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Signal/Noise: A FemTechNet Conference on Pedagogy, Technology, and Transdisciplinarity

Special thanks to the Institute for for Research on Women and & Gender, Lisa Nakamura, Heidi Bennett, and Stephanie Rosen for all of their support in organizing and documenting this conference. 

Earlier this year, FemTechNet hosted its first ever conference. The conference was titled Signal/Noise: A FemTechNet Conference on Pedagogy, Technology, and Transdisciplinarity. On April 8th, 2016, members of FemTechNet and other interested parties gathered at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor for three days to explore, exchange, and develop ideas about transdisciplinary feminist pedagogy with/through/on technology. Participants included scholars, artists, makers, activists, and students from Asia, America, to Europe. Organized by Karen Keifer-Boyd and Marla Jaksch, this conference was made possible with the support from the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at the University of Michigan and with the help of various committees members of FemTechNet, including the 2015-2016 co-facilitators Anne Cong-Huyen, T.L. Cowan, Paula Gardner, Veronica Paredes, and Jasmine Rault.

DAY ONE:

The three day conference was organized both by theme, as well as different formats of engagement. The first day featured panel presentations, these were livestreamed online, and are also documented here as videos below. The opening panel provided an introduction to FemTechNet, its DOCC (distributed open collaborative course) history and structure, along with an overview of the collective’s curricular materials and the conference program; presenters included Karen Keifer-Boyd, Marla Jaksch, Veronica Paredes, Karl Surkan, and T.L. Cowan.

Introduction to FemTechNet’s DOCC & Conference Overview from FemTechNet on Vimeo.

In the panels that followed, scholars and practitioners across disciplines presented their research on the themes of labor, mapping, and activism as they intersected with feminism and technology. To conclude the first day of the conference, we had an official launch party for the publication signal/noise: collected student works from a feminist docc. 

FemTechNet Conference Panel on Labor from FemTechNet on Vimeo.
Presenters: Khanh Vo, Lindsay Garcia, Jessica Parris Westbrook & Adam Trowbridge

FemTechNet Conference Panel on Mapping from FemTechNet on Vimeo.
Presenters: Leah M. Kuragano and Cait McKinney

FemTechNet Conference Panel on Activism from FemTechNet on Vimeo.
Presenters: Ellen Moll, Jade Metzger & Stine Eckert, Paula Gardner

DAY TWO:

The second day was composed of workshops, where participants and presenters worked together to explore various themes and projects. That day’s schedule included: Feminist Wikipedia editing; playful engagement with data, rulesets and systems via games and haptic interfaces; feminist mapping exercises; explorations of feminist writing and scholarship. To conclude the second day, we had a full group gathering to highlight and share experiences from DOCC instructors teaching or facilitating this year, and to make connections to the concerns, rewards and challenges identified from previous iterations of the DOCC.
FemTechNet 2016 Conference

DAY THREE:

On the last day of the conference, we heard from DJ Lynnée Denise and Marla Jaksch in a Radnote Dialogue on “Organic Intellectualism: DJ Scholarship, Black Feminism and Erasure Resistance.” This Radnote Dialogue was documented in both video and podcast form. Find the video documentation below, as well as an amazing podcast episode produced by Sandra Gabriele and Michelle Macklem.

On the last day, besides the Radnote Dialogue, we also broke into smaller working groups to discuss various aspects of FemTechNet, including pedagogical experiments, privacy and transparency in the network, statements of solidarity, and video dialogues and themes. In one of these breakout sessions, the FemTechNet Statement in support of Melissa Click and Concerned Student 1950 was developed and published.

FemTechNet Conference Radnote Dialogue “Organic Intellectualism: DJ Scholarship, Black Feminism and Erasure Resistance” from FemTechNet on Vimeo.


FemTechNet Conference Radnote Dialogue “Organic Intellectualism: DJ Scholarship, Black Feminism and Erasure Resistance” from FemTechNet on SoundCloud.

