“We Are All Matter, and We All Matter”

In class last week, Melody pointed out her love of a sentence on the final page of the paper.

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By Alex Hanson

This semester I have been granted the absolute highest honor of taking a class with my friend and HERpothesis collaborator Melody Xu. Our class focuses on feminist science studies,  science and technology studies, and tinkering in technoscience. Last week, we read a paper called “Animal Performances: An Exploration of Intersections between Feminist Science Studies and Studies of Human/Animal Relationships,” by Lynda BirkeMette Bryld, and Nina Lykke. The title is a bit intimidating, and the text offers theoretical concepts that required me to reread several paragraphs, but it is overall a really interesting look at the way feminist science studies can apply to human’s relationship and perception of animals. (If you’re interested, you can find the paper here!)

In class last week, Melody pointed out her love of a sentence on the final page of the paper: “We are all matter, and we all matter.” In the context of the paper, it is addressing each individual’s ability to blur the separation between humans and animals. On it’s own, I think this quote is beautiful because it connects humans to the rest of the universe as “matter”— that inanimate “stuff” that makes up everything but also feels very separate from us as human individuals— and addresses the individual power we hold because we are made up of that matter. Since Melody brought it up in class, I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. I made this image of the quote in order to do its some justice with bright colors and a bold font.

Cyborgs and Technofeminism: The World of He, She, and It

This is far from just a simple cybernetic love story.

By Melody Xu

Collage by Alex Hanson, using the cover art from He, She, and It

The year is 2059. After the Two Week War of 2017 which nearly destroyed human civilization as we know it, the world is now run by twenty-seven enterprises — commonly referred to as the multis — which have formed their own social hierarchies and standards of living. However, most of the population lives in the barren and nearly destroyed world (the glop) that exists outside of the multis’ enclave, a place that is overrun by poverty and crime. Despite the huge gap between the rich and the poor, technology has never been more advanced. People in this new world communicate by plugging themselves into machines and projecting themselves into Cyberspace. This is the world of He, She, and It.

In this 1991 cyberpunk novel by Marge Piercy, the story starts with artificial intelligence expert Shira, who lives in one of these multis, Yakamura-Stichen (Y-S), losing custody of her son Ari to her ex-husband in an emotional custody battle. Afterwards, she decides to live the heavily controlled confines of Y-S in order to return to her hometown of Tikva (which means hope in Hebrew). Tikva is one of the few last “free towns” left in the world, remaining unallied with any of the twenty-seven corporations. However, in Piercy’s future world, where information is even more precious than gold, Tikva has been under the attack of “information pirates”, dangerous computer programmers set on unlocking the secrets of the town’s mainframe. The cyborg Yod was illegally created for the single reason of combating these attacks. However, before Yod can protect the city to his full capacity, the cyborg must be able to pass as a human and Shira is tasked to help it with its socialization. During their time together, they eventually fall into a romantic relationship and become allies in both fighting to protect Tikva and for custody of Avi again. Continue reading “Cyborgs and Technofeminism: The World of He, She, and It”

Spatial Sounds and Pikachus: An Augmented Reality Appreciation Post

“Even though the future seems far away, it is actually beginning right now.” – Poet Mattie Stepanek

By Melody Xu

Collage by Alex Hanson

The world has been taken by storm by Pokemon Go. If you don’t know what Pokemon Go is (you must be living under a rock), you’re missing out! Definitely go check out the App store and download it because your life will never be the same again. If you’re one of the millions of players already enjoying the game (please stop, you’re the reason the servers are crashing), good for you!

Regardless of whether or not you’ve already caught them all, Pokemon Go serves as a fantastic example of a game that implements augmented reality, or AR for short. By definition, any technology that inserts “digital interfaces into the real world” (according to the Salem Encyclopedia of Science) is an example of augmented reality.

