Class Discussions

FTN Roadshow Blog Series* – Course

by Karen Keifer-Boyd, Professor of Art Education and Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies at The Pennsylvania State University


A version of this blog post on a keyword “Course” in FemTechNet Distributed Open Collaborative Course (FTN DOCC) was presented at the Feminist Pedagogy Conference 2015: Transformations on April 17, 2015 at the CUNY Graduate Centre in New York City.


In 2012, I responded to a FemTechNet (FTN) open invitation for a Distributed Open Collaborative Course (DOCC). I am interested in experimenting with potentials of new media for feminist pedagogy and DOCC theory resonated with me. Eileen Trauth and Jennifer Wagner-Lawlor at Penn State joined me in co-teaching a DOCC “node” in Fall 2013 that we called G-STEAM (Gender and Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics). Each semester since Fall 2013, I have connected courses that I teach to DOCC and co-created pedagogical experiments: Performing Dialogue, Exquisite Engendering, and Feminist Mapping. My contribution to the FTN Roadshow Blog Series is about these DOCC pedagogical experiments situated in the keyword, COURSE.

(dis)COURSE

The Distributed Open Collaborative Course (DOCC) is a feminist approach for 21st century learning and teaching in the age of social media connectivity. The DOCC is open access, multimodal publishing, collaborative research and publication, and transdisciplinary pedagogy. In this sense “course” is an ongoing DOCC discourse, a digital multi-continuum of open-ended courses. The DOCC has intervened in education discourse on the authority of insular knowledge and one-way modes of communication in massive online courses toward multivocal and multimodal communication, learning, and knowledge production. Jasmine Rault begins the FTN Roadshow Blog Series referring to DOCC as “experiments in pedagogical technologies” and “a kind of insurgent collectivity and distributive technology of care.” Karl Surkan in the Roadshow series emphasizes, “as we wrote in the FemTechNet Manifesto, ‘collaboration is a feminist technology’ – so the two are mutually constitutive.” The DOCC approach fosters rigorous dialogue to imagine, and then create, an equitable and socially just education. Maria-Belén Ordóñez in the Roadshow series states that “the point of the DOCC [is] to build a network of feminists who are committed to inclusive, democratic learning.” For me, the labor of teaching was not necessarily lightened but purpose, learning, and pleasure deepened in collaborating with Maria-Belén and others in the DOCC.

Lisa Brundage and Emily Sherwood in the FTN Roadshow series provide a feminist pedagogy example of DOCC theory in re-visioning their pedagogical technologies of linear digital architecture to a collage mural space for planning, dialogue, resources, and engaging the world. In the G-STEAM course in Fall 2013, while each week there was a different theme, many of which were shared themes with other DOCCs, there was one theme which was overarching: CREATIVITY. Not only creativity in what and how we read but also in the pedagogy. From the beginning of the COURSE, students discussed what a feminist approach to creativity might be, and about how feminist digital spaces could themselves be spaces of creativity.

1_FTN_DOCC_course_G-STEAM

alex cruse, in the FTN Roadside series, identifies DOCC goals to be “inclusive, participatory, decentralized, and nonhierarchical structures and processes.” T.L. Cowan in the Roadshow series writes on how “DOCC is an exemplar of cabaret pedagogy. … Cabaret is about people working together to make something that they couldn’t make alone, and its economic structure is more often driven by mutual support than by big cash rewards.” This is the (dis)COURSE of DOCC.

Performing Dialogue

Maria-Belén Ordóñez in the Roadshow series discusses our cross-class project that had three parts from introductions of embodied theorizing of self through reading Erin Manning’s (2007) Politics of Touch and Allison Weir’s (2008) ideas of global solidarity and transformation. In my graduate course, Including Difference, the introduction of self to students in Dr. Ordóñez’s DOCC was a “Mapping Difference” assignment linked here. Visually mapping difference can be seen at all the students’ blogs linked to the assignment. For example, Becca Brittain Taudien’s identity map, linked here, and Eunjung Choi’s mapping of self, linked here, reveal their revelations regarding privilege, positionality, and difference in the process of mapping a relational self.

