FemTechNet at Brown University, 2013

By Meg Fernandes

The FemTechNet seminar at Brown University has had an exciting and productive semester thus far! The class is composed of both graduate and undergraduate students interested in a wide variety of issues related to feminism and technology including electronic art projects, new media theory, and feminist pedagogy. In addition to a rigorous curriculum of readings, our course assignments and events include wiki-editing, keyword video production, creative assignments, student reflections about “feminist” terminology, and a guest lecture series. Please visit our course website here (and check back for updates!):

On October 15th (Ada Lovelace Day), our FemTechNet class participated in a campus wide wiki-editing event. The event was led by Maia Weinstock of Wikimedia New England as well as Professor Anne Fausto Sterling. Together, participants edited 70 existing articles and added 20 new articles about prominent female scientists, engineers, and other important cultural figures. The event was covered by a number of local press publications.

FemTechNet students are also making their own keyword videos around topics of their choice which have thus far included Agency, Performance, Cyberfeminism, and Women-Only Art Spaces. We are currently in the stage of post-production, but we hope to have the videos uploaded by the end of November. The videos emphasize student interests related to the course readings including analyzing computer music composition/innovation, investigating technologies such as Snapchat and Siri, and discussing the labors of bodily and opensignal performance. Students will also be completing creative assignments at the end of the year which will include, zines, photography projects, documentary work, poetry, etc. A summary will be written up at the end of the semester.

Students continue to write reflections about terms such as Stacy Alaimo’s “trans-corporeality,” Priscilla Wald’s “outbreak narrative,” and contemporary events related to issues on feminism and technology such as the Hysterical Women’s Project and subRosa. Some of our most interesting discussions have been around Wendy Chun’s work on software, Judith Butler’s essay on vulnerability and mourning, Eugene Thacker’s “biomedia,” Mel Y Chen’s “animacy,” and Melinda Cooper and Kalinda Vora’s discussion of transnational reproductive labor and technology.

            Lastly, we are hosting a number of exciting guest lectures including video artists, animators, and DJ’ s, including the following:

Asha Tamirisia, graduate student in MEME (computer music) at Brown University
Asha gave a presentation on her role as a computer music artist, tracing her development and interests in both analog and digital music production through her childhood, her undergraduate education at Oberlin, and finally, her work here at Brown as a PhD student. About one of the videos she showed, which can be found on our course website, she said:

This project was made in collaboration with dancer Alayna Wiley in 2010 in an old, unused men’s locker room at Oberlin College. The movement and video processing hinge on ideas of disappearance, intangibility, and distortion. As I revisit this project many years later, I see ties to ideas of material feminism: a means to create the sensation of porousness between the body and its environment, reconceiving the body in a way that recognizes it as a place in process.

Jessamyn Swift, graduate student in English at Brown University
Jessamyn gave her presentation on her evolving dissertation research including investigating theories of agency and the nonhuman in the work of Charles Darwin. In particular, Jessamyn close-read sections of Darwin’s observations about the possible “sentient” or “intentional” behavior of certain organisms including worms.

Samantha Calamari, DJ and Instructional Technology Expert and Aaron Apps, graduate student in English at Brown University.
Samantha will be presenting about her career as a female DJ in the 90′s in San Francisco and New York City. In particular, Samantha remarks on how the change from analog to digital DJ technologies changed the gender landscape in music culture.

Aaron is a published poet. He will be presenting work on his poetry book, Intersex, and discuss issues of queer identity and gender politics.

Elisa Giardina Papa, digital artist, Rhode Island School of Design and Brown University
Elisa is an Italian digital artist. She will presenting her work on animation and portraiture.

November 26th, 2013: Maura Smyth, Junior Fellow at Harvard University’s Society of Fellows
Maura is giving a presentation about her co-founded digital collaborative story-telling project called The Blaitholm Affair. From the press release:

The Blaitholm Affair’s interface will seamlessly integrate the world’s stories, art, and music, enabling artistic collaboration and allowing each visitor to have a different experience of the world, depending on how you navigate it… The scope of the world is boundless, the opportunities for collaboration never-ending.

