Women in the Web

Women in the Web

2003-11-10

Katie King on the challenges and rewards, in her own life and the lives of her students, that emerge when writing about personal encounters with technology.

One of the project formats the editors solicited for this collection they described as “workplace narrative.” Not only will you read here a narrative of my workplace, my work, and my fellow workers, but also a commentary about some “working relations” narrativized within this workplace in January 2001. Telling stories, examining stories, and reshaping stories have all been essential activities in my teaching, research and professional understandings. This essay attempts to entangle and untangle stories of these sorts. Since 1986 I have been teaching university courses engaging the historical materialities and politics of writing, the contemporary meanings of which then included word processing and the net, and more recently the Web. I teach, do research, attend to administrative requirements, and share my services from a base entirely in a women’s studies department. (Only recently are there women’s studies departments, and it is still moderately unusual to have a full time - rather than joint - appointment in one.) The interdisciplinary field I discover, identify, and create I have been calling since 1986 “Feminism and Writing Technologies.” Feminism and writing technologies situates the history of the book and its archival interests, the study and practices of oral and print cultures, the creation and study of new cybercultures, and the feminist investigations of technosciences, all together as perspectives each upon the other, as practices each producing the others, as modes of critique and as forms of everyday life. In my workplace being able to name your research area is important, even more important in a women’s studies department in which researchers have often been trained in disciplinary fields. Something brief, easily identifiable, and disciplinarily understandable is preferred. “Feminism and writing technologies” never fills these requirements.

A field full of questions and questioning, working in feminism and writing technologies requires one to ask: What are the politics of making distinctions between the oral and the written? That is to say, what movements of power are involved? What assumptions are made? That orality is one thing? That such distinctions are self-evident? That there are single pivotal historical divides? That these ideal categories exist in the world? Whose “revolutions” are the alphabet, literacy, printing, or the Internet? Global conceptual categories are interrogated by local material practices, but what counts as local? What counts as the material? the practical? the global? Assumption after assumption is necessarily excavated in feminism and writing technologies, each such assumption moving power in particular ways. Excavating such assumptions instead points to alternative pasts, alternative materialities, alternative contemporary possibilities, alternative movements of power. How to convey to students, to fellow cultural workers (such as my colleagues in women’s studies, and other cultural activists across and through the borders of my workplace, a university) the pivotal importance of asking such questions and excavating such assumptions today, of broadening the historical and cultural frameworks of engagement so as to contest for all these deeply political meanings and materialities? How to understand this process as modes of critique, forms of everyday life and working relations? As a very junior faculty member participating in a women’s studies faculty study group in the mid 80’s, when I tried to explain that I was investigating the politics of making distinctions between what has been called “the oral” and “the written,” a more senior historian impatiently insisted, “Something just is oral or written!” Although each feminist there cared about and taught the importance of denaturalizing cultural categories feminists critiqued, to no one was it obvious that orality and literacy were variations on nature and culture. When I was a postdoc in another university a friendly feminist colleague laughed when I said that “feminism and writing technologies” was a field I had to both recognize and invent, saying “You can’t invent fields!” This from a person in the still relatively recently created field of “Women’s Studies.” Disciplines and new disciplinary formations depend on the naturalization of pivotal objects. (Bowker & Star 1999) Questioning such objects and the processes of naturalization within such communities of practice at best makes you look naive, at worst (in a university) makes you appear ignorant. Although I remembered very clearly these same reactions during the creation of the field of women’s studies, others had not experienced them or had forgotten them, or simply thought that this analogy was irrelevant (perhaps, irreverent?).

