Session 4

Anna Nacher: Broism of (bro)ken media? Towards local genealogies of feminist digital media art

In this presentation, Nacher will  focus on one of the first Polish art games, Antykoncepcja (Contraception) built in 2003 by the collective of feminist artists. Through re-appropriation and parody of the popular genre of a shooter game, it meant to counter a dominant discourse shaping two fields at once: the politics of women’s reproductive rights in Poland and the aesthetics of video gaming. Interesting as such, Antykoncepcja will, however, serve as a vantage point to demonstrate much broader issue: the need for more nuanced local histories of digital media technology evolving around media experimentation, be it popular or artistic practices. Poland at the turn of 80. and 90., in the turbulent time of political, social and economic transformation, was a country of a thriving, rich and vibrant folk media culture. It was grounded both in the local history of political resistance with its network of illegal, samizdat press and in a whole plethora of popular practices aimed at re-appropriation and re-distribution of content unavailable on the market at the time. Recent accounts of oral histories have appeared, demonstrating the role of community networks illegally sharing all kinds of content, copied on various media popular at the time: VHS, audio tapes, print media (Garda, 2014; Gajewski, 2016; Sitarski, 2017). Early digital media – video gaming, personal computers and demoscene, the use of which was characterized by significant wave of experimentation, including various practices of “breaking” media – were also part of this culture. Yet, recent local histories of the phenomenon – as interesting and valuable as they are – clearly demonstrate a male dominance in the field (Marecki, Yerzmiey and Straka, 2019; Marecki, Yerzmyey, 2019) . Were indeed women absent from this culture? Is the fascinating history of popular broken media yet another instance of broism? Seeking answer to these questions, I would like to introduce the case of Antykoncepcja (Contraception) to retrospectively build more gender balanced early history of broken media experimentation in Poland.


Sarah Stanley: Can We Un-Break Our Media and Quell the “Incel Rebellion”?

During the last five to ten years, the internet has given rise to a disturbing new Manosphere offshoot—the “Incel.” An abbreviation of “involuntary celibate,” this self-ascription has helped increasing numbers of sexually-dissatisfied men, many of them in their teens and twenties, cohere their frustrations into a collective identity defined by a complex web of anger, misogyny, and apathetic resignation. The rhetoric surrounding “Chads,” “Stacys,” and “Beckys”—as well as themselves—continues evolving throughout Incel forums, showcasing a nihilistic worldview from which there appears no escape. In their own eyes, Incels are undatable because their wrists are too small and their foreheads are too big, making them irrevocably undesirable to women. This myth creates the double reassurance that it’s not their fault women won’t sleep with them, which itself is the source of their anger, as well as that there’s nothing they can do about it—absolving them from the injunction to change. If it’s all about wrist size, then hygiene and selfcare can’t be the problem, and neither can unemployment or a lack of motivation. Men who are successful with women—“Chads”—have the large wrists and properly-formed foreheads that ovaries apparently crave, and the wallets and sports cars for which alone, according to Incel logic, women put out. Incels envy what Chads possess, but it is gauche to envy the Chad himself, as Incels construct themselves as the contrasting “Nice Guys” inevitably overlooked by women. “Stacys” are the sexually-attractive women on the arm of every Chad, and Incels are as quick to project their promiscuity as they are to judge them for it. Unlike these “sluts,” “Beckys” are the “basic” girls who don’t care what they look like, going out in yoga pants and messy buns. Stacys try too hard, while these girls don’t try at all, and both are deemed undesirable. The hatred Incels feel for Chads is almost undone by their own self-loathing. Out of online gathering grounds, Incel culture continues to grow around a rhetoric of irreparable unhappiness. The absurdity of their propaganda has kept them from being taken seriously by average internet-goers, many of whom have made a sport of eviscerating Incels on forums. Unlike in the case of many other types of extremists, however, Incel identity is inherently self-destructive, rendering this spite paradoxically self-affirming. Male entitlement to women’s bodies has defined much of human history and continues to thematize driving narratives from the creation of Eve to the justification for the brutality of Frankenstein’s monster. In Shelley’s novel, the creature functions as a proto-Incel, revealing to Victor that he caused a woman to be killed because he realized that he would never have access to a woman’s “love.” Media continues to perpetuate rape culture and toxic masculinity, too. These are not new issues. What is new, however, is the internet’s role in radicalizing individuals, especially those who are young and male, inciting them to domestic terrorism in the name of the “Incel Rebellion.”


Jon Heggestad: Digitizing Desire; Simulating Dating

The paper focuses on the increasingly digital nature of dating in Western culture. While alarmist tones sound loudly on this subject through online articles written both for and by Millennials, scholars like Moira Weigel have instead considered how the rise of dating apps connects to a longer economic history of courtship. Following this trajectory, this paper will explore how dating simulation videogames mirror this history. As boundaries between popular dating apps and recent videogame dating simulators continue to blur, apps like Tinder, Bumble and Grindr are becoming increasingly gamified. At the same time, the narratives and avatars of dating simulations offer unique insights to understanding the connection between desire, precarity and “playbor.” Through the application of feminist and queer theories, this paper aims to shed light on the ways in which dating apps increasingly act as digital prostheses (cf. Sandy Stone, 1995). In connecting these facets of queered play—or queered “playbor”—that rely​ on the emotional investment of players, dating simulators (often referred to as virtual novels) remediate a longer history of novelistic productions characterized by similar economic concerns (cf. Catherine Gallagher, 2006). In the undergraduate classroom, this analysis provides students with a means of engaging relevant topics in exciting ways, allowing them to extend critical thinking skills while taking stock of their own digital identities.