People often group augmented reality together with virtual reality, but there is a stark difference between the two. While virtual reality attempts to create, in essence, a separate reality apart from real life, augmented reality aims to add (or augment, hence the name) the real world. While the fundamental concepts for augmented reality have been around since the early days, the actual term itself didn’t appear until the 1990s. Creators who utilize AR are unique in that they use the technology to enhance what users experience, rather than creating a whole new world for them. Continue reading “Spatial Sounds and Pikachus: An Augmented Reality Appreciation Post”

The Devil’s Violin

He would give up everything, destroy his own precious violin and forsake music forever, rather than have to give up the feelings and emotions that the Devil’s music had invoked in him.

By Melody Xu

Illustration by Alli Lorraine

There’s a story that my violin teacher used to tell me.

It’s about a composition officially known as the Violin Sonata in G minor by the talented Italian composer Giuseppe Tartini. A brilliant piece, split into four movements, it’s known for its complexity in sound and difficulty in playing, but it is not those qualities that made it stand out to me. Instead, it’s the story behind it. Apart from its official title, it’s also known amongst musicians as the Devil’s Trill.  

Allegedly, Tartini has made a deal with the Devil, his soul in exchange for servitude. One of those nights, he had commanded the Devil to play his violin and the sounds that had escaped from the musical instrument had left him enchanted, enthralled, enlightened. He was so captivated by the unworldly sonata that the Devil performed for him that Tartini immediately tried to capture what he had heard into a composition of his own. Although it ended up being his favorite and best sonata, Tartini later admitted that what he had composed paled in comparison to what he had listened to. He wrote that if he had been forced, he would give up everything, destroy his own precious violin and forsake music forever, rather than have to give up the feelings and emotions that the Devil’s music had invoked in him. Continue reading “The Devil’s Violin”

The HERpothesis Golden Record

Photos and songs for the alien civilization that finds this addendum to the Golden Record.

Featuring photos by Julia Arciga, Alice Liu, Alex Hanson, Megan Harger, Katie Smythe, Shelby Traynor, and Melody Xu

Playlists created by Savana Ogburn, Jo Guelas, Kylie Obermeier, and Megan Schaller of Sonic Blume Zine. Playlist graphics created by Savana Ogburn.

To The Alien Civilization That Finds This,

Greetings from Earth!

My name is Alex Hanson, and I’m the editor of HERpothesis, the website that created this Golden Record addendum: a collection of music and images to show you what life is like on Earth, our home planet (and currently the only one occupied by humans, although we have our sights set on Mars). HERpothesis is made by young women inspired by the intersections of STEM and art, and this Golden Record is our way of showing you how we see and interact with our planet today. Continue reading “The HERpothesis Golden Record”

Technoscience and Scallops: Actor-Network Theory (ANT)

As a framework and approach to social theory and research, A.N.T. is centered around science and technology, but is by no means limited to it.

By Melody Xu

Illustration by Charlotte Southall

The traditional view of science and technology holds that what the two different fields hope to achieve are in stark contrast: Galileo “discovered” the phases of Venus, but these phases existed prior to his “discovery.” Diesel “invented” the diesel engine, which did not exist before his invention. However, the foundation of actor-network theory (A.N.T.) stands on the claim of technoscience, which claims that science and technology share the same type of processes rather than having inherently different methods. In this sense, then, what would be perceived as a discovery (science) or an invention (technology) are constructed by the same type of processes. Both can be mapped out by actor-networks. As a framework and approach to social theory and research, A.N.T. is centered around science and technology, but is by no means limited to it. Continue reading “Technoscience and Scallops: Actor-Network Theory (ANT)”

Iron and Vibranium: Science of the Avengers

Melody and Alex hash out the science behind their favorite Avengers, Iron Man and Captain America, respectively.

The Marvel universe is heating up with Captain America: Civil War coming to screens on May 6. While it is undeniably going to be distressing to see my favorite band of superheroes become divided, I also can’t wait to see them battle it out while wearing 3D glasses and shoving popcorn in my face. In the spirit of true nerddom that accompanies all Marvel premeire weekends, Melody and I hashed out the science behind our favorite Avengers, Iron Man and Captain America, respectively. -Alex Continue reading “Iron and Vibranium: Science of the Avengers”