While it may make the most sense to start at the beginning, I have to say, I never expected two hundred and fifty words posted to HASTAC to spark such a flame.
When I first thought about feminism and programming languages in the beta DOCC (Distributive Open Collaborative Course) I was inspired. I had found an idea that spoke to me; an idea that I knew was big and complicated and important. Before that class I hadn’t spent much time at all thinking about feminism. The DOCC helped me uncover critical, feminist frameworks through which to interpret the world. Frameworks that provided me with structured (yet unstructured) ways to theorize about things that I had already been trying to describe, frameworks I felt a kinship with.
Thank you so much to everyone who was able to participate in the FemTechNet Summer 2014 Workshop last week! I have put together a table of contents document that links to the notes taken over the week. This document also contains links to some of the Blue Jeans recordings that were captured over the week. You can also find a folder with these recordings here.
It is with grief and shock that FemTechNet marks the untimely death of our remarkable collaborator and colleague, Dr. Adrianne Wadewitz. Within our community of feminist scholars, artists and activists, she was a leader, innovator, and expert. Her work for FemTechNet, collaborating with other instructors and students on our Wikistorming Committee, had deep impact for our community, and will have lasting effect as feminists around the world continue to follow her lead as they add feminist voices, influences, histories, and theories into Wikipedia.
FemTechNet, collaborative makers of “the anti-MOOC,” were graciously, no I’d even say studiously received by leaders of the bellies-of-the-beast at last weekend’s Online Learning Summit, hosted by Berkeley, Harvard, MIT, and Stanford (the great research institutions who put money and a spotlight on what would first be the year, but quickly the boondoggle of, the MOOC.). President Hennessy of Stanford started us off by indicating that the Massive of MOOCs should really be rethought as the moderate; and Open ended up generating a host of problems people hadn’t quite predicted (particularly the great differences of skills, knowledge, and attention of the masses who came; demonstrating “a dynamic range of ability.”)
My last post, MOOCing the Liberal Arts? concluded with this suggestion: “For those of us in higher education, including our students, our work is to provide MOOC alternatives by using technology, and other means, to improve what we do and to open access to what we have.”
Today, along with four of my students and a visiting scholar, Gabrielle Foreman, we taught our first of seven classes on Technology at the Norco prison. A little background: our class is one of many being offered through the PEP program (Prison Education Program), run through the visionary leadership of Dr. Renford Reese at Cal Poly Pomona. “The overarching philosophy of PEP is to use the resources in the backyard of each of the state’s prisons to make change e.g. university student and faculty volunteers. There is a college within a 15-20 mile radius of each of the state’s 33 prisons. PEP’s goal is to collaborate with these colleges to assist the CDCR in reducing recidivism in the state by 1% by 2015.” Our class “Technology in Prison,” is a seminar connected to the yearly speaker’s series that I run as director of the Munroe Center for Social Inquiry at Pitzer, this year’s theme being Technology. For seven weeks, some of my speakers and students from the seminar will move our inquiry in place to see how our conversations change, and expand, when engaged with a student population denied access to most of the (digital) technologies that those of us on the outside now take for granted.
On Friday, January 31, 2014, Susie Ferrell and I attended “High Impact Practices: Interdisciplinary collaborations and creative connections,” an experiential learning conference at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). We presented on a panel entitled “DOCCs: The Dialogues on Feminism and Technology Project” along with Professor Liz Losh (UCSD) and graduate students Monika Sengul-Jones and Erika Cheng (both UCSD). This was Susie and my third time representing FemTechNet at academic conferences; and this conference certainly didn’t disappoint.
Participants in UCSD conference; photo by Jade Ulrich
Enjoying a much-deserved drink with highly-Twitterate Jessie Daniels (@JessieNYC) after a few days of talk, workshops, and video dialogues in Ann Arbor, Michigan about Feminist Digital Pedagogies, I was discussing with her the changing culture of blogging, and other social media forms in relation to our own ever-changing digital metronomes. Which is a fancy way to say here what I said there: “I always used to blog about conferences, but now it feels like it takes too long to blog; the work is too hard. What’s the deal with this quickening?”
