FTN Roadshow Blog Series* – Feminist

By Jasmine Rault

I became involved in FemTechNet in 2013, about a year after Anne Balsamo and Alex Juhasz dreamed and schemed this project up, interested less by the focus on technology studies than by the ways that it galvanized and promised something like a feminist academic, artist, activist collective at a time when we (by which I probably mean me) most need it. I think of FemTechNet as loosely bound not by an area or object of study, but by experiments in pedagogical “technologies” – understood as styles, structures and redistributive priorities – that function as “queer survival economies” within our increasingly predatory and deadening academic industrial contexts (“queer survival economies” is of course the title of a research initiative propelled by Amber Hollibaugh and emerging from the dearly departed organization, Queers for Economic Justice).

FemTechNet used the sudden surge of enthusiasm and publicity for MOOCs, in the United States, as a kind of hook to design and launch a feminist alternative in the form of the DOCC. The most compelling thing to me about MOOCs is the promise of “free” and accessible education.[1] This promise is particularly striking for feminist scholars who have been advocating for and innovating accessible education for decades – we can think back to Jane Addams’ work, in the early part of the twentieth century, to provide free university-level education for working poor and immigrant populations in Chicago (Addams 1985; Oakes 2000; Hamington 2010); or to the Cambridge Women’s School which taught hundreds of free feminist courses to thousands of students in Boston from 1971-1992 (Burgin 2011); to feminist ‘bridging programs’ throughout the US and Canada, offering courses and university resources to encourage low-income (primarily women) students to start and continue their higher education (Conway 2001; O’Reilly 2009; Biemiller 2011); as well as the ongoing practices of transformative feminist pedagogies which have developed as critical correctives to the economic, social, political and physical inaccessibilities which continue to haunt higher education in the US (Hull, Bell Scott and Smith 1982; hooks 1994; hooks 2003; Ferguson 2012). Indeed, the promise of free and accessible education appeals to no one more than feminist educators and scholars, who have been working towards precisely these goals for over a century.

However, feminist scholarship has also taught us that technological innovations alone do not make structural changes – just as new cleaning technologies have not reduced the average amount of (vastly unequal) time that women spend on unpaid domestic labor (Vanek 1974; Bittman, Mahmud Rice, Wajcman 2004); the ‘freedom’ of cyberspace is not free of racism or sexism (Nakamura 2007); the portable computers, smartphones and tablets that liberate us from the office do not free us (particularly women) from unremunerated overtime work (Gregg 2011); the celebration of MOOCs obscures the high costs and limited access that they in fact deliver. It seems that the resources going to the development, maintenance and teaching of massive online courses could be better used to increase support for the faculty and graduate students (ie. teaching assistants) working with smaller groups of students, and the development of existing feminist instructional infrastructures.

The promise of low- or no-cost MOOCs also dovetails quite nicely with the increasing institutional reliance on low- or no-cost academic labor (in our era of unprecedented increases in tuition costs.[2] Given that seventy-six percent of university and college courses are taught by underpaid and insecurely employed contingent (adjunct) and non-tenure-track faculty who earn an average of $2,700 per course, we can see that our universities and colleges are already dependent for a vast majority of their instructional services on free labor.[3] This faculty majority join their tenure-track and tenured colleagues in what Melissa Gregg calls a culture of “‘sacrificial labor’ [which] is clearly ingrained in an industry where the notion of ‘service’ neatly obscures the amount of unpaid work inherent to major activities like journal publishing” or course development (Gregg 2010: 189). Indeed, research on academic labor conditions shows that with dramatically less institutional and monetary support for faculty, this is an industry that demands and obscures dramatically more work from all faculty, contingent or not – though it remunerates its male workers at a much higher rate than its female workers (tenure-track or tenured men make an average of $18,000 more than equally positioned women and non-tenure-track men make an average of $2,650 more, despite there being many more women working in these positions.[4]) Moreover, with the presumed ubiquity of smartphones and personal laptops, all faculty are subject to the pressure of what Gregg calls “professional presence bleed” – the expectation that faculty will be digitally available for work at every hour every day, responding to emails, updating shared online documents, posting on academic blogs, joining video meetings, etc. – but when the domestic and under-paid division of labour by gender and race remains as Bittman, Mahmud Rice and Wajcman put it, “remarkably resistant to technological innovation”[5] this pressure can be particularly hazardous for faculty who are women and/or people of color (Gregg 2011).