December 3rd, 2013: Malavika Jayaram, Fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society

From her website:

Malavika works broadly in the areas of privacy, identity, free expression and internet policy in India. A practicing lawyer specializing in technology law, she has a particular interest in new media and the arts, and has advised start-ups, innovators, scientists, educational institutions and artists. A Fellow at the Centre for Internet and Society in Bangalore, India, she follows legislative and policy developments in the privacy and internet governance domains. For the last few years, she has been looking at he evolution of big data and e-governance projects in India – particularly the world’s largest biometric ID project – and their implications for identity, freedom, choice and informational self-determination.

Feminist Pedagogy Initiatives

by T.L. Cowan, The New School

When groups of DOCC 2013 faculty met in July 2013, we realized that we were convening not only around a project, but also, importantly, around a process. As we came to decide how the course would be structured and how we would use online capacities (and work around online limitations) to do collaborative teaching across institutions, we wanted to figure out ways for our students to have access to a number of DOCC 2013 faculty, since one of the core principles behind the DOCC is that it matters not just what you are learning, but who you are learning with. So we devised this idea to hold online Open Office Hours that would be open to all DOCC 2013 students. These office hours can be found in the yellow highlights in our calendar During these office hours, students can contact faculty from many institutions and disciplinary backgrounds and have the opportunity be in an online discussion with students from diverse learning locations.


Another crucial aspect to the DOCC 2013 is that this is a world-making project not only for students, but also for faculty. DOCC faculty have collaborated on all aspects of the course: sharing syllabi, skills, funding and other resources, co-producing Video Dialogues, generating closed-captioning for the Videos Dialogues, and building the (always in development) online space that is the FemTechNet Commons. Through this course-building process we realized that most of us crave the opportunity to learn about teaching from other teachers, to have a chance to talk about our classes, assignments, grading habits and innovations, and to cultivate and share our pedagogical philosophies and practices. So we developed Open Teaching Hours for faculty (in green on the calendar), as times for us to converse about what we’re thinking and doing when we’re teaching. In addition to these Open Teaching Hours, we have also scheduled Focused Pedagogy Sessions for faculty to share their expertise on special topics related to DOCC 2013 specifically, and on feminist pedagogy more broadly.

These Focused Pedagogy Sessions (also in green in the calendar) include discussions on the following topics:


Making Keyword Videos – by Alex Juhasz – Pitzer College – This session is passed, but you can read about the key assignment:  You can also learn how to make a Keyword Video here: thanks to the prowess of AJ Strout.

And you can check out Keyword Videos up & running here: Stay tuned for new videos throughout the term.


Object-Making/Gift Exchange – cross-institution collaborative project– Alex Juhasz, Pitzer College and Radhika Gajjala, Bowling Green State University –

You can watch a video of the discussion here:

Mark your calendars for upcoming Focused Pedagogy Sessions!


Effective Blogging – Liz Losh, University of California, San Diego – Wednesday, Nov. 13 12pm PST

Feminist Mapping – Karen Keifer-Boyd, Penn State University –  Friday, Nov 15 – 3pm EST

Feminist Online Pedagogy – T.L. Cowan, The New School – Friday, Nov 22 – 12pm EST


Grading Non-Traditional Assignments – Laura Wexler, Yale – Monday, Dec. 2 – 1pm EST

Building Activities Across (International) Contexts = Radhika Gajjala, Bowling Green State University – Wednesday, Dec. 4 – 4pm EST

Digital Storytelling – Karen Alexander – Rutgers University – Thursday, Dec. 12 – 2pm EST

In addition to this work, DOCC Faculty have been doing amazing things: from collaborating on accessibility and ensuring that all of our Video Dialogues are available with closed captioning/subtitles (go here to find them:, to holding a course for self-directed learners, run by Penelope Boyer – and here

You can also check out Sharon Collingwood’s DOCC 2013 hosted on Second Life

These activities reflect the ways that DOCC 2013 faculty appreciate feminist pedagogy as an ongoing collaboration—across disciplines, institutions, stages of career and employment status. We learn from each other’s successes and failures; we build on each other’s knowledges and borrow from and add to each other’s teaching work, design, and principles. No one holds the trademark on feminist pedagogy—it is collective intellectual property.

