Feminist Technoecologies

Xin Liu, Dagmar Lorenz-Meyer and Pat Treusch

How might bodily sensations such as a pain in the throat correspond with an Air Quality Index (AQI) score of 200? How might the question 'Can machines think?' cast the reason/affect binary and the exceptional status of the human condition in a new light? And how might the non/participation of a racialized community in a solar installation call into question the promise of energy commoning as well as an ethos of care? Set against the backdrop of current discussions about planetary catastrophes, digital technologization and attempts of ecological or technological remediation in late capitalism, feminist technoecologies is a theoretical and methodological tool for exploring the constitutive relationality between technology and ecology.

The concept draws on feminist and new materialist theorizations that challenge the denigrative production of otherness, such as nature, the nonhuman, and the body, conceived of as the inert, passive, and unintelligent ground upon and after which culture arrives. Moreover, feminist technoecologies is situated within, and in conversation with, the theoretical turn to a general ecology or the technoecological condition (Hörl, 2017). As media theorist Erich Hörl observes, the concept of ecology is no longer conceived of as the opposite to technics and mind but denotes "the collaboration of a multiplicity of human and nonhuman agents" (p. 3).

Importantly, central to the changing conception of ecology is the recognition of the radical interdependence of the human and more-than-human. And yet, as contributors to this new field point out, the developments in media technologies and the cybernetic paradigm that condition the general ecology, also enable increased regulation and control, or what Luiciana Parisi (2017) calls "technocapitalization". Technocapitalization refers to an affective and technological mode of governance that derives its pre-emptive power from the reduction of media to information systems consisting of "data, algorithms, and programs" (p. 76). In this light, the urgent task is to simultaneously attend to the dynamic systematicities and multispecies entanglements that unsettle the boundaries between self and other, organism and environment, within technocapitalized relations and attend to the specificities of boundary drawing practices that are always corporeal, political, and ethical.

In view of this, feminist technoecologies ask: How can we attend to the multiple and relational – now understood as ecological – without flattening out differences, that is, without eliding specific relations of power? While sharing a commitment to account for plural and dynamic relationalities of the technoecological condition, feminist technoecologies remains wary of reinstalling a transcendent and totalizing notion of indeterminacy which might sideline ethical and political concerns. It proceeds by rigorously historicizing and contextualizing technoecological phenomena: from border control regimes to art performances and intelligent machines (see the contributions to the special issue 'Feminist Technologies', 2018).

To illustrate this, a brief elaboration on examples of the air quality index, early artificial intelligence and a solar power initiative is instructive. The correlation between the AQI of 200 and coughing is telling of the relation between the body, technology, and ecology which is captured by what Chinese netizens have called an air monitoring machine made of flesh (Liu, 2018). Two important insights can be gleaned from this account. First, the body numbers. The corporeal measurement of AQI undoes the strict separation between subjective and objective knowledge. In this case, the technological calculation and measurement of the composition of air pollutants are integral to a general scene of ecology, whereby the environment co-emerges with the body that acquires its identity in learning to be at home with the changing environment. Second, the body is not simply a part of an ecological system whose sustainability is either preserved or destructed by technological intervention. Rather, in measuring and identifying itself and its relation with the environment, the body materializes ecology through technics of sensing. With an acute sensitivity to the emergent and immanent relationality between technology and ecology, technoecologies underscore the apparatus of bodily production (Haraway, 1988) that is central to feminist materialist theorizations of epistemology.

An examination of the programme ELIZA assists the theorization of machine intelligence (Treusch, 2018). Thinking through feminist technoecologies here entails first to situate emerging intelligent gadgets within the history of attempts to establish humanlike communication by means of human-machine interfaces. There is here a feminist interest in researching the material conditions and enactments of human-machine interactions (Suchman, 2007; 2011). Second, as a navigational tool, feminist technoecologies afford an embodied account of the relation between emotional and cognitive responsiveness between humans and machines. Central to this is the entangled nature of corporeal, emotional and cognitive engagements with machines (Wilson, 2010). In this way, the interplay of preconceptions, materialities, and activities at the human-machine interface — as entangled technoecologies — opens up possibilities for a feminist reconfiguration of the interfaces with intelligent gadgets yet to come.