FemTechNet promises a kind of insurgent collectivity and distributive technology of care that engages what TL Cowan and I have written about as the ‘shadow archive’ of anti-racist feminist and queer social movements which have made possible our ambivalent, highly fraught, painfully compromised and usually exploited positions within or relationships to the contemporary university.[6] Thinking along with Roderick Ferguson’s book, The Reorder of Things, one of the acute ironies of contemporary feminist academic work is that we are operating in a moment when the US university has already said, and continues to say, ‘yes! but of course!’ to the demands, made by anti-racist and feminist movements from the 1950s through 80s, that universities become institutions which meet the needs and interests and reflect the knowledges of minoritized populations — working classes, people of color, immigrants, women, gays and lesbians. This institutionalized ‘yes’ is precisely the productive operation of power that Michel Foucault began to chronicle for us in the 1970s and which our feminist academic collectives negotiate today. FemTechNet operates in a climate where so many of the demands and struggles for redistributive gender, racial, ethnic, sexual and economic justice have been incorporated, archived and affirmed as rights (and sometimes departments, disciplines and degrees) and administered by universities which don’t resist but claim to share our dreams. These insurgent movements and histories have not been denied or negated but their potentialities archived, appropriated and disciplined. Feminist collectives in the contemporary university might, thus, be understood as doing archival work, tending to the shadow of the institutionalized archive, to the dark radical politics that the archive seeks but cannot contain.

FemTechNet might be considered a repository of the intellectual, political and affective traces of the university’s fraught recognition. Such a collective is the embodiment of unlicensed hope, an affective survival economy and a network of shared purpose, driven by a refusal to be consumed by the lived experiences of these ironies of power in which we receive tacit intellectual support for this work– “yes, teach a course on feminist pedagogies, queer politics, crip theory, or critical race studies”–and explicit employment negligence–“no, as a part-time faculty member you will not be allowed to make enough money to live, have a predictable income, nor have access to a research stipend, nor to a regular office” and so on. These collectives, these shadow archives and repertoires, are the residues, excesses, of affect, analysis and action, left unresolved in the face of the university’s ironic institutionalization of these knowledges and movements–incorporating their scholarly practices as an inoculation against their politics.


Works Cited

Addams, J. (1977). On Education. Edited by Ellen Condliffe Lagemann. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers.

American Association of University Professors. (2012-2013). Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession. Washington, DC.

Balsamo, A. & Juhasz, J. (2012). “An Idea Whose Time is Here: FemTechNet – a Distributed Online Collaborative Course.” Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media & Technology. 1. https://adanewmedia.org/2012/11/issue1-juhasz/

Behrmann, Boyer, Cole, Cowan, Gajjala, Losh, Rault & Wexler. (2015). “Transforming Higher Education with Distributed Open Collaborative Courses (DOCCs): Feminist Pedagogies and Networked Learning.” In MOOCs and Open Education Around the World Curtis J. Bonk, Mimi Miyoung Lee, Thomas C. Reeves, eds. New York: Routledge Press.

Biemiller, L. (2011, September 11). “Women’s colleges try new strategies for success.” Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from https://chronicle.com/article/Womens-Colleges-Try-New/128935/

Bittman, M., Mahmud Rice, J., & Wajcman, J. (2004). “Appliances and their impact: The ownership of domestic technology and time spent on household work.” The British Journal of Sociology, 55(3), 401-423.

Burgin, S. (2011) “Coarse offerings: Lessons from the Cambridge Women’s School for today’s radical education alternatives.” Graduate Journal of Social Science, 8(2).

Christensen, G., & Alcorn, B. (2014, March 16). “The revolution is not being MOOC-ized, Students are educated, employed, and male.” UPenn, Slate. Retrieved from https://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/new_scientist/2014/03/mooc_survey_students_of_free_online_courses_are_educated_employed_and_male.html

Conway, J. K. (2001). A woman’s education. New York: A.A. Knopf.

