Mixed-race trans performer and new-media artist Micha Cárdenas will give the opening address at the third biannual Gender, Bodies, and Technology conference May 1-3 at Virginia Tech.

A poet, author, and lecturer, Cárdenas has presented her work internationally at conferences and exhibitions. She and other artists drew national attention in 2009 for developing a GPS-enabled cellphone to help undocumented migrants find drinking water as they crossed the desert into the United States. She is currently a Ph.D. student and Provost Fellow at the University of Southern California.

The conference is a forum for scholars in the humanities, the arts, social and natural sciences, engineering, and technology to present their research through lectures, workshops, and exhibitions. This year’s event, titled, “Performing the Human,” will host scholars from eight countries in addition to the U.S., including teachers and students at Virginia Tech.

Also giving keynote speeches are Jennifer Robertson, professor of anthropology and art history at the University of Michigan; and Shaowen Bardzell, associate professor of informatics at Indiana University and affiliated faculty member of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction. Robertson’s talk will address the gendered nature of humanoid robots in Japanese society while Bardzell will speak about the participatory and feminist potential of computer design.

The program for the three-day event will also include a screening of “Breast Milk: The Movie,” a documentary that follows the lives of breastfeeding women through the first year of their babies’ lives. The program also features panels and performances about a wide range of topics that address the convergence of gender, bodies, and technology: from avatars and upskirt photos, to female food bloggers, and coming out online.

“The third conference will expand opportunities to share ground-breaking research as well as creative projects across disciplines,” said Christine Labuski, assistant professor of sociology and an organizer of the event. “We hope to integrate conventional scholarship with unconventional forms of expression to teach each other, to learn from each other, and to advance the global dialogue. Each year gets a bit more interdisciplinary, and we hope that faculty and students from across the university will look at the program and find something that addresses their research interests.”

An initiative of the university’s Women’s and Gender Studies program, Gender, Bodies and Technology is an interdisciplinary collaboration that explores the interaction of technology with gender, race, class, and identity.

The conference will be at The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center in Blacksburg. A block of rooms has been reserved at The Inn at a daily rate of $135. Reservations can be made by calling the hotel at 877-200-3360 or on The Inn’s website.  

More information about the conference is available on the Gender, Bodies and Technology website.