Technologies always implicate their own failures, breakdowns, and glitches. The purpose of this article is to develop an understanding of gender in general – and femininity in particular – as something fundamentally technological, and, as such, broken. Drawing on the technological undercurrent in current posthumanist feminist theory, arguing for a re-introduction of technologies in the midst of feminist posthumanist critique, the author puts into play a vocabulary of malfunctioning, broken, vulnerable technologies of gender. In particular, the term “glitch” is put to use to account for machinic failures in gender within the digital domain. By using glitch as a way of theorizing gender, the article is a dual contribution to digital media studies and feminist theory in a technological vein. Glitch is the spinning wheel on the computer screen, the delay between a command given and its execution. Etymologically, glitch (possibly) derives from the Yiddish word glitsh, meaning a “slippery place” or “a slip.” Glitch signals the slipperiness of something or someone off balance and a loss of control. It usually refers to a sudden unexpected event, a surge of current or an illegitimate signal that breaks the flow of energy, information, and affect. Glitch is, fundamentally, a struggle with binary code. Gender is a similar struggle to cope with binaries, with a loss of binaries, and about what happens when the vulnerability of the system is revealed. On this side of glitch, the tendency is toward hesitation and anticipation, irritation and annoyance, as well as pain and anxiety in the face of technologies and bodies that skip, crash, or get stuck. The default mode of gender is technological failure, and cis-gender normativity – what the author calls gender “high fidelity” – an unobtainable ideal of impossible perfection. If to glitch is to slip, to stutter, to stumble, gender high fidelity is to slip by unnoticed. In contrast to the notion of cis-gender normativity as a desire to cover or remove “noise,” to clear the channel, glitch is that which infiltrate, make dirty, and ultimately put pressure on the norms and ideals that structure gender as pure, clear, cold, binary code. In this sense, glitch is also about a perceived beauty in crashing and skipping, holding an intriguing critical, aesthetic, activist potential. In the hands of glitch artists, circuit breakers, and gamers, but also queers, and trans-performers, glitch becomes a celebration of the beauty of malfunction and gender-technological fragility.
2016. no 1-2, 23-45 p.
brokenness, digital media technologies, femininity, gender, glitch, posthumanist feminist theory, somatechnics