Category: programming

Addressing Anti-Feminist Violence Online – beginnings

I’m delighted to announce here that the Digital Media and Learning Competition 5: The Trust Challenge has selected FemTechNet’s “Addressing Anti-Feminist Violence Online” for funding.

This was a wonderfully collaborative effort that arose out conversations sparked by both GamerGate and the violences experienced in the summer of 2014 by female public intellectuals like Dr. Sarah Kendzior (which Eric Garland’s Urgent Dispatch from the Seat of White Privilege does a good job of contextualizing as gender based) and Slate.com author Dr. Rebecca Schuman.

Feeling unsure about life as a feminist scholar with a reasonably strong public profile I wrote the following to the FemTechNet community:

“I’ll be honest and say that I find myself feeling pretty uneasy these days. …with this summer’s threats against female scholars, the shooting on the west coast, and the latest wave of anti-feminist threats it strikes me that it might be a good time to talk about the above and what we can all do to help support one another. I’m also concerned about situations where institutions are themselves part of the threat and deeply aware that many feel threatened for a multitude of reasons these days.”

I was both heartened and saddened by the flood of responses from this relatively small community. It was good for me not to be alone in struggle – but it sucked to hear that so many shared my worry. The responses confirmed that the threats I was concerned about are real and also that women of color and transgender and queer folks face even greater risks.

Out of that discussion came our collective commitment to do something to address the harassment and violence that women and feminists are facing online. There are many who have participated in this effort and we are actively working to join in the chorus of voices that support the rights of feminists to work, write, speak, and live. I’ll be writing more in the coming days about our project and the connections that we hope to make with other efforts to address violence online.

For now, we are delighted to be in such good company with the other DML grantees and honored to be able to do this work.

The awards were announced March 10th at SXSWedu.

ASU Project Combats Online Threats Towards Women, Girls

DML Competition Press Release

Gendered Risk: Feminist Programming

I recently heard Audrey Bilger of Claremont McKenna’s Center for Writing and Public Discourse talk about the ways that social media can help bring certain feminist issues to the fore – in her example, the exclusions of women of color from mainstream feminist movements by way of the #solidarityisforwhitewomen hashtag. While a lot went wrong in the mainstream coverage of that story, including the elision of Mikki Kendall’s role in initiating the conversation, it is true that a social media event helped to continue an important conversation

At the same time, the recent furor over Twitter’s user blocking policy change and then quick reversal reminds us that social media spaces are also sites of potential threat and abuses, where stalkers and trolls often are able to work with relative impunity. Women are systematically harassed not only in media venues, but in online gaming and knowledge building communities as well. There is a reason that less than 10% of Wikipedia editors are women. Things don’t look much better from the tech infrastructure side either – as HASTAC director Cathy Davidson notes, the number of women entering the field of computer science has declined since 1993.

Enter into this space Arielle Schlesinger’s “Feminism and Programming” blog on HASTAC. Schlesinger’s questions are important – how do we abstract in non-normative ways? What would it mean to encode our knowledge and to shape our interfaces in ways that would recognize differences through non-binary paradigms? Is it possible to imagine a feminist programming language? What is at stake in Schlesinger’s research are life opportunities – the ability to inhabit digital and analog spaces without having to sacrifice some fundamental part of your life or your being. Sound hyperbolic? It’s not. Our tools mediate every part of our lives and our ways of being. The logic of our (computing) systems can inhibit thinking through questions of race, class, and gender, as Tara McPherson suggests, and these compartmentalized habits of thought inform our everyday lives.

The question that Schlesinger’s research asks then, is how can our technologies – here programming languages – be less violent, do less violence? It is a practical and ethical question of great importance. I’m delighted that Schlesinger is raising it in her work and in a public space like HASTAC. I’m also heartened by the wonderful responses – many by computer scientists/programmers – in that forum. There is an opportunity for some powerful engagement and thinking to occur.

At the same time, however, Schlesinger has now become a target – while HASTAC conversations have been productive, those on Reddit and 4chan have not been. Schlesinger has become a target on Twitter as well. As is so typical these days, a parody of the project, under the name “Feminist Software Foundation” attempts to undermine a genuine conversation. Consequently, Schlesinger’s efforts to bring her research into a public discussion teach us again about the gendered risks entailed in public intellectualism and open inquiry. For some – it isn’t entirely safe to even ask a question

Want to follow the conversation? #femtech. Working bibliography on this topic.

Feminist Programming – collecting resources

The FemTechNet group recently discussed a question posed by Pitzer College student Ari Schlesinger on the topic of feminist programming – it’s a topic related to my work on feminist markup and digital architectures, so I read the discussion with interest. What follows are some of the ideas that arose in the discussion  – gathered here as a way of starting a kind of bibliography. I have a previous post on Feminism and Technology that is also a bibliography. I’m also hopeful that this post will operate as a space of further discussion on the topic. Thanks for the great thinking go to the many members of FemTechNet network who contributed to the discussion – I’ve edited to make this more of a working bibliography, rather than a transcript of the conversation.

Ari’s question paraphrased: if object oriented programming reifies normative subject object theory, what would a feminist programming language look like? Are there possibilities within imperative, functional, or logical programming languages that would enable feminist programming?

Ari was already thinking about Karen Barad’s work in Posthumanist Performativity and about feminist logics.

Barad, Karen. “Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, Vol. 28, No. 3. (1 March 2003), pp. 801-831

also: Barad, Karen. Posthumanist performativity : Toward an understanding of how matter comes to matter. In Deborah Orr (ed.), Belief, Bodies, and Being: Feminist Reflections on Embodiment. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (2006).

Work and ideas that came up in the ensuing discussion:

In conversation with Barad:

–Sarah Kember and Joanna Zylinska, Life After New Media, MIT Press, 2012.

–Anne Balsamo, Designing Culture: The Technological Imagination at Work, Duke UP, 2011.

Tara McPherson’s work on Scalar, discussed in a forthcoming article in Difference.  (A talk version is here:
http://mith.umd.edu/podcasts/tara-mcpherson-scholarship-beyond-database/ ).

Zach Blas and his Queer Technologies / transCoder project

–with Micha Cardenas http://transreal.org/imaginary-computational-systems-queer-technologies-and-transreal-aesthetics/

Micha Cardenas and others in http://transreal.org/media-n-journal-2013-caa-conference-edition/ and http://www.e-fagia.org/digievent/2011/tx/michaElle.html

Maria Fernandez, Faith Wilding, and Michelle M. Wright, Domain Errors, (Autonomedia, 2003)

Caludia Reiche and Verena Kuni, eds. Cyberfeminism: Next Steps (Autonomedia, 2004)

Kim Christen’s work on Mukurtu as feminist/anti-imperialist approach to database design

Thinking about differences between in analog and digital computers in Wendy Chun’s work

“Fuzzy logic:” looking at measures of information as the continuum between 0 and 1 rather than the binary,

–connected to French Feminism  Kristeva, Cixous, Irigiray, Wittig.

–see work of  Margaret Homans, introduction and opening chapter in Bearing the Word (Chicago UP, 1989).

Information Theory from a feminist perspective (new area to explore)

Liz Losh and I will be teaching a Feminist DH course at DHSI this summer, utilizing Processing, which is worth checking out as arising from a different paradigm.

Melissa Terras on the Text Encoding Initiative (markup protocols) (need the url)

I’m sure that there is more that is worth bringing into the discussion – please post a comment if you have thoughts!