What’s a favorite feminist technoculture writing for you and why?

I’ve been discussing this in email with a fellow Difference Engine reader and I thought it would be interesting to see what you all have loved reading. 

To be fair, I’ll start. I think I’ll pick Suchman’s book “Plans and Situated Actions.” (I almost picked Haraway’s “Situated Knowledges” though.) P&SA isn’t an overtly feminist book, but I think it did a very feminist thing — perhaps intentionally. It was a major part of a successful intervention to problematize Good Old Fashioned Artificial Intelligence (GOFAI), which aimed to create computational representations of human intelligence. Some of these systems even aimed to encode “knowledge” statements for positivist processing. Suchman used ethnomethodological studies of human-copier usage to show how difference and the challenge of  seeing through another being’s eyes (technically, intersubjectivity) are the way intelligence is enacted everyday. She also took making copies, a feminized task at the time, reputedly menial, and showed the invisible, creativity and sensemaking it took to actually do that work. She even got AI heavyweights responding to her in journal pages. 

What works really did it for you?

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2 Responses
  1. Lilly says:

    Yeah, Lucy Suchman’s recent stuff is explicitly feminist, but plans and situated actions actually is feminist, in my opinion, for what it does, not by any self-labeling — sort of like how you describe leigh star’s work.

    I’m really interested in how we choose our research sites, and do have a sort of personal drive to valorize invisible labor, show creativity where people think there isn’t any, ask why is “creativity” considered so great anyways, etc. I feel like these are all sorts of strategies, and I’d be really interested in brainstorming what are other sorts of strategies people have used in the kind of work you and I are sketching out in this interaction. It’s like how anthropologists have a canon, mathematicians have a canon, but what historical strategies do critical technocultural studies (a term I just made up right now that may not deserve to go on :) ) look back to? I’m reading “On Ideologies of Reflexivity” from George Marcus’ “Ethnography Through Thick and Thin” right now and it is sort of blowing my mind by organizing different kinds of reflexivity and giving a tour of various knowledge making debates about what reflexivity should mean that have gone down around ethnography.

  2. lilly n. says:

    i have to say that susan leigh star’s “ethnography of infrastructure” article has shaped my thinking in a lot of ways. she’s not explicitly feminist in the same way that you would describe lucy suchman’s work, lilly i, but her emphasis on the infrastructural elements bring out some themes that have really shaped my thinking: the trivial and mundane, the built environment in relation to the “mediated.” her emphasis on the domain of “symbolic sewers” as a space of empirical investigation perhaps is feminist in the way that you’ve described lucy’s work; that these symbolic sewers are part of that space of domestic-maintenance work that has often been associated with feminine labor, versus inventive masculine labor. i certainly don’t agree with those, but leigh star’s ideas have helped me rethink how certain kinds of labor or valorized but also, and most importantly, how these values bleed into our choices, as researchers, of sites of inquiry.