TechnoFeminism - Independent Study

Week 15: 4.18.10


Blair, Kristine, Radhika Gajjala and Christine Tulley. Webbing Cyberfeminist Practice: Communities, Pedagogies, and Social Action. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, Inc., 2009.

The editors of Webbing Cyberfeminist Practice have organized the texts around three themes: community, teaching, and resistance. However, whole acknowledging the difficulty in defining such a term (“webbing cyberfeminist practice”), it’s clear that these pieces reflect and call for research and writing to be done on the ways women learn, use, adapt, and resist technology.

Smelick, Anneke and Nina Lykke. Bits of Life: Feminism at the Intersections of Media, Bioscience, and Technology. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2008.

Bits of Life is a well-laid framework to the transparently interdisciplinary field of “feminist cultural studies in technoscience.” Together, these feminist writers are calling for “a certain materialism and realism in exploring new forms of cinematic or digital aesthetic that moves beyond representation” (xii).


Bits of Life and Webbing Cyberfeminist Practice are interdisciplinary collections of texts using a wide range of approaches. What kept coming up was this idea of always being able to reduce technology down to effects on bodies.

Both collections rely heavily on Haraway, which really is a testament to how cross-disciplinary and cross-generation her work is. Nina Lykke uses Haraway’s idea of “imploded objects” to describe the structure of feminist cultural studies of technoscience, which I believe can also describe the notion of queer: “…a knot into which different strands of the interdisciplinary nods of research interests are imploding in an open-ended process" (3).

It’s clear to me that “feminist cultural studies of technoscience” is a descendent of Wajcman, Cockburn, and Haraway, the feminists doing and naming technologies of their time and times before them, as well as placing technology in the social. Without the crucial work of feminists looking at domestic and workplace technologies and how those technologies effect women(‘s bodies), feminist cultural studies of technoscience wouldn’t exist.

After reading Mary Hocks and Cynthia Selfe’s pieces I immediately friended them on Facebook (and also searched for them on Twitter, but didn’t find them). I knew these were feminist rhetoricians I needed to read more so I’m glad I got an opportunity to do so in this book. Both Hocks and Selfe see creating across media as a libratory practice in which students are critical users. Hocks writes, “As an area of rhetorical study, cyberfeminism offers researchers and students opportunities to develop activist rhetorics about techno-science, gender and other identities, and cultural practices” (235). And Selfe, “For me, multiplying composing modalities means that we also multiply the numbers of semiotic channels on which communication takes place, and the chances that people can understand what they read and respond productively and resourcefully for themselves” (259).

All throughout the semester I’ve reacted to the continued linking of masculinity to men, but when I stop to consider masculinity I begin to question what that’s based on: Hardness? Lack of emotion? Chivalry? WHAT is masculinity? OR, how do we know it when we see it? If we’ve linked masculinity with technology, and masculinist technologies with men, where is the masculine female and/or the feminine male? Inside and outside? In assigning masculinity to men, femininity is then assigned to women, therefore discussing women in technology is discussing femininity in technology. I don’t know exactly where I’m going here. There seems to me work to be done on projects that subvert these assignations that don’t filter out into the LGBT/queer stream because masculinity and femininity do not operate exclusively with sexuality.

In this set of readings I gravitated more towards chapters about digital rhetoric and science fiction, and stayed away from medical stuff (biomedicine, imaging, reproduction), and unfortunately transnational pieces, which as a first world white person isn’t surprising, but definitely disappointing. This feels like the reproduction of second wave, white, liberal feminism.

Key Terms, Quotes, and Questions

Bits of Life


xiii – “With this book, we hope to effectuate a change in feminist cultural studies, urging the field to go beyond classical notions of semiotics and hermeneutics, and on to explorations of new material-semiotic approaches that can lead to a “materialized deconstruction that literary Derrideans might envy” (Haraway 1997: 102). We reintroduce a certain materialism and realism in exploring new forms of cinematic or digital aesthetic that moves beyond representation.”

Chap 1 – Feminist Cultural Studies of Technoscience

3 – Haraway’s “imploded objects” – “I analyze feminist cultural studies of technoscience as a knot into which different strands of the interdisciplinary nods of research interests are imploding in an open-ended process.”

12 – “The cyborg – partly human/animal and partly machine, partly organice body and partly technological artifact – is a figuration that signals a collapse of the central dichotomies on which positivist science is based.” -

14 – “Basically, the field of feminist cultural studies of technoscience is concerned with critiquing the former dimensions and strengthening the latter, affirmative dimensions in an open-ended, transdisciplinary process of disentangling social, cultural, technological, and biological power relations. In this sense, the field can also be characterized as cyborg studies, or as knowledge production on “bits of life.””

Chap 7 – Screening the Gene

95 – “the dialogics of identity”: “the ways in which identities are not simply constituted, embodied, or lived out by subjects themselves but are also always read by others.”

“What is genetic embodiment, and what new forms of literacy are required in order for such a body to be rendered legible?” - <3 this question

99 – “If the body is a sequence of bits and bytes, how transferable are they?”

107 - “Sameness spells safety if it can be made visible.”

Chap 9 – Tunnel Vision

132 – what about the role of the left behind female tending to the male body in cyberspace?

132 - “The word “matrix”, derived from Latin and later related to mater (mother), “matrix” originally connoted the womb or a breeding female.”

135 – lest we not forget the hypermasculinization of the male body needed to withstand the crossing from reality to virtuality

143 – “The desire to lose the self by entering the matrix and leaving the body behind is a fundamentally ambivalent one because the original mother-womb not only gives life but also takes it away. The cyberfantasy is simultaneously claustrophobic and ecstatic, pleasurable and painful. Alongside the euphoria and utopia of liberation from the body we see fear and dread of the body’s or the mind’s final demise.”

Chap 10 – What if Frankenstein(‘s Mother) Was a Girl?

147 - “The fear of machines that become uncontrollable is entwined with the fear of female sexuality that gets out of hand (Huyssen 1981).”

148 – “What does it mean to be made, not born? Or, as Stacey puts it in this volume (chapter 7), “How can we recognize authenticity and individuality in…the culture of the copy?””

148 - “Although the metaphor of linearity is hard to escape, hypertext reading are not readings along the line alone. They carry the possibility of cyclicity, of reading and rereading in other ways, to disrupt and transform the line and sometimes lose it from sight altogether.” - THE GENDER PROJECT

152 – “When texts move from written pages to screened performances, it is necessary to find ways to take into account both the change of medium and the change of matter. It is important to include an awareness of how acts of reading are always confronted with the viscosity of mediation – of how every medium leaves marks in the processes of textual production.” - THE GENDER PROJECT

152 - “Interlinkages between and among text, body, and machine are always present in acts of writing/reading, but they become explicitly intimate when texts are digitized.”

159 - “Reading, then, is never safe. It is precisely this implicit lack of safety that becomes explicit in hypertext stories. Like the she-monster – who finds a form of fleeting acceptance in a self-identity as assemblage, a way of hanging together that is fundamentally a rifted, (dis)continuous becoming – the reader needs to find navigational strategies that explore and create new senses of beginning as well as new senses of ending. And this kind of end may turn out, in the end, to be no end at all but rather a process of finding out.”

Webbing Cyberfeminist Practice


14 – “Therefore, a main question shaping our approach to cyberfeminism asks how can we design and build action-based, technologically mediated networks for the benefit or marginalized populations.”

18 – “…it is important that we interrogate and trouble concepts such as “woman” and as well as “empowerment through technology” by pointing to the ideological, social, and economic situatedness of such concepts.”

Chap 5 – Permeable Boundaries

111 – “Like other cyberfeminist support spaces, the professional and personal threads are often intertwined in such a way that a group like Readingwomen deconstructs the border between the personal and professional realm and instead expects both areas of members’ lives to influence and inform the other.”

