The interim paper provides a brief overview of the current state-of-the-art in the field of artistic research and scholarship of technoecofeminist practices grounded in relational ontology, specifically new materialist and critical posthumanist frameworks. As a part of ongoing research, the present paper is a non-exhaustive summary of theoretical positions in which our particular strata of media art practice – feminist art hacking is grounded. The literature discussed addresses the distinct but interrelated fields of science and technology studies, gender theory, human-computer interaction, materials science, political ecology, community studies, political economy, sustainable mining, FLOSS, DIY/DIWO hacking/critical making, and ethical theories including but not limited to feminist ethics of care and repair politics/political repair. Speaking in new materialist terms, the aim is to map posthuman entanglements and intra-active becoming through technologies in the political, ethical, social and ecological climate in which we as feminist artists and researchers operate. This cartographic exercise serves as a basis for our material-discursive prototyping towards diffractive meaning– and artmaking.


In the past few decades, power arrangements within technoculture have become the center of attention in mainstream culture, media, and academic scholarship. The multiple axes of colonial, environmental and gendered implications of technological labor and infrastructural relations are increasingly under scrutiny, while scientists and artists join forces to find convivial alternatives to the current paradigm of technology design, production and consumption.

Hacking is most commonly defined as a creative, trial-and-error, experimental, productive and problem-solving process (Coleman; 2012; Kostakis et al, 2015). The traditional hacker ethic is grounded in principles of unlimited and total access to computers – the Hands-on Imperative, free access to information, mistrust for authorities, decentralisation, and the disregard for meritocratic and discriminatory practices of acknowledgement based on degree, age, race, or position stands closer to the capitalist libertarian ethos, and its aesthetic expression – the appreciation of digital sublime – the computer-mediated art-making and the techno-aesthetic notions of beauty (Levy, 1984; Dalmasso, 2019).

The orthodox definition of hacker ethic has repeatedly been destabilised and expanded by the interventions through the feminist ethos of care (Jaggar & Held, 1995; Adam, 2005; Toombs et al, 2015;  Taylor et al, 2017), failure (Rosner & Fox, 2016), glitch politics (Pasek, 2017; Agostinho & Thylstrup, 2019; Elwood, 2021), error and noise (Davies, 2018; Felt, 2019; Sunden & Paasonen; 2018), which have prominently come to shape both the contemporary countercultural and political movements advocating for the more-than-human geobiopolitical (Fuentes, 2021), racial, gender and class justice, accountability and equity within the new materialist / transfeminst hacker ethics. 

At the same time, hacking and making practices have proliferated through state, corporate-industrial and academic sponsorship and promotion (Dougherty, 2012; Richterich & Wenz, 2017) evolving from  ‘collaborative’ (Tanenbaum et al, 2013)  ‘fringe and hobbyist’ (Ames et al, 2014) to ‘expert amateur’ (Kuznetsov & Paulos, 2010) and into a professional and emergent ‘industry’ (Ames et al, 2014). This process has encompassed the resumption of open-source hardware hacking (Kera, 2011; 2017; Lindtner et al, 2014; Jordan, 2017), a rapid spread of formerly self-organised and non-conformist DIY (Do It Yourself), DIWA (Do It With Others) (Punto, 2005; Tanenbaum et al, 2013; Ratto & Boler, 2014; Grimme et al, 2014) and DIA (Do It Anyways) (Ashcroft, 2019) workshops, fab labs, as well as shared hacker- and makerspaces (Caldwell & Foth, 2014; Maravilhas & Martins, 2017). Growing into the so-called ‘movements / cultures’ (Ames et al, 2014; Rosner et al, 2014; Schön et al, 2014; Smyth et al., 2018) within the larger paradigm of ‘open’ technology cultures,’  (although the aspects of open and closed innovation cultures and strategies have been considered by Herzog, & Leker, 2010),  these processes have been asserted by some as a form of  ‘global / new industrial revolution’ (Anderson, 2012) .

Championed for the affordance (Gibson, 1977) to create, experiment, produce and distribute new technological solutions, hacker/maker cultures embody a promise of ‘democratization of technology’ and it’s production (Haywood, 2012; Toombs et al, 2015; Richardson, 2016; Lindtner & Lin, 2017, Smyth et al, 2018), as well as ’easier and cheaper access to tools and expanding communities,’ a diversity and possibility for everyone to ‘design, create, produce and distribute renewed, new and improved products, machines, things or artefacts.’ (Masters, 2018; Nascimento & Pólvora, 2018; Dunbar-Hester, 2019). 
Scholars also mention the role of these movements in the ‘emergence of groundbreaking digital “entanglements” that transform identities, practices and cultures at a rate not seen since the Enlightenment.’ (Braybrooke & Jordan, 2017; Anderson, 2014).

Issues pertaining the assemblage of hacking / making, their knowledge(s), practices and institutionalisation are subject to an ongoing investigations within the fields of internet and communication technologies (ICT), science and technology studies (STS), feminist studies of science and technology, and specifically in the domains of human-computer interaction (HCI), computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW), participatory design (PD), and to a certain extent – social sciences and community studies. The ‘(techno) myths’ (McGregor, 1987) of hacking / making (Levy, 1984; Raymond, 1999; Gunkel, 2005; Maxigas, 2012; Jordan, 2017) hackerspaces, makerspaces (Davies, 2018) and their historical ontologies, genealogies (Baybrooke & Jordan, 2017; Ames et al, 2018), and its effectivity in finding the lost truth of ‘things’ – discourse, criticality and reflexiveness of the practices (Ratto, 2011; Hertz, 2012; Hertz, n.d.; Hertz & Ratto, 2018) including those of the peer production (Kostakis et al, 2015) remain subject to an ongoing debate. 

The homogeneity, complexity, sovereignty (Schultz & Ranie, 2014) and (in)visibility – of bodies, geographies, knowledge(s), practices, narratives, infrastructures remain open and extend beyond the vivid scholarly and non-academic debate. The wider aspects of the ‘construction’ and the role of different and differing, excluded and (dis)orientated  actants and diffractive technological becomings – humans,  female*, non-binary, BIPOC (Ahmed,1998; 2006; Wajcman, 2006; Forlano, 2016; Nagbot, S.S.L., 2016; Povinelli, 2016; Toombs et al, 2015; Toombs, 2016; Federici, 2018, Haralanova, 2019; Richterich, 2020), non-Western, indigenous individuals, groups and communities’(Barajas-López, 2018; Winter & Boudreau, 2018) their knowledges, its global perception (Agrawal, 1995; Hirosue et al, 2015; Risam, 2018; Rosiek et al, 2020) and histories in the so-called ‘Global South,’ including Peru, India, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, South Africa, Singapore and Indonesia (Kera, 2012; Lindtner & Li, 2012; Lindtner, 2014; Lindtner et al, 2016; Nguyen, 2016; Ciaghi et al, 2016; Poon & Klein, 2017; Braybrooke & Jordan, 2017; Marshall & Rosi, 2017; Winter & Boudreau, 2018; Garzón, 2019; lin kaiying et al, 2019), non-humans – materials constituting technologies and networks, their production, distribution, disposal and affect on political, media and living ecologies (Bennett, 2010; Stephens, 2014; Ash, 2015; Dönmez, 2016, Braidotti & Bignall, 2019; Delgado & Callén; 2017) with emphases on ‘the transition to posthuman ecocriticism,’ (Hörl & Plas, 2013) or ‘the new ecological paradigm’ (Oppermann, 2016) a focus on ‘becoming-environmental of thinking, power and capital’ (Hörl & Schott, 2018) and the pertaining questions of social, cultural, and political justice (Milberry, 2012), inclusivity of intersectional and mix-able, access, decision-making, purpose and application (Grenzfurthner & Schneider,  2009; Annenberg, 2014) have resulted in the emergence of  a number of material and infrastructural responses, such as feminist and women’s* hackerspaces, which have been defined as ‘safer spaces’ (albeit with a question mark) (Toupin, 2014a), a ‘synthesis of feminist and hacker cultures,’ (Toupin, 2014b), sites of ‘feminist design’ (Fox, 2015), where women ‘contest the accepted understandings of hacking, technology, and collaboration through design, shifting concerns for women* in technology from questions of access (who is included) to questions of recognition (who is visible) while grappling with productive ambiguities in between’ (Fox et al, 2015), a practice of  ‘an integration feminist legacies of craftwork with the centrality of failure… to transform hacker cultures and hack the very ontology of hacking.’ (Fox & Rosner, 2016), sites of ‘infrastructure production’ (Savic & Wuschitz, 2018), and ‘epistemic activism’ (Hamraie, 2017 cited Foster, 2019) where ’feminists critically analyze power relations deeply embedded in technology design, development, and use… [to] establish new value systems for engaging and creating technology knowledges.’ (Foster, 2019). 


The production-centric and apolitical design narratives are challenged by feminist hackers who critically explore power dynamics deeply rooted in technology design, creation, and usage. They create new value structures for engaging and creating technological knowledge, as examples of “epistemic activism,” (Hamraie, 2017) in that they reshape what information about technology means and how it is applied in the world, while also developing alternative world-making projects. (Foster, 2019)

Feminist hacking is defined by a strong emphasis on the political urgency of visibility for marginalized or excluded subjectivities, the illumination of invisible infra/structures of power that condition technological progress and the possibilities of speculative fabulation as a world-making practice (Haraway, 2016) through hacking. (Nagbot, S.S. L., 2016) 

Historically, like in many other fields of scientific research and practice, sci-tech prowess has been dominated by privileged Euro-American male homogeneity. The hacker and maker ‘cultures’ are oriented towards doing technologies differently and are grounded in the ethics of sharing, openness, decentralization, and free access as the foundations for global change (Levy 1984). Informed by the DIY/DIT/DIWO ethos enabling “unblackboxing” machines, technology, and tools (Lindtner et al. 2014; Ratto 2011; Nagbot, S.S.L., 2016), hacking and making are paradigmatically related but discursively diverse fields of practice. While the definitions of hacking are not singular, its general understanding implies an application of knowledge in information technology through non-standard methods aimed at accomplishing a goal or overcoming an impediment within a computerized system. Following Nagbot, S.S.L. (2016), hacking as a practice instantiates the possibility of transformation through technosocial practice, where ‘soldering hardware, writing computer code, or building software applications’ are viewed as a force for direct technical and social change – also political, and economic, among hacker communities and discourses. 