As I conceptualize it the field of feminism and writing technologies includes histories of specific technologies, such as Internet, satellite TV and other interpenetrating communications infrastructures; printing, xeroxing and other forms of reproduction; computers, book wheels, codex and other linking devices; alphabets, chirographs, sound and video recording and other forms of inscription; pencils, typewriters and other marking implements; paper, screen and other surfaces of display; epic poetry, telenovelas and other formalized oralities; pictographs, websites and other artifacts of visual culture. It also includes the methods by which such technologies are studied in the academy and understood in everyday life: the working relations of technologies-in-use, including the formal and popular technologies of knowledge-making, if you will. It is feminism - theory and activism - that offers the ways of thinking about power investigating such methods. “Writing” in this sense comprehends its largest meaning: it participates in oralities, rather than becoming their opposite. It stresses meaning-making in many cultural forms; it stresses social processes that are momentarily stabilized in human devices. And “technologies” here are not just the latest machines for sale, or the instruments and infrastructures of science, but the cultural refinements of skills and tools, extensions of human bodies and minds with which we and the world are continually reshaping in complex interconnecting agencies. “Writing technologies” are the objects of study, but “writing” technologies is also the process of engaging these objects. Story-making, story-telling, and the analysis of stories are pivotal in the various versions of the course I keep teaching, now over fifteen years. I have always had students make stories about alternative writing technologies as a key moment of insight in the course. In this I follow the marvelous thought experiments proposed by Richard Ohmann in a wonderfully prescient and now delightfully dated essay, “Literacy, Technology, and Monopoly Capital” (Ohmann 1985) which through all this time I have used to introduce the course.

As a “loosening-up exercise” Ohmann offers a series of scenarios for alternative origins of current technologies, each embodying rearrangements of power and value. They suggest other ways these familiar technologies might have turned out, might have been used to different purposes. This is the first one:

“Suppose that writing (a technology, as Walter Ong rightly insists) had been invented by slaves - say, in the Roman Empire - and for purposes of survival, resistance, and rebellion. How might they have devised a writing system to advance those purposes? Might it have been a shifting code, to preserve its secrets from masters? Might there have been a common form that could encode the different languages spoken by slaves? I don’t know, but my guess is that writing would not have evolved as it did, had its inventors wanted it as an aid to solidarity and revolt.” (680)

For me and for my students literally playing with the stories of technologies is the heart of the course: the “ah-ha!” moment that they take away with them. Over fifteen years students have produced lively and fanciful fables: activist stories about women’s labor organizing by writing the very wiring of the silicon chips used in computers, or poems about the origins of pink chalk and lesbian graffiti, or science fiction about the regendering of bodies “written upon” by surgery, or fictional diaries of young girls moving back through time to rewrite family abuse, and many other feminist imaginations of technology, writing, origins, gender, sexuality and activisms. Many of these students are themselves captivated by their own creations. Most say they “hate science fiction” but after writing these stories discover science fictions that belie the (gendered) assumptions they had made about the genre.

Following Ohmann but shifting the focus a bit I talk about how stories we tell about technologies highlight or elide how they are made and why, their outcomes and calculations, and the ways they urge or assume how we might best encounter them. These stories can be dramatic or low-key, urgent or thoughtful, inviting or estranging, analytic or active, critical or admiring. As a result of these stories technologies can appear opaque, multiple, difficult; or singular, transparent and seamless. These stories are very powerful; indeed four different types of such stories seem to take up all the story-telling space. Each one creates its own universe of legibility. Here I am going to call them “technological determinism,” “symptomatic technology,” “neutral technology,” (following Ohmann and others) and “technologies as frozen social relations” (following Donna Haraway). Some of these stories are better than others; indeed I want to argue that “technologies as frozen social relations” is the least misleading narrative with the most possibilities. But I also need to point out how compelling these other stories are, and that talking about technologies within only one of these narratives is quite difficult. Consciously and unconsciously I am not able to use only one narrative, even when that is what I intend. Each of these narratives has its virtues (that is, powers) and each is persuasive and useful. Learning which of these narratives one is using, habitually uses, is important, and is one of the tasks taken up in the course. I am going to describe each of these narratives in terms of television (and video recording). TV is the global sign for a fascinating set of technologies that complicates a range of assumptions people bring to the phrase “writing technologies.” At first glance it may even seem rather silly to call the various TV technologies writing technologies, especially to those who privilege inscription as “writing” and for whom writing is the very opposite of the aural and the photographic. But even for those who resist the largest meanings of writing technologies - as particular formalized processes of meaning-making embodied in specific cultural skills and devices - a second look in this age of WebTV may give them pause. Satellite and cable television are converging with telephone, computer and Internet technologies in ways that only this largest meaning of writing can apprehend. These convergences are explicitly commercial, political and technological in ways that are highly visible right now. This makes TV an extremely interesting example for description and analysis, one that calls upon and creates new intuitions about writing technologies. This current visibility also means that some of these knowledges are intuitively compelling to my students today.

