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UN Global Alliance on Gender and Media, Part Two

By Lisa McLaughlin, Miami University of Ohio, and Sophie Toupin, McGill University

This “report” has been compiled from a series of posts on the FemTechNet listserv in late November through December 10, 2013. Lisa McLaughlin, Associate Professor, Department of Media, Journalism & Film and Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program, at Miami University of Ohio, took the lead for FemTechNet in Fall 2013 in the UN Global Alliance on Media and Gender (GAMG). The Alliance was initiated during a UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] forum in Bangkok from December 2-4, 2013.  Together with FemTechNet co-facilitators, Anne Balsamo and Alex Juhasz, Lisa decided to submit the online information necessary to join the Alliance.

Sophie Toupin posted to FemTechNet, December 1, 2013:
I am so thrilled to hear that FemTechNet is taking part in the upcoming meeting of the UN Global Alliance on Media and Gender (GAMG)! As highlighted by Anne’s email, continuing to engage at the policy level, despite the frustration and the sometimes apparent disinterest of global players on such issue, it is nonetheless very important.

In the mid-2000s, I took part in international policy dialogues when I worked for and with the Women’s International Network of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC). It was at the time of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).

It might be worth connecting with other NGOs present at the GAMG and which are working on similar issues (whether big players such as: IREX [International Research and Exchanges Board], Internews and Panos; or smaller players such as: AMARC, WACC [World Association for Christian Communication], etc.) to write a joint letter in The Guardian (or other newspapers) to address the issue of gender and media and the interconnection and intersection between all forms of technologies whether “old” (such as community radio) or “new” (a dichotomy I am not fond of), the concentration of the “media” (whether it be at the media level or at the “internet” level i.e. the “googlization” of everything: see Society of the Query #2  http://networkcultures.org/wpmu/query/past-events/2-amsterdam/) and the importance of pluralism (see: Chantal Mouffe’s new book on Agonistics: Thinking the World Politically [Verso, 2013]). A joint letter could help trigger some traction for a campaign and bring attention to this undervalued issue.

 Having said that, finding one or two permanent missions at the UN or government representatives to champion those issues could also be key. Having an official country or permanent mission to back our initiative could be of much help as government reps can sometimes be our ears, eyes and voices in spaces where decisions are being made, pressure is being applied, but where civil society is not allowed. Also and my last point on this: from my advocacy work experience at the permanent missions level, we do not necessarily have to target the country where we are from, we can target other, friendlier countries.

Sophie

Lisa McLaughlin to Sophie Toupin and the FemTechNet listserv, December 1, 2013:

You will see on the agenda that IREX [International Research and Exchanges Board], APC [Association for Progressive Communications], WACC [World Association for Christian Communication], etc. all are listed as major partners for the GAMG. The International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) also is a major partner. One tricky matter is that, to streamline processes, UNESCO decided to separate the academic constituency (and place IAMCR in a leadership position) from the civil society constituency. UNESCO would have preferred that all academics were represented by IAMCR, but, as you might agree, it seems inappropriate to require that one becomes a member of IAMCR in order to participate. Also, academic associations/networks are part of civil society. For these reasons, and because I hope that FemTechNet eventually becomes more inclusive of those not associated with academe, I designated FemTechNet as a civil society, not academic, association. I should mention that I am a member of IAMCR and have no animosity against IAMCR, even though I am somewhat concerned about the representational arrangement.

But, the good news is that, as a civil society organization, even as an academic civil society organization, FemTechNet does have the opportunity to work with the other organizations that you list. I’ve worked with WACC and APC in the past, primarily to lobby for inclusion of specific concerns and language (like “gender”) during the WSIS.

I think that we should have a dialogue about what FemTechNet supports beyond the broad issue of media and gender equality and justice. Optimally, we should have done this earlier, but then, UNESCO didn’t promote the GAMG until September of this year [2013].

Sophie, you’re correct that members of governmental delegations can be effective allies, but, in general, US delegates will do little more than have conversations with civil society representatives (if that). During WSIS, governments were asked to include civil society representatives in their official delegations. While countries such as Uganda were quite inclusive, the US ambassador refused to include anyone from civil society. One female member of the Canadian delegation, on the other hand, even wore the T-shirts that we had made for the prep-coms before the Geneva summit. [As I recall, the front of the T-shirt stated “Something is missing from the WSIS Declaration” and the back of the T-shirt stated “GENDER.”] At the OECD Ministerial on the Future of the Internet Economy, the Brazilian ambassador was quite supportive of civil society.

