A peek into a feminist hackerspace with Stefanie Wuschitz
Stefanie Wuschitz works in the intersection of research, art and technology with a special focus on critical media practices including feminist hacking, open source technology, and peer production. She lives and works in Vienna, Austria, and has trained and works internationally. In 2006, she received her MFA in Transmedia Arts, after which she moved to New York City and completed her master’s degree at the acclaimed TISCH School of the Arts at New York University. She later moved back to her hometown, Vienna, and in 2009 founded the feminist hackerspace and art collective Mz * Baltazar’s lab.
She has since supplemented her art and technology practice with a PhD dissertation entitled “Feminist Hackerspaces” at Vienna’s Technical University. She has held research and post-doc positions in recent years at the University of Applied Arts Vienna, Vienna University of Technology, Michigan University, Universität der Künste Berlin and is currently project manager for a research project titled “Feminist Hacking. Building Circuits as an Artistic Practice ”at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. At the same time, she works on other artistic research projects, e.g. about digitization and feminism in Indonesia as well as exhibiting their own artworks around the world.
7 Questions with Stefanie Wuschitz
- What do you find exciting about technology right now?
Right now I am working on three projects which really occupy my time. The first is called “Tale of Delusion”, where we use artificial intelligence in new, ethical ways. Artificial intelligence reflects our society, so it is important to develop artificial intelligence with strong ethical values.
The second project is called “Feed the troll”. We have built a bot that is trained to recognize discriminatory behaviour on Twitter, ie. that the robot responds to comments that are insulting. The project is in developed cooperation with Klara Rabl.
The last project that I am focusing on right now is “Feminist Hacking”. Together with artist Patricia Reis (PhD), I received a research scholarship from the Austrian Science Foundation, so over the next three years we will work on feminist hacking and feminist hardware as a medium to create space for more artistic expression for female artists. The goal is to establish feminist hacking as a strategy and method of emancipation in the arts, science and technology. The project will hopefully answer the question “What is feminist hardware?”
2. Why or how did you choose this path?
It came out of the feeling of being in a marginalized position as a woman. Art and technology were in every sense, the way out of that position.
3. What has been your biggest mistake this past year and what did you learn from it?
My challenge is to articulate personal challenges in projects. Over the years I have learned that I need to be quicker to articulate the problems I am experiencing. I’ve had more courage to talk to the people I work with and not be afraid of conflict.
4. What is your biggest daily technology challenge?
Expensive components! Hardware components are often expensive and very fragile. I experiment a lot with hardware and something can easily happen to what you work with. A wrong line code can corrupt the hardware. It happens especially if I’m nervous before a performance and just need to make a single change, it’s really fragile.
5. What do you imagine will happen in technology over the next five years and the next decade?
I grew up with the idea of the free internet! This is the place where women are discriminated against more than anywhere else. There is a need for the internet to be regulated, so the rules that exist in the surrounding community also apply online. I hope that happens in the coming time.
6. What has been your favourite project so far and why?
I helped found Mz Baltazar’s lab in Vienna, Austria, and that’s probably where I’ve been able to realize many of my visions — along with the others. Mz Baltazar’s Lab aims at generating a culture of fearless making! An environment that fosters creativity, activism and provocative thinking! We try to build an accessible, inclusive, open, safer and radical space, from which to evolve as people and as community. Open Source Technology is at the root of our philosophy, it enables us to share and collaborate without restrictions. We need this space to experiment with things as gender, hardware or our selves.
Mz. Baltazar’s Lab has just launched a Patreon account and you can join and support them here: https://www.patreon.com/mzbaltazarslaboratory
7. What should we keep an eye on in the future?
Democracy is even more fragile than hardware. So what we need to be most aware of in the future is that we must take care of our democracy. Everyone should have equal access to health and technology.
Follow Stefanie’s work here:
Stefanie’s website: http://grenzartikel.com/projects/
Mz. Baltazars Laboratory: https://www.mzbaltazarslaboratory.org/
Patreon — Support Mz. Baltazars Laboratory: https://www.patreon.com/mzbaltazarslaboratory
Greater Spaces is written by Majken Overgaard and Vanessa Julia Carpenter where we work to expand the narrative of what technology is and who creates it. We speak with Danish and international female role models within technology and between these interviews we share what is most interesting to us, with a focus on diversity.