Tactics for feminist organizing are changing with the rise of new technologies. From the standpoint of expending digital labor, not all of these changes seem to be for the better. This essay looks at the practices of the international collective FemTechNet, a network of hundreds of scholars, learners, artists, archivists, and activists focused on feminist research on technology. FemTechNet was founded in 2012 in response to what the initial collective felt was a misguided enthusiasm on college campuses for MOOCs (massive open online courses) that appeared to be undermining principles of feminist pedagogy. In response, FemTechNet created an online DOCC (distributed open collaborative course) that modeled the cocreation of knowledge and scholarly dialogues in distributed networks and questioned the hierarchical and colonial impulses of online education. Using the concept of “boundary objects,” students participating in FemTechNet have engaged in shared learning projects like “wikistorming,” in which students edit Wikipedia to improve the representation of women and people of color on the site, and digital-mapping initiatives, in which student experience is recognized as a site of knowledge production. Although more robust teleconferencing technologies have improved experiences of copresence for participants, stymied platform design, weak options for sustainability, exhaustion from affective labor, and scarce resources for community management continue to be challenges.
Elizabeth Losh; Together Apart: FemTechNet and Feminist Online Collectives. Camera Obscura 1 December 2016; 31 (3 (93)): 133–139. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/02705346-3662048
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