micha cárdenas

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photo of micha cárdenas

Assistant Professor

Ph.D., Media Arts +Practice, School of Cinematic Arts, University of Southern California
M.F.A., University of California , San Diego
M.A., Communications, European Graduate School, Saas-Fee, Switzerland
B.S., Computer Science, Florida International University

Office: UW1-248
Email: michamc@uw.edu
Website: http://michacardenas.org

micha cárdenas directs the Poetic Operations Collaborative, a design research lab at the University of Washington Bothell applying technological creativity to advance social justice. She is Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences and Interactive Media Design at the University of Washington | Bothell. cárdenas is an artist/theorist who creates mobile media to reduce violence and increase health. cárdenas’ forthcoming book, Shifting Poetics uses practice-based research to understand trans of color movement in digital media, where movement includes migration, performance and mobility. cárdenas has been described as one of “7 bio-artists who are transforming the fabric of life itself” by io9.com. She is a first generation Colombian American.

cárdenas completed her Ph.D. in Media Arts + Practice in the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. She is a member of the artist collective Electronic Disturbance Theater 2.0. Her solo and collaborative artworks have been presented in museums, galleries and biennials including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the ZKM in Karlrushe, the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, the Centro Cultural del Bosque in Mexico City, the Centro Cultural de Tijuana, the Zero1 Biennial and the California Biennial. cárdenas was the recipient of the first ever James Tiptree Jr. fellowshipa fellowship to provide support and recognition for the new voices who are making visible the forces that are changing our view of gender today. She has given keynote talks at the Allied Media Conference, the Association of Internet Researchers, the Digital Gender Conference at Umea University in Sweden, the Dark Side of the Digital Conference, and the Vera List Center at the New School in New York. She is on the advisory boards of FemTechNet and the York University Center for Feminist Research.

cárdenas’ co-authored books The Transreal: Political Aesthetics of Crossing Realities and Trans Desire / Affective Cyborgs were published by Atropos Press. Her poetry has appeared in the anthologies Troubling the LineThe &Now Awards 3Trans Bodies, Trans Selves and Writing the Walls Down. She has published book chapters in Plants, Androids and Operators – A Post-Media HandbookGender Outlaws: The Next GenerationQueer Geographies,The Critical Digital Studies Reader and the Feminist and Queer Information Studies Reader. Her articles have been published in CTheory, the Media-N Journal, the Ada Journal of Gender, New Media and TechnologyThe Journal of Popular Music Studies, and the AI & Society Journal, as well as the magazines No More Potlucks, Mute Magazine and Make/Shift Magazine.


Cárdenas' classes cover topics including speculative media, science fiction, speculative design, speculative art, performance, electronics, wearable electronics, new media art, gender studies, transgender studies, queer and feminist theory, performance studies, theories of social change, practice-based research, praxis, public scholarship, poetics, decolonization and border studies.

My approach to teaching is based in a social justice framework, which can be understood well through Luis Camnitzer's statement in Conceptualism in Latin American Art: Didactics of Liberation that “art, politics, pedagogy and poetry overlap, integrate, and cross-pollinate into a whole-- a form overcoming the agitation/construction polarity”. My approach to teaching is focused on dialog, encouraging students to find their voice through critical thinking, and horizontalism, creating classroom environments that challenge structural oppression in order to allow people usually discouraged from speaking to participate. My practice-based research is deeply engaged with questions of pedagogy, using methods such as community based design workshops to collaboratively design technologies and performances. Embodied experience as a method of generating knowledge is a tenet of practice-based research. In my courses Theater of the Oppressed exercises have often been a way for me to destabilize hierarchy, encourage participation and allow students to discuss their experiences of difference. 


My approach to practice-based research is a hybrid praxis of writing, of building technologies and networks, and of creating performances and workshops in cities throughout the Americas and Europe. For my dissertation research I have led community-based design and performance workshops in thirteen cities in four countries. My doctoral project, Shifting Poetics: Trans of Color Movement in Digital Media, is a practice-based research project that focuses on the movement of trans of color subjects in digital media, where movement includes performance, urban mobility and transnational migration. Trans women of color, who continue to be the number one target of violence among LGBT people, have learned through experiences of violence to shift their visibility based on their needs at any given moment. I argue that this shifting, made perceptible in science fiction and speculative art, is a material and conceptual operation that allows trans women of color to navigate the violence of necropolitical regimes, but this shifting is also used by those same regimes of power. Understanding the ways that trans people of color both survive and thrive in digital environments leads to an algorithmic model of identity that extends the assemblage, intersectional and performative models in ways useful for creating social change today. 

My recently released online game, Redshift & Portalmetal, asks: as climate change forces us to travel to the stars and build new homes and families, how do we build on this land, where we are settlers, while working to undo colonization? The story uses space travel as a lens through which to understand the experience of migration and settlement for a trans woman of color. Redshift and Portalmetal tells the story of Roja, who's planet's environment is failing, so she has to travel to other worlds. The project takes the form of an online, interactive game, including film, performance and poetry. I designed the interaction, wrote the text, performed the movement, and coordinated the filming in Los Angeles and Toronto. The project is built with HTML5 video, CSS and Javascript, using the Scalar e-publishing platform. It is available to play here>>

Selected Publications

“Trans of Color Poetics: Stitching Bodies, Concepts and Algorithms”, Scholar and Feminist Online, September 2016

"Queer OS: A User's Manual", Zach Blas, Fiona Barnett, micha cárdenas, Jacob Gaboury, Jessica Marie Johnson, Margaret Rhee, Debates in the Digital Humanities 2016, University of Minnesota Press, 2016

"Pregnancy: Reproductive Futures in Trans of Color Feminism", Transgender Studies Quarterly, 2016.

"Redshift and Portalmetal", Electronic Literature Collection Volume 3, 2016

"Shifting Futures: Digital Trans of Color Praxis", Ada Journal of Gender, New Media and Technology

"Hacking the Label: Hacktivism, Race, and Gender", Interview with Leonie Tanczer and Carmin Karasic, Ada Journal of Gender, New Media and Technology

The Transreal: Political Aesthetics of Crossing Realities, Edited by Zach Blas and Wolfgang Schirmacher

Trans Desire / Affective Cyborgs, co-authored with Barbara Fornssler, edited by Wolfgang Schirmacher

"From a Free Software Movement to a Free Safety Movement", Mute Magazine, July 2013

“Local Autonomy Networks: Post-Digital Networks, Post-Corporate Communications”, Media-N Journal of the New Media Caucus, Summer 2013

Imaginary Computational Systems: queer technologies and transreal aesthetics”, with Zach Blas, AI & Society, October 2013

Blah, Blah, Blah: Kesha Feminism?”, Journal of Popular Music Studies, June 2012

A Game Level Where You Can’t Pass”, HenryJenkins.org

Becoming Dragon, A Transversal Technology Study”, CTheory

The Transborder Immigrant Tool: Violence, Solidarity and Hope in Post-NAFTA Circuits of Bodies Electr(on)/ic”, with the Electronic Disturbance Theater 2.0 / b.a.n.g. lab, Mobile HCI 2009 Proceedings

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For an updated listing of exhibitions, talks and performances, see michacardenas.org