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Participants: Derya Akbaba * Ben Allen * Natalia-Rozalia Avlona * Kirill Azernyi * Erin Kathleen Bahl * Natasha Bajc * Lucas Bang * Tully Barnett * Ivette Bayo * Eamonn Bell * John Bell * kiki benzon * Liat Berdugo * Kathi Berens * David Berry * Jeffrey Binder * Philip Borenstein * Gregory Bringman * Sophia Brueckner * Iris Bull * Zara Burton * Evan Buswell * Ashleigh Cassemere-Stanfield * Brooke Cheng* Alm Chung * Jordan Clapper * Lia Coleman * Imani Cooper * David Cuartielles * Edward de Jong * Pierre Depaz * James Dobson * Quinn Dombrowski * Amanda Du Preez * Tristan Espinoza * Emily Esten * Meredith Finkelstein * Caitlin Fisher * Luke Fischbeck * Leonardo Flores * Laura Foster * Federica Frabetti * Jorge Franco * Dargan Frierson * Arianna Gass * Marshall Gillson * Jan Grant * Rosi Grillmair * Ben Grosser * E.L. (Eloisa) Guerrero * Yan Guo * Saksham Gupta * Juan Gutierrez * Gottfried Haider * Nabil Hassein * Chengbo He * Brian Heim * Alexis Herrera * Paul Hertz * shawné michaelain holloway * Stefka Hristova * Simon Hutchinson * Mai Ibrahim * Bryce Jackson * Matt James * Joey Jones * Masood Kamandy * Steve Klabnik * Goda Klumbyte * Rebecca Koeser * achim koh * Julia Kott * James Larkby-Lahet * Milton Laufer * Ryan Leach * Clarissa Lee * Zizi Li * Lilian Liang * Keara Lightning * Chris Lindgren * Xiao Liu * Paloma Lopez * Tina Lumbis * Ana Malagon * Allie Martin * Angelica Martinez * Alex McLean * Chandler McWilliams * Sedaghat Payam Mehdy * Chelsea Miya * Uttamasha Monjoree * Nick Montfort * Stephanie Morillo * Ronald Morrison * Anna Nacher * Maxwell Neely-Cohen * Gutierrez Nicholaus * David Nunez * Jooyoung Oh * Mace Ojala * Alexi Orchard * Steven Oscherwitz * Bomani Oseni McClendon * Kirsten Ostherr * Julia Polyck-O'Neill * Andrew Plotkin * Preeti Raghunath * Nupoor Ranade * Neha Ravella * Amit Ray * David Rieder * Omar Rizwan * Barry Rountree * Jamal Russell * Andy Rutkowski * samara sallam * Mark Sample * Zehra Sayed * Kalila Shapiro * Renee Shelby * Po-Jen Shih * Nick Silcox * Patricia Silva * Lyle Skains * Winnie Soon * Claire Stanford * Samara Hayley Steele * Morillo Stephanie * Brasanac Tea * Denise Thwaites * Yiyu Tian * Lesia Tkacz * Fereshteh Toosi * Alejandra Trejo Rodriguez * Álvaro Triana * Job van der Zwan * Frances Van Scoy * Dan Verständig * Roshan Vid * Yohanna Waliya * Sam Walkow * Kuan Wang * Laurie Waxman * Jacque Wernimont * Jessica Westbrook * Zach Whalen * Shelby Wilson * Avery J. Wiscomb * Grant Wythoff * Cy X * Hamed Yaghoobian * Katherine Ye * Jia Yu * Nikoleta Zampaki * Bret Zawilski * Jared Zeiders * Kevin Zhang * Jessica Zhou * Shuxuan Zhou

Guests: Kayla Adams * Sophia Beall * Daisy Bell * Hope Carpenter * Dimitrios Chavouzis * Esha Chekuri * Tucker Craig * Alec Fisher * Abigail Floyd * Thomas Forman * Emily Fuesler * Luke Greenwood * Jose Guaraco * Angelina Gurrola * Chandler Guzman * Max Li * Dede Louis * Caroline Macaulay * Natasha Mandi * Joseph Masters * Madeleine Page * Mahira Raihan * Emily Redler * Samuel Slattery * Lucy Smith * Tim Smith * Danielle Takahashi * Jarman Taylor * Alto Tutar * Savanna Vest * Ariana Wasret * Kristin Wong * Helen Yang * Katherine Yang * Renee Ye * Kris Yuan * Mei Zhang
Coordinated by Mark Marino (USC), Jeremy Douglass (UCSB), and Zach Mann (USC). Sponsored by the Humanities and Critical Code Studies Lab (USC), and the Digital Arts and Humanities Commons (UCSB).

Code Critique: Transgressive coding: IRL Embodiment & Fluid Coding

How can code transgress our understanding of human experiences that don’t conform to the heteronormative, binarist social order? What can fluid forms of coding contribute to our understanding of orientation fluidity, and gender fluidity? I am bringing this up as a member of both of these diverse communities, because I think about this all the time. I’m interested in learning about what fluid forms of coding (HTML/CSS/Javascript)** can offer digital infrastructures aimed at respatializing real life embodiment.

There is a rich history of queer subcultures sending coded messaging to each other. A message that only an insider would parse. Historically, in the Western world people assigned female at birth have used various codes to signal their queerness: neckwear, hairstyle, keychains, rings, and more. People assigned male at birth (and particularly within working classes) developed a sophisticated “hanky code” for communicating varying levels of interest in specific forms of engagement. Someone outside queer subculture wouldn’t think much of seeing a light blue bandana on someone’s back pocket, on the right side. To a person who can read that message, that communicates that the wearer is interested in providing oral sex. Historically, this has been an act of hiding in plain sight, and a way for people to find each other and connect efficiently, with or without words. It’s a very customized usage of presentation to communicate preferences outside dominant social norms.

Since front end coding performs acts of presentation, I’m interested in what can adaptive, fluid coding contribute to how bodies in real life transgress dominant social norms. In my view, possibilities can become examples, and examples can become referent points for progress.

Looking for an answer to this question led me to one project addressing gender fluidity, but this project was specifically about mapping human experience, and visualizing data points/feelings: Plot me Genderfluid. There’s so much value in this project, from so many points of inquiry, I enjoyed it so much! Yet, Plot me Genderfluid remains within the limitations of ‘code as we know it’ not code being questioned, or summoned to challenge our own imagination in real life. Not because coding is by itself some kind of oracle, but because it can bring about new points of/for inquiry. Plot me Genderfluid exposes, it does not instigate.

Increasingly we talk about how less dominant forms of gaming and mobile games can be a catalyst for empathy. An example of this is the mobile game Bury Me, My Love in which the Syrian refugee crisis is the setting for experiences designed for the player to feel empathy. But we don't consider code that way, do we? We don't discuss code as having the potential of generating empathy through its syntax, composition, and delivery (of an experience, rather than data).

My questions to the group are:

1) How can we shape fluid modes of coding so that such forms can instigate forms of transgression? Specifically, through experiences, not just the presentation of data.

2) How can fluid syntaxes invite us to imagine ways of being more at ease in the real world, as queer people? As a member of marginalized communities?

3) What we can do to respatialize micro*** digital infrastructures to prioritize equity in real life?

How each of these possibilities are made, navigated, and re-ordered is of high interest to me.

Notes:
** I’m specifically discussing the only fluid forms of coding I have experience with (HTML, CSS, Javascript), but I’m open to knowing about other forms of fluid coding that are front-end based and structured to be adaptive.

*** I use 'micro' to mean individually crafted, independent projects, rather than a 'macro' apparatus, an existing corporate entity, or projects derived from existing corporate legacy products. Example: micro=github; macro=Oracle

For further reading:
Untucking the Queer History of the Colorful Hanky Code, Out.com, June 2019.

Comments

  • edited February 8

    I think this is fascinating - I highly recommend the book Video Games Have Always Been Queer.

    In response to
    '''
    1) How can we shape fluid modes of coding so that such forms can instigate forms of transgression? Specifically, through experiences, not just the presentation of data
    '''
    What would a queer javascript interpreter (or another compiler) look like or a language that does not use binary (true/false), or for which the normal/normative associations of true/false are skewed.

    2) What would it mean to perform (as in perform gender) as code? Perhaps this means perform as an interface in object oriented design or as a mock function in testing.

    '''
    3) What we can do to respatialize micro*** digital infrastructures to prioritize equity in real life?
    '''
    One way into this question is visibility vs invisibility and how to create infrastructures to create empathy if not prioritize equality (prioritizing equality would be preferred). One thought is to have a software service - as set of APIs that are misdocumented, so there is some sort of invisible

    The idea of protocols or secret languages is very provocative (hanky codes), I have been thinking for a while about cryptography as a personal practice, especially in light of the hegemony of SHA256.

    Twine comes to mind as a queer platform/environment for software/games/storytelling.

  • Fuzzy logic has been raised as one potential model for encoding and computing non-binary states and perceptions, in the contexts of gender / queer identity[1][2] and indigenous knowledge.[3] (This has also been critiqued.[4])

    So, in the case of HTML-embedded JavaScript, we might imagine using a fuzzy logic library like JS-Fuzzy or node-fuzzylogic to articulate states or representations in ways that aren't strictly binary (or ternary et cetera, for that matter).

    Fuzzy logic also has basic applications in search, for example, the Fuse.js JavaScript library:

    This suggests a syllogism: If fuzzy logic enables queer articulations and representations, and fuzzy logic enables (fuzzy) search, might we investigate whether or how search paradigms are themselves queer -- at least to the extent that contemporary web search engine result items / hits / matches are typically presented and understood in a result set in the context of partial / contingent / multiple membership. This is in contrast with presenting definitive statements about result membership in established categories -- as for example they were under the Yahoo! Directory (~1994) / and DMOZ Open Directory (1998) search paradigm.

    From the interface rather than logic side, a different interesting approach is "HCI as Heterodoxy" (Light 2011)[5]-- a queer HCI article on "forgetting, obscuring, cheating and eluding". From the abstract:

    As digital technologies are woven more closely into identity formation, society needs ways to keep tools flexible to many versions of self-presentation and avoid perpetuating the political status quo through conservative and apolitical designing. This paper explores one route, drawing on Queer Theory to look at resistance to computer formalisation of identity through queering. Several case studies explore how we might apply the oblique route to design of a range of technologies that help users define themselves. In particular, forgetting, obscuring, cheating and eluding are activities held up to counter computer strengths and offer a more flexible vision of interaction design for the future.


    1. Tauchert, Ashley. "Fuzzy gender: Between female-embodiment and intersex." Journal of Gender Studies 11.1 (2002): 29-38. https://doi.org/10.1080/09589230120115149 ;↩︎

    2. Germon, Jennifer. "Dangerous Desires: Intersex as Subjectivity." Gender. Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2009. 153-183. ↩︎

    3. Berkes, Fikret, and Mina Kislalioglu Berkes. "Ecological complexity, fuzzy logic, and holism in indigenous knowledge." Futures 41.1 (2009): 6-12. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.futures.2008.07.003 ;↩︎

    4. Muecke, S. "Wolfe Creek meteorite crater—Indigenous science queers Western science." (2017). http://www.ctrl-z.net.au/articles/issue-7/muecke-wolfe-creek-meteorite-crater/ ;↩︎

    5. Light, Ann. "HCI as heterodoxy: Technologies of identity and the queering of interaction with computers✩." Interacting with Computers 23.5 (2011): 430-438. ↩︎

  • edited February 9

    Thank you @meredith.noelle for your response. I've been playing with Twine! And thank you for the book reference, video games is outside my expertise, I only know a few, and only web or mobile based.

    When you ask: What would a queer javascript interpreter (or another compiler) look like or a language that does not use binary (true/false), or for which the normal/normative associations of true/false are skewed.
    I'm tempted to say that JavaScript already contains actions that allow for nonbinarist composition: if/then statements which can be set for multiple conditions; and non-sequential, non-linear ordering of arrays. No?

    As @meredith.noelle writes: What would it mean to perform (as in perform gender) as code? Perhaps this means perform as an interface in object oriented design or as a mock function in testing.
    Love the idea of a mock function in testing—if I were a server, I sure would be a staging server, a testing server, rather than an agreed-upon definitive 'live state'.
    And again, to think about performing gender as code is about different layers of the social. Code is as much a social construct as dominant forms of gender are. What we call "natural gender" is far from it—it is a specific history of decisions (medical, institutional, etc.) geared towards a specific outcome (stability, homogenity, social control through conformity, predictability, social power, etc.) A very specific set of variables for recognizable outcomes.

    To center code as a social mechanism for gender performance gives us an opportunity to think about gender order/reorder through styles that we may not be accostummed to thinking through.

    @meredith.noelle I love the idea of misdocumented APIs. But, misdocumented for whom? For whom would such disorder be "home"? And for whom would that be completely annihilating? I'm asking to bring up the points, not looking for a specific answers. What other questions could misdocumented APIs raise?

  • @jeremydouglass Thank you for your response and rich citations.
    Going to read the Ann Light ASAP. Thrilling.

    Another question: with fuzzy logic, is there a way to assign the condition of true to more than one variable? How can what is definable as truth not be split using fuzzy logic?

  • edited February 9

    @patricia_s said:
    Another question: with fuzzy logic, is there a way to assign the condition of true to more than one variable? How can what is definable as truth not be split using fuzzy logic?

    Yes, although not the condition of "true" -- the condition of "completely." The immediate output of a fuzzy operation is not true/false, nor limited to one variable -- it is a set of membership value from 0 to 1 (0% to 100%).

    So, for example, if we expressed The Gender Unicorn referenced by Plot Me Genderfluid as a collection of many unit vectors, such as express_feminine, express_masculine, express_other, attracted_men, attracted_women, attracted_other et cetera:

    ...then a fuzzy operation might find that things are 1.0 attracted_men and 1.0 attracted_women (bisexual) ... or 0.0 either (asexual) ... or 0.6 attracted_women, 0.2 attracted_men, and 0.8 attracted_other -- including things across multiple "fuzzy" spectra that we might not have specific categorical concepts for.

    This is not to say this kind of logic can't be collapsed to male / female, true / false. Fuzzy classification often involves precisely this collapse, a "defuzzifier" that produces "crisp" logic answers -- for example, in a fuzzy gender classifier that defuzzifies to "M" vs "F". But crisp output of that kind isn't a requirement for designs using fuzzy system.

  • edited February 13

    I found in this quote by Ann Light a very engaging manner of thinking about how code informs offline life, embodiment, with the potential of reformatting how we troubleshoot/navigate society:

    There is something fractal about queering the making of products that define our sense of who we are, with infinite patterns of intersection between personal experience and societal norms.

    Is code another form of transcribing these infinite patterns of intersecting lived experience within a superstructure? Or are these infinite patterns knowable to us because a parsing mechanism delivers it to us?

    Coding is parsing.
    Reading & Writing is parsing.
    Verbal communication is parsing.

    How far back does the echo of this fractal go?

    This is my response to Light's text, which I thoroughly enjoyed.


    Light, Ann. "HCI as heterodoxy: Technologies of identity and the queering of interaction with computers✩." Interacting with Computers 23.5 (2011): 430-438.

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