2 FTN_DOCC_course_difference dialogue[1]

After introductions, students embarked on Difference Dialogue, an assignment described here. Both classes watched FemTechNet’s “Difference” Video Dialogue, a discussion featuring Shu Lea Cheang and Kim Sawchuk moderated by Sara Diamond.[i] Students in three courses (one undergraduate course and two graduate courses) in Fall 2014 used SoundCloud’s timeline for commentary; and students in my graduate-level course also used Zotero to build a bibliography of work referenced in FemTechNet’s “Difference” Video Dialogue. You are invited to join the FemTechNet collective bibliography group. Once in the FemTechNet group, you will find several folders including the “Difference” folder with full references and links to all the texts mentioned in the FTN Difference Video Dialogue.

The third part of the cross-class project we called “Performing Dialogue.” Students in my Including Difference graduate course wrote an interpretive script from their dialogue with students in Dr. Ordoñez’s graduate course and from in-class dialogue as well as course readings. Penn State students performed and video-recorded their scripted dialogue considering audience, that is, who they would like to communicate to in their performing dialogue. One student, Carla Fernandez, a Penn State doctoral student in psychology from Paraguay, joined the weekly three-hour class sessions from Italy where she had traveled during the course for a conference. During this time, the Performing Dialogues were due. Carla asked a stranger to her, a young woman from China, in a public plaza in Florence, Italy, to perform the dialogue with her. Students in the course at Penn State watched the video-recording in Pennsylvania, followed by discussion with Carla in Italy via video-conferencing technology. Carla’s script and performance is about difference beyond the physical into the psychological, which is linked here. Carla’s teaching in her Performing Dialogues spilled outside academia and is a good example of cabaret pedagogy.

Feminist Mapping

DOCC feminist mapping entangles responsibility, identity, body, memory, lived experience, and knowledge.[ii] To introduce the Feminist Mapping project, I showed several examples of mapping such as Maya Lin’s What is Missing?, a science-based artwork as digital memorial, mapping the disappearance of species habitat degradation and loss.

Here, I provide links and brief descriptions of two feminist mapping projects from the Fall 2013 G-STEAM (Gender and Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) course. Hyunji Kwon, a second year art education and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies doctoral student in Fall 2013, developed a visual feminist historiography of Kang Duk-kyung’s life, which includes Kang’s symbolic drawings about the atrocities of her experiences as a “Comfort Woman” sex slave. The map is linked here.

Veronica Hicks, a first semester art education and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies doctoral student in Fall 2013, used Inklewriter to create an interactive book, STEMINISTS IN THE MAKING. Veronica selected the theme “TRANSFORMATION: Creativity, Transformation, and Potentialities” for her turn in facilitating talking circles in the Including Difference course. She extended the FTN SYSTEMS 1.NARRATIVE Video Dialogue with Brenda Laurel and Janet Murray moderated by Anne Balsamo in creating a “Choose Your Own Adventure” interactive book, which provided a game-like teaching approach to learn of women in STEM.

DOCC_course_steminist

In 2014, T.L. Cowan, in collaboration with others, launched a DOCC feminist map, The Situated Knowledges Mapping Project, to make visible politics of location and identity. More on the mapping process is linked here and on the map as a “place to work out theoretical problems and positions relative to feminist thought in a very direct and personal way for the students reading and writing into it” is discussed in Karl Surkan’s post on Collaborative in the Roadshow series. The Situated Knowledges Map pin posts marking places of harassment remind me of Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s Stop Telling Women to Smile art series, which addresses gender based street harassment by placing in public spaces where harassment occurred her drawn portraits of women with captions that speak directly to offenders.

