"Though both are bound in the spiral dance, I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess." – Donna Haraway

I am very excited to be presenting at the National Women’s Studies Association Meeting, Nov 13 – 16, 2014. Below you can find our panel description and abstracts of our individual talks.

Conference Theme: Feminist Transgressions Subtheme: Technologizing futures

Panel Title: Transgression, Gender Disturbance, and Feminist Sci-Fi Futures

Keywords: Intersectionality, Technology, New Media

Science fiction and other speculative genres engage technological imaginaries to problematize social ills and elaborate possibilities for change. Historically associated with men ─ dominated by white cis male authors and related to so-called “masculine” subjects of science and technology ─ science fiction has been troubled with colonial, sexist, and transphobic content. However,  feminist, queer, third world women, and women of color authors and artists also mobilize the conventions of the genre for critique, activism, and imagining new worlds. This panel brings together early career academics working in diverse areas of critical media and technology studies as scholars, activists, and makers. The panelists offer intersectional, queer, and transfeminist readings of literary and new media texts that emphasize their relevance to contemporary political and social issues including gender and sexual identity, neocolonial police states, reproductive rights, and others. The panel explicitly addresses the conference theme of “Feminist Trangression” by analyzing disruptive feminisms in literature, new media, and real-world activism. These texts subvert generic conventions to perform transformative critical interventions. Offering a multi-layered approach to “Technologizing Futures,” this panel examines media and genre as technologies themselves that are often used to enable but also sometimes fight against white cisgender heteronormative futurity. It explores material technologies ─ including both existing technologies/platforms (Youtube, Twitter, music videos, and video games) and imagined future technologies (robotics, androids, and clones) ─ that offer critiques of how feminist technologies can subvert and disrupt hegemonic futures. Read the rest of this entry »

Okay, back from panel two (Feminist Making II: Producing Cultural Critique) and I’m *supposed* to be working on my paper, but I don’t want to lose the moment to get out some ideas.

First of all, i want to collaborate with everyone on the panel. There were great projects and the focus on pedagogy and feminist practice resonated well with my priorities and the types of work I enjoy doing. What? I can collaborate with everyone. It’s totally possible.

Carly A. Kocurek’s (designer of Choice Texas!) question about what makes a feminist game was very interesting and I thought it productively intersected with the product / process question raised in the earlier panel. I also really appreciated her emphasis on making sure she and her collaborator could pay their designers and other team members. This is a huge issue around the ethics of collaborative practice and I loved that her approach (and that of the other panelists) was humanistic in practice. In discussion she mentioned something she had read where a person said that they looked at their potential benefit from a project in three ways: adequate pay, personal fulfillment, and professional advancement. They will not work on a project that does not offer at least two of these. Seems like a pretty good model for self-care in the academy. We aren’t allowed to give our students independent study credit for anything that they could be paid for. This limits my options a bit more but I think ultimately protects the students from exploitation.

Carly also exhorted us to learn three chords and form a band. In other words, to not wait until you have acquired all the skills you think you need because that kind of frontloading of skills can really slow things down. I am going to talk about making as amateurs tomorrow in a way that I hope complements this so I was excited to hear this and to see signs of assent from the audience.

I really loved hearing about Jarah Moesch’s LUNGS project. It reminded me a bit of the work that my colleague Laura Pasquini did (is doing?) with Andrew Miller using environmental sensors in Denton, TX. and has inspired me to think more about the wearable possibilities with these kinds of sensors. Jarah’s question about how do we do queer feminist critical race conscious work across disciplines is one that I think about a lot. I can relate to her sometimes being the only humanist in the room. I wonder how our notions about interdisciplinary work help and frustrate that? The other worrisome tendency I’ve seen is for the person asking the critical questions to treat the designer or tech collaborate more like a contractor on a project than a true partner. I’m in no way suggesting that Jarah does that. Just that it is another issue I’ve seen with collaborative work and that may be the result of not having the shared ideological foundation with someone but wanting to tap into their technical expertise. I’m probably not framing this very well, but it came to mind when she was asking this question.

Jessica Lovaas’ work with high school and college students in relation to mapping and spatial imaginaries was so inspiring! She gave one example of working with a non-profit on maping issues surrounding daytime curfew citations and how different maps were able to elicit different angles of the problem. And they got policy changed! A really wonderful outcome. I also really enjoyed that she showed us some of the more silly and fun projects alongside all of these fierce, social justice focused projects. I thought it had the effect of validating a variety of student interests. And from the earlier panel the discussion about gateways to making indicate that these maps may lead the students in directions they never considered possible.

