Hyphen-Labs is a London based design studio using technology to explore absurdities that emerge at the intersection of technology, art, science, and the future. We use design to challenge conventions and stimulate conversations, placing planetary needs and collective experiences at the centre of our current evolving narratives.
Their work ‘NeuroSpeculative Afro-Feminism’ is currently on show as part of Thirteen Ways of Looking.
NeuroSpeculative AfroFeminism (NSAF) is a multi-layered possible future that transcends the constraints of the present. Hyphen-Labs use Virtual Reality to place you in a “neurocosmetology lab” where black women are the pioneers of brain optimization fitting customers with transcranial electrodes that allow access to a surreal digital temple blending the physical with the digital.
NSAF recontextualizes the familiar motif of the beauty salon, it uses the economics of beauty as a vehicle for progressing the narrative that combines brain research and optimization with timeless black hair rituals. Brooks is the main character, CEO and Principal Investigator of Brooks' Neurocosmelotogy Lab. Brooks invites the viewer into a futuristic physical salon space where they are invited to experience the future in virtual reality.
Themes of security, privacy, and visibility unify six speculative products, ranging from UVBeams (a transparent sunscreen specifically formulated for skin high in Melanin) to Hyperface (a facial recognition obscuring, anti-surveillance textile developed in collaboration with artist, Adam Harvey). These products are merchandised both in a physical installation and in the NSAF VR world.
Below are excerpts from ‘Does Technology have a Race: Drexel University’. A paper that is integral to the thinking behind NeuroSpeculative Afrofeminism
“Black Lives Matter, so do Black Technologies
This paper’s roots lie in a response to the “Black Lives Matter” movement, but the six examples we have provided thus far show how mainstream technologies are less usable for a range of underrepresented minorities”.
“Examples of Technologies with Racial Bias
We have catalogued a range of incidents where race has adversely affected technology’s usability for underrepresented minorities. We will discuss three areas where this has occurred—in sensor design, in algorithms and in interface design”.
The full VR film can be watched here if you have a cardboard headset.
The VR film is also free to download here on the Oculus store.
- Algorithms of Opression by Safiya Noble
- Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code by Ruha Benjamin
- Distributed Blackness: African American Cybercultures by Andre Brok André Brock, Jr.
- Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness by Simone Brown
- Does Technology have a Race: Drexel University
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How can we create a space for women of colour in technologies like Virtual Reality?