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Friday, June 9 • 1:50pm - 2:10pm
Disrupting the Logic of Technology: Decolonizing New Media Art

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The non-neutrality of technology has become more apparent since Langdon Winner wrote: “Do Artifacts have Politics” (1980). For instance, we cannot ignore the context in which these artifacts are situated, specifically as technology functions within technocapitalist and technocolonialist impulses as Nick Couldry and Ulises A. Mejias have written in their recent text, The Costs of Connection: How Data Is Colonizing Human Life and Appropriating it for Capitalism (2019). Not only is our data extracted for profit, but this is the continuation of colonialist structures of power underlying surveillance technologies like biometrics and artificial intelligent systems that disproportionally target BIPOC, the queer community, and women. What is further needed then are decolonial strategies that conceive of multiple technological imaginaries and that challenge the colonial and capitalist logic of technology.

Disrupting the Logic of Technology specifically analyzes the works by recent African-American new media artists like Rashaad Newsome, Mimi Onuoha, and LaJuné McMillian. They not only disrupt the logic of technology by orienting us to the specificity of African and diasporic cultures and traditions but in doing so transform technology and new media for different ends. While this paper is an art historical analysis it is also grounded in decolonial discourses in technologies and data (Ahmed Ansari, 2019), (Mohamed, Png, Isaac 2010), alternative philosophical imaginations of technology (Yuk Hui, 2020) (Ansari, 2018) (Cruz, 2021) and race and technology studies (Benjamin, 2019) (Browne, 2015) (Noble, 2018).

Disruption is an intentional act to overcome, challenge, and subvert systems, people, and things. This has been a common tactic throughout history in art and activist projects. From Dadaism, and détournement, to queer and feminist artworks of the late 20th century, these artists worked within the systems of oppression to resist the logic of art, media, and politics. In this paper, McMillian hacks VR technologies to question which bodies are represented using her Black Movement Library–an archive of Black bodily movement. Newsome creates queer and Black AI chatbots that recite the poetry and philosophy of African-American scholars and designs these chatbots to help the Black community with mental health concerns. Onuoha looks toward African cosmologies to imagine alternative uses of technologies. These artworks orient us to intersectional and decolonial strategies and a plurality of technologies away from their Western logic. Not only are their works disruptions, but they also become transformative actions to challenge our current socio-technological contexts.

At issue will be the role of disruption, resistance and transformation to create social change. Some questions I will interrogate are: How do we create and design decolonial technologies for social justice and change? Under what terms do we analyze change? How do we better support underrepresented artists and communities in redesigning technologies?

avatar for Constanza Salazar

Constanza Salazar

Ph.D. Candidate, Cornell University
Constanza Salazar, Ph.D. is a Canadian art historian and writer based in New York City. Her research focuses on how artists since the 1990s have responded with criticism to advanced technologies like biotechnology, the internet, surveillance, and more recently, artificial intelligence... Read More →

Friday June 9, 2023 1:50pm - 2:10pm EDT
Steuben 410 (Design Center)