During discussion some really great questions were raised re: the demographics of the panel audience and whether that matters.   Other provocative questions focused on big data. The question of what feminist big data might look like is a really interesting one. I’ve written elsewhere here about my response to big data and it was affirming to see my skepticism in other members of the audience but to also hear panelists ask questions about how it could be feminist. Carly raised the issue of access to data sets and Jarah suggested that how the data is framed is an important question; she gave binary  gender options on surveys as a concrete example of how data misrepresents. She said she always takes the time to tell those collecting the data about the flaw in their options and points them toward a blog post she’s written that gives suggestions about how it might be done differently.

At the end there was a question about amateurism and anxiety in students and there was some great discussion around experimentation and failure as pedagogical strategies.

There were lots of parallels in this panel to things we’ll be covering in our Fabricating Tech panel on Friday at 10am. I hope some of the same people will attend. It will be interesting to see if the “audience” demographics are different since our panel title does not have feminism in the name though I think it is pretty clear if you read the abstract that it is coming from a feminist perspective. We are opposite the first ever E-Lit panel at ASA so that may skew things a little though.

So now, who wants to collaborate?

(It just occurred to me that I should mention FemTechNet as a great model of collaboration. I very often wish I had the ability to offer one of the DOCCs and the response of members to recent events around gender online restores my faith in humanity)

I always have grand plans of writing up blog posts after a conference. And it never happens. I am off to another conference four days after I return from this one so rather than be frustrated with myself for once again not getting around to my post-conference recap in a timely manner, I thought I’d try something new. Quick, impressionistic posts that share some of the ideas from and in response to panels relevant to The Spiral Dance.

This morning, my first panel of the day was Feminist Making I: Building Critical Contexts with Susan Garfinkel, Liz Losh, micha cárdenas, and moderator Lauren Klein.

(nota bene: I’m jet lagged and was hungry and had a head ache during this panel, so I may have misheard or misinterpreted some things.

I really enjoyed Susan Garfinkel’s idea that thinking of objects as performance (influenced by Schechner) allows us to incorporate both the object and the maker into the frame of study. I am also sympathetic to the urge to resist the pink & hearts m.o. of trying to get more girls involved in tech. During discussion, in response to an audience comment about the tension between giving girls “what they want” and the feminist critique of pinkification, Susan articulated something that has been on my mind for a while. Although I don’t like the color pink much myself, I am often made uncomfortable by the denigration of it. But I’ve also written elsewhere on this blog about my frustration with pink tools. And I tend to be really conflicted about it. This is connected to my frustration with “gender neutrality” (I’m not convinced that such a thing is possible) as really meaning things that are not pastel colored. And also connected to the tendency for things that are seen as feminine or feminized as being minimized or dismissed. Susan summed up this tension so well when she responded that there is a difference between turning tech pink and a more substantive effort to address underlying issues. So pink is not the issue. The thing that is offensive is the superficial attempt to attract women to tech by making essentialist assumptions about what women want / like.

I always find Liz’s work so thought provoking and inspiring and today was no exception. I appreciated that she started off the conversation about the problematic notion of transparency and brought in some video of Wendy Chun talking about the problems with assuming that access to source code equates to transparency.

micha picked up the thread of transparency as a problematic tool of domination and I really appreciated the way she talked about transparency as a white patriarchal tool for oppression. I knew of her project autonets but I was really inspired by the way she framed it as addressing how safety from violence feels in the body and in relation to concrete skills for collectively responding to violence.

During discussion, the talk turned to 3d printing and discussants were articulating tensions around what seemed to be questions of the possibility of intervention when one downloads and prints a 3d design. More than one person talked about how something that seems less creative can be a gateway to more investigation, experimentation, and learning. The panel ended as I finally articulated a thought I wanted to share and that was that a lot of the questions about the degree of intervention made through acts of downloading and printing seem to some degree to relate to issues of true creativity and originality, which in other arenas we already recognize as unstable and perhaps unachievable ideals. Had a thought that I wanted to ask and that was about whether this notion in and of itself might be growing out of notions of the sanctity/veneration of the author as individual, and whether pushing against that in and of itself could be a productive feminist act.

Also, during discussion, the question arose of where the makers in the room practice and whether they are comfortable in traditional “maker” spaces. One audience member mentioned that she does a lot at home where she can be embarrassed and frustrated by herself. She made a sort of self-deprecating joke about academic narcissistic work habits, but I think the underlying point of her comment, about privacy, is a really important one. We require privacy to formulate ideas and try and fail in safety. That does not always mean alone, but it does mean within a safe space. And I echo her that for me, that space does not tend to be in traditional maker settings. One of my co-panelists for tomorrow, Lone K. Hansen, and I spoke brieflly afterwards about how that isn’t necessarily a question of male / female space compositions, but more about diversity in a space that is not dominated by hypermasculine “bro” figures (my words, not Lone’s; she was much more articulate).

