Arse Elektronika: sex and tech in San Francisco

Johannes from Monochrom writes, "Hard to believe, but Arse Elektronika is in its 7th year! The annual festival about sex and technology will start Thursday in San Francisco – with talks, machines, games, workshops and performances!"

Sex, technology, identity… big-ass sweeping themes!

Identity, but also identification. Technologies for the exploration of identities. Technologies for the articulation and performance of identities. Technologies for the enforcement of hegemonic identities. Technologies for the verification of identities. For example: What about the vast fencing-off of the old wild internet; the #nym-wars and the push for "real names"?

We typically assume there is 'something' that takes and/or performs an identity. What is this entity? Are awareness and consciousness strictly limited to and made sense of in human experience alone? How is identity understood and made sense of in terms of artificial intelligence? What might transhuman, android, or cyborg identities consist of? What does sexual desire mean to a dolphin?

We have technology-based identities. If we are to agree that agency is a key factor in identity AND position technology as extension/manipulation of agency, then is technology an identity in and of itself?

The Bay Area, famous as a place to "find yourself," also hosts vast projects to organize and catalog the world's identities, whether they want that or not. So, how does the Californian Ideology drive identity politics and techno-sexuality?

Will apps like Bang With Friends and gadgets like Google Glass provide us with the ultimate gonzo pornoverse? And why are services like LinkedIn explicitly banning escorts from using the site to get clients?

What have been the social ramifications of Web 2.0, ten years on? By what means have queer users of dating sites and social networks reframed or otherwise hacked the systems surrounding them? What is the design history of the drop-down gender menu- and its alternatives? How did Facebook's inclusion of "in an open relationship" as a standard option for one's relationship status affect youth mores? What has been the effect of location-based hookup apps on the architecture of cruising? What are the economics of niche dating sites, and how are they policed? What are the ethical obligations surrounding the ability to algorithmically identify those who are in the closet?

What technologies could ensure more flexible, fluid identities? What would TSA protocols look like if they were designed from a queer perspective? What does counter-surveillant fashion look like? How might we ensure the right not to be found? (Should we?) Are there technologies for anonymity that do not also afford stalking and harassment? Are there technologies for transparency that do not also afford stalking and harassment?

If an identity requires recognition (either by the self or through the Other), then is it ever possible to be "truly" or "identifiably" queer? Is 'queer identity' an oxymoron?

Former Tory chairman Lord Tebbit warns that legalizing gay marriage in the UK "opens up the possibility of a lesbian queen giving birth to a future monarch by artificial insemination." Interesting times for sex tech? Indeed!

What about a historic dimension? What were techno-sexual systems of identity like in the past? What were the technologies of masked rituals? What technologies drove the invention of privacy? How did the adoption of fingerprinting change the regulation of prostitution in the early 20th century? Besides hanky-flagging, what techniques/technologies were used to signal 'deviant' interests? How was handwriting judged in the evaluation of potential lovers? What is the techno-social history of the "secret admirer?"

How will technological progress change the way we see ourselves? What are we without our iPhone and our beloved designer vibrator? Is the Marxian commodity fetish actually entering the sphere of (what a wordplay!) customization fetishism?

If orgasm patterns are unique and impossible to duplicate, could one's sexual response be the ultimate biometric identifier? So, how worried should we be about the spectre of sphincter-printing?

What about Big Data in a sexual context? Does size matter?

What about a decent ontological debate with your buttplug's AI?

Well… dear entities out there, with your proud Egos, Super-Egos and Hyper-Egos! Never forget that there is an Id lurking round the corner! The real Voight-Kampff test is not minding that it hurts!

Arse Elektronika