My guess is that we probably will need to find friendly government officials from countries other than the US.

The live streaming video of the Global Forum on Media and Gender wasn’t working for the first day and there was no interpretation to English or any other language available. Two apparent news anchors spoke in Thai over the video and the speakers’ voices, and it appeared that they were not addressing the forum. No interactive technology seems to have been made available for the forum. Despite UNESCO’s important accomplishments, there is a reason why UNESCO and FIASCO have three final letters in common.

On the upside, in my experience, the important discussions and work do not occur at the events themselves but, rather, before, around, and after these episodic public sphere moments. The Global Alliance on Media and Gender will be announced during the Bangkok forum. What happens after this is the real substance of the GAMG, where we might engage in the dialogue and make a difference.

http://www.unesco.org/new/en/communication-and-information/resources/news-and-in-focus-articles/all-news/news/first_steps_taken_towards_gender_equal_media_at_the_global_forum_in_bangkok/#.UqfU22RDs1F

Ultimately, the UN General Assembly will have to officially approve the GAMG.

Lisa McLaughlin, writing on December 10, 2013

The Global Forum on Media and Gender has concluded, not surprisingly with an announcement that there now exists a Global Alliance on Media and Gender. Although the streaming video never worked, there is now video at http://www.unesco.org/new/en/communication-and-information/crosscutting-priorities/gender-and-media/global-forum-on-media-and-gender/global-Forum-on-Media-and-Gender-Videos. I’m afraid that it’s not very impressive–just the opening ceremony and some interviews with participants, only one of whom is a Civil Society representative from an organization that takes a very progressive and critical approach to gender and media issues (the woman from the Heinrich Böll Foundation, China Desk).

At this point, my primary comment on the proceedings, including the opening ceremony, is that while the forum focused on some significant issues such as gender-based violence (GBV) and the Internet and the vulnerability of women journalists in war zones (both worthy of great attention), it was too heavily weighted toward women as victims, at the expense of focusing on the contributions of women to efforts to increase gender equality and justice within the context of media/communications. GBV and the Internet seems to be at the top of the list of issues as they involve women.

FIRST GLOBAL FORUM ON MEDIA AND GENDER (GFMG)

Bangkok, Thailand

2nd-4th December, 2013

FINAL STATEMENT

We, the delegates to the First Global Forum on Media and Gender, held in Bangkok, Thailand from 2nd-4th December, 2013, declare our commitment to the fundamental human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the promotion of gender equality in and through media, the empowerment of women, and to the creation of a Global Alliance on Media and Gender (GAMG).

We reaffirm the outcomes of the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

We recognize that the media has a crucial role to play in promoting women’s full participation in every aspect of life and society and, to this end, we invite UNESCO and UN Women to endorse this Statement and implement its recommendations.

We also invite other UN agencies, intergovernmental bodies, media organizations, training and development institutions, professional organizations, donors, commercial businesses and foundations, relevant NGOs and education institutions, to embrace this statement and to support the implementation of its recommendations as appropriate.

COMMITMENT

We are committed to gender equality and women’s empowerment across generations to fully participate and enabling women’s access to expression and decision-making by promoting a gender-inclusive media and communication environment that reaches gender equality in media organizations, unions, media education and training institutions, media professional associations, media regulatory and self-regulatory bodies; attains gender balance in media governing boards and in management, whose levels set company policy, make key financial decisions, and oversee media operations, thereby influencing the following aspects:

  • access to and participation in digital platforms;
  • safety of women in media;
  • a positive, non-stereotypical and balanced portrayal across all forms of media and media content;
  • promotion of ethical principles and policies supporting gender equality;
  • improvement of the gender spread within media occupational groups;
  • empowerment of communicators with media and information literacy skills that can help advance the cause of gender equality.

We support the establishment of the Global Alliance on Media and Gender (GAMG) in line with principles and objectives outlined in the Framework.

We call on UNESCO and UN Women, as well as the UN family and all partner organizations to join the Global Alliance on Media and Gender and contribute to the implementation of its Framework and Action Plan.

We call on UNESCO and UN Women to disseminate widely through the United Nations system our proposals for the inclusion of Gender and Media in the Post 2015 sustainable development agenda, in particular to the goal related to Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (Annex I) and the goal of good governance, and in the 2015 UN Conference on Women (Annex II).

We also call on all who can assist the Global Alliance on Media and Gender (GAMG) to join us in supporting women in accessing the opportunities and benefits which the knowledge society and media technologies are bringing to humankind today, and which can do so even more in the future.