For more on the feminist pedagogy informing this work, see the FemTechNet White Paper here:

“New Domesticity” and Technology

By Angie Stangl*, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

After opening Pinterest for the first time in months, I remembered why I had avoided signing in; pins of cute babies in home-knit jumpers, DIY home organization solutions, canning basics, and cute little lunch ideas fill the screen.  It is not that these things aren’t cute, fun, or enjoyable but rather that they make me feel inadequate. These callings toward “domesticity” are all over the web and are popping up in most of the social media space I occupy.  Further, a pressure to participate in these domestic activities challenges the balance I’ve struck between home, work and graduate school.

baked cookies on a cooling rack suggest gendered domesticity

Emily Matchar in Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity (Simon & Schuster, 2013) examines the rise of this DIY culture and defines a “new domesticity” to explain the current movement of women participating in these things. Most importantly, in her book, Ms. Matchar illustrates many of potential pitfalls of areas that are a part of this growing new domesticity movement.  The new domesticity movement is not addressing the need for financial independence and a flexible workplace for women, it is largely disrupting gender-balanced parenting, and it is a movement for those who can afford to participate (often solidly middle class women with alternative sources of income).

To further complicate some of the arguments in Homeward Bound, technology is playing a key role in this movement as well.  The spaces that this new domesticity are being expressed are often online in the form of blogs, forums, and websites.  These online communities can offer support to fellow participants who partake in aspects of new domesticity but at the same time these are spaces that can be exclusive and reinforce the feeling of inadequacy for those who cannot find the time or money to participate.

Additionally, we need to be cognizant of the consumerist forces driving this movement, as is highlighted in the book.  Many blogs today have advertisements or the blogger writes about using (or not using) specific products or services.  Whether we want it to or not, these things shape our views.  Blogs voice personal opinions, so following a blogger’s advice may not feel so different than taking advice from a friend.

What I’d like to know is how is this new domesticity different than earlier notions from years ago about women wanting to have it all?  Haven’t we realized that we can strike a balance instead of trying to “do all the things”?  As much as aspects of this movement are compelling, I think we need to reconsider how technology has captured us and pushes us into this movement without considering some of the concerns raised in Homeward Bound.  Realistically, it is not possible to do it all.  So, how can we use technology to participate in a meaningful way (i.e. being inclusive and reversing the damage new domesticity has done)?

Here’s an interview with Emily Matchar.

*Angie Stangl is a participant in the UIUC Dialogues on Feminism and Technology graduate seminar.

Canaries in the Coal Mine

By Ellie Brewster

We spent most of our first session talking about the Anne Balsamo / Judy Wajcman dialogue, although we did go off on a few tangents. We meet in Second Life at the Ada Lovelace Library, on the Ohio State Virtual Campus, (image courtesy of Sharon Collingwood).

Most of us are information workers, and there was a vigorous nodding of avatar heads when we discussed this quote from Wajcman:

“in creative industries, or whatever terms you use for these kinds of industries, that people are working extraordinarily long hours, they’re not unionized, they’re a perfect example of the blurring of private time and time for their employer, although they are self-employed and don’t think of it this way.  In old terms, we would think of it as very exploitative labour relations.”

I liked Wajcman’s analysis of the importance of reputation and autonomy for these kinds of workers — I think that many people are willing to give up a lot to be working outside the control of large corporate structures, and I think we should be very careful in examining what that means. We talked about this for a while, and wanted to do more on skilled, unskilled and deskilled labour.

FTN in Second Life

I liked a lot of what Wajcman said. She reminded us that there was a time when people asked questions like “why shouldn’t people who work in workplaces be part of running those workplaces?”  Why, indeed?

The dialogue ended on a positive note. As Anne Balsamo said, one robin doesn’t make a spring, and one swallow doesn’t make a summer. Although we are still dancing around the essentialist point that being female somehow grants us a better perspective on human relations, many agree that a critical mass of females in the upper echelons of power will change our culture.

What the dialogue didn’t bring up, and what I wish we had talked more about in our group, is why women, or anyone, would want to support such a toxic system by striving to succeed in it.  It reminds me of what Audre Lorde said shortly before her death: we race for the cure for cancer while we are drinking, eating, breathing, and bathing in carcinogens. Lorde was critiquing the breast cancer industry, but I think she identified a pattern that we see elsewhere. Can we really change the system by subscribing to it.

In the face of all the problems we have to deal with today, perhaps the breaking the glass ceiling is at least an achievable target. However, I wouldn’t want a focus on corporate success to distract us from other ways to effect change within the workplace.