Even so, the conventional hacker ethics has generally created conditions for the reproduction of systemic exclusion of non-male subjectivities.  In general hacker ethics, the merit  is based on ‘cleverness’ (Coleman & Golub, 2008) in finding quick technological solutions, prioritized over conventional merit indicators like academic degrees, age, color, or position (Levy, 1984) and based on cultural codes of competition and transgression (Nagbot, S.S.L., 2016). Such a meritocratic approach reproduces social exclusion and inequity as the innate result of prioritizing ‘techno-trickery’ over other forms of intellectual, physical, psychological or emotional skills and mostly gendered labor. The dominating homogeneity of hacker communities turns into the default mode of organization, hence becoming invisible – whereas diversity is manifest in terms of political and technological activities and practices (Coleman & Golub 2008; Nagbot, S.S.L., 2016). 

Some HCI researchers contend that feminist technologists have deliberately turned to the making discourse as a response to masculine domination in hacker culture (Toupin, 2014; Nagbot, SSL, 2016), while others, including ourselves, argue for reclaiming diversity in hacking (Adam, 2005; Fox, 2015; Fox et al, 2015; Egaña & Solá, 2016; Dunbar-Hester, 2019; Savic & Wuschitz, 2018; Haralanova, 2019; Sollfrank, 2020; Wuschitz, forthcoming).

Among scientists and practitioners, there exists a general consensus on a definition of  making as one focused on the materiality of technology within design, engineering, and artistic production. (DiSalvo et al., 2014; Ratto et al. 2014; Nagbot, SSL, 2016)

Meanwhile, Nagbot, S.S.L. (2016) contend for a feminist turn in overcoming the gender binary and lack of diversity in hacking through the creation of another binary, one which maintains masculine status quo of the hacker community with its the transgression and masculinity, while locating the care and ‘femininty’ in the maker discourse. Meanwhile, they attest for an indistinctive division and argue for a continuous and coincidental nature of both cultures and practices, deliberately pointing out the tensions and collisions between the two attitudes.  

As an interventionist response to the prevailing discourse of DIY tech groups, feminist hackers emphasise care, situated experience, and an attention to comfort and discomfort in relation to technology, creating an alternate design narrative for developing practices that deal directly with histories of exclusion and reframe what equitability in technology design could entail (Ibid.)

As Daniela Rosner shows us, the political implications of technological repair and care clash with the issue of gendered labour (Nagbot, S.S.L, 2016; Rosner, 2014) 


Autonomy and commons are two underlying themes that bring the social-political movements of post-1968’ in the (post-)industrial Western realm and the hacker movements closer. (Niederberger et al, 2021). The intersections and tensions which condition the convergence of contemporary political activism, FLOSS (Free / Libre and Open Source Software) movement, feminist hacking and the critical (art) making emerge from the premises of the autonomist and anarchist punk ethos with its DIY ethics, individualist libertarian ethos with its hacker ethic, FLOSS ethic of deregulation, decentralisation, freedom of access to information and hardware, and the feminist ethics of care. 

The political economy of community-based peer production premise on hacker ethic (Kostakis et al, 2015), enacts an intention to turn away from industrial production and to build up commons/communities (Bardzell, 2018; Bauwens & Ramos, 2018; Bellini et al, 2018; Federici, 2018; Ostrom, 1990, 2002; Rosner et al, 2014) through peer-to-peer learning (Moore, 2011; Gerhardt, 2020; Toupin, 2021), prototyping (Criado et al, 2016; Forlano et al, 2016), manufacturing (Peano, 2017; Van Staveren et al, 2012; Saraçoğlu et al, 2018; Zbyszewska, 2018; Moghadam, 2019; Osterreich, 2019) and fixing (Graziano et al, 2019; Rogowska-Stangret & Cielemęcka, 2020; Young & Rosner, 2019) for the dignified living for all is a notion as old as the Industrial era. (Oldenziel, 1999)

It stems from the need to maintain relative autonomy in the face of the entangled, colonised, increasingly vulnerable and automated supply chain dependencies – the “extrastatecraft” (Easterling, 2014; Ong, 2006), that trigger competitively decreasing wages and the oppression of the workers. (Tsing, 2015) When needs are not met through capitalist markets, or stakes are too high to acquire crucial goods, other forms of production need to emerge. The process of  establishing reliable and constant resources turns into a form of counterculture and resistance. 

Popularised by individualist anarchist Benjamin Tucker around 1880s, and used as an euphemism for anarchism in mainstream media, the term ‚libertarianism‘ was recuperated and co-opted by liberal thought first by Dean Russel (Russel, 1955) and later by Murray Rothbard in 1960s, a right-wing economist and political theorist of the Austrian school, who boasted to have had ‚captured and taken it over from the enemies‘ (Rothbard, 2007). 

Bifurcated into laissez-faire capitalism, which advocates for private property, civil liberty, natural law and the free market, as well as anti-state and anti-proprietary socialist movements, which advocate for the abolition of capitalism, the two extensions of libertarianism in its current political philosophy and practice share a skepticism for state and authority. Both are rooted in the libertarian ethos, which advocates for maximum autonomy and political independence through free association, freedom of choice, individualism, and voluntary association. (Baradat, 2015; Boaz, 1999; Block, 2015; Hussain, 2004; Rothbard, 1978; 2015a; Woodcock, 2018).

A reaction to the “cultural shock” of 1968′ (Wallerstein, 2004) and the failures of workers’ struggles of 1960s Italy, against the conditions of labor and life in the Fordist economy, that aimed to topple “bureaucratic capitalism” (Debord, 1970;1977a) and to establish revolutionary states, the autonomist movement in Europe, was simultaneously connected to the emergence of youth countercultures (Maxigas, 2012), such as anarchist punk. 

The anarchapunk groups in the Autonomen (social centre movement mostly spread in Northern Europe), for instance, reject the idea of revolutionary state-making of the Italian operaist and autonomist movements, and instead are concerned with the anti-corporatist and workers’ rights struggles. Meanwhile, they are also critical of the anthropocentric, humanist values and the systems of oppression and violence they perpetuate, hence incorporating animal rights, anti-war, anti-nuclear, anti-racist, anti-colonial, feminist and LGBTQIA struggles – emphasizing the DIY approach at every instance, as key matters of concern. And while the centrality of autonomous values in the global movement provides them with discursive authority, they remain reliant on left institutions and organizations for critical resources. (Flesher Fominaya, 2007)

In its primary sense – that of anarchism, libertarian ethos stands for individual freedom and anti-establishment principles of non-conformity, anti-authoritarianism, anti-corporatism, anti-consumerist, anti-corporate greed, direct action, not “selling out“ and the punk DIY (do-it-yourself) / ethic. In its meaning as bricolage, DIY has been described as a characteristic pattern of mythological thought, which attempts to re-use available materials in order to solve new problems (Lévi-Strauss, 1966), a characteristic mode of production of the schizophrenic producer (Deleuze and Guattari, 1977), and an activity which results in the production of every discourse (Derrida, 2001).


Rooted in craft and artisanal legacies, the DIY ethic has been identified as one of the dimensions of the “punk” within the “cyberpunk” (McKay, 2009) enabling mainstream culture to become immediate (Savage et al, 2012). The riot grrrl punk feminist movement,  drawing on the experiences of the marginalized and alienated females* of the mainstream society and cultures in which they were physically, socially and geographically embedded, engendered a sense and aesthetics of intimate solidarity, ‘access’ (Nguyen, 2012) and transgressive feminist protest through music, art and writing in mediated and mediating materi al culture of zines, which facilitated text-based consciousness-raising encounters on issues ranging from struggle against capitalism and consumerism to rape, assault, and the physical and psychological abuse of women. (Spiers, 2015). DIY as a tool represents one of punk’s main principles – to create and consume (within) its own distinct community (Raboud, n.d.) by building, changing, or repairing objects without the direct assistance of experts and practitioners, rejecting the consumption through purchase of industrially produced objects and commodities. It has been described as “individuals engaging raw and semi-raw materials and parts to produce, transform, or reconstruct material possessions, including those drawn from the natural environment (e.g., landscaping“)“ (Wolf & McQuitty, 2011).  

In the European and Anglo-Saxon context such a production of material possessions as cultural movement and community also produces and enacts social identities – mostly white publics and counterpublic(s) (Felski, 1989; Asen & Brouwer, 2001; Warner, 2002; Travers, 2003; Bince, 2017; Holm, 2019). While the insufficient results of attempts at representative inclusivity and diversity in the maker scene and HCI are periodically addressed within the hacker /maker communities and in academic inquiries (Bardzell, 2020; Bardzell & Bardzell, 2011; Bellini et al, 2018; Dunbar-Hester, 2019; Fox et al, 2015; Ogbonnaya-Ogburu et al, 2020; Tanczer, 2015) the whiteness of counter publics, for instance, is mostly discussed in relation to the right-wing groups (Holm, 2019). Little attention has been paid to the “subalterning“ or tokenization of Black and POC subjectivities within the European and Anglo-Saxon autonomous movements and hacking cultures.  The inclusion of indigenous, POC and black counter publics and, their discourses and material practices, within the punk and technoecofeminist histories, remains an ongoing task. Even as elite and mainstream discourses across Europe are saturated with racialization processes, there is a disavowal of the importance and toxicity of race-related social relations as a pan-European phenomenon, with a corresponding displacement of its relevance to a set of “elsewheres.” This phase of unwitting and unconscious disavowal and displacement enters feminist discourse and infrastructure, aiding in the patterning of experiences and social relations among feminists who are differentially constituted as raced topics. (Lewis, 2013) As Spivak states, „Everything that has limited or no access to cultural imperialism is subaltern — a space of difference. Now who would say that’s just the oppressed? The working class is oppressed. It’s not subaltern.“ (de Kock, 1992) 

Until recently it was mostly in the geo-logics of Global South, where due to the lack of technical resources the „yourself“ in DIY is/was not only the individual but ‚a common practice that consists of education process experienced by all participants‘ like in case of trueque – the reassembling replacing components to make ‚new‘ PCs which transforms the „yourself“ into „together.“ (Caballero & Gravante, 2018; Squires; 2002; Leetoy, 2011; Lindtner, 2020; Spideralex & Sollfrank, 2020). Currently, the expansion of DIY ethic into DIT (do-it-together) (Haralanova, 2019), DIWO (do-it-with-others), coined by Furtherfield (Catlow & Garrett, 2019) and DIA (do-it-anyway) discourses and practices has become more or less commonplace in the design/maker scene and HCI scholarship, not least due to its co-optability to the new spirit of capitalism, (Boltanski & Chiapello, 1999) with its abundance of technical resources and spatial facilities, enabling and benefiting from a large-scale involvement of the potentially disruptive and dissident subjects and communities in state-, market and military-industry-sanctioned fablabs and maker spaces (Ashcroft, 2019; Maravilhas & Martins, 2017;  Ramos Pacheco & Sperling, 2018). Counter-actant proposals of practices like DAIWO (a decentralised autonomous organization with others) are simultaneously emerging in a critique and opposition to the recuperation and as an open invitation to return to the roots of the DIY movement. (Catlow & Garrett, 2019).


