Education – Dune Scholar

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Notes from Gender and Education Association Conference 2018

Gender and Education Association Conference 2018
University of Newcastle (Newcastle, Australia)
December 9-12, 2018

The Gender and Education Association (GEA)’s 2018 conference was held in Australia this time around, which made it more accessible for those in Australasia, although many people still attended from the UK. The first day consisted of a Feminist Teacher Symposium and was held on a Sunday so that teachers outside of the tertiary sector would be able to attend. The conference officially opened that evening, and then it was three more days packed with presentations on topics relating to gender, education, and feminism. The conference theme was “Gender, Post-truth Populism and Pedagogies: Challenges and Strategies in a Shifting Political Landscape”, and most presenters were able to address it without it seeming overly forced. There were plenty of new ideas, lots of resources to check out, and new friendships with people from all over the globe packed into this week. The conference hashtag was #GEAconf2018.

Day 1 – December 9, 2018
Day 2 – December 10, 2018
Day 3 – December 11, 2018
Day 4 – December 12, 2018

Day 1 – December 9

Ileana Jiménez – #StayWoke: Global Feminist Teachers and Pedagogies

Jiménez began by introducing herself as a Latina teacher from Puerto Rico who teaches English at a New York high school and founded Feminist Teacher in 2009. She envisions her work as a long-range form of justice and emancipation and liberation not just for our students but ourselves as well. She explained how her work partly started because regular teacher conferences and spaces weren’t doing the (feminist) work or allowing it. Remember this is labor; it’s taxing on us; don’t work alone. She finds herself having to be a sex educator, psychologist, etc. for her students when others in those roles aren’t doing enough. An Advanced Placement English teacher taught her James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and she found herself relating to him being bullied. She wondered, why haven’t I read a book that reflects me back to me?! He’s an Irish boy in late 19th century Ireland. She realized that her students may only see themselves reflected in the lunch lady later that day.

Part of the challenge of being overtly feminist is being asked ‘why are you bringing your feminist agenda?’ or ‘why are you on your feminist soapbox?’ She has taught a feminism and activism class for ten years, but she says feminist pedagogy is not about one course but what we do every day. One question to ask is why aren’t white boys showing up in the feminist class, when boys of color are taking it. She explained how white girls will initially think only about reproductive rights and come to realize there are many other issues than that one. On day one, she has them write down their ‘story’ about gender/identity/expression that they have received from family, school, etc. They soon realize that race and class are mixed up in it. She exposes them to bell hooks’ definition of feminism from 1984 and they are able to use it differently by the end of class than when they started; it’s not about equality but dismantling the system. According to Sara Ahmed’s Living a Feminist Life (2017) feminism is homework, an assignment, and housework is rebuilding the [master’s] house.

She said we need to be aware that our students are reading us as a text, too. Intersectionality is mad overused and has become a social media hashtag. This means that students may know of it but aren’t getting the genealogy of it in a meme. We’re leaving our students illiterate if we don’t teach them the history in our classroom. (See Kimberle Crenshaw’s TEDTalk). This is why she teaches about oppression not just rights. She had a great phrase about how our students are malnourished – they need these feminist vitamins! (as in the women of color writers who have gone before). women of color feminismsIntersectionality had been part of the genealogy before Crenshaw coined the term; for example, the Combahee River Collective (Black feminists) were tired of being left out of the civil rights movement’s analysis. She passed out handouts of their manifesto and asked us how students might respond to it today. Various people said students might be bored, wouldn’t understand it, or wouldn’t know why it was important. I said angry, which has been a topic in the media recently. She then discussed how it might seem like she and her students are all at the seminar table in a sense, but they’re not at the same table, as in not all of her students comes from privileged backgrounds.

Students have also heard of white feminism and don’t know the history of it. She had Gloria Steinem come to her class in 2016, and that was interestingly a year that no boys signed up for her class even though there was so much interesting going on with gender in the media and politics. It’s heartening to remember that our students can do feminist work in whatever path they follow, but they need a framework to do so. For example, one of her students said she wanted to go on to study hospitality so she could own her own hotel and have fair labor practices. It was nice to hear that she has her students do blog posts rather than turn in papers because feminist discourse for them is online, so they should be a part of the conversation! She also talked about how some of her male students presented in front of the whole school about texts that circulate in lad culture that objectify women and analyzed that behavior. She recommended not keeping feminist pedagogy contained in the four walls of the classroom but letting it spill out, even if it sometimes means getting ‘in trouble’.

One of the questions was about her opinion on why white boys weren’t taking the feminist class. She replied that we literally socialize boys not to do the work of self-reflection that feminism demands. Boys who do take the class are surprise at the level of self-introspection. For example, the first day she asks them to do a lot of writing as they think about why they’re taking this class and what their definition of feminism is, etc.

Panel of Australian Feminist Teachers – chaired by Ileana Jiménez

Briony O’Keeffe – O’Keeffe teaches two feminist collective classes and noted that it was the first time many of the students had a space to talk about bad things that had happened to them. There is no syllabus, since she didn’t feel like it was her place to set an agenda. Instead, she lets the students direct what they want to know. Alice Elwell – Elwell said she is known as the feminist teacher; this is both good and bad. It means people who don’t know her come and show her memes and stuff because she is relatable, but it also means she gets screamed at and called nasty things at times. Why is the ‘left’ seen as dangerous, but conservatives aren’t and don’t have to explain their politics. Kira Jones – Jones said that students at her school made headlines for leaving school to go to a climate change conference. Baby boomers will wonder why students aren’t protesting like they did ‘back in the day’, yet then get mad when they do over an issue like climate change. She discussed some of the hard times she has faced in school and how she responded.

In the panel discussion, teachers discussed some of their content. Students get to engage with theorists Judith Butler, bell hooks, and Adrienne Rich. They get to rewrite fairy tales, even if this can lead to them unintentionally reinforcing stereotypes. As one teacher said, you have to give constructive feedback even when it’s difficult. The Great Gatsby and its stalker narrative are discussed and why we the readers often hate Daisy but not Tom. The Avengers is analyzed, as is the movie poster: why are women in the brokeback position twisting to show their breasts and butts in an unnatural way, and women and black men at the back so white men can be in the front. Students find this look at a favorite franchise challenging. Everything is political; it’s a luxury to think that something isn’t political, though students may complain at things being ‘made political’. The Hate U Give (2017) by Angie Thomas is about an African-American girl going to a rich white school. One of the projects of feminist teachers is to find ways to intervene, even though this can be getting ‘in trouble’ and us taking up more space than we are supposedly allowed to. There was some discussion of why we still use this term as adults – is it us reverting to our inner child? The Slap is a short film used to introduce gender and sexuality as a spectrum – for some students it was the first time they had seen a man being feminine but also heterosexual. There was a note that sometimes silence is good and indicative of people processing. One of the Q&A was where are the indigenous feminists (beyond Black feminists who are often used). The audience was referred to an Instagram account of @coffinbirth but panelists also acknowledged that this was an ongoing challenge that needed to be addressed. For example, students will be all shiny-eyed when analyzing Black Lives Matter, but then Australia and its media headlines are discussed and a wall goes up. One teacher uses memes and Instagram handles, which students love, and she has them select several and make connections to the texts in the course. Another question was whether there were any primary school resources that could help with these topics, and there is a respectful relationships Victoria curriculum that is available for primary schools too.

Nisha Thapliyal – Learning and Teaching Feminist Solidarity

Thapliyal mentioned Decolonizing Solidarity by Clare Land, and Aboriginal activist Lilla Watson. She said she grounds herself with reference to the Australian feminist movement and finds it comforting that we are not alone; history shows us that we are not the first to walk the path. She mentioned Stree Shakti Woman Power and Annie Zaidi’s Unbound: 2,000 years of Indian Women’s Writing (2015). There is a problem whenever the issue of ‘3rd World Women’ comes up and students who had previously done complex analyzes fall back into Othering and deficit discourse. She had a good statement about how policies, including progressive ones, are only as good as the culture that implements them, and that we know this as feminists. We need to break down the ‘fences of knowledge’ that the elite benefit from and perpetuate. She recommended Zygmunt Bauman’s Wasted Lives: Modernity and Its Outcasts (2003) and Deconstructing Development Discourse: Buzzwords and Fuzzwords (2010). It includes a quote from Ines Smyth about how gender has been mainstreamed in international development but there is no mention of feminism’s work of the last two decades. Arundhati Roy said in 2004 there is no such thing as the voiceless, just those deliberately silenced or preferably unheard. Other writers and resources mentioned were: Nancy A. Naples’ Grassroots Warriors (1998), Women’s Activism and Globalization, Chandra Talpade Mohanty’s Feminism without Borders (2003), and June Jordan, an African-American writer who wrote an essay on domestics. The question of ‘helping’ is so loaded, with colonial overtones. The problem is the impulse to help is individualized, privatized, psychologized, and the structural problems of the 1% are not being addressed (with such things as voluntourism). Learning to read the world through other eyes bookThere is an open access online study program called Learning to Read the World through Other Eyes that is designed to address the underlying assumptions in global citizenship education.

