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.