Members of the feminist hacker scene value sharing practices, assembling around technologies (Virilio, 1997), spaces (Lefebvre & Nicholson- Smith, 1991) and rituals (Bollier & Helfrich, 2015), namely  „rituals of care as acts of commoning“ (Schalk & de Carvalho, 2019).

Care, according to Joan Tronto and Berenice Fisher, is everything that we do to maintain, continue and repair “our world” so that we can live in it as well as possible’ (Tronto, 1993, p.103).

Grassroots care for the commons nurtures local communities in a sustainable way  as a resort from and an alternative to precarious, bare life (Agamben, 1995; Braidotti, 2008; Butler, 2014; Rogowska-Stangret, 2020) Such understanding of commons resonates with the notion of cultivating and caring for the relationships that exist around the production of shared resources, namely open-access as „care-full commoning“ practice (Deville et al, 2018) 

…commoning [is a set of] informal practices of care, resilience and shared enterprise within and across various institutional dispositions oriented towards a shared horizon of reclaiming the common. Care in this sense is relational rather than end-directed: it is a situated practice.  (Deville et al, 2018, p. 23)

The term “commons” here refers to the social praxis involved inside and through various types of commons organization, rather than a collection of “isolated objects.” Following Deville et al (2018), it is a method that focuses on the relationships involved in different modes of production rather than solely (or even primarily) on the resource itself. According to some commons theorists, such as Elinor Ostrom, these relationships are determined by formalised governance practices. Ostrom’s Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) Framework is one method for evaluating how a specific shared resource is developed, handled, and preserved (Hess & Ostrom, 2007). This concept is based on extrapolating the best maintenance and access rules from the resource in question, assuming a fair, consensus-building approach to the commons. 

Ostrom’s liberal approach to commons governance is liberal and exclusionary. It treats subjects as though they were in a political void rather than trapped in a specific circumstance and embroiled in a variety of different partnerships and initiatives with asymmetrical power structures. It considers the participants of commons as “calculating, liberal (human) subject[s] isolated from an environment of other liberal subjects and distinct, observable (non-human) tools.’ The conception of a ‘rational resource user’ in the commons fails to adequately account for a ‘meaningful consideration of local norms, values and interests in commons projects.’ (Bresnihan, 2015, Deville et al, 2018; Saunders, 2014).

The care-based or care-full commoning, then, can be best positioned as a struggle that recognizes the micro-political situations of each commons, as well as the need for experimentation with alternatives and methods of resistance. This has always been a challenge, even in case of the medieval agricultural commons. Contrary to common historical perceptions of feudal society as peaceful, the medieval village was a “theater of daily warfare” (Federici, 2004, p. 26).

Care-based / care-full commoning is a practice /a set of practices and processes of becoming  a commoner – an ‘entangled subjectivity,’ through affective and communicative relations among humans and between humans and more-than-humans (Hodder, 2012; Nightingale, 2019; Singh, 2017). It is also responding to commoners’ circumstances, rather than distributing the same level of attention.

Within the cultural framework of traditional patriarchy, women have historically built “breathing spaces“ or “feminist counterspaces“ for themselves (Coyle, 2004; Dempsey et al, 2011). The establishment of these resistance spaces is based on their practice of indigenous and daily feminisms. Exaggerated and subversive gender performances are permitted in these feminist counterspaces in order to extract personal agency within patriarchy. The strategies of these daily and indigenous feminisms have been co-opted into numerous feminist resistances and are now being used in public spaces and broader causes. (Datta, 2020)

As a resistance mode, it has intersected with the production of feminist transnational networks of solidarity and support in response to physical and psychological and economic exploitation, intimidation, silencing, erasure, displacement and alienation of trans feminist bodies, subjectivities and labor.  

In times of the COVID-19 it has become  increasingly evident that highly complex and sanctioned infrastructures can easily get corrupted. Even large and seemingly strong democracies are fragile in the face of a global crisis (Maani & Galea, 2020;  Wu & Chang, 2020). They need to be backed up by local and internationally networked grass-root initiatives. This is where the feminist hacker practices gain relevance. 

The extension of online and offline feminist counterpublics’ into feminist counterspaces – such as feminist hackerspaces, and the production of feminist or intimate infrastructure (Savic & Wuschitz, 2018; Wilson, 2016) „as knowledge“ (Weijnen, 1999) and an „embedding environment for intimate life… is a constructed (real) techno-material-symbolic assemblage of objects, codes, and procedures, that, at least in intention, underpins, enables, and conditions the context for more visible enactments, some intended by explicit norms and some more or less transgressive appropriations.“  (Wilson, 2016, p. 275)  In the same way that the vital use of intimacy challenges the commonsense understanding of public and private, the new use of infrastructure rejects technical determinism or materialist naturalism. Infrastructure shifts concerns away from the discursive operations of biopolitical logic and toward the structural frameworks that meet needs, as well as their relationship to public collectivities or private capitalist markets. This is a strategy of countering the neoliberal erosion of public support for and privatisation of collective modes of provisioning. (Ibid) 

For example, while distributed hack- and maker spaces in nation-states like Indonesia, Ghana, but also Austria and the US were instantly ready to contribute with resources and solutions, including the making of face masks, building soap dispensers, providing safe servers for homeschooling or home office, sharing non-commercial platforms that don’t track user data, the feminist hacking collectives and social activists immediately reacted with collecting best practice examples for cultures of solidarity and spontaneous alliances among the precarious members (Dolores, 2020; Milan & Treré, 2020; Thurston, 2020). 


The feminist hacking and making both emphasize the importance of understanding how practices inform world-views, carving out spaces for people to call a common room of their own. Another important pillar of this movement are the free/libre open source technologies. It entails FLOSS is free to use and/or modify, develop and copy. The approach is deeply rooted in the call for democratic citizenship and participation and in the  understanding of where the products, technologies and goods come from, how they are developed, shipped, used, how they inform every fibre of the socio-political fabric that nation-states and international trade agreements are made of. Open source technologies are being built by the commons with the intention to facilitate interventions in  each of these stages by subverting copyright restrictions with an alternative open source licence. People serving as the lowest element in the food chain in capitalist value generation have experienced within their own bodies how essential it is to invest time and effort into collective knowledge – accessible to them through these open licences. This is a type of knowledge that does not lurk as communities grow across class, race and gender binaries, while their members migrate or age.

Meanwhile, open source technologies are often slow to develop. Using them requires certain technical knowledge and skills which might not be widely and evenly distributed within the hacking community, and without the transfer of knowledge and know-how associated with the open source, it often remains more impenetrable than the proprietary version for some members of the community. Another challenge is the usability issue and adaptability of the open source technologies to other frameworks, which doesn’t always work out as intended, since it is dependent on the voluntary labor contributions of the community members. Considering the two circumstances, more often than not the open source technologies remain politically desirable and frequently manifested, yet often discarded tools.


First wave feminists are understood as the activists who struggled for political independence, for women’s right to vote. This was obviously not achieved simultaneously around the world. While in Indonesia women were already allowed to vote with the 1945 constitution, Switzerland introduced women’s right to vote in the year 1971. Soerastri Karma Trimurti for example was already Indonesian minister of labour as early as 1947 – 1948, while in Germany the first female minister, Elisabeth Schwarzhaupt, was appointed in 1961. Second wave feminist were defined as the ones formulating the demand to enter the education sector and the labor market, as well as participating in the public sphere on eye level with male citizens. It entailed the struggle for girls to train in male dominated working fields, taking on professions that were before restricted and only accessible to (white, western, able) men. This second wave of feminism was as well not transforming societies on all continents equally. While girls in Afghanistan are even today restricted from basic education, feminist aristocrats like Indonesia’s famous feminist Kartini were already outspoken about women’s right to education as early as 1902. Third wave was targeting the issue of reproduction rights, in particular the right to decide about having a child or not having a child and when. While for white middle class European and North American women abortion rights and the right to birth control was associated with more ownership over their own body, thousands of women in less privileged positions were robbed brutally of their ability to get pregnant through forced sterilization, organized by institutions. Third wave feminism therefore has many faces in different contexts, sparking off new theories that try to make sense of the diversity of voices behind different forms of   feminisms, countering manifold shapes of patriarchy and sexist oppression. In North America and Western Europe sex positivity, embracing sexual desires and the rights of LGBTQ and transgender persons became a significant demand of third wave feminism. But as with first and second feminism, this did not apply to the rest of the world, as in Indonesia, for example, shamans and priests, such as the bissu, often embodied transgender and male as well as female characteristics, a quality that even granted specific authority to them in the community, and is echoing even today in what in Indonesia is called tomboi/waria. (Davis 2010; Wieringa 2012, 2020). Also in India (hijra) and Thailand there is evidence that a biased gender concept was only imported in the last 300 years by colonizers from Europe (Fels & Pillai-Vetschera 2001; Blackwood 2005; Davis 2010; Wieringa 2012, 2020;). The writing of history becomes “part of the politics of the gender system.” (Scott, 1993). In Europe and North America however, the right to gender expression different from the assigned sex at birth and the right to live your sexual orientation in public and at work was only legally permitted very recently. 

These described feminist waves were not occurring one single time only or changed the lives of all people categorized as women globally, but count mainly for a limited number of people and often only a privileged minority within a society. Sometimes these limited achievements could forge into a large social movement, sometimes they were undone by hostile regimes. In Indonesia the women’s movement had brought about influential journalists, politicians and artists like Maria Ulfah Soebadio Sastrosatomo (1911-1988), Soerastri Karma Trimurti  (1912-2008) or Sujinah (1928-2007), who was a funding member of Gerwis in the year 1950, the “Movement of Conscious Indonesian Women“ or Aleta Baun (1966 – ), an important feminist fighting for environmental justice. But their efforts were and are still today contested and under scrutiny, if not completely overwritten.

