Josephine Bosma on Sat, 28 Jun 1997 10:25:01 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> a byte of VNS

Its summer, allthough you wouldn't believe it here in cold Amsterdam.
Nettime has been rather silent, and the mails that did come were
*very* long and also the connection to anything like net.criticism
was somewhat lost to me sometimes.
Here's a little byte of VNS, an interview I did with Josephine Starrs
the 26th of March this year. It was kind of an addition to another
interview I did with Josephine and Leon Cmielewski about their
user unfriendly interface and their emotional computerlife, so its
not very long or deep. As I said, just a byte of VNS, for your

JS: VNS_Matrix was four women: Francesca Di Rimini, Virginia Barratt,
Julianne Pierce and myself, Josephine Starrs. We started about five
or six years ago with the cyberfeminist manifesto for the twentyfirst
We started postering cities in Australia with that manifesto. We wanted
to work with technology, we're all from different backgrounds: writer,
performance artist, filmmaker, I was from a photography background. We
didn't have access to any particular new technology, but we had access
to a photocopier, so we just started writing about technology, because
we were worried that it seemed such a boys domain at that time, in the
artworld and so on.
We started computers and we did internet performance work, we've done
installations, we've done billboards. We had this agenda of encouraging
women to get involved if they want to look at their relationship with
technologies, to get the hands on the tools and to have fun with it.
Part of the project was to use humour in this process, rather then a
seventies style of feminism where you got up on a soapbox and blabla..
We tried to make it like technology isn't intimidating, its fun to use.
In proces we all started to get completely sucked in and we started
having too much fun I think. (laughter)
The last project has been to make this computergame called Bad Code.
So far we've made the prototype of that. Now we are looking for
developers to develop it further.

JB: Its for girls right?

JS: Its not particularly FOR girls, its just not aimed at fourteen year
old boys. So by not aiming at fourteen year old boys, girls like it.

JB: You're from different diciplines, but do you all have a feminist
background? Hows the everage age? Do you think there is different
generations in feminism?

JS: Yes, we all have a feminist background. We are all in our mid
twenties.(laughts) Our ages range from thirty-three to fourty-two,
so..I don't know how to answer the last question. I guess there's all
that stuff about the first wave and the second wave of feminism, but
cyberfeminism goes beyond all that.

JB: It covers all of them?

JS: yeah.

JB: Do you have any examples or other cyberfeminists that you enjoy?

JB: Certainly. Lets see, who would be on our list of cyberfeminists..
Well, Sadie Plant is my favorit cyberfeminist. I love her quote that
cyberfeminism is simply the acknowledgement that the patriarchy is
doomed. I think Sandie Stone and Brenda Laurel should be on the list.
There are a few groups in Australia, the Digitarts, Linda Dement, Zoe
Sophoulis, lots of women working in the area and writing about new
media and so on.

JB: Are there any females (they don't have to necesarely call themselves
feminists) that come before the cyberfeminist wave, that inspired you?
That you think have made a kind of breeding ground for you to work from?

JS: Its true that I was influenced in the eighties, like everyone else,
by writings of french feminists like Irigaray and Kristeva. That french
feminism kind of informed our original manifesto in a way. But we were
trying to use that as a springboard to find another way of looking at
things. And I guess Donna Harraway especially inspired us at the time.
There are a lot of women artists that a lot of people have never heard
of in Australiawho started to work in the area, like Linda Dement who
did the CyberFleshGirlMonster-CD. She is a good friend. We thought
feminism had become far to theoretical and we didn't know which way to
go. So we thought: what did they do in the seventies, they had
manifesto's and they got out there and posted.. So we thought we'ld
become activists. We had a lot of fun doing it, more in a sort of
ironic, humorous way.

JB: Feminism is a bit suffering from the fact that the diversity in
issues concerning women, who make up half of the world population and
have different backgrounds and possibilities, this diversity is vast
and hard to to work with.
Are you working in any way with the issues there or do you seek
connections with for instance groups that fight for very simple basic

JS: I have done a lot of teaching in art schools and community set ups.
I know what it is like to teach a woman how to use a computer, who has
a real fobia.
There are different ways of teaching, without intimidating people
completely. In that way we've tried to be active and encouraging women
not to be intimidated. We live in Australia, its a wealthy western
country. We're aware of the fact of course that there are all these
women in for example the Filipines going blind making this technology
that we're using. We feel that we can't cover everything though. we
are cynical about the techno evangelism coming out of California saying
technology is going to save the world and make everybody happy, because
it always talking about a certain part of the population of course that
have access to that technology. But it is not going to make us stop
using it, or stop us from networking with different people.

JB: Talking about women online: do you think, with Kristeva and
Irigaray's work in mind, can you notice different styles of discourse
on line between women and men?

JS: Thats a good one. If you're talking about chats or moos,
everybody's trying to peek whether you're talking to a man or woman,
and I think I've probably been fooled some of the time, also a lot of
people thought I have been a man and I have gone with that and
pretended to be a man. But in terms of the writing, I think some of
my friends who are writing, I am thinking now of one of vnsmatrix:
Francesca DiRimini aka Gashgirl, that her writing is particularly
influenced by perhaps feminist writings. So it sort of has grown up
and then expanded onto the online thing, because its a nonlinear kind
of writing and because you can use the hypertext in a different sort
of way. I do not want to generalize, but there is a nice style that
women are developing in their online writing.

JB: What do you think will be the future of academic male discourse
It can never stay as straight as it is..

JS: (laughts) I have no idea. It is very straight yes. I am amazed
by some of the postings that happen. I don't join in a lot because
often its just so serious, just so straight. I prefer to have to play
online, play with words and play with the people that I'm corresponding
with, which aren't all women.

JB: I think I understand what you mean, but of course if somebody
listens to this or reads this, they might very well think: O, there
are these women again, they cannot have a serious conversation. I don't
think you mean serious, right?
There's something else in these texts that you cannot log into, cannot
connect to. Could you describe it in a different way?

JS: I guess its more that the style of writing puts a distance between
you and the person that is supposed to be communicating with you. Thats
the only thing I can say really. I talk about serious issues with the
people that I correspond with. I am not belittleling seriousness. There
are a lot of serious things to be discussed. There is a lot of serious
work to be done. But there is also this thing of putting a distance
between you and the person you are communicating with.

JB: and this serves a purpose of course, but now I am leading the


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