[-empyre-] on feminism and the cyclical nature of tools and technologies

Melinda Rackham melinda at subtle.net
Thu Feb 26 01:34:47 AEDT 2015

hello again..

Of FemTechNet Anne wrote  “Our mantra became:  “WHO you learn with is as important as what you learn.” What a wonderful initiative. Tracey posted many great project links as well. Reality creates Reality - the world is still owned by a few men who maintain the privilege of themselves and other men. Feminism has been using tools and technologies for 150 years with some good success, however we saw it at the Academy Awards:  70% of the stories we see are stories of men where women do not speak to each other except to talk about men, and women still only earn 40% of male wages in the entertainment industry.

Writing is a tool. I recall years ago Australian video/performance art pioneer Jill Scott impressing on me the importance of writing on and citing other women. I particularly like the simple cut and paste tools of Elvis Richardson.. she cuts names out of art magazine with scissors and pastes them on boxboard monuments with glue to graphically illustrate the inequalities in writing on women artists.  http://www.elvisrichardson.com/Versus.html

Peer groups are a tool. Womens networked groups provided access to technologies and sistas -  dinners, in person meet ups, mentoring, introductions, and practicalities of art practice like travel and residences sublets and house swaps etc. Old Boys Network OBN - a cyberfeminist alliance initiated by Cornelia Sollfrank in 1997 in Berlin,  http://www.obn.org ; and the international FACES - "an international mailing list that connects women activists, artists, critics, theoreticians, technicians, journalists, researchers, programmers, networkers, web designers and educators: women who share an interest in the media and communication arts" have done this for many years. http://faces-l.net/

Mentoring and nurturing are tools. Which takes me back to early learning spaces on the internet. Before user friendly software interfaces or university courses it was all about shared quests in localised (but geographically global) communities -  you learnt from like minded strangers on BBS or IRC chat or list-serve.  And in turn you taught others. Miss Despoinas Hackspace has been home-brewed in Hobart (at the bottom of Australia) by Nancy Mauro-Flude since 2008. Its a " salon for experimental research, radical aesthetics, media design, production and exchange underlined by modes of maker culture. "  Teaching others to make it and break it. http://miss-hack.org/

I've just hookedup via crackbook with some women I went to University with 20 years ago. It was 1995 and we taught ourselves to hand code HTML and curated an online show - Wollongong World Women Online WWWO, and taught 30 other women how to make a web page which was in the show. Our Australian site was part of The World’s Women Online! a project developed by Muriel Magenta at Arizona State University for presentation at the 1995 the Fourth United Nations World Conference on Women in Beijing. At that time when women made up less than 10% of internet users, just introducing the internet on a computer to another woman was a massive technological tool for art and change. The web site is dead, but we think we can put about 20% of it back together form our bit of files. Archiving, leaving a legacy, is a tool.

One of the reasons I've strayed away from online culture over the past years is that apart from small pockets it sometimes seems like a soma delivery system. Where I've strayed to is back into local geographical communities, learning from peer environments and in turn sharing my technical and knowledge skills to strengthen networks and allow more advocacy reach. I won't post any links here as they are private communities, but they involve basic human needs like Shelter in affordable housing; identity and dignity in addressing the ongoing physical and psychological trauma of market driven forced Adoptions practices; and the rights of children in the era of "rent a 3rd world womb" surrogacy.  I use off the shelf space like groupspaces.com - easy to modify, easy to maintain by anyone with minimal technical knowledge, and have all the basics a group needs for sharing communication in both imagery and texts. It could be something better, faster, slicker, free, open source, but thats not the important aspect of this tool.

A tool is context specific. I am writing my memoir which explores the gulf created when a child and mother are forcibly separated at birth. I was removed from my 20-year-old unmarried mother at birth, and then lost my only child to forced adoption aged 15. In writing it I use the same Nuance Dragon voice recognition software that Simon uses in his Crosstalk project. It works for me as I need to speak from my belly - engaging my emotions freely in this highly personal project. If i'm typing with my critical editorial fingers on keyboard the flow is different.I  like the jaw/skull bone pick ups you describe Simon, sounds particularly good for gnashing of teeth...

So tools and technologies don't need to be new, specialised, expensive or complex, and often the more straight fwd the longer lasting and more far reaching their outcomes. Thats why I used the rather daggy list serv format for -empyre-  with plain text messages. It was, and still is, easy to use, easy to contain, easy to search, and has no distractions.  In 2002 I  was hoping -empyre- would a space were it was "safe" to make propositions which left one a little giddy or vulnerable - but I guess the reality is text based interaction becomes performative in a knowledge based economy and status anxiety precludes these sorts of risks. Maybe I'm wrong?


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