FemTechNet, started by women techies, is about openness and accessibility, something that higher learning has historically been known to NOT be defined as. Often times universities are exclusionary, but FemTechNet is changing this.
Students participate in learning through different perspectives, expertise is distributed, and learning is free (even when it involves expensive, private universities). FemTechNet’s goal is to act like an “artist or activist” collective by organizing its participants, instructors, students, and leaders (and you can be all four of these). Being open is one of the key goals that FemTechNet strives for easy accessibility for all. One great aspect about FemTechNet is that although Ivy leagues and many other universities are participating in FemTechNet, “higher” education is open to all people.
FemTechNet implements learning in many ways, and one is through what are called DOCCs, which stands for a Distributed Open Collaborative Courses. DOCCs are a new form of education— based in feminist technologies. DOCC is a new way of looking at the MOOC, Massive Open Online Courses. Examples of DOCC pedagogy and key learning projects include feminist wikipedia storming and feminist mapping. Feminist mapping is where one selects a product or an object and maps it across different “actors” and contexts (e.g. environmental, historical, political, social) in an effort to “to make the invisible visible.” This reminds me of our imploding project where our goal was also to explore the “unseen,” recognizing the depth that objects carry and the many worlds/realities that they situated within. This method of mapping is correlated with a theory, Actor Network Theory, that helps to expose systems and structures by situating an actor within a network.
Another node of learning that FemTechNet is known for, and extensively covered in media, is the storming of Wikipedia. I think Wikipedia aligns well with FemTechNet’s goal because it is an open, collective source of knowledge compiled by people. Wikipedia has the potential to share many different voices, but it has been “skewed now toward male participation.”. What FemTechNet does with this is try to improve Wikipedia by creating a “cross cultural digital archive” by making it more politically correct, revising bias. FoxNews, known for its conservative bias, calls this “injecting feminism” into Wikipedia, giving it a negative connotation. No feminist movements go without backlash and negative criticism.
Having edited Wikipedia for a class before, it would be interesting to see the response of moderators to the specific articles that FemTechNet edited and how those changes were reviewed/accepted or denied.
One student leader, Jade Ulrich, illustrates what people can expect as a student in FemTechNet, not just theoretically, but in specific actions: “We’re shooting a dialogue video and a 4-hour Wikithon followed by a dinner. So we’re seeing the value in collaboration online but also making efforts to connect in the physical world.” Materials, in the form of these video dialogues, for DOCCs are uploaded on Vimeo where videos receive a positive reception because Youtube elicits hate comments “if you really open up online.” I think this is important to FemTechNet’s goal of establishing a community. FemTechNet is finding a platform where they feel accepted and successful, rather than ceasing action by negatively responding to disrespectful comments on another platform.