Response to Part 1: Nancy K. Baym

130 – “Cyberfeminist practices are important because they do not stay online. We need to “think beyond the online/offline division” (Paasonen). Cyberfeminist practice demonstrates how online experiences are integrated into lives increasingly through multiple means of mediation. The most effective cyberfeminist practices will be those that both enable women and girls to develop cumulative voices that speak their experience and ensure that those voices are heard in all of the many contexts in which Internet users live their everyday lives.”

Chap 10 – Cyberfeminist Intersects Writing Research

235 – “As an area of rhetorical study, cyberfeminism offers researchers and students opportunities to develop activist rhetorics about techno-science, gender and other identities, and cultural practices.”

235 - “Creating space, taking up the tools, and increasing visibility are powerful activist rhetorical stances.”

239 – “But, more importantly, students studying cyberfeminism can construct alternative spaces and resistant discourses; thus, the purposes, situations, and possible impacts of media productions become clear for students when they create in a motivated context.”

240 – “Hands-on experiences with technologies help foster a critical consciousness about technologies and their use in our culture. These issues of inscription and representation have a profound impact on us all in our everyday lives as writers, researchers, and activists.”

251 – “Digital rhetoric needs ethnographic field research, interface design, user-centered design, and audience analysis methodologies, not just rhetorical criticism, to be more effective at establishing knowledge and learning. We need to study the materiality of all digital media which also brings process back into the discussion of materiality: how you make a digital project, who makes it, and how that gets done.”

Response to Part 2: Cynthia Selfe

258-259 – “However, to be effective in communicating – especially across the conventional boundaries of space, time, geopolitical borders, language, and culture – individuals need to take full advantage of all available means and approaches to making and conveying meaning. For me, multiplying composing modalities means that we also multiply the numbers of semiotic channels on which communication takes place, and the chances that people can understand what they read and respond productively and resourcefully for themselves.”

Chap 14 – We Have Brains

330 - “By encouraging collaborative writing, reflection, and sharing of opinions, We Have Brains members creating a feminist community that challenges the borders between public and private uses of technology, superficial and meaningful communication, and reciprocity and resistance.”

338 – invitational rhetoric: “an invitation to understanding – to enter another’s world to better understand an issue and the individual who holds a particular perspective on it” (S. Foss an Griffin 1995)

Chap 15 – Formidable Females

347 – “Technofeminist work requires that we pay attention to cultural representations of and historical documentation related to women’s patterns of work. The argument core to this manuscript is that an equally important aspect required of us as researchers and as rhetoricians is to pay attention to the ways in which women use situated, everyday practices to negotiate their worklives and the technologies within their workspaces.”

355 – “The ways in which men and women develop approaches to machines and to tasks run deep within our cultural, historical, and social landscape, and are infused with gendered assumptions.”

358 – “Computers may alleviate some of the dull momentum of daily tasks for some, whereas others – often women – face computers that regulate and pace their work, forcing them to become automations with little space to stretch or rest, and even less space to create.”

367 – “By revealing the codes underneath everyday work practices, we can better negotiate the ways in which technology both enhances work and worklives and the ways in which technology is deployed in exploitive ways.”

369 – “These material-technical practices mend the isolation of the screen and connect women within a community of resistance.”

Week 13: 4.6.10


Case, Sue-Ellen. The Domain-Matrix: Performing Lesbian at the End of Print Culture. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1996.

In a unique (read: weird) and cross-disciplinary way Case is exploring identity on the verge of cyberspace from the perspective of the lesbian feminist (, I think). Using “screens” and “screening,” Case plots queer identity performance through the camera’s gaze and into virtual reality (, I think).

Wajcman, Judy. TechnoFeminism. Maiden, MA: Polity Press, 2004.

Wajcman frames this book as “a way between utopian optimism and pessimistic fatalism” for feminism, “and between cultural contingency and social determinism in social theory” (6). She does so by pointing out the mutually constitutive relationship between technology and gender; further, arguing “technology must be understood as part of the social fabric that holds society together” (106).


I found Case’s Domain-Matrix to be one of the few theory books I completely consumed. However, upon writing this reflection I’m having a hard time synthesizing the text because she covers SO much, and the book reads in a non-linear and sporadic way (queerly even). At the beginning of the text she encourages the reader to skip around and disrupt the left to right, page-to-page, movement through the book. I tried it but quickly abandoned this approach because I didn’t feel I had the same focus or attention.

For me, The Computer Cometh was Case’s most successful chapter. She is connecting the computer to writing, which I found to be useful considering the multiple ways the computer has changed the act of writing (like how I can consider video editing a form of writing). She writes, “The new computer multimedia capability to embed (mobile) visual images and sound in a space with print, in the very instrument of “writing,” revolutionizes cultural production” (74).

I’m not entirely sure what Case’s end goal is in this book. Why have none of the readings I’ve done so far led to Case, despite her reference to many of the readings I’ve read? Where does she lie in the feminist/technology network? Whose feathers does she ruffle?

Both Case and Wajcman point out the embeddedness of capitalism in supposedly subversive movements. Case: “Queer Nation, the subcultural writing and performance agency, rested firmly on the base of market interests” (169). Wajcman: “Cyberfeminism may appear to be anarchist and anti-establishment, but, in effect, it requires for its performances all the latest free-marked American capitalist gizmos” (73). As the world becomes more and more a global market it’s important for these things to be pointed out.

I also read Case’s “screen” in Wajcman, “Television privatizes leisure time at the expense of sociability and civic engagement. Computer consoles and their privatized interactivity would seem to be a continuation of the trend that television first inaugurated” (59). Case: “TV not only secured the suburban flight away from urban streets portrayed as dangerous to women, whites, middle-class people, and children, but it proffered the home and the family as substitutes for other social and economic affiliations.” And, “Screening becomes a familiar, constant filter onto the world” (197). There are issues of race, class, power and access tangled up here. I think both women do a good job of never letting their ideas settle, and continually remind us about the bodies ideas are acted out upon. Wajcman: “To express this in compute jargon, an emancipatory politics of technology requires more than hardware and software; it needs wetware – bodies, fluids, human agency” (77).

I found Wajcman’s writing to be clear and concise. It was the perfect culmination of all the reading I’ve done thus far. Her reading of Haraway is both respectful and critical, and I found myself agreeing in her final critique of Haraway’s cyborg: “…real women do live physical differences in the flesh, and my sense is that too much enthusiasm for the cyborg may lead us into theoretical cul-de-sac” (95).

My major critique of Wajcman is that she is still assigning masculinity to men despite her big leap away from essentialism. But when I ask myself what word/idea she should be using I don’t have an answer. This critique/annoyance got me thinking about my aptitude for technology – where did I learn it? Why did I choose it? Why could I program a VCR when I was a kid? And why am I the last person my grandfather asked to set up his digital camera to view pictures on his TV? (and the only person who could do it?)

I digress.

Key Terms, Quotes, and Questions


1 – “Is there a way to retain the notion of “lesbian” in technology, while still marking a material history of lesbian lives – one that might combine the theoretical tradition of lesbian feminist thought and new “queer” inscriptions through sexual practice? Could the two traditions help to bring about a new form of coalition politics?”

6 – “this work focuses on the evacuation of identity in both electronic and poststructuralist discourses and its virtual substitution in corporate, screened identities and “queer” ones.”

9 – “If print composes a certain type of subject, created in consonance with a passing form of capitalism, what new compound of subject, body, sexuality, gender, and class is being constituted in cyberspace? Without the popular trope of “inscription” that has brought writing onto bodies, institutions, and social spaces, what figures manage the emerging spaces of information?”

