Everything I learned about New York I learned from Law & Order

July 21st, 2008

This is a fast and dirty post Vbar & Café, in Greenwich Village, a very cool little wine, beer and coffee bar I just stumbled upon, seeking respite from the melting heat and free wireless. It’s my last day in NYC and, as my flight doesn’t leave till 11pm, I’ve been wandering around, absorbing the city – something I haven’t had a chance to do while I was attending Last H.O.P.E. I did become rather familiar with the one and a half miles between my hotel and the Penn Hotel, where the conference has been held every other year since 1994. But this part of Midtown – while indubitably cool because NYC – is really not unlike other urban centres. There’s just better architecture and more people – way more people.

So this morning, I started from Grand Central Station and took the subway to the East Village and have been roaming around ever since. I do have a guide book, so that’s tipping me off to cool sites, like where CBGB used to be, Leon Trotsky’s old printing press and other nifty stuff. I must admit, I was a bit freaked out when I wandered by the Hell’s Angels Clubhouse, tucked into a row of apartment buildings on E. 3rd St., a quiet, tree-lined street. My first inclination was to take a picture – I’ve been snapping photos like a maniac – but checked myself immediately. Too scared.

I walked west to Greenwich Village to see what all the fuss was about and I haven’t been able to figure it out… maybe I haven’t hit the right streets. Washington Square is pretty neat – loads of people lining the benches, sleeping on the balding grass and just hanging out. There are a lot of parks in this town, which I like. I stopped by NYU’s Department of Media, Culture and Communication, just for kicks. It’s freaky: you have to give ID before entering any of their buildings. Because of this, calls were made, directions given, and I ended up talking to the graduate adviser, basically by accident.

I’m now off to find Bob Dylan’s old house and take a picture, like a total tourist. I hope to document the rest of my New York stay, but it will be in reverse chronological order, seeing as I haven’t had one minute to post about what I’ve been up to. I will say, my first impression of this town is immensely positive, and contradicts most stereotypes I’ve picked up through cultural osmosis. What I have learned about NYC:

1. It’s actually safe (at least where I’ve been).

2. It’s pretty clean (shopkeepers everywhere cleaning windows and washing streets – I’ve really never seen such a thing).

3. It’s really fucking crowded in Midtown.

4. There are loads of fat people here.

5. New Yorkers are nice (to my total surprise…no offense).

My biggest surprise: I’m still alive, despite what Law & Order has to say.

The triumph of the bourgeoisie

June 12th, 2008

I’m now re-reading (for the umpteenth time) The Communist Manifesto. I love this book! It’s so poetic, so forceful, so snarky! I like this passage about the accomplishments of the bourgeois revolution in post-feudal Europe:

“The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations.”

Hmmm… sounds good so far.

“It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley fuedal ties that bound man to his ‘natural superiors…”

Yep. All good.

“…and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous ‘cash payment.’ It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation.”

Ouchy. (y’know, just a little.)

“It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless, indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom -
Free Trade.”

Shifting uncomfortably.

“In one word, for exploitation veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploration.”

Slam dunk.

And returning to familiar territory, the following could be a contemporary critique (think globalization):

“Constant revolutionizing of production, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones.”

Sounds like post-Fordist jive to me… flexible production ‘n all that.

And here Marx sums up the essence of globalization:

“The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connection everywhere.

(This also gets to heart of Manuel Castells essential concept in The Network Society.)

Marx further lays out some consequences of of globalization:

1. Colonial exploitation (something Western scholars only began to figure out a few decades ago):

“..[industries] no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe.”

2. Consumerism:

In place of the old wants, satisfied by the productions of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes.”

3. Information sharing:

“In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal interdependence of nations. And as in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature.”

Here Marx intuits what the hackers would later sum up in the rallying cry for copyleft: “Information wants to be free”… if only it weren’t for that handy handmaiden of capitalism, copyright! Marx did not foresee the privatization of information, and its conversion into a commodity exchangeable on the market like any other good. But that’s another post…

Sound familiar?

June 10th, 2008

I finished rereading selections of “The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte” by Marx today. This text features an application of Marx’s materialist conception of history  to actual historical events – those preparing the ground for the coup d’etat of Napoleon III in France.