Downes, S. (2008). “MOOC- The resurgence of community in online learning.” Retrieved from https://halfanhour.blogspot.com/2013_05_01_archive.html

Ferguson, Roderick A. (2012). The Reorder of Things: The University and Its Pedagogies of Minority Difference. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Hamington, M. (2010). Feminist interpretations of Jane Addams. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press.

hooks, b. (2003). Teaching community: A pedagogy of hope. New York: Routledge.

Hull, G. T., Scott, P. B., & Smith, B. (1982). All the women are White, all the Blacks are men, but some of us are brave: Black women’s studies. Old Westbury, NY: Feminist Press.

Kuh, G. D. (2008). High-impact educational practices: What they are, who has access to them, and why they matter. Association of American Colleges and Universities. Washington, DC.

Kuh, G. D., & O’Donnell, K. (2013). “Ensuring quality & taking high-impact practices to scale.” Association of American Colleges and Universities, Washington, DC.

Nakamura, L. (2007). Digitizing race: Visual cultures of the Internet. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Newman, J., & Oh, S. (2014, June 13). “8 things you should know about MOOCs.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from https://chronicle.com/article/MOOCs-EdX/146901/

Oakes, J. (2000). “Course-taking and achievement: Inequalities that endure and change.” A keynote paper presented at the National Institute for Science Education Forum, Detroit, MI.

Pappano, L. (2012, November 2). “The year of the MOOC.” The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/04/education/edlife/massive-open-online-courses-are-multiplying-at-a-rapid-pace.html?pagewanted=all

Rich, A. (1979). “Claiming an education.” In On lies secrets and silence: Selected prose, 1966-78 (pp. 231-235). New York: W.W. Norton.

Roth, M. (2013, April 29). “My modern experience teaching and MOOC.” Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from https://chronicle.com/article/My-Modern-MOOC-Experience/138781/

Stansbury, M. (2014, April 17). INFOGRAPHIC: Global MOOC statistics. eCampus News. Retrieved from https://www.ecampusnews.com/research/infographic-moocs-global-436/

University Committee on Planning and Budget Systemwide Academic Senate (2010). The Choices Report. Oakland, CA: University of California.

Vanek, J. (1977b) “Uncertainty and the investment decision under labor-management and their social efficiency implications.” In The Labor Managed Economy: Essays by Jaroslav Vanek. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.


[1] Sections of this talk are published in the essay “Transforming Higher Education with Distributed Open Collaborative Courses (DOCCs): Feminist Pedagogies and Networked Learning,” co-authored with Radhika Gajjala, Liz Losh, Laura Wexler and T.L. Cowan, in MOOCs and Open Education Around the World Curtis J. Bonk, Mimi Miyoung Lee, Thomas C. Reeves, eds. New York: Routledge Press, 2015

[2] Over the past decade tuition at private and state colleges and universities in the US has increased at a higher rate than at any time in recorded history, with the average four-year public university tuition increasing 27% since 2008, but in places like California and Arizona it has increased 70% (U.S. Department of Education, Ed.gov, June 27, 2013; Kellie Rowe, USAToday.com, June 24, 2013; Christine Armario, USAToday.com, June 13, 2012).

[3] AAUP “Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession” 2012-2013; Curtis and Thornton Academe, March-April 2013; Tamar Lewin New York Times, April 8, 2013.

[4] AAUP “Annual Report,” Table 5 and E.

[5] Bittman, Mahmud Rice and Wajcman 2004: 401

[6] TL Cowan and I have written about this in an unpublished essay, “Caring for the Shadow Archives: Feminist Collectives as Network Technology & Survival Economy” (2014).