Exquisite Engendering

The FTN DOCC “Exquisite Engendering Video ReMIX, MIXed Reality Art” project is a riff on the Dadaist’s Exquisite Corpse art process. Our project is “Exquisite Engendering,” inspired by Erin Manning’s (2007) book, Politics of Touch: Sense, Movement, Sovereignty. She describes engendering from Latin roots generrare, to generate. “To engender is to undertake a reworking of form. To engender is to potentialize matter. Engendering involves potentiality at its most fertile: it calls forth the link between the incorporeal and the material, between the virtual and the actual” (p. 90). In the second iteration of Exquisite Engendering in Spring 2015, we focused on racism. Penn State and University of North Carolina, Wilmington undergraduate students preparing to be teachers watched Comfortable: 50 People 1 Question (4:13 min.) and The Skin We’re In (6:13 min., 2013), a talk by Nina Jablonski, distinguished professor of anthropology at the Pennsylvania State University, who debunks supposedly connected biological, behaviorial, social, and cultural characteristics of people. Students used SoundCloud timeline for commentary (text and audio commentary is linked here). The videos and commentary focused the theme of race in the remixes students created, in this case, for viewing by fourth graders, an age when stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination can be entrenched, internalized, or disrupted. Strategies included:

  • Remix by visually manipulating prevalent, privileged, stereotyping media messages using strategies such as denoting empty space, overlaying, spotlighting, and repositioning. Empty space is used to draw viewers’ attention to what is missing. Overlay is used to layer other meanings onto a familiar object or image. Spotlighting and repositioning are used to provoke viewers to question assumptions by highlighting something in the image that they would normally minimize or marginalize.
  • Expose the unmarked, re-envision how marked, reveal what is absent, critique the prevalent cultural stories in visual culture.
  • Remix the message as well as the media. Mimic mass media forms to create a counter-narrative to prevalent, oppressive media messages. Use humor and irony. Use remix aesthetics: extensions, translations, selections.

For example, one student created a stop-action animation inspired from Jane Elliott’s Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes experiment in 1968, which continues to be a powerful controversial exercise to raise awareness about discrimination and privilege based on body differences. A group of 18 predominantly White fourth graders responses included that it is unfair that one pencil got the paper and sharpener, the other did not. Several students visually expressed sadness, sympathy, and/or empathy for the unfairness of privilege and depravity. The Exquisite Engendering Remix exhibition of the video art with surrounding individual and small group responses on VoiceThread is linked here.

FemTechNet Distributed Open Collaborative Course

I conclude with an invitation to move educational disCOURSE toward including difference in open networks of collective responsibility for well-being of all people. The course of FemTechNet’s DOCC flows from participants’ labor to end violence of dogmatic teaching and instead to practice eco-social justice education.

References Cited

Manning, Erin. Politics of Touch: Sense, Movement, Sovereignty. Minneapolis:University of Minnesota Press, 2007.

Weir, Alison. Global Feminism and Transformative Identity Politics. Hypatia, 23(4), 110-133, 2008.

[i] FemTechNet’s Video Dialogues can be accessed at https://vimeo.com/femtechnet/channels

[ii] For theoretical discussion and further examples of feminist mapping see:

Alexander, M. J., & Mohanty, C. (2010). Cartographies of knowledge and power: Transnational feminism as radical praxis. In A. L. Swarr & R. Nagar (Eds.), Critical transnational feminist praxis (pp. 23-45). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Keifer-Boyd, K., & Smith-Shank, D. (2012). Feminist mapping. Visual Culture & Gender, 7, 1-5.

 

FTN Roadshow Blog Series* – Collaborative

by K.J. Surkan

Status update: in transit.

Subway, bus, car, train, plane – I am travelling 600 miles each week round trip between Philadelphia and Boston to teach women’s and gender studies classes. I have done this for a decade now, for some 30 weeks a year. By now I have travelled over 150,000 miles just getting to work and back; I have never missed a class due to weather or because of the commute. This is referred to by some as a “two-body problem”; my partner has a tenure-track job in Philadelphia and my part-time position is at MIT (The Massachusetts Institute of Technology), 300 miles away. I spend a lot of time alone.