This tract contains two of Marx’s most famous quotes:

“Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.”

This showing the role of the individual in history and refuting determinist accusations.

And: “Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.”

Haha Marx. And no doubt.

But this quote also leaped out at me:

“Society is saved just as often as the circle of its rulers contracts, as a more exclusive interest is maintained against a wider one. Every demand of the simplest bourgeois financial reform, of the most ordinary liberalism, of the most formal republicanism, of the most shallow democracy, is simultaneously castigated as an ‘attempt on society’ and stigmatized as ’socialism.’”

How often have we heard a similar refrain in contemporary politics or in what passes for political commentary in the mainstream press? Though the above quote was written in 1852 about the ongoing French revolution, it applies to the increasingly conservative political landscape in contemporary Canada. As we are increasingly encouraged to bow to one master only – the god of consumerism – we slowly find our options reducing and our potential moves narrowing. Any inclinations that transgress the edicts of capitalism are sharply rebuked and restrained. As in revolutionary France of the mid-nineteenth century, ideas not bounded by profit and authenticated by minority elite control are called impractical, if not dangerous. Even socialist.

Marx’s prophecy?

June 6th, 2008

I had to laugh when I read this… Marx is too funny! He’s talking about proletarian revolutions but I think it’s an accurate depiction of the Left, post-60s.

“[They] criticize themselves constantly, interrupt themselves continually in their own course, come back to the apparently accomplished in order to begin it afresh, deride with unmerciful thoroughness the inadequacies, weaknesses and paltrinesses of their first attempts, seem to throw down their adversary only in order that he may draw new strength from the earth and rise again, more gigantic, before them, recoil even and anon from the indefinite prodigiousness of their own aims…”

More people oughta read Marx; it’s profoundly amazing how prescient he was and how relevant he remains.

Depressing notes from the edge of academia

June 5th, 2008

Today is the second day of the annual conference of the Canadian Communication Association, held this year, conveniently, at UBC. In a lunch time graduate session (I went, as usual, for the free lunch), we heard from some profs who talked about their windy paths to tenure-track positions. After hearing their widely divergent stories, the floor opened up and it became like a group therapy session. Grads asked pointed questions and discussed the varied and complex issues of grad life, finishing up, staying sane and eventually thinking about the job search.

One question concerned maintaining some sort of balance in the face of multiple demands on grads’ time and sanity, including:

1. The need to earn a living (for those of us who are unfunded);

2. The need to gain teaching experience;

3. The need to build a publishing record, which is linked to;

4. The need to attend conferences, network with colleagues and professors;

5. The need to complete your own work (courses, comps, research, dissertation); and

6. The need to maintain other relationships (personal, familial etc.).

Of course, doing all of these at the same time, and doing them well, without having  nervous breakdown, is effectively impossible. But what emerged from the panel was somewhat disheartening: publish as much as you can, finish as quickly as you can; don’t worry about teaching – you’ll figure it out along the way.

This is depressing, and disastrous for conceptualizing the university as a site for spawning and nurturing new ideas as well as a site for exciting new minds to the task of thinking critically and engaging passionately in the world. Despite faint protestation, this appears as a devaluation of teaching (a civic task?) and an inflation of (solitary, individualistic) research.

As an activist scholar, I see the opportunity for resistance and struggle outside the university, in my research interests, but also where I stand, within the academy. Engaging the university at the administrative level is of course important, particularly in light of its rapid coporatization, and its hearty embrace of the logic and language of capitalism.

But the classroom presents more immediate possibilities for challenging the status quo and effecting positive change. I think it’s critically important for anyone who believes in the transformative potential of education to consider carefully and deeply their role as teacher, as distinct from “transmitter of knowledge” or other such trite, elitist, egotistic assumptions. I took heart in the fact that several students responded passionately and irritably to this devaluation of teaching, noting that they felt teaching is extremely important, and remarking bitterly that perhaps this was why all their undergrad profs sucked.

Other topics discussed at this session included how to deal with the stress of school (forming support groups; doing yoga; blogging; drinking), should you do a post-doc (yes – better than working at Starbucks), and what a hiring committee considers a decent publication record (2 “significant” articles, some book reviews). It’s always reassuring to hear from your peers as you navigate what is essentially the same process with essentially the same problems and challenges. It’s good to know you’re not alone. And it’s good to share strategies and solutions, to help each other, to develop, however fledging, a sense of community among those who will, in all likelihood, be the next generation of communication scholars in Canada.

Mind the gap: Bridging the scholar/activist divide

May 24th, 2008

I’m here in Montreal attending the annual conference for the International Communication Association. This is a massive conference, with may “big names” in the field of communication. So far I’ve met up with a number of cool folks, including Greg Elmer, David Skinner, and Rohan Samarajiva, an old SFU alum. I’ve made some useful connections, one about a book chapter on radical pedagogy, another about a post-doc position. I managed to do some field work, which brought me to Koumbit for an afternoon. It was fun to reconnect with Antoine, and meet the folks who host this blog, and give me some much needed tech support (esp. Robin!). I also got to hang out with Anne and hear about her recent work and progress in her dissertation.

I also participated in a pre-conference workshop entitled “Bridging the Scholar/Activist Divide”, hosted by the Social Science Research Council. This is a very cool organization, activist in orientation, doing work that is quite in line with my broader research interests. It was great meeting some people from SSRC, and hanging out with people who see very clearly the need for change in society, within the academy and indeed, with our own practices as researchers and teachers. Bill Herman posted his report on the discussion here.

Recurring themes or action items included: teaching students how to learn; creating partnerships for community-based or community-oriented research; and generally getting outside the academy. To this I added my four-prong approach to bridging the scholar-academic divide, which coalesces in the public intellectual: 1. Public dissemination of research/ideas (or the case for Open Access); 2. Civic engagement in the community; 3. Subversive teaching in the classroom; 4. Committing to norms-based research. For my presentation on this, check here.

Teaching for learning (duh!)

May 16th, 2008

The last two days I attended a conference at SFU called Teaching for learning: New approaches for a new generation. The title alone is scary enough, no? I mean, isn’t that what one would assume teaching was for? Lawdamighty. I learned a lot – mostly concerning the nightmarish state of teaching in the academy.

The opening keynote was Max Valiquette, Youth Culture Expert, for pete’s sake. Here’s a guy who is “Canada’s foremost expert on youth culture and marketing”; I see him on MuchMusic all the time. WFT? At an education conference? Ferchrissakes. Although he did make some interesting points about “Gen Y” (another marketing ploy?), all Valiquette had to offer was a sales pitch, and a pretty weak one at that. He only ever discussed youth (students) as consumers, their entire existence enframed by consuming things, and communicating (exactly what was unclear) via an unparalleled selection of new communication technologies. He talked about Gen Y, as having choice and control like no other generation in history. But choice in cell phone ringtones, reality shows or social networking websites does not equate to freedom. What if I choose not to be slave wage earner; to not be in a warring society; to not be subject to surveillance and control by my state, my boss, my educational institution? I am afraid Valiquette had nothing to say on what an important or meaningful choice might be.

The next session I attended was called “The Millennial Student: Connecting to Generation Y – Not!”, by Maureen Wideman. Trophycase and I have been known to make mockery of Gen Y (and my kid, overhearing one conversation, asked about “Genertaion A”. Ezackly, I told him.) so I thought I’d check it out, you know, for kicks. It was unclear how much of an expert Wideman is on the topic, as she admitted she’d culled all her “research” on the topic from the Internet. I guess the key thing I got from her presentation, which was interesting, all sniping aside, was that profs today are out of touch. It’s not that the students have changed so much, but that profs haven’t changed at all (or nearly enough). How often I have felt this, even as a grad student! And not just because they eschew technology in the classroom. They frequently have little idea what’s going on outside the classroom, outside their specialized knowledge niche. Another interesting point that Wideman made was that it’s not the profs’ show anymore. This was probably her most important – and radical – statement, that profs must give up control in the classroom, and engage with students in a more horizontal, rather than hierarchical, fashion.

