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.
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 https://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.
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 .
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.
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)
2nd-4th December, 2013
We, the delegates to the FirstGlobal 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.
We are committed to gender equality and women’s empowerment across generations to fully participate and enabling women’saccess 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 onMedia 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.
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.
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) (https://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: https://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, “Womenand 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.
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 https://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.