Kathleen Butler, Vanita Sundaram, Emma Renold – Feminist Teacher Panel

Butler thinks about the turbulent space where fresh and salt water meet as an analogy for Indigenous and Western ways of knowledge. Still concerning in stories is that women feature as the reasons for conflict rather than as sovereign actors in their own right. She worries Indigenous Dreaming stories being put in the curriculum are reifying problems. Sundaram discussed how what gets treated as significant is skewed in society. For example, 5-10 stabbings would be taken more seriously compared to 5-10 reports of sexual harassment or assault. Renold mentioned LiveFearFree – This is me series campaign challenging gender stereotypes, the Good Practice Guide: A Whole Education Approach to Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse, and Sexual Violence in Wales, and Agenda: A Young People’s Guide to Making Positive Relationships Matter, which defines activists as “people who do and act and something they believe in that benefits the lives of others around them”. The Agenda is a different way in, different to risk-based approaches that are normally used in education. Renold said that feedback from young people is that they don’t want to be told what to do; they want links to ideas so they can make up their own mind about what to do. A lot of gender education is decontextualized, not place-based; never assume who is sitting in front of you

Conference opening

Prof Sondra Hale – Something Resembling ‘Truth’: Reflections on Critical Pedagogy in the New ‘Post-Truth’ Landscape

Hale mentioned Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny (2017) and editors Robert H. Haworth and John M. Elmore’s Out of the Ruins (2017) about radical informal learning spaces. The sad reality is that most of our institutions hold us back unless we’re talking about money-making projects. She offered a challenge to people’s thinking about social media and the digital world, saying maybe we need to challenge our own assumptions about social media and our desire to offset it; there’s a lot of resistance to digital pedagogy and e-learning by those traditionally trained. We may be interfering with decolonizing and deconstructionist work going on online. During Q&A someone said that one way of getting girls over math anxiety is by teaching them introductory statistics, then having them go into the field and come back and act as a peer network; it is more powerful if peers challenge each other and learn rather than having a teacher say, this is a good transferable skill. Regarding past feminisms, Hale reflected that we have an enormous archive but we don’t seem to agree on how to instrumentalize that archive. There is still often a big split between feminists of color and white feminists, and the women of the Global South have a lot to offer but often aren’t listened to. One continuing issue is the focus on promotion and metrics, which takes emphasis off activism. For example, if lecturers starting out are told to not sign any petitions for seven years till they get tenure, the problem is that they can lose themselves in those years and leave that person behind, become part of the establishment. She hopes for a seeking of freedom and respect and listening to each other. She said one of the wisest things someone has told her is that “it’s in the room”, meaning the wisdom and experience to make change is already present.

Day 2 – December 10

Prof Raewyn Connell – Truth, Power, Pedagogy: Feminist Knowledge and Educational Practice

Connell began by saying she wanted to locate us in economic and social history first. Big lies in politics are not new – remember Stalin and Goebbels – and someone in the Nazi higher-ups said that what matters is not what is true or false but what is believed. Another example of this is Bismarck carving up Africa on the pretense of civilizing the natives. Lies seem to come from holders of significant global power. But there is a new geometry of power that is transnational, comprised of: oligarchs (e.g. millionaires), transnational corporations and CEOs, dictators and generals, and neoliberal state managers (e.g. at the World Bank). It’s practically a masculine monopoly and any women there have to act like a man. The world economy is heterogeneous, more layered and gendered, but this isn’t factor in classical capitalist formulations. There are real threats like security but also fantasy threats put forward by elites. She showed a picture of a rugby player and cheerleaders in pink, bikini-like clothing and said that rugby’s division of gender roles is reflective of corporate culture, a recuperation of masculinity. She mentioned Mara Viveros Vigoya, a theorist on gender violence in Latin America. Since its inception feminism has had to struggle against big lies about gender (essentialism) and they’re still floating around in contemporary politics. There is the idea that equality is attained, and that problems are in the past.

This is bad because it is so untrue. Half of the world’s population is rural, and Bina Agarwal’s A Field of One’s Own (2010) about land rights in South Asia shows that who owns property is really important. Even if the gender gap in wages (as the media reports it) is not ‘revolutionary-able’ at 13-20%, on global average, women’s income is only 60% of men’s and that is something that calls for a revolution. The attack on gender theory and studies by the right is also concerning. Critique is an essential part of building knowledge rather than just replicating information you hear. We need truthfulness that is concerned with honesty, inclusivity, and corrigibility (ability to be debated and corrected) rather than truth as a fixed pillar. We cannot treat pedagogy as knowledge transfer, i.e. thinking of it as pouring a jug of golden liquid into students. It is not just individuals who learn but collectives and societies they are a part of. She mentioned feminist Jean Blackburn who discussed how education affects men and boys not just women and girls.

During Q&A there was a question about Indigenous knowledge in education, that Indigenous frameworks of knowledge were actually what colonialism denied. Connell said that in higher education, there are examples of Indigenous universities around the world but it’s challenging. Overall, it’s mostly curriculum from the Global North in universities around the world, and any Indigenous content if present is marginalized. Another question was about why there is such a disconnect between education people and feminist and gender studies scholars? Why is feminist pedagogy absent? Connell suggested that education is considered to be at the bottom of totem pole so that could be one issue. Teacher regulation has gotten stricter too. She said to try to convince your colleagues of the value of engaging with the other side. Stefan Collini’s What Are Universities For? (2012) was mentioned, and the idea that there need to be more connections between what goes on at universities and everyday life, that there can be a continuum of science and everyday problem-solving in a “hybrid academic”.

Jessica Butler – Trumpeting the Horn: Dominant Masculinity, Self-Promotion, and Discourses of Success in Neoliberal English Academia

Butler presented a definition of hegemonic masculinity from Connell and Metterschmidt’s “Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the Concept” (2005), and mentioned Liz Morrish’s “The Rise of the Trump Academic” (2016). There is a push back against resilience as individualizing and not addressing problems in the system. What was meant to be a measurement quickly becomes a target (metrics).

Christine Cunningham – What Do Chinese School Leaders think about Gender Equality?

Cunningham was asked to discuss Western educational leadership with Chinese school leaders at a Chinese university that trains teachers. She noted some of the challenges in working in a different country and getting used to using WeChat for her research. Just 4.5% of mainland China’s higher education institution leaders are female, and around the world, women predominate at lower levels like kindergarten but are rare at higher levels. She said that 50% of all women in the world are from China, so it is an important area to look at in this context.

Richard Waller – Degrees of Gendered Distinction: Young Male Undergraduates and Their Complex and Classed Negotiations of Masculinity

Waller discussed The Paired Peers Project, worked on with co-author Nicola Ingram. They followed a cohort of young men for seven years and what capital they brought with them (economic, social, and cultural) to university, what capital they acquired, and how they might mobilize these as they entered the job market. He mentioned Mike Savage’s Social Class in the 21st Century (2016) about class in 21st century Britain. They found that David Beckham, Tim Brabants, Ray Mears, and Ranulph Fiennes embodied working class masculinity for working-class men in the study when they were asked about role models and men they looked up to. These men were perceived to have traits such as self-sufficiency, ‘man against nature’. But middle-class men were likely to point to men like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Stephen Fry, Johnny Cash, Ryan Reynolds, and Christopher Hitchens, believing they had traits such as being intellectual and good-looking. Waller suggested that there wasn’t actually a crisis in masculinity but rather there were attempts to forge together multiple forms of masculinity; thus, masculinity is not in crisis but in flux, being adapted and reimagined.