Next I attended a session by Sydney Eve Matrix. I only went because her name was so intriguing and I didn’t actually believe it was real. I thought she must be a sci-fi writer or even the offline embodiment of a virtual avatar. She isn’t. Her presentation, “Experiments in High-tech Edutainment: Engaging students in a media-rich Popular Culture Course”, was interesting enough – basically a description of the massive infusion of technology into a film course she teaches at Queens University. It was quite impressive and a tad insane – she spent 60 hours per class preparing. But her classes sounded absolutely kick ass – fun and interesting. Naturally I had difficulty with her characterization of this type of teaching as “edutainment” (seriously, no irony involved) and with her characterization of her teaching techniques as “gimmickery” (and again, finding nothing problematic with this). The presentation was entirely uncritical but I nonetheless appreciate the “by any means necessary” approach to the classroom. At least she cares, and is trying to engage the students in the course material, trying to get them to attend class – in a pro-active and positive rather than punitive (marks deducted etc.) way. But I really got the idea that she had the idea of tricking students into learning. And I don’t think this can or even should be done.

The idea that students are consumers – and should be treated as such by the profs – was a dominant undercurrent – from presenters and attendees alike. I shouldn’t be surprised; after all, the conference was put on – not merely sponsored – by McGraw-Hill Ryerson. Talk about convergence. But hey, the university is already run like a corporation, with the bottom line as the prime mover (not education, just so’s we’re clear). So why not vertically integrate – nay fuse? Sounds like a good business plan.

There was one presenter who spoke progressively, thoughtfully and (would you believe?) philosophically about teaching and learning. It was the same (and only) person who talked about citizenship in relation to education, and who only uttered the word “consumer” in the context of producers and consumers of knowledge.

Mark Battersby suggested that teaching objectives should be oriented toward developing “the competent layperson” rather than emergent experts in our own particular fields. The bottom line here: Teach students how to learn, not what you think they need to learn. Why? So they can go out in the world and be engaged citizens, critical thinkers and autonomous individuals who can call upon “generic intellectual abilities and a broad understanding of the world” to enable them to get what they need, and live a full, rich life

Genius. Of course, other progressive thinkers and philosophers have promoted this sort of approach. Neil Postman, in Teaching as a subversive activity, calls this learning for survival. It is grounded in the notion that teaching should be relevant (and therefore of interest, engaging) to the student. This is not dissimilar to Freire’s concept of a pedagogy of the oppressed, wherein society’s most downtrodden are educated through conscientização, a critical and political consciousness raising with freedom as its main objective.

So despite its uncritical, mostly descriptive overtones, and its corporately whorish undertones, the conference wasn’t a total bust. There was one person on the right track. It’s something, anyway…

Happy mother’s day Mama Earth

May 12th, 2008

Yesterday was Mother’s Day and I greeted it the same way I do my birthday: initial non-recognition, then vague, somewhat bemused acknowledgment. I don’t consider these calendar markings to be “my day” and I never fuss much about them. I always call my various mothers and give them their due but other than that the day doesn’t hold much significance for me. But the kids like this stuff, so I go along… After our mother’s day brunch at home, we walked over to the neighbours, who had organized a neighbourhood clean up as part of the Keep Vancouver Spectacular initiative. This is a great program – the city provides you with bags, garbage-picker-uppers, gloves and t-shirts; then they come round and pick up the garbage you’ve collected. Anyone from individuals, to groups and schools can get involved.

It was a beautiful sunny afternoon, and as I was walking up and down our street with a City of Vancouver garbage bag and some garbage pinchers, I realized this was the perfect way to celebrate Mother’s Day. Cleaning up Mama Earth, being mindful of the respect, reverence and care she needs, and greeting other neighbours out and about enjoying the day – many of whom I’ve never met before – well, this celebration of nurturing and community made sense to me. And the kids thought it was great fun. For them to see us tending to our neighbourhood, taking care and responsibility for things beyond our property line – I think this was the best part of all. It was a happy mother’s day.

Coffeeless and cranky

April 23rd, 2008

I am cranky today. Was cranky yesterday. Hmmm… could it be because I decided on a whim to do the Wild Rose Herbal D-Tox diet (I say diet because I’ve forgone the supplements – no real flushing of the system for me)? And let me say I am not the type to diet or do cleanses or deprive myself in any way. I find life hard enough. But here I am, doing a spring “cleanse.”