 

 

UN Global Alliance for Media and Gender, Part One

By Lisa McLaughlin, Miami University of Ohio
Edited by Sharon Irish
December 11, 2013

This “report” has been compiled from a series of posts on the FemTechNet listserv in late November through December 10, 2013. Lisa McLaughlin, Associate Professor, Department of Media, Journalism & Film and Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program, at Miami University of Ohio, took the lead for FemTechNet in Fall 2013 in the UN Global Alliance on Media and Gender (GAMG). The Alliance was initiated during a UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] forum in Bangkok from December 2-4, 2013.  Together with FemTechNet co-facilitators, Anne Balsamo and Alex Juhasz, Lisa decided to submit the online information necessary to join the Alliance. The full compilation is available as a pdf document here.

GMFG

What is the UN Global Alliance on Media and Gender (GAMG)? At this point, it is a set of ideas, objectives, and processes. For information on the objectives of the GAMG, a good place to begin is http://www.unesco.org/new/en/communication-and-information/crosscutting-priorities/gender-and-media/global-forum-on-media-and-gender/homepage/.

Lisa also registered to join the debate virtually that took place prior to the forum in Bangkok. Her initial input into the debate was to object to the suggestion that only “truly international organizations” should belong to the Alliance; she argued that there are no “truly international organizations” and that, if we proceed in this way, a number of exclusions–notably at the local/community level–will occur, and the GAMG will be a top-down arrangement.

Lisa wrote: UNESCO is basing the promised declaration and action plan on Section J, women and media, from the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. Overall–and I know that I am not alone–I think that Section J of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA) (http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/platform/media.htm) is thoroughly inadequate for addressing digital media and ICTD [Information and Communication Technologies for Development], especially in a way that addresses gender disparities “on the ground.” Please see this statement from the 2000 Beijing + 5 Media Caucus for a very incisive critique of Section J: http://www.womenaction.org/ungass/caucus/media.html.

Lisa McLaughlin’s statement of November 30, 2013:

It should be recognized that, unlike Security Council resolutions and some conventions, the general UNO pattern suggests that, typically, very little is accomplished in the two years following summits, forums, and conferences, particularly those related to human development-oriented initiatives of UN agencies and organizations. However, if I felt that the activities in the years subsequent to a Global Forum on Media and Gender were inconsequential, I would not be representing FemTechNet for the GAMG. 

I am suggesting that, in the two (and more) years following the forum, we need to engage in actions which will keep the enthusiasm generated at the forum going, to keep the issue of media and gender front-and-center as a critical area of concern, to recognize the weaknesses of Section J, and to be prepared to confront issues relevant to gender and the current information and communication environment(s). Answering this future-oriented question requires that we begin by remembering the past. In 1995, after having been a specter in the previous UN Conferences on Women, Section J “women and the media” was added to the list of critical concerns. For purposes of the GAMG, UNESCO has recognized the importance of including Section J at the Beijing Fourth World Conference on Gender: 

“This initiative is related to one of UNESCO’s global priorities, namely Priority Gender Equality. It will articulate a systematic follow-up to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action,Women and the Media Diagnosis, and its strategic objectives:

  • Strategic objective J.1: Increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication.
  • Strategic objective J.2: Promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media. [1]”

But, let’s consider that, after 1995, “women and the media” largely was marginalized, ignored, and forgotten during the various Beijing follow-ups, perhaps in part because of what is described as the “strategic weakness” of Section J in the Beijing + 5 review, Gender and Media Caucus statement at http://www.womenaction.org/ungass/caucus/media.html The critique that Section J “failed to articulate the structural constraints and impediments that women and other marginal groups face due to commercialization and globalization of media and the concomitant decline of public broadcasting media in societies with democratic and pluralistic traditions” is spot on. 

Still, post-Beijing follow-up meetings failed to adequately address Section J, and “gender” certainly was not a priority in the World Summit on the Information Society proceedings (unless, I suppose, it could be tied to internet governance, which became the almost singular issue of concern by the end of the WSIS process). 

Within this context of marginalization and forgetting of gender and media, UNESCO’s prioritization and efforts to focus on numerous aspects of gender and media–with what appears to be a more intensive approach to the “digital age” than was the case in Section J in 1995–is very welcomed.

 However, I am suggesting that it now is time to go beyond Section J and confront its “strategic weaknesses,” as outlined in the Beijing + 5 Media Caucus Statement (url above). 