16 – “Yet lurking in the project to make writing active, to make theorizing a significant actor in spite of all repetitive iterations, or theoretical stomps, is the writer.”

68 – “Considering the computer as a different material condition of writing reorganizes fundamental concepts about the organization of intellectual and physical functions.” - THE GENDER PROJECT

74 – “The new computer multimedia capability to embed (mobile) visual images and sound in a space with print, in the very instrument of “writing,” revolutionizes cultural production. In the future, or the late present, moving images, the voice, music, plastic represenations of the body, in other words the elements of what has been considered “performing,” will be nested at the new combinative base with “writing.” … “creating, finally, a social circulation of the elements of writing, images, and sound across a myriad of screens, in which authorship and artifact are constituted across and only through net travel.”

164 – “In other words, are such “queer” strategies actually aimed at basically white, basically middle-class urban activists and theorists? Can they structure a coalition with indigenous people’s demands for redistributing the land? Should queer notions, instead of claiming a general applicability, actually admit that they, too, reside within a certain “identity” politics?”

Queer: 167 – “The positive aspect of the term “queer” is that it has no specific denotation. Unhinged by multiple sexual identities, operating as the equivalents of “hybridity” (bisexuality), “queer” may more freely constitute its constituents with, hopefully, the inclusion of broader differences. The negative import of the term is that it repreents “the melting pot,” as Charles Fernandez has suggested, or an empty, “bankrupt universalism” (22). Such queer multiculturalism, or pan-sexuality, then, may signify the traditional way in which liberal democracy has “melted” differences together, or may emulate the new multinationalist form of differences.”

175 - “The new dyke is constructed by her appearance in the marketplace of images – she is an ad man. Her politics are an ad campaign. Cameras are a dyke’s best friend.”

186 - “The use of “lesbian” serves as a correction to “Queer,” which may now be perceived, when in relation to economic and state structures, as emulating the corporate form of “collectivity” and the expansive gestures of global capitalism.”

Screening: 195 - “The crucial change TV brought to screening, in terms of the coming cyberspace, was the increasing power of the individual to absorb the social.” 197 – “Screening becomes a familiar, constant filter onto the world.”

Video: 203 – “Video, then, can produce the possibility of taking TV into local hands. The tradition of video imagines an individual, artistic use of the medium.” “Yet local uses of TV and video produce an active interface with what was a one-way transmission. Video and local television have begun a practice of interactive screens that might contradict one another in the interface.”

215 – “This spatial organization of knowledge predominates across orders of things, reconfiguring them as if on or in a screen and thus creating a sense of space that replaces old structures of subjectivity. Stretching across city, perception, and cognition, this sense of space allows simultaneous cohabitation: the space of implosion, where resonances link with one another in a dense, semiotic simultaneity.”


6 - “My aim is to offer a way between utopian optimism and pessimistic fatalism for technofeminism, and between cultural contingency and social determinism in social theory.”

7 – “We have begun to conceive of a mutually shaping relationship between gender and technology, in which technology is both a source and a consequence of gender relations. This is what I will describe as the emerging technofeminist framework.”

34 – “But we need to ask why a particular technical reason was found to be compelling, when it could have been challenged, and what counts as technical superiority in specific circumstances. Studies show that the generation and implementation of new technologies involve many choices between technical options. A range of social factors affect which of the technical options are selected. These choices shape technologies and, thereby, their social implications. In this way, technology is a sociotechnical product, patterned by the conditions of its creation and use.”

39 – “Material resources, artefacts and technology make society possible. To talk of ‘social relations’ as if they were independent of technology is therefore incorrect. Indeed, what we call ‘the social’ is bound together as much by the technical as by the social. Society itself is built along with objects and artefacts.”

42-43 – “Networks create not merely insiders, but also outsiders, the partially enrolled, and those who refuse to be enrolled. Attendance to practices of exclusion or avoidance and their effects are integral, not peripheral, to adequate descriptions of the process of network building.”

Cyberfeminism: 63 - Cyberfeminist ideology: “An optimistic – almost utopian – vision of the electronic community as foreshadowing the ‘good society’ is also characteristic of cyberfeminism.” Cyberfeminism definition: “In part, cyberfeminism needs to be understood as a reaction to the pessimism of the 1980s feminist approaches that stressed the inherently masculine nature of technoscience. In contrast, cyberfeminism emphasizes women’s subjectivity and agency, and the pleasures immanent in digital technologies. They accept that industrial technology did indeed have a patriarchal character, but insist that new technologies are much more diffuse and open. Thus, cyberfeminism marks a new relationship between feminism and technology.”

77 - “To express this in compute jargon, an emancipatory politics of technology requires more than hardware and software; it needs wetware – bodies, fluids, human agency.”

Technofeminism: -

106 – “Technology must be understood as part of the social fabric that holds society together; it is never merely technical or social. Rather, technology is always a sociomaterial product – a seamless web or network combining artefacts, people, organizations, cultural meanings and knowledge. It follows that technological change is a contingent and heterogeneous process in which technology and society are mutually constituted.”

Video? 108 – “I have suggested that all technologies be properly characterized as contingent and open, expressing the networks of social relations in which they are embedded. With this in mind, we will be less inclined to identify technology itself as the source of positive or negative change, and will concentrate instead upon changing social relationships within which technologies are embedded and how technologies may facilitate or constrain those relationships.”


Case: cyborg 98 – Haraway’s “cyborg” (this is a really good interpretation) - “She wants to encourage the partial, the part of something in place of totalizing systems and images – both in struggles with the subject position and in the locus of machines. Haraway’s cyborg conforms to the new computer “world” by crossing a multitude of the borders patrolled by institutional and ideological guards.”

Wajcman: cyborg 4 – Cyborg: “The ubiquitous cyborg has become an icon for the idea that the boundaries between the biological and the cultural, and between the human and the machine have been dissolved. These dichotomies situated women as natural and different, and served to sustain the previously ordained gender order. Severing the link between femininity and maternity, as these new body technologies do, disrupts the categories of the body, sex, gender and sexuality. This is liberating for women, who have been captive to biology.”

89 – “Haraway takes this idea to a different play by claiming the cyborg creature fundamentally redefines what it is to be human, and thus can potentially exist in a world without gender categories. For Haraway, rupturing the ontological divide between living organisms and dead artefacts necessarily challenges gender dualisms.” Critique of cyborg: “We therefore need to beware of focusing on the cyborg image as a utopian aspirational icon in the service of feminism. It is true that, like feminist analysis, the ironic cyborg vision profoundly disrupts contemporary ideas about the human body. The bionic being defies conventional notions of the body as the site of essential, unified, natural identity. It allows women’s bodies to carry a multiplicity of meanings and shifting identities. For many feminists, cyborg images are invigorating and open up productive ways of thinking about subjectivity, gender and the materiality of the physical body. However, real women do live physical differences in the flesh, and my sense is that too much enthusiasm for the cyborg may lead us into theoretical cul-de-sac.”


Week 11: 3.21.10


Balsamo, Anne. Technologies of the Gendered Body: Reading Cyborg Women. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 1996.

In this book, Balsamo is arguing that “in order to engage in the struggle to rearticulate the gendered identity of the technological body, feminists must understand how its meaning is technologically and ideologically stitched into place” (162).

This is a really bad summary. I’m having trouble seeing all the angles of this book, despite having really enjoyed reading it.


I really enjoyed Balsamo’s style throughout this book. I found her writing to be smart and clean, yet complicated. She continually comes back to issues of race and class, which I welcomed considering many of the readings I’ve done thus far haven’t really engaged these issues. In my mind I have positioned Balsamo in line with (obviously) Haraway, de Lauretis, Cockburn, Perry and Greber, and Wajcman. Each of these writers are interested in the social and cultural aspects of technology and how those forces are played out on women’s bodies.

