situated knowledges map

Key Faculty: T.L. Cowan (cowant AT; K Surkan (ksurkan AT; Laura Wexler (laura.wexler AT   

Syllabus Description [adjust to your course’s purposes]: (in-class activity, interaction or assignment)

The FemTechNet Situated Knowledges Map is an experiment in thinking about the relationship between space, place, mobility and knowledge production and circulation. By marking locations of significance to ourselves, we hope to get a sense of where we are coming from across the FemTechNet world.

Questions to consider: How does place and location affect our knowledges? Where do our knowledges come from? Does it matter where you were when you learned something? How do ideas, knowledge practices, customs, values, norms travel? What does it mean to move across spaces? What changes when we move, especially when we traverse borders? Under what conditions do we move? How do ideas change over time and/or space? How are knowledges culturally specific? How are places racialized, gendered, classed, designated or felt as safe or dangerous? What are marginal or minoritized spaces? What knowledges come from being part of a dominant culture in a place? And from a minoritized culture in a place?

Suggested Readings

Similar/related projects:

Getting Started on the FTN Collaborative Situated Knowledges Map

Watch this Google Map Engine tutorial:

If you get lost in this process, feel free to contact T.L. Cowan (tlcowan1 at gmail dot com).

  1. Open the FemTechNet Situated Knowledges Map link via your Google account:
  2. Select ‘Add a Marker’ [to the right of the hand icon] from the toolbar below the Search field at the top of this map.
  3. Drop a pin or make a marker on a place that represents a moment of feminist knowing, unknowing, learning, unlearning, understanding, confusion.
  4. In the description field of your pin or marker, please note your name (or a pseudonym), where you are writing from, and include either a narrative description of an event, or idea, a poem, micro-story, video, photo, etc. to animate your marker. You might want to make a mark about some of the following ways that you intersect with the idea of Feminism & Technology:
  • your home town
  • where you first encountered an idea that transformed your understanding of the world or yourself
  • a place where you had an experience that transformed your understanding of the world or yourself
  • a place where you first came to an understanding of a key concept:
  • power, class, gender, sex, assigned sex, race,
  • Women of Color Feminism
  • Transnational feminism
  • surveillance
  • feminist killjoy
  • translocality
  • migrant knowledges
  • Black Radical Tradition
  • pinkwashing
  • performativity
  • scattered hegemonies
  • Indigenous knowledges
  • (de)colonized knowledges
  • homonormativity
  • homonationalism
  •  heteronormativity
  • compulsory heterosexuality
  • situated knowledge
  • queerness
  • cyborg knowledges
  • avatars
  • compulsory ablebodiedness
  • transfeminism
  • transmisogyny
  • reproductive labour
  • affective labour, etc
  • a place that represents a site of epistemological belonging or alienation
  • or a place that has been important for you in your knowledge of yourself in/and the world.

You may add as many pins as you’d like. Please only edit your own pins and be careful not to ‘delete’ anything!

5.   Once you have added your pin/marker, name and media: click “Share” (upper right hand corner) and then “Done (bottom of pop-up box).

6.    Browse through the other pins & markers and see where other folks are coming from! All map participants are encouraged to write a short reflection on their experience of the collaborative map, and we will collect these reflections and publish them as a FemTechNet blog post (contact T.L. if you would like to participate in this). Unfortunately Google Engine doesn’t allow comments on other people’s pins.

7.     Commenting: If you would like to comment on another pin, here’s how you can do it: drop a pin and write your comment as usual. Once you have posted your comment, hover the curser over the title of your comment in the list on the left of the map. Use the paint can icon to change your pin into a star and color it blue! (I have added a comment called “White Savior Industrial Complex” as an example.)

For instructors:

Furthermore, instructors may choose to signify certain icons for specific purposes. Ie:

  • we could use a purple square to indicate an “After reading ___” or “Key Word ____” marker that indicates a spatialization of students’ coming to new knowledges.
  • we might want to add another notation shape (a green circle) that indicates a student re-visiting the map — what is something they have learned in a spatialized way during the course? And we could add this to the assignment — Drop a green circle at the end of the semester. How has your thinking changed? Do you perceive that initial experience that you described in your first pin differently?