FemTechNet Statement in support of Melissa Click and Concerned Student 1950

June 1st, 2016

As scholars, makers and artists invested in feminist media and technology, we approach the issues raised by Concerned Student 1950 and the related firing of Dr. Melissa Click from the expertise of our collective. Numerous organisations and networks have issued statements of solidarity with Concerned Student 1950 and have rejected the University of Missouri’s unauthorized firing of Dr. Melissa Click for her actions in support of Concerned Student 1950. We also highlight our rejection of the mainstream media’s focus on first amendment rights of the press, and a resulting lack of attention to the civil rights concerns expressed by the Concerned Student 1950 movement.

We are concerned that video clips presented out of context in social and mainstream media have focused attention on Melissa Click, framing her as an agitator, and have removed attention from the civil rights demands of the Concerned Student 1950 movement. We find that Click’s taped actions, in fact, demonstrate support for students who felt unsafe in the face of violent threats issued against them on their university campus—both by protestors in the public Mizzou spaces and residence halls, and via social media. Feminist and critical media scholars have carefully documented practices whereby viral video footage fails as evidence because it shows only one part of a larger story. In this case, a student (who was not on assignment, and failed to present himself with reporting credentials) imposed aggressive body and verbal language upon Click and student protestors; nevertheless, viral video clips frame Click as aggressor and reporters as victims. Feminist media scholars understand that the individual holding the camera, rather than the subject of the camera, is deemed to hold greater power; viral repetitive of these biased clips created a story whereby Click and student protestors were represented as unwilling subjects of a valid and benevolent press. Feminist postcolonial scholars have also shown that mainstream rights to freedom of the press often trump the rights of populations who protest discrimination based on race and ethnicity. In fact, Concerned Student 1950 had provided unfettered access of the press to their protest until the moment that the University President met their request to resign. Following this announcement, there was significant campus unrest and no security was present to ensure safety; Concerned Student 1950 requested a private moment from the press to discuss and weigh safety concerns and determine their response to resignation. The disproportionate attention to the media’s supposed lack of access to student protestors for this short period served as a smokescreen that veiled the demands for safety and civil rights articulated by Concerned Student 1950.

Mainstream media has framed Click’s critical popular cultural scholarship as a form of “low culture” unworthy of a lauded educational institution. These claims reflect masculinist and racist biases that privilege the white, male, upper income culture associated with the leadership of the University of Missouri. The mainstream media and university framed Click as aggressive and potentially violent when she called for “muscle” to remove an aggressive reporter from the student encampment, reflecting a host of biases. Citing Click’s actions as aggressive, rather than as civil rights action, reflects the flawed assumption that female behaviour in public spaces should be passive and pleasing. These biases diminish the pain and fear of black students at Mizzou who routinely suffer racialized threats in campus and social media spaces, and feel unsafe at the university to which they pay tuition. Such comments reflect cultural class and racial biases that privilege the class of the reporter over the student or the civil rights advocate. In asking Click to conspire in these biases, Mizzou asks the public to demand that university professors comply with racist, classist and sexist standards of behavior.

We understand Click’s actions in support of Concerned Student 1950 as a welcome form of support for essential civil rights guaranteed by the US Constitution. Click’s actions demonstrate behaviours that feminist scholars strive to enact across our many roles–as professors, citizens, colleagues, parents, friends, advocates and more. Decades of feminist scholarship supports our commitment to working in all spaces—both public and private– in manners that are ethical, compassionate and empathic, and we applaud Click’s actions in this regard.