Finally, the examination of a situated solar energy initiative as a technoecological phenomenon rethinks the potentiality of solar power's commoning diffractively from within its materializing effects (Lorenz-Meyer, 2018). Here feminist technoecology zooms in on the double processes of articulation and disarticulation – or technoecological dis/articulation – of photovoltaics with contractual agreements, labour, and (more-than-) human communities that constitute a heterogenous milieu and ethos. Viewed through technoecological dis/articulation, the non-participation of a minoritized community in the planning and construction of the solar installation does not signal the absence of its relation to solar power. Quite the opposite, the critical examination of forms of non/participation makes visible the marginalization and racialization of the community, thereby linking racism and energy alternatives, and prompts a reconsideration of the ethos of care that encompasses modalities of distance and indifference that the community co-constitutes with.

These are but some of the ways in which feminist technoecologies afford critical engagements with the dynamic relationality of the technicity of ecologies and the ecologies of technologies, as well as the indeterminate boundary drawing practices that produce differences that matter.

Keywords: technoecological condition, technocapitalization, dynamic relationalities, indeterminacies, corporeality
Genealogies : corporeal feminisms (Grosz, 1987); apparatus of bodily production (Haraway 1988); material-discursive becoming Barad (2007), originary humanicity (Kirby, 2011); subject objects (Suchman, 2011), somatechnics (Sullivan and Murray, 2009); multispecies ecologies (Kirksey, 2015); media ecologies (Fuller, 2005)
Synonyms : diffraction, dynamic relationality, indeterminacy, asymmetrical relations of power
Antonyms : technology and ecology, the technosphere (Haff, 2014)
Hypernyms : natureculture; general ecology
Hyponyms : somatechnics, multispecies ecologies; ecologies of sensation; ontological technicity (Hoel and van der Tuin, 2013)

Barad, Karen (2007). Meeting the Universe Halfway. Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham and London: Duke University Press.
'Feminist Technoecologies' (2018) Special Issue Australian Feminist Studies 32 (94), Lorenz-Meyer D., Treusch P., and Liu X., eds., with further contributions by Milla Tiainen, Josef Barla and Christoph Hubatschke, and Marietta Radomoska.
Fuller, Matthew (2005). Media Ecologies: Materialist Energies in Art and Technoculture. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Grosz, Elisabeth (1987). "Notes towards a Corporeal Feminism." Australian Feminist Studies 2(5), pp.1-16.
Haff, Robert (2014). "Humans and Technology in the Anthropocene: Six Rules." The Anthropocene Review 1(2), pp.1-11.
Haraway, Donna (1988). "Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective." Feminist Studies 14 (3),pp.575-599.
Hörl, Erich (2017). "Introduction to General Ecology: The Ecologization of Thinking", In: General Ecology: The New Ecological Paradigm, Nils F. Schott trans., Hörl E. and Burton J., eds, London: Bloomsbury, pp.1-73.
Hoel, Sissel A. and Iris van der Tuin (2013). "The Ontological Force of Technicity: Reading Cassirer and Simondon Diffractively." Philosophy & Technology 26(2), pp.187 – 203.
Kirby, Vicky (2011).Quantum Anthropologies: Life at Large. Durham: Duke University Press.
Kirksey, Eben (2015). Emergent Ecologies. Durham and London: Duke University Press.
Liu, Xin (2018). "Air Quality Index as the Stuff of the Political." Australian Feminist Studies 32(94),pp.445-460.
Lorenz-Meyer, Dagmar (2018). "Becoming responsible with solar energy? Extending feminist imaginings of community, participation and care." Australian Feminist Studies 32(94),pp.427-444.
Parisi, Luciana (2017). "Computational Logic and Ecological Rationality." In:General Ecology: The New Ecological Paradigm, Hörl E. and Burton J., eds, London: Bloomsbury, pp. 75-99.
Suchman, Lucy (2011). "Subject objects." Feminist Theory 12 (2),pp.119–145.
Sullivan, Nikki and Samantha Murray (2009). Somatechnics: Queering the Technologisation of Bodies. Farnham and Burlington: Ashgate.
Treusch, Pat (2018). "Re-reading ELIZA: Human-machine interaction as cognitive sense-ability, Australian Feminist Studies 32(94),pp.411-426.
Wilson, Elizabeth A. (2010). Affect and Artificial Intelligence. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

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