FemTechNet at “Circuits of Struggle”: Union for Democratic Communications Conference

7c.    Beyond #Activism: FemTechNet Collaborations in Digital Pedagogy and Feminist Technology
Chair: T.L. Cowan

  • Melissa Meade (Colby-Sawyer College) and Cricket Keating (The Ohio State University): From ‘Do it Yourself’ to ‘Doing With Others’: #feminism Across FemTechNet
  • Joan Donovan (University of California San Diego): What is a Broadcast? Activist Archives and Transmedia Storytelling
  • KJ Surkan (MIT): Hacking the Global Map: Connected Cartography in the Feminist Classroom
  • Sky Croeser (Curtin University): Feminist Critiques of Digital Liberties Activism: Pathways to Transformative Change

Full Conference Schedule.

FemTechNet at CUNY Feminist Pedagogy Conference

FemTechNet’s Distributed Open Collaborative Course (DOCC): Structures of Praxis, a Workshop (Part I), Room 9207 CUNY Grad Centre
This interactive workshop will introduce participants to FemTechNet’s Distributed Open Collaborative Course. Participants will be invited to develop ideas about distributed and connected feminist pedagogies and how to build cross-institution and community-based courses. Ideally participants will join in Part I and Part II (see session D below), but may also attend just one of these sessions.

Workshop Description: 

In early 2012, Anne Balsamo and Alex Juhasz initiated a project to activate networks of scholars and artists to discuss the relationship between feminism, technology and cultural innovation.  The project is called FemTechNet, and currently involves more than 300 participants. FemTechNet’s central activity has been to design and teach its Distributed Open Collaborative Course (DOCC). In 2013 we offered “Dialogues in Feminism and Technology,” and in 2014, “Collaborations in Feminism and Technology.” The DOCC is a multi-nodal structure through which our network of feminist scholars offers a course across many university and college campuses and community-based locales, collaboratively developing course resources, key learning projects (Feminist Mapping, “Storming Wikipedia,” Keyword Videos), peer learning and professional mentorship. Rather than using digital technologies to reduce the teacher-to-student ratio as we have seen in the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) mode (the MOOC model is 1 teacher to many thousand students), the DOCC operates through a built network that seeks not to streamline the teaching/learning process by reducing the resources required to offer a course, but to constellate the process and to increase teaching and learning resources. The significance of the Distributed Open Collaborative Course (DOCC) design is that it builds on two key notions: (a) that expertise is distributed between networks; and (b) that learning in a digital age is fundamentally collaborative and participatory.

This set of presentations provides examples of DOCC theory in practice and is composed of seven FemTechNet feminist scholars and teachers who will focus on their participation and teaching of the DOCC. Each presentation will be anchored by one of the seven keywords of our project: Feminist Technology Network Distributed Open Collaborative Course.

Keyword Contributions:

Feminist: FemTechNet as a Feminist Technological Innovation

Anne Balsamo

In early 2012, Anne Balsamo and Alex Juhasz initiated a project to activate networks of scholars and artists to discuss the relationship between feminism, technology and cultural innovation.  The project is called FemTechNet, and currently involves more than 300 participants.  The original aim of this project was to demonstrate a work of collaborative feminist technological innovation for the purposes of addressing the educational needs of students interested in advanced topics in feminist science-technology studies. We sought to contribute to the digital archive of material on the history of women and technology and on the contribution of feminist STS scholarship to the histories of science and technology and to archived discussions of STS topics.  A third object was to engender a set of digital practices among women and girls, to teach and encourage their participation in writing the technocultural histories of the future by becoming active participants in the creation of global digital archives.  In this presentation, Anne Balsamo will discuss the development of FemTechNet as an example of feminist technocultural innovation.


Lisa Brundage  & Emily Sherwood

An explicit tenet of our technology-enhanced, feminist classroom is giving our students the means to be digital producers, not just consumers, and to give them meaningful voices in defining successful projects and outcomes for the class. Our DOCC in 2013 made extensive use of digital spaces for conversation and to grow a collaborative online final project, a digital companion to Margaret Atwood’s novel The Year of the Flood (http://macaulay.cuny.edu/eportfolios/yotf/). We will focus our discussion on applied technology in student work, looking at the ways that digital projects foster critical engagement with class materials, peer-led learning, multi-directional conversations, and intersectional thinking by decentering both the professor and the singularity of the research paper. We will discuss how digital technologies enable feminist pedagogies by demanding adaptability, experimentation, and attention to student needs, and we will talk about scaffolding, supporting, and building our final project with our students.


alex cruse

As cyber-feminists, we take an interest in how a given network’s topology/architecture shape discourse, and how questions of access complicate digital pedagogy as a whole. What might be useful, inclusive tactics for broadening and diversifying the network? How do we conceptualize it, and its potential for advancing a more radical, non-hetero/patriarchal pedagogy (despite these systems having been designed and maintained from inside dominant paradigms)?