For that reason, it is at once ironic and fitting that I am writing about collaboration for the FemTechNet Roadshow blog series. To collaborate is, after all, “to work with another person or group in order to achieve or do something.”[i] For me, finding FemTechNet meant finding a virtual community of feminist scholars, a collaborative network of people dedicated to fostering connection and unafraid of trying out new technologies to make it happen. For me this was like a life preserver thrown to a drowning person, steeped as I was in feminist thought but academically adrift in a sea of isolation. Technology enables collaboration across time and space, to be sure, but as we wrote in the FemTechNet Manifesto, “collaboration is a feminist technology” – so the two are mutually constitutive. Collaboration is an essential part of the FemTechNet DOCC (Distributed Open Collaborative Course), and it is happening at every level – between teachers as we establish new pedagogical connections across institutions, between teachers and students in Open Office Hours, between students in the completion of group projects, and between scholars through feminist video dialogues, writing and conferencing.

Some examples of innovative feminist technological collaborations we have explored, both in and out of the classroom:

Creative and often experimental, the open and collaborative nature of FemTechNet pedagogy actively breaks down conventional distinctions between teacher and student, performer and audience, inviting a different kind of scholarly conversation and discovery of new “truths” in situated knowledge and shared experiences. In Teaching to Transgress, bell hooks writes that “the classroom, with all its limitations, remains a location of possibility.”[ii] The feminist DOCC reinvents the classroom as we have traditionally known it, displacing it. Many of our assignments and projects are collaborative, experimental, interdisciplinary. By reimagining the writing process itself, the DOCC has the potential to destabilize power dynamics that can limit participation in conventional academic settings.

world2

Let’s take a look at an example of collaborative feminist pedagogy in action, using the FemTechNet Situated Knowledges Map as a case study of “hacking the global map,” an innovative way to connect and engage students in actively thinking through the politics of location. Feminist thought has a long history of posing a challenge to the uncritical presumption of objectivity informing much traditional scholarship, particularly in the sciences and social sciences. The notion of feminist epistemology as particularly situated knowledge is the basis for rethinking methodologies in academic research, if not the very foundation of critical thinking in its attempt to shake basic assumptions about meaning and how we know what we know. As Haraway notes, “feminist objectivity means quite simply situated knowledges.”[iii]

The unique pedagogical application of the FemTechNet Situated Knowledges Map engages in an experiment in critical cartography by networking students asynchronously from multiple locations, inviting them to strategically locate themselves on a shared Google map. Students are invited to drop virtual pins on a shared map, authoring narratives in which they contribute a description including a relationship to place in connection with their own identity or lived experience. These may be text-based, or multi-media, integrating embedded images and/or video to provide a unique portrait of the chosen site, in many cases including explicit consideration of technology and feminism. They are able to read and respond to other students’ pins, facilitating inter-institutional dialogue, many times between pin authors physically located hundreds or thousands of miles apart who will never meet each other in person.

In Fall 2014, FemTechNet launched the Situated Knowledges Map.

situatedmap

Students participating in the first semester of the map project were in DOCC nodes at Temple University, MIT, Yale, Ohio State University, Swarthmore College, University of Michigan, Colby-Sawyer College, The College of New Jersey, Flagler College, and West Virginia University. The pin narratives they wrote on the map strikingly represented a wealth of diversity and shared experience, and the resulting artifact became a treasure trove of teachable moments in some very intriguing and unpredictable ways.

For example, many students chose to write about travel or study abroad experiences, with varying degrees of awareness or interrogation of their own position relative to the non-Western and/or developing nations they visited. The map became a place of struggle to reconcile impulses to claim an essentialist global feminism with a robust critique of what T.L. Cowan termed the “White Savior Industrial Complex”[iv] in a pin comment aimed at complicating some unproblematized missionary narratives. The map became a place to work out theoretical problems and positions relative to feminist thought in a very direct and personal way for the students reading and writing into it.

