by Alex Juhasz, Pitzer College
November 17, 2014
My friend and colleague, Laura Wexler and I had the opportunity to present the DOCC at the EduTech Horizons workshop held at the National University of Singapore (NUS) for members of the International Association of Research Universities (IARU) of which Laura’s school, Yale University, is a member. We were in friendly, interesting, and interested territory even as we presented the project to technologists who weren’t necessarily feminists, and to a truly international crowd with representatives from a significant number of continents and disciplines. Given that internationalization and feminist education are both core values of FemTechNet, it was gratifying to see the enthusiasm in this diverse audience.
I knew we were at home when in his opening address, Professor Lakshminarayanan Samavedham from NUS’ Centre for Teaching and Learning reminded us to think beyond efficiency towards effectiveness in digitally-enhanced education, explaining that by this he meant experiences that were built to be engaging, personalized and authentic, just like the DOCC … (Professor John Traxler, from England’s University of Wolverhampton, a specialist on mobile computing and education, suggested we all stop using the term “technologically-enhanced” and instead dub those efforts not up to speed on technology as “technologically-deficient learning.”) Given this start, Laura and I felt fully supported to share the passionate, active, distributed, techno-feminist, co-production of knowledge at the heart and daily practice of the DOCC.
We felt like we had more to add to the conversation when Lynne O’Brien, Associate Vice-Provost of Digital and Online Education Initiatives at Duke University, warned against digital efforts that simply replicated older forms and formats of teaching, concluding that “the faculty of the future needs to know more about learning.” This seemed a both prescient and somehow curious call, given that the powerhouse Universities assembled at the meeting are best known for (and have joined together) because of their awesome capacities at Research. Dr. Abelardo Pardo Sanchez from the University of Sydney, a powerful researcher in his own right, had a great deal to teach us about how the quickly developing field of learning analytics might be of use not just for higher education writ large (built as it is from big data) and its developing cultures of tabulation but also for understanding, optimizing, and enhancing instructors’ knowledge about what happens in their own classrooms.
Here we saw a feminist commitment to pedagogy as an integral part of the larger project of higher education and activist research again supported, if not with these precise words or histories. Just so, we ended our presentation by reminding the audience that you need not be a feminist to make, enjoy, or learn from the DOCC; rather we hope that the feminist principles at the core of its structure, methods, and purpose might be of more interest now that audiences understand the powerful technological, situated, “personalized” (another much-used word from the workshop) experiences that we have built from this compelling tradition of theory, pedagogy and practice. Here’s how we say what many seem to want to know:
FemTechNet understands that technologies are complex systems with divergent values and cultural assumptions. We work to expand critical literacies about the social and political implications of these systems.
FemTechNet is cyberfeminist praxis: we recognize digital and other technologies can both subvert and re-inscribe oppressive relations of power and we work to make these complex relations of power transparent.
FemTechNet is hard at work creating better tools.
FemTechNet has no observers, only participants.
Accountability is a feminist technology.
Collaboration is a feminist technology.
Collectivity is a feminist technology.
Care is a feminist technology.
(from the FemTechNet Manifesto)