Among my suggestions: First, although public-private partnerships [PPPs] were in place in 1995, the past two decades have seen an enormous increase in public-private partnerships involving ICTs forged among the private sector, UN agencies, governments, and NGOs. Many of these proceed without any meaningful oversight. At best, we get a handful of “best practices stories” which tell us nothing of the PPPs that have failed and continue to fail to enable and empower the communities targeted for these initiatives, generally because of the failure to encourage community and local input and participation. (These claims follow from empirical, ethnographic and political economic, research). The notion of targeted groups for PPP initiatives must be abandoned in favor of understanding groups and communities composed of persons who are capable of expressing their needs and desires, persons and groups who are capable of innovating. Missing the latter generally is a sign that a corporation is more interested in wrapping themselves in the blue mantle of the UN flag for promotional purposes than in working with marginalized groups. Because private sector funds now fill the void as public funding has decreased, or is non-existent, PPPs seem here to stay. However, not all PPPs are alike, and we should demand that PPPs are oriented to serving human needs above all else (while knowing that, however doctrinal, it by no means is clear that access to ICT is the ultimate way to serve human needs). 

Second, Section J is about images and jobs–the usual two sub-areas that have arisen when discussing changing the representation of women since the late 1960s. This is so limited and has tended to avoid both the structural and local aspects of imbalances and inequalities. We don’t need additional great projects of “stereotype-hunting” as a follow-up to the Forum on Media and Gender. This has been done and is useful mostly as a form of consciousness-raising. As UNESCO is aware, many aspects of media and gender need to be identified, analyzed, and confronted. 

A final problem is that the various sections of the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA) actually overlap but are treated as separate in such a way that literacy largely remains with “education” while many of the more problematic ways of addressing women’s lack of access to IT–notably public-private partnerships and increased privatization of services–are addressed in other sections having to do with employment and the economy. With the GAMG, there are no areas of concern “competing” with “women and the media,” so there is no reason to create divisions among societal areas by sections and bulletin points. Perhaps one of our objectives should be to guarantee that Section J cannot be ignored in the future.

What was “media” has become much, much more – so closely intertwined with our world and its multiple realities and spaces. Does this require a new digital age or network society (or info society) level response to issues of gender and media?

Part Two has a further exchange between Lisa McLaughlin and other FemTechNet participants.

The Eye of the Wikistorm

By Jade Ulrich, Pitzer College

On Monday, December 2, a fellow FemTechNet (FTN) intern, Susie Ferrell, and I organized an event with funding that we were awarded from the Reclaim Open Learning Contest last summer. FemTechNet is an activated network of scholars, artists, and students who work on, with, and at the borders of technology, science and feminism in a variety of fields including STS, Media and Visual Studies, Art, Women’s Queer, and Ethnic Studies. Participants in the Feminist Dialogues on Technology course at Pitzer College, along with other interested students from the Claremont Colleges community, came together for this three-part event.

PitzerWikiStormStudents

Entitled “The Eye of the Wikistorm: The Future of Feminist Technoculture Histories,” we hosted a moderated discussion between Dr. Adrianne Wadewitz (Occidental College) and Professor Jacqueline Wernimont (Scripps College), to create a dialogue on the keyword, “WikiStorm.” We filmed the hour-long discussion between our two guests. I asked them how they see traditional academic work intersecting with public intellectual labor (such as Wikipedia), and then asked them to share their recent Wikipedia-related projects. To hear their answers, you will have to watch the WikiStorm Dialogue video, which will be up on the Commons as soon as it is edited!

WikiStormScripps PitzerWikiStormStudents2

Following this filmed dialogue, those in attendance embarked on their own Wiki-a-thon. The Wikistorming project seeks to engender a set of digital practices among women and girls, to teach and encourage their participation in writing the techno-cultural histories of the future by becoming active participants in the creation of global digital archives. Experienced Wikipedians helped the new editors, and great work was done on this digital encyclopedia. At the end of the evening, we all enjoyed a delicious Thai dinner, where we socialized and talked about why we were attending the event. Many of us had similar interests, and the conversation flowed easily. In the end, FemTechNet brought together a group of passionate people, filmed a dialogue video that we can add to the FTN archive for future use, and we enjoyed each other’s company throughout an evening of Feminist Technology Networking. What more could we ask for?