Last thought: I was really intrigued by the audience question of whether feminism is a process or a product and I thought Liz’s response about the processes involved in building collectives was really productive. I will be thinking about this and all of the above questions for time to come.

I’ll add links and images later, but for now, time to head to Feminist Making II.

A group of women, dressed for cold weather, holding a banner that says "end violence against women"

“‘UN Women for Peace’ March Marking International Women’s Day” by Flickr User United Nations Photos.

This came across the FemTechNet email group today. It is a training event for women and trans persons in activist networks to train them in the areas of digital security and privacy so they can, in turn, train others. Note that it is open to activists from anywhere but there are 45 funded spots (including travel and visa assistance) reserved for folks from Africa, post-Soviet states, the Arabic-speaking region, South & South-East Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.


Gender and Technology Pop-Up Institute

Focus: Tools and techniques for digital security training and privacy advocacy

APPLICATIONS ARE NOW OPEN!

Tactical Tech, in collaboration with the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), are organising a 7-day event for up to 50 women and trans people to learn tools and techniques for increasing their understanding and practice in digital security and privacy and to become digital security trainers and privacy advocates.

When?
December 1-8, 2014.

Where?
Berlin, Germany

Who is the event for?
This is for influential and vocal women and trans people, who are women’s rights activists and/or net activists, and who would like to be trained as digital security trainers and advocates of privacy in order to strengthen their work and the local networks/organisations they are related to.

If you are interested in joining this event, at least four of the following criteria should describe you:

  • You take an active lead in your communities and networks, know your way around the internet, and also know that security and privacy problems can threaten your advocacy and activism and needs to be addressed.
  • You are comfortable with public speaking or training groups, and would like to expand your knowledge and skills, to be able to advise your communities and networks on issues around privacy and data protection.
  • You have strong online and offline networks and support other organisations and individuals who could benefit from digital security and privacy advice.
  • You are the kind of person who understands the tech, or are a techie/hacker, but don’t necessarily know how to explain digital security and privacy issues so that others can understand and practice it.
  • You understand and practise digital security and privacy but want to update and further strengthen your tech and training skills.
  • You are a workshop facilitator or are training on closely related topics and consider yourself tech-savvy, and want to add digital security and privacy from a gender perspective to your skill-set.

Read the rest of this entry »

From the FemTechNet listserv:
Journal of Peer Production (JoPP) — CFP for Special Issue on Feminism and (Un)Hacking

Editors: Shaowen Bardzell, Lilly Nguyen, Sophie Toupin

There has been a recent growth in interest in feminist approaches to practices like hacking, tinkering, geeking and making. What started off as an interest in furthering representations of women in the technical fields of computer science and engineering, often along the lines of liberal feminism, has now grown into social, cultural, and political analyses of gendered modes of social reproduction, expertise, and work, among others. Practices of hacking, tinkering, geeking, and making have been criticized for their overtly masculinist approaches, often anchored in the Euro-American techno-centers of Silicon Valley and Cambridge that have created a culture of entrepreneurial heroism and a certain understanding of technopolitical liberation, or around the German Chaos Computer Club (CCC).

With this special issue of the Journal of Peer Production, we hope to delve more deeply into these critiques to imagine new forms of feminist technical praxis that redefine these practices and/or open up new ones. How can we problematize hacking, tinkering, geeking and making through feminist theories and epistemologies? How do these practices, in fact, change when we begin to consider them through a feminist prism? Can we envision new horizons of practice and possibility through a feminist critique?
 
In this call, we understand feminist perspectives to be pluralistic, including intersectional, trans, genderqueer, and race-sensitive viewpoints that are committed to the central principles of feminism–agency, fulfillment, empowerment, diversity, and social justice.  We refer to the term hacking with a full understanding of its histories and limitations. That said, we use it provisionally to provoke, stimulate, and reimagine new possibilities for technical feminist practice. Hacking, as a form of subjectivity and a mode of techno-political engagement, has recently emerged as a site of intense debate, being equally lauded as a political ethos of freedom and slandered as an elitist form of expertise. These fervid economic and political ideals have been challenged and at times come under attack because they not only displace women and genderqueer within these technological communities but, more importantly, because they displace gendered forms of reflection and engagement.