*FemTechNet Roadshow Blog Series – Over the past couple of months, about a dozen FemTechNet participants have presented work based on our research and teaching related to FemTechNet in a two-part FemTechNet Keywords Workshop at the CUNY Feminist Pedagogies Conference in April 2015, and at the Union for Democratic Communications Conference at the University of Toronto in May 2015. Since these gatherings brought together such divergent modes of FemTechNet engagement, we thought we’d collect and share this new work over the last two weeks of May, leading up to the deadline for our 2015 FTN Summer Workshop. For more information on this series, contact T.L. Cowan


Teen Library Accessibility

The February 2015 newsletter of the Center for Children’s Books (CCB) at the University of Illinois carries an article that begins this way: “Last semester, students from myriad institutions and disciplines collaborated in a distributed open collaborative course (DOCC) created by FemTechNet, a network of scholars, students, and artists interested in feminist science-technology studies. At the University of Illinois, the DOCC entitled “Collaborations in Feminism and Technology” included students from Art and Design, Library and Information Science, and more, led by instructor Sharon Irish. In conjunction with this class, CCB graduate assistant Michelle Biwer explored the issue of accessibility for teen library patrons, ultimately compiling a LibGuide designed for teen librarians or library students interested in learning more about accessibility.”

The CCB conducted an interview with Biwer and Irish. Michelle Biwer’s LibGuide can be found here. There are great resources in the guide, even if you don’t work with teens or in a library!



Gender Bias in Academe

Danica Savonick and Cathy N. Davidson just posted an annotated bibliography related to Gender Bias in Academe on the HASTAC blog. There is also an open, public Google document for people to add “other relevant studies and responsible, careful, fact-checked annotations” to this bibliography. FemTechNet is grateful to Danica and Cathy for this work and for encouraging us to share it here! Danica is a doctoral student in English and a Research Fellow, Futures Initiative, at The Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY) and a Teaching Fellow, Queens College; Cathy N. Davidson is Co-Founder of HASTAC, Distinguished Professor, and Director of The Futures Initiative, at The Graduate Center, CUNY.

Starting Where We Are


Sharon Irish (SI), one of FemTechNet’s co-facilitators for 2014-16, recently interviewed Ivette Bayo Urban (IBU) about the course she is teaching this term in Seattle, “Community Technology Literacy and You.”  Ivette is a doctoral candidate in Information Science at the University of Washington.  She obtained support for Starting Where We Are, a project funded by City of Seattle Technology Match on behalf of Casa Latina. Together with members of Casa Latina, university students from the University of Washington and library partners, she is working together across differences with shared goals of 1) increasing digital and information resources for adults as well as 2) early literacy and imaginative play for youth.  She also received support from the Center for Experiential Learning and Diversity to offer a for-credit course to students at UW and a community course to people involved with Casa Latina. Sharon was curious how this worked. UPDATE: In June 2015, Ivette shared this video about her work.

Graphic for Starting Where We Are

IBU: Last quarter I had seven students on the project, most of whom were master’s candidates in LIS, including one distance-learner in a predominantly Spanish-speaking rural area with limited access to the Internet and one master’s of information management. An anthropology major took an independent study and served as our project manager (but is actually so much more!) We worked to be non-hierarchical and come to agreement on our goals so that we could be ready for our activities in 2015. This term I am working with five students officially, but others are involved doing their capstone projects in connection with the class. Another four students are building a Little Free Library at Casa Latina.

SI: How often and where do you meet?

IBU: We meet on campus once a week from 3-4:20PM and then we carpool to our community partners, and work with them from 5PM to 7PM. The funding from the Center for Experiential Learning enables us to provide a van to transport people from Casa Latina to branches of King County Public Library and Seattle Public Library. The program started in January and goes through July of 2015. While attendance varies, we usually have six to seven women from the community.

SI: How are the sessions in community locations structured?

IBU: We have a theme each session; last week was email. The Advisory Group, made up of women from Casa Latina, helps guide decisions about programming. Members of the Group also rotate handling logistics for each meeting, and they get paid $15 an hour (for 2 hours) to set up and coordinate sessions, which are conducted in Spanish.

I was able to get additional funding from the Information and Society Center  to provide programming for children while their parents are involved with our digital literacy sessions. UW students either provide childcare, or work in small groups with the Latina women who want to expand their digital skills. The grant to support childcare allowed us to buy a puppet theatre and some iPad minis. We have had up to seven children, including three babies!