The narrative of technological determinism is possibly the most pervasive story about technology. This is the narrative in which we elaborate the social consequences that follow inevitably upon “the seemingly accidental invention” (as Ohmann puts it 681) of, say, TV. (These examples and their focus on television are my own and not Ohmann’s, although he draws upon Raymond Williams’ work on television 1974) For example, telling this kind of story we might say: “The TV caused middle-class families of the 50s to retreat from community life and intensify their nuclear focus, huddling together around the warm glow of the living room TV set.” Ohmann focuses on what is misleading about such technological determinist stories: they suggest that these consequences are inevitable, that the technologies were invented without specific intentions, and that the technologies are singular, in themselves social forces. Agreeing with Ohmann I want to add that stories of technological determinism convey a dramatic sense of significance, sometimes of discontinuity (“revolution”) that is exciting and enticing. My examples are intended to highlight how attractive these stories are, how progressive people might use them, deliberately or unconsciously, and to what purpose. I am deliberately not giving examples that I think are easy to dismiss. I do not intend to dismiss these stories at all. I point myself ambivalently to the sublime stories of technological determinism told by Marshall McLuhan and Walter Ong, theorists to whom I am deeply indebted, although of whom I can also be very critical. (for example, McLuhan 1962 and Ong 1982)

The second narrative, symptomatic technology, is the one in which TV, invented on the social margins, is used by central forces informing society. Telling this story we might say, “Our children have become ravenous consumers of junk watching TV commercial after TV commercial.” Or we might declare, “Digital hype about the AOL-Time Warner merger is a symptom of rapacious late capitalism’s death grip on every new market.” What is deceptive about the narrative of symptomatic technology is the idea that technological invention is marginal to other great social forces which exploit such invention. On the other hand, such stories convey urgency and sometimes imply manifestos for social change. The third narrative is that of neutral technology. This is the narrative in which TV can be put to an amazing multitude of uses, oppressive and democratic, sexist and feminist, altruistic and profit-making. Inside this narrative we might say, “TV could either contribute to or work against teenage drinking; for every ad for drinking visible during the broadcast of athletic events, there is also some anti-drinking homily delivered by national and local stations and advertisers.” (Yeah, sure, after much social protest, and as if that is a sufficient response.) Or in addressing the so-called Digital Divide we might assert, “Computers are not the problem, it is everyone not having access to them that is the concern.” Such stories simply do not recognize technologies as created and deployed within, indeed embodying, relations of power. Still, these stories can allow for the de-escalation of rhetorical passion, thus making room for collaborative engagements with technology. But the problem is that each of these kinds of stories elides the processes of production and uses of technologies, and their agents and intentions. Ohmann clarifies, “technology…is itself a social process, saturated by the power relations around it, continually reshaped according to some people’s intentions.” Ohmann points out three tell-tale signals that one of these mystifying narratives is in play. The first is using phrases like “the computer” “as if it were one single stable device.” The second is deploying such a phrase as a grammatical agent (for example, making it the subject of a sentence), and the third is using phrases like “man,” “the mind,” and “the human condition.” Walter Ong does all three as Ohmann quotes him saying, “…the alphabet or print or the computer enters the mind, producing new states of awareness there.” Ohmann observes, “[i]mplying that the technology somehow came before someone’s intention to enable some minds to do some things” and making it appear “that technologies interact with people or with `culture’ in global, undifferentiated ways, rather than serving as an arena of interaction among classes, races, and other groups of unequal power.” (681) It is to this clarification and correction that I attach Donna Haraway’s term, naming the fourth narrative technologies as frozen social relations. (for example, Haraway 1997)