7.    One last glitch: Google Engines only allows one user at a time to work on the map. If you are doing this exercise in class, your students will have to take turns. If you are logged into the map and it is glitching out on you, it probably means that someone else is working on it, so come back in 10 min. Again, this is an experiment–or research-creation process–towards a FemTechNet map project, so please record your thoughts as you contribute to the map.

Sample Posting:

Hot Chocolate Machine as Working Class Femme Technology?

T.L. Cowan – (Now lives in New York City) Working in the snack bar of the local hockey (and figure skating and ringette) arena, which my dad managed, I learned to use technologies that most people will never know about…the hot chocolate machine, a hot dog contraption, a microwave that was only ever used for frozen pizzas and danishes. I even drove the zamboni or did my father try to teach me and I didn’t care? or did he just teach my brothers and i was stuck in the snack bar? it’s all a blur. but the whirrrrr of the hot chocolate machine will always bring me to that ‘flush’ that Sedgwick talks about — the flush of shame. Although the word “flush” brings me to another memory — cleaning the toilets & urinals. But that’s for another time. The whirrrrr of the hot chocolate machine: This is the time when I felt most alienated from femininity — here I was this lunging girl — dishing out microwaved pizzas, greasy hotdogs, bags of chips, and so much bloody hot chocolate to all these tiny figure-skaters who, it seemed to me, looked at me as a monster: as pathetic, large, poor and clumsy.  At the time I didn’t know anything about ‘working class cred’ and didn’t feel any solidarity with the other poor, struggling class or working class kids I knew. I just wanted pretty things and a small body.

Questions? Contact T.L. Cowan: tlcowan1[at]gmail[dot]com


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  5. Kate Badecker
    March 28, 2016 @ 2:39 pm