Currently, a significant part of feminists who strive for social justice is applying an analytical framework called „intersectionality“. The term „intersectional“ was coined by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw (1989) who argued that overlapping  („intersecting“) factors create advantages and disadvantages for people. Factors identified by Crenshaw were for example religion, caste, gender, race, class, sexuality, disability or age (Crenshaw XXXXX). This way she was able to describe and analyze discriminations that take complex forms, for example how female black US American workers get marginalized through multiple oppressions and how this marginalization operates through privileges granted to „white“ people while people not passing as „white“ are systematically excluded. This idea was quite popular in Indonesia long before Crenshaw, when the women’s conference (in which participants from all classes, religions and ethnical backgrounds joined) decided on the necessity to implement the equality of all citizens into the Indonesian constitution. Intersectionality in the US emerged in the 1990s and triggered a debate that gave rise to critical race studies and standpoint theory. Standpoint theory acknowledges that everyone who speaks, speaks from a very specific standpoint, with privileges and marginalizations, advantages and disadvantages that first need to be made transparent so that an audience can understand the specific position the author speaks from. Yet, this focus on „difference“ among feminists became an issue that divided and weakened some of their efforts, making it difficult to track central sources of oppression. The difference, therefore, turned into a central issue – differences in anatomy, income, education, health, sexual orientation, ethical background, economic oppression. A person’s agency depends on all these factors and how a society hierarchically categorizes these labels. We are all exposed to hierarchies that shape who we are and we are replicating hierarchies shaping who others seem to become. During one lifetime these labels and categorizations change. Depending on my privilege I either enjoy relative independence or I live on the margins in precarity. This insight brought about new laws that recognize intersectional forms of discrimination. Judith Butler introduced a new term in the 1990s that again shifted the perspective on what constitutes the human as a „subject”. In her view, the way we are passing as „female“ or passing as „male“ has to do with our performance of known gender roles. She calls this „gender performance.” She argues that we are enacting gender through certain gestures, behaviours, and desires. There is no essential female or essential male sex, she claims, but we embody the gender identity according to the sex we are assigned to at birth through repeating what we believe is the apt performance. Judith Butler claims that we are performing ourselves according to who we give account to about ourselves. The people around us who encourage or discourage a certain behaviour, interest and gender identity co-determine how we experience our „self“, who we believe we are and are able to become. This notion of gender as an ongoing performance makes the „self“ a fluid and active practice, ever-changing and interactive with people around us. Butler thinks that we are crafting our own subjectivities in collaboration with people who surround us. Consequently, there is no solid, essential „me“ that can get categorized as such, but who we seem to be is all learned, trained and therefore can be unlearned. There is no subject in this sense, but merely fluid subjectivities, that are embodied in the current moment. We are never solid, always in transformation and in a state of constant „becoming“. 


Feminist hacking owes much of its strategies, tactics, grammar and tools to technofeminist framework  (Wajcman, 2004, 2006a) and the cyberfeminist approach (Braidotti, 1996; Hall, 1996), shaped and manifested by the imaginaries of Donna Haraway, VNS Matrix, Linda Dement, Jill Scott, mez breeze, Melinda Rackham, Francesca Da Rimini, Cornelia Sollfrank and the Old Boys Network (including Sollfrank herself,  Susanne Ackers, Julianne Pierce, Helene von Oldenburg, Claudia Reiche, Faith Wilding, Yvonne Volkart  and Verena Kuni), among others. 

Epistemologically rooted in the idea of situated knowledges, feminist technoscientific praxis sought to critically re-examine and destabilise the nature/culture, subject/object, man/woman and other categorical oppositions, and to critically reflect on the computer-mediated communication by intersecting computer technology with subversive feminist counterculture. 

Feminist standpoint theory privileged the subjected knowers in relation to a given mode of production. Attributing privilege to partiality, Donna Haraway argued that the notion of “situated knowledge” which she proposed was more complex and hybrid than other epistemologies that took the knower’s position seriously, and involved ‚mobile positioning,(Haraway, 1991, p. 192), In situated knowledges based on embodied vision, neither subjects who experience nor nature that is understood can be viewed as straightforward, pre-theoretical beings, “innocent and waiting beyond the violations of language and culture“ (Ibid). Haraway believed that romanticizing, and thus homogenizing and objectifying, the ideal subjugated subject position was not a solution to the violence inherent in dominant epistemologies. This perspective also resonated in Chandra Mohanty’s viewpoint, who believes there is no innocent, perfectly subjugated feminist subject position conferring epistemological privilege; all positions are open to critical re-examination. (Mohanty 1984/1991) Subjectivity in that context was understood as performed in and through the materiality of various types of knowledge and practice. (Butler 1990, pp. 1–34).

This mode of subjectivity performance, referred to colloquially as “cyberfeminism,” was shaped by two opposing perspectives. The first, labeled as liberal cyberfeminism (Hall, 1996), was influenced by feminist and queer theorists’ postmodern discussions on gender fluidity, and imagined the computer as a liberating utopia that did not recognize the social dichotomies of male/female and heterosexual/homosexual. The opposing viewpoint, based on the reality of male-initiated Internet harassment, had resulted in the separatist development of numerous lists and bulletin board systems that self-identified as „women-only.“ This tactic, defined as online radical cyberfeminism, had evolved alongside the utopian predictions of liberal cyberfeminism. The mutual incompatibility of the two cyberfeminisms, according to Kira Hall, reflected the often irreconcilable differences between theory-based and practice-based feminisms in the non-virtual world. It also revealed the complexities of what she called „bodiless pragmatics.“ While it appeared that body-free interaction would promote the kind of gender neutrality advocated by liberal cyberfeminists, it actually resulted in radical gender creations that exaggerated cultural conceptions of femininity and masculinity. Gender was not erased, but rather intensified discursively in the virtual world. The gendered interaction that ensued was often so disturbing for its female participants that a growing number of „self-proclaimed cyborgs were unsubscribing from the heteroglossia in search of a shared cyborgess language“ (Hall, 1996, p. 148)

This revelation of „bodiless pragmatics,“ that the seemingly „body-free,“ networked interaction and representation halted the manifestation of neither gender or other binary oppositions, nor the violence embedded in language and its codes, gradually brought back the interest in spatial and material dimensions of resistance through technologies, namely hardware and spaces to tinker it together, which paralleled with the ascent of „new materiality“ onto the epistemological and ontological ladder.

Feminist hacking strives to extend the promise of cyberfeminism (Haraway, 1991; Braidotti, 1996; Fernandez & Wilding, 2002; Daniels, 2009; Brophy, 2010) to design and build themselves (Egaña & Solá, 2016), to theoretically and practically appropriate information and computer technology, to critically analyse and to rethink gendered power relations related and co-produced by technology (de la Bellacasa, 2017; Paasonen, 2005; Perez, 2019). 

Feminist hackers regard body, gender and technology as enacted, ‘mutually produced in ever-new configurations’ (Sollfrank, 2020) and embodied. Mutual knowledge exchange and production appear as fields of political action. (Arfini, 2020; Bettcher, 2017; Green & Bey, 2017; Raha, 2017; Keller, 2017) Grounded in new understandings of sovereignty of body and the machines, such a political and aesthetic relation grants agency to the technological and generates an imagery that supports the construction of identity and subjectivity of/for the people with non-normative sexualities and genders in a liberating and autonomous manner. This is while fostering the creation of new social and cultural spaces to inhibit. (Egaña & Solá, 2016)

The feminist hacking with its resistance and spatial practices of working together (DIY / DIWO), politics of visibility, co-production of knowledge, solidarity and awareness of the materiality of technology manifest in feminist hackerspaces. Designed as „safer“ spaces where the production of feminist infrastructure through solidarity with its mutual self-caring and self-defense of women hackers and their well-being – both offline and online, is central not only in destabilising the male-centric and individualistic hacker ethics and its substitution with feminist hacker ethics. (Adam, 2005; Goldenberg & Lorde, 2014; Fox, 2015; Toombs et al, 2015; Savic & Wuschitz, 2018, Spideralex, 2019; Toupin, 2014, 2019a, p. 21; R. Murillo, 2020).

Hence, we define feminist hacking as an approach that allows for sustaining the feminist technoecologies (Lorenz-Meyer et al, 2019) of embodied difference through mutual self-care of humans and non-humans alike as well as the creation, application, and extending the afterlife of the things. It embeds an empathetic and diffractive method (Geerts & van der Tuin, 2021; Barad, 2007, 2014; Haraway, 1997; Martyn, 2021; Murris & Bozalek, 2019; 2019a) of thinking and doing in a non-linear, non-dialectic, transversal (van der Tuin & Dolphijn, 2010; 2012), critically entangled matter of politics (Cheah, 2010). Adding up to the emergent sensibilities of the more-than-human world, feminist hackers share an intention to build things.  Instead of consuming commodities off the shelf,  to recycle materials, instead of accepting the toxic afterlife of the dysfunctional devices, to analyse the genesis and the establishment of control over distributed, development and production and introduction of (new) technologies, to demystify the actants that benefit from their application and licensing, those who profit from opacity and the designed obsolescence. 

While the binary opposition between white hat and black hat hackers or the discussions around the grey hat hacking have been repeatedly articulated, criticised by various theorists and technologists for its possible reaffirmation of racial stereotyping, hackers are widely perceived as criminals. (Wilhelm & Andress, 2010; Caldwell, 2011; Pike, 2013; Falk, 2014; Al-Sharif et al, 2016; Laskow, 2017; Gaia et al, 2020; Cimpanu, 2020) Yet, we are genuinely driven by the urge to understand an issue or complex situation without the intent of exploiting it. 

This is the approach that feminist hacking entails and extends further – to understand, to repair and to get inspired by the cracks it finds in the world. 

Feminist hackers try to grasp the ephemeral, yet inescapable, unavoidable force of matter mattering in the present moment, the here, and the now. It can therefore easily eschew metaphysics, post humanism just like trans feminist hacking is tightly connected to being in this phenomena called presence even while trying to wrap our heads around it. And our heads are as we wrap, being changed, infiltrated by, altered by the existence and agency of all earthlings, keeping in mind the fact, that mining for most elements used in hardware manufacturing involve child labor and encourages civil wars around us – our subjectivities are co-produced  (Braidotti, 1997; 2002a; 2011b; 2013c, 2018d; Butler, 1997; Foucault, 1988; Jasanoff, 2004; van der Zaag, 2016) with others – humans, species, environments and technologies – not only by the experiences of design and interaction – using, art-making, hacking and altering (in the safer feminist spaces and beyond), but also by the necropolitical exploitation of child labor in mining plants and e-waste recycling sites, the fueling of civil wars, mass displacement and destitution (Daum et al, 2017; Hilson, 2008; Jonah & Abebe, 2019; Kaya, 2019; Perkins et al, 2014; Saleh, 2020; Scott, 2012)

Here, taking action alone and without considering their consent or intention is too high of a risk. Both, the DIY movement and the trans hack feminist movement can be seen as the endeavour to set a unique environment of exception that enables participants to see life unfold in an unexpected way. In the ideal case, the new intentionally created environment allows them to perform differently or rather, undo gender (Butler, 2004; Tate et al, 2020),  race, class, unlearn and follow their interests, find care and get basic needs met, and heal from humiliating experiences. This perspective is inherently and explicitly critiques cultures that generate hierarchies through oppression and exploitation of people’s labour, land resources, precious elements, and other sentient beings.  


