Engaging the Future Through Technofeminism
It does not seem possible that social media and digital technologies could become even more ubiquitous in everyday life. And, yet, somehow they continue to be more and more so. Similarly, it does not seem possible that social justice issues facing people, particularly those living in marginalized communities, could increase. And, yet, somehow they continue to do so. We believe that technofeminism offers a uniquely useful framework for considering these concerns in relation to one another. As technology usage continues to permeate more and more of our everyday lives, there is a risk of a problematic normalization of these technologies as ever-present and therefore not in need of interrogation. However, early technofeminist scholars reminded us to “pay attention” to technologies and to critically examine their usages and effects. As we have sought to highlight in our case studies, the mere presence of technologies does not account for or eliminate difference in terms of access, embodiment, intersectional identities, or lived experience.
Ultimately, we argue that, just as technofeminist analysis arose alongside burgeoning digital technologies decades ago, it is currently, and will remain far into the future, important for making apparent the possibilities and constraints of social media and digital technologies for social justice intervention. As technologies continue to evolve, so must our methodologies and methods.
In this web text, we have presented the potential for technofeminist approaches to influence the ways that we think about various technologies now and in the future, particularly in relation to social justice concerns. By revisiting early technofeminist scholarship and applying these values to contemporary case studies, we have attempted to show the need for continuing attention to issues of access, embodiment, and intersectionality. However, we realize that there are many areas of scholarship where technofeminist approaches may prove beneficial. Here we pose a few of the many questions that might be asked in future technofeminist analyses:
We believe that technofeminist approaches can further our understanding of the role of access in relation to a variety of contemporary and emerging issues related to big data, surveillance, privacy, and the increasing role of social media in advocacy and activism efforts. As such, some potential questions for further study might ask:
• Given the burgeoning industry of big data collection, how might we contemplate access in terms of who has access to our data and personal information (and to what ends)? How does the increasing use of surveillance through digital technologies intersect with issues of privacy? Who has access to the tools and knowledge to make informed choices about when and if to opt out? How might technofeminists intervene to protect data and/or to expose the conditions of unequal access to methods of intervention?
• How might we address access in relation to social media advocacy and activism to expand our understanding of what is gained or lost when movements take place increasingly online? How does access (or lack thereof) to these efforts via certain platforms enable or constrain whose stories are told and/or privileged? How does the practice of opting out of social media constrain people’s ability to participate in activist efforts or access information?
We believe that as digital technologies continue to become integral to our daily lives it is critical to continue to pay attention to these tools and their influences. As such, some potential future areas of study might include:
• How is the increasing usage of one-to-one technologies in K–12 education impacting students and teachers? What are the risks and benefits of the increased reliance on these technologies?
• How is the emergent use of virtual reality peripherals in medical care impacting how patients and doctors interact? How do these uses continue to complicate our understandings of embodiment and materiality?
• How is the increasing interconnectivity of the Internet of Things (IoT) influencing issues of privacy, technological reliance, etc.? What are the benefits and risks in relation to these developments? (Are we vulnerable to viruses, surveillance, etc., when we utilize technologies?)
We believe that the use of technofeminist approaches could enrich many areas both within and beyond rhetoric and writing studies. As such, we offer the following questions that might be addressed in future projects:
Writing Program Administration
• How might a technofeminist methodology aid in considerations of instructional design for training new teachers of writing?
• How might a technofeminist orientation encourage new teachers to recognize the influences of technology on students in computer-mediated classrooms?
• How does foregrounding student technological literacies change pedagogical approaches and experiences in the writing classroom?
• What might a technofeminist approach to risk communication afford?
• How might a technofeminist orientation to document design reshape the ways we think about design fundamentals, audience, and more?
• How might a technofeminist orientation influence our approaches to usability and access when creating technical documents?
• How might a technofeminist orientation to studying social media usage and digital information sharing make users more aware of their digital footprint?
• How might technofeminsim help reveal the myth of digital anonymity and its impact on the ways we communicate and digitally identify ourselves?
• How might technofeminist approaches allow for a more translingual perspective of digital communication?
This is a necessarily partial list that serves only to highlight a few possibilities for how we might continue to engage with and extend technofeminist approaches in our scholarship and pedagogy. We recognize there are many additional ways that students, scholars, and community activists can engage in technofeminist interventions and analyses, and we hope that our work here and the rest of the articles in this special issue might spark many, many more responsive, reflexive ideas and projects.
In recognition of the technofeminist value of collaboration, it is important to acknowledge that this article was collaboratively written. As such, we would like to thank each other for our contributions to this effort, as we all recognize that this is not an article that we could have written individually. Each of us had something critically important to add—a unique perspective based on our individual embodied and intersectional experiences and interests related to technofeminism—that, without which, this article would not exist.
We would also like to thank our collective feminist mentors for their contributions to the overall development of our thinking and writing as a whole. In particular, we would like to thank Dr. Angela Haas, Dr. Julie Jung, and Dr. Elise Verzosa Hurley, who have each served as mentors (and dissertation committee members) to us all. We would also like to thank Dr. Joyce Walker and Dr. Jim Kalmbach, whom we each have been fortunate to have interacted with, and been mentored by, in some way. We recognize the power of mentorship and would like to honor it here.
Additionally, Francis would like to thank his partner not only for switching digital bodies with him but also for being a constant source of support and love in his life. Te amo y siempre te amaré.
Finally, we would like to acknowledge that—at the time of this publication—Flint, Michigan, residents still do not have safe and clean water.
To continue traveling through our web text, learn about the importance of early technofeminist scholarship to our work in the Past section. Or proceed to our Present case study on technofeminist interventions in Flint or our Present case study on embodiment in virtual spaces.