Feminism and Latina Representations in Media

Post by Xuxa Rodriguez, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; Photo Credit ABC/Michael Desmond

On November 21st, 2013, at the University of Illinois, I presented my research on representations of Black, Latina, and Queer bodies within advertisements and content in Seventeen magazine. There are problematic cultural stereotypes being perpetuated in relation to these bodies, and more work needs to be done to represent these bodies in ways that don’t conform to a performance of “White Woman” Drag: in other words, a performance that prefers straightened hair; a streamlined body frame with controlled curves, ideally focused on the breasts; clothes and accessories that can be easily visually read as “girl,” “feminine,” and “middle class.” Perhaps most importantly for this performance’s aim of reinscribing dominant cultural values, it expresses and actively pursues heterosexual desire that works towards the reproduction of a nuclear family and the accompanying ideologies that will ensure the cycle repeats itself ad infinitum. “White Woman” Drag both makes visible and invisible that which it signifies: the performance calls upon a culturally agreed concept of “White Woman” while simultaneously erasing any features that would identify the concepts of “white” and “woman” with an actual body or group of bodies that really and truly exists in the world. (I’m currently in the process of theorizing “White Woman” Drag so  forgive me if this articulation of the concept is lacking or unsatisfying at the moment.) The perpetual reification of “White Woman” Drag in images, media, and cultural consciousness devalues and undermines the ethnic identities that it compounds and breaks down within its signifiers.

ABCMichaelDesmond_ModernFamily_GameChanger

Photo by Michael Desmond/ABC. Just after the moment depicted in this photograph,
Gloria’s son asks her to not root for him at the game because she’s too Latina.

Despite people coming up after my talk and congratulating me for a job well done, I felt I was preaching to a very invested choir. I’m a doctoral student at a Research I university, but I wonder if I am doing all that I can from this privileged position to further my feminist fight for equality regardless of race, class, gender, or ability, especially in relation to Latina bodies. This is where technology helps amplify the movement: as a feminist today, there are many avenues for activism and criticism that folks can join. Ms. Magazine has been going strong since 1971, Jean Kilbourne’s “Killing Us Softly: Advertising’s Image of Women” is in its fourth installation, the Feminist Majority Foundation is 25 years old, Bitch Magazine is 17, the Media Education Foundation’s series is 14, and both the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and Feministing are coming up on their tenth anniversaries.

I live in a world where Feminist Frequency delivers sharp, accessible critical analysis about representations of women to countless online viewers. I live in a world where Feminist Ryan Gosling launched a thousand blogs in its likeness. I live in a ridiculously exciting world where Rookie produces content by girls and women of all different backgrounds for girls and women of all different backgrounds.

And yet I also live in a world where “Modern Family”’s Gloria is told by her son that she can’t help her fiery outbursts—she’s Latin, it’s in her blood. While Gloria’s outfits struggle to contain her buxom figure, I shake my head as I add her to my running mental list of Latina women failed by media representation, almost tauntingly as if waiting to see when anyone will notice the stereotypes they keep perpetuating. Eva Mendes, Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayek, and Cameron Diaz are almost always represented as Latina bombshells. If Latinas aren’t represented as sex kittens, their ethnicity is often hidden or erased on screen. Although Rosario Dawson has been luckier, Gina Torres has yet to play a Latina on screen despite being of multiracial Cuban descent. This is nothing new as Dolores Del Rio, Lupe Velez, Carmen Miranda, Rita Hayworth, and Raquel Welch are all examples of Latina bombshell typecasting, with Hayworth and Welch at the extreme end of the typecasting spectrum by virtue of having been packaged and represented as non-Latinas for public consumption. (As of 2002, Welch has publicly claimed her Latina identity because of her performance as Aunt Dora in PBS’s “American Family”.)

Will Latina women ever find themselves not being represented as fiery-tempered and cartoonishly-curved, with voluminous hair, as they mew and preen for viewers? While this question isn’t new and there are certainly academic conversations devoted to the topic, I wonder if education and publication is enough to win the long-term battle to transform and open up representations of Latina bodies to include a wide variety of gender expressions and performances in the media?

What other models can be followed to work towards transformation? Is the future online? In self-produced and crowd-funded video analyses, like Feminist Frequency? In pop cultural packaging for quick, immediate uptake, like Feminist Ryan Gosling? In community-specific and community-sourced exchanges, like Rookie? Or is the future beyond what we can come up with today?

NOTE: Danielle Henderson has said that she started Feminist Ryan Gosling as joke flashcards to help in studying the work of the cultural theorists she was learning at the time of her master’s degree. However, I think there’s a lot for academics and academia to learn from the way that the project culturally resonated, almost overnight.