Our discussion group meets in the virtual world Second Life on Sundays at 11am Pacific, 2pm Eastern, and 7pm GMT. Find our island by typing MINERVA OSU into the address bar of the Second Life browser, or use this link to arrive in the classroom (you must have the group “Minerva Guests” activated):

Awkward, Cumbersome, Inclusive and Sensitive?

Katrina Spencer, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Many Romance languages, like Portuguese and Spanish (and French to a slightly lesser degree) have a grammatically ingrained predilection for sexism. As you’ll remember from your high school “SPAN 1AB” or college “SPAN 101” course, whenever there is a group of people and any one of them is male, they are referred to with “los,” the Spanish language definite article, as in: Los chicos, María, Juan e Isabel visitan la playa todos los veranos.

This default mode for masculine markers also shows up in what we call “demonstratives” in the world of language:  Otros, por ejemplo Fernanda, Marcos, Luis y Estrella, prefieren ir a las montañas.

As you can see in the two examples above, female figures either (1) represent the majority of characters in the statement or (2) represent exactly half of the group, but the masculine article is still used.

This is an interesting and problematic space to explore for me as someone who is working as a translator for this feminist collective. On the one hand, I’ve been taught for years that respecting the conventions of formal language use is a vehicle of strong communication. This applies in arenas such as the use of the subjunctive, indirect object pronouns and precise vocabulary. On the other hand, as a 21st century learner, employee, woman and feminist by essence and association, I realize how exclusive these conventions can be when it comes to conversations about the sexes. The “o” in “los” excludes, ignores or overshadows the females it represents. What do we do?

Hi, my name is Katrina Spencer and I have used sexist language.

In this area of the FemTechCommons, periodical press releases can be found regarding the goings-on in our community. As a “grad hourly” at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Graduate School of Information Science, one of my jobs is to translate these press releases from English to Spanish in order to include wider and even international audiences. The sexist language constraints I’ve described, however, are ones I encounter, consciously or subconsciously, every time I open my mouth to speak Spanish.

It is my belief that a good deal of the pedagogical resources shared in this space are intended for women and used by women. As a matter of fact, for every ten females I see using this space, I have seen only one male. But when I translate a document about FemTechNet users, my inclination is to type, “los estudiantes” and “los instructores.” Grammatically speaking, I’m “right” but socially I am diminishing the strong, ubiquitous and pulsing female energy that has created and developed FemTechNet.

Is there an easy solution?

María González Aguado, another FemTechNet-er like myself, brought this to my attention, although it wasn’t the first time the issue had been raised. In her words, “Feminist scholars and women’s associations consider that plural in masculine invisibilizes women, so we try to use non-sexist language using an x or @ to avoid linguistic sexism.” So, per her suggestion, the statements above would appear as Lxs chicxs, María, Juan e Isabel, visitan la playa todos los veranos. OR L@s chic@s, María, Juan e Isabel visitan la playa todos los veranos. The other sentence would be: Otrxs, por ejemplo Fernanda, Marcos, Luis y Estrella, prefieren ir a las montañas. OR Otr@s, por ejemplo Fernanda, Marcos, Luis y Estrella, prefieren ir a las montañas.

Yes, okay, that’s fine, but how, now, do I pronounce it/ say it out loud/ read it aloud?

Also, what happens when I want to say “The participants in the Video Dialogues will include Judy Wacjman, Anne Balsamo, Julie Levin Russo, Faith Wilding and many others”?

Indulge me for a moment. The only participants listed are female. “Many others” does not identify sex. Should the sentence start off as “Lxs” or “L@s” in order to leave the possibility open of men participating in the future? Or should it be “Las” because up until this point, only women have shared the space?

And given that “lxs” and “l@s” cannot be pronounced, should every sentence sound like, Los miembros y las miembras publican sus opiniones en los foros?

Is it acceptable for language to be awkward and cumbersome in order to also be inclusive and sensitive? What does “fair” and “feminist” language representation look like? Do you type/write “s/he” when referencing a figurative, anonymous and sexless third person?

Join the discussion!

Re-cap of Week 2 at the FemTechNet ¡Taller!