But giving you an example of a sentence within this narrative requires some explanation. That is because this narrative isn’t simply parallel to the others, but intended as their correction and clarification (if we follow but elaborate upon Ohmann, who doesn’t actually offer an alternative narrative but only a critique of mystifications). Such a demystification, in Marxist terms, has a dynamic, visionary element: it is the narrative just in the process of coming-into-being as fields of power shift and reveal relationships previously difficult to apprehend. It is also the narrative within which such shiftings are examined in particular pasts, momentarily connected to this present when recent apprehensions shed new light on earlier configurations of technology and power. So working within this narrative requires us to actively consider which demystifications to elaborate and how; Ohmann’s tell-tale signals are instructive here. How do we describe technologies without using phrases like “the computer” and making them grammatical agents, and without using other phrases like “man,” “the mind,” and “the human condition” and mobilizing the assumptions they embody? Do we want to do this? Will this sufficiently emphasize the processes of production and use of technologies and speak to their agents and intentions? How do we illuminate the saturation of social processes by power relations? How do we describe technologies without implying that they interact with people and culture in global, undifferentiated ways? The “virtue” of such narrative is the creation and scrutiny of newly usable pasts and alternative presents. What about the drama and urgency of these other narratives? or their de-escalations and engagements? what sorts of contradictions are revealed here? what kinds of animated engagements are envisionable and enactable? It is to all these permutations and possibilities that the thought experiments of the class address themselves.

Indeed, how about trying to do without phrases like “the computer”? What happens when you do this? Well, consider for a moment the phrase “the VCR.” It has not been so long since you had to specify when using this phrase whether you meant VHS or Beta-Max in the U.S (two commercially distinct forms of video cassette recording). As the media fans I study and talk about in class know in very material ways, until recently you might have still meant Beta-Max in South America, and if you intend to share VHS tapes with other international fans you have to take into account whether your VHS system uses the U.S. standard NTSC or the European standard PAL and note that in France, Greece and Luxembourg VCRs are in VHS but TV is in Secam. A few very fancy very expensive players will play all these versions, but most VCRs will only play one of these variations, the local variety. Fans who make their own music videos from video clips copied from broadcast, cable, or satellite TV (more than one “the TV’) sometimes have such fancy VCRs to facilitate their use of copies made by fan friends internationally, sometimes of programs not shown in their country; but most do not. So, in the U.S. we usually mean VHS NTSC when we use the term “the VCR.” This is the result of two things: first, the so-called VHS/Beta-Max Wars, which Sony Corporation’s Beta-Max video recording system “lost,” for economic and technical reasons that are still in dispute; and second, the belated imposition of technology standards, albeit somewhat different ones in different places. (Although, indeed, the imposition of such standards may in fact be an element in economic dominance by the “winner.”) In other words the phrase “the VCR” has meant and could mean at least Beta-Max, VHS NTSC, VHS PAL, and VHS SECAM, and only appears to be “singular” in one’s own little local spot, where which of these possibilities is “the VCR” is the result of winners and losers in various economic struggles in layers of locals and globals. The phrase “the VCR” (or “the TV” or “video”) hides this play of possibility and the fields of power in which all these many objects are created and used. However, if you are not a media fan or a film production professional and you practice home video taping in the U.S. in order to see your favorite program which is inconveniently showing on that evening when you have to go to your friend’s birthday party, “the VCR” is a useful phrase when you tell your partner that yes, you’ve just programmed the VCR. Replacing the phrase “the VCR” does not result in a sentence, it results in a paragraph, a paragraph which includes information that is not always in local circulation (or is only in very local circulation; note locals and globals in layers). Telling the story of the VCR makes intuitive sense to my students, parts of it they are familiar with, other parts seem plausible, and it all takes place in the “real time” of their life.

