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‘A sweaty-smelling, disheveled, anorectic-looking waif’ : alternative representations of women in cyberpunk fiction
Linköping University, The Tema Institute, The Department of Gender Studies. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Linköping University, The Tema Institute.
2009 (English)In: 7th European Feminist Research Conference, 2009Conference paper (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Popular representations of technoscience exist in constant dialogue with technoscience itself, and inevitably encompass ongoing negotiations between technology and gendered bodies. Fictional representations of technoscience, such as those offered by cyberpunk, reveal the anxieties and assumptions surrounding these negotiations, whilst simultaneously coining neologisms and concepts which shape understandings of gender and technoscience. However, cyberpunk has been heavily critiqued for reinforcing certain stereotyped notions of gender. This paper is concerned with a short story by Candas Jane Dorsey which has been explicitly billed as a parody of cyberpunk and which thus provides a valuable fictional complement to work done within feminist Science and Technology Studies on relationships between ‘technology’ and ‘gender’. In Dorsey’s short story, ‘(Learning About) Machine Sex’, the protagonist is a woman programmer called Angel who designs an Artificial Intelligence. Disillusioned when the small company for which she works is sold to a larger corporation by her boss and ex-lover, Angel enacts her own personal revenge by designing a program called ‘Machine Sex’, and a special piece of hardware on which to run it – the ‘MannBoard’. The hardware-software combination Angel creates results in a piece of equipment with touch pads through which the user is effectively ‘programmed’ to orgasm. This paper focuses on two particular actors - Angel herself and the MannBoard technology – in order to trace the relationships between bodies and machines, desire and emotion, technoscience and gendered embodiment in this text. In this distinctive text Dorsey adapts the technophilic rhetoric and motifs of cyberpunk fiction to produce a circular, repetitive text which challenges stereotypical representations of women in technology. This parody of cyberpunk thus reflects contemporary ideas about technology whilst maintaining a critical distance to the gender norms often reproduced in this genre

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
cyberpunk, feminist, body
National Category
Gender Studies
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-50505OAI: diva2:271421
Available from: 2009-10-12 Created: 2009-10-12 Last updated: 2011-01-13

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Harrison, Katherine
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The Department of Gender StudiesFaculty of Arts and SciencesThe Tema Institute
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