SI: How does FemTechNet mesh with your work?

IBU: FemTechNet is a source of inspiration for the collaboration between university and community. Despite learning about FemTechNet after the grant was approved, every aspect of the participatory framework and vision was etched with some of FemTechNet’s manifesto, which is why it is appropriate that this project be offered as FemTechNet node.

All of us have read the FemTechNet manifesto, either in English or in Spanish. We share the work in terms of grant administration, course readings, and community programming. We explore together socially-defined identities and are using Blogger for our reflections. We also have a Weebly site (built by an informatics student) for sharing readings, announcements and reminders across our groups. We are committed to the Toltec Four Agreements.

SI: Tell me more about the Toltec Four Agreements.

IBU: The Casa Latina women’s leadership group has used the Toltec 4 Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz as ground rules and for leadership development.  Therefore we are also using them.  Our handout consists of the agreements on one side and the FemTechNet manifesto in Spanish on the other.

The Four Agreements are:

  1. Be Impeccable with your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.
  2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
  3. Don’t Make Assumptions
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.
  4. Always Do Your Best
Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

The women from Casa Latina have added a 5th – Listen with power (or intent) 

SI: Ivette, thank you so much for sharing your vision and practice! I invite people to explore the link to your website for further information.

IBU: You are welcome! Martin Nakata (2002) reminds us of the importance of developing scholarship in “contested spaces of cultural interface.” My activism happens in classrooms, attentive to the complex and uneven relations that exist as we travel and share social and cultural spaces with universities, organizations and individuals. Please check out Starting Where We Are!

Goldsmiths’ “After New Media” Online

By Ben Craggs, Goldsmiths’ University, London, UK

Over the past six months Sarah Kember and I have been working hard to develop the Goldsmiths’ University course After New Media with a view to giving it an additional, online presence. Originally a formal option module for Goldsmiths’ University MA students, and comprising the conventional pedagogic media of lectures, seminars, printed reading packs and small cohorts of students, we began to ask what the course might become were it to be made freely available online.   Our intention was not to create just another MOOC, but something less proprietary, less branded and ultimately more open; something that, inspired by the work already done by FemTechNet, we have begun to think of as distributed, open-access, and collaborative.

Still from "If It Reads, It Bleeds" (2010)  by Joanna Zylinska;  courtesy Joanna Zylinska

Still from “If It Reads, It Bleeds” (2010)
by Joanna Zylinska;
courtesy Joanna Zylinska

This project really began two years previously, in late 2012, when, with the assistance of Goldsmiths’ University’s podcasting service, we decided to record the entire series of ten lectures that made up the After New Media course. At the time this was done with no real plan other than to podcast a small selection of lectures using the university’s new iTunes U platform. The three lectures that we eventually made available proved far more popular than we had either hoped or expected and we began to receive enquiries about the remaining lectures and from there the project has spiralled!

This year the course will be available entirely online — we are releasing all ten lectures in MP3 format, adding a number of explanatory texts, including video content and a ‘liquid reader’. The ten lectures (released on a weekly basis between November 10th and February 9th) are available on the Goldsmiths University website, and a more comprehensive course, including video content and slides is available using the iTunes U website and app. There is no restriction on the number of students who can enroll and we are keen to encourage as many participants as possible.

The liquid reader is intended to be a dynamic and constantly changing resource, both entirely open, providing access to publicly available research and editable, enabling students to add to the course with additional links. We actively encourage experimentation in this space and are inviting participants to upload their own responses, which could include essays, articles, video or photography. The reader is entirely open access, although registration is required on the Liquid Books website if you wish to contribute (please include a brief note about yourself in the message box when registering to help us identify After New Media participants and keep spam to a minimum).

After New Media is in essence a ‘media studies’ course, but it builds on and challenges existing approaches — where media are often discussed as separate, discrete objects (television, film, photography etc.) — and moves towards debates on mediation. The course asks what it means to study ‘the media,’ not as separate entities, but as a complex process, one that is simultaneously social, psychological, economic, political and technological. We trace the origins of this question in debates on remediation that are critical of new media teleology and explore its (creative) evolution through a range of philosophical and contextual approaches, particularly those from the field of feminist studies of science and technology.

