About Us

The Critical Realities Studio is a hybrid studio/lab for critical theory and art practice at the University of California, Santa Cruz, supported by the UCSC Arts Division. Our studio engages multiple realities in art, including augmented reality and alternate reality games, as well as other forms of art practice, to engage with the most pressing issues the world faces, including climate change, gendered violence, racism and colonialism, using algorithmic and intersectional methods.


micha cárdenas, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Art & Design: Games + Playable Media at the University of California, Santa Cruz. cárdenas is writing a new algorithm for gender, race and technology. Her book in progress, Poetic Operations, proposes algorithmic analysis as a method for developing a trans of color poetics. cárdenas’s co-authored books The Transreal: Political Aesthetics of Crossing Realities (2012) and Trans Desire / Affective Cyborgs (2010) were published by Atropos Press. She is a member of the artist collective Electronic Disturbance Theater 2.0. Her artwork has been described as “a seminal milestone for artistic engagement in VR” by the Spike art journal in Berlin. She is a first generation Colombian American.

cárdenas is an artist/theorist who was the winner of the 2016 Creative Award from the Gender Justice League. She was the recipient of the inaugural James Tiptree Jr. fellowship in 2014, a fellowship to provide support and recognition for the new voices in science fiction who are making visible the forces that are changing our view of gender today. She has been described as one of “7 bio-artists who are transforming the fabric of life itself” by io9.com.

Associates and Researchers

Faculty Associates

Susana Ruiz, Ph.D. (pronouns she and/or they) is an artist and scholar whose work is concerned with how the intersection of art practice, playful design, and computational storytelling can enable new approaches to social justice theory and activism, visual aesthetics, and public pedagogy. Her work is collaborative, interdisciplinary, and takes the hybrid form of intertwined theory and practice. The cinematic and the playful drive their practice and the humanistic and the collaborative drive their process.

Graduate Researchers

Zia Puig is a Feminist Studies doctoral student at UC Santa Cruz, where they also work as the Program Coordinator at the Disability Resource Center, and as a researcher-artist for the Critical Realities Studio. Krizia’s work explores issues related to affective robotics and space exploration, focusing on the study of future Mars settlements through frameworks that include feminist & crip technoscience, critical race & ethnic studies, and astronomy & astrophysics.

Dorothy Santos is a Filipina American writer, curator, and researcher whose academic interests include digital art, computational media, and biotechnology. Born and raised in San Francisco, California, she holds Bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and Psychology from the University of San Francisco and received her Master’s degree in Visual and Critical Studies at the California College of the Arts. She is currently a Ph.D. student in Film and Digital Media at the University of California, Santa Cruz as a Eugene V. Cota-Robles fellow. Her work appears in art21, Art Practical, Rhizome, Hyperallergic, Ars Technica, Vice Motherboard, and SF MOMA’s Open Space. Her essay “Materiality to Machines: Manufacturing the Organic and Hypotheses for Future Imaginings,” was published in The Routledge Companion to Biology in Art and Architecture. She serves as a co-curator for REFRESH, a curatorial collective in partnership with Eyebeam, the program manager for the Processing Foundation, and host for the podcast PRNT SCRN produced by Art Practical.

Kara Stone is an artist and scholar interested in the affective and gendered experiences of psychosocial disability, debility, and healing as it relates to art production, particularly videogames. Her artwork has been featured in The Atlantic, Wired, and Vice. She is a member of the Different Games Collective. She holds a BFA in Film Production and master’s degree in Communication and Culture from York University, and is currently a PhD student in Film and Digital Media with a designated emphasis in Feminist Studies at University of California at Santa Cruz.


Former Associates and Researchers

Marcelo Viana Neto is a multi-disciplinary artist working in game design, graphic design, 3D art, and critical pedagogy. He was born in the state of Minas Gerais in Brazil and has been a resident of California since 2002. Marcelo holds a BFA in Graphic Design with high distinction from the California College of the Arts and an MFA in Digital Arts and New Media from UC Santa Cruz where he worked a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Art and Design: Games and Playable Media program.

Assistant Professor Jerry Zee is jointly appointed in the Department Anthropology and the Princeton Environmental Institute. Zee is a sociocultural anthropologist whose research explores geophysical and environmental emergence as sites of political experiment. His work is situated at the intersections of feminist science and technology studies, environmental humanities, and experimental ethnography. He considers the rise of China as a matter of geophysical and geopolitical entanglement, moving across weather systems that connect inland land degradation, major dust storm formation, and the eventual scattering of Chinese land as meteorological fallout across the Northern Hemisphere. He comes to Princeton after having served as assistant professor in Anthropology and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies at UC Santa Cruz and a Wenner-Gren Foundation Hunt Fellow. He completed his PhD at UC Berkeley’s Anthropology Department and was Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Davis in Anthropology and the Program in Science and Technology Studies.

Clara Qin, Environmental Studies, UCSC

Allyson Makuch, Environmental Studies at UCSC


Follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/critrealities