FemTechNet Launches Online Course on Feminism and Technology

FemTechNet, a network of scholars, artists and students who combine technology, science and feminism in a variety of fields, has launched an online course that highlights the significant contributions of feminists to technology, according to Hajer Naili of Womensenews.org.

The Dialogues in Feminism and Technology is the multi-university online course that emphasizes feminist contributions to technological innovation.  The FemTechNet’s curriculum has been called a Distributed Open Collaborative Course (DOCC), which is a collaborative approach that contrasts with the traditional massively open online course (MOOC). The course’s commitment to a DOCC format means that it will not have a set curriculum and will instead draw on participants’ overall expertise.

The DOCC course will start from September 16 through December in 15 universities across the United States and Canada. In the coming year, FemTechNet aims to expand the program to across the globe.

Two goals are preserving the history of feminist contributions to technological innovation and advancing feminist principles of social justice in future educational models and pedagogies, FemTechNet said in a press statement. A 19th century English mathematician and writer, has some claim to the title of the world’s first computer programmer. American computer scientist Grace Murray Hopper developed the first compiler for a computer programming language in 1950s. Radia Perlman, an American computer scientist, is considered to be the “mother of the Internet” after she invented the spanning of tree protocol which is fundamental to modern Ethernet.

Anne Balsamo, dean of the School of Media Studies at the New School in New York, along with Alexandra Juhasz, professor of media studies at Pitzer College in Los Angeles, will facilitate the DOCC. Balsamo expects that with the help of FemTechNet schools in the United Kingdom will develop their own DOCC in 2014.

Balsamo defines the DOCC as a “feminist rethinking” of the MOOC model of online curricula. But Balsamo and others take issue with the characteristics of the MOOC as a centralized pedagogy led by a single expert faculty and the economic interests of a particular institution. By contrast, the approach is collaborative in the DOCC model.

“The expertise is distributed throughout the network and it is not just located in the teacher but it is actually shared between teachers, the public and instructors and among the students,” Balsamo said. “Who you learn with is as important as what you learn.”

According to Balsamo, the DOCC was made possible through calls distributed funding. “All the support for the project and activities come from individual instructors or individual participants. There is no central funding,” she said.

FemTechNet plans to create a set of digital practices among women and girls “by encouraging them to become more active participants in the creation of a global archive.”

FemTechNet will provide course material to each participating institution that will tailor its own course. The material provided by FemTechNet consists of 12 recorded video dialogues featuring scholars and artists who think and understand technology through a feminist lens.

Each week, a video will be made available online and will cover a key topic to be discussed with the instructors and students. More than 30 instructors have been selected for their preeminence in topics such as the machine, ethics, labor, race and sexualities, FemTechNet said in a press statement.