Writing, telling and analyzing stories has been one way to invite students into the discourses on technologies. Resistances to technology, to the word “technology,” and to the gendering of technology, are all addressed by the course, but even more complicatedly, are strangely attracted to even the institutional elements of the course. For example, the name of the course has changed in recent years. For quite a while it was called “Feminism and Writing Technologies.” But students, colleagues and administrative advising people all pressured me to change the name. Lamentably, they argued, women students likely to take women’s studies courses were not likely to take classes with “technology” in the title. But, I pointed out, considering these very issues of the gendering of technology and thus the shaping of its meanings was at the heart of the course, which was indeed actually about technologies. Surely women turned away by technology in the title would be turned away by technology as the subject matter even if not reflected in the title? No, no, they encouraged, you approach it so differently, you just need to get them to start the course. Students who liked the course were very eloquent on this point, very persuasive. Big chunks of the course have always included considering women’s cultural productions of the past and learning how to recognize them even through the distorting lenses of the oral/written dichotomies and the limited cultural products valued within them. These elements of the course have attracted students interested in say, comparative literature or literary history. But other big chunks of the course have always included contemporary technologies of writing and their social meanings and powers. For a long time at my university, mine was the only course that addressed issues now called cyberculture studies or digital culture. (Now indeed whole classes are devoted to these topics.) Such elements attracted students in a variety of fields, including say, American studies or anthropology, who wanted to engage in this kind of research. And other elements of the course have focused on media and media fandoms, attracting students in cultural studies and communications. All in very small numbers, it must be said. For a while the course was called “The Politics of the Oral and the Written,” as many in my division could really only understand the course in historical and literary terms. But as the long devalued elements around contemporary technologies started being hyped elsewhere in the university, suddenly I was encouraged to make that now the center of the course. I continued to feel that the very issue at the root of the research area and its political stakes were in the ways that book history, cyberculture, orality and literacy studies, and feminist technoscience reflected upon and created each other. Creating what would now be, although feminist, another class in cyberculture seemed to me to betray the impulses that created the course and the field all along. Trying to respond to all these concerns, the course has been reshaped and renamed, its present version now called “Women on the Web: Ways of Writing in Historical Perspective.”

These and other resistances to technology or to reexamination of the assumed meanings of “technology,” are continual (and sometimes demoralizing) elements of teaching the course, explaining it or the field it introduces, or explaining approaches to feminist technology study. For years the only way my colleagues anywhere in the university could understand the work I do was to understand it as an (almost amateurish) “literary” approach to technology study, or as a kind of technical writing, or within the rubric of “teaching with technology.” Now that cyberculture studies has become visible to them, albeit with equal mixtures of hype and dismissal, the intellectual elements are somewhat more valued, but continue to be subordinated to the technical ones. For example, thinking she is finally able to encourage my work, an administrator will urge me to develop distance learning courses; or colleagues just learning about the Web’s uses in teaching are surprised that the course is not about making web pages. From the time I was a graduate student making extra money by teaching faculty members how to use Bell Labs “VI” or visual editor or “n-roff” and “t-roff” to print their writing out (all this in the days before personal computers) to last summer when I participated in instructional technology workshops on how to use the Web in classes, I have done work and “service” to share what (often very little) technical expertise I have painfully acquired. However, I have never been as expert as others have expected me to be (sometimes including myself), lacking at times resources, at other moments time itself, and all along always much more interested in broad intellectual and historical concerns than in the latest technologies. Only at distantly punctuated too brief moments have I ever been what my college’s technology support people call “an early adopter.” (I have often wondered from which lexicon this term emerges, and especially whether it is actually intended to describe the penetration of new markets. Among some of our technical support people it functions as a term of admiration or, better, flattery.)

The last time I taught “Women on the Web” I asked people to hand in a brief description of their experience with computers. I did in fact intend to teach them how to make a very simple web page, and I wanted to know something about them as a group so I could plan how best to approach the lesson. I assumed some already knew how to do web pages, while some might not have home access to computer equipment or have gotten computer accounts at school yet. My intentions were only to gather such background information. I asked “What equipment do you have access to? What can you do? What would you like to know how to do?” But what I got instead were powerful and poignant stories that momentarily overwhelmed me. Those who I told to go sign up for computer accounts all told of being needled at the computer center about the class being in women’s studies: “I can’t imagine what for!” Others told stories of the history of computers in their family: “Throughout my childhood I believed that a computer was nothing more than an expensive complex clock that was more important to a father than his family.” And others talked of their own fascination with computers from early childhood, of learning to program quite young and their musings on its strange personal impersonality. Sharing these stories with each other contributed substantially to the culture of the course, in which students collaborated and reflected upon assignments. My own approach to making web pages, to using e-mail and class reflectors, to just getting access to equipment and accounts, was to make all these activities as low-key as possible, to encourage students to value the trial and error learning involved in the process, and to suggest (to myself and them) when stressed, pull back momentarily and give oneself more time to do whatever.

