Compact Course: The Body as Site of Experimentation: Exploring Technology, Power, and Body Politics

Kickoff: Mo, 04.09.2023, 10 Uhr
Mo-Fr, 11.09.-15.09.2023, 10-17 Uhr

Prof. Dr. Gesche Joost (Design Research Lab)
Ariana Dongus


Format: This course will take place in person in the Berlin Open Lab at Einsteinufer 43.

UdK Berlin + TU Berlin / 3 SWS / 3 CP / UdK master students can gain credits for this class in the framework of the module „Designmethoden“ or over the Studium Generale.

Required knowledge: No specific previous knowledge is required.

Please register by 17 July 2023 with your name, field of study and matriculation number to Ariana Dongus (). The maximum number of participants is 15.

While the entanglement of human-machine relations is probably experienced by everyone in everyday life – in both helpful and troublesome ways – technology is still presented in the mainstream imaginary as standing outside of social relations, as the big Other. It is interesting to see how technology can be deflected in many ways depending on the time and context: When it is meant to be invisible, it is just a procedure, a mere tool, but when it is meant to mobilize attention and emotion, it is quickly anthropomorphized, for example, in the form of feminized servant robots or apocalyptic terminators. In the current discussion about large-scale language models such as ChatGPT, it is once again imagined as a threat to humanity.
What is often lost in these alarmist discussions are nuances and important aspects around how AI is implemented. The normalization of „AI“ renders invisible the question of what version of humanness we currently have and who it excludes. As described by many, the political imaginary of AI as a slave to human needs, as a machine that might one day rise up against its human creators, is deeply colonial and patriarchal, and always based on the notion that Others are inferior, as executors that need to be controlled, oppressed, and exploited.
Drawing on two books, „Surrogate Humanity: Race, Robots, and the Politics of Technological Futures“ by Neda Atanasoski and Kalindi Vora, and „Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation“ by Silvia Federici, we will analyze the historical, social, and political contexts that have shaped the political relationships between technology and the human body. Through critical readings and discussions, we will explore how technology has been used to control and exploit bodies, but also examine examples in which bodies have resisted and subverted such technologies.
Throughout the course, we will explore concrete examples of how the body has served as a testing ground for various technologies, from robots to medical experiments. The discussions and research will culminate in the design of a collective reader that will give others a compact glimpse into the outcome of our collective inquiry.