I am cranky because I am exhausted. I am exhausted – or feeling my exhaustion – because all I’ve been drinking is green tea, and not my usual 2 large cups of coffee in the morning plus limitless cups of black tea throughout the afternoon, and then decaf black tea in the evening. This is all because dairy is forbidden on this diet. Tea is a no-no too. But not coffee – go figure.

I’ve realized my dependency stems from a combination of needs. The first need is the need to feel awake, alert. I have this need due to chronic and cumulative sleep deprivation, going on seven years now. This is simply the bleak reality for parents of young children without live-in nannies. Second is the need for comfort. I come from a family of tea grannies, and ever since I was a child, tea represented the immediate, if temporary, solution for almost all problems. Have a headache? A long day? Stressed out? Being evicted? Knocked up accidentally? A cup of tea goes a long way to taking the edge off. Things always look better after a hot cuppa – my mum or gram said something like that. And, of course, it’s tea with milk (not cream, as the Americans do) and no sugar. That warm mug of steaming, milky liquid is something I rely upon to take me through an afternoon of work at my computer, reading, writing, transcribing, thinking – whatever. The third need derives from what I can only describe as an oral fixation. I would be obese, I’m sure, if I wasn’t so vain. Instead of eating, I can drink endless mugs of tea (coffee does do a number on my system after 2 cups), and have the benefit of comfort and caffeine.

But I just can’t drink green tea – even caffeinated – in the same way. I was sick of it after 2 cups on my first day of this damn diet.  So today, I couldn’t hack it anymore. I broke down and had coffee. I said (to myself) fuck it and poured myself a cup, mixing in vanilla cream (oh yeah, no sugar on this diet either). Ah well, fuck it. I was never one for pointless self-discipline. Life is too damn short.

I feel better already.

Week 13 – Wrap it up already

April 1st, 2008

This is the last week in the semester, which has gone by both blurringly fast and painstakingly slow. Ain’t that always the way? The readings for this week are the final chapter in Judy Wajcman’s Technofeminism (2004) as well as the last chapter in Juliet Webster’s Shaping women’s work: Gender, employment and information technology (1995).

Wajcman and Webster are both hardcore scholars. I appreciate so much their rigor, and their steadfastness in the face of those relentless bastions of patriarchy: technology and the academy. Not only are they rock solid, they are the rock stars of feminist constructivist theory, though this may not – at first blush – appear such a sexy thing. Indeed, Wajcman doesn’t even have a page on Wikipedia, despite being a forerunner the field, and Webster seems to have fallen off the academic map completely, though her book had to have been a major contribution.

Wajman concludes her concise yet elegant account of the intersection of feminism and technology studies with her own updated offering. Thus far I had found the book extremely useful and, importantly, accessible to students who, although in fourth year, had had little contact with either academic tradition. In her typically simple yet masterful prose, Wajcman gently introduced them to the various strains of feminism, mapping the field and its evolving challenge to a thoroughly classed and gendered technoscience. By the time she got to cyborgs and cyberfeminism, students were ready and willing to travel with her to the frontiers of cyberspace: virtual reality, the digital divide and disembodied identity.

In her final chapter, Wajcman discusses her addition to the ever-growing body of feminist constructivist theory. She identifies the polarization in social theory between “metaphor and materiality” (the name of this chapter). Wajcman thus retains a materialist analysis, including an unflinching critique of capitalism while pointing of the need to avoid the technological determinism of socialist feminism. She praises Donna Haraway for surpassing the limitations of cyberfeminism, with its tendency toward essentialism, in her attempt to marry socialist and postmodern feminism(s). Remaining thoroughly in the constructivist camp, she says: “An emerging technofeminism conceives of a mutually shaping relationship between gender and technology, in which technology is both a source and a consequence of gender relations” (107).