I notice that this approach is precisely not how teachers are counseled elsewhere in my university. Instead, putting courses online with Web interfaces tends to be done on a crash-course basis, in a very high stress time frame, sometimes with promises of support that turn out to be inadequate; and such teachers are encouraged to require students to get on board with coercive technology requirements and coercive rationales. Surveillance is one of the highly valued features of some uses of such Web interfaces (of the students and also of the teacher by the students and others) and any student resistances are meet by statements such as (modeled for teachers to be addressed to students) “This is how the world is today, you’d better get used to it!” or (to teachers themselves) “They’ll never learn it or do it if you don’t make it a graded requirement!” When I teach students to make web pages, this section of the course is not graded (in fact occasionally students just don’t show up that day, and I never mention it). The point is partly the real fun of it, while it also gives students a hint of an idea of what’s involved in the web pages they see, something of the labor involved and also a bit of a demystification. Because the point of the course is not to make web pages, it doesn’t have to go anywhere else in the course, but students have opportunities also to include web page making into other assignments, as one optional form their work can take. I’ve had students who never do another thing with it in my class, to other students who (with the self-instructional websites I mark for them and demonstrate how to search for) end up at the end of class knowing much more about web pages than I do, making their own amazing sites. Since making them is not required, the fun of web pages comes to the fore (or at least, for some).

I have been working on a short book introducing feminism and writing technologies, and while writing it musing about and writing about the work of two feminist theorists of technoscience, Leigh Star and Lucy Suchman. Both with sociological training, they describe the “working relations” that are essential to technology use, that are the shadows under the “tip-of-the-iceberg” surface that is those objects we valorize as the “technologies.” (Star 1999; Suchman 1999 & ND) They point out that instead technologies-in-use are actually “massive assemblages” of many devices (some sometimes not named or valued as “technology”) together with the many skills used by particular people, all together located in specific spaces and times. Not “single, stable devices” but rather assemblages and working relations. “Working relations are understood as sociomaterial connections that sustain the visible and invisible work required to construct coherent technologies and put them into use.” (Suchman online ND) My own students usually claim at the beginning of the course that they have little or no experiences with technologies. Sewing machines, food processors, stoves, even TVs, CD players and VCRs don’t count: these are all domestic items, and therefore not “technologies.” That is, the students explain to me patiently, because “technologies are male and new.” But it is not just the putative “maleness” and “newness” that cancels out other meanings of technology; it is also that working relations are not understood to be elements in the meaning of technologies. If one instead does pay attention to such analytic elements they allow for spaces to see and imagine women’s creative engagements with technologies, particularly for me, writing technologies. It is workers who construct “technologies” in the “articulation work” they do to create “a live practice.” (Hales 1993) Articulation work is required because work sites are characterized by, as Suchman says: “artifactual richness…a kind of archaeological layering of artifacts acquired, in bits and pieces, over time.” (Suchman 1999) Users too provide the articulation work needed to construct technological processes out of the assemblage of devices and conditions of work. “…the coherence of artifacts is a contingent and ongoing achievement of practices of design-in-use, in ways and to an extent that is missing from professional talk about finished products.” (Suchman 1999)

It is precisely this reality that is invisible within our university’s technology discourse, in its many variants - corporate, technical, pedagogical. The closest we seem to get to considering what Ohmann calls “an arena of interaction among classes, races, and other groups of unequal power” and what Star and Suchman call “working relations” is to talk about so-called “Digital Divides.” But this Digital Divide discourse is driven by corporate interests: their solutions to Digital Divides have been the penetration of all possible markets. (Stewart Millar 1998) (The website - www.digitaldivide.gov during the Clinton administration was run by the Department of Commerce. There is no such domain name today, and the DOC materials once collected there are now much more difficult to access, in deeply embedded hyperlinks. Neoliberalism almost looks good in comparison to neoconservative globalizations.) The corporatization of universities is empowered by the alliances with industry that information technology rich environments have made necessary and possible. Wooing transnational corporations is necessary for many technology initiatives on campus (from which I have occasionally benefited). Universities are among the “arena[s] of interaction among classes, races, and other groups of unequal power” involving technologies-in-use. A couple of years ago I participated in a workshop on archives and technologies in a conference put on by a campus research and teaching center. My fantasy for our discussion was to pull together research and teaching concerns and passions in relation to archival work and the technologies it assumes, uses, and desires. Technical concerns (not surprisingly perhaps) tended to subsume the theoretical issues (although those of us putting the workshop together worked hard to continually reassert them). All questions about interactions among “groups of unequal power” kept being framed in terms of access to technology, in this context the “progressive” answer to which was to refuse to engage with technologies. The poverty of imagination for social struggle here is precisely what Ohmann years ago intended his thought experiments to move beyond. Folks in this workshop rightly were concerned about the increased workload involved in the corporatization of universities, but much of which they held new technologies accountable for. New technologies could be pointed to by administrators as both necessary and the reason for greater workloads, as if these greater workloads were singular to universities, and particular to our teaching requirements, as if unconnected to other processes of globalization. (Slaughter & Leslie 1997)