FemTechNet makes the following demands:

That the University of Missouri:

  • Dialogue with and meet the demands of Concerned Student 1950. These demands include that the University:
    • Meets the Legion of Black of Black Collegians’ demands that were presented in 1969 for the betterment of the black community.
    • Creates and enforces comprehensive racial awareness and inclusion curriculum throughout all campus departments and units, mandatory for all students, faculty, staff, and administration. This curriculum must be vetted, maintained, and overseen by a board comprised of students, staff, and faculty of color.
    • That by the academic year 2017/18, the university increases the percentage of black faculty and staff campus wide to 10%.
    • That the University of Missouri composes a strategic 10-year plan by May 1, 2016, that will increase retention rates for marginalized students, sustain diversity curriculum and training and promote a safer and more inclusive campus.
  • As demanded by the American Association of University Professors (the AAUP,) that the University should reinstate Dr. Click to her faculty position, and adhere to common principles regarding academic freedom and tenure procedure (as detailed in the “1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure”). As such, the university should defer any questions regarding Click’s status to the faculty Council, who rightfully adjudicates any such cases, if and when they see fit.

Happy FemTechNet New Year!

September 18, 2015

Hello and welcome to the FemTechNet Year 3! It’s hard to believe that it was only in 2012 that Anne Balsamo and Alexandra Juhasz began bringing feminist scholars together to form FemTechNet, and that this September marks our third full season of running our Distributed Open Collaborative Course (DOCC) – this year offered again as “Collaborations in Feminism and Technology.” We have grown in numbers, projects, and community and our commitment to feminist technologies, including collaboration, care, and humor, have kept us all coming back! Last year co-facilitators Elizabeth Losh, Lisa Nakamura and Sharon Irish held our course steady and continued with the great foundational work of Anne and Alex. This year we have a team of five co-facilitators — the Feminist 5  #F5 — who will be working together and with the whole FemTechNet collective to help shape and sustain our work.

So, introducing the Feminist Five #F5:

  • Anne Cong-Huyen
  • T.L. Cowan
  • Paula Gardner
  • Veronica Paredes
  • Jasmine Rault

In addition to a new team of co-facilitators, FemTechNet will be operating under a slightly shifted committee structure: this new structure reflects the work that is being done by our network and each committee welcomes new membership of feminist activists, artists, organizers, makers, hackers and scholars.

 

Committee Structure & Descriptions:

  • The Steering Committee is the decision-making, oversight and imagination body for the network. At the Steering Committee, we discuss and resolve topics and plans that affect the whole network. The Steering Committee is also where we gather regularly as a large group to connect with each other and check in on how we’re doing and where we’re going.
    • Starting in October, 2015, the Steering Committee will meet monthly on the First Friday of each month for two hours (which will include a 30min info session, a 30min social, and a 60min agenda-driven meeting). An open agenda will be posted (location TBA) and anyone involved, or who wants to be involved, with the work of FemTechNet is welcome and encouraged to attend and be part of the collective process.
    • Each Steering Committee meeting will be 2 hours long:
      • Time: noon-2:00 p.m. PT  // 2:00-4:00 p.m. CT // 3:00-5:00 p.m. ET
      • Dates: (First Friday Monthly) October 2; November 6; December 4; January 8 (second Friday); February 5; March 4; April 1; May 6; June 3
      • The first 30 minutes will function as an Information session for folks who are new to the network and others who have questions about how to be involved, how to get a FemTechNet project off the ground, etc. These information sessions will be hosted by at least one co-facilitator.
      • During the second 30 minutes we will host the FemTechNet Ultra Lounge (thanks to Lisa Nakamura for this name), which will be a FemTechNet Online Social – we’ll check in and catch up. Bring your beverage of choice!
      • The last hour of the meeting will be agenda-driven and chaired by one of the co-facilitators. The agenda will be an open document, posted the week before the meeting. If you would like to add an item to the agenda or if you would like to have input on an agenda item but can’t make it to the meeting, please add your thoughts to the document
      • All steering committee meetings will be held in FemTechNet Blue Jeans Meeting Room 1: please email femtechnetinquiriesATgmailDOTcom for the link*
      • ** If you are unfamiliar with the Blue Jeans online meeting platform, please take a few minutes before your first meeting to go through Connecting to FemTechNet with Blue Jeans: https://docs.google.com/a/newschool.edu/document/d/1B4fxbiukGY3eGsE600w8dCnX4ju8T1kdJnWqzqVqUTY/edit?usp=sharing **
  • The Community Engagement & WWW Committee builds relationships among institutions, organizations and individuals to expand FemTechNet beyond Canada and the US. This may include: offering “orientation”/get to know us sessions; presenting at consortial meetings, expanding the scope of our research activities and actions; outreach, recruitment and networking (especially encouraging DOCC teaching in new locations, and creating new collaborations with artists and activists). Plans for this year: offering “Meet Us!” orientation (live!) sessions; creating a “Meet us!” video with diverse FTN voices; outreach to community partners (advocacy & activist groups; art organizations); encouraging the development of new online town halls/teach-ins/art exhibitions/tech trainings, etc); outreach to new international participants (inviting teaching and action engagements)
  • The Critical Race and Ethnic Studies Committee creates interdisciplinary conversations, curriculum, and workshops by developing materials and activities that address issues of racialization, ethnic and cultural formation, power and identity. Our focus is on intersections of digital media and ethnic studies. Anchored in the legacy of critical race and ethnic studies, we are community activists engaged in practice-based scholarship and cultural work. We aim to engage public audiences with accessible media, community outreach, and feminisms inside and outside of the academy.  
  • The Pedagogy Projects Committee (PedProCom) supports the various pedagogy projects of the network including the DOCC, our new Introduction to Online Safety & Risk activity; the Critical Race & Ethnic Studies Workbook; the Situated Knowledges Map; Keyword Videos; Town Hall Meetings; Online Pedagogy Workshops and any other teaching projects that you might want to initiate and work on. PedProCom works to mentor FemTechNet faculty, develop curricula, coordinate inter-institutional collaborations, and support community engaged learners. We are also a site of collaboration, whether for research-creation or to develop publishing projects on pedagogy related topics.
    • PedProCom Working Groups: DOCC Instructors (if you are teaching a DOCC, you are in this group); FTN Wikipedia
  • The Operations Committee facilitates the work of the network. The Committee shapes the virtual organization of FemTechNet’s socio-technical systems used to support FTN as a geographically distributed network that is accountable to differences of access along multiple vectors of power, including global location, race, class, gender, sex, and abilities that influence the network’s collaborative use of information and communication technologies. Specifically the committee manages FemTechNet Communications, Publicity, and Archiving. Currently, the Operations Committee is integrating Slack into the community’s workflow, it is also documenting the network’s uses of communication platforms throughout the collective’s history.
    • Operations Working Group: The purpose of the Tech Praxis Working Group is to shape, study and improve the infrastructure of FTN and assemble documentation on the interoperability of platforms. Plans for this year include: writing projects including grant applications, technical reports, peer reviewed essays, book chapters, and blog posts focused primarily on research and documentation around FemTechNet’s prototypes in designing, using, and hacking distributed learning systems.

As the renamed Operations Committee and its working group Tech Praxis signal, this year FemTechNet will continue to experiment with various learning and communication platforms, bending and building tools to facilitate feminist collaborations between instructors, researchers, committee and network members alike. The Tech Praxis Working Group is preparing for broader use of the EdCast learning network in FemTechNet courses and communication, which includes plans to study this platform, documenting what it enables and disables for FemTechNet, and situating it as an object of research within the collective’s fields of digital feminist tech praxis and digital media learning, through reports, posts and publications.  

We’re also aiming to prioritize the social justice work already being done within the network, and to welcome and invite engagement, participation and partnerships with even more individuals and organizations working at the intersections of trans feminist anti-racist queer disability decolonizing economic social justice and technology. While many (and certainly not all) people who have been involved in FemTechNet are economically and professionally located in the university/college systems, the network is oriented as much (or more) to alter- counter- and anti-institutional impulses, initiatives and potentialities that work beyond, against and sometimes simultaneously within the university. We hope to keep bringing in and bringing out our activist, revolutionary, transformational, hacker movement builders.