    Situated Knowledges Mapping Reflection
    Contributing to the FemTechNet Situated Knowledges Map and educating myself on feminist mapping was an eye-opening, worthwhile experience. It made me thankful for other projects like it (i.e. HarassMap), it gave me hope that women are gradually gaining agency in the world, and it allowed me to realize/appreciate my privilege and location in the world. Reading Marianna Pavlovskaya and Kevin St. Martin’s Feminism and Geographic Information Systems: From a Missing Object to a Mapping Subject taught me that I am privileged to live in a time in which maps can be created by feminist mapping subjects for women’s needs and interests like women’s health. For example, feminist mapping has increased funding for research of environmental risks to breast cancer, and has perhaps prevented occurrences of breast cancer (Pavlovskaya and St. Martin, 599).
    Feminist mapping seeks to increase the “networking, visibility, and voice of feminists around the world,” and by doing so mapping has the ability to increase women’s agency (“World map of feminists [EN,FR,ES,DE]”). Feminist mapping is epistemological in its origins: feminists critiqued the knowledge produced in geography and cartography by the traditional mapping subject—a disembodied male researcher “in pursuit of objective knowledge and the discovery of truth” (Pavlovskaya and St. Martin, 584). According to Donna Haraway, there is no such thing as objective knowledge or a disembodied researcher. Her concept of situated knowledges “posits that all knowledge comes from a particular location [dependent on the location of the subject producing it] and cannot claim to be objective truth” (Pavlovskaya and St. Martin, 588). Additionally, historical, cultural, and social contexts define the parameters of knowledge. That being said, I shared my pins on the FemTechNet Situated Knowledges map as a white, American, educated, female member of the upper-middle class, and these parameters have allowed me to have specific experiences/situated knowledges.
    In my first pin on the FemTechNet Situated Knowledges Map, I discuss the anxiety that I experienced preparing myself to look “prom-ready.” I cannot blame myself entirely for this anxiety. Just like the disciplinary practices described by Michel Foucault’s theoretical model of the Panopticon that keep prisoners in check, there are disciplinary practices that produce an ideal body of femininity. As Sandra Lee Bartky writes, we may self-police our looks—dieting/exercising, partaking in daily skin-care regimens—but it is forms of power like the media and institutionalized heterosexuality that reinforce this self-policing (Feminist Theory Reader, 449-453). For example, magazine images of women with tiny wastes, smooth skin, and silky hair portray women as objects of men’s desire. Because of my position in the upper-middle class, I was able to afford to go to/experience prom and all of the “necessities” that went with it. Additionally, a male may not have had this same experience of putting so much emphasis on body image.
    In my second pin, I talk about how I realized that I could never work with people with disabilities because I would feel too bad for them. I share this experience as an able-bodied individual with minimal exposure to people with disabilities. Compulsory ablebodiedness had this effect on my thinking. Before reading Alison Kafer’s Feminist Queer Crip, I had never given thought to the fact that some people with a disability do not have nostalgia for their life “pre-disability.” In society disability is portrayed as a future to avoid. It is described in terms of intervention and prevention. With this mindset society never thinks about the personal experiences and situated knowledges of people who have disabilities. Society does not think about the possibility that some people with disabilities lead happy lives (Kafer, 44). In this experience I lacked the knowledge of the marginalized group and made incorrect assumptions that reinforced stereotypes of the marginalized group.
    In my third pin, I share my experience attending Slut Walk this past fall as my first time meeting victims of sexual violence. After reading Kimberlé Crenshaw’s Mapping the Margins, I realize how race, class, and gender intersect to make “women of color” in lower classes likely to be sexually abused more frequently than white women of higher classes—perhaps “men of color” take out their frustrations of their own oppression by abusing their domestic partners (Crenshaw, 1276). Intersectionality could be a potential factor for why sexual abuse is not common at all in my personal life/town—my town consists of mostly white, middle to upper class residents. I may have grown up knowing victims of sexual abuse or experienced it myself if I lived in a poor/working class area with marginalized races. In other words, geographic location affects situated knowledges/experience.
    In my fourth pin, I talk about how my boyfriend, Dan, learned that his uncle was gay this past summer, but has reason to believe that his uncle has been openly gay for a longer period of time and his family just did not tell him and his siblings. This is a perfect example of Michael Warner’s theory of heteronormativity. Maybe Dan’s family did not tell him that Uncle John was gay to “protect” him from the idea of two people of the same sex loving each other—they wanted Dan to conform to the “norm” of a man and woman loving each other (Warner, 8). If I lived in a different culture such as the Mexican machismo culture, where gay effeminate men can be arrested for being gay, I most likely would not have had this experience because Dan’s uncle would not have been openly gay for fear of being arrested and put in jail. For this reason, crossing boundaries and therefore cultures can affect situated knowledges/experience.
    In my fifth and final pin, I talk about how only male victims were shown in the CPR instructional video that I watched to receive my CPR certification. This is one of the biggest issues that feminists have with scientific/medical studies: they often leave out studies of the female body and claim “objective neutrality.” Postmodern theory posits that language/discourse is one of the systems that produces power, and male researchers are the ones who have power in that they design/publish the majority of scientific research. For this same reason, the written “experiences” of women are not always their true experiences. According to Joan Scott, “experience [is] strictly a “linguistic event,” which [has] no independent existence outside the language and discourses that constructed it” (Feminist Theory Reader, 509). Women must write their own scientific experiments and experiences. Publicized knowledge is often the knowledge of the dominant culture (the dominant culture being patriarchal). Marginalized knowledge is not publicized and is therefore typically only known by the marginalized group.
    In closing, I would like to acknowledge the privilege I have in being able to write this reflection paper. Were it not for my ability to afford an education, and to attend school in general—a right my culture provides me with—I would not be aware of the structures of power that affect my day-to-day experiences as a white, American, educated, female member of the upper-middle class.

    Works Cited

    Crenshaw, Kimberlé. “Mapping the margins: intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color.” Stanford Law Review 43.6 (1991): 1241-1299. Print.

    Feminist Theory Reader: Local and Global Perspectives. Ed. Carole R. McCann and Seung-kyung Kim. New York: Routledge, 2013. Print.

    Kafer, Alison. Feminist Queer Crip. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013. Print.

    Keifer-Boyd, Karen T., and Deborah Smith-Shank. “Feminist mapping.” Visual Culture & Gender 7.10 (2012): 1-5. Print.

    Pavlovskaya, Marianna, and Kevin St Martin. “Feminism and geographic information systems: From a missing object to a mapping subject.” Geography Compass 1.3 (2007): 583-606.

    Warner, Michael. “Introduction: Fear of a Queer Planet” Social Text 29.4 (1991): 3-17.

    “World map of feminists [EN,FR,ES,DE].”, n.d. Web. 26 March 2016.


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