Balsamo takes a critical turn in her focus on “the discourse of the body” - “the patterned ways that the body is represented according to broader cultural determinations and also the way that the body becomes a bearer of signs and cultural meaning” (19). Enter the cyborg as the “figuration of posthuman identity in postmodernity.” The cyborg serves as the body intersecting with technology (women’s bodies interpreting and using domestic and workplace technologies, perhaps?).

The missing piece to this book is a critical look at transgender identities, which further complicate Balsamo’s ideas of bodies and technologies, especially hormone injections and surgery. I wonder about transgender bodies and the notion of the cyborg – is the trans body the ultimate (for now) manifestation of the cyborg? Balsamo writes, “Cyborg bodies raise the issue of possible new form(s) of gendered embodiment. Their recrafted bodies defy the natural givenness of physical gender identity” (39). However, some transfolk would argue that while the physical body is “recrafted” the mind has always been of one gender, which is becoming the dominant rhetoric of trans issues. And this really gets at the border between male and female that remains “heavily guarded”: “So it appears that while the body has been recoded within discourses of biotechnology and medicine as belonging to an order of culture rather than of nature, gender remains a naturalized marker of identity.” Therefore, if the mind has always been male it becomes easier to move the body towards male, despite being biologically or born female.

I found a lot of useful ideas in Balsamo in relation to The Gender Project. I ask if The Gender Project is an example of a “new body project.” Is agency created/constructed in the technological encounter (subject and camera? Filmmaker and camera?)? (146) Further, I would argue that the interviews “subvert the certainty of what counts as nature” (33). Here I have aligned the interview subject with the cyborg. Does the video make the cyborg?

Key Words, Quotes, and Questions

The Gender Project:

10 – “Investigating the interaction between material bodies and new technologies illuminates the work of ideology-in-progress, where new technologies are invested with cultural significance in ways that augment dominant cultural narratives. The meaning of these new technologies is produced by a complex arrangement or articulation of texts, narratives, institutional structures, economic forces, bodily practices, and other material effects. These effects, in turn, establish a set of possibilities for the further development and deployment of new technologies. Possibilities shape ongoing ideological struggles.” 33 – “Cyborgs are a matter of fiction and a matter of lived experience. They not only subvert the certainty of what counts as nature, but, as Haraway lays out, they also subvert the certainty of the “textualization of everything” by pointing to the lived relations of domination that ground cultural reading(s).”

33 – “Cyborgs are a matter of fiction and a matter of lived experience. They not only subvert the certainty of what counts as nature, but, as Haraway lays out, they also subvert the certainty of the “textualization of everything” by pointing to the lived relations of domination that ground cultural reading(s).”

146 – Is The Gender Project an example of Balsamo’s “new body projects?” - “In offering gendered descriptions of multiple forms of post-modern embodiment, Synners sets the stage for the elaboration of a feminist theory of the relationships of matieral bodies to cyberspace and of the construction of agency in technological encounters.”

150-151 – Carolyn Steedman: “Her broader point is to demonstrate that working-class histories, in whatever form they are found, as case studies or autobiographical narratives, often contradict the official “interpretive devices” of a dominant culture.”



9 – technologies of the gendered body: “…an apparatus of gender organizes the power relations manifest in the various engagements between bodies and technologies. I offer the phrase “technologies of the gendered body” as a way of describing such interactions between bodies and technologies. Gender, in this schema, is both a determining cultural condition and a social consequence of technological deployment.”



11 – “Cyborg bodies are definitionally transgressive of a dominant culture order, not so much because of their “constructed” nature, but rather because of the indeterminacy of their hybrid design. The cyborg provides a framework for studying gender identity as it is technologically crafted simultaneously from the matter of material bodies and cultural fictions.”

18 – “…the cyborg serves not only as the focal figure of the mass-mediated popular culture of American techno-science but also as the figuration of posthuman identity in postmodernity.” (where can I read queer in this? Is queer post-identity?)

33 – “Cyborgs are a matter of fiction and a matter of lived experience. They not only subvert the certainty of what counts as nature, but, as Haraway lays out, they also subvert the certainty of the “textualization of everything” by pointing to the lived relations of domination that ground cultural reading(s).”

39 – “Cyborg bodies raise the issue of possible new form(s) of gendered embodiment. Their recrafted bodies defy the natural givenness of physical gender identity.”


54 – “culture processes transgressive bodies in such a way as to keep each body in its place – that is, subjected to its “other”.”

123 - “Upon analyzing the “lived” experience of virtual reality, I discovered that this conceptual denial of the body is accomplished through the material repression of the physical body. The phenomenological experience of cyberspace depends upon and in fact requires the willful repression of the material body. In saying this, I am implicitly arguing that we need to extend the ideological critique of virtual reality technologies. From a feminist perspective it is clear that the repression of the material body belies a gender bias in the supposedly disembodied (and gender-free) world of virtual reality.”

127 - “Cyberspace – as a popular cultural construct – shows us what can happen when popular culture “talks back” to cultural theory…”

127 - “Rich in information, if you know what you are looking for, the experience of cyberspace is always conjunctural: an effect of intersecting practices – economic, technological, bodily, political, and cultural.” - what if you don’t know what you’re looking for?

131 - “If we think of the body not as a product, but rather as a process – and embodiment as an effect – we can begin to ask questions about how the body is staged differently in different realities.”

160 – “The purpose of feminist criticism – in fiction and in theory – is to provide a conceptual framework for understanding the transformations as they happen to our bodies and behind our backs.”

161 – “The project of feminist cultural studies more broadly is to write the stories and tell the tales that will connect seemingly isolated moments of discourse – histories and effects – into a narrative that helps us make sense of transformations as they emerge.” - THE GENDER PROJECT


Week 7/8: 3.2.10


Aschauer, Ann Brady. “Tinkering with Technological Skill: An Examination of the Gendered Uses of Technologies.” Computers and Composition 16 (1999). 7-23.

In this article, Aschauer is suggesting feminist researches investigating the intersection of women and technology start with women’s lived experiences. In doing so, she both addresses and avoids the “twin dangers” of gender essentialism and technological determinism “because women experience technology in so many different ways” (16).

Barker, Jane and Hazel Downing. “Word Processing and the Transformation of the Patriarchal Relations of Control in the Office.” Capital and Class 10 (Spring 1980). 64-99.

Starting from the point of view that “all women’s work is firmly rooted within patriarchal relations” and these relations are “rooted in, and defined by relations and needs of capital” (65), Barker and Downing identify word processors and “microelectronics” as an “attack on the employment of women” (96).

Davidson, Janet F., “’Now That We Have Girls in the Office’: Clerical Work, Masculinity, and the Refashioning of Gender for a Bureaucratic Age.” Boys and Their Toys? Masculinity, Technology, and Class in America. Ed. Roger Horowitz. New York: Routledge, 2001. 55-90.

Using the automation of clerical work in the railroad industry, Davidson investigates the way “all classes of railroad men” “helped to buttress the association between railroads and masculinity” (82). Davidson points out the distinction made between “woman” and “worker,” which “weakened women’s claims to skill, jobs, and union credentials” (77).

Dorer, Johanna. “Internet and the Construction of Gender: Female Professionals and the Process of Doing Gender.” Women & Everyday Uses of the Internet: Agency & Identity. Ed. Mia Consalvo & Susanna Paasonen. New York: Peter Lang, 2002. 62-89.

Dorer presents here a case study examining “how female Internet professionals position themselves with respect to media technology coded as masculine in a male-dominated field and how their activities are inscribed in the discursive construction of gender” (65). She concludes her study by pointing out that a feminist self-positioning offer a critical vantage point from which to “create spaces for reflection, rewrite cultural narratives, and develop new perspectives” (85).