This call came across the FemTechNet listerv this morning and seems very interesting. I am a bit sad that I don’t teach online so I have nothing to submit. I look forward to reading the final product!

Call for Submissions
Professing Feminism: Teaching Through the Digital Divide
Deadline: Dec. 15, 2014
Page limit 15-25 pages
Format: Email articles in MLA style. Double spaced. MSWord attachments only.
Contact: professingfeminism@hotmail.com

Professing Feminism, inspired by our own online teaching experiences in for-profit and not-for-profit higher education, will be a path-breaking anthology exploring feminist pedagogy and feminist content in online courses. Have you had experience teaching feminism online? How can your shared experience help facilitate the inclusion of feminist pedagogy and feminist content in the growth of online teaching that is rapidly mushrooming?

We are open to essays that both critique and positively evaluate the potential for professing feminism in online work, in a variety of contexts. Submissions can cover any aspect of the experience of feminism, feminist pedagogy, online teaching and online learning.
We are especially interested in articles that address the following topics:

  • Enacting a feminist pedagogy in online courses
  • Feminism and for-profit schools
  • Teaching other people’s feminism (teaching from prewritten courses in for-profit or not-for-profit online programs).
  • Providing feminist context in classes that include women’s literature, but provide no feminist context to the works.
  • Men and feminism in online classes.
  • Encouraging feminism in composition classes (or any classes where feminist content is rarely found or emphasized).
  • Academic hierarchy and feminism in online schools.
  • Feminist collaboration: issues of isolation, networking and publishing as an online adjunct
  • Addressing the stigma of teaching online and the divide between online and on ground schools and instructors.
  • Addressing the negative perceptions of online teaching.
  • The role of feminism in the new model of online teaching and for-profit schools
  • Feminism’s role within the job preparation emphasis in online schools

About the Editors:
Melissa Rigney has over 10 years online teaching and course development experience in both for-profit and not-for-profit higher education.In addition to a PhD in English from the University of Nebraska. She also has an M.S in Educational Technology from Texas A&M.

Batya Weinbaum holds a doctorate in English from University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She has been teaching feminism online since 2007, and has been editing the journal Femspec since 1997. Her scholarship, including writings on feminist pedagogy, has appeared in numerous venues, including Transformations, a journal of inclusive teaching practices. She has published three scholarly books, including a book with University of Texas Press, and has been included in numerous scholarly anthologies.

CFP: Texting Girls: Images, Sounds, and Words in Neoliberal Cultures of Femininity  via HASTAC.

If the abstract in the CFP is any indicator, this upcoming issue of Women & Performance is going to be a great read.

I have lately been fascinated by the YouTube videos of the Japanese group Babymetal and may submit something on them.

At first glance on their website, they appear to be a pretty standard death metal band. The only clue to their difference might be the hearts in the Bs in “Baby.”

But watch a video and you will see that this is a strange mashup of death metal and choreographed reality-show J-pop, rounded out with apocalyptic goth lolita fashion. The only overlord they seem to be worshipping here is their waistlines as they demand chocolate but simultaneously worry about weight gain in the lyrics. Fascinating.

 

 

Postcolonial Digital Humanities | CFP: Ada Journal: Gender, Globalization and the Digital.

Deadline for essay submissions is September 30th. The review process is open and pretty short. Accepted essays are published the following May.

How the Humanities Compute in the Classroom – Technology – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

This is a pretty nice overview of Digital Humanities (DH) teaching and scholarship for those who may be unfamiliar with it. It is great to see Miriam Posner’s work profiled and to see an emphasis on pedagogy. I additionally appreciate the author’s focus on the impressive work of student Iman Salehian.

There are two points to which I’d like to draw attention. Neither of these ruins the article for me, but both are worth considering, even if just for a moment:

2014 is off to an inauspicious start with the return of Sad Lady Ada.

2014 is off to an inauspicious start with the return of Sad Lady Ada.

1. The first is the statement, “Ms. Salehian, 20, is a petite junior with an outsize work ethic.” While this is meant as a compliment to Ms. Salehian, her bodily stature is irrelevant to her work ethic and to her DH work. Would she have been similarly described were she not petite? Why is the young male student in the article not described similarly? I’m sure the author didn’t even realize he was doing this. This is a great example of implicit bias, y’all… It’s hard to imagine a male student being described in diminutive terms. I hate to start the new year with the return of my Sad Lady Ada meme, but so it must be. Read the rest of this entry »

Your 2013 year in blogging.

See the link above for the 2013 Year-in-Review for The Spiral Dance. 4,200 visitors, with a record for the most in any day (696 on Feb 25th in response to this post).

Thanks for a great year!

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