Jeremy Crampton and John Krygier observe in their essay on critical cartography that “maps are active; they actively construct knowledge, they exercise power, and they can be a powerful means of promoting social change.”[v] Embedding a global map with feminist reflections about particular pin locations has the potential to challenge assumptions about space, place, and geopolitical boarders, or at the very least foster some conversations about what those look like from the vantage points of different identity locations. Feminist mapping, Keifer-Boyd and Smith-Shank argue, “demystifies and destabilizes the old cartographic binaries of inside and outside. It looks at ways cultural borders are crossed and hierarchies of place are normalized.”[vi]

We saw this playing out in another example through the emergent theme of street harassment and catcalling, which echoed through many pin points in different cultural locations, prompting dialogue around intersections of ethnicity, race, class, sexuality and gender presentation. One identified catcalling as the impetus for a feminist consciousness, describing the feeling of “that sudden fear that a stranger is shouting at you, the realization that this means you may be attractive, the crushing oppression once the attraction dissolves back into fear.”[vii] Others took a more direct tone of resistance in posts titled “Stop Telling Women to Smile” and “You Should Smile”: “Those words that seem so harmless to them make me feel exploited. Why do I have to smile?”[viii]

The map also invited cross-cultural analysis of catcalling, with students debating about the extent to which street harassment is culturally specific, or specifically reflective of Western beauty ideals and objectification of women. Tracing these pins thematically, the map documents a unique learning experience through the shared conversation about what it means to experience and/or report on harassment through specific embodied positions and boundary crossings across cultural differences. One Swarthmore student expressly addressed the cross-cultural conversation on street harassment she observed taking place on the map, integrating a reference to Cowan’s white savior industrial complex:

I’ve spent time working or studying in Chile, India, and the Dominican Republic, and found myself (a white cisgender woman) getting a lot of unwanted attention on the street in each place. I want to push back against some of the other pins that suggest that this attention is due to men being attracted to a standard of beauty that is white. Street harassment is about power and control, not attraction. Also, local women probably experience just as much street harassment (and outright violence). But maybe catcalling of women who look white and foreign in these places is a way that men say, “You shouldn’t be here,” and resist the white foreign presence that is often thinly veiled colonialism. Maybe it’s a way of expressing anger towards global inequality or the white savior industrial complex.[ix]

The map also offered situated analyses of gender and sexuality as they were read cross-culturally. In one example, “Bunny Means Cute, Not Gay!” a pin narrative describes the homophobic confusion that occurred after a Tweet depicted a South Korean eSports gaming team wearing bunny ears, and American fans questioned whether the team was gay as a result. The notion that male gamers wearing fuzzy bunny ears would be read as cute in Korean culture, rather than effeminate or gay, required special explanation by the photographer tweeting the photo.[x]

Several narratives addressed non-binary or transgender identities and some of the cultural confusion surrounding the reading of the body in physical space. Some of these featured interesting reversals of cultural assumptions or norms, as in “A Twist on Restrooms,” in which a trans woman trying to avoid a long restroom queue was ironically kicked out of the men’s bathroom.[xi] Cultural specificity of gender and sexuality was central to another insightful transgender pin narrative, “With the Aid of Strict Gender Roles.” Set in Singapore, the narrator explains,

I discovered the first time I went out to the mall alone to browse around, that the strict gender roles actually helped me to be “out” in Singapore. Because the roles were so strict and I wore “men’s” clothes and had short hair, everyone at the mall just assumed I must be male because otherwise why would I look that way? And it was great! It offered a welcome reprieve from all the misgendering at work and made me feel a lot more comfortable in my ability to be read as male. I actually got read way more often as male in Singapore than at home in Boston.[xii]

This ability to think and reflect with others in an active, living digital artifact such as the Situated Knowledges Map extends the classroom beyond four walls to powerfully engage students in feminist thinking in new ways. Reading peer perspectives that challenge their own thinking or reveal their experiential knowledge as culturally specific, students expand their understanding of how others encounter gender, race, and class dynamics in the world. This learning project is just one example of the many ways to think about collaboration in the DOCC.