Henwood, Flis. “Establishing Gender Perspectives on Information Technology: Problems, Issues and Opportunities.” Gendered by Design? Information Technology and Office Systems. Ed. Eileen Green, Jenny Owen, and Den Pain. Washington, D.C.: Taylor & Francis, 1993. 31-52.

Henwood is pointing out the limits of gender essentialism and technological determinism on “transformation strategies” (31). She calls for “more research that seeks to understand women’s subjective experience of technology” and gender (44). Further, Henwood argues for understanding technology and gender as cultural processes, thus, as discourses (44).

Jansen, Sue Curry. “Gender and the Information Society: A Socially Structured Silence.” Journal of Communication, 39.3 (Summer 1989). 196-.

In this article, Jansen is taking feminist scholars to task by pointing out the danger in reproducing “old patterns of power and privilege” without a critical eye turned towards discussions of technology. She offers a way of coming to terms with “the words of the fathers,” suggesting taking “from mainstream discourses without being (entirely) taken in by them” (199). She then imagines what a feminist-informed “successor science” would be like.

Kirkup, Gill. “The Social Construction of Computers: Hammers or Harpsichords?” Inventing Women: Science, Technology and Gender. Ed. Gill Kirkup and Laurie Smith Keller. Cambridge, MA: Polity Press and The Open University, 1992. 267-281.

Relying on Haddon, Cockburn, and Turkle, Kirkup brings attention to the way the social construction of computers reflects the social construction of gender. Through Turkle she calls for a “new computer culture” that “would require a new social construction of the computer, with a new set of intellectual and emotional values more like those applied to harpsichords than hammers” (276).

Rohan, Liz. “Reveal codes: A new lens for examining and historicizing the work of secretaries.” Computers and Composition 20 (2003). 237-253.

In this piece Rohan is calling attention to the material conditions shaping secretarial work, suggesting “a shift in perspective is necessary for measuring the work women do and have done in clerical positions” (239). She uses the reveal code function as a synonym for the feminist task of revealing and rewriting the history of technology to include women.

Stanley, Autumn. “Introduction: ‘Women Hold Up Two-Thirds of the Sky’.” Mothers and Daughters of Invention: Notes for a Revised History of Technology. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1995. xvii-xxxv.

Stanley is re-plotting the trajectory of the history of technology to include inventions by women because “women’s achievements in technology have virtually always been underreported” (xxi). She also seeks to redefine “significant technology” to include contributions by women.


The notion of gender and technology as social constructions is firmly ingrained in this group of readings. Following this, many of these writers are attempting to get away from gender essentialism and technological determinism. Henwood and Ashauer both point out the two lines of thought in feminist research on women and technology - technophobic and technomaniac (Aschauer’s terms) – in an attempt to move beyond essentializing the experiences of women and technology to have or have not.

I see some of these readings doing more than pointing to inequalities or correcting a history that left women out. There is a turn towards calling for research that starts with lived experience. I see this being useful in thinking about The Gender Project, which I’ve described as documentaries about the lived experience of gender. Dorer’s case study about female Internet professionals is the sort of research Henwood and Aschauer are calling for. Dorer finds that women’s ability to acknowledge “tension and contradictions inherent in one’s own self-positioning” contributes to “creating spaces for reflection, rewriting cultural narratives, and developing new perspectives…” (85).

However, a contradiction arises with Henwood and Aschauer’s suggestion for research on women’s lived experience. Gender is still polarized. The starting point is Woman, when, to me, Woman and Man are both constructions that need to be destabilized. Of course, this IS the queer paradox and the feminist contradiction. If feminism puts Woman first, how then do we destabilize it without obliterating it?

I think Jansen gets at this messiness when she writes of “commuting between points”: “The trick, then, is to take from mainstream discourses without being (entirely) taken in by them” (199). Jansen’s idea here reminds me of de Lauretis’ idea that “the female-gendered subject as one that is at once inside and outside the ideology of gender…” (x). I had criticized de Lauretis for using what I called essentialist language (inside/outside), but I didn’t recognize her location of the female-gendered subject as both inside and outside, in more than one place, multiply located.

In my mind I have aligned Barker & Downing, Davidson, Rohan, and to a certain extent Stanley, because they deal more specifically with certain types of technologies. However, these writings cover a wide span of time (1980 – 2003). How was Rohan informed by Barker & Downing? And Davidson?

My main critique of this group of readings regards race. While some of these writers are quick to acknowledge the way technology has differently affected people on the basis of gender, class, AND race, none of them took up that challenge to find out how. Is this further evidence of Jansen’s “socially structure silence” perpetuating the “old patterns of power and privilege” yet within feminist research?

Key terms, quotes, and questions

Women’s Lived Experience

Aschauer: 16 – lived experience: “How some women negotiate their ways in gendered organizations using technological skill, as well as how others are excluded from technological cultures altogether. Indeed, because women experience technology in so many different ways, it is with their lived experience that we must begin.”


Barker & Downing: 83 – Resistance: “The significance of the culture we have attempted to describe is that it is indeed a factor in the reproduction of women’s oppression, but it can also be seen as the development of an informal work culture which cannot be penetrated by ‘masculine’ work standards. In other words, it constitutes a world which the male bosses (and their underlings) cannot penetrate, thus allowing the women to get away with doing certain things which cannot be controlled.”

Jansen: 209 – “As a result of their subordinate position in these relations, women have developed alternative information networks and conceived of alternative social designs, e.g., witchcraft, keening rites, old wives’ tales, midwifery, motherwit, communal laundering activities, sewing circles, moral uplift movements, and consciousness-raising groups. They have created and circulated handcrafted information systems: recipes, home remedies, samplers, quilts, letters, publications, performances, and works of art.”


Dorer: 62 – Dorer interpreting de Lauretis: “gender, as a socially agreed construction, is produced and reproduced through an everyday practice of “doing gender,” in which the positionings or representations of the self as masculine or feminine always also include the appropriation of the relevant meaning constructions.”

Dorer: 79 – “Given the need to continually clarify and assert one’s professionalism and competence in the face of gendered expectations, the shift back and forth between binary gendered positions turns into a laborious process of identity construction. The choice, then, is between recurrent confrontation and clarification and, alternatively, abandonment of boundary-transgressing gender positions in favor of socially approved positions.”

Henwood: 44 - “A suitable framework for analyzing gender and IT relationships then, is one which understands both technology and gender not as fixed and ‘given’, but as cultural processes which (like other cultural processes) are subject to negotiation, contestation and, ultimately, transformation. As such, they might be thought of as ‘discourses’.”

Jansen: 200 – Gender


Dorer: 64 – “Instead of defining the Internet as technology, it s equally possible to define it as a net, a braiding, a weaving, therefore a female coding…”

Jansen: 199 - commuting between points - “The trick, then, is to take from mainstream discourses without being (entirely) taken in by them. This is not an easy task, but it is one that is consistent with the professed dicta of critical and postmodernist cultural theories, which include theoretical, methodological, and ideological reflexivity.”

Feminist approaches to technology

Aschauer: Technophobic/Technomaniac

Henwood: 31 - Identifies 2 approaches: “women in technology” focusing on the exclusion of women; and examining the nature of technological work


Aschauer: 14 - “In short, then, rather than arguing for an ahistorical, inner essence of womanhood and rejecting technology, we need to remember that femininity, masculinity, and technology are social constructs, all three which can be resisted and reconstructed.”

Barker & Downing: 85 - It is within this overall context that we must view the introduction of word processors and other microelectronically based office equipment into offices – not as part of a technology which is autonomous, driving itself forward but its own momentum, but related to and influenced by and crucially part of capital’s strategy to continually reproduce itself.”