Xuxa Rodriguez is a first year PhD student in Art History at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Her doctoral work focuses on the work of Afro-Cubana and Cubana artists Coco Fusco, María Magdalena Campos-Pons, and Ana Mendieta. She also works on gender performance and representations of women of color in media and fashion. More info on her work and interests can be found at http://xuxarodriguez.com.

DOCC 2013 Courses Wrapping Up

Maria-Belen Ordonez at the Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCAD U) notes that her DOCC 2013 class just ended this week (end of November.) She reports that the “nodal course students were fantastic.” In only a few more weeks, the rest of the DOCC 2013 nodal courses will be wrapping up, with final projects moving online, conference papers and course reflections being written up, and a few courses developing for Spring 2014. The remaining Video Dialogues will be released in the next two weeks: Archive with Lynn Hershman Leeson and B. Ruby Rich, and Transformations, an homage to Beatriz da Costa.

OCADU_2013

Students in OCAD U DOCC 2013

Evolution of the MOOCs?

By Alexandra Juhasz, Pitzer College

I am recently returned from the 9th Annual Policy Summit, Rise of the MOOCs: Foreshadowing the Coming Transformation of Higher Education? held by the Mid-West Higher Education Compact. While I have become a frequent public speaker, most recently asked to explain my several innovative projects within technology and education (like FemTechNet), I have never had the opportunity to speak and listen to this particular, and highly engaged, audience.

I was pleased, albeit a bit intimidated, to be speaking in Omaha, Nebraska, on behalf of FemTechNet and our DOCC2013, a collaborative feminist rethinking of the MOOC, in this decidedly red-state environment, and to a large number of powerful people who are seriously considering the many ramifications of Open, Free, and otherwise digital education initiatives in relation to policy and Higher Education. Yes, people in this audience in a great many ways have more power than do I over what will happen to MOOCs evolution, rise, or decline in that they are in control of purse strings, policy, and large institutions.

Difference between A DOCC and a MOOC

Graphic contrasting MOOCs and DOCCs

I was placed on an elegantly-curated panel of fellow professors (Bryan Alexander, from NITLE, Ronald Rogers, San Jose State, who has authored two really interesting MOOCs, and Ray Schroeder, a specialist on online learning) who are each thinking critically, seriously, and actively about the huge ramifications of these many technological changes.

While I learned a great deal at the Summit, let me briefly point to a few of the most important things that I heard several times over, which all point to why I titled this post, “Evolution of the MOOCs”: they are being challenged from many angles; they are being changed and modified by many of us; and, whether our concern is cost, access, ownership, content, structure, or completion rates, people want MOOCs to develop past this first consolidation. It is my sense from this and some other recent conversations, that a great many of us who are wanting to use technology to improve Higher Education share concerns about:
• the current MOOC-osphere, where for-profit or other highly-funded models are dominating the landscape
• and leading to top-down, static, one-way delivery flows that are surprisingly ill-suited for their web 2.0 home
• teachers not driving teaching and learning and teachers not retaining control of their intellectual property (even if this is to let it be free through a Creative Commons license)
• learning systems that subscribe to the limiting terms behind the MOOC. What would digital class delivery look like that was Local, Closed, Hybrid, and/or Modular (this is from Stacey Clawson from the Gates Foundation).
• The quick loss of the cMOOC (which was Open) for our current xMOOC (“broadcast, amplified, online learning”; this is from Bill Meinke from Creative Commons)
• that like anything else on the Internet, expanding access to courses or free education is only a first step; students and professors need support structures not just (free) platforms (Mark Johnson, Educational Policy Studies, U WI)
• that professors will always be needed to create (new) content (knowledge); why are we handing delivery (profit and ownership) over to someone else?
• that MOOCs not be only huge, expensive, and fancy things but rather, that little pieces of MOOCs, as modules, might allow for all kinds of usability within any particular (for-credit) class; that pieces of (free) MOOCs can also be well-used to flip traditional classrooms

Wikistorming in Progress

By Adrianne Wadewitz

For the past two months, students in DOCC’s Wikistorming projects have been contributing information on women and feminism to Wikipedia, bringing their voices to the larger cultural conversation about what it means to write about underrepresented topics.

  • At The New School, students have added content to a variety of articles about women and topics which had previously undeveloped articles. For example, one student is researching the Soviet filmmaker Esfir Shub. As the student writes, she “was an incredibly influential pioneering documentary filmmaker and editor in post-revolutionary Soviet Russia…Her best known film, Fall of the Romanov Dynasty, was the first Soviet documentary to employ sound. I am thrilled to a part of this course as delves into the depths of my interests. It has been an interesting experience thus far.” Another student is expanding the article on Brenda Laurel, who is, as the student explains, “known for her involvement and enthusiasm for female gaming and was the vice-president and founder of Purple Moon, a gaming company that was dedicated to creating games for young girls.”

