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Doing thinking: revisiting computing with artistic research and technofeminism

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Pages 313-328 | Published online: 14 Nov 2019


In this paper, we explore how artistic research and its methodologies can create new modes of thinking and research on computational issues. We draw on experiences with the research project ‘Reconfiguring Computing Through Cyberfeminism and New Materialism’ (CF+), during which we collaboratively investigated modes and methods of knowledge production in computing. Cyberfeminist legacies and new materialism provided a historically informed and theoretically rigorous set of concerns around which artistic research and computing were brought together. We discuss collaborative experiments and three hybrid methodologies – creating situations for intra-action, diffractive reading/making and material speculation – that we employed and suggest that what emerged is a kind of ‘doing thinking’ as a material-speculative practice that re-positions research as a critical open-ended space for non-standard ways of knowing. The paper explores implications of this for ethics and responsibility in computing, materiality of knowledge production and modes of interdisciplinary collaborations.


We thank our collaborators Femke Snelting, Isabel Paehr and Cornelia Sollfrank for sharing their work with us, Sandra Buchmüller for her insightful comments on this paper and participants of CF+ lab meetings for their contributions to the project. We also thank the reviewers for their helpful suggestions and constructive critique.

Disclosure statement

No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.

Notes on contributors

Loren Britton is an interdisciplinary artist and curator based in-between Berlin, DE and New York, USA. Britton’s work explores abstraction of form in language and translation. Britton has exhibited their work in solo and group exhibitions in numerous institutions, galleries and artist run projects in Germany, Japan, Italy and in the United States. Britton is one of the head curators of the Queering Space Collective that curates projects around questions of where queerness meets form. Britton holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting and a Bachelor of Arts in Art History from State University of New York at Purchase College, USA. They also hold a Master of Fine Arts in Painting & Printmaking from the Yale School of Art at Yale University, USA. Their work has been reviewed in Field Magazine, Art Critical, Art Maze Magazine, The Brooklyn Rail, ASAP Journal, Bedford and Bowery and Filthy Dreams amongst other publications. Britton’s writing will be published in ‘Queer Objects” from Otago University Press + Rutgers University Press (eds. Chris Brickell and Judith Collard, 2019). http://lorenbritton.com

Goda Klumbyte is a researcher and PhD candidate at the Gender/Diversity in Informatics Systems, Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, University of Kassel, Germany. Her research engages feminist science and technology studies, new media studies and posthumanism. Of particular interest to her are the fields of artificial intelligence and machine learning, and how developments in these fields re-configure notions of body, subjectivity, knowledge and social relations. Her PhD research at the University of Kassel focuses on knowledge production in and through machine learning systems. Her work was published in Everyday Feminist Research Praxis (eds. Leurs and Olivieri, 2015), Fat Sex: New Directions in Theory and Activism (eds. Walters and Hester, 2015) and Posthuman Glossary (eds. Braidotti and Hlavajova, 2018). https://uni-kassel.academia.edu/GodaKlumbyte

Claude Draude is professor at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Kassel, Germany. She is head of the work group Gender/Diversity in Informatics Systems (GeDIS) and on the director’s board of the Research Centre for Information System Design (ITeG). As of April 2019, Claude Draude is part of the expert committee of the third Gender Equality Report focusing on digital economies of the German government. Her research activities evolve around sociotechnical systems and human–computer interaction, including participatory, critical and use-oriented design; human models, embodiment and artificial intelligence; artistic research and the knowledge question in computing. Her publications include the book Computing Bodies. Gender Codes and Anthropomorphic Design at the Human–Computer Interface (Springer VS, 2017), recent article Making IT Work: Integrating Gender Research in Computing Through a Process Model (with S. Maaß, in Proceedings of the 4th Conference on Gender & IT, ACM, New York, NY, USA, 2018, pp. 43–50) and upcoming paper Situated Algorithms: A Sociotechnical Systemic Approach to Bias (with G. Klumbyte, P. Lücking, P. Treusch, Special Issue on Social and Cultural Biases in Information, Algorithms, and Systems, Online Information Review – SSCI journal by Emerald Insight, 2019).


1 Cambridge Dictionary defines creativity as: ‘the ability to produce original and unusual ideas, or to make something new or imaginative’, https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/creativity (accessed on 21.07.2019)

2 For detailed project description see https://www.uni-kassel.de/eecs/fachgebiete/gedis/research/cf-en.html (accessed on 21.07.2019)

3 E.g. Yatsko Citation2016; Denning and Tedre Citation2019.

4 Particularly the discourses coming from the artistic research hubs in Helsinki and Vienna – see Seppä, Kaila, and Slager Citation2017, Baldauf et al. Citation2016.

5 Informed by the work currently done by institutions such as Instituting Otherwise (Delhi, India) and BAK, basis voor actuele kunst (Utrecht, Netherlands).

6 To clarify, artistic research is a discipline that is becoming instituted as a study department. Terms like ‘practice as research’, ‘practice-led research’, or ‘practice-based research’ describe methods that exist under the study of artistic research as a study department, whereas artistic practice is the doing of artistic work.

7 Desire here is understood as willingness and capacity to connect and disconnect – be it capacity of an inanimate object or human being.

8 Cruising, widely discussed in queer theory, here is referenced in relation to Muñoz Citation2009. Cruising is known in gay and queer communities as a specific practice of ‘cruising around’ in public, seeking pleasure or sex. Cruising also marks a queer investment in the uncertain and utopian thinking.

9 E.g. Agnieszka Poslka, The Demon’s Brain, 2018.

10 E.g. Hito Steyerl, How Not to Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File, 2013.

11 It is important to note that cyberfeminism was a movement that included not only academics but also interdisciplinary arts and activist collectives, such as VNS Matrix, Old Boys Network, GynePunk and others. The movement was also rather Euro-centric in its origins and early constellations (Fernandez Citation2002; Daniels Citation2009), even though different strands of cyber- and techno-feminism emerged in contexts such as Latin America and South East Asia (Spideralex Citation2018; Gajjala Citation2003).

12 See more on Snelting’s work here: http://snelting.domainepublic.net/ .

13 Diffraction as a physical phenomenon forms when waves superimpose. This happens when wave encounters an obstacle, which could also be another wave. The result is that new wave patterns emerge, cancelling each other out, enhancing each other and creating patterns of interference.

17 For an interesting phenomenological analysis of such new embodied sensibilities created through digital arts, see Hansen Citation2006.

Additional information


This work was supported by the Hessen State Ministry for Higher Education, Research and the Arts, focus area „Dimensionen der Kategorie Geschlecht – Frauen- und Geschlechterforschung in Hessen”.

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