Karen Monkman and Lisa Hoffman – ‘Breaking the Cycle’: Metaphors in Girls’ Education Policy Discourse

They paid particular attention to the language in policies around girls’ education and how that shapes decisions, and they specifically looked at metaphors. They examined over 400 publicly available policy documents starting in 1995, deliberately choosing front-facing rather than internal documents. In the Phase 1 documents (1995-2005), examples of metaphors included cycle, the body, and journey. Banking was the most prominent image; all organizations except Oxfam linked girls’ education to economic growth. The Forum for African Women Educationalists had the only non-Western metaphor of a cooking pot. In the Phases 2 & 3 documents (2005-2013), it was harder to find metaphors. The language had shifted from transactional language to empowerment; also, that education is a human right, meaning there was less emphasis on justifying education for other reasons. The term gender was used more often than sex but there was no change in meaning. There were now mentions of not leaving boys behind. They noticed phrases such as ‘girls are vulnerable’ but no mention of boys and men as perpetrators (and use of the passive voice obscured the male role in what ‘happens’ to women). They mentioned USAID’s ‘Girls in the Garage’ video featuring 2 young women in a car repair shop in Morocco as an example of an organization attempting to show women learning something outside of traditionally gendered occupations, although it’s unclear how this video is being perceived. UNESCO Global Education Monitoring ReportThey also discussed the UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report for 2018, which shows the different definitions of gender as noun, verb, etc, and how these different conceptions lead to different outcomes, such as counting bodies in seats rather than measuring something else.

Alison Twells – Sex and Gender in the Archive: The Creation of History Undergraduates as ‘World-Ready Citizens’

Twells’ presentation was an interesting insight into some ways of being a feminist history teacher in the academy rather than resigning oneself to traditional curricula. She discussed how historians often struggle to connect research with real-life, i.e. find uses of history in the real world. They may try to talk about how students gain transferable skills (cue university mission statements) or the ability to discern and defend the ‘truth’, or something else similarly nebulous about contextualizing history and seeing where we’ve come from. She said that scholars have argued we need to scaffold history to make it more applicable to the real world because that’s not currently happening. She asked, what if we started with social justice and problems and used history to achieve students thinking more about them? She was inspired by Aly Raisman’s work on trying to move the culture (women don’t have to be modest to be respected). She showed us an example of having her students explore real war-time letters between a sailor and airforceperson and a young woman (who was unsure if she should ‘give in’) and see for themselves how women were historically exploited and pressured to have sex – that it’s not something new. There is a concern that women still see sex as something for men, similar to what the woman back then saw as pressure to ‘give in’.primary source collections

Twells discussed how we don’t actually deal with these issues in history anymore. In the last 20 years women and gender as topics have been in retreat in history; students aren’t exposed to gender theory, or gender issues in relation to imperialism. There is a shift to military history, and more boys taking classes (60/40 ratio in class makeup). Women may only be marginalized, such as in ‘a week of women in Germany’ etc. So she kept the existing class which was an introductory history module with a public history theme, but she reworked it to shift away from cutlery and industry. She used existing library collections such as the Mary Anne Rawson Papers, HJ Wilson Collection, Painted Fabrics, and Edward Carpenter Collection to discuss a variety of feminist issues, starting with the concept of what did she want students to go away with? She shared some of the feedback; although some students said they wanted a ‘proper history of Sheffield’ or more on industry, there were others who liked it and even said that studying history had made them more open-minded. takeaways for studentsThe assessment was also a move away from the traditional essay, consisting of a project with a poster and them having to submit a pre-plan and reflection afterward.

Sandra Schmidt – Spatiality as a Feminist Critique of Civic Engagement

Schmidt opened by expressing her interest in ‘critical geography’ and the idea that women are often positioned as vulnerable citizens in the space they inhabit. She mentioned Judith Butler and Athena Athanasiou’s Disposession (2013) – and that there can be dispossession of land and rights but also of the mind. Citizenship is a Western concept. It has to happen somewhere, in some place. So, by manipulating borders, citizenship can be closed off for people. For example, when Department of Motor Vehicle locations were closed in Alabama, making it harder for people to register to vote. She was interested in 1st-time marchers at the Women’s March in Washington, DC, and elsewhere in January 2016, so she interviewed women (mostly white women) over a year about their thoughts and experiences. Many couldn’t articulate exactly what compelled them to participate. The relational aspect was important: the feeling of being one of many, and having a continued sense of responsibility to strangers they met that encouraged them to take further action afterward. The huddles mirrored the consciousness-raising of the 1970s. Some expressed that they felt they had been good citizens before but hadn’t been active citizens until now. One effect of the marches has been that pussy hats still disrupt the landscape (such as in New York), and men wear them too.

#MeToo, Gender, and Pedagogies Symposium

Emily Gray and Mindy Blaise – #MeToo, Gender, and Pedagogies #FEAS

One reason why #MeToo has been a drip rather than a wave in Australia may be that Australia has tough anti-defamation laws. They looked at where are the pedagogical spaces for #MeToo. In discussing the results of the Community Attitudes Survey, they highlighted that it shows 36% believe women don’t appreciate all that men do for them. We were asked to take a minute to think about that (‘alright, that’s long enough!’). The university is still largely based on ‘white Cartesian male’ ways of knowing, which is an obstacle to change.

Sue Jackson – #Metoo: A Critical Digital Education?: Young People, Sexual Harassment Media, and Potential for Change

Jackson discussed Tearaway, a magazine which is 100% created by and for New Zealand youth, and research from her recent article “Young feminists, feminism, and digital media”. (2018). She also discussed digital media as project sharing and digital ethnography using Whatsapp.

Mary Lou Rasmussen – #MeToo and @Australian Universities: Pedagogies of Rape and Sexual Assault

Rasmussen discussed the messiness of conversations with students about #MeToo and consent, but said there can’t be an ‘end result’ because these are inherently complex issues that require ongoing discussion. She mentioned Debra Ferreday’s “Game of Thrones, Rape Culture, and Feminist Fandom” (2015), Saxon Mullins’ “I Am That Girl” Four Corners ABC program, which revealed some of the complexities of consent, and End Rape on Campus Australia’s The Red Zone Report (2018).

Eva Reimers – An Educational Response to #MeToo

Reimers gave us an insight into what the #MeToo movement looked like in Sweden. She said it was a very strong movement in Sweden with lots of hashtags for different industries. She explained the term femonationalism, a concept from Sara R. Farris, which means having feminism and equality as a national trait. Sweden likes to think of itself this way. There is also homonationalism, a concept developed by Jasbir K. Puar, which is the equivalent for LGBT. Because Sweden has focused on equality in terms of representation and equal pay, there has not been as much focus on sexuality and power. This makes it difficult to address sexual harassment against women, but also difficult to silence women in #MeToo.

Reimers discussed what was happening in the education space in response to #MeToo. Research showed that problems were happening in schools as well, meaning that schools are not safe spaces but spaces that make sexual harassment possible. Students don’t learn about consent, gender norms, respect, and sex. And according to students, many teachers are passive – they know it’s happening but do nothing. This presents a challenge for teacher training. Even though sexuality and relationships education has been obligatory since 1955, we have to wonder what have we been doing all this time? Better preparation for teachers is one thing that could address this problem.

Jessica Ringrose – #MeToo – Digital Feminist Activism and Challenging Rape Culture

Ringrose discussed the Digital Feminist Activism book and her work in interviewing activist organizers and everyday participants (digitalfeminism.co.uk). digital feminist consciousness raisingShe discussed digital feminist consciousness-raising and how Twitter can sustain feminist politics, mentioning that 33% of interviewees found learning experiences on Twitter that they weren’t getting at school. Twitter is often seen as safer than being a feminist in real life. The term digilante (digital vigilante) is used to refer to going after trolls.

Carli Rowell – The Myth and Post-truth of Social Mobility through Elite University Education: A Feminist Ethnography

Rowell discussed how social mobility is often not articulated in those terms, instead being discussed as a person wanting economic security or escaping precarious employment. Classism remains largely absent on campus social justice campaigns.

Gail Crimmins – A Case Study of Using Feminist Pedagogy in Policy Negotiation

One reason given for the persistence of gender inequality in the academy is that women fail to formally report or challenge perceived gender discrimination due to the risk involved (e.g. name the problem and become the problem, get iced out of projects, etc.). It is also ‘academic housework’ and takes time. Margaret Heffernan quoteCrimmins mentioned a quote from Margaret Heffernan – that passionate debate is a sign people care; deadly silence is bad. For those who weren’t aware, an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) in Australia trumps university policies. It can be helpful to looks at other EBAs for potentially good clauses that appear to be effective. She said it is important that female students see women in top academic positions – they may need to ‘see it to believe it’ – and thus the work is not just for ourselves, but for our students too.

