This workshop explores how we parse gender and gender representation when others are divorced from our bodies. The two hour workshop is structured around a kind of Turing test, in this case called the Strategies game. Groups take on the role of either the agent trying to ascertain gender, or the agent trying to hide gender.
Workshop proposed by Canadian editor, designer and researcher ginger coons.
In the prelude to How We Became Posthuman, N. Katherine Hayles describes two different variations on the Turing test. The most famous one, the one many of us may know, involves a person using some kind of computerized chat interface to talk to either a computer, or a human in another room. It is the task of the test subject to determine, from conversation, whether their interlocutor is human or machine. Passing the Turing test has long been seen as one of the holy grails of artificial intelligence. When computers are able to pass as human, the argument goes, one of the distinctions between humans and computers dissolves.
Hayles also describes another Turing test. This one starts in the same way as the previous, with a human participant talking to someone in another room through a computerized chat interface. But in this one, the discussion partner on the other side is definitely human. The goal of the participant is, instead, to determine whether their conversation partner is male or female. If this second Turing test has similar stakes to the first, Hayles asks, does an ability to fool the participant negate the gender of the human on the other side?
One of the crucial questions raised by the gender Turing test is about the role of rigid, socially defined gender binaries. The test is predicated on an understanding that there are two genders, male and female, and that they each behave in a certain way. If we choose not to take this idea for granted, and instead decide that there is a vast spectrum of behaviour and appearance running from that which completely and stereotypically matches a gender, to that which is entirely opposed, the gendered Turing Test becomes impossible. How do we decide, from a textual discussion, what gender someone is if we do not require all people to adhere to a strict social script about their gender?
This workshop which explores how we parse gender and gender representation when others are divorced from our bodies. The workshop is structured around a kind of Turing test, in this case called the Strategies game. The Strategies game is a deliberately obfuscatory Turing test. Groups take on the role of either the agent trying to ascertain gender, or the agent trying to hide gender. All groups start by exploring their own cultural assumptions about gender and listing things that they see as essential signifiers, before engaging in a modified Turing test. In asking participants to consider strategies for concealing and identifying gender, and in playing out a modified Turing test, the goal is to tackle ideas of gender binaries, cultural gender scripts and requirements, the violence of forced disclosure, and the differing conditions under which we identify ourselves as gendered.