Resisting technologies - rather than altering working relations - is not a solution to increased workloads or to the corporatization of universities. These are political struggles that have to be engaged directly, in the activisms addressing specifically the restructuring of universities, and in those working for alternate globalizations (Bousquet 2002, Broad 2002) This is not to elide that technologies are indeed always about movements of power and inequalities, but rather a desire to focus and direct concerns about such inequalities, to highlight and engage working relations. This “workplace narrative” does not pretend to have clear solutions for often slow activist and professional interventions into working relations, nor do I intend to belittle conscious and unconscious forms of resistance to oppressive conditions of all sorts - sometimes enabled by, sometimes diverted by new technologies. Tangling and untangling stories is a kind of cultural work that questions assumptions and points to alternative possibilities. Connecting academic interdisciplinarities around archives, books, oralities, cybercultures and feminist technosciences as forms of critique and modes of everyday life is the work of feminism and writing technologies.

Note

Some of my earlier published explorations of “Feminism and writing technologies” are found in articles - (1991) “Bibliography and a Feminist Apparatus of Literary Production.” TEXT 5: Transactions of the Society for Textual Scholarship 91-103; and (1994) “Feminism and Writing Technologies: Teaching Queerish Travels through Maps, Territories, and Pattern.” Configurations 2: 89-106 - and my book - (1994) Theory in its Feminist Travels: Conversations in U.S. Women’s Movements. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

References

Bousquet, Marc. Information University: Rise of the Education-Management Organization (EMO).” Workplace (5) 2002, no. 1.

Bowker, Geoffrey and Susan Leigh Star. Sorting Things Out: Classification and its Consequences. MIT, 1999.

Broad, Robin, ed. Global Backlash: Citizen Initiatives for a Just World Economy. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002.

Hales, Mike. “Where are Designers? Styles of design practice, objects of design and views of users in computer-supported cooperative work.” In Design Issues in CSCW. Eds. D. Rosenberg and C. Hutchison. Springer Verlag, 1993.

Haraway, Donna (with paintings by Lynn Randolph). Modest_Witness@Second_Millennium.FemaleMan_Meets_OncoMouse: Feminism and Technoscience. New York: Routledge, 1997.

McLuhan, Marshall. The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1962.

Ohmann, Richard. “Literacy, Technology, and Monopoly Capital.” College English. (47) 1985: 675-689.

Ong, Walter J. Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. New York: Methuen, 1982.

Slaughter, Sheila, and Larry L. Leslie. Academic Capitalism: Politics, Policies, and the Entrepreneurial University. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1997.

Star, Susan Leigh. “The Ethnography of Infrastructure.” American Behavioral Scientist 43 (3), 1999: 377. [Full Text: On Masterfile FULLTEXT 1000 @ MdUSA. 6/20/00.]

Stewart Millar, Melanie. Cracking the Gender Code: Who Rules the Wired World? Toronto: Second Story Press, 1998.

Suchman, Lucy and Jeanette Blomberg. “Reconstructing Technologies as Social Practice.” American Behavioral Scientist 43 (3), 1999: 377. [Full Text: On Masterfile FULLTEXT 1000 @ MdUSA. 6/20/00.]

Suchman, Lucy. (ND, online draft version seen 6/22/00) “Located Accountabilities in Technology Production” Department of Sociology: Lancaster University. (Online at: http://www.comp.lancs.ac.uk/sociology/soc039ls.html)

Williams, Raymond. Television; Technology and Cultural Form. London: Fontana, 1974.