Lisa French – Creating Gender-Sensitive Journalism, Media and ICT Curricula

French mentioned a number of resource and organizations of interest, including the UNESCO Unitwin Network, Gender Media and ICTs: A New Syllabi for Media, Communication and Journalism, which covers 10 countries from 5 regions and is soon to go to press, the Global Alliance on Media and Gender, Gender-Sensitive Indicators for Media (UNESCO resource), and the strategy for gender equality in the European film industry.

A definition for gender sensitivity or gender awareness can be found at the European Institute for Gender Equality (https://eige.europa.eu/rdc/thesaurus/terms/1218). She discussed how leaders being invested is important for change and once you have data, you have more evidence for action. The forthcoming book aims to address the issue that most journalism programs (and advertising) she has seen don’t have a gender unit or component.

Day 3 – December 11

Prof Jane Kenway – Unpopular Truths about Populism and Feminism

Kenway opened by discussing how the rise of the right is a clear and present danger, our current conjuncture. Elected officials in some French districts are getting rid of left-wing books and literature. Hannah Arendt’s term ‘banality of evil’ and Antonio Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks (1971) were mentioned. She said the Guardian ran a series on populism and a quiz: how populist are you? that everyone could take afterward. Oxford University Press has a handbook on populism, but only one chapter on populism and gender. She discussed some of the thinking behind the left and right-wing. The right-wing generally sees itself as the common people versus the elites who are undemocratic. The right-wing thinks the elite are coddling out groups, those the left-wing considers marginalized. Meanwhile, the left-wing thinks oligarchs and wealth inequality are the problem. ‘She may be a woman but she ain’t no sister’ someone had said about Margaret Thatcher. When right-wing populists focus on the elites, they are mostly referring to cultural influencers (filmmakers, actors, lecturers, journalists, scientists, and vegans); these people are responsible for shaping what people can see or hear and limiting what they can say. Feminists are seen as waging war against traditional gender roles and values and winning. In discussing the alt right, she said they have a very reactionary mode of masculinity that at times mobilizes an abject agency (‘let us scum in’). A lot of the leaders are very wealthy, and they are also funded by ‘respectable’ conservatives. only elites make historyThey believe only the elites make history. Kenway discussed how we have a crisis of the human and the humane. Glass ceiling/elite feminism thinks power will trickle down, but as we know, it doesn’t. Questions to ponder include why can’t there be more horizontal links with feminists in the subaltern, and what would feminist pedagogy look like if it addressed right-wing populists? A ‘populist feminist pedagogy’ might seek to find common ground and rebuild the commons, and engage in struggles about meaningfulness and materiality. The so-called sensible center isn’t working for so many people. Books mentioned included Robert Verkaik’s Posh Boys (2018), Angela Nagle’s Kill All Normies (2017), Kate Manne’s DownGirl: The Logic of Misogyny (2017), Nancy Fraser’s The Old is Dying and the New Cannot Be Born (forthcoming), and Cinzia Arruzza, Tithi Bhattacharya, and Nancy Fraser’s Feminism for the 99%: A Manifesto (forthcoming).

Jennifer Fraser – Feminist Killjoys and Queer Failures: Re-thinking (Student) Satisfaction in Higher Education

Fraser argued that we need to think about the non-normative experiences of those for whom the university isn’t designed in all the talk of student experience. Partnership can be thought of as a mode or ethos of working that includes collective collaborative practices. For contemporary students, the need to perform, compete, achieve desired outcomes, and enhance their future labor market profile become key modes of self-discipline (see Macfarlane and Tomlinson’s “Critiques of student engagement” (2017)).

Niamh Ni Shuilleabhain – How can we Enact Pedagogy to be More Responsive to Body Disaffection and Eating Disorders in Schools? Beyond Body Image to New Materialist Inquiry

Shuilleabhain’s research is exploring bodily pedagogy in schools. She held dozens of workshops that trialled different modes of pedagogy around issues of body disaffection. She is taking a socio-critical rather than a psychological approach, which can overestimate individual agency. One issue was the ethics of working with young people and what was appropriate for their context. Looking at how body pedagogies are reinforced in school, it became clear there were various tensions of uncertainty around the content. Teachers seemed to prefer clear certainty that could lead to clear outcomes in order to avoid risk in the school. One interesting finding was that just having something (such as a new student center) or providing more staff hours might not be enough to convince students to get support or might not be the type of support they need. Also, teachers and space make a big difference to students’ affectivities and feelings.

Nehir Gündoğdu – How Possible to be a Feminist Preschool Teacher in Turkey?

Gündoğdu discussed her journey understanding feminist concepts overseas and taking her knowledge back to Turkey to better understand how teachers of young children think about gender roles in the classroom. She asked teachers to think about different scenarios she provided which showed a teacher responding, including staying silent, trying to ensure equality of opportunity, and challenging pre-existing beliefs by talking things through with the children. She discussed the challenges in gathering interview data in that data has agency and can lead you to new places, but that it is also a challenge to be an emergent listener and not direct things where you already think they should go. She found that those who say that boys and girls are equal may not operate as if this is true in practice due to reasons including religion and wanting to maintain traditional ways of doing things.

Session on Gender and Digital Technologies

Akane Kanai – Digital Feminist Citizenship and the Labour of Learning

Kanai discussed her research on how feminists interact in digital spaces and learn about feminist topics, and how they position themselves as feminists within the potentially disciplinary environments of the digital world. For everyday feminist self-education, feminists might engage in immersion, social media customization, doing ‘feminist homework’ beyond the 9-5 (see Sara Ahmed’s Living a Feminist Life (2017)), following high-profile feminists, and not following people you don’t like the content of. One person ‘graduated’ from Tumblr and took an MIT gender course on indigenous content and found it better than her university experience/education. Such self-education is seen as everyday responsible feminist activity, but there is also competition to be ‘in the know’ and keep up. U.S. celebrity culture was used to help feminists understand shifts in feminism, such as explaining white and intersectional feminism and using Lena Dunham and Taylor Swift as examples of white failure. Intersectional may be used as an identity for self (‘I am intersectional’) rather than a framework. There were also private, women-only Facebook groups with a declaration of intersectional feminist identity required for entry. One person felt the discussions in the group had a very shallow attitude of learning and deliberation and discovered an antagonistic side to members when she posted about a TV show she liked and received criticism for days that the show wasn’t intersectional. The hypervigilance to call out in this way has led to people feeling excluded and anxious. Kanai asked what is it actually achieving for feminism.

Jessica Ringrose – Feminist Activism, Anti-Feminism, Queer Positivity, and Digital Defence in Educational Contexts

Ringrose discussed the current period as being one of “popular feminisms and popular misogyny” (see Sarah Banet-Weiser’s work) and mediated misogyny. The expression of feminism and anti-feminism has shifted in the last seven to ten years. She discussed young women doing all their ‘feministing’ in a port-o-cabin. They weren’t allowed to put up feminist posters they wanted to because they were considered too angry and combative; they also had to change the name of their proposed club to equality group and not have feminist in the title. Ringrose also discussed toxic mediated ‘geek masculinity’ (see Anastasia Salter and Bridget Blodgett’s Toxic Geek Masculinity in Media (2017) and Kylie Jarrett’s work) which reproduces elements of MRA ideology and professes new forms of gender expertise (see Debbie Ging’s “Alphas, Betas, and Incels: Theorizing the Masculinities of the Manosphere” (2017)). A belief in false rape allegations is still a huge problem, as is the shaming of any body who performs feminism. As an alternative to the negative content available on social media, some students created an Instagram account called the.queer.cacti which is an LGBTQA+ Safe Zone about queer positivity. It was created when they were 13, and they have had to develop a lot of digital literacy around what to post and what not (i.e. how to curate). The positive response to it has helped them recognize how powerful posts are in shaping how people think.

