I was invited to share my work with a group of aspiring female scholars who work in the field of contemporary women’s writing at an AHRC-funded skills development workshop at the University of Lincoln this weekend.
Contemporary Women’s Writing, according to the journal Contemporary Women’s Writing, critically assesses writing by women authors who have published approximately from 1970 to the present, especially in essays that reach beyond a reading of a single text in order to challenge existing thinking or extend debates about an author, genre, topic, or theoretical perspective and relate literary analysis to wider cultural and intellectual contexts.
My talk was on technofeminism and gendered innovations. I shared some examples about how technological development is gendered, and how technologies shape women’s lives. For example, I used the UN #Womenshould campaign to critique the male default in machine translation or machine learning. I was surprised to find out that, as of today, the results of Google Autocomplete for ‘women should’ were: “women shouldn’t”, “women shouldn’t vote”, “women should stay at home”. There were no returns for ‘women need to’, ‘women cannot’, ‘men should’, ‘men need to’, ‘men cannot’. Google obviously has done something (or removed evidence). I also used the results from the Fem2Map project to illustrate the problems women face to participate in free/libre open source software projects (lack of time, no support or no networks, do not feel motivated or cannot find relevance to their lives or work), and how this can be remedied using participatory action-oriented performative methods. Afterwards, I led the participants to map the local area (amid heavy thunderstorm). The concept of walking and mapping, inspired by psychological geographers and situationists, was well-received. I’m glad both the talk and the mapping activity were well-received, and people were not put off by the rain. Participants seemed to be very interested in the idea of having a customisable map, especially making an accessibility map (for the disabled) or a heritage map.
In the afternoon, we have also done ‘interview exercises’ (being interviewed by radio and tv presenters). The exercises were useful media training. We have also tried out Oculus Rift Rollercoaster simulator – really cool.
It has been a great pleasure of meeting the organisers Lucie Armitt, Susan Watkins, the co-founder of The Feminist Press Florence Howe and many other young, beautiful, bright, early-career scholars in contemporary women’s writing.
This was the area we walked and mapped: