︎︎︎ Dissertation (2014) PDF

by Stefanie Wuschitz MFA, MPS

This dissertation deals with the connection between gender performance and open source culture, in particular in relation to space collectives called hackerspaces. Here, culturally male-connoted disciplines such as mechatronics, physical computing and programming are developed in an unorthodox and non-profit-oriented way and used collectively. However, members of hackerspaces primarily produce gender identity through coded behavior, according to my thesis. Technological practice is cultivated as a form of testing and celebrating masculinity and thereby constructing masculine identity. Such production of gender identity within a hackerspace is strongly influenced by group processes and their structures of recognition. In the hackerspace, actors remain in a solid, internally revaluing group among themselves. A unity that allows innovation and openness to technological experimentation.

My research question now relates to people who are considered female and what possibilities they see, despite the strategic closure of the hackerspaces, to use them as spaces for technological experiments and border crossings. If actors in the hackerspace construct masculine identities by dealing with technology, which identities do female actors construct with equally high skills in dealing with technology? If, for example, an actor solders excellently, this performance is marked as a performance of masculinity, which causes strong irritations of technical performance-based, male-centric hierarchies. Because of her abilities, she is considered masculine here - for many actors neither a distinction nor a reason to be happy.

Using several examples, I have shown in this dissertation how the absence of a female perspective can be turned into the opposite. On the one hand through strategies of playful, ironic, artistic appropriation in the form of a demonstrative feminization of hardware, on the other hand through a separatism that ties in with the tactics of second wave feminism. Also interventions of conscious breaking open or hackingthe culturally continuously produced linking of masculine identity with technological practices and the associated deconstruction of gender norms were described. Those feminist hackerspaces that are now striving to produce shifting identities lack technological innovation, as continuity now requires technological practices to be stable in the face of shifting identities. The question inevitably arises as to whether the stability of a group in a collectively used space could be guaranteed by a third parameter. The structure I propose, which can do justice to this requirement (a stabilization neither through a standardization of identity nor a standardization of practices), is the model ofSpace Based Community . The third stabilizing factor is the space used collectively by actors. About Lefebvre's space triad, a three-dimensional perspective on space as representation of space , spaces of representation and spatial practices I explain how the actors can be legitimized, identified and recognized through the collective use of a space, making rigid standardization of identities or practices superfluous. Actors participate in decentralized, space-based communities because of their presence in the space. This opens up democratized access to the technologies available in the area. Organizing hackerspaces as space-based communities also aims to decentralize institutions that currently have the power to interpret the term technology.

My research has drawn heavily on the theories of Judith Butler, her view of gender as a constantly changing (through a mirroring in the insistently questioning you ) produced performance. Of course, Spivak’s theories, which early unmasked the concept of inclusion as a form of hegemonic thinking, and Bruno Latour’s Act Edge Network Theory, with the associated view of scope for action beyond dichotomies such as technology/society, culture/nature, were also important to me. Methodologically, this dissertation is based on Action Research and Paulo Freire's concept of conscientisation,which enabled investigations to answer my research question to be carried out in interviews, international workshops and active networking with various spatial collectives.

Jun 15, 2014


Stefanie  Wuschitz