Digital Pedagogies Panel, University of Michigan, L to R: Inderpal Grewal, Laura Wexler, Lisa Nakamura, Maria Cotera
By Sharon Irish, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
On January 22, 2014, I arrived in Ann Arbor, Michigan, courtesy of Lisa Nakamura, for a two-day event, “Feminist Digital Pedagogies,” that she organized with colleagues at the University of Michigan. Jessie Daniels (CUNY) was not able to make it to Ann Arbor in time to give her keynote—due to storms in New York–but she did make it for a dinner with us that evening.
Dinner with participants in Ann Arbor, Michigan, prior to Feminist Digital Pedagogies conference. L to R: Faithe Day, Andre Brock, Jessie Daniels, Carrie Rentschler, Sharon Irish, Lisa Nakamura, Jessica Moorman
Recently one nodal class of the FemTechNet DOCC 2013, with students from Pitzer, Scripps, and Claremont McKenna Colleges in California, completed ‘Keyword’ videos where they added their own voices to a discussion or idea raised in class.
Alejandra and Jeremiah Rishton created a video on the keyword ‘Labor’. In it they tied the fact that labor and the economy are often tied to supporting the army, to the detriment of the people. Militaristic gain and capitalism become the goals, at the expense of people’s lives and living conditions.
Although it may not seem like it’s possible, in this video Alden Weaver, Stephanie Feldman, and Chayapa Chukatral make a strong argument for the fact that women’s colleges are actually technologies in and of themselves, and the ways in which education, feminism, and technology intersect.
In this video Bethany discusses the fandom of the band One Direction, and how fans’ queer reading of some of its members consider it feminist, but in reality it is often extreme and disrespectful to the band in the ways the fans express their opinions, especially on twitter.
Alicen discusses how the binary nature of technology is often against feminist principles, especially when applied to the compression of digital images. Compressing and reducing images to a more simple state through binary often leads to losing the underlying context and meaning.
This particular video by Abby and Siwaraya is not actually a keyword video, but rather a response to Fox News’s report [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8wScTInLD8] on FemTechNet, which was fraught with misinformation and straw men.
Perhaps these videos will spark an interest in a particular topic for you. The class encourages you to respond to their keyword videos with your own. There can also be videos on ideas such as ‘Transformation’, ‘Race’, and ‘Archives’. We look forward to your work!
The final for my Pitzer node of FemTechNet’s DOCC 2013 was a craftmaking/gift exchange project where my 12 students had to make something that expressed a feminist interpretation or use of technology by making something to hold and cherish and then give away.
Objectives (developed by Anca Birzescu and Radhika Gajjala):
• Experiment with hands-on, applied skills outside of traditional academic writing
• Make feminist theoretical terms, ideas, and arguments approachable, accessible, and/or available in other formats, vernaculars, and to new audiences
• Connect theories and practices of feminism along key themes
• Materially and then also virtually present your ideas, interpretations, critiques to others involved in the DOCC2013
• Understand “value” outside present day post-industrial capitalistic frameworks
• Create community through gift giving
My students’ beautiful and smart objects are now open for your bids: you simply need to email the maker(s) with a description of the object’s value. The highest bid wins the object!
• The Wire Queen Emerging Sexualities is a handmade laptop that gorges upon body parts and disgorges chaotic disruptions of freedom and pleasure, like any good cyberfeminist should!
• A Heel Planter transforms “an effeminate machine, which is predominantly used by women to enhance their femininity into a planter and therefore a technology because it actively creates and grows life.”
• Gendered Toys—real labor involved to change—but well worth the effort…
• An Hourglass Nebula Compost Box with Compostable Jewelry countering technologies of death with “technologies of fertility, or technologies of life” inspired by the life and work of Beatriz Da Costa
From Compost Box
• A Humanoid Figure that transforms old electronics “to symbolize the ways which we are constructed by technology, and how ultimately the archive of what we leave behind of our lives is based in technological ways of capturing meaning.”
• Labor Under the Net of Capitalism, an art project capturing paper pigeons in a delicate net that “shows that our labor underneath the capitalist white supremacist system is distorted into a form of behavior that does not benefit us” (video pending)
A Plae Time Cloth that intersects language, computers, and textiles through a traditional Thai craft that sometimes serves as a baby cradle, but in this rendition stays hard and soft, old and new for cyberfeminist use
Here’s a quick video that shows all the objects. Or you can read extended online presentations linked to above.