Thick Webs & Continuous Relays: Feminist Epistemologies for the Digital Commons

Lecture by Isabel de Sena

11 October 2019 Berlin

This talk examines several feminist concepts that are relevant for envisioning the (digital) commons. What they share is an understanding of knowledge as that which occurs by sustaining relational webs and ongoing relays, rather than as the endpoint of linear progressions.

Isabel discusses firstly Ursula Le Guin’s The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction (1986), in which she urges that the first piece of technology was not a weapon but a bag for carrying seeds, asserting that the function of technology is not a resolution but a continuing process. Donna Haraway’s concept of “string figures” builds further on Le Guin by proposing how distributed forms of access to and dissemination of knowledge can give rise to collective agency, while Karen Barad’s diffractive methodology contributes to envisioning the commons as something that necessarily involves a constant transformation of knowledge – regarding both the objects of inquiry and the apparatus (resources, discourses) through which they are viewed. This is relevant for addressing how the commons can produce situated knowledges (Haraway) and understanding how its collective nature only seemingly suggests that it conflicts with the partial positionings of individuals within a collective.  

Isabel de Sena is a curator, author, and lecturer based in Berlin. She is working on the Philosophy and Aesthetics of Science and has published internationally. She has worked as a curator for institutions like Martin-Gropius Bau here in Berlin and others abroad. She is currently teaching at NODE Center for Curatorial Studies in Berlin and as a guest lecturer at CalArts in California.

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