Katie King: Cyberculture & WMST

Katie King: Cyberculture & WMST: perspectives, practices, critique, and forms of everyday life
CWG Roundtable: Cyberculture @ University (27 April 2002);
Conference on "Critical Cyberculture Studies: Mapping an Evolving Discipline"

In expansive and altering material meanings of the word "technology" and of the word "writing,"
my book -- introduction to feminism and writing technologies -- braids together:
  • Women's Studies --by analyzing something like literary practice as technological process, "feminism and writing technologies" interconnects feminist historical analysis of cultural production with feminist research on contemporary technologies. Thus feminist technoscience theory must see itself within a history of women's cultural productions, just as feminist cultural theory must see itself as always already "technology" and about technology.
  • Cyberculture Studies --its still underdeveloped historical methodologies, and its nascent theories of gender and society require demonstrations that understandings of what counts as technology that are too narrow misleadingly undervalue women's cultural powers and agencies.
  • The History of the Book --a dynamic and gendered reading of book technologies within writing technology ecologies requires histories that forefront how our very grasping of objects of study in and from the past come about within our own changing technological circumstances
  • Studies in Orality and Literacy --the popular understandings of which valorize the technologically determinist and universalizing theories of Marshall McLuhan and Walter Ong, instead need to be investigated as large knowledge infrastructures whose agencies inter-threaded with ours create usable and hybrid presents and pasts.

I see these intertwining interdisciplinary formations as perspectives each upon the other, as practices each producing the others, as modes of critique and forms of everyday life.

But Women's Studies tends to see itself as a lone voice:
  • in resistance to technology as reality and symbol of male intellectual dominations disguised as objective science
  • in resistance to hyperoppression, that is, those exacerbations of economic and cultural social divisions along the lines of race, gender, class created by new media in globalized productions, distributions, consumptions
  • in resistance to the commercialization of the university (and K-12 education) under the guise of initiatives in teaching with technology

Political communication among those engaging Cyberculture @ University: terror or possibility?
  • negative critique and high theory
  • critique as debunking in marxism and postmarxism
  • critical consumptions in cultural studies

recognizing boundary objects when we see them:

Bowker & Star: "Boundary objects are those objects that both inhabit several communities of practice and satisfy the informational requirements of each of them...plastic enough to adapt to local needs and constraints...yet robust enough to maintain a common identity across sites. They are weakly structured in common use and become strongly structured in individual-site use. These objects may be abstract or concrete.... The creation and management of boundary objects is a key process in developing and maintaining coherence across intersecting communities... arise over time from durable cooperation among communities of practice.... "
membership in communities of practice:

Bowker & Star: "Membership can thus be described individually as the experience of encountering objects and increasingly being in a naturalized relationship with them.... individual membership processes are about the resolution of interruptions (anomalies) posed by the tension between the ambiguous (outsider, naive, strange) and the naturalized (at home, taken-for-granted) categories for objects. Collectively, membership can be described as the processes of managing the tension between naturalized categories on the one hand and the degree of openness to immigration on the other."

differential consciousness: think movement across communities of practice:

Sandoval: "enough strength to confidently commit to a well-defined structure of identity for one hour, day, week, month, year; enough flexibility to self-consciously transform that identity according to the requisites of another oppositional tactic if readings of power's formation require it; enough grace to recognize alliance with others committed to egalitarian social relations and race, gender, sex, class, and social justice, when their readings of power call for alternative oppositional stands."

circumstances of communication:

using Suchman: consider first "the joint creation of an elaborate social world within which one can be deeply engaged, but which remains largely self-referential, cut-off from others who might seriously challenge aspects of the community’s practice. At the same time, the creation of this world is not fully under the designers’ control....themselves enmeshed in webs of human actors and nonhuman actants only partially visible to them, which form a kind of naturalized landscape in relation to which they do their work...."

but interdisciplinary movement engages: "... an increasingly dense and differentiated layering of people and activities, each operating within a limited sphere of knowing and acting that includes variously crude or sophisticated conceptualizations of the others."

"Gradually, however, we came to see that the problem lay neither in ourselves nor in our colleagues, but in the division of professional labor and the assumptions about knowledge production that lay behind it.....What we were learning was inextricably tied to the ongoing development of our own theorizing and practice, such that it could not be cut loose and exported elsewhere."

"In place of the model of knowledge as a product that can be assembled through hand-offs in some neutral or universal language, we began to argue the need for mutual learning and partial translations. This in turn required new working relations not then in place."

Some materials referred to or possibly of interest:
  • Suchman, Lucy. 2000. "Located Accountabilities in Technology Production" (draft). Department of Sociology, Lancaster University UK at:http://www.comp.lancs.ac.uk/sociology/soc039ls.html
  • Geoffrey Bowker & Susan Leigh Star. 1999. Sorting Things Out: classification and its consequences. MIT.
  • Chela Sandoval. 2000. Methology of the Oppressed. Minnesota.
  • Susan Hawthorne and Renate Klein, eds. 1999. Cyber feminism: connectivity, critique and creativity. Spinifex.
  • Wendy Harcourt, ed. 1999. Women @ Internet: creating new cultures in cyberspace. Zed.
  • Alondra Nelson, Thuy Lihn N. Tu, and Alicia Headlam Hines, eds. 2001.Technicolor: race, technology, and everyday life. NYU.
  • Lisa Gitelman. 1999. Scripts, Grooves, and Writing Machines: representing technology in the Edison Era. Stanford.
  • Exhibition at National Library of Medicine. 24 May 2001 to 31 July 2002. "The Once and Future Web: Worlds Woven by the Telegraph and the Internet." http://www.nlm.nih.gov/onceandfutureweb/home.html
  • Katie King. 2000. "Productive Agencies of Feminist Theory: the work it does." Feminist Theory 2/1 (2001): 94-98.
  • Katie King. "An Introduction to Feminism and Writing Technologies." book manuscript in preparation.