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

Posts tagged ‘amateurism’

Quick Post: Impressions from #2014ASA Feminist Making II #feministdh

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’m a girl. (What) do I dig? A response to Bethany Nowviskie’s “what do girls dig?”

I am writing this post in response to Bethany Nowviskie’s excellent storify collection that asks some important questions about the gender imbalance visible at the Digging into Data conference. Be sure to click “load more” and read the comments as well.

As a first year assistant professor, I have to admit that I am more concerned with learning the ropes at my new university and keeping my head above the waters of teaching and service than with applying for a grant of this scale.

However, I do a bit of data analysis in my dissertation/book project so it isn’t inconceivable that some day I could find myself wanting to apply for this grant, or another like it. I admit to feeling intimidated by the thought due to A) a lack of statistics training and B) (possibly arising out of the former) a reluctance to commit to this type of engagement with data. I find myself less interested in “digging into” data than playing with it, poking at it, batting it around, deforming it (in the Jerome McGann / Lisa Samuels sense), and perhaps even breaking it. I suspect this is the response to framing and rhetoric noted by Nowviskie.

At MLA 2009, I heard a Digital Humanities talk in which one of the speakers encouraged the audience to move away from “doing science badly.” The phrase has really stuck with me, though likely not for the reason the speaker intended. I am fascinated with what we might learn from doing science badly. It’s not that I want to be irresponsible to the data. I don’t. But I take inspiration from this quote in Marshall McLuhan’s The Medium is the Massage,

Professionalism is environmental. Amateurism is anti-environmental. Professionalism merges the individual into patterns of total environment. Amateurism seeks the development of total awareness of the individual and the critical awareness of the groundrules of society. The amateur can afford to lose. (93)

So perhaps I should say that it’s less that I want to do science badly, than that I am reluctant to do it “professionally.” I like being a data amateur. Again, this may be related to a lack of statistical training. Though truth be told, this is not an insurmountable issue. I could easily pick up some books and even audit some classes at my university were I interested in overcoming this particular obstacle. So far, I’m not.

I am hesitant to label this an effect of gender, however. I do recall that as a child my well-meaning mother, perhaps in an effort to celebrate my natural affinity for words and reading, set up a dichotomy in which those who were good at words, were not good at numbers. Wanting to emulate my mother, who introduced me to the Bronte sisters when I was in fifth grade, I embraced my love of words. I took the minimal amount of math required and I suspect that I subconsciously wrote off any challenges with numbers as the unfortunate by-product of my linguistic prowess. It wasn’t until many years later, when I thrived at a job in which I was responsible for large financial forecasts and budgets, that I realized how deeply ingrained that dichotomy had been and as with many dichotomies, just how false it was. Again, this is not necessarily a gender issue. Though one might argue for it as the legacy of attitudes toward women in math and science from when my mother was in school in the 1960’s.  However, I now recognize that I am not bad at numbers and I could develop my skills further in this area. But for whatever reason, I don’t.

Perhaps it is a matter of the right research question coming along. Perhaps someday the siren call of a large-scale data set will prompt me to step outside the realm of the amateur. Perhaps after I’ve found my footing as an assistant professor, I might have the intellectual resources to point in this direction. But for now, I find a certain liberty in the position of the amateur and am content to watch from the sidelines as the professionals do the digging.

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