and enables mindful hardware architecture through a systematic collaboration with open and ethical manufacturers.
Concept Design and development of technology continues to take place in the (cis) male-dominated environments of engineering companies and university research groups (Sørensen, Faulkner, and Rommes 2011, 137). In open source technology the situation is more radical, with 5% of FLOSS practitioners being women, while 28% identified as female in proprietary software (C. Dunbar-Hester and Coleman 2012; Ghosh et al. 2002). This bias is reflected in maker-communities (Holbert 2016; Moilanen 2012), creating environments where underrepresented groups such as women,* trans* people or persons of colour do not feel welcome. Adding to the problem is the fact that many female-identified technologists devalue their own expertise and qualifications (Newman, Tarasiewicz, and Wagner 2016). Ultimately, female-identified technologists have been written out of history (Forte et al. 2012; Lam et al. 2011; Reagle and Rhue 2011).
The same applies to the contemporary art field, where women do not have equality as art practitioners, especially when it comes to solo exhibitions or prizes: ArtReview published in 2016 a list of the 100 ‘most influential people in the contemporary art world’, of which only 32 % were women, 70 % were white, and 51% European.
In an explosion of the hardware market for tracking and self-help systems, there is a strong bias towards male-dominated innovation. It sometimes appeared that including women’s perspective in hardware development means simply designing systems and products specifically for female users, such as those that respond to specific biological needs, for example, period-tracking applications and breast-pump designs (D’Ignazio et al. 2016). In the male-dominated maker-scene, the majority of resources is created in male-dominated circles and handed over to female-identified makers to act upon and to appropriate (Beaudoin 01/2016). Attempts to reconcile the imbalance in gender participation with so-called pink-hardware have only reinforced the existing gender and cultural stereotypes (Sørensen, Faulkner, and Rommes 2011, 137; Holbert 2016).
Last, but not least, the Western-centric, post-colonial perspective fails to recognize innovation in engineering solutions that take place in developing countries. Western scientific and technology oriented discourse has been resistant to the critical discussion on issues of colonialism and imperialism, embracing instead a self-referential rationalisation of technical expertise (Harding 2011). Innovation that does not compete with solutionist, optimization-oriented agents fails to make an impression. We have identified similar problems in Western-based hacker-spaces and hacker culture. Queer, non-binary and female-identified tech developers have not been able to voice their points of view and affect the technical innovation cycle to a notable extent.
We chose to address these issues by thinking through and practicing the notion of Feminist hacking (FH) – an umbrella term for practices that involve female-identified, queer and non-binary artists, designers, developers and hackers who collaboratively create and modify devices and systems that are of specific interest to the community. This movement consists of self-organized, and mostly artist-run local communities with the skills to consistently regenerate livelihood and innovation according to their own visions (Eglash 2016).
Hence, we ground our practice in the workings of some crucial important nodes in the feminist hacking network such as Genderchangers (NL), THF! TransHackFeminists (CA), Pechblenda (ES), HONF and XXLab (IND), Femhack (CA), ICE Cairo (EG), Constant (BE), Radiona (HR), Take Back the Tech (SA), Heart of Code (DE), F.U.C.K. (DE) and the Ada Initiative (USA).
Feminist hacking is structured around breaking with feminine gender scripts, transgressing gender norms and embracing technological challenges. This usually involves disassembling electronic devices on purpose, with the intention of learning and understanding, but also reassembling, them into something else and creating art. It implements recycled hardware and it is informed by critical making. Feminist hacking is about developing artistic technology, based on open hardware, from a queer and female perspective.