Throughout this course we explore the inseparability of media and mediation in the context of specific media events, including the global economic crisis (or the Credit Crunch), the search for and ‘discovery’ (or not) of the Higgs Boson at the CERN Large Hadron Collider project, the world’s first face transplant surgery, and the ongoing quest for life on Mars. What, we ask, is the relation between the event and its mediation — do media simply represent such events, or, would it be more accurate to say that these events are performed through mediation? If events are performative and do not entirely pre-exist their mediation, how might we respond to them in our critiques?

In part this course — and our experiment with ‘going online’ — is already an attempt to explore this question and to recognise and respond to our own pedagogy as mediation. An academic course is itself always a highly mediated event, one co-constituted by lectures, seminars, reading packs, text books, students and academics — none of which can be separated out and taken in isolation, and none of which entirely pre-exist the other. The relationship between the event and its mediation is therefore just as complicated here, and the media with which we engage never convey our meaning in an uncomplicated way, never simply representing pre-formed knowledge to ‘passive’ students. For this reason ‘going online’ is far from neutral, it does something to the course, and it does something to ‘us as ‘we’ are stopped, paused or skipped over on a participant’s iPad. Going online does not simply mean reproducing the same material on a different platform, but nor does it mean ‘upgrading’, or ‘adding value’ to an otherwise ‘staid’ and ‘obsolete’ method of teaching. Instead, it demands an openness to potential changes and transformations over which we may have little control — as teaching always has. What these changes and transformations will be we have yet to apprehend, but that is the exciting part and we hope you will join us in exploring them.

Our development of the online incarnation of the course, from its origins as a series of recorded lectures to a more vibrant and collaborative course has been heavily informed by the work already done by FemTechNet, and we are therefore delighted that After New Media has now been added as one of the DOCC nodes. After New Media launched on November 10th and you can join us now by subscribing via the iTunes app and by contributing your own material to the liquid reader.



Featured Video Dialogues Week of  11/17/2014

This week there are two featured video dialogues, both dealing with Systems. Systems: Games is a discussion with Brenda Laurel and Janet Murray, moderated by Anne Balsamo. The other, Systems 2: Infrastructures is a conversation with Lucy Suchman and Katherine Gibson, moderated by Anne Balsamo.


L to R: Lucy Suchman, Katherine Gibson, and Anne Balsamo, October 1, 2013, New York City

L to R: Lucy Suchman, Katherine Gibson, and Anne Balsamo, October 1, 2013, New York City

The Systems: Games video dialogue occurred in September 2013 at the Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCADU). Systems 2 was held at The New School in New York City in October 2013.

For transcripts and captioned versions of the FemTechNet videos, please visit


EduTech Horizons Singapore

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.

banner for IARU Edtech Horizons workshop Singapore

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.


Difference: Featured Video Dialogue 11/3/14

Sara Diamond in center, with Kim Sawchuk (L) and Shu Lea Cheang (R)

Sara Diamond in center, with Kim Sawchuk (L) and Shu Lea Cheang (R)

The Video Dialogue Difference with Shu Lea Cheang and Kim Sawchuk, moderated by Sara Diamond, is featured this week, November 3-7, 2014. Sara Diamond, president and vice-chancellor of the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, conducted this roundtable in September of 2013. Shu Lea Cheang is an internationally-recognized new media artist. Kim Sawchuk is Professor of Communication Studies at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

UN Global Alliance on Gender and Media, Part Two

By Lisa McLaughlin, Miami University of Ohio, and Sophie Toupin, McGill University

This “report” has been compiled from a series of posts on the FemTechNet listserv in late November through December 10, 2013. Lisa McLaughlin, Associate Professor, Department of Media, Journalism & Film and Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program, at Miami University of Ohio, took the lead for FemTechNet in Fall 2013 in the UN Global Alliance on Media and Gender (GAMG). The Alliance was initiated during a UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] forum in Bangkok from December 2-4, 2013.  Together with FemTechNet co-facilitators, Anne Balsamo and Alex Juhasz, Lisa decided to submit the online information necessary to join the Alliance.