Although the critical making discourse has attempted to address and accommodate the concerns relating to the intersections of hacking / making with the fields of media arts / art, science and technologies, art hacking as method and practice, seeks a (re)definition in respect to the ‘revival’ of the materiality of its practices, including the consideration of organic matter or inorganic hardware not merely as a tool, but also an object of an aesthetic, ethical and political interest. Art hacking has been asserted at different times as ‘communication guerrilla’ or ‘guerilla art’ with the defining features being ‘the availability of the medium, the deep impact of technology on life, the cultural and economic surplus in society, and the politicisation of art in general’ (Jaschko, 1999). It has also been located within the wider practice of hacktivism, a term invented by Jason Sack to describe an artwork – the Fresh Kill by Shu Lea Cheang (Logan, 1995; Webber & Yip, 2018), including ’culture jamming’ (Carducci, 2006), media hacking, tactical media and reality hacking. The latter is a term used to define the peaceful application of legally dubious digital tools in pursuit of politically, socially, or culturally subversive ends, including website defacements, URL redirections, denial-of-service attacks, information theft, web-site parodies, virtual sit-ins, and virtual sabotage. The practice of reality hacking was born out of concerns of the emerging collectives and groups with the fluid interchange of technology and real life (often from an environmental concern). Such tactics could be traced back to Fluxus and the Happenings of the 1970s. 

The disruptions and hacks of artists and collectives like subRosa, Ubermorgen, Geert Lovink, The Yes Men, Critical Art Ensemble, DoEAT Group and Institute for Applied Autonomy would vary from virtual sit-ins, electronic civil disobedience, denial-of-service attacks,  to mass protests in relation to groups like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.’

Abigail Susik draws a genealogy of art hacking practice, which she defines as ‘intra-garde’ (Susik, 2019). The author claims that ‘art hack practice is founded in Avantgarde aesthetics and tactics but is ultimately distinct from them,’ and that there is ‘significant historical continuity between the early 21st century and the 12 or so previous decades – although there are also many nodes of discontinuity,’  which ‘elaborate embeddedness of digital technology in daily life for those late-capitalist nations that are the main sites for art hack practice, and the intimacy human subjects share with not just technology, but also its consumption in a broader commodity network. ‘ (Susik, 2019, p. 17). 

Susik outlines the five traits of contemporary art hack practice and makes comparisons with Avantgarde precedents, defining those as ‘dialectical nodes which interact with one another,’  and lists them as follows

  1. technology as content and practice/medium,
  2. the appropriation and/or use of industrially produced commodities in image, material and/or process; 
  3. the work of art as a constructed and/or deconstructed functional or dysfunctional tool;
  4. production means and/or location, often beyond the strict confines of what is usually considered the milieu of fine art (extra-aesthetic), in materials or place, and often made with shared, collective tools, knowledge or space and 
  5. the work of art as a commodity designed with commercial industrial tools and components, which may closely resemble a general marketplace commodity, but ultimately remains a rarified art commodity. 

(Susik, 2019, p.  17)

Pechblenda, Mary Maggic, Paula Pin are feminist hackers and artists who have focuses on bodies as sites of colonisation, as matter of measurement and categorisation, instrumentalising and starting point for empowerment. Sophie Toupin has shown how a space such as a feminist hackerspace can provide a fertile ground for these effective and daunting projects and how feminist hackerspaces are rooted in a culture of feminist resistance and activism. 

Hanna Perner-Wilson is another artist who has nourished and enlarged a tool set to create soft, ubiquitous hardware for feminists to own and make use of, with an extensive online archive on soft and sustainable materials available to create electric circuits of a new kind. 

Similarily trans feminist hackers around the world have in artistic ways approached hardware as an organism. 

The hand made gold-thread computer by Ebru Kurbak and Irene Posch remind us that embroidery is a gendered technique suitable for appropriation and cutting edge technology. 

Similar to Kurbak and Posch,  the fluid, water-glass and air-computer by artist Ioana Vreme Moser called Fluid Memory is a computer element to story memory. 

Slime is an example of another material used to store information. Sarah Grant has collaborated with Selena Savic in order to research the project entitled Thinking Toys for Commoning and developing a slime mould, which would build patterns and memorise them after destruction. 

Efe Franca Blange has created a large feminist network with her collaborators/colleagues to supply women* in Ghana with sexual harassment education, an aim she shares with the Indonesian “Needle and Bitch” collective, that provide a safer space to talk about sexual health during sewing workshops. In these workshops women* make menstruation pads. 

All these representative collectives and people mentioned in connection to feminist hacking and art are focused on doing something different. For these agents, “doing”, the process, the relation to the context we are in through sharing, self-education and community-building, is part and parcel of our research. It is the starting point, it defines our research field and simultaneously causes our trouble (Braidotti, 2019; Buttler, 1990; Haraway, 2016; Lépinard, 2020).  Because by performing ourselves, by performing in the world, we shift how we are tied to all entities on this planet. Are we caring? Are we stigmatising? Do we give an account of ourselves? (Butler, 2005) Are we acknowledging the fluid character of formally as binarily declared things, such as nature/cultures, life/matter, organic/inorganic, human/animal, organic/inorganic, and human/nonhuman, to mention but a few? 



“Butler takes the linguistic turn, I go nomadically the way of all flesh” (Braidotti 2002, 47)

In recent decades, (re)new(ed) materialist modes of analysis and ways of thinking about matter, processes of materialisation, conceptualising and investigating material reality have emerged through scientific disciplines, arts and technologies, including the transdisciplinary fields of anthropology, geography, sociology, political science and economics. They can be exemplified by recent interest in material culture, political ecologies, critical realism, and the materialist feminist and queer theory or postcolonial studies.  This shift reflects the growing inadequacy of textual approaches associated with the so-called cultural turn (Biernacki, et al, 1999 ; Jameson, 1998; Steinmetz, 1999) for understanding contemporary society, particularly in light of some of its most pressing challenges related to environmental, demographic, geopolitical, and economic change.

Diana Coole & Samantha Frost call for rethinking objectivity and material reality, to reconsider concepts of material causality and the importance of corporeality, and to reconfigure the very understanding of matter as preconditions for any plausible account of coexistence and its consequences in the twenty-first century. (Coole & Frost, 2010)

New materialism destabilised the epistemological and metaphysical grounds of the cultural turn and (post)modern thought. Although the material turn in cultural history is defined by a greater engagement with artifacts as “present” historical sources, new materialism is a new way of developing theory. Conversely, for a movement that rejects the episteme of the cultural turn, this “modern metaphysics” is built on the metaphor of “reading,” much like the theoretical toolkit of the cultural turn. However, new materialist readings produce startling and demanding conceptualizations of matter and object agency.  (Barad, 2003; Coole & Frost, 2010; Fox & Alldred, 2016, 2020; Hinton, 2014; Hood & Kraehe, 2017; Monforte, 2018; Scott et al, 2014).  

The term “new materialism“ was introduced in the early 1990s by Rosi Braidotti in the field of Gender Studies. Braidotti and other feminist scholars such as Donna Haraway, Karen Barad, and Vicki Kirby began to critically challenge the cultural turn’s one-sided emphasis on history, drawing on the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze, Henri Bergson, and Spinoza – thinkers who sought to transgress the dualisms that had constituted Western thinking since Descartes. The publication of three programmatic companions that explain the movement’s goals and methods has recently increased its visibility. (Schouwenburg, 2015)

Following Schouwenburg (2015), new materialism is ‘transversal’ rather than “dialectic.’ (Cheah, 2010; van der Tuin & Dolphin, 2012) By structuring theoretical approaches and paradigms as dual opposites, the past traditions of thoughts have established negative relationships between terms, discourses and paradigms (e.g., new cultural history versus social history, post- modernism versus modernism). Consequently, while postmodern theory may assert to have deconstructed modern thought’s dualisms (i.e., culture-nature, male-female, mind-body), in practice it has only reinforced dualist thinking:

New materialism is a cultural theory for the twenty-first century that attempts to show how postmodern cultural theory, even while claiming otherwise, has made use of a conceptualization of ‘post-’ that is dualistic. Postmodern cultural theory re-confirmed modern cultural theory, thus allowing transcendental and humanist traditions to haunt cultural theory after the Crisis of Reason. New materialist cultural theory shifts (post-) modern cultural theory, and provides an immanent answer to transcendental humanism.  (van der Tuin & Dolphijn, 2012)

To break through the hierarchical dialectics of (post)modern thought, new materialism aims to create ‘transversal cartographies,’ that is, affirmative connections between seemingly opposing theoretical traditions that are ‘structured by positivity rather than negativity.’ (Ibid) Its primary method for achieving this monumental task is the conceptualization of reading as ‘re-reading.’ New materialists reread classic and marginal texts from various paradigms and (inter)disciplines through each other.  In doing so, they seek ‘shared characteristics’ and ‘unexpected theorizations’ between, say, 1970s structuralism and Marxist materialism – a scholarly tradition that the cultural turn so forcefully rejected – and recent ideas from the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS), such as Latour’s Actor-Network Theory. (Hekman, 2008)

‘New materialism says “yes, and” to all philosophical practices, traversing them all, generating strings of vital thinking (Schouwenburg, 2015; van der Tuin & Dolphijn, 2012)

Karen Barad, a theoretical particle physicist and feminist theorist, who is one of the leading new materialists, converges perspectives and approaches from physics, including recent research in quantum mechanics and cultural and social theories of Michel Foucault, Judith Butler or Bruno Latour. For example, he is one of the leading theorists in feminist and queer theory. (Barad, 2007)

The consequence is a ‘posthumanist, performative account,’ which breaks down existing dualisms and illustrates the coconstitutiveness of human and non-human beings and matter and meaning. The statement that people and society are not outside nature lies at the heart of Barad’s argument. Instead, humankind is nature; it is ‘the world.’ According to Barad, nature and culture are both performative. Nature is not a passive ground where people perform. Natures shape cultures shape natures.