Week 2 at the FemTechNet ¡Taller! in San Antonio, TX, October 1, 2013 @ Geekdom

By Penny Boyer, co-facilitator with Laura Varela of FemTechNet ¡Taller! in San Antonio, Texas, at Geekdom.

The theme for Week 2 was SEXUALITIES.

As talleristas arrived, Salt n Pepa’s Let’s Talk About Sex was playing on YouTube.  After brief introductions, we played the weekly FemTechNet video dialogue which this week was between Faith Wilding, Paraguayan-American multidisciplinary artist/writer/educator and Julie Levin Russo, New Media faculty member, Evergreen College on the theme Sexualities.  Wilding framed her sex talk by discussing the collective SubRosa’s recent work with the egg donor experience within the biotech industry as it touches on eugenics, economics (fertility tourism) and cyberculture; JLR discussed her research into fan culture and their contextualized subcultures.

Laura Varela (L) and Penny Boyer (R), co-facilitator of FemTechNet ¡Taller! in San Antonio, Texas, at Geekdom.

(Penny Boyer is pictured on the right, with Laura Varela.)

Our conversation, led largely by guest facilitator Rebeca Lopez, was triggered by the final question laid out in the video by Faith Wilding, “Do we have a concept of a sexual public good?”  This conversation began with a clarification of the term “queer” for one member in the Taller to a nuanced discussion of the reading Amy Adele Hasinoff’s article, “Sexting as Media Production: Rethinking Social Media and Sexuality.”  We watched, as a group, one of the AdCouncil’s PSA’s, “Think Before You Post/Sex Texting Sexting PSA Video” that tallerista Joy-Marie Scott had embedded in her FemTechNet Taller Blog post on the Commons:

Amy Adele Hasinoff’s work on sexting, social media, and sexuality is cracking relevant today.  Hasinoff deconstructs an AdCouncil PSA campaign that warns girls against sending a “hot pic” to a boy who requests one. In this campaign, and much of the national dialogue around sexting, the onus is on the girl to not produce an image of her sexuality. She produces the image and sends it to a trusted partner, and she is blamed. The people who forward the image, against her will or knowledge, are not held accountable for sexual harassment.  Hasinoff compares this anti-sexting campaign to one which blames sexual harassment on the way a woman dresses. Here, it’s not the medium that is the problem but it’s the continuation of blaming the victim. Hasinoff posits: “Instead of ‘think before you post,’ how about ‘think before you forward?’

The group discussion about this PSA led a few talleristas to conceive a FemTechNet project of their own in response to the AdCouncil’s PSA–a PSA explaining to boys how to behave on the receiving end of a ill-distributed sext–a project they may pursue.  The evening evolved into a general discussion about self-perception issues regarding womens’ bodies and ended with a viewing of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines [Feminist Parody] – Defined Lines.”  After that, we adjourned.

First Meeting of FemTechNet ¡Taller! in San Antonio

By Penny Boyer

At Week 1’s FemTechNet ¡Taller! session there were a total of 21 women present.  As the talleristas arrived into the Lidliker Room at Geekdom between 6:30 and 7pm, Martha Rosler’s 1975 video, Semiotics of the Kitchen, was playing on a loop  (6:29 min. performance video).

Penny Boyer began the Taller with an overview and orientation of the various FemTechNet websites and an introduction to the Suggested Syllabi/Reading Lists.  To prove the readings were not necessarily onerous, Boyer projected the essay, “A day without feminism” <> and had the group read the beginning of it in round-robin fashion with each woman reading aloud one sentence.  Part of the Riot Grrl Manifesto was also read aloud by a woman who had some familiarity with it.

First meeting of the FemTechNet ¡Taller! in San Antonio, Texas, at Geekdom. Facilitated by Penny Boyer and Laura Varela

The VNS Matrix manifesto was projected momentarily.  Boyer explained that other media was on the syllabi, like video; she showed the trailer for Forbidden Voices: How to Start a Revolution with a Laptop and introduced the group to the work of Cuban writer Yoani Sanchez and her blog, Generation Y.  The talleristas then introduced themselves.

Laura Varela (L) and Penny Boyer (R), co-facilitator of FemTechNet ¡Taller! in San Antonio, Texas, at Geekdom.