 

More about the 2015-2016 Co-Facilitators:

  • Anne Cong-Huyen – Digital Scholar and Coordinator of Digital Liberal Arts Program at Whittier College (California); Co-founder of #transformDH, steering committee member of HASTAC, member of FemBot Collective.
    • Co-facilitator’s Focus: Critical Race and Ethnic Studies Committee
  • T.L. Cowan – Bicentennial Lecturer in Canadian Studies at the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies and Digital Humanities Fellow at Yale University (2015-16) & FemTechNet Chair of Experimental Pedagogies in the School of Media Studies at The New School; Independent Performance Artist; collective author, “We Are FemTechNet” Manifesto
    • Co-facilitator’s Focus: PedProCom; FemTechNet Roadshow Blog Series
  • Paula Gardner– Asper Chair in Communications, Faculty of Communication Studies and Multimedia, McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario); Senior Adjunct Professor, OCAD University (Toronto, Ontario); outgoing Chair Feminist Scholarship Division of International Communication Association, FemBot Collective Member
    • Co-facilitator’s Focus: WWW activities, Summer School Development and Organization; Seek funds for FTN activities
  • Veronica Paredes – Postdoctoral Research Associate at Department of Media and Cinema Studies at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. FemBot Collective Member.
    • Co-facilitator’s Focus: Tech Praxis Working Group; production guidance for new audio-visual materials
  • Jasmine Rault – Assistant Professor of Culture & Media, Eugene Lang College, The New School; former chair, FemTechNet White Paper Committee; collective author, “We Are FemTechNet” Manifesto
    • Co-facilitator’s Focus: Operations Committee; Social Justice Practice & Initiatives

Message from 2014-2015 Co-Facilitators

A bit over a year ago, we (Lisa Nakamura, Liz Losh, and Sharon Irish) decided to serve as co-facilitators of FemTechNet. Anne Balsamo and Alex Juhasz, the co-founders and inaugural co-facilitators of FemTechNet (2012-14), set a very high bar! To guide and support this collective of amazing thinkers and doers has been heady, intense, fun, and hard. FemTechNet has grown quickly: we have about 400 people on our e-mailing list; nearly 800 on our Facebook page; and and over 100 people participated in our August 2015 workshop, from across about 12 countries and 12 time zones.

We added a Project Manager, the hyper-capable Ashley Walker, who moved us from chaos to less-chaos, and found a congenial and warm institutional grounding as a Research Program at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Research on Women and Gender. In response to growing public awareness about online misogyny and racism, we helped create more public resources for rapid response. We created an Advisory Board and continued to connect with sister organizations in the world of feminist technology activism and scholarship. We’re making new content–podcasts are in our future. We have very active committees providing context and material for at least 15 distributed open courses being offered this year. We have collectively written grants and articles, and edited books and journals. We raised money; attended meetings online and face-to-face; traveled to conferences around the world; joined panels; gave talks; received and sent gi-normous amounts of email; and experimented with a range of different digital platforms, although trust and safe spaces will always be a concern.

The Distributed Open Collaborative Conference being organized by Karen Keifer-Boyd and Marla Jaksch, for April 8-10, 2016, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, will be another highpoint to showcase the work of our wonderful FemTechNet learning communities in developing the next generation of feminist researchers.

Guess what? We are tired from all this activity!  In the process of moving to new responsibilities ourselves, we drafted procedures for future shifts in leadership. We three are not leaving FemTechNet, not by a long shot: Each of us has ongoing committee and publishing projects related to the collective.

 

We applaud the Feminist Five who have stepped forward to co-facilitate this year!

Onward, Lisa, Liz, and Sharon