Similarly, Donna Haraway, trained as a biologist and informed by the natural world’s self-regulation power, coined the word “naturecultures,” which refers to the notion that “bodies and meanings co-shape one another.“ (Haraway, 2013)

Along with the cultural turn’s insight that bodies, as hollow containers, only gain significance in discursive activities, such ideas draw attention to the body as a biological being, as living matter. The transversal readings of Barad and Haraway incorporate the concept of existence into cultural theory without favoring one over the other. Indeed, one of the fundamental insights of new materialism is that nature and culture are two sides of the same coin that have only been separated by the academic world’s internal dynamics, which have divided labor into separate science and humanities. (Creager et al, 2001)

These new materialist rereadings, as well as their “unforeseen theorizations” about the co-constitution of nature and culture, give rise to new notions of matter and object agency that differ dramatically from cultural history’s passive objects. Following Schouwenburg (2015) the term “matter” is used by new materialists in at least four different ways.

First, materiality is viewed as a complex, self-organizing process. Matter is a positive and agentive force, a term deriving from the natural sciences into the humanities.

‘Matter is neither fixed nor given nor the mere end result of different processes. Matter is produced and productive, generated and generative. Matter is agentive, not a fixed essence or property of things’  (Barad, 2007, p. 137)

The second, and connected, idea is that nonhuman agents co-shape social environments. If materiality is agentive, things have a life of their own, consciously interacting with, resisting, and co-shaping other beings, including humans. Drawing on STS theorists such as Bruno Latour, new materialists argue that objects are ‘actors,’ that is, they are part of networks of connections and actively participate in the establishment, maintenance, or dissolution of these networks. (Kirby, 2013)

Third, new materialists are concerned with ‘material realism.’ (Coole & Frost, 2010, p. 6) The cultural constructivist and deconstructionist methods of the cultural turn reduced the material world to discursive representations. New materialist scholars, on the other hand, attempt to engage with and theorize about life’s non-discursive aspects through taking into account lived experience, corporeal practice, and biological substance.

Finally, new materialists define matter in the sense that certain things ‘matter’ because they are a major source of concern. This last idea denotes a shift toward ethics and emphasizes the movement’s political agenda – not least the vital agency of movement as such (Ingold, 2011) and its connection to technology and the machines. 

Extending the cultural turn’s political self-disclosure and opposing its moral impartiality, new materialists want to take a stand on topics such as climate change and biotechnological engineering, among others.  To do so, they must embrace and implement the intra-disciplinary approach, implementing  the nonhuman universe, which has historically been the domain of the natural sciences. (Van der Tuin & Dolphin, 2012; Braidotti, 2013; Coole & Frost, 2010)

Following Djuric’s perspective, the Kantian analysis of scientifically reprehensible phenomena (as opposed to incomprehensible, noumenal, “the thing in itself”), modern science rejects metaphysical problems and so-called “fair interpretation,” considering only falsifiable hypotheses. With its focus on calculability and measurability, technoscience “takes over” in such dissociations of information creation, resulting in the transformation and degradation of the natural world.

With the development of artificial intelligence and its reduction or substitution of human values, technoscience, with its reason linked to instrumental rationality, gains power. 

According to Bruno Latour, there is a choice to be made between modernizing and ecologizing, and it must be done with the understanding that any new shift in our understanding of science puts the entire apparatus of modernization in jeopardy. (Djuric, 2018; Latour, 2013, p. 8). There is a need to create a new coordinate system that serves the diversity of life and a richer value setting, as well as a more holistic worldview and a deeper relationship with the earth. (Latour, 2017). The fundamental contexts that give rise to new materialism are technoscience and climate change.  In that sense our project inhabits the zone in between Latour’s binary of modernizing and ecologizing, in the sense that progress (modernisation) can also imply becoming more ecologically intelligent.

If new materialism is revealed as just instrumental rationality and a technology for the devaluation of human values, it will be a useless means to an end. A poetics of a living world, living nature, living universe, life force, science, and the creation of new organizations and networks is enabled by new materialist theory. It is a meeting ground for beings who pursue and convey global well-being dreams. In line with the science of complex adaptive systems, new materialism theory could seek critical emergent relationships rather than a critical mass of followers. (Djuric, 2018)  Philosophers who self-identify as Indiginous have been writing and talking about similar world views before new materialism. (Aleta Browns, e.g., Kumari Jayawardena)

It can be the root of relationships, dreams, and common behavior of kindred spirits generating new understanding and practices that will flow before the sudden arrival of a new system based on a higher level of consciousness and organization. (Ibid)

What feminist new materialisms and OOF (object-oriented feminism) have in common is that both are concerned with and position the common condition as matter or object relations in an attempt to overcome the anthropocentric divisions between the human subject and nonhuman objects. OOF also looks into artistic and curatorial practices which elicit the ‘representational and nonrepresentational relationships between objects.’ (Behar, 2016. p. 4) 

Following the feminist philosophers, Behar claims that the ‘theories of subjecthood… are fundamentally dependent on the logic of phallocentrism.’ (ibid) OOF is grounded in the structuralist idea that ‘ontic “realism”’ can be located in objects.  OOO (object-oriented ontology) positions humans as objects, which Behar considers liberating from the chains of subjectivity, primarily from the “unreal delusions of correlationism.” (Ibid) 


In new materialist thought, politics, philosophy, and various methodologies are inextricably linked, eliciting feminist materialist models of ethico-politics in which the conventional Western metaphysical dualistic self/Other paradigm, as well as debates on subjectivity, identity, and distinction, are transcended towards a more-than-human becoming. (Geerts, 2016)

Karen Barad, a physicist-philosopher, coined the term “ethico-onto-epistem-ology” to emphasize the inseparability of ethics, ontology, and epistemology while engaged in (scientific) knowledge creation, scientific activities, the universe itself and its inhabitants – human and non-human beings who intra-actively co-constitute the world (Barad, 2007, p. 90).  Barad’s modern feminist materialist theory of agential realism places considerable emphasis on the idea that one cannot but interact with the world ethically – a position extending the philosophical views of Derrida and Levinas, and firmly rooted in the feminist science studies tradition pioneered by Haraway, that emphasizes the need for accountable and just knowledge production. (Barad, 1999, 2003, 2007; Geerts, 2016)

Barad’s ethico-onto-epistem-ology can be viewed as a quantum entanglement demonstrating that, since we are part of the universe, we can no longer see ourselves as innocent observers viewing the world from a freestanding viewpoint, or, as feminist science studies scholar Donna Haraway has called such a falsely neutral, overarching point of view; a “god trick.“ (Haraway, 1988, p. 581).

Following Geerts (2016), Barad’s model of a “ethics of entanglement” is essentially about finding and following up on ethical demands, influenced by the Levinasian idea that the subject who is in-the-world suddenly stands “face to face” with the Other, and thus becomes ethically obliged to respond to the Other’s call (Barad, 2011, p. 150; Levinas 2015/1961, p. 39).

Within Barad’s agential realist approach, which emphasizes the intra-activity between the world and its ‘subjects’ (both of which are classified as phenomena in Barad’s work), there is also an immediate indebtedness to the Other that cannot be articulated in economic terms or with the motto do ut des. (Barad, p. 2012; Geerts, 2016)

According to Barad, “[e]ntanglements are relations of responsibility,” and therefore our ethical debt to the Other is enmeshed into the fabric of the universe. Draws an outline of Barad’s new materialist ethics, Geerts (2016) maps an overlap with Levinas’ and Derrida’s inclination to rethink ethics outside of an a priori rendered template of formal rules and calculations; the ethical for all three thinkers is instead related to the subject who is being disrupted in their actions, and is all about reckoning with ghosts from the past, as well as the unexpected, the disjointed, and the what-could-happen (Derrida, 1994/1993) Unlike the Derridean and Levinasian models, Barad’s ethical theory is radically posthumanist: the face of the Other, for Barad, should not be limited to the face of a human being, formerly symbolized by Levinas’ Stranger, because our being-in-the-world is always already entangled with other beings’ existence. (Barad, 2007, p. 392; Geerts, 2016)

Responsibility – the ability to respond to the other – cannot be restricted to human-human encounters when the very boundaries and the constitution of the ‘human’ are continually being reconfigured. 

Furthermore, in Baradian ethics (a paradigm influenced by the queering combination of quantum physics and Derridean différance), Otherness – sometimes articulated as the self/Other cut in the Western metaphysical tradition – never occurs a priori, which means that Otherness never arises from below or above, but from within intra-actions between the universe and its beings (Barad, 2007, 2014; Geerts, 2016).

In this ethico-onto-epistem-ological framework  the more relational attitude of “responsibility,” not obligations for all of our fellow beings is at the centre of the fundamentally reworked paradigm of ethical mattering in the universe. (Haraway, 2008, p. 88; Barad, 2012, p. 208)

This responding-to is inextricably linked to the Levinasian demand for ethical responsibility and care that emerges when encountering the face of the Other. However, the agential realist version of response-ability goes beyond reacting to the human Other’s call. It relates to an instantaneous accountability that all beings share in their intra-actions with the universe, as we are all in and part of the world’s becoming – a becoming that, in the end, is a matter of morality, according to Barad. This is essentially “an ethics of worlding,” beginning with a relational, situated, and embodied paradigm of (inter)subjectivity and demonstrating how ethics, being, and knowing can no longer be differentiated. (Barad, 2007, p. 392; Geerts, 2016).


The question of method is far reaching the limits of this paper. To better understand and interact with the complexities of the contemporary world(s) around and within us, we inevitably have to deal with a multiplicity of non-linear and overcrossing disciplines, not least, with the sociology of knowledge. Following Hans Herbert Kögler (1997), the communicative turn in social philosophy rejected Kant’s two-world theory, which distinguishes between an absolute epistemic subject and a situated empirical subject. Furthermore, on the basis of the linguistic turn, a set of neo-Kantian dualisms (such as validity-as-such versus social validity, meaning versus context, justification versus application, etc.) and an idealized typology of action-forms are reintroduced, rather than focusing on the distinctive patterns of meaning that correlate individual actions with objective social factors.

To analyse the relations between symbolic forms of knowledge and the so-called objective social structures, we inevitably look at the’ symbolic basis of explicit expressions of individual agents’ which are ‘structurally tied to, yet not identical with, objective social practices and life conditions’ otherwise labelled as socially bounded knowledge (Kögler, 1997) or situated knowledge constitutive of Donna Haraway’s idea of feminist objectivism.