Following a five-minute break, we watched the first FemTechNet weekly themed video, Labor: History of the Engagement of Feminism & Technology, Judy Wajcman, Professor of Sociology, London School of Economics, interviewed by Anne Balsamo, Dean of the School of Media Studies, The New School.  To transition from the “Labor” video into a group discussion, ¡Taller! facilitators had invited Kelly Schaub, a Geekdom entrepreneur, to discuss the program she directs, CSA-San Antonio: Community Supported Art! “CSA-San Antonio is a subscription service for locally produced art.  Similar to the boxes of fruit and vegetables that one might get from a local farm as an agricultural CSA, CSA-San Antonio offers ‘shares’ of art to feed the public’s cultural appetite. Over the last 20 years, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a popular way for consumers to buy seasonal food directly from nearby farms. With the same buy-local spirit in mind, Community Supported Art is a similar endeavor to support local art and artists, and to help sustain a healthy arts environment in San Antonio.”  This presentation led to a group discussion followed by adjournment at a little past 8:30pm.

BGSU Students discuss the question “what is a DOCC and why are we in it?”

by Anca Birzescu, Doctoral Candidate in the School of Media and Communication, Bowling Green State University and volunteer working with Femtechnet/DOCC2013

After reading several articles that introduce the DOCC project, students at Bowling Green State University (BGSU) in Ohio posted on Canvas their answers to the question “So what is a DOCC and why are we in it?

The student postings reveal the diversity of lenses through which they look at the DOCC concept, their views on technology, feminism and education, and at the same time the sheer excitement with which they embark on this novel learning journey. It is of utmost importance to bring into discussion the feedback provided by students enrolled in the current DOCC, since they are the main stakeholders in this feminist enterprise. Their readings of what the DOCC stands for stressed a range of interests and expectations with regard to the goals and objectives of the DOCC.

Being aware of the different systems of inequality/identity markers that obstruct knowledge acquisition and discriminate among different types and levels of knowledge in such process, students highlighted the value of information access and information sharing provided by a DOCC environment:

What an unfortunate truth that gender, economic status, or geographic location have such an impact on the level of options available to retrieve historic/current event information.[…] The benefits of this type of format is the vast bank of knowledge through instructors, students, and libraries, and the ease of sharing this information. This format encourages the sharing of information and ideas while still focusing on local relationships.

Students also emphasized the patriarchal ideology circumscribing the Internet and the possibilities for resistance and challenge to this status quo that may arise in a DOCC context. One of the students thus wrote:

Patriarchal views of the internet and how it is used have hindered discussion and dialogue on feminism, sexuality, race, and gender. In this DOCC, technology will be viewed through a feminist lens. I am also excited about the “Wikipedia Storming” that will take place. Being able to effectively improve the accuracy and increase the prevalence of feminist works will further expand peoples’ knowledge and awareness.

Collaboration—as a challenge to the top-bottom approach to education perpetuated currently by the MOOCS, inter-disciplinarity, and active learning, were other recurrent features/qualities mentioned by students in regard to the nature and goal of the DOCC educational project. In this sense, one student wrote that

DOCC also allows the use of technology to our advantage to collaborate with other individuals from different institutions, unlike MOOCS, which are primarily created for individual institutions.

Another post explained that:

DOCC allows numerous institutions, instructors, and students to gather and collaborate on a specific topic, while also allowing the course to be individualized by each instructor at each institution. Each week, there will be a highlight topic across the entire DOCC and then each unit of the DOCC will focus on the topic at hand through a separate syllabus. This type of course offers an incredible wealth of knowledge, as it is taught and discussed by a broad range of individuals.

Always emphasizing collaboration, students showed thus their interest in a feminist approach to education:

The DOCC is a free flowing collaboration of support and knowledge that is working to open people’s eyes to feminism in a technology focused world. We are in a DOCC to help spread knowledge that others have been shielded from or have ignored. When you work alone, your message is never usually as strong as when you are working in a collaboration.

Likewise, one post pointed that:

The goal of the collaborative course is to get input and feedback from many different users and institutions. Why is this beneficial? This makes the course much more diverse than it would be with just one institution or the course being under just one instructor. DOCC’s are the new alternative to MOOC’s which were massive online courses. The problem with these is that they were branded by just one single institution. With using just one main institution it could be a bit more bias in a certain direction or could only attract a certain type of user which could eliminate the diversity that is needed in a collaborative course.