I will cite historical and contemporary instances of feminist network-disruption (on and off-line); surveillance culture, and how to navigate the expansion of FTN/DOCC into a more international project, while remaining sensitive to neoliberal connotations of “globalization.” As facilitator of the DOCC “Dialectics of Feminism and Technology” within the Bay Area Public School/Omni Commons, I occupied an extra-institutional position, at the nexus of physical and digital networks. I will speak to how distributed/horizontal knowledge-production is complemented–and complicated–by ideas stemming from Systems Theory and related disciplines.


Maria-Belén Ordóñez

Feminist thinking that insists on critically decentering notions of the subject as rational and transparent, derives in part, from an anti-essentialist politics that breaks away from stable, predictable and pre-conceived notions of what a body is and/or what a body can do. Similarly, feminist pedagogies that are contingent and committed to decentering dominant models of learning can offer radical re-conceptualizations of democracies and citizens-to-come. The potential affects and contested knowledges that are distributed in feminist collaborative networks are not solely based on transparent goals and applications dictated by profit driven post-secondary institutions. What the Distributed Open Collaborative Course (DOCC) does is develop practices and theories that intentionally go everywhere. Spilling outside of designated departments and disciplines, the DOCC moves in unpredictable and multiple/multiplying directions. These movements include and are not limited to; cross-class collaborations, non-scripted articulations of course content (through video dialogues and blogs) as well as, experiments in communication and technology. Thus, feminist practices in the DOCC are not always about “passing down” knowledge as a way to preserve a “mother-daughter” model of feminism; instead, the intentions are to interrogate such “Oedipal models of generationality” (Halberstam, J. 2011:124) for radically anti-essentialist and de-centered experiments in teaching and learning.


T.L. Cowan

As a curator and producer of feminist and queer DIY cabaret, I have begun to think of FemTechNet as a Techno-Cabaret, that is sustained by an Adjunct methodology, and the DOCC as Cabaret Pedagogy. We are a network that is people-rich and cash-poor, we must be resourceful, we must attend to the relations of power that situate us all, we work to open these up, and we work where we can, when we can, how we can, to build a constellated infrastructure for a Distributed Open Collaborative Course, sustained, in large part, by the care we have for each other’s well-being.  Like much feminist collaborative labour, it is not work that is particularly understood, recognized or rewarded by most of our home institutions, and it is a form, that, in its distribution of expertise and attention, pushes back against the individualist, exemplary modern/colonial subject, of the solitary genius,  cultivating instead tactical cultures of collaboration, shared resources and coalition politics. In this presentation I will discuss the structure and praxis of the DOCC’s experiment in Online Open Office Hours (OOOH).


KJ Surkan

Feminist pedagogy in a digital era has the unique opportunity to take advantage of social media and communication technology tools that make conversations possible across space and time in radical new ways. This enables students in different DOCC nodes to collaborate with and respond to each other either synchronously from within or asynchronously outside the classroom, using blogs, Skype, chat, video, images, and/or shared interactive digital artifacts such as the FemTechNet Situated Knowledges Map. Integrating these tools into the feminist classroom is an innovative way to reimagine the writing process, giving voice to those often marginalized or silenced, and enabling them to be heard beyond the student-teacher paradigm occurring in the exchange of written work in the traditional classroom.  In this way, the feminist DOCC reinvents the classroom, displacing it and potentially destabilizing power dynamics that can limit participation in conventional academic settings.


Karen Keifer-Boyd

The Distributed Open Collaborative Course (DOCC) is a very different model for 21st century learning and teaching in the age of social media connectivity. The DOCC is a model of open access, multimodal publishing, collaborative research and publication, and transdisciplinary and intercultural pedagogy. In this sense “course” is an ongoing digital continuum of open-ended courses. The DOCC approach fosters the kind of challenging dialogue to imagine, and then create, a more equitable and socially just educational model in the digital world. This presentation focuses on integration of the Video Dialogues in collaborate, generative work. Notes: “course” Pinar & Grumet’s currere (circularity of running toward self).

Full conference schedule.

Crip Theory Today: Toward A Radical Life Praxis

I’ll be moderating this panel on Feb 23 at The New School as part of the Gender Studies Feminist Technologies event series.

Artist Services at BAX

I’ll be speaking on the Helix Queer Performance Network panel at Brooklyn Arts Exchange, Artist Services Day, Feb. 15.

Research & Practice on Feminist/Feminized Digital Labor

This is the brilliant Long Table we hosted for the #DL14 Conference.

Research & Practice on Feminist / Feminized Digital Labor
Bringing together scholars from locations across The New School, this session will address feminist and feminized digital labor from the perspective of both research and practice. The notion of “digital labor” we explore is deliberately broad, and includes refusing the digital as well as accommodating it.

