Shenai Chan (2023)

SoftWare/CookWare (SW/CW) is an exploration and interrogation of the porous boundary between “craft” and “technology”. It is a single-page prototype of a potential full-fledged cooking zine, crafted with embedded electronics on paper. SW/CW contains pressure-sensitive fabric adhered to the page, with conductive fabric and tape connecting the makeshift pressure sensor to an Arduino microcontroller and a heat pad. When pressed, the zine warms the hand of the reader. The project is undergirded by the belief that it is not only possible but necessary to refute the gendered (and, by extension, prestige) labor dichotomies of paper/fabric craft v.s. electronic making, and cooking v.s. food science/chemistry.

Chan’s research was sparked by interest in historical labor trends, particularly the demographic shift from primarily female “computers” in the mid 20th century to 21st century primarily male “software engineers”, alongside the perceived prestige and changing connotation of “computational” work. Their research investigates the pervasive fallacy that certain kinds of work are suited to “gendered” minds and sex-determined cognitive abilities. They write, “this lie which positions itself as an unyielding biological truth, and yet is an active participant in reifying the social infrastructure of gender which shuttles women into roles deemed less prestigious, and men into those deemed more prestigious—and if too many women saturate a ‘prestigious’ field, the field loses its reputation. I am interested in exploring this not only through written and drawn zine content, but also the fabrication, asking whether electronic logics can take a softer form, whether gentle heating elements are congruent with microcontrollers, and whether conductive tapes and fabrics and resistors and waxy colored pencil can all coexist.”

This project was made possible with support from the Frank-Ratchye Further Fund Microgrant #2023-013.