OnlyBans: A Playthrough and Discussion on the Policing of Bodies

Science Gallery at Michigan State University (US) featuring work by Lena Chen (US/CN), Maggie Oates (US), Goofy Toof (US)

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Freitag, 10. September 2021, 20:00 - 21:00
Alle Termine werden in der Mitteleuropäischen Sommerzeit (MESZ / UTC+2) angegeben.
Zoom Webinar

Created by sex workers and allies, OnlyBans is an interactive game that critically examines the policing of marginalized bodies and sexual labor to empathetically teach people about digital surveillance and discrimination faced by sex workers. The Internet has long been celebrated as a limitless realm of free expression, but this digital wonderland is becoming increasingly oppressive to those who express their sexuality as part of their art or work. Content moderation algorithms disproportionately harm people who are already at greater risk of violence, incarceration, and social marginalization. Technology created to block allegedly sexual content has also been quietly used to block unfavorable political content. Assuming the role of a sex worker, players attempt to establish an online fanbase and earn money through posting sexy images. Players encounter content moderation algorithms, shadow-banning, “real name” policies, facial recognition software, and other threats based on actual experiences of sex workers. As the player attempts to evade being censored by Instagram, flagged by Paypal, and watched by Microsoft, the game reveals just how “free” the Internet is when one is engaged in stigmatized labor subject to policing and criminalization. Inspired by the aesthetics of everyday digital platforms and devices, OnlyBans features images contributed from actual sex workers and erotic content producers who have been directly flagged, censored, and surveilled. The game offers a speculative vision of how marginalized communities might band together to protest these unjust policies and create better alternatives. The prototype for OnlyBans was developed with Open Data Institute’s Violeta Mezeklieva through a residency with Polis 180 (Berlin). As artists-in-residence at Kelly Strayhorn Theater (Pittsburgh), Lena Chen and Maggie Oates created the first version for public release, which can be played at

OnlyBans Registration


Science Gallery at Michigan State University

Lena Chen: is a Chinese American writer and artist creating performances and socially engaged art. Awarded “Best Emerging Talent” at B3 Biennial of the Moving Image (Frankfurt), her work has appeared at Transmediale (Berlin), Färgfabriken (Stockholm), Baltimore Museum of Art, Haus der Kulturen der Welt (Berlin), Centre for Contemporary Art (Derry~Londonderry), among others. She has been awarded grants and residencies from UC Berkeley’s Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity, Millay Colony for the Arts (Austerlitz), Office of Public Art (Pittsburgh), Burning Man Global Arts Fund (San Francisco), Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry (Pittsburgh), and Arthur Boskamp Foundation (Hohenlockstedt, Germany). She has spoken at Oxford, Yale, Stanford, and SXSW. Based between Pittsburgh and Berlin, she earned a B.A. in sociology from Harvard University and is an MFA candidate at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Art.

Goofy Toof: is a queer erotic filmmaker, performance artist, animator, and a self-proclaimed big weirdo. Winner of Best Comedy at the London Fetish Film Festival, her asexual porn parody film CREAMPIE GLORYHOLE is currently touring across film festivals worldwide – making people everywhere think ”Well, this is a weird turn-on!” Goofy Toof explores themes of sexuality and eroticism from a demisexual femme perspective. Her most recent performance BIMBOFY ME BABY! was featured in the German festival Die Digitale as part of the sex worker-led group performance Play4UsNow. In another life, Goofy Toof graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with a degree in Fine Arts, and her work as a professional animator has been featured on Adult Swim.

Maggie Oates: is a cluster of balloons filled with warm stale air, cat hair, iced peach tea, the energy of prison abolition, question marks, and bursts of elation. She’s also a technologist-caregiver wading around most anyplace that smells like experience design, sex, online safety or computing technology.