Bitch Planet: Every Woman Has an “Ideal Self”

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Debbie says:

In December, I had the good fortune to attend an event where Kelly Sue DeConnick was a keynote speaker. I’d heard great things about her work, and especially about Bitch Planet, but I hadn’t checked it out. After hearing DeConnick speak, and seeing the visuals, I immediately bought Extraordinary Machine, the first collected volume , and now I am an evangelist:

For those of you who haven’t been lucky enough to encounter Bitch Planet yet, most of the story takes place in an outer-space women’s prison, where incorrigibles are kept away from mainstream society. The number of ways in which DeConnick (and her artist collaborator Valentine De Landro) challenge social narratives, include marginalized voices, and make bitter fun of cultural expectations is awesome, and deserves much more attention than one blog post. Fortunately, if you look around, you’ll find that attention to the series is easy to find.

Unsurprisingly, however, this multi-decade fat activist was especially struck by Penny Rolle, pictured above. Penny is a mountain of a woman (“I don’t run”), with a complex history and a strong ethical sense. She’s one of the best “morbidly obese” characters I’ve run across in fiction, and the best Black one I can think of offhand.

Penny’s crowning moment, so far, is when the prison “scientists” hook her up to a mess of electrodes, on the theory that they can see how she imagines her ideal self, which will help them mold her away from her grotesque reality to something more palatable.

What do they find?

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

“I ain’t broke.

“… and you bastards ain’t never gonna break me.”

Best. Result. Ever.

DeConnick and De Landro are serious about their body image activism, along with all their other prongs of activism. The ads in the back of each issue would demonstrate that even if Penny wasn’t in the story:

If ANY PART OF YOU has ever been jealous of anorexics or considered extra-medical hormone injections or parasites, or use body hate to bond with girlfriends, you have bought in. It’s near impossible not to, but maybe today TRY not to believe that your VALUE is inextricably linked to some asshat’s assessment of your desirability. Fuck that dude. Fuck that CULTURE.

Read Bitch Planet. The rest is every bit that good, just about different at-least-equally-important social and political issues. Oh, and it’s also entertaining, well-paced, and very well-drawn.

Artist Uses Clothing Design to Fight Face Recognition

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Debbie says:

Welcome to 2017, and may you and yours, and the people who need it the most, all have good years.

The design above may not look like faces to you, but it was designed to make a computer see lots of faces … and get confused.

Alex Hern’s article in The Guardian showcases Adam Harvey, an artist and tech-manipulator based in Berlin, and his innovative plan to fight the growing reach of face recognition.  As Hern points out, facial recognition techniques are getting more refined, and facial recognition technology is being used in more places. Facebook scans photographs and suggests identifications based on facial recognition matches (!). In all probability, they will provide these suggestions to the FBI or other government agencies on request … and their software is different from the government software, so it provides otherwise unavailable confirmation.

Harvey has also worked on “Islamic-inspired thermal-signature reduction garments for subverting thermal vision surveillance from military drones.” He aims to foil both thermal vision software and facial recognition software as a mechanism for social change:

“overloading an algorithm with what it wants, oversaturating an area with faces to divert the gaze of the computer vision algorithm.”

The resultant patterns, which Harvey created in conjunction with international interaction studio Hyphen-Labs, can be worn or used to blanket an area. “It can be used to modify the environment around you, whether it’s someone next to you, whether you’re wearing it, maybe around your head or in a new way.”

We aren’t going to be able to counteract the relentless invasion of our privacy by getting the watchers to stop, or by keeping our faces hidden. Subversive responses may not hold out the only hope, but the hope they hold out is substantial.

I find it especially encouraging that Hyphen-Labs, Harvey’s partner, are working on a project called “NeuroSpeculative Afrofeminism.”

NSAF innovates on how we will engage with black women through content in their digital future.   Exploring alternative content through tangible products, new worlds and  3D landscapes, and scientific research, in order to inform and change the way we depict black women in society, culture, and the future. Our philosophy is to create an impactful narrative that inspires the next generation of developers and media consumers, to radically transform virtual reality into a world where people of color exist, and to prove that VR and human centered design can be a tool for the betterment of society.

Keep your eye on Harvey, Hyphen-Labs, and NSAF: I will.

Thanks to sschwartzoak for the link.