Sophie Toupin posted to FemTechNet, December 1, 2013:
I am so thrilled to hear that FemTechNet is taking part in the upcoming meeting of the UN Global Alliance on Media and Gender (GAMG)! As highlighted by Anne’s email, continuing to engage at the policy level, despite the frustration and the sometimes apparent disinterest of global players on such issue, it is nonetheless very important.

In the mid-2000s, I took part in international policy dialogues when I worked for and with the Women’s International Network of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC). It was at the time of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).

It might be worth connecting with other NGOs present at the GAMG and which are working on similar issues (whether big players such as: IREX [International Research and Exchanges Board], Internews and Panos; or smaller players such as: AMARC, WACC [World Association for Christian Communication], etc.) to write a joint letter in The Guardian (or other newspapers) to address the issue of gender and media and the interconnection and intersection between all forms of technologies whether “old” (such as community radio) or “new” (a dichotomy I am not fond of), the concentration of the “media” (whether it be at the media level or at the “internet” level i.e. the “googlization” of everything: see Society of the Query #2  https://networkcultures.org/wpmu/query/past-events/2-amsterdam/) and the importance of pluralism (see: Chantal Mouffe’s new book on Agonistics: Thinking the World Politically [Verso, 2013]). A joint letter could help trigger some traction for a campaign and bring attention to this undervalued issue.

 Having said that, finding one or two permanent missions at the UN or government representatives to champion those issues could also be key. Having an official country or permanent mission to back our initiative could be of much help as government reps can sometimes be our ears, eyes and voices in spaces where decisions are being made, pressure is being applied, but where civil society is not allowed. Also and my last point on this: from my advocacy work experience at the permanent missions level, we do not necessarily have to target the country where we are from, we can target other, friendlier countries.


Lisa McLaughlin to Sophie Toupin and the FemTechNet listserv, December 1, 2013:

You will see on the agenda that IREX [International Research and Exchanges Board], APC [Association for Progressive Communications], WACC [World Association for Christian Communication], etc. all are listed as major partners for the GAMG. The International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) also is a major partner. One tricky matter is that, to streamline processes, UNESCO decided to separate the academic constituency (and place IAMCR in a leadership position) from the civil society constituency. UNESCO would have preferred that all academics were represented by IAMCR, but, as you might agree, it seems inappropriate to require that one becomes a member of IAMCR in order to participate. Also, academic associations/networks are part of civil society. For these reasons, and because I hope that FemTechNet eventually becomes more inclusive of those not associated with academe, I designated FemTechNet as a civil society, not academic, association. I should mention that I am a member of IAMCR and have no animosity against IAMCR, even though I am somewhat concerned about the representational arrangement.

But, the good news is that, as a civil society organization, even as an academic civil society organization, FemTechNet does have the opportunity to work with the other organizations that you list. I’ve worked with WACC and APC in the past, primarily to lobby for inclusion of specific concerns and language (like “gender”) during the WSIS.

I think that we should have a dialogue about what FemTechNet supports beyond the broad issue of media and gender equality and justice. Optimally, we should have done this earlier, but then, UNESCO didn’t promote the GAMG until September of this year [2013].

Sophie, you’re correct that members of governmental delegations can be effective allies, but, in general, US delegates will do little more than have conversations with civil society representatives (if that). During WSIS, governments were asked to include civil society representatives in their official delegations. While countries such as Uganda were quite inclusive, the US ambassador refused to include anyone from civil society. One female member of the Canadian delegation, on the other hand, even wore the T-shirts that we had made for the prep-coms before the Geneva summit. [As I recall, the front of the T-shirt stated “Something is missing from the WSIS Declaration” and the back of the T-shirt stated “GENDER.”] At the OECD Ministerial on the Future of the Internet Economy, the Brazilian ambassador was quite supportive of civil society.

My guess is that we probably will need to find friendly government officials from countries other than the US.