Kath Albury – Digital Media Literacy in Sexuality Education: Engaging with Professional Practice

Albury discussed the need for teachers to improve their digital literacy and not rely on excuses about not having grown up with the same kind of technology that young people do now. As long as you have a framework for media studies, you can adapt to new media accordingly. There is little consensus in the literature on what is best practice for sexuality education. Many teachers cherry-pick from the curriculum on what they think will work at their school. This means they may avoid sexting or continue to do abstinence-only even though they know it doesn’t work because it’s the default. One issue is that most of them didn’t have any media training, or if they did have it, they only had a half-day in-service, and most training focuses on images and representation, not user practices or other things like platforms. Albury discussed how everyone was talking about sexualisation in 2008; now everyone is talking about screens and mobile phones. They can be worn on the body and taken everywhere, and they offer the ability to share and stream frictionlessly. Unfortunately, having young people simply analyse a Dove ad about representation doesn’t cover this kind of scope. There is a need to move away from thinking about media as something that happens to a young person where they have to make positive or negative decision, because they are creators as well. Media literacy needs to be more than an interpretation of images. It needs to include how images move, what the tacit rules of engagement are (like Akane Kanai discussed), and how the terms of service operate (e.g. one kind of nipple is okay, another is not). There are also considerations of how corporations like Google are creating a world where they are in control, and how nation-states may change things (as in the GDPR).

Deborah Lupton – Vital Materialism and Women’s Use of Digital Health

Lupton discussed how embodied affordances work with technology affordances. She interviewed women in Australia, mostly urban but about a quarter rural, about their use of technology in relation to health. Everyone used Google to look up health information and used it to determine whether or not to go to doctor. Many got a lot out of ‘lurking’ or listening online and not being active; some were really active and started up Facebook support groups for various health issues. One-half used wearables and apps to monitor their bodies. On online groups, mothers knew to avoid topics like vaccination and breast vs. bottle feeding because otherwise others would blow up. Younger women liked menstrual apps and felt like they had better control and could prepare for their cycles. There was sometimes frustration at an app or wearables, including someone who couldn’t use a pain app because of pain in her hands. This study highlighted the affordances of tech but also the downsides of the lack of diversity in design. For example, tech is often not designed for women with babies and may not be able to adjust for a woman’s needs once she has given birth.

Kara Kennedy – My Session

I presented on digital literacy and Digital Humanities, and how these might be used by tertiary teachers to help teach students how to navigate and learn in a post-truth environment.

Caroline Mahoney – Which Girls? Where? Interrogating Populist Images of Girls, Education and Interculturality

Mahoney and co-author Claire Charles found that aspects of exclusion and othering are an everyday occurrence for most girls. Although outsiders might see white girls as the most privileged in a group, that is not necessarily how they see themselves. One participant expressed interest in becoming a doctor but since she saw mainly Asian doctors in her environment, she constructed herself as marginalized/disadvantaged in comparison and was able to blame that as the reason not to strive for her dream, thus not being able to engage in interculturality.

Roberta Thompson – Noticing Teenage Girls’ Friendship Practices in Cybersafety Curriculum

Thompson said this was one of the outcomes of a postdoctoral project, available at www.girlssocialmediaproject.com. The context was the 2003 Australian National Safe Schools Project, and a gamechanger was Web 2.0, iPhones, Instagram, and Snapchat. In 2018 there was a renewal of cyberbullying panics when a girl committed suicide. Research shows that boys and girls are online for the same amount of time but there are gendered differences. For example, girls are on more social sites. This results in some different problems for boys and girls online. She made a point that she uses Erving Goffman’s frame analysis and impression management but not his sexist philosophy. There are really conflicting things going on for girls in terms of how they negotiate the online world alongside their friendships. When we ask them to report, we’re asking them to go against their friendships. There are different terms for this based on class. At a primarily working-class school, anyone who tells parents or teachers about problematic online content is called a ‘snitch’, and at a more middle-class school, it is considered ‘social suicide’ to do this. This shows that there is a need to unpack the affective domain for these girls, such as their worries. Friendship is a powerful influencer that’s not accounted for in cybersafety curriculum.

Day 4 – December 12

Prof Susan Page – Back from Oblivion: Transformative Indigenous Learning Journeys in Australian University Curricula

Page is working on Indigenous graduate attributes at the Centre for Advancement of Indigenous Knowledges (CAIK) at the University of Sydney. She acknowledged that Indigenous studies is a study of discomfort. She discussed NAIDOC Week, wherein Indigenous people celebrate across Australia, and that it stems from 1920s activism. Counter-narratives are part of critical race theory. Many Aboriginal men served in World War I despite not being counted in the census, and they are still not recognized (for example in the local memorial walk in Newcastle funded by a mining company), and this is similar to how women are neglected. In making a comparison to New Zealand, she said to us, a treaty is a very powerful thing, even though New Zealanders may debate about it. The truth for our elders is the antidote to the big lies of Australia (such as that there was no one here, Aboriginals weren’t taking care of children, they couldn’t speak the language). She mentioned how Trevor Noah got in hot water over an old ‘joke’ about Aboriginal women and didn’t seem to realize that it was wrong and offensive. She discussed the concept of Indigenous women trying to cite other women. She asked where are the silences in history? The William Dawes diaries are known and digitized but not Patyegarang, the 15-year-old young woman who appears to have been Dawes’ language teacher (although she has finally been acknowledged on the website). Page expressed her dismay that it is very hard to find any information on another woman, Ipeta, who was the only survivor of Myall Creek Massacre, and that she will make it her mission to change that. Barangaroo is the name of a new Darling Harbor development in Sydney; we can debate using those names for colonizer’s buildings, but at least her name will be on people’s lips. She mentioned the film Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002) which is fairly well-known.

Moving on to discuss the Indigenous graduate attributes in more detail, she said university graduates can and should know about Aboriginal history and cultures in the curriculum. This idea has been floated since 25-30 years ago, then again 10 years ago. Now there is the Universities Australia Indigenous Strategy 2017-2010, which can be used as a powerful tool. It was developed in close consultation with the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education Consortium. She indicated that ‘the times they are a’changin’ – it’s pretty exciting to be around at this time. It’s hard work but exciting. She mentioned Gloria Ladson-Billings’ (1998) ground-breaking work on critical race theory and education and her quote that the official curriculum is a “culturally specific artifact designed to maintain a White supremacist master script” (p. 18). This is confronting to hear but important. Page discussed how disciplines cannot, will not, and should not exclude us, and that’s the work she’s doing along with other Indigenous scholars. Then, there is the constant tension/challenge that their knowledge will get co-opted. The Deconstruction Exercise can be used to help create safe spaces for teaching in relation to the Indigenous graduate attributes. Students can write questions on paper to avoid unproductive ‘blaming and shaming’ (ex. why do they drink so much? why are they so uneducated?). Page acknowledged that there’s risk for us in telling our own stories, but they’re important in giving students a transformative learning journey and letting them see the iceberg underneath the Aboriginal world. If the students get upset, they have to learn to work through their emotions. Returning to the subject of the memorial walk in Newcastle, she said because it wasn’t designed by people with a broader awareness of Aboriginal history and cultures, it doesn’t have the voices of others.

I asked a question about how to deal with resistance from faculty to the implementation of graduate attributes related to multi-culturalism/diversity. She said the institution has to be ready with most faculty on board and there need to be senior Indigenous leaders who can champion and drive the work. Sometimes this means asserting authority in the context of the hierarchical structure of the university because that’s what people understand in that context.

Symposium on The International Network on Gender, Social Justice and Praxis (the Network)

Penny Jane Burke (Professor and Global Innovation Chair of Equity and Director of the Centre of Excellence in Equity in Higher Education at the University of Newcastle and one of the conference organizers) introduced The International Network on Gender, Social Justice and Praxis, otherwise known as the Network. International Network on Gender, Social Justice and PraxisIt has a commitment to feminist, Freirean praxis and develops research for critical, feminist pedagogical resources to generate ethical spaces of practice. It defines feminist praxis as making visible the invisible, marginalized dimensions of social life – paying close attention to the (gendered) politics of knowledge and knowing, and understanding how political forces are deeply intersecting to (re)produce inequalities. She mentioned letter writing as a feminist praxis, which is discussed in their Occasional Paper 02. Other members of the network briefly presented on projects they are involved in. Saajidha Sader discussed The South African Project which looks at the collusion between academics and the corporate culture of university, and the need to ask the hard questions of how feminist academics both encourage and resist neoliberalism. There wasn’t time to go over some of the other techniques the project uses, but they have used a timeline and community mapping with participants to get them to think about their journey too. Sondra Hale and Gada Kadoda discussed the formation of social justice spaces, anti-racism workshops, and Sudanese feminists’ resistance. They deal with black vs black racism, not just white vs. black as is often the case. They train potential teachers on diversity issues so they can go out and raise awareness themselves. Laura Ila Misiaszek discussed the Gender-Health-Education Council (GHEC) and working with CircleWays.org. The audience broke out into groups to discuss some of the different projects that the Network is involved in, and then the groups reported back to the main group.

