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ASA Women's Committee and Digital Humanities Caucus: Feminist Making I: Building Critical Contexts

Thu, November 6, 8:00 to 9:45am, Westin Bonaventure, Floor: Level 1, Beaudry A (L1)

Session Submission Type: Non-Paper Session: Dialogue Format


This panel is first in a two-part series of roundtables that takes as its focus the contemporary interest in "making"--creating products by hand in a post-consumer, technology-rich environment for reasons ranging from personal fulfillment, to community building, to social and cultural critique. Through hardware hacking, open source software, crowdsourcing, alternative game creation, and the like, digital humanists have increasingly turned to making as scholarly practice. Here we seek to explore how feminist approaches to making and maker culture might--like "fun" in the theme for this conference--work as "a category of thinking and doing" that generates "alternate ways of living against" sites of social, economic, and political, as well as technological privilege.

"Feminist Making I: Building Critical Contexts" seeks to contextualize elements of the maker movement from historical, cultural-critical, feminist perspectives. Maker culture opens the “black box,” rendering features of contemporary technology visible, tangible, knowable and adaptable through handiwork. Yet, it can still fail to foreground its own origins in institutions, ideologies and practices. In hackerspaces, maker faires, and online forums, communities gather to explore circuit bending, wearable computing, open mapping, Arduino, 3D printing, and the like--proliferating the sites and practices of invention. While these technologies may be new, efforts to subvert capitalist systems of control through craft trace to the nineteenth century and before, and to a diversity of persons and groups.

In this roundtable session, short talks will be followed by significant time for discussion among presenters and audience, moderated by session chair Lauren Klein. The presentations are:

*Susan Garfinkel, "Soft Circuits and the Gendered Objects of Making." Making is not new, though rhetoric places it in the post-computer moment of the current century. Using the example of "soft circuits" conceived to make electronics appealing to women via textiles and fashion, this talk situates the origins of making in craft, in folkloric process, and in the gendering of objects in culture.

*Elizabeth Losh, "A Very Proper and Discreet Girl: Ideologies of Transparency and Gendered Computing Spaces." DIY circuits built with exposed sensors and microcontrollers seem to differ radically from slick mass-produced consumer electronics. Feminist critics of technology, however, argue that transparency itself is a strongly gendered concept. This talk looks at the visual culture surrounding sixty-five years of physical computing in the Los Angeles region to consider how the relations between men, women, and machines are represented.

*micha cárdenas, "Post-Digital Media: Trans of Color Feminist Praxis." Within and alongside white male and white feminist digital cultures, there exist older practices focused on directing technological creativity towards the lessening of social inequality and structural oppression. One of these is a trans of color praxis that rejects the binary logic of the digital and the privileging of western ways of knowing and creating.

By exploring the legacy of maker culture through the lens of feminism, participants will interrogate the assumed distinctions between theory and practice, public and private, craft and skill, logic and affect, that too often frame interpretations of making. It is at the interface of such binaries that making negotiates its alternative agency.

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