Participants will discuss a range of topics including: ethics and reciprocity in ethnographies of digital work; the race and gender politics of online courses; feminist pedagogical publics; value and labor in the digital archive; documentation as digital labor; migrants resisting digital technology; the affective labor of legitimizing subcultural work; the sacrificial labor of being studied; digital labor as reproductive labor; digital technology as state surveillance; digital labor in urban space; digital labor within the fashion industry from technical designers to fashion photographers; and more. Throughout, we use “feminist” and “feminized” to signal diverse communities of feminist, transgender, queer, subcultural, ethnicized, racialized, under-resourced, minoritized, disenfranchised, unauthorized and otherwise subordinated subjects. Our questions engage directly with a range of cognate subaltern theories, methodologies, practices, and pedagogies.

Our proposed format is one of experimental dialogue, drawn loosely from the Long Table format created by performance artist Lois Weaver. Blending collaboration, presentation, workshop, and performance, and conceived of as a reappropriation of the dinner table, the arrangement creates a forum around the “etiquette” of openness, dialogue, and permeability. Our Long Table plays off the notion of feminized, un- or under-waged reproductive labor invoked by a meal. It addresses the collaborative—if uneven, shifting, or exploitative—labor involved in producing inquiry and knowledge. Because seats “at the table” can rotate, it is ideal for structuring a large group such as ours, as well as for switching roles of presenter/performer and audience. Participants will frame questions, offer comments, and possibly entertain silence.


We Are FemTechNet

I forgot to post all of these FemTechNet updates earlier this Fall as they emerged. Exciting news! We’ve got a FemTechNet Manifesto, which you can find here or at the new FemTechNet website.

FemTechNet Collaborations in Feminism & Technology

As part of my work with FemTechNet, I’m directing this Open Learning course called “Collaborations in Feminism and Technology,” which features over 19 faculty teaching the course and over 50 faculty involved in the production of the collaborative resources. The schedule can be viewed at the new (and in progress) FemTechNet website.

FemTechNet – Distributed Digital Pedagogies: Collaborating Across Difference

Here’s my presentation to the Digital Pedagogies Institute at the University of Toronto Scarborough August 14, 2014. Cowan_FTN_DigPed 2014_UTSC


In this paper, I discuss the transformational pedagogical praxes of FemTechNet’s (Feminist Technology Network), DOCC — the Distributed Open Collaborative Course. The DOCC is a multi-nodal structure through which a network of feminist scholars offer a course, “Dialogues in Feminism and Technology,” across many university and college campuses and community-based locales, collaboratively developing course resources, key learning projects (Feminist Mapping, “Storming Wikipedia,” Boundary Objects that Learn), peer learning and professional mentorship through a cyberfeminist methodology. Rather than using digital technologies to reduce the teacher-to-student ratio as we have seen in the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) mode (the MOOC model is 1 teacher to many thousand students), the DOCC operates through a built network that seeks not to streamline the teaching/learning process by reducing the resources required to offer a course, but to constellate the process and to increase teaching and learning resources. By working across difference (across public and private institutions, across undergraduate and graduate courses, across national/state/economic borders, across professional status and knowledge bases), we are resisting the individualist approach to professional development and learning success, and are designing a digital course structure informed by both feminist educational innovations of the past and contemporary online pedagogical publics (Tumblr, Twitter, The Feminist Wire, Black Girl Dangerous, etc.). Here, I situate the DOCC through cyberfeminist theory and practice and suggest that the DOCC model offers an expansively situated digitality for the undergraduate experience.


Transfeminist Kill/Joys on the Land

Here’s my blog essay about transfeminist killjoy politics and aesthetics: a dialectical affective politics (August 6, 2014).

Transfeminist Kill/Joys on The Land


by T.L. Cowan (@AgingSupermodel)

I was sent into a spiral of WTF by Michelle Goldberg’s ill-formed and ill-informed “What is a Woman? The dispute between radical feminism and transgenderism,” posted online last week at The New Yorker. I’ve been following the responses to the story all week, and now I’d like to add to that discussion, with an examination of just two of the many recent transfeminist responses to trans-excluding radical feminists (TERFs) that somehow escaped Goldberg’s careful research process, which doubtless involves extensive use of Feminist In-Fighting Radar (#FIFR). Here I think about Red Durkin’s petition “Indigo Girls and Other MichFest 2013 Performers: Boycott MWMF until the organizers fully include trans women” and Imogen Binnie’s post “We See Through You #18,” on her Keep Your Bridges Burning blog, which do the complex affective and political work of what I’m calling the transfeminist kill/joy, riffing on Sara Ahmed’s feminist killjoy. [Go here for full post…]

Interview with Sam Feder

I chat with Kate Bornstein is a Queer & Pleasant Danger director, Sam Feder (June 17, 2014):

T.L. Cowan in Conversation with Sam Feder

On April 30, 2014 The Feminist Collective at The New School invited Sam Feder to present their new film, Kate Bornstein is a Queer and Pleasant Danger, and invited me to be in conversation with Sam about this new film. We had a very generative improvised conversation, but forgot to record it. What follows is a dramatic reenactment of that conversation. [Go here for more…]