Digital Humanities Summer Institute / Main Course Page

Feminist Digital Humanities: Theoretical, Social, and Material Engagements around Making and Breaking Computational Media

Elizabeth Losh, University of California, San Diego
Jacque Wernimont, Scripps College

Although there is a deep history of feminist engagement with technology, projects like FemTechNet argue that such history is often hidden and feminist thinkers are frequently siloed. In order to address this, the seminar will offer a set of background readings to help make visible the history of feminist engagement with technology, as well as facilitate small-scale exploratory collaboration during the seminar.

Our reading selections bring a variety of feminist technology critiques in Media Studies, Human-Computer Interaction, Science and Technology Studies, and related fields into conversation with work in Digital Humanities. Each session is organized by a keyword - a term that is central to feminist theoretical and practical engagements with technology - and will begin with a discussion of that term in light of our readings. The remainder of each session will be spent learning about and tinkering with Processing, a programming tool that will allow participants to engage in their own critical making processes.

Pushing against instrumentalist assumptions regarding the value and efficacy of certain digital tools, we will be asking participants to think hard about the affordances and constraints of digital technologies. While we will be engaging with a wide range of tools/systems in our readings and discussions, we anticipate that the more hands-on engagement with Processing will help participants think about operations of interface, input, output, and mediation. In addition to the expanded theoretical framework, participants can expect to come away with a new set of pedagogical models using Processing that they can adapt and use for teaching at their own institutions.

Outline of work

Feminist Critiques of Code Culture (Wendy Chun on the mythology of source code, Annette Vee on teaching others to write “good code,” Tara McPherson on object-oriented programming ideology, Federica Frabetti on critical code studies)

Critical Code Studies – Basic Language Rules in Processing

Reference Texts:
Getting Started with Processing
Processing: A Programming Handbook for Visual Designers and Artists

DAY TWO: Archive
Feminist DH Projects (Julia Flanders & Jacqueline Wernimont on feminism in the age of digital archives, Amy Earhart on obsolescence in feminist DH projects, Bethany Nowviskie on “what girls dig”) – from Markup to Coding

Processing and Information Visualization, Processing and Databases

Reference Text: Visualizing Data: Exploring and Explaining Data with the Processing Environment

DAY THREE: Discipline / Access
My Mother Was a Computer (Anne Balsamo’s history of her mother’s labor, N. Katherine Hayles on lineages and posthumanism, Hayles on telegraphy and technogenesis, Lisa Nakamura on labor of women of color in tech manufacturing)
Thinking about DH beyond the screen

Processing and Servos/Robotics/Wearable Computing

Reference Texts:
Arduino Cookbook
Making Things Talk

DAY FOUR: Program
Feminism and Theories of the Media Apparatus (Lisa Parks on drone vision, Lucy Suchman on what the machine knows, Lisa Cartwright on manual labor and gesture, Genevieve Bell and Paul Dourish on ubiquitous computing)

Processing and the Kinect

Reference Text: Making Things See: 3D vision with Kinect, Processing, Arduino, and MakerBot

Feminist Game Studies (Mary Flanagan on digital playing house and dressup, Ludica on classification and the hegemony of play)  

Games and Simulations
Artificial Intelligence vs. Artificial Life
Processing wrap-up

Reference Text: The Nature of Code: Simulating Natural Systems with Processing