Yet another student emphasized the learners’ responsibility in the act of learning:

These courses allow for a broader area and sense of interaction. The students share the responsibility of addressing and supplying material and discussion in this class. With the technology and ability to mass communicate it allows perspectives and participation an essential part of this course. A mass audience (students) brings people together to focus on the similarities rather than their differences.

Students showed excitement about the new possibilities offered by DOCC:

In this course we will interact with many different Universities and we will have the opportunity to work with a student from a different university on our artifact project. We are “in it” in order to broaden the possibilities of the thoughts that will be provoked, and also to break away from the typical layout of an online course that lies just within one university.

Their answers also revealed students’ appreciation of diversity of viewpoints in the act of knowledge acquisition implicit in a DOCC context:

While the course specifics vary from the different instructors from each university, the overall collaboration abilities of this course allows you to tap into different viewpoints and information from a number of different people. I think that with that in mind the ability to take in a multitude of viewpoints from different areas of the country allows us to gain a better understanding of the topic at hand.  This broader view is the main reason why we are participating in this style of learning.

The customizing potential of the DOCC—not possible in a MOOC environment— was also highlighted by students:

“We are also going to use skype as a source to have one on one times with the instructor, which is greatly going to help keeping up relations with the students.”

Another student similarly wrote that

“The goal is to collaborate and educate on a particular topic as a whole yet also allowing the instructor the flexibility to structure their virtual classroom syllabus.”

Last but not least, the collaboration versus top-bottom approach to education was clearly emphasized in several posts, which also revealed students’ articulate perspective and awareness of the challenge represented by the DOCC in the current context of neoliberal education politics:

One of the goals is to allow an environment of learning, training and information exchange to a broader group of underrepresented, including women and economically struggling communities worldwide, while maintaining a more personalized and collaborative approach to teaching and learning. It is an honor that BGSU is one of the few universities participating in this groundbreaking method.

[DOCC] allows for students and teachers from various schools to create a course where they all can contribute to the topic of Dialogues on Feminism and Technology. DOCC is different from MOOC (massive open online course) due to the fact that DOCC is not branded by an elite institution. It involves many institutions and the work is distributed through participants from various networks, which causes more diversity.

There are multiple reasons why the MOOC was not seen as a suitable option, one of which being that MOOC’s are generally for profit at some point down the line. The size of the courses within a DOCC are also much smaller so that there is more discussion between a smaller group of people at multiple universities.


DOCC 2013: Feminist Dialogues on Technology BETA Courses

FemTechNet’s first Distributed Open Collaborative Course (DOCC), “Dialogues on Feminism and Technology,” will launch in fall 2013 as a result of experimentation and BETA course implementation in spring 2013 at University of California, San Diego, Bowling Green State University, and Pitzer College. From January to June, 2013, several feminist scholars ran BETA courses, “Dialogues on Feminism and Technology.”  Each course helped work through key elements of the DOCC 2013.

Lisa Cartwright and Elizabeth Losh offered a course at the University of California, San Diego:  COGR 275: Feminist Dialogues on Technology.

Alex Juhasz offered a course at Pitzer College which was taught in tandem with Radhika Gajjala’s course at Bowling Green State University (BGSU). “Feminist Dialogues in Technology” was a Women’s and American Culture Studies course offered by Radhika Gajjala of BGSU in Ohio and Alex Juhasz of Pitzer College in California during spring 2013.

The BETA course offered students and faculty the opportunity to participate in collaborative university learning by taking advantage of various digital platforms, including the Sakai student portal at Pitzer, Facebook, Vimeo, and Google+ Hangouts. This course emphasized key issues in Feminism and Technology within the context of American culture, Globalization, and Media Studies. Students explored gender and technology through 11 themes including: TechnoFeminism, machine, body, archive, labor, difference, systems, place, race, sexualities, and transformation. As part of each theme, students collaborated by writing responses, producing keyword videos, contributing to Wikipedia, and creating crafts representative of the 11 themes for further connection and conversation. Christina Gayheart, a BGSU undergraduate student, said “the course was exciting because, though each school had a separate classroom, we worked collaboratively to further our understanding of Feminism and Technology; furthermore, the course explored a wide array of teaching mechanisms to offer variety. In many ways, I think the professors learned as much as the students did in this course.”