“Since the Industrial Revolution, society and culture have been subservient to technology. One of the compelling tasks today is to reverse the process and make technology serve culture and society.”
– Ben Bagdikian (1992)
“To the extent that technology is swept into the democratic movement of history, we can hope to inhabit a very different future from the one projected by essentialist critique. In that future technology is not a fate one must choose for or against, but a challenge to political and social creativity.”
– Andrew Feenberg (1999)
I keep hearing this talk of technology holding values, or of technology waiting for the proper values (democracy, progressive thought, community spirit) to be inscribed upon it or co-created with it. This is wonderful, but I wonder, even if these values are inscribed, will they mean anything to the people who consume, practice, use the technology?
Yesterday after my computer crashed for the 4700th time I noticed that its UNIX OS was still copyrighted to UC Berkeley. Of course, I know my history, but this fact (which brings with it certain values, doesn’t it?) was locked into the black box of my machine. I suspect my curious suprise would have been of a similar, but no less limited type if I had discovered my computer was running Linux. What comes through to the user? What kind of democracy operates shrouded in steel? What do the glorious proclamations mean once the box is closed?
In other news I am trying to write a first draft of my thesis project. Scarier than skydiving.
Away from the books, Saturdays are a heady mix of sun, snow, mud, leaves and sky, with excellent and charming company to boot. From theory — “wait, hasn’t Latour gone back on actor-network theory – oh, watch out for that tree” – to practice — “Technology is useless! Do you have the trail map?” – it’s a pleasure to play. Thank you to Antoine, Steph, Anne, Agn”s and Eric for proof that there’s more to life than the city.
I came home from the library today with the following:
Hackers (Steven Levy)
Doing IT: Women working in information technology (Krista Scott-Dixon)
Silicon Valley, Women, and the California Dream (Glenna Matthews)
Love, Power and Knowledge: Towards a feminist transformation of the sciences (Hilary Rose)
I am trying to make sense of how I came to be a woman working in the man’s world of hacking, free software, and community technology, and also of the implications of where I have positioned myself in that world – outside, as an engaged and yet critical observer. This is in some ways a gendered position (I am not by any means “one of the guys”) but it is a negotiated one, as the critical position also brings with it certain power, or as Donna Haraway argues, the trial and privilege of the “partial perspective.”
Then I got this article from a friend. According to it, my chances of getting married go down as my IQ goes up, regardless of whether I’m comfortably holed up in the pink ghetto of the marketing department or butting heads in tech or R&D. Apparently, men are just plain intimidated by smart successful women, and feminism’s promises are perceived as not only wrong, but counter to evolution. I hope that the troubling social changes the article points to are taken as an indication of the necessity for feminism and not its irrelevance.