[i] “Collaborate.” Merriam-Webster.com http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/collaborate Accessed May 27, 2015.
[ii] hooks, bell. Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. NY: Routledge, 1994, 207.
[iii] Haraway, Donna. “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective.” Feminist Studies, Vol. 14, No .3 (Autumn 1988), 581.
[iv] Cowan, T.L. “Thinking About the ‘White Savior Complex’” FemTechNet Situated Knowledges Map, Vol. 1 (Sept-Dec 2014).
[v] Crampton, Jeremy & John Krygier. “An Introduction to Critical Cartography.” ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies. 4(1): 15. http://www.acme-journal.org/vol4/JWCJK.pdf Accessed May 27, 2015.
[vi] Keifer-Boyd, Karen, and Deborah Smith-Shank. “Feminist Mapping.” Visual Culture and Gender. 7 (2012): 3. http://vcg.emitto.net/7vol/Keifer-Boyd_Smith-Shank.pdf Accessed May 27, 2015.
[vii] “Home is where the. . . catcalls come from?” FemTechNet Situated Knowledges Map, Vol. 1 (Sept-Dec 2014).
[viii] Black, Shayna. “Stop Telling Women to Smile” FemTechNet Situated Knowledges Map, Vol. 1 (Sept-Dec 2014).
[ix] Isabel, “Being Abroad and Intersectional Identity.” FemTechNet Situated Knowledges Map, Vol. 1 (Sept-Dec 2014).
[x] “Bunny Means Cute, Not Gay!” FemTechNet Situated Knowledges Map, Vol. 1 (Sept-Dec 2014).
[xi] Julie, “A Twist On Restrooms,” FemTechNet Situated Knowledges Map, Vol. 1 (Sept-Dec 2014).
[xii] Ryker, “With the Aid of Strict Gender Roles,” FemTechNet Situated Knowledges Map, Vol. 1 (Sept-Dec 2014).

Canaries in the Coal Mine

By Ellie Brewster

We spent most of our first session talking about the Anne Balsamo / Judy Wajcman dialogue, although we did go off on a few tangents. We meet in Second Life at the Ada Lovelace Library, on the Ohio State Virtual Campus, (image courtesy of Sharon Collingwood).

Most of us are information workers, and there was a vigorous nodding of avatar heads when we discussed this quote from Wajcman:

“in creative industries, or whatever terms you use for these kinds of industries, that people are working extraordinarily long hours, they’re not unionized, they’re a perfect example of the blurring of private time and time for their employer, although they are self-employed and don’t think of it this way.  In old terms, we would think of it as very exploitative labour relations.”

I liked Wajcman’s analysis of the importance of reputation and autonomy for these kinds of workers — I think that many people are willing to give up a lot to be working outside the control of large corporate structures, and I think we should be very careful in examining what that means. We talked about this for a while, and wanted to do more on skilled, unskilled and deskilled labour.

overall view of Ada Lovelace Library, OSU Virtual Campus, courtesy Sharon Collingwood

I liked a lot of what Wajcman said. She reminded us that there was a time when people asked questions like “why shouldn’t people who work in workplaces be part of running those workplaces?”  Why, indeed?

The dialogue ended on a positive note. As Anne Balsamo said, one robin doesn’t make a spring, and one swallow doesn’t make a summer. Although we are still dancing around the essentialist point that being female somehow grants us a better perspective on human relations, many agree that a critical mass of females in the upper echelons of power will change our culture.

What the dialogue didn’t bring up, and what I wish we had talked more about in our group, is why women, or anyone, would want to support such a toxic system by striving to succeed in it.  It reminds me of what Audre Lorde said shortly before her death: we race for the cure for cancer while we are drinking, eating, breathing, and bathing in carcinogens. Lorde was critiquing the breast cancer industry, but I think she identified a pattern that we see elsewhere. Can we really change the system by subscribing to it.

In the face of all the problems we have to deal with today, perhaps the breaking the glass ceiling is at least an achievable target. However, I wouldn’t want a focus on corporate success to distract us from other ways to effect change within the workplace.

Our discussion group meets in the virtual world Second Life on Sundays at 11am Pacific, 2pm Eastern, and 7pm GMT. Find our island by typing MINERVA OSU into the address bar of the Second Life browser, or use this link to arrive in the classroom (you must have the group “Minerva Guests” activated):
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Minerva%20OSU/189/70/40

First Meeting of FemTechNet ¡Taller! in San Antonio

By Penny Boyer

At Week 1’s FemTechNet ¡Taller! session there were a total of 21 women present.  As the talleristas arrived into the Lidliker Room at Geekdom between 6:30 and 7pm, Martha Rosler’s 1975 video, Semiotics of the Kitchen, was playing on a loop  (6:29 min. performance video).

