FemTechNet.org describes itself as a cybernetic center for resources related to feminism, cyber-feminism, and feminist theories of technology. They describe the (un)structure of the site as horizontal in which committees, sub-committees, and working groups made up of scholars, students, and artists experimentally collaborate with one another in hopes of creating a process of education outside of masculine, university logic. Instead of being driven by metrics of participation or engagement, FemTechNet promotes its agenda through “kick ass” projects and a community of reciprocal care.
It’s format reminded me a lot of udemy.com, in which students can also become teachers in sharing their knowledge and interests as it relates to feminist theories of technology. In contrast to a site like lynda.com, in which you are strictly taught via online courses, FemTechNet relies on collective engagement in creating critical literacies, which in turn, can make transparent complex relationships of power that pervade our contemporary education systems. In there manifesto, FemTechNet sites accountability, collaboration, collectivity, and care as essential building blocks in the success of their pedagogical endeavor. Towards the end of their manifesto, FemTechNet cites tuition fees at colleges as perpetuating a “prohibitive” environment that many cannot afford. Thus, economic justice is an integral element of their learning platform.
An example of one of their video lectures is linked above and titled, “Fem Tech Net Dialogue Reproduction, Sexuality and Race in Popular Media.” In the video two FemTechNet members discuss the unchanging nature of popular media in its representation of female reproduction and gender stereotypes. They describe sperm and eggs in popular media, like Trojan condom commercials, as reinforcing and perpetuating hyper-masculine images of sexual reproduction in which the egg is imagined as a “femme fatale,” or being chased by the sperm. Although science has advanced, and we now though that the relationship between the two is necessarily reciprocal, the popular image of the macho man using the condom has remained unchanged. This was super interesting to me — I’ve never thought of gender stereotypes as it relates to sexual reproduction on such a minute scale, i.e., the relationship between egg and sperm.
I next looked at Fox News article about FemTechNet’s “Wiki-Storming” takeover. The Wikipedia takeover was initiated by FemTechNet and asked collaborators to “inject” (not FemTechNet’s word) feminist history and theory onto an array of Wikipedia pages, because, as the article sites, only 15% of contributors to Wikipedia are women. I think that the concept is a great example of feminist hacktivism and is SO in line with FemTechNet’s objectives of spreading feminist awareness and literacy while creating a “cross-cultural digital archive.” However, the Fox news anchors saw it as an explicit example of “liberal” and “personal” bias, calling it a “new low” for our Ivy League universities.
Finally, I read a Huffington Post article about the creation of FemTechNet. They start the article by siting a previous New York Times article about Silicon Valley, that begins by saying, “Men invented the Internet.” The article describes FemTechNet as a DOCC, or “Distributed Open Collaborative Course,” that hopes to 1.) preserve the history of feminist contributions to technological innovation and 2.) advance feminist principles of social justice in future educational models and pedagogies. A large section of their piece focuses on the success so far of the DOCC and MOCC models in supporting large scale educational systems, such as Stanford and Brown University, in encouraging women and girls to become “more active participants in the creation of a global archive.”
This was a really great article that went beyond examples of projects by FemTechNet, to the method of pedagogy itself.