Wajcman argues that new digital technologies differ in important ways from earlier technologies, as do the social networks in which they are embedded (108). “Whereas the key technologies of the industrial era were largely muscle-enhancing, information technologies are considered to be brain-enhancing” (109). While this prepares the ground for a subversion of sex-stereotyping in the digital era, women continue to be underrepresented among graduates in infotech and computer science (and of course engineering) – and therefore in these fields of employment. Thus Wajcman advises revisiting the liberal feminist program of equal opportunities and equal pay.

Missing from the debate is the fact that the absence of women in technoscience deeply affects how the world is made. The insight of technofeminism? “Every aspect of our lives is touched by sociotechnical systems, and unless women are in the engine-rooms of technological production, we cannot get our hands on the levers of power” (p. 111). We must see technology as a culture that “expresses and consolidates relations amongst men” in order to understand the connection between male power and technoscience (ibid).

Wajcman maintains the negative stereotype, proffered by Turkle (1984), of the hacker, the dominant image of the young, white, male nerd who works 16 hour days in relative isolation (p. 111). “The masculine workplace culture of passionate virtuosity, typified by hacker-style work, epitomizes a world of masterly, individualism and non-sensuality” (ibid). She does not stop there, however, stating that “Being in an intimate relationship with the computer is both a substitute for and a refuge from the much more uncertain and complex relationships that characterize social life” (ibid). Ouch. Now I haven’t done any empirical research on the topic, but the self-identified hackers and geeks that I know are a far sight more socialized than this and while they are predominantly (though not exclusively) male they engage in human relationships and in fact, have a highly developed social conscience. But enough of me and my work.

Importantly, Wajcman defuses the cyber-hype that surrounds the feminist project on the Internet. The appeal of digital virtuality for cyberfeminism is the chance to transcend the dualism of gender. “However, while escaping the corporeal body may be an appealing emancipatory strategy, it leaves untouched the gendered distribution of materials and resources that typically afford women less scope for initiatives in the workplace” (p. 115).

The key to renegotiating the cultural equation between masculinity and technology a technofeminist politics draws attention to the concrete sociotechnical practices of men and women. Women’s emancipation relies upon altering the “woman-machine” relationship to develop women’s capacity vis a vis technical work. It is not cyberspace or digital technologies per se that will grant women their freedom; they are not gender-neutral. In true constructivist form, Wajcman reminds that the Internet, and particularly the www, is flexible and full of contradictory possibility. She also cautions that the digital divide is being purposefully widened by corporate initiatives, such as the “throttling” policy of Bell and Sympatico, which limits their subscribers from downloading certain content and charging more for large bandwidth use. Find out more about the campaign to stop this here.

Wajcman concludes with an affirmation of the “frankly political agenda” of feminist technoscience. Technofeminism takes politics as an a priori feature of a network, “and a feminist politics is a necessary extension of network analysis” (p. 126). She reminds us of the critical observation that science and technology embody dominant (e.g. patriarchal, capitalist) values but that both endeavours have the potential to embody different values. The gig is not up. Indeed, the strength of feminism – and what draws me to it – is that it connects rigorous research and social analysis to a “political practice of making a difference”, to a goal of progressive social transformation (p. 127).

Having some time ago run out of reader indulgence, I will not go into the Webster text in any detail. Suffice it to say, she concludes that computer-based technologies have not had a uniform impact on women’s employment across industry sectors or countries. The benefits have mainly accrued to the employer (shocker). In fact, what she calls an “innovatory technology” has failed to help reduce inequalities between rich and poor countries. Neither has it aided in a restructuring of sexual divisions of labour, as was initially hoped. “The class and gender inequalities of capitalist societies remain in place and these are not threatened by the introduction throughout economies of information technologies.

In fact, Webster argues that information technologies have facilitated the double burden of paid and unpaid work that women carry. Overall, she paints a fairly gloomy picture. She raises – though not hopefully – the strategy of designing “feminist technologies”, grounded in a “rationality of caring” that considers technical design in the context of human health, environmental sustainability and collective security (p. 191). She wonders (and no wonder) about the likelihood of feminist systems design under capitalism, where the owners of capital and their managerial representatives are men, and where the main object is profit and control, not the development of human potential.

However, like Wajcman, Webster reminds us that feminist research into science and technology is an emancipatory project, with political engagement as the priority. It is also an incomplete project, and one that beckons.

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