Henwood: 44 - “A suitable framework for analyzing gender and IT relationships then, is one which understands both technology and gender not as fixed and ‘given’, but as cultural processes which (like other cultural processes) are subject to negotiation, contestation and, ultimately, transformation. As such, they might be thought of as ‘discourses’.”

Rohan: 241 – “Secretarial work, as well as attitudes toward that work, is socially constructed. However, as Cynthia Selfe (1999) pointed out, if we don’t pay attention to the material conditions shaping this work – the work and the material infrastructure shaping it – it’s nonetheless invisible to us (p.144).”

Stanley: Xvii – “When technology is no longer just what men do, but what people do, both the definition of technology and the definition of significant technology must inevitably change.”


Week 5/6 : 2.16.10


Chabaud-Rychter, Danielle. “The Configuration of Domestic Practices in the Designing of Household Appliances.” The Gender Technology Relation: Contemporary Theory and Research. Ed. Keith Grint and Rosalind Gill. Bristol, PA: Taylor & Francis. 95-111.

In this piece, Chabaud-Rychter is doing the feminist work of retelling, of rewriting the history of technology to include the women’s bodies domestic technologies were being created for (and by). She also points out the “woman-user” was also denied access to the mechanics of the machine.

Cockburn, Cynthia. Machinery of Dominance: Women, Men and Technical Know-How. Dover, NH: Pluto Press, 1985.

In this book, Cockburn states, “Technology is a medium of power” (6). She then locates women’s relationship to technology as outside operator – allowed (by men) to operate the machine, but denied (by men) access to knowing how it works. She sets out to find out how and why this technological power is maintained (by men). The two premises she works from are, first, “both people and occupations are gendered,” and second, workplaces are hierarchically structured, and built into that structure is the ability of men to redefine, sub-divide, and fragment their work to their advantage (in order to keep women deskilled, technologically incompetent, underpaid and undervalued) (231).

Cowan, Ruth Schwartz. More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave. New York: Basic Books, 1983.

Cowan’s book is a feminist retelling of the toll industrialization took via housework on the lives and bodies of mothers. She identifies the tools of housework as household technologies, and proceeds to show how these household technologies minimized and/or omitted work for men and children, and increased work for mothers.

Ray, Ruth and Ellen Barton. “Technology and Authority.” Evolving Perspectives on Computers and Composition Studies: Questions for the 1990s. Ed. Gail E. Hawisher and Cynthia L. Selfe. NCTE: 1991. 279-299.

Ray and Barton are calling for “individual authority over technology” (280). They identify two “interpretive perspectives” in their examination of the relationship between technology and the people who use technology. The dominant perspective, institutional imperative, promotes technology over the individual. Ray and Barton counter this perspective with institutional interaction, which promotes the individual over technology; and in doing so technology becomes “a means of encouraging greater participation by more people” (295), which can lead to positive individual and institutional changes.


This group of readings serve as examples of Wajcman’s idea that “technologies bear the imprint of the people and social context in which they developed” (22). These writers are identifying the locations where women entered into the design and operation of domestic/household technologies, as well as how these automated domestic technologies eventually followed women to the workplace.

Chabaud-Rychter identifies the “woman-user” household machines were made to model (102). Cowan historically plots the evolution of housework by investigating the automating tools introduced into domesticity, and operated by mothers and servants. And Cockburn locates women both inside and outside technology as the operator of the machine denied from knowing how the machine works.

I see Cockburn’s outside-operator as de Lauretis’ “female-gendered subject” that “is at once inside and outside the ideology of gender” (ix-x). Even further, as Haraway’s cyborg: “a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality…” (7).

I also keep coming back to is this notion of naming and identifying tasks in the process of automation. Zuboff got me thinking about this last time, and Ray and Barton, Chabaud-Rychter and Cowan this week. I wrote about Butler’s “counter-speech,” but what I’m wondering now is what role silence, or the appearance of silence, played (and still plays)? I’m not sure where I want this to go, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about: silence as a political act.

However, a contradiction exists in feminist writing that seeks to retell, or un-silence, stories that haven’t been told. Just as this group of writers are retelling they are also further silencing the stories of women of color and/or the women working as domestic servants in the homes of white women. Cowan places her thoughts on domestic servitude in a chapter dedicated to alternative (by which she means failed) approaches to household technology. Cowan acknowledges that women “bring a unique combination of psychic and social factors to our work” but she continually dismisses difference and universalizes the experience of Woman: “no matter how different we may be from each other, our work processes will be fairly similar” (153). And what she’s reducing Women to is white and middle-class.

The mistake I think Cowan makes in her book comes when she’s looking for “the answer” at the end of chapter 5 (a chapter about alternative approaches to housework that failed). She’s asking why some technologies failed and other succeeded. She dismisses patriarchy, capitalism, government repression and censorship, concluding that “most people will opt to increase the possibility of exercising their right to privacy and autonomy: so that they can sleep, eat, have sexual relations, discipline their children, clean their bodies and their clothes without interference; and so they can construct long-term emotional relationships with people of their own choosing” (149). This whole seemingly poetic moment Cowan has here reminds me of propaganda posters:

Can All You Can world war 2 propaganda

It’s all of those things she dismisses, combined and tangled together, that account for why some technologies failed and others didn’t. Cowan misses an opportunity to make that connection.

In response to Cowan’s propaganda parade I offer Cockburn:

“All the true diversity that people are capable of experiencing and expressing, of needing in their sexual, domestic and working lives and of contributing to society, is repressed by gender. It is crammed into two narrow formulae”

“The relationship between the genders is that between the mould and the object that is moulded.”

“By avoiding direct comparison between ruler and ruled, rule itself is perpetuated.”

“Any society we set out to organize anew would surely be a celebration of multiplicity and individual difference” (252).

Key terms, quotes, and questions


“…to be able to transform these activities into the mechanical action of a food processor, this initial information must be translated into technical language, that is, into parameters and measurements.” Zuboff -> Butler

“woman-user” at the center of the designer’s work

103 – the user (women) denied intro to the mechanical aspects of the machine by the use of special screws in which a commercial screwdriver cannot open

Hybridity: 109 – “The designing of household appliances is a hybrid activity mingling domestic practical experience and industrial formalization. To accomplish their work, the innovators bring the domestic world into the company. However, it is only in a reconstructed form rendering them relevant to the company that domestic actors and practices are brought in.”

“The hybrid work of the innovators, underscored by the use of the double language of practical experience and measurement, produces objects which are themselves hybrid and derive from two domains: the domain in which they are manufactured and the one in which they are used. Each object carries with it both the domestic and the industrial worlds and expresses clearly in its shape the autonomy of each.”


Sexual division of labor / separate spheres



Gender and Masculinity


167 – “While people are working, they are not just producing goods and services for their employer and a pay packet for themselves. They are also producing culture. The relations that surround technological work are made up of both things people do and things they believe and say.”

Contradiction: “Yet there is a point beyond which any such ideological construction is liable to encounter a crisis. One occurs for instance, in the form of a credibility gap in men’s claims both to manual and to mental superiority. At one moment, in order to fortify their identification with physical engineering, men dismiss the intellectual world as ‘soft’. At the next moment, however, they need to appropriate sedentary, intellectual engineering work for masculinity too. Ideological complementary values such as hard/soft must therefore always be seen as provisional. The values called into play in the hegemonic ideology will vary from time to time and from one situation to another.”


Evolution of housework

Separate spheres

Domestic servants

Cowan’s methodology: comparing current living conditions to previous. How useful is this? It’s useful when looking at the trajectory of domestic technologies, but not necessarily useful when comparing womens lives.

