Complication of the Computer Mouse

Emma Norton

Complication of the Computer Mouse is a lecture that unpacks the shifts in computation and how gender is enacted through computation by exploring the history of the computer mouse as an object.


This project is a lecture in which I will present months worth of research through written word and visuals. What you see in the video is a sample of the lecture with the slides. I would like to argue that the invention of the computer mouse helped to shift perceptions of computation and how gender is enacted through computation. I believe the mouse to be powerful in its potential to reroute perceptions and create new meaning. The mouse can also be seen as a site of contradictions within the history of computing. I would like to leverage these contradictions in order to complicate its history so that I can retell its story while it’s still here and still ubiquitous. Since the early days of computing, there has been a shift from being “close to the metal” to coding software within and for software. From women as programmers to women as typists. From men as mouse users to men as programmers. Are programmers not just glorified typists? Perhaps, these shifts can be unpacked through a deep understanding of the mouse as an object. The 1968 invention of the mouse by Doug Engelbart did not appear in tandem with the technologies before it. Instead, it interrupted them. In step with theorist Sadie Plant, I see the mouse as unlike its techno-phallic predecessors, the joystick and the light gun. It is not deterministic in its shape. Rather, it is a shape that responds to your body. You do not hold it, but it holds you. From the keyboard. From the cyclical command and response of you to your computer. To move your hand onto the mouse, and then, off of it, and then onto it, again. Those seconds in between hold you. They are about your body and how your body sits in this world not the world you imagine in your screen.


Project Development Studio