Drone Feminism [...]

> Silicon Valley tech feminism, in relation to the larger anti-violence movement, is connected with these same major military and weapons manufacturers. We are looking at a new frontier of the state, technology industry, military, and police intersecting and using feminism as a conduit to further the prison and military apparatuses. Lean In, which has dominated a framing of feminism in tech and increasingly in the mainstream, enjoys military and carceral ties both as partners and donors. Sandberg, author of the popular book and founder of the Lean In organization, was even tapped by the Marines as a consultant and advisor on gender issues.

This reflects an apolitical stance which uses feminism as the logic to justify expansion of empire. The accelerating of the carceral state as tied to the feminist movement continues to take an approach to gender-based violence issues that is about more policing and stricter laws, revolving around more prisons, harsher sentences, and more invasions. Yet somehow, there is no advocacy around getting emerging technologies in the direct hands of women; only advocacy for multi-nationals and the government to militarize and weaponize technologies that can be employed by white-male dominated complexes to further colonialism and imperialism under the guise of “saving” women.

Instead, why don’t we think about what women on the ground — both domestically and internationally — could do with these technologies? As much as the word “drone” invokes a particular context and, often, political/moral crisis, the technology, intrinsically, is not the problem. Instead, we must examine the larger system and structure deploying the technology, and specifically the application of feminism and tech as an excuse for imperialism.


Epistemological Pluralism [...]

Seymour Papert and Sherry Turkle, "Epistemological Pluralism and the Revaluation of the Concrete" (first published in SIGNS in 1990):

Since the prevailing image of the computer is that of a logical machine, and since programming is seen as a technical and mathematical activity, the existence of anything but an analytic approach in this area makes a dramatic argument for pluralism. But the computer's most specific contribution to the critique of canonical styles depends on something more fundamental. The computer stands betwixt and between the world of formal systems and physical things; it has the ability to make the abstract concrete. In the simplest case, an object moving on a computer screen might be defined by the most formal of rules and so be like a construct in pure mathematics; but at the same time it is visible, almost tangible, and allows a sense of direct manipulation that only the encultured mathematician can feel in traditional formal systems (see Davis & Hersh, 1981; Papert, 1980a). The computer has a theoretical vocation: to bring the philosophical down to earth.4

While many can empathize when Carol Gilligan describes people making "contextual" moral decisions (you can cast yourself and acquaintances in the different roles) there is more of a problem when people try to get close to what it feels like to do science in a style that rejects standard notions of "objectivity."5 Evelyn Fox Keller, describing such a style in the work of geneticist Barbara McClintock, notes that this is the "less accessible aspect" of a scientist's relationship to nature (Keller, 1985). We believe she is right. A personal appropriation of epistemological pluralism in science requires, at the limit, that we get close to the experiences of an Einstein or a McClintock or a Salk. But you can imagine yourself in the place of a programmer more easily than in the place of an Einstein. And when you yourself program (an activity within the reach of everyone), you can experience the degree to which your style of solving logical problems is very much your own.

In this chapter, we use the computer as an instrument for observing different styles of scientific thought and developing categories for analyzing them.6 We find that, besides being a lens through which personal styles can be seen, it is also a privileged medium for the growth of alternative voices in dealing with the world of formal systems. After presenting cases in which the computer serves as an expressive medium for personal styles, we turn to this more speculative theme: As a carrier for pluralistic ideas, the computer holds the promise of catalyzing change, not only within computation but in our culture at large.


On a personal note, this is the first article I ever read by either Turkle or Papert. I came across this in a (undergrad? grad-level? I don't recall) Women's Studies class, a few years after it was published. It wasn't until years later, when my interests turned more directly to learning and technology that I rediscovered Papert's work. I'm pleased, I must say, that my exposure to it came first, not through ed-tech, but through feminism.