I went with the small group on The South African Project, and we discussed neoliberalism and the university. Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark (2005) was mentioned as a good resource for activists. Various people discussed how they see activism in relation to teaching: that activism and teaching are discipline-specific, such as how in social work, they have to teach students who will go out into world and interact with clients; that teachers can view teaching as their primary form of activism even though it is not as obvious as protests. In fact, teaching can be quite difficult because it often requires that feminists be vulnerable in the classroom every time they enter it. It was mentioned that we need all forms of activism because we don’t know which will be effective in the long term. When other groups reported back, it was mentioned that people really need to share their stories first before you can work on other things, and you need to make time for this when talking with them.

Hannah Taino-Spick – Veteran Bodies: Feminist Interventions in the Post-Truth, Populist, and Authoritarian Australian Military

Taino-Spick discussed her journey undertaking university studies after being discharged from the Australian military, with her now doing a PhD interviewing veterans and unpacking the complexities of discharge through feminist and poststructural lenses (including Butler’s performativity, Kristeva’s abjection, and Foucault). She acknowledged that she has had to rely on largely American content for the literature review, but that this can fit with how Australia sees itself in terms of its experience of modern warfare (i.e. similar to Global North). One of the issues with discharge is that it is subjective; it’s impossible to just write a policy to manage discharge or an application to discharge. It is an ongoing journey of ‘becoming’ for veterans post-discharge. There can’t be one ‘truth’ about discharge; in reality it contains multiple truths, and she now knows that it is not a simple and linear process but much more complex.

Britney Brinkman – Hate Speech Protected as Free Speech: Barriers to Gender Equity in Schools

Brinkman began by reminding the audience of the context of the recent synagogue killing – that hate speech has real consequences. She mentioned the Rand Corporation’s 2018 report on ‘truth decay’ and George Lakoff’s definition of hate speech as able to be a physical imposition on freedom of others because of a psychological effect being imposed physically. She presented an eye-opening case study of a patriot’s club started at a small Catholic school in the U.S. where she examined girls’ experience of oppression. The club was billed as a ‘veterans’ group club, but in actuality it had a white nationalist agenda and was an alt-right manosphere consisting of white males. Meanwhile, a year before other students were told they couldn’t form a gay-straight alliance club (but they could name it a diversity club) and faced a lot of resistance. The patriot’s club members would dominate class discussions and eventually caused the girls to feel unsafe and even stop speaking out because they were tired of arguing. This effectively amounting to a silencing of girls, with gendered power dynamics at work because they boys were permitted to do what they liked and the girls were expected to just ignore them. The girls were considered feminist killjoys if they didn’t. The message came across that how the adult staff responded was definitely noticed and discussed by the students. Even though the staff might not have condoned the boys’ activity, a lack of response was interpreted by the students in this way. Even though the staff might have quietly supported girls’ efforts to challenge the boys’ behavior, the official response did not match. Essentially, a similar trend in the mainstream was present, that ‘freedom of speech’ was interpreted as being for white males but not for marginalized groups.

Closing Comments

At the end of the conference, several people gave a brief overview of their thoughts and reflections, and this was an encouraging close to several long days of ideas and relationship-building. Penny Jane Burke expressed gratitude for the feminist spaces created by the conference, for the keynotes taking us on a genealogical and theoretical journey, and that there were also signs of hope. Akane Kanai said she would take away wanting to think more about the politics of listening. Gada Kadoda proposed having some way of bringing together the ideas and theories discussed at the conference to be able to build on a repository for future conferences and projects. This would help people from other disciplines too. It was also discussed what a GEA conference might look like in other countries and what different focus areas it could have. Jessica Gagnon, who had been managing the GEA’s Twitter account during the conference, put on screen some screenshots of the many tweets during the conference, which helped illustrate to those not on the platform what people were discussing online. She also discussed that we should think about what each of us individually can do, not just an abstract me, as well as what we can do collectively. It was mentioned that the conference had felt non-hierarchical, which I agree with. It was an engaging and thought-provoking several days, with lots to take back and share with the rest of our networks.

Notes from aaDH Digital Humanities Australasia Conference 2018

aaDH Conference 2018: Making Connections

Australasia Association for Digital Humanities (aaDH) Biennial Conference
September 25-27, 2018
University of South Australia (Adelaide, Australia)

The theme of this biennial aaDH conference was “Making Connections”, and this was effectively woven through many of the presentations (and not in a way that was overly corny). Compared to the last conference, I noticed the theme of a need to upskill students (both for changing workforce needs and research needs) kept popping up, so it appears this is still a concern that is not being adequately addressed. There was also more discussion of mobile apps and issues of ethics. The conference got off to a great start with beaded name badges that help provide revenue to women who have been trafficked, and everyone was talking about it and wondering why every conference doesn’t go down this track. Overall, I found the presentations interesting and informative and felt inspired to continue along the DH track. What follows are some of my notes on ideas and resources and avenues for further exploration. The hashtag for the conference was #DHA2018, but some of the frequent Twitter posters were at an archives conference so the feed was not as active this time around.

Day 1 — September 25, 2018

Dennis Del Favero – AI and Advanced Creativity: An Emerging Horizon

Favero said Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (which he hoped everyone had seen) has shaped how we see AI and its relationship with humans. He provided several examples to illustrate his points about the intersection of AI and creativity. Discussing Flora Petrinsularis, he said the database is the new medium, defining a database as data structured in a way that can be retrieved, and the machine enables the human to organize and interpret the data. With T. Visionarium, it has a database of films and you can select say, Sandra Bullock playing different roles simultaneously (it can show around 200 films at a time) or choose a color like orange to see orange scenes, and these will be displayed in the room. With mARChive, the idea of co-agency allows for machine autonomy rather than just reflecting human desires. The Scenario example featured a creepy baby assembled by users with headsets and black [later said to be dark gray] AI figures trying to stop them. With Nebula, you make dots into a sphere and topography of worlds. With iBauprobe, you can design sets with the help of 3D model and AI, looking at things such as configuration of angles, line of sight, etc. Lighting is one of most difficult things to calculate; AI can show what it will look like with different lighting combinations.Theatre Model

He noted that Manuel DeLanda was writing back in 1919 that even rocks and mountains that we see as stable are actually changing and breaking down, just at a slower rate than biomass.

In the Q&A, he said that we need to become coders ourselves; maybe the primary or complementary literacy is coding; need to democratize it. He said half of his PhDs now are coders even though working in art/humanities areas. There was a question about stark race differences in white and black figures, and he said they’re actually shades of gray but yes, this is a problem. He said his interest in AI is its experimental use in art and how that can be translated to other areas. It shouldn’t be a castle for elite (like Mark Zuckerberg) but available to everyone, but we need computational literacy to enable this.

Panel: New Directions in DH Infrastructure: Adventures in Collaboration and Scale

DH Panel

Del Favero
Favero discussed how STEM have traditionally used numbers in understanding data and things; we could bring our skills in visualizing and imagery to their disciplines (ex. In one project the Arts perspective was able to see climate patterns that the numbers didn’t reveal; now an Arts perspective is part of project.) PhDs traditionally work alone/not in teams but this is not viable going forward; need innovative culture where people work together in teams. The one-dimensional primary and secondary education doesn’t have computational literacy. One can be seduced by lure of STEMification (even in STEAM – Arts often evaporates in this equation).

Hamish Maxwell-Stewart
Maxwell-Steward said we need a way of seeing datasets and databases as journal articles/publications and allowing people to access them and see who was involved. Gene sequencing is easy; the cultural context, etc. is more complicated and that’s where Humanities comes in. He would like to be teaching digital and visualization skills to history students in the very near future. He offered an example of how a well-liked presentation recently was, somewhat surprisingly, by an undergraduate math student who was given a bunch of data.

Tully Barnett
Barnett discussed how we need to understand digitization as a cultural practice not just a technical thing, and we need to talk more about labor behind digitization projects. Infrastructure in humanities is people-focused. Longitudinal value has to be recognized (value goes beyond funding cycles). She mentioned the Algorithms of Oppression book and how infrastructure catalyzes, according to scholar Deb Verhoven.

Bill Pascoe
Pascoe also mentioned Verhoven’s work. He suggested smaller grants and much more rapid funding cycle (big, year-long ones are too slow for IT and mean only small groups of people get to do DH projects). The current situation can be self-defeating and miserly where people don’t share, and it needs to change.