Penny Boyer began the Taller with an overview and orientation of the various FemTechNet websites and an introduction to the Suggested Syllabi/Reading Lists.  To prove the readings were not necessarily onerous, Boyer projected the essay, “A day without feminism” <http://www.uri.edu/artsci/wms/aday_without_feminism.pdf> and had the group read the beginning of it in round-robin fashion with each woman reading aloud one sentence.  Part of the Riot Grrl Manifesto was also read aloud by a woman who had some familiarity with it.
First meeting of the FemTechNet ¡Taller! in San Antonio, Texas, at Geekdom. Facilitated by Penny Boyer and Laura Varela

The VNS Matrix manifesto was projected momentarily.  Boyer explained that other media was on the syllabi, like video; she showed the trailer for Forbidden Voices: How to Start a Revolution with a Laptop and introduced the group to the work of Cuban writer Yoani Sanchez and her blog, Generation Y.  The talleristas then introduced themselves.

Laura Varela (L) and Penny Boyer (R), co-facilitator of FemTechNet ¡Taller! in San Antonio, Texas, at Geekdom.

Laura Varela (L) and Penny Boyer (R), co-facilitator of FemTechNet ¡Taller! in San Antonio, Texas, at Geekdom.

Following a five-minute break, we watched the first FemTechNet weekly themed video, Labor: History of the Engagement of Feminism & Technology, Judy Wajcman, Professor of Sociology, London School of Economics, interviewed by Anne Balsamo, Dean of the School of Media Studies, The New School.  To transition from the “Labor” video into a group discussion, ¡Taller! facilitators had invited Kelly Schaub, a Geekdom entrepreneur, to discuss the program she directs, CSA-San Antonio: Community Supported Art! “CSA-San Antonio is a subscription service for locally produced art.  Similar to the boxes of fruit and vegetables that one might get from a local farm as an agricultural CSA, CSA-San Antonio offers ‘shares’ of art to feed the public’s cultural appetite. Over the last 20 years, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a popular way for consumers to buy seasonal food directly from nearby farms. With the same buy-local spirit in mind, Community Supported Art is a similar endeavor to support local art and artists, and to help sustain a healthy arts environment in San Antonio.”  This presentation led to a group discussion followed by adjournment at a little past 8:30pm.

BGSU Students discuss the question “what is a DOCC and why are we in it?”

by Anca Birzescu, Doctoral Candidate in the School of Media and Communication, Bowling Green State University and volunteer working with Femtechnet/DOCC2013

After reading several articles that introduce the DOCC project, students at Bowling Green State University (BGSU) in Ohio posted on Canvas their answers to the question “So what is a DOCC and why are we in it?

The student postings reveal the diversity of lenses through which they look at the DOCC concept, their views on technology, feminism and education, and at the same time the sheer excitement with which they embark on this novel learning journey. It is of utmost importance to bring into discussion the feedback provided by students enrolled in the current DOCC, since they are the main stakeholders in this feminist enterprise. Their readings of what the DOCC stands for stressed a range of interests and expectations with regard to the goals and objectives of the DOCC.

Being aware of the different systems of inequality/identity markers that obstruct knowledge acquisition and discriminate among different types and levels of knowledge in such process, students highlighted the value of information access and information sharing provided by a DOCC environment:

What an unfortunate truth that gender, economic status, or geographic location have such an impact on the level of options available to retrieve historic/current event information.[…] The benefits of this type of format is the vast bank of knowledge through instructors, students, and libraries, and the ease of sharing this information. This format encourages the sharing of information and ideas while still focusing on local relationships.

Students also emphasized the patriarchal ideology circumscribing the Internet and the possibilities for resistance and challenge to this status quo that may arise in a DOCC context. One of the students thus wrote:

Patriarchal views of the internet and how it is used have hindered discussion and dialogue on feminism, sexuality, race, and gender. In this DOCC, technology will be viewed through a feminist lens. I am also excited about the “Wikipedia Storming” that will take place. Being able to effectively improve the accuracy and increase the prevalence of feminist works will further expand peoples’ knowledge and awareness.

