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.
Drawing on a growing community of feminist scholarship and practices, we hope to build on this momentum to invite submissions that reconceptualize the relationship between feminism and hacking. We aim to highlight feminist hackers, makers and geeks not only as new communities of experts, but as new modes of engagement and novel theoretical developments. In turn, with this special issue, we hope to challenge both concepts of feminism and hacking to ask several questions. How can feminist approaches to hacking open up new possibilities for technopolitics? Historically, hacking discourses center on political and labor aesthetics of creation, disruption, and transgression. How can feminist theories of political economy push technopolitical imaginaries towards alternate ideals of reproduction, care, and maintenance? Conversely, we also ask how notions of hacking can open up new possibilities for feminist epistemologies and modes of engagement?
We seek scholarly articles and commentaries that address any of the following themes and beyond. We are also interested in portraits, understood broadly, of feminist hackers, makers and geeks that help us better understand feminist hacker, maker and geek culture. We also solicit experimental formats such as photo essays or other media that address the special issue themes.
What is distinctive about feminist hacking or hackers? How does feminist hacking practices help create a distinct feminist hacking culture?
Why are feminist hacking practices emerging? Which constellation of factors help the emergence of such practices?
What do we know about the feminist hacker spectrum? i.e. what are the differences among feminist hacking practices and how can we make sense of these distinctions?
What tensions in hacking and/or in hacker practices and culture(s) come to the fore when feminist, anti-patriarchal, anti-racist, anti-capitalist and/or anti-oppression perspectives are taken?
What does feminist hacker ethic(s) entail?
What kind of social imaginaries are emerging with feminist hacking and hackers?
What kinds of hacking are taking place beyond the Euro-American tradition?
Full papers and materials (peer reviewed papers around 8,000 words and testimonies, self-portraits and experimental formats up to 4,000 words) are due by January 31st, 2015 for review.