University of Illinois Students editing Wikipedia, October 2013

  • At the University Illinois, students have made plans to improve a wide variety of articles related to women, from comedian Tig Notaro to vegetarian food writer Deborah Madison to Betty Crocker. All of these articles are in serious need of improvement and the students’ work will dramatically improve their visibility and completeness.
  • At the Claremont Colleges, students have organized a Wikipedia edit-a-thon to be held Friday December 6th in conjunction with students from Cal State Fullerton and Cal State San Luis Obispo, where they will share their expertise and editing knowledge, followed by a collegial dinner. While FemTechNet aims to show the possibilities of distributed efforts of online communities through its DOCC, it does not neglect the importance of the physical presence and rejoices in the connections that can be made in these physical spaces.

While a great deal of work was completed, there is more to do. See our lists of open tasks at WikiProject Feminism to help out!

FemTechNet at Brown University, 2013

By Meg Fernandes

The FemTechNet seminar at Brown University has had an exciting and productive semester thus far! The class is composed of both graduate and undergraduate students interested in a wide variety of issues related to feminism and technology including electronic art projects, new media theory, and feminist pedagogy. In addition to a rigorous curriculum of readings, our course assignments and events include wiki-editing, keyword video production, creative assignments, student reflections about “feminist” terminology, and a guest lecture series. Please visit our course website here (and check back for updates!):

On October 15th (Ada Lovelace Day), our FemTechNet class participated in a campus wide wiki-editing event. The event was led by Maia Weinstock of Wikimedia New England as well as Professor Anne Fausto Sterling. Together, participants edited 70 existing articles and added 20 new articles about prominent female scientists, engineers, and other important cultural figures. The event was covered by a number of local press publications.

FemTechNet students are also making their own keyword videos around topics of their choice which have thus far included Agency, Performance, Cyberfeminism, and Women-Only Art Spaces. We are currently in the stage of post-production, but we hope to have the videos uploaded by the end of November. The videos emphasize student interests related to the course readings including analyzing computer music composition/innovation, investigating technologies such as Snapchat and Siri, and discussing the labors of bodily and opensignal performance. Students will also be completing creative assignments at the end of the year which will include, zines, photography projects, documentary work, poetry, etc. A summary will be written up at the end of the semester.

Students continue to write reflections about terms such as Stacy Alaimo’s “trans-corporeality,” Priscilla Wald’s “outbreak narrative,” and contemporary events related to issues on feminism and technology such as the Hysterical Women’s Project and subRosa. Some of our most interesting discussions have been around Wendy Chun’s work on software, Judith Butler’s essay on vulnerability and mourning, Eugene Thacker’s “biomedia,” Mel Y Chen’s “animacy,” and Melinda Cooper and Kalinda Vora’s discussion of transnational reproductive labor and technology.

            Lastly, we are hosting a number of exciting guest lectures including video artists, animators, and DJ’ s, including the following:

Asha Tamirisia, graduate student in MEME (computer music) at Brown University
Asha gave a presentation on her role as a computer music artist, tracing her development and interests in both analog and digital music production through her childhood, her undergraduate education at Oberlin, and finally, her work here at Brown as a PhD student. About one of the videos she showed, which can be found on our course website, she said:

This project was made in collaboration with dancer Alayna Wiley in 2010 in an old, unused men’s locker room at Oberlin College. The movement and video processing hinge on ideas of disappearance, intangibility, and distortion. As I revisit this project many years later, I see ties to ideas of material feminism: a means to create the sensation of porousness between the body and its environment, reconceiving the body in a way that recognizes it as a place in process.

Jessamyn Swift, graduate student in English at Brown University
Jessamyn gave her presentation on her evolving dissertation research including investigating theories of agency and the nonhuman in the work of Charles Darwin. In particular, Jessamyn close-read sections of Darwin’s observations about the possible “sentient” or “intentional” behavior of certain organisms including worms.

Samantha Calamari, DJ and Instructional Technology Expert and Aaron Apps, graduate student in English at Brown University.
Samantha will be presenting about her career as a female DJ in the 90′s in San Francisco and New York City. In particular, Samantha remarks on how the change from analog to digital DJ technologies changed the gender landscape in music culture.

Aaron is a published poet. He will be presenting work on his poetry book, Intersex, and discuss issues of queer identity and gender politics.