Collaboration—as a challenge to the top-bottom approach to education perpetuated currently by the MOOCS, inter-disciplinarity, and active learning, were other recurrent features/qualities mentioned by students in regard to the nature and goal of the DOCC educational project. In this sense, one student wrote that

DOCC also allows the use of technology to our advantage to collaborate with other individuals from different institutions, unlike MOOCS, which are primarily created for individual institutions.

Another post explained that:

DOCC allows numerous institutions, instructors, and students to gather and collaborate on a specific topic, while also allowing the course to be individualized by each instructor at each institution. Each week, there will be a highlight topic across the entire DOCC and then each unit of the DOCC will focus on the topic at hand through a separate syllabus. This type of course offers an incredible wealth of knowledge, as it is taught and discussed by a broad range of individuals.

Always emphasizing collaboration, students showed thus their interest in a feminist approach to education:

The DOCC is a free flowing collaboration of support and knowledge that is working to open people’s eyes to feminism in a technology focused world. We are in a DOCC to help spread knowledge that others have been shielded from or have ignored. When you work alone, your message is never usually as strong as when you are working in a collaboration.

Likewise, one post pointed that:

The goal of the collaborative course is to get input and feedback from many different users and institutions. Why is this beneficial? This makes the course much more diverse than it would be with just one institution or the course being under just one instructor. DOCC’s are the new alternative to MOOC’s which were massive online courses. The problem with these is that they were branded by just one single institution. With using just one main institution it could be a bit more bias in a certain direction or could only attract a certain type of user which could eliminate the diversity that is needed in a collaborative course.

Yet another student emphasized the learners’ responsibility in the act of learning:

These courses allow for a broader area and sense of interaction. The students share the responsibility of addressing and supplying material and discussion in this class. With the technology and ability to mass communicate it allows perspectives and participation an essential part of this course. A mass audience (students) brings people together to focus on the similarities rather than their differences.

Students showed excitement about the new possibilities offered by DOCC:

In this course we will interact with many different Universities and we will have the opportunity to work with a student from a different university on our artifact project. We are “in it” in order to broaden the possibilities of the thoughts that will be provoked, and also to break away from the typical layout of an online course that lies just within one university.

Their answers also revealed students’ appreciation of diversity of viewpoints in the act of knowledge acquisition implicit in a DOCC context:

While the course specifics vary from the different instructors from each university, the overall collaboration abilities of this course allows you to tap into different viewpoints and information from a number of different people. I think that with that in mind the ability to take in a multitude of viewpoints from different areas of the country allows us to gain a better understanding of the topic at hand.  This broader view is the main reason why we are participating in this style of learning.

The customizing potential of the DOCC—not possible in a MOOC environment— was also highlighted by students:

“We are also going to use skype as a source to have one on one times with the instructor, which is greatly going to help keeping up relations with the students.”

Another student similarly wrote that

“The goal is to collaborate and educate on a particular topic as a whole yet also allowing the instructor the flexibility to structure their virtual classroom syllabus.”

Last but not least, the collaboration versus top-bottom approach to education was clearly emphasized in several posts, which also revealed students’ articulate perspective and awareness of the challenge represented by the DOCC in the current context of neoliberal education politics:

One of the goals is to allow an environment of learning, training and information exchange to a broader group of underrepresented, including women and economically struggling communities worldwide, while maintaining a more personalized and collaborative approach to teaching and learning. It is an honor that BGSU is one of the few universities participating in this groundbreaking method.

[DOCC] allows for students and teachers from various schools to create a course where they all can contribute to the topic of Dialogues on Feminism and Technology. DOCC is different from MOOC (massive open online course) due to the fact that DOCC is not branded by an elite institution. It involves many institutions and the work is distributed through participants from various networks, which causes more diversity.

There are multiple reasons why the MOOC was not seen as a suitable option, one of which being that MOOC’s are generally for profit at some point down the line. The size of the courses within a DOCC are also much smaller so that there is more discussion between a smaller group of people at multiple universities.