Video dialogue

Place: Featured Video Dialogue 11/9/14

Getting ready to discuss the keyword PLACE: L to R: Sharon Irish, Radhika Gajjala, Alex Juhasz

Getting ready to discuss the keyword PLACE: L to R: Sharon Irish, Radhika Gajjala, Alex Juhasz

The Video Dialogue Place with Radhika Gajjala and Sharon Irish, moderated by Alex Juhasz, is featured this week, November 10-14, 2014. There is an abridged (35-minute) version of the video available as well. Alex Juhasz, professor of media studies and director of the Munroe Center for Social Inquiry at Pitzer College, conducted this dialogue in November of 2013 in Claremont, California. Radhika Gajjala is a professor of media and communication at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Sharon Irish is an art and architectural historian and project coordinator in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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

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):

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.