Jessica Rajko is an interdisciplinary scholar/practitioner working at the intersection of somatically informed dance and human-computer interaction design. Her current work investigates the ethical and corporeal implications of big data and quantification practices on everyday life and within the dance community. Considering issues such as digital civil rights and equity in digital culture, her research aspires to disrupt normative narratives of how we perform digital technology and how digital technology performs us.
Jessica is an assistant professor at Wayne State University. She joined WSU in 2019 as part of a multidisciplinary university hiring initiative in Big Data and analytics. She has presented and performed in various collaborative artworks nationally and internationally, including Amsterdam’s OT301, Toronto’s Scotiabank Nuit Blanche festival and New York City’s Gotham Festival at The Joyce Theatre. She was named one of Phoenix New Times’s “100 Creatives of 2016” and has been commissioned by the Currents New Media Festival, Breaking Ground Dance Festival, Mesa Arts Center, Heard Museum, and Phoenix Art Museum. In her former position at Arizona State University, she was a founding co-Director of the ASU Human Security Collaboratory and was the mentor for the dance MFA concentration in Interdisciplinary Digital Media and Performance.
Jessica received her MFA in Dance and Interdisciplinary Digital Media at Arizona State University in 2009 (outstanding graduate of the year) and her BA in Dance and Psychology at Hope College in 2005.
JESSICA RAJKO CV - UPDATED September 2019
I am committed to critical interrogations of digital technology and digital cultures. I am first and foremost a dancer. My dance practices ground me in somatic and kinesthetic inquiry, which I apply to many forms of composition. My studies in social and cognitive psychology (2nd BA major) and human-computer interaction design (graduate work) influence my current dance/technology research. After graduate school, I remained in Phoenix, AZ for 13 years and moved to Detroit, MI in 2019. My own questions of identity, social justice, embodiment, and equity are influenced by the regions, people, and communities that define what I call home. As such, I aspire to engage intersectional feminist, anti-racist, and queer frameworks in my human-computer interaction design, dance composition, and scholarly research. This work is made possible by forging equitable partnerships with artists, scholars, and community organizations so that we can together imagine new approaches to designing and critiquing digital technologies.
Self-study is critical in building ethical and empathetic technologies.
My research is grounded in my lived experiences as a somatically informed dance practitioner and practice-based researcher. I employ and advocate for first person, self-study practices because I believe that through self-investigation, we learn how our own experiences, habits, and biases influence the ways with which we see others and our world. For me, self-study is not in isolation from and must be in dialogue with our communities and the infrastructures that shape our societies.
Technologies must accommodate the felt experience.
Our sense of touch is rarely considered in HCI design beyond simple "haptic nudging." “Haptic nudging” (short, vibratory prompts) reinforce perceptions that our ability to feel is in many ways less useful than or meaningful than our ability to see or hear. Touch is a singular word that comprises a complex and synergistic relationship between cutaneous, kinesthetic, proprioceptive, and vestibular senses. Further, touch is also deeply entangled with our personal emotions and feelings. Our sense of touch is what orients us to space, objects, and others. It is always actively seeking. It never stops. As such it is commonly the first sense to recede from our conscious attention. As a somatic practitioner, I recognize the value of developing a sophisticated practice of making touch conscious. This has deeply influenced my current work with haptic (touch-based) feedback. I am particularly interested in creating haptic interfaces that allow participants to feel both real time and archival datasets. I have begun developing interactive systems that use sound and tactile transducers to make data palpable. This research has been integrated into small personal devices as well as large sculptures and structures. Felt experiences can be shared with others or engaged individually.
Through my art work, I critique normative, dominant narratives about our human experiences with digital technologies. My artwork is deeply collaborative, intimate, and process-based, which results in unique dance theatre and immersive installation artworks. Working against traditional aesthetics associated with digital technologies, my art tends to be complex, multilayered, messy, raw, tactile, visceral, and resoundingly human.
My dance theatre work is often steeped in dark satirical humor and embedded in rich, surreal landscapes to amplify the absurdity of our contemporary techno-infrastructures. I tend to avoid the use of digital, screen-based projections and opt instead for tangible, wearable, palpable technologies in my artwork. Technologies such as haptic transducers, wearable LEDs, immersive sound, and e-textile designs. The conscious decision to remove digital projection from my artwork is rooted in my yearning for digital technologies that move away from ocularcentric** ways of knowing.
Drawing from methodologies found in somatically informed dance, I place the felt experience in the centre of my dance composition process. As such, working in the tangible, physical world is critical to my work. I tend to begin my creative process through physical touch (between bodies and/or between physical objects & bodies), and I use this as a way to push back against our ever-increasingly digitized world - always asking the question, "how do we perform our technologies, and how do our technologies perform us?"
Passionate about how these practices work within a socially conscious framework, I consider how dance/tech methodologies can move toward social good. In this, my artwork includes the design of socially conscious methodological approaches to art/science collaborations.
**Ocularcentrism: Western culture's perceptual and epistemological bias ranking vision as more sophisticated, intellectual, and valuable than other senses.