Elisa Giardina Papa, digital artist, Rhode Island School of Design and Brown University
Elisa is an Italian digital artist. She will presenting her work on animation and portraiture.

November 26th, 2013: Maura Smyth, Junior Fellow at Harvard University’s Society of Fellows
Maura is giving a presentation about her co-founded digital collaborative story-telling project called The Blaitholm Affair. From the press release:

The Blaitholm Affair’s interface will seamlessly integrate the world’s stories, art, and music, enabling artistic collaboration and allowing each visitor to have a different experience of the world, depending on how you navigate it… The scope of the world is boundless, the opportunities for collaboration never-ending.

December 3rd, 2013: Malavika Jayaram, Fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society

From her website:

Malavika works broadly in the areas of privacy, identity, free expression and internet policy in India. A practicing lawyer specializing in technology law, she has a particular interest in new media and the arts, and has advised start-ups, innovators, scientists, educational institutions and artists. A Fellow at the Centre for Internet and Society in Bangalore, India, she follows legislative and policy developments in the privacy and internet governance domains. For the last few years, she has been looking at he evolution of big data and e-governance projects in India – particularly the world’s largest biometric ID project – and their implications for identity, freedom, choice and informational self-determination.

Livestreaming Place, as well as Agency, Bodies and Care

By Alexandra Juhasz, Pitzer College

As part of the larger DOCC 2013 effort, I hosted a dialogue between Professors Radhika Gajjala and Sharon Irish—two devoted members of FemTechNet—about their feminist thinking on technology and place. We livestreamed the event from my “Dialogues on Feminism and Technology” classroom at Pitzer College on November 14, 2013. A video of that live event is now available on the FemTechNet Commons.

I hope you will watch this inspiring, interesting, and invaluable conversation between two amazing feminist thinkers (as well as their lively interactions with my amazing students). Here, I hope to provide a more personal frame for your viewing, a few ideas that were raised for me in the doing of this event, in its liveness, and lived-ness; things you can’t know, unless you were there, or I write them here for you online.

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Our digital engagements take us to places and people we might never meet in person in material space and this is grand (most of the participants in the DOCC 2013, for instance). But when we do have the opportunities of funds, time, and bodily energy to meet face-to-face, new, complementary, and deeply sustaining opportunities of the flesh arise! It is well worth the effort.

My students have loved “meeting” all the professors and artists we have read this semester on video, through the video dialogues. They discuss how this transforms the authors of the complex and empowering texts we read into people. My students say that they come to understand, by seeing diverse feminists’ interactions online, that real people write what students learn from, and they further realize, as real people themselves, they too are authorized to author.

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Video Dialogue on Place gets underway at Pitzer College, Claremont, CA

And then again, to meet the thinkers in person brings ever more delights and possibilities. A different kind of sense of these scholars’ complex selves passes in a look, a smile, a nod, or even a touch. Given that the personal or affective or bodily is so deeply connected to feminist politics, theory, and practice, it is no wonder that engaging with otherwise distant “experts” has particular resonances that are of use to feminist students. Don’t get me wrong, I am aware of the possibilities for intimacy and enlightenment in purely digital encounters! I only want to add to that the particular affordances of the embodied.

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Several DOCC 2013 students in conversation with Liz Losh (L), Radhika Gajjala (second from left), and President Maria Klawe (back to viewer), of Harvey Mudd College

When the official Dialogue concluded, my students ended up sitting in a circle quite close to our guests (something we had never done in class before). We seemed to want to signal that we were close, collaborative, and engaged together in something we all cared about. We signaled with our bodies because we could.

This is part of the DOCC challenge to the MOOC. The places we live in and learn in, the places where we come together as situated communities are different, with their own cultures of engagement and interaction and their own styles of and needs for learning.

This placed difference is as vital to our learning possibilities and needs as are the ways that technology expands this reach, opening us up to new places, as particular as our own. (interestingly these same students also LOVED their class with Professor Sharon Collingwood, who generously taught my students last week on Second Life: they sat in a circle there, too.)
And that brings me to care, with which Radhika also ends the Place video dialogue. She expresses how hard care is to commodify, or off-shore (try as neoliberalism will to do so). The felt care that these travellers shared with myself and my students is part of our larger DOCC 2013 effort where we model together the many ways of feminist knowing and teaching, that always attempt to acknowledge the needs of humans in their many places, online and off.

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Jade Ulrich, Scripps FemTechNet student, and Liz Losh, UCSD FemTechNet Prof who drove to Claremont for the event