Pleasing Little Sisters: Affective (Self-) Control Systems

“Within the family metaphor, the closest image of an affective system is not one of a powerful big brother, but of a pleasing little sister,” writes Rosalind Picard, the author of Affective Computing (1997). This figure of the little sister (re-)imports not only a long tradition of attributions into the world of technology – women as helpmeets, women as invisible assistants, as naturally more sensitive, harmless and undemanding companions, but also the image of women as (technical) seductresses – but additionally it reshapes the ‘image of technology’ as such. Whereas Sadie Plant, one of the co-authors of The Cyberfeminist Manifesto (1991) was claiming the digital space as a new realm of activity for women – never having being included in the history of the western male subject, women are now already acting very adequately as the first – real – cyborgs – rhizomatic, multifunctional and technically fully instructed – today’s situation has merged this cyborg figure with the above mentioned figure of the little sister. I would like to argue that we are facing today a new relational organizing power via affect and technology restructuring the psychic and societal scene likewise.

Marie-Luise Angerer is professor of Media Studies at the Department for Art and Media, University of Potsdam. From 2000-2015 she was professor of Media and Cultural Studies at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne. Visiting fellow and guestprofessor in the US, UK, Canada and Australia. Member of the European Network How Matter comes to Matter (2014-2018), and of the Research Network Affective and Psychotechnology Studies (DFG 2015-2017). The focus of her research is on media technology, affect and neuroscientific reformulations of desire, sexuality, and the ‘moving’ body. Her most recent publications include Desire After Affect (2014), Timing of Affect (with Bernd Bösel and Michaela Ott, 2014), Choreography, Media, Gender (with Yvonne Hardt and Anna-Carolin Weber, 2013), numerous articles in books and journals on the topic of affect, art, and media theoretical issues.