The live streaming video of the Global Forum on Media and Gender wasn’t working for the first day and there was no interpretation to English or any other language available. Two apparent news anchors spoke in Thai over the video and the speakers’ voices, and it appeared that they were not addressing the forum. No interactive technology seems to have been made available for the forum. Despite UNESCO’s important accomplishments, there is a reason why UNESCO and FIASCO have three final letters in common.

On the upside, in my experience, the important discussions and work do not occur at the events themselves but, rather, before, around, and after these episodic public sphere moments. The Global Alliance on Media and Gender will be announced during the Bangkok forum. What happens after this is the real substance of the GAMG, where we might engage in the dialogue and make a difference.


Ultimately, the UN General Assembly will have to officially approve the GAMG.

Lisa McLaughlin, writing on December 10, 2013

The Global Forum on Media and Gender has concluded, not surprisingly with an announcement that there now exists a Global Alliance on Media and Gender. Although the streaming video never worked, there is now video at https://www.unesco.org/new/en/communication-and-information/crosscutting-priorities/gender-and-media/global-forum-on-media-and-gender/global-Forum-on-Media-and-Gender-Videos. I’m afraid that it’s not very impressive–just the opening ceremony and some interviews with participants, only one of whom is a Civil Society representative from an organization that takes a very progressive and critical approach to gender and media issues (the woman from the Heinrich Böll Foundation, China Desk).

At this point, my primary comment on the proceedings, including the opening ceremony, is that while the forum focused on some significant issues such as gender-based violence (GBV) and the Internet and the vulnerability of women journalists in war zones (both worthy of great attention), it was too heavily weighted toward women as victims, at the expense of focusing on the contributions of women to efforts to increase gender equality and justice within the context of media/communications. GBV and the Internet seems to be at the top of the list of issues as they involve women.


Bangkok, Thailand

2nd-4th December, 2013


We, the delegates to the First Global Forum on Media and Gender, held in Bangkok, Thailand from 2nd-4th December, 2013, declare our commitment to the fundamental human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the promotion of gender equality in and through media, the empowerment of women, and to the creation of a Global Alliance on Media and Gender (GAMG).

We reaffirm the outcomes of the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

We recognize that the media has a crucial role to play in promoting women’s full participation in every aspect of life and society and, to this end, we invite UNESCO and UN Women to endorse this Statement and implement its recommendations.

We also invite other UN agencies, intergovernmental bodies, media organizations, training and development institutions, professional organizations, donors, commercial businesses and foundations, relevant NGOs and education institutions, to embrace this statement and to support the implementation of its recommendations as appropriate.


We are committed to gender equality and women’s empowerment across generations to fully participate and enabling women’s access to expression and decision-making by promoting a gender-inclusive media and communication environment that reaches gender equality in media organizations, unions, media education and training institutions, media professional associations, media regulatory and self-regulatory bodies; attains gender balance in media governing boards and in management, whose levels set company policy, make key financial decisions, and oversee media operations, thereby influencing the following aspects:

  • access to and participation in digital platforms;
  • safety of women in media;
  • a positive, non-stereotypical and balanced portrayal across all forms of media and media content;
  • promotion of ethical principles and policies supporting gender equality;
  • improvement of the gender spread within media occupational groups;
  • empowerment of communicators with media and information literacy skills that can help advance the cause of gender equality.

We support the establishment of the Global Alliance on Media and Gender (GAMG) in line with principles and objectives outlined in the Framework.

We call on UNESCO and UN Women, as well as the UN family and all partner organizations to join the Global Alliance on Media and Gender and contribute to the implementation of its Framework and Action Plan.

We call on UNESCO and UN Women to disseminate widely through the United Nations system our proposals for the inclusion of Gender and Media in the Post 2015 sustainable development agenda, in particular to the goal related to Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (Annex I) and the goal of good governance, and in the 2015 UN Conference on Women (Annex II).

We also call on all who can assist the Global Alliance on Media and Gender (GAMG) to join us in supporting women in accessing the opportunities and benefits which the knowledge society and media technologies are bringing to humankind today, and which can do so even more in the future.