So, not so perversely, objectivity turns out to be about particular and specific embodiment and definitely not about the false vision promising transcendence of all limits and responsibility. The moral is simple: only partial perspective promises objective vision. (Haraway, 1988, p. 583).

Yet, reflection and reflexivity have been fundamental to qualitative research since the cultural turn (Jenkins et al, 2020). Expanding on ideas of reflective practice and its application in relation to improvisation and experiences explored by John Dewey, Kurt Lewin, Jean Piaget and most notably, Donald Schön (1983),  French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu proposed and advocated for the application of epistemic reflexivity, as an acknowledgement of the impact that the social positioning of the researcher has in knowledge-making practices and  the multiplicity of its effects onto the relationship to the research object. (Bourdieu 1993). Within the constructivist paradigm, it is the recognition that the object construction is inseparable from the instruments of the very construction, as well as their very critique (Wacquaint, 1992). Incidentally, the main approaches to reflexivity are, following feminist social scientist Andrea Doucet (2018) ‘informed by representational ways of knowing’ which oversee the way that values entangled in the scientific praxis shape “spectator epistemologies’ (Code, 2006, p. 41)  which “define, approach and negotiate the making of evidence, data, and narratives). (Doucet, 2018).

Feminist scholars, including Donna Haraway have criticized an over-reliance on optical metaphors. (Jenkins et al, 2020)

Reflexivity is recommended as critical practice, but my suspicion is that reflexivity, like reflection, only displaces the same elsewhere, setting up worries about copy and original and the search for authentic and really real. (Haraway, 1991, p. 16)

Haraway later (1997) asserted that while metaphors of reflection have been effective in (re)contextualizing knowledge production processes, they also risk establishing ‘geometries of sameness.’ 

The relational ontologies set out different strata for knowledge-making. In contrast to reflection, Haraway (1997) proposes diffraction as an alternative optical metaphor. Diffraction in physics is the phenomenon of the disturbance of wave-based systems as they approach obstacles, which results in an observable pattern of interference. Haraway sees this disruptive element as fundamental to the use of diffraction as a methodological metaphor in critical study.

[D]iffraction can be a metaphor for another kind of critical consciousness . . . one committed to making a difference and not to repeating the Sacred Image of the Same . . . diffraction is a narrative, graphic, psychological, spiritual, and political technology for making consequential meanings. (Haraway, 1997, p. 16)

Within diffractive methods, the definition of objects, narratives and knowledge making depends on their sociocultural and relational connections and their continuous ‘unfolding within specific, temporal, performative and nonrepresentational knowledge making practices’ (Doucet 2018). Shedding light on the ontological multiplicity of data and research objects, diffractive methods suggest “politics of possibilities” (Barad, 2007, p. 46). Such approach suggests a shift from data or evidence collection and representation to “intervention” (Hacking, 2002) and, following particle physicist and new materialist philosopher Karen Barad, an “intra-action,” an “ethic-onto-epistemological” (Barad, 2007, p. 381)  relation with data, research subjects and their world(s). 

Diffraction, according to classical physics, is a physical phenomenon that occurs when a large number of waves collide with an obstacle on their path and/or when these waves overlap.

Waves often overlap and merge, but when taken to their logical conclusion, “we may understand diffraction patterns – as patterns of variation that make a difference – to be the fundamental constituents that make up the world.” (Barad, 2007, p.72).

When viewed through the prism of quantum mechanics, however, we are invited to consider the inherent diffractivity of sets of waves, single waves, and single particles under the right (experimental) conditions. Diffraction is often used figuratively in contemporary feminist philosophy to denote a more objective and difference-aware mode of consciousness and thinking. Following Geerts and van der Tuin (2016) in terms of genealogy, figurative conceptualization, and „matter coming to matter,“ the new materialist tradition views difference as making a difference. (Butler, 1993; Barad, 2007, Geerts & van der Tuin, 2016).

Haraway discusses how subjects are in a “deconstructive relationality, in a diffracting rather than reflecting (ratio)nality” (Haraway, 2004, p. 69) For Haraway, diffraction is a “more subtle vision” than conventional reflective scientific optics and cognition since it highlights “where the effects of difference appear.“ Thinking diffractively descends from the phallogocentric, reflective logics of generating the Same all over by recognizing the discrepancies that persist while also referring to the troublesome reductions and assimilations of difference that have occurred. (Geerts & van der Tuin, 2016)

Haraway extends this interpretation of optics and way of thinking in Modest_witness@second_millenium. Femaleman©_meets_OncomouseTM: Feminism and technoscience (1997) by using diffraction as “an optical metaphor:” Diffraction is more akin to “critical consciousness” than reflexivity because it allows one to become more attuned to how differences are produced in the world and what specific effects they have on subjects and their bodies. (Ibid, p. 273) As a result, seeing and thinking differently implies a self-accountable, vital, and responsible relationship with the environment. Barad develops this perspective further, establishing how reading (and theorizing) communicates in different ways a self-accountable feminist type of critical criticism and textual interaction. Rather than using a hierarchical approach that negatively positions various texts, philosophies, and strands of thinking against one another, diffractive communication with texts and philosophical practices means that they are read dialogically “through one another” to produce imaginative and unpredictable results. (Ibid, p. 30) This also means understanding and respecting the contextual and theoretical gaps between the readings under consideration. This approach thus adheres to Haraway’s concept of diffraction: rather than dismissing previous theories outright, the old roots are re-used to think anew. Reading diffractively not only tends to exceed the degree of criticism, essentially rooted in a Self/Other identity politics, but it can also be viewed as a boundary-crossing, trans/disciplinary approach, as it results in “respectful engagements with various disciplinary practices,” according to Barad (Barad 2007, p. 93). This approach explores how and why distinctions between disciplines and strands of thinking have been created and how they can be (re)made to matter more for inclusion than elimination by blurring the boundaries between various disciplines and theories.


Rosi Braidotti has emphasised the opportunity in today’s fatigue in theory. By thinking of ourselves as “in this together” we can truly engage in practices not harmful to, but in line with the very figurations we live with and work on reciprocal understanding. Karen Barad also includes molecules and nanoparticles into her account, when she explains that matter and meaning cannot be dissociated (Barad, 2007). From an “entangled state of agencies” (Barad 2007,  p.23) we seek to understand how our own situatedness comes to matter. Bennett’s notions of vital materialism, Braidotti’s views on feminist new materiality, and Barad’s diffractive approach all frame differences as crucial, rich in conclusions asking to be drawn and always changing, lacking an essence and lacking a final stage. Differences are like waves diffracting with other waves, sometimes cancelling each other out, but in a different phase exponentially emphasising each other’s amplitude. Conflicting tendencies, interests and growth therefore are equally never graspable, never easy to be judged,  yet we can swing with their ever entangled and communicating iterations, like troubling rhythms. Haraway reminds us one more time that staying with this trouble, is the method to get the closest empirical gaze on what is real. Similarly, hacker practices from Ghana, Mexico and Indonesia resonate with hacker practices from Germany, Greece, Canada and other regions of the world. Growing along the lines of power among nation-states, like mould, follows existing traces of food and sugar. For feminist hacking this entails being/staying on the move, not giving into fast solutions, but instead  iteratively performing vitalist connectivity. 


„Ways of studying and representing can have world-making effects.“ 

(Puig de la Bellacasa 2011, p. 86) 

Josh Lepawsky (2018) uses the term “worlding” in reference to two aspects. Firstly its practices, including different instances of being „human“ – citizens, consumers, corporations. Secondly, it’s materials such as plastic, metals and glass; energy and information, sites and situations interconnected through the use and disposal of digital technologies – as if they cohered to form a common world and at the same time the research practices that seek to map out and follow the action of those doing the worlding. Such practices are not innocent reflections of an „extant world out there. „They too are part of the work of composing common worlds.“ (Lepawsky, 2018, p. 6)

What common worlds does this task of composing refer to? The worlds of humans and non-humans alike – the  inhumans and the more-than-humans? Who is (in/more-than) human and who is matter / who matters in this dispositif  (Foucault, 1980 ) of production, consumption and decomposition of techno-ecologies? 

Technologies have since their inception been inextricably connected to geology and extractivist practices based on the exploitation of (other) humans as units of corporeal energy and labor. (Yusoff, 2018) This has often been grounded in the humanist ethics and justifications of moral and evolutionary superiority, legitimizing the de/in/humanization and exploitation of the environment, its non-human matter and living organisms. 

Phallogocentrism has colonized the definition of “human,” Braidotti states (Braidotti, 2002). It has come to be associated with the male, white, heterosexual, Christian, property-owning, standard-language-speaking citizens. The non-human, especially after Darwin and evolutionary theory, has grown to include vast and central areas. Contemporary science stages confrontations of connecting inhumanity to the human within the immanence of its bodily materialism. The profound resilience of the embodied self has resurfaced from beneath the crust of the old philosophical vision of the subject. A dissolution of the qualitative distinction between the human and His others, a meta-morphosis – not a metaphor, but a metabolic mutation. (Ibid)

The metaphysical-empirical concept of human, according to Kathryn Yusoff (2021), is constituted through the scientific racism of the 17th-18th century paleontology and the geographies of colonialism that shaped its praxis – one that diverged the human into the subcategories of human, subhuman and inhuman – designed to extract and control the sur-face and the sub-surface of the earth. (Yusoff, 2021) 

For Braidotti,

Life is  experienced as  in­human, but only because it is all too human; obscene, because it lives mind­lessly on off-limits. This scandal, this wonder, this zoe. that is to say an idea of Life that is more than bios and supremely indifferent to logos, this piece of flesh called my “body,” this aching meat called my “self’ expresses the abject/ divine potency of a Life which consciousness lives in fear of. Nomadic subjec­tivity is, by contrast, in love with Zoe. It’s about the post-human as becoming animal/becoming other/becoming insect/becoming imperceptible –  trespass­ing all metaphysically-grounded boundaries. Ultimately, becoming-impercep­tible and fading, death being just another time sequence.

(Braidotti, 2002, p. 14)

The „inhumanity of the colonial subject“ can up till now be traced and outlined in the “political geologies of climate change vulnerabilities, the wasting effects of racial capitalism, and the neo-extractivist economies.” (Gilmore 2002; Pulido, 2016; Verges 2017, 2019; Sealey-Huggins 2018; Yusoff, 2021). 

Amplifying Yusoff, (2018) „what modes of geologic life (material and psychic) are already imbricated in geologic practices, often in violent ways? 