Ray & Barton

281 - 2 interpretive perspectives

282 – Zuboff reference “argued strongly against technicist thinking in the workplace”

288 – “Within this interactive perspective, technology can be interpreted so as to involve computer users in negotiated meaning and altering traditional lines of power and control.”

289 – “From the perspective of post-structuralists, feminists, and reader-response critics, text and author have little or no status. The central tenets that unify these positions are that text is indeterminate, created anew by each encounter with it; the meaning of a text is not encoded in the words, but in the interaction between text and reader; and the purpose of the critic/researcher is to name and examine the extra-textual conditions – linguistic, social, psychological, political – under which particular readers construct particular meanings.” -


Week 3/4 2.1.10


Jessup, Emily. “Feminism and Computers in Composition Instruction.” Evolving Perspectives on Computers and Composition Studies: Questions for the 1990s. Ed. Gail E. Hawisher and Cynthia L. Selfe. NCTE: Computers and Composition, 1991. 337-353.

In this piece Jessup is laying out a feminist framework/”research agenda”/methodology for thinking about, learning from, and implementing computer use in the composition classroom. She is calling for a fuller and deeper interrogation of “technology itself,” “the users of the technology, and at the ways teachers of writing go about trying to understand both” (353).

Perry, Ruth and Lisa Greber. “Women and Computers: An Introduction.” Signs, 16.1 From Hard Drive to Software: Gender, Computers, and Difference (Autumn, 1990). The University of Chicago Press 74-101.

What I see the authors trying to address is “how and to what extent technologies reflect or reinforce the patriarchal order” (76). While they call attention to automation (78), surveillance of and harm to women’s bodies (79), and Third World women’s labor (80), this piece is really about “how can we as women gain control over the future of the computer?” (87).

Wajcman, Judy. Feminism Confronts Technology. University Park, PN: The Pennsylvania State University Press. 1991.

Wajcman is confronting the idea of “technological determinism” by arguing that technology is a cultural product (rather than culture as a technological product). And as such, is and has been constructed to maintain the current power structure by allowing access to particular groups, specifically white, mid- to upper-class men.

Zuboff, Shoshana. In the Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work and Power. Basic Books. 1988.

Zuboff breaks down the effect of technological change in the workplace into “automating” and “informating.” In doing so, she’s revealing the way the introduction of the computer made visible “the underlying productive and administrative processes through which an organization accomplishes its work” (9).


I grouped these readings together because they were all published at roughly the same time, and a large part of my intentions for this directed reading is to gain some historical perspective on feminism (and technology). I have situated these writings in that blurry space between the second and third wave because I see so much influence of feminists of color in the way these writers are talking about people, and in many of their parting thoughts and conclusions there are glimpses of intersectionality, hybridity, and ideas away from dichotomies and essentialism.

In considering technology, “automation” was an oft mentioned; as the process of work that took women’s jobs, as the process that feminized certain jobs, as the move from manufacturing to service-based economies, etc. Zuboff points out that data is generated by automation because in order to automate a process we have to name its components. ::echoes of XML::

“The devices that automate by translating information into action also register data about those automated activities, thus generating new streams of information” (9).

Perry & Gruber leave us with this, “Most challenging to thinkers concerned with the intersections of gender and computers is to try to figure out how to use that computer to implement feminist values” (99). Enter Wajcman: “Technologies result from a series of specific decisions made by particular groups of people in particular places at particular times for their own purposes. As such, technologies bear the imprint of the people and social context in which they developed” (22). And now back to Zuboff, who is suggesting a new type of working environment, one in which “Jobs are comprehensive, tasks are abstractions that depend upon insight and synthesis, and power is a roving force that comes to rest as dictated by function and need” (395).

What’s coming to my mind is Judith Butler’s idea of counter-speech in the space between “the act and the injury” in her introduction to Excitable Speech (15). Wajcman and Zuboff both point out “the overall tendency for technology-led changes to operate within and reinforce preexisting differences in the patterns of work” (Wajcman 31) and “the hierarchy will use technology to reproduce itself” (Zuboff 392).

Butler: “Is there a repetition that might disjoin the speech act from its supporting conventions such that its repetition confounds rather than consolidates its injurious efficacy” (20).

I’m wondering if there is space in the reproduction to “subvert traditional hierarchies” (Jessup 345)? Are there examples of this now? Zuboff asks, “Can the technology carry the burden of strategic change?” (217) Can we? Have we?

My critiques of this group of readings, and respective creators, involve their understanding(s) of masculinity and the absence of and/or glossing over of race and class differences. Because I identify so strongly as masculine it’s difficult for me to accept, even in a historical sense, the assigning of masculinity to men, as if men own masculinity. Maybe I’m irrationally defensive. Or maybe I’m wishing/hoping/seeking to rewrite the history of masculinity to include instances of non-normative masculinities. Wajcman begins to open up her notion of masculinity by using the plural on page 40, but then stops doing so in the rest of the book. However, I am inclined to recognize these works were written in a specific time and the concept of female masculinity, and even non-normative and queer gender identities, didn’t exist theoretically.

Further, where are the stories of gender and race differences in Zuboff’s case studies? Certainly the introduction of technology into the workplace visibilized gender, race, and class differences on the shop floor, in the boardroom, in the control room, etc.. Why did that get left out? Wajcman, however, mentions “fractured identities” (11) and certainly doesn’t ignore issues of race and class, but her focus remains on gender (man/woman), and in doing so appears to tangle this work in the hierarchy of oppressions.

Key terms, quotes, and questions


341 – connected knowing

345 – “subvert traditional hiearchies”

Jessup’s Feminist Methodology - 351

What’s missing is discussion of and/or acknowledgement of the people who don’t have access to computers AND the composition classroom.

Perry & Greber

78 – automation (the move from manufacturing to service brought on by technology/computers see Zuboff here too)

82 – feminization (combining of professional and clerical)

Masculinity (assigning to men, but throws out this nugget: “The possibilities for questioning the ideological associations between computers and masculinity, or for redefining what is meant by masculinity, could conceivably arise from philosophical discussions about the differences between human beings and computers, or from new research in artificial intelligence, or from socially conscious restructuring of the increasingly automated workplace” (94).)

“Hostility toward the computer in isolation from its social context will do nothing to change underlying economic and social inequalities. A more effective strategy would be to imagine and construct alternative visions of this technology: to choose our own future. Furthermore, we stand to learn less about issues concerning the intersections of computers and society from those who are hostile or indifferent to computer technology than we do from those who understand both the technology and how it is embedded in a social and economic context” (89). (I think there is room here to argue for both hostility towards, and understanding of, technology)

“The alternative to despair is to define our humanity in a more complex fashion” (96).

“Most challenging to thinkers concerned with the intersections of gender and computers is to try to figure out to use that computer to implement feminist values" (99).


Technology – 3 layers:

22 – Technology: “Technologies result from a series of specific decisions made by particular groups of people in particular places at particular times for their own purposes. As such, technologies bear the imprint of the people and social context in which they developed.”

“Technological change is a process subject to struggles for control by different groups. As such, the outcomes depend primarily on the distribution of power and resources within society.” (does a group always have to be in control to technology (of anything really)?)


feminization: “…the introduction of female labour is usually accompanied by a downgrading of the skill content of the work and a consequent fall in pay for the job” 37.

Masculinity - 38 – “masculinity of technology as a social product”

cultural feminism -> standpoint feminism -> postmodernism/deconstructionism

31 – “Although the effects o particular technologies must vary in different contexts, it has become clear that the overall tendency is for technology-led changes to operate within and reinforce preexisting differences in the patterns of work. Technological change thus tends to further advantage those who already have recognized skills and degree of control over their work tasks.”

166 – “Rather than calling for a technology based on feminine values, we need to go beyond masculinity and femininity to construct technology according to a completely different set of socially desirable values.”

