This webtext has articulated a technofeminist approach for investigating the rhetorics of digital platforms. We have framed platforms as rhetorical assemblages that structure, enable, and facilitate myriad aspects of our personal and political lives. We have identified five guiding tenets for methodological consideration in technofeminist platform work, including social inequalities, labor, material infrastructures, networks of support and activism, and lived experience. Through each of these tenets, we’ve surveyed how and why each are integral to researching the complicated interventions platforms bring to bear on our daily lives. Again, although these approaches are not exhaustive, we’re hopeful our discussion of them provide researchers avenues for examining rhetorical aspects of platforms critically, guided by technofeminist methodologies that remind us to consider how networks of oppression operate in and among technologies.
We emphasize the importance of research throughout this webtext; it is, however, our hope that a technofeminist approach to platforms can be put to work in many domains, scholarly and otherwise—in our work in classrooms, in community, civic, and public spaces, and in future research. And although we have many ideas as to how that might happen, we offer just a few prompting questions that might facilitate such work:
- How might this approach and these tenets affect how we use platforms with students—our assignment designs, course requirements, points of contact, or critical discussions? How might we complicate students’ (and our own) thinking about these platforms and the influence they have on our identities, opportunities for rhetorical expression, and ways of knowing and seeing the world?
- How might this approach and tenets influence our personal uses of platforms? What changes can we make to our habits, levels of participation, and spending patterns to challenge the hegemonic practices of platforms?
- How do platforms affect our local communities in their infrastructure? And what influence do these infrastructures have on our lands, resources, and community practices?
- How do platforms profit from sexual, racial, and other forms of violence? And how might we redress these concerns with local and digital communities?
- Which networks of support or activist efforts can we join or amplify to help neutralize social inequalities that exist both online and off?
- How might research designs into the rhetorical work of platforms consider its end goal as not only revealing how platforms create conditions that greatly affect our lives but also as intervening in those conditions?
- How can rhetoric and writing scholars bring awareness about inequitable platforms conditions to broader counter/publics in service of enacting change, material, cultural, or otherwise?
This list—and our broader objective with this webtext—is meant to inspire even further questions and subsequent action, as part of our motivation for taking up this work was born out of a need for a methodological touchstone for doing the work we want to do, a way to fuse critical praxis with platform rhetorics research. It’s not enough to simply engage in the work of critique: We need to bring our critiques into spheres—messy, contingent, and ever-evolving—where real change can occur for and with communities who need it. We hope new questions and approaches emerge in the rich tradition of technofeminism, ones that work to challenge the rhetorical work of platforms that so often underpin structural systems of inequality for more just and equitable digital futures.