For Deleuze, a life is  desubjectified – it is not opposed to matter and objects. (Deleuze, 1997) 

Yusoff contends it is „a material embodiment and a systematic framing of materiality that has geopolitical and biopolitical consequences for the possibilities of being and nonbeing (Yusoff, 2013; 2015a; 2018b) It is also the „radical ambivalence“ of the afterlives of geology“ – of indigenous dispossession of land and sovereignty… to the ongoing petropolitics of settler colonialism; of slavery… to the current incarnations of anti blackness in mining black gold; and of the racialized impact of climate change.  (Ibid)

In following Saidiya Hartman, Yusoff scrutinizes the “cultivated silence” about the normalcy of “deracialized” extractive modes. To overcome this silence, geology is suggested to be understood as a regime for creating both subjects and material realms, with race defined as a power effect within the language of geology’s artifacts. Race is operationalised by the division of materiality (and its subjects) as inhuman and human, and therefore as inert or agent matter. 

White Geology makes legible a set of extractions, from particular subject positions, from black and brown bodies, and from the ecologies of place.The collective functioning of geologic languages coded – inhuman, property, value, possession – as categories moves across territory, relation and flesh. It is not just that geology is a signifier for extraction but that a transmutation of matter occurs within that signification that renders matter as property, that makes delineation between agency and inertness, which stabilizes the cut of property and enacts the removal of matter from its constitutive relations as both subject and mineral embedded in sociological and ecological fields. 

(Yusoff, 2018, p. 4)

Yusoff furter contends, that

“the semiotics of White Geology creates atemporal materiality dislocated from place and time – a mythology of disassociation in the formation of matter independent of its languages of description and the historical constitution of its social relations.”  (ibid) 

This making of nonbeing in colonial extractive activities by the classification of inhuman or geologic life, its trade and distribution exemplifies  the “monstrous intimacy” (Sharp, 2009)  of geological subjective forces, through which gold appears as bodies and bodies are the surpluses of mineralogical extraction, and total submission to its principle of extraction, which in turn was exacted through inhuman differentiation—“transformed from the human subject of his own culture into the inhuman object of the European culture” (Wynter as quoted in Yusoff, 2018)


Our task of hacking hardware diffractively implies a careful consideration and critical embedding of these colonial extractive activities sourcing/provenance of hardware materials, critically examining the conditions of (in)human labor, logistics and marketing that cater for the consumers’ use and that deliver us from their decomposition. To describe the process, we aim to re-orient (Ahmed, 2006) ourselves in the “worldings” (Lepawsky, 2018) of geologic mattering and extractivism and the workings of ICT supply chains through material-discursive and speculative fiction; rethinking minerals and electronics; mining conditions; design, production, distribution, consumption, breakdown and (toxic) afterlife – from Global South to the North and back  – for a more livable future for all. 

Our experiment is not a mere statement of obvious weltschmerz, or a performance of requiem for technoscientific progress. As artists, we strive to keep the avantgarde dream alive, speculating and proposing a model for the society, a prototype of future (less extractivist, colonial and exploitative) thinking and doing technologies with minerals and metals, embedding  critical creativity in handling matter and its life cycle within technoecofeminist art practice.

For this purpose, we aim to produce prototypes of DIY technoeco-trans-feminist PCBs ready for artistic use. We look at the different stages of electronic production from the perspective of two materials – fair mined gold from Austria and fair mined kaolin from Portugal – their mining, sourcing, transportation, sales, design, production, consumption, breakdown, reuse, repurpose, repair and disposal. 


A commodity chain is the total set of activities involved in the design, manufacturing, and marketing of a product. (Gereffi & Korzeniewicz, 1994; Gereffi, 1999)

In the past couple decades, commodity chain analysis has evolved in three distinct analytical directions: the radical world-systems approach, Gereffi and his affiliates’ conventional global commodity chains, and industry-centric global value chains. (Dunaway, 2014)

Following Gereffi’s direction, (Gereffi & Korzeniewicz, 1994; Gereffi, 1999) international economic networks can be distinguished in two types – “producer-driven” and „buyer-driven” global commodity chains. 

Producer-driven commodity chains are those in which massive, often multinational, manufacturers play central roles in organizing production networks. Cars, ships, computers, semiconductors, and heavy machinery are examples of capital- and technology-intensive industries. Buyer-driven commodity chains are industries in which large retailers, distributors, and branded manufacturers play pivotal roles in establishing decentralized manufacturing networks in a number of exporting countries, most of which are located in the Global South. This trade-led industrialization trend has become popular in labor-intensive consumer goods industries such as clothing, footwear, toys, houseware, consumer electronics, and a range of handicrafts. Production is usually carried out by tiers of third-world contractors who produce finished products for international buyers. The requirements are provided by the large retailers or advertisers who place the order. (Gereffi & Korzeniewicz, 1994; Gereffi, 1999) These “manufacturers without factories“ (Gereffi, 1999) separate the actual processing of products from the design and marketing stages of the manufacturing process. Profits in buyer-driven chains are derived not from scale, volume, and technological advances as in producer-driven chains, but from unique combinations of high-value research, design, sales, marketing, and financial services that enable retailers, designers, and marketers to act as strategic brokers in connecting overseas factories and traders with evolving product niches in their main consumer markets. (Ibid)

Manufacturers of advanced goods such as aircraft, cars, and computers are the main economic agents in producer-driven chains, not just in terms of their profits, but also in their ability to assert leverage over backward linkages with raw material and component suppliers, as well as forward linkages through distribution and retailing. The leading firms in producer-driven chains are typically multinational oligopolies. Buyer-driven commodity chains, on the other hand, are distinguished by highly competitive and internationally distributed factory networks. Companies that produce and distribute brand-named goods have significant sway over how, when, and where production occurs, as well as how much profit accrues at each point of the chain. Thus, while large producers regulate commodity chains at the point of production in producer-driven industries, retailers and marketers control the distribution and retail end of the chain in buyer-driven industries.

Producer-driven and buyer-driven chains are rooted in various manufacturing industries, are led by different forms of transnational capital (industrial and commercial, respectively), and differ in terms of core competencies (at the company level) and entry barriers (at the sectoral level). In producer-driven chains, finished goods are typically supplied by core country transnationals, while goods in buyer-driven chains are typically manufactured by locally owned firms in developed countries. Whereas multinational corporations build investment-based vertical networks, manufacturers, designers, and trading firms in buyer-driven chains build and organize trade-based horizontal networks. (Gereffi & Korzeniewicz, 1994; Gereffi, 1999)

In their seminal analysis of global commodity chains, following the precedent of gender-blind economic scholarship, Gereffi & Korzeniewicz (1994) dismiss the factors of gendered labor strategies, gender inequality, and worker households. (Bair, 2005). They fall short of considering the household as a site of production within commodity chains or analyse its relationship to the commodity chain transformation. (Yeates, 2004; Dunaway, 2014) 

The global “officially counted” female labor-force participation, with a few exceptions, has been gradually increasing since the 1970s. In the twenty-first century, females account as the main income earners in the informal sectors of the majority of Global South countries. They currently make up one-third of the manufacturing labor force in developing countries, and Asian women hold more than half of all industrial workers.  (Barrientos et al, 2004; Dunaway, 2014) Women  produce a large proportion of global commodities by subcontracted work completed in their households, and provide the majority of unpaid family labor required to sustain male-dominated household-based farms and enterprises. (Barrientos et al, 2004; Dunaway, 2014) 

Females are more heavily concentrated than men in service jobs that supply global manufacturing supply chains. They are less likely to leave the workforce during their childbearing years because there are less prospects for men, and they are economically involved in the informal sector and unpaid contributions. (Ibid) 

At the same time, Hopkins & Wallterstein had two decades earlier conceived of commodity chains in terms of  „multiple levels of surplus extraction from worker households at every spatial node of its lengthy network“ (Hopkins & Wallerstein, 1977).

Commodity chain analysis is hence to be more adequately understood in terms of surpluses that capitalism obtains from two hidden inputs provided by worker households: (1) the reproduction of labor powers and (2) the provisioning of low-paid waged jobs (Dunaway, 2014; Hopkins & Wallerstein, 1977).  

Following Bair, the feminist approach embeds an analysis of the gendered nature of globalized production as „a set of context- specific meanings and practices which intersect the structure of global capitalism and its systemic logic of value extraction and capital accumulation.“ (Bair, 2005; Dunaway, 2014). Bringing the reproductive activities forth and aligning them with the productive sphere of the global commodified labor and market exchanges, the feminists seek to spotlight the mechanisms by which capitalism benefits greatly from externalization of the costs of reproduction and maintenance of the labor force to households and communities (Bettio & Verashchagina 2008; Dunaway, 2014; Wallerstein, 1995). 

In fact, the production systems cannot operate in the absence of its “intimate Others” – the reproductive mechanisms. (Truong, 1996; Dunaway, 2014)

The meaning of  the term “reproductive” here stretches beyond the limits of biological reproduction, and encompasses the maintenance of human laborers and the community,  since the infrastructure and the processes of capitalist system also are in need of reproduction (Marx, 1976, vol. 1; Dunaway, 2014)

According to the Local Governments for Sustainability, European Secretariat (ICLEI) and the Electronics Watch (2020), an independent monitoring organization committed to the defense of the rights of electronics workers,  every day, human and environmental rights are violated in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) supply chain. Long working hours, low renumeration, suicides, poisonings, child labor, armed conflicts, water depletion, and environmental disasters are only a few of the labor and human rights abuses recorded in the electronics sector, which ranges from mining to manufacturing. (ICLEI & Electronics Watch, 2020). 

They distinguish the following social impact categories of the ICT supply chain; a) occupational health and safety violations directly impacting worker’s lives, b) employment conditions including long hours, low wages and temporary contracts, and c) forced labour in factories, smelting facilities and mines. 

They recommend looking at the following criteria when making procurement solutions;  a) supplier code of conduct policy, including the mining stage of the supply chain, capacity building of the target workers in the supply chain, reports on action taken to address labour and human rights impacts in the extraction phase of production, b) supplier code of conduct that ensures contracts for both short-term and long-term employees, living wages and benefits, e.g. overtime compensation, local labour law compliance with work hours, public holidays and annual leave entitlement, and whether the c) Contractor executes due diligence by detecting and minimizing possible breaches, as well as background checks ensuring that the supplier has no prior convictions or prosecutions regarding modern slavery, child labour, or human trafficking, or that the supplier has remedied on previous grievances.


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