Rachel Hendery
Hendery said that what makes people angry in seeing government funding going to things is seeing new buildings and yet no investment in people (staff, casual, etc.). She mainly needs basic infrastructure like a computer and library. She suggested we first think about community we want to build, not the tools or system (sometimes those turn out to be white elephants anyway). We need to make ‘3rd space’ workers more visible (ex: big grants that public complain about that seem excessive, but actually going to a postdoc, PhD scholarship, etc., and we need to make that job creation more visible).

Katherine Bode
Bode suggested that perhaps universities aren’t doing as good a job as GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums) at communicating with the public via digital technology and infrastructure. She said we need to put money into open access publishing; let’s not look to publishing companies to solve our problems. We also need more skill sharing and data sharing.

Q&A
It was discussed that we think we know how to tell stories, but actually we could get better at showing impact. Someone asked is there a tension between coding and how it chunks and categorizes information and the humanities? The panel responded that no one should be doing coding if they don’t critically reflect. We need to be infiltrating STEM and showing STEM students how to critically reflect. It is hard to critique as an outsider. Also, we need to remember that all languages are coding too. We can think about how do we share coding and bring our understanding to STEM. Think of collaboration as something to do at the beginning, rather than the end. Someone said it was great to see the theme of inextricability of infrastructure and people, but historically DH is male and white; how do we ensure greater diversity and inclusion? It was discussed that one thing we need to do is to recognize all involved with DH projects; not just puffed-up DH researchers but also women of color (for example in Google Books digitization).

Session on Making, Learning, Exploring

Simon Musgrave – DH and Disciplinary Frontiers
Musgrave discussed how when applying computational methods to literary texts, we can ask whether semantic/conceptual patterns in the texts support traditional close reading. He said not all of his DH work is interdisciplinary, but that doesn’t mean it’s not DH. Research is driven by creative tension that comes from unambiguity of the digital with inherent ambiguity of humanities, and he clarified this as meaning that once data becomes digitized and structured, there are limitations on it so in general it allows for much less ambiguity than humanities content broadly. He said he could write sole-authored papers, but he doesn’t like to anymore. He acknowledged that we’re often not doing/dealing with research questions that computer scientists find interesting; this raises the question: should we try to change that or just get technical people who code? Another question to think about is when are we ‘bilinguals’?

Jeanne-Marie Viljoen – Mediating between the physical and the digital with a location-based mobile learning game
Multi-modality affordances
Viljoen said she is always looking for ways to engage students with digital media. The class she was discussing was called English for Academic Use in Australia and designed for multilingual students, new arrivals in Adelaide. Many come from tech-savvy backgrounds in Asia but are used to more passive pedagogy styles and are more likely to drop out because of problems socializing. Her mobile learning game introduces students to local culture and history, including things like street art and statues. It aims to merge the digital and natural world into a virtual experience. It uses digital design and evocation of hearing, touch, taste, smell, and feelings though the visual. For example: “run your hands along smooth bronze possum”. She tried to rely on sound and touch rather than the English language. It was built in Mobile Learning Academy.

Benjamin Matthews – Teaching DH for Creative Industries: Immersion and Making
bit.ly/DHA2018-BJM  
Matthews thinks Creative Industries students will benefit from DH literacies. He discussed a 1st year core subject called “What is Creativity” and gave the example of asking students what will Newcastle be like in 2049? This encourages them to use history to inform their vision of the future. He worked to give them ‘skin in the game’ by making them have an exhibit at the end, and this seemed to work to motivate them.

Maya Dodd – Collaboration in the DH Classroom
DH-India Dodd gave the background context of her university first, saying that India was moving from a British model to a more liberal education model so students were not locked into a major, and this is a good opportunity for DH. She said her work on digitizing copies of an official report that was being suppressed showed her the power in these kinds of projects (see Southasianculture.wordpress.com and Publicarchives.wordpress.com).

She said usually research is done at higher levels (i.e., postgrads or faculty), but the faculty are having undergrads do research because there is such a need, and it can create timely projects. She discussed some examples of interesting student projects, such as an Omeka project on student protests, slam poetry as a vehicle for student voices, and children’s literature from India. She used documentation on assessing DH projects from others; like with Arts projects, it’s incremental (looking at factors like rigor).Children's Literature in India

 

Kunjika Pathak and Anjali Chandawarkar – The Garba Archives
Pathak, who is one of Dodd’s undergraduate students, discussed her joint project on the community art form of garba (Thegarbaarchives.wixsite.com/thegarbaarchives).  She and Chandawarkar translated songs and created an audio file for an archive. They discovered limitations with doing the project, which included issues with living cultures such as caste, gender, etc. She said she saw it as a way of connecting with her cultural heritage, especially since she knows she is immersed in Western pop culture a lot of the time. She also realized how little digital documentation there is for these kinds of things in India. As a side note, she said most of her English class is women and there are some really tech-savvy women, and they were able to assist others who were not as capable.Garba Archives

Birds of a Feather Session: Teaching DH

Simon Musgrave explained how a DH course at Monash University worked and some of the learnings from running it. They decided that all assessed work had to be done on a WordPress account, and they assumed nothing (for knowledge on the part of students). Students had to buy their own domain, but this was cheaper than buying a textbook. One issue was that some were getting spam because their details were on WHOIS (they had to use the non-free version of WordPress because they needed plugins), and this shows how little awareness students can have of these kinds of website issues. Instructors tried to run ‘place’ through all content, and this theme is easier with digital technology. They also asked students to draw maps to document campus without tech (unplugged pedagogy). Rather than using Moodle, then, they used an outside domain of their own: Monashdh.xyz.

Tips from the session included using Bigg’s SOLO taxonomy instead of Bloom’s, which is a bit dated, looking at how to get students to justify their use of methods rather than just cherry-picking info, and potentially setting students up with a dataset which has things they can stumble across (design, etc.). We worked on designing learning outcomes in groups for a sample DH day workshop, which was a valuable exercise.

Day 2 — September 27, 2018

Day 2 kicked off with a session where the continually evolving area of data visualization was explored in some interesting ways.

Session on Data Analysis and Visualization

Vejune Zemaityte in “Data-driven Cinema Studies” discussed her work with Deb Verhoven on the big data in film available from Kinomatics.com, where they are analyzing the distribution of 3,000 films across 40 countries. Monika Bednarek in “Discourse of Diabetes in Australian News Media: A Corpus Approach” provided three paper copy handouts [this is so rare nowadays!] about how diabetes is discussed in the Australian media and how she used Wordsmith, a corpus linguistics tool. She recommended Antconc if you want a free version that is still powerful. Helen Caple in “Introducing a New Visualization Tool: Kaleidographictalked about this tool that is freely available and lets you has as many or as few variables in your spreadsheet as you want. She said after you prepare your data and load it into the builder, the data is saved to a zip file for you and isn’t kept on the tool’s end, which addressed some privacy concerns. KaleidographicPenelope Aitken and Susan Luckman’s “Adding Structural Value to Cultural Value: A Case Study of APO and UniSA’s New Cultural Policy and Creative Industries Collection” explored apo.org.au, which was established in 2002 and is both a database and alert service. Aitken said the government is the biggest audience and that policy makers tend not to read journal articles. Therefore, it is ‘gold’ if you put up something they are going to read, like a two-page executive summary of your research. Luckman discussed a current ARC LIEF Project to enhance collections. They are seeking ideas for how to get people to use collections, such as perhaps a competition, how to engage end-users as co-creators/editors of meta-data, and how to gain feedback and a review of the content. She encouraged the audience to join APO and contribute to the site.

Jean Burgess – What’s Next for Social Media Research? Digital Methods and Ethics after the API Apocalypse
Burgess discussed Digital Methods by Richard Rogers (2013) and made a joke about pie charts being very science-y, an idea which was played off in later tweets. She said we need shared dynamic infrastructure to support datasets, rather than ad-hoc ones that are only available on a grant-by-grant basis (ex. through LIEF). She mentioned AlgorithmWatch, algorithm audits, a data donation project, and ‘civil disobedience’ through data scraping on a platform like Instagram through ‘Instagrab’. She asked whether our institutions have the ability to back us in these risky activities. In discussing the creation of a timeline to document changes in Twitter, she gave a shout-out to Timeline.JS tool. One question concerned whether academics can use the public internet defense to argue for being able to scrape and interrogate this data even though or because companies are private.

