⚡ New Event: Glitch Feminism ft. Legacy Russell
Disrupting race, gender, and body in the digital age
It’s all too easy to conflate technology with Big Tech. However, doing so would neglect the many clever ways — from startups, to organizers, to biohackers and gender-hackers — people have repurposed tech to forge better futures.
Today’s featured book showcases how marginalized artists willingly “glitch” the system to create space for themselves online.
📖 glitch feminism by legacy russell
Our guest for Thursday, May 13 is curator, writer, and artist Legacy Russell.
Legacy Russell's curatorial and creative work explores gender, performance, and digital selfdom. In Glitch Feminism: A Manifesto, she traverses theory and art to illustrate how new technologies enable the marginalized to dismantle and remake identities beyond the default.
Join us next Thursday for a Q&A on internet identities as performance art.
🔊 our take: a feature, not a bug
By Jessica Dai
These days, we typically understand "glitch" to mean a technological error, something that causes the machine to temporarily stop working. In Glitch Feminism, artist and scholar Legacy Russell expands the notion of the glitch as a means to interrogate the relationship between ourselves, our bodies, and our online lives. In twelve short chapters, Russell explicates the different things a glitch can do and be: refuse, cosmic, throw shade, ghost, error, encrypt, anti-body, skin, virus, mobilize, remix, survive. Through these lenses, she traces the construction of digital identity and how the specters of race and (binary) gender which inevitably tail the body in "real" life might be shed or reconstituted in cyberspace.
A glitch can be "socio-cultural malware," throwing a wrench into the gears of digital capitalism — a face mask which confuses surveillance cameras, for example. But Russell is no Luddite: rather than blowing up technology for the sake of its abolition, glitch feminism explores how, in creating a glitch, the digital sphere might be repurposed as a site of joy and exploration. For example, Glitch Feminism is blurbed by Lil Miquela, a CGI influencer who has been the subject of extensive writing; Russell poses her existence as "an opportunity to make visible the invisible, to weirdly engage with new audiences, to push the limits of corporeal materiality and reconsider how we might (re)define the body as we have always known it."
In complicating the glitch, Russell has created a work similarly unbounded by definition. The book is a manifesto, not a history or sociology text; it's most powerful in its propositions. At the same time, even as it's deeply rooted in theory — peppered with citations to Judith Butler, Donna Haraway, and bell hooks — a reading of the book which focuses solely on its academic motivations misses the point. The New York Times listed it as one of the best art books of 2020; for me, Russell's examples of glitch as artistic intervention were especially compelling.
She introduces, for example, American Artist, a Black artist who changed their legal name to "American Artist": "Artist's name change pushes back at the quiet yet ever-aggressive bias of... Google's 'roving eye'." Now, a Google search for
american artist will place American Artist "alongside... Google's suggested selection of qualified
Artists / United States" — a striking illustration of how digital space might be a site for glitch-making, of how algorithms might be exploited and turned back upon themselves to disrupt a canonical representation of "real life.”
While I wish I had more concrete suggestions for how to approach glitch feminism as a political act (especially as someone who does not necessarily consider herself an artist), Glitch Feminism is not an instruction manual; instead, it's valuable for its relentless provocations into common assumptions about the status quo. Why should we accept the boundaries of identity set by social media platforms? Why should we accept that any engagement on the internet must feed back into a profit machine?
Russell's suggestion: no reason at all.
💬 I’m obsessed with these shut-down Signal ads that reveal the unnerving precision of Facebook’s microtargeting tools. For background, then read Anna Wiener’s New Yorker profile on CEO Moxie Marlinspike, Signal’s creation story, and why privacy still matters.
⚖️ Charlie Warzel suggests that deplatforming is a false binary: Facebook could exercise far more nuance and precision in how it deals with Donald Trump.
🛣️ I’ve been thinking a lot about Ernst Bloch’s “militant optimism” lately: “a form of social commitment that turns hope into a concrete decision and intervention… It shows that history is what everyone actively makes every day – hence it can be addressed, contested and remade.”
🧠 Read this summary of Reboot editor Jessica Dai’s new paper on the real-world complications of fairness in ML!Very excited to share our new paper, "Fairness Under Partial Compliance" with our excellent visiting undergrad @jessicadai_ . We show the perils of relying on standard fairness evaluation and regulation practices in situations of partial compliance (w @zacharylipton)New paper "Fair Machine Learning under Partial Compliance" by @acmi_lab ***Visiting Undergrad*** @jessicadai_ shows why we cannot continue to focus myopically on a decision-maker. (w postdoc @sinafazelpour & @zacharylipton) https://t.co/mSt5G4sPlsACMI Lab (CMU) @acmi_lab
💝 a closing note
Taking a quick nostalgia trip and asked the Reboot team: “What was the first social network you were on?”
Ben: I can't decide if it actually counts as a social network or not, but it was definitely Runescape.
Jordan: Windows Live Messenger — to talk online with all the people I didn't bother talking to in person while at school.
Jihad: AIM because nobody in my family had a cellphone for the longest so we’d be IMing.
Jessica: Windows Live Messenger — my first taste of "pretending to do work while appearing busy.”
Make some art today,
—Jasmine & Reboot team