This essay takes the auto-tuned viral video “Can't Hug Every Cat” as a point of entry for a broader analysis of how modulation decisively shapes politics, aesthetics, and gendering in contemporary digital ecologies. It uncovers how the exaggerated exhibitions of feminine vocal modulation in “Can't Hug Every Cat” entangle with generational feminist anxieties over gendered forms of articulation such as “sexy baby voice” and “upspeak.” It argues that the problematic of the modulated voice is both technologically and thematically central to political, technological, aesthetic, and gendered genealogies of media-technical modulation. The modulated voice given such extraordinary staging in “Can't Hug Every Cat” is therefore restored to the longer history of voice modulation, which is itself closely tied to the rise of control societies and digital media. In this perspective, techniques of voice modulation and social modulation are tandem technologies. The voice modulation that has figured prominently in media cultures in recent decades—from the music of Cher to T-Pain and beyond—is not merely a consequence of digital media and control societies but is also integral to their conditions of possibility. In this light, the rise of technologies for the modulation of the human voice since the nineteenth century is intertwined with the rise of new economic, political, and medical systems of control.

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