Mahendra Mahey – Building Better ‘Library Labs’
Mahey’s presentation was an interesting whirlwind tour of some of the British Library Labs’ projects and its vision for supporting access to its collections. He said only 3% of the physical collections are digitized, and that they used to rely on government funding but are increasingly reliant on private funders and corporate funding. He reiterated that if you want to set up a lab, you have to go out and talk to people. And one of the most important things for collections is, do you have a real person at the library who can answer questions about it. Their Digital Research Support is able to offer 5 days of support per project. There are over 1 billion views of British Lab projects. An early lesson was that services that allow useful exploration of cultural heritage data are rare! He said the role as a national library should be to find a way to support everyone who wants to use the digital collections anywhere in the world.

One project had them using OCR to ‘cut’ images from digitized books and use algorithms productively (see “Peeking behind the curtain of the Mechanical Curator”), and they discovered it did better with female faces because there seemed to be fewer obstacles like beards. Another project had them create the provocation mechanicalcurator.tumblr.com to post images every 30 minutes and put the images on Flickr Commons. But ‘real innovation breaks infrastructure’ and the IT team was annoyed that servers were slowing because so many people were clicking the links to the lab’s services on Flickr Commons images. The Victorian Meme Machine was also popular. One interesting thing about the taggers behind digitization and categorizing is that they may not be whom you’d expect. One of their most prolific ones is an elderly bed-ridden man in LA who has tagged over 45,000 images!

They are currently working on a ‘cookbook’ to help guide national, state, university, or public libraries that want or have a lab (if you want to help, send him your email). One version of the cookbook will be open-access, and there will also be a printed version (coffee-table book) that you can buy that will fund travel bursaries. Slides available: https://goo.gl/xNwrHY

Organize and Digital Session

Renee Dixson – Skullbook: A Bone Library of 3D Digital Models of Animal Crania
Dixson discussed 3D model-making and said that part of the purpose was to provide employability skills to students for the future, because employers expect digital skills. It appeared there were two ways of making them: either through 3D scanning or photogrammetry. Two examples were passed around so the audience could hold and compare them. 3-D Animal Skulls

Mapping Transformation Session

Angus Veitch – Mapping Last Century’s News: Constructing a Geo-Thematic Index of the Brisbane Courier
Veitch discussed his research into mapping information from newspapers, available at www.oncewasacreek.org. He created transparent overlays with old maps on Google Maps and explained how words on maps can be just as interesting as the maps themselves because they can show what the landscape meant to people at other points in time. He said he used Knime rather than R or Python to acquire and analyze data, and it ended up being a shortcut to learning coding. He used LDA to do geoparsing and figure out which place words go together (what he calls geotopics).

Emotion, Memory and Experience Session

Tehri Hurmikko-Fuller – Tweet, Death and Rock’n’Roll: Social Media Mourning on Twitter and Sina Weibo
Hurmikko-Fuller discussed the project that she worked on with her Chinese student which was able to analyze how people mourn on social media sites such as Twitter and Sina Weibo (Chinese version of Twitter). She said they noticed that Twitter users were trying to connect with and mourn with the widow of the Linkin Park band member who had died, whereas Weibo users made posts that were more emotionally distant and about sharing news. They determined that information cascade was not the cause but herd behavior was. She said they are now collecting data on social media mourning of the burning down of the Rio Museum, which is interesting because it is not a person but a GLAM institution.

Rachel Neaman – Making Connections in a Digital World
Rachel Neaman public lecture
Neaman gave a public lecture at the university in the evening to a quite large, packed-out lecture theater. She said many of us find digital connectivity astounding, but young people take it for granted. She said her background was not as a technologist but as someone who studied languages. She mentioned the 4th Industrial Revolution term being coined in 2016 and that the book Robot-Proof (2017) by a U.S. academic, Joseph E. Aoun, talked about the importance of ‘soft skills’. This book talked about three types of literacy (tech, data, and human) and coined the term humanics. She offered an anecdote about how Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant in people’s houses heard a comment over the radio about a girl ordering a dollhouse and ordered doll’s houses for them too.

Neaman said digital is no longer just for IT and technical teams, and vice versa; those teams need to know more about customers’ needs and business side of things. Alongside an image of sheep, she told the audience that leadership is not about following the crowd but asking the right questions. I was very disappointed to hear her use the terms ‘man’ and ‘mankind’ just as she discussed the need for more women and diversity in the industry. Slide mentioning 'man and machine'She mentioned that Honeybot had done a Women in Tech report and produced an index on women in OECD countries. There was an interesting quote from Professor Dame Wendy Hall about diversity: “We cannot allow our world to be organised by algorithms whose creators are dominated by one gender, ethnicity, age, or culture”.

Neaman did try to clarify that AI is more of sophisticated computational statistics than advanced robots, but I don’t know that that message really made it through based on audience questions. She noted that 21% of adults in the UK lack the five essential digital skills defined as digital literacy. Even though Australia doesn’t have the same measure, around 10% aren’t online as shown by the digital inclusion index. She said today it’s more about outcomes than technical skills and we need life-long learning. Few schools formally teach these skills, but it’s not just for kids in schools; we need future-proofed policies so we feel empowered and able to thrive. She mentioned the World Economic Forum’s 2022 Skills Outlook, which has columns for growing and declining, and the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer.Wendy Hall quote

There was a question about the difference between digital competency and literacy. Neaman responded by saying that teaching about these topics needs to be mainstream from the very beginning of kids’ schooling, and that it is disappointing to be still having this conversation in 2018. I didn’t agree that reading and writing won’t be needed in the future due to podcasts and YouTube becoming more dominant. There was a question about whether AI will be able to have or tap into other ways of knowing (i.e. indigenous knowledge) in the future, and this question signaled to me that the audience would have benefited from a clearer definition of AI.

Day 3 — September 28, 2018

New Learning and Collaboration Models Session                     

Roger Edmonds and Richard McInnes – Enhancing Humanities Learning Experiences with Location-Based Mobile Learning Games
Edmonds discussed the expansion of games from an initial Business & Society course to 13 disciplines. Originally, students had to go out to discover their city in this course with pen and paper in all sorts of weather and didn’t like it. Now there are 193 games that have been played almost 3000 times. The ‘Torrens Walkabout’ was the same as the one Jeanne-Marie Viljoen talked about. It is not just a tour but interactive, push-pull, and about a story/narrative. A game was also created for the Aboriginal Cultures gallery in the South Australia Museum using a floor plan rather than Google Maps. Edmonds said that just being able to create a game is a really rewarding and engaging experience for the students, and it built their ICT capability and capacity. See bit.ly/2QymiZ6 for slides and Pedago.online for more information on the project.

Kara Kennedy and Jakob Kristensen – Exploring the Impact of Digital Humanities on Students’ Engagement with Technology
We presented on our study that explores how Digital Humanities tools and methods in undergraduate courses are impacting students, especially in their engagement with digital technology, and how DH is affecting women in particular. We presented the context and reasons for the study, including the gender gap in STEM and the limited data on what undergraduates think about DH and how it impacts them. We gave an overview of the methodology and sample questions, and asked for people to get in touch if they have students who could be interviewed. 

Philip Marriott – Building Collaborative Real-Time Research Tools for Mobile Devices
Marriott began with the context, an advanced web design course where students had been using WordPress, which was pretty uninspiring. He suggested mobile phone web-based software instead and this ended up being more interesting of a project for them. Fifty of the 60 students were women, not from a STEM background, who already had basic idea of HTML, CSS, and PHP that he’d taught them earlier. They had great ideas but no mechanism for realizing them/doing anything with them, and there were lots of barriers to overcome. As a side note, he said it was helpful that Google allows you to use all their stuff if you sign up as a developer. He encouraged and empowered the students by telling them that anything you see out there on the web, you can do it too. It turned out that they were happy to use code as a way to do what they wanted.

Julian Thomas – DH and Digital Inequalities: Current State, Problems and Prospects
Thomas is head of the Digital Inclusion Index and defined digital inequality as an uneven distribution of digital skills, infrastructures, and resources. It is a problem because these are increasingly important for participation in contemporary economic, social, and civic life. Interestingly, he noted that young people are not the future of Australia – old people are! –according to the changing demographics. We assume mobile media is associated with sophisticated, intensive use, but that’s not necessarily the case. Their study showed that single parents, people with disabilities, Indigenous people, and other marginalized groups were likely to use mobile media more. He said we need to think hard about the ramifications of the next wave of automation. In the Q&A, Rachel Neaman asked if there were a standard for measuring digital ability (the UK, for example