Why am I not seeing any Butler in here? If de Lauretis is arguing that gender is a technology…where is the connection between gender as a social construction and gender as a technology…and now with Wajcman’s investigation of technology?

120 – how useful is it to ask IF women would do it differently? Of course they would. And how useful is it to ask how? How does imagining a different reality than the one we already have helpful? This line of thinking seems like a fantasy.


Information technology: “used to reproduce, extend, and improve upon the process of substituting machines for human agency. The devices that automate by translating information into action also register data about those automated activities, thus generating new streams of information” (9)

“Information technology, on the other hand, introduces an additional dimension of reflexivity: it makes its contribution to the product, but it also reflects back on its activity and on the system of activities to which it is related. Information technology not only produces action but also produces a voice that symbolically renders events, objects, and processes so that they become visible, knowable, and sharable in a new way.”

Automate: “information technology supercedes the traditional logic of automation” (10).

Informate: that generation of information

12 - Zuboff’s methodology: “The choices for the future cannot be deduced from economic date or from abstract measures of organizational functioning. They are embedded in the living detail of daily life at work as ordinary people confront the dilemmas raised by the transformational qualities of new information technology. For this reason the research presented here focuses upon the texture of human experience – what people say, feel, and do – in dealing with the technological changes that imbue their immediate environment.”

“While it is true that computer-based automation continues to displace the human body and its know-how (a process that has come to be known as deskilling), the informating power of the technology simultaneously creates pressure for a profound reskilling” (57).

“The interdependence among these dilemmas means that technology alone, no matter how well designed or implemented, cannot be relied upon to carry the full weight of an informating strategy.” … “Without this strategic commitment, the hierarchy will use technology to reproduce itself. Technological developments, in the absence of organizational innovation, will be assimilated into the status quo.” (392)

“A new division of learning requires another vocabulary – one of colleagues and co-learners, of exploration, experimentation, and innovation. Jobs are comprehensive, tasks are abstractions that depend upon insight and synthesis, and power is a roving force that comes to rest as dictated by function and need.” (395)

“learning is the new form of labor” (395)

217 - "Can the technology carry the burden of strategic change? If we unleash the autonomous informating effects of this new technology, can it transform the conception of managerial authority and, thus, the social structures that are sustained by that conception? Will new organizational forms consistent with the social-psychological demands of an informated environment inevitably occur?


Week 1 / 1.11.09 - Teresa de Lauretis, Technologies of Gender

So I’m just going to ramble cause that’s how my mind feels: rambly. Most of everything that de Lauretis wrote about feminism and gender were really interesting to me. I like her definition of feminism, in which she identifies “critical reading” and “rewriting” as these active moments of feminism thinking.

I’ve placed this work in the beginning of feminism’s movement into the third wave. I feel like de Lauretis was a feminist who was actually listening to women of color declare/demand their difference from feminism’s then white, middle-class stance.

I paid specific attention de Lauretis’ thoughts on feminism, gender, and film. She defines feminism as “a critical reading of culture, a political interpretation of the social text and of the social subject, and a rewriting of our culture’s ‘master narratives’” (113). The Gender Project doing a critical reading of culture by complicating ideas about the gender dichotomy by showing contradictory snapshots of gender. She also uses the word “process”, which I find useful, especially coming off a course on queer theory in which everything is always in process. Ok, back to feminism. “Critical reading” and “rewriting” are ways de Lauretis has identified to speak with a feminist voice.

One of my critiques of de Lauretis is her valuing of gender over other social positions (race/class). It becomes clear that de Lauretis is attempting to “account for gender” (48), but in doing so she seems to rank oppressions. She writes. “What is becoming more and more clear, instead, is that all the categories of our social science stand to be reformulated starting from the notion of gendered social subjects. (39)” Does the same go for classed and racialized social subjects? I dunno, she doesn’t say.

Further, I couldn’t avoid the inside/outside essentialist language. It’s ironic that she is making a point about feminists being both inside and outside ideology, but is still using the rhetoric of either/or (yes/no, white/black, man/woman). However, I really like where she’s going with this. She’s doing work around and across a line women aren’t supposed to question. In the introduction she moves away from thinking of an in or out and instead considers the subject as “multiple, rather than divided or unified.”

Week 2 / 1.17.10 - Donna Haraway, The Haraway Reader


I read Haraway’s “Cyborg Manifesto” last year in 882, and was the only person in the room giddy with feminist pride. I am a sucker for some good ol’ feminist ranting and raging; and Haraway delivers. Her writing is sassy and confrontational, a little messy, but potent with complex and multi-layered ideas, most of which I cannot and did not understand on the first read.

Interestingly enough, for the past couple of years I have been reading a lot of science fiction, with a healthy dose of feminist and/or lesbian writers; Ursula LeGuin, Octavia Butler, Joanna Russ, Melissa Scott. Right now I’m reading Marge Piercy’s He, She, and It (that I got for $1 at Everybody Reads) which is telling the story of two cyborgs situated in different historical places: one, a machine built in the future, and two, a mythical spiritual figure created from clay by a mystic. Each cyborg was created by a man as a defensive mechanism for use in a looming war. It’s only right now that I’m realizing how similar this work of fiction is to Haraway’s work in The Reader.

Haraway starts the book off talking about war, and later calls attention to the battle and attack discourse of the immune system. But Haraway’s cyborg isn’t a figure of war, rather a figure exploring the boundaries of human and machine, the figure she uses to explore “transgressed boundaries, potent fusions, and dangerous possibilities…” I find the notion of the cyborg to be really confusing, which I think is the point. In my notes I asked, “is the cyborg mindless? Does it think? Feel?” I don’t know that there is an answer to these questions, or if I’m attempting to humanize/personify/essentialize this idea. “A cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction” (7).

I’d like to ponder the idea of thinking about The Gender Project as “cyborg stories” and my role in the project as a “cyborg writer.” Haraway writes, “Cyborg writing must not be about the Fall, the imagination of a once-upon-a-time wholeness before language, before writing, before Man. Cyborg writing is about the power to survive, not on the basis of original innocence, but on the basis of seizing the tools to mark the world that marked them as other.” And ,“Feminist cyborg stories have the tasks of recoding communication and intelligence to subvert command and control” (33). A theoretical question I’ve been tasked to ponder (by Bump) is why video? and I can see the idea of cyborg writing and stories helping me understand the function of film, or the technology of film, in the project.

My main critique of Haraway is in her queering. Towards the end of the book she gives herself the task of “queering,” but I’m not sure she’s successful. She first uses “queer” in the chapter about the modest witness: “I would like to queer the elaborately constructed and defended confidence of this civic man of reason in order to enable a more corporeal, inflected, and optically dense, if less elegant, kind of modest witness to matters of fact to emerge in the worlds of technoscience” (224). But what this chapter did for me was tell the story of essentialized gender in the sciences. She still ends up talking about Man and Woman, and their differences.


What Haraway and de Lauretis both do in these works is walk right into the nastiness of contradiction and paradox – the messiness of the borderlands. Haraway writes, “This essay is an argument for pleasure in the confusion of boundaries and for responsibility in their construction” (8). In what ways can I think of or trouble the cyborg as a technology of gender? Haraway’s intentional reading of the cyborg as female or woman insists upon the notion of gender. Or maybe the cyborg is a product of the technology of gender. Or maybe both, as in de Lauretis’s inside/outside idea of ideology. And I’m done with this rambly line of thought.

As alluded to with my “borderlands” reference, I see so much of Anzaldua and Moraga in Haraway’s ideas (and de Lauretis for that matter). The idea of hybridity, that we are always more than a singular identity, that we are a complex and messy amalgamation of fluid and unstable identities, seems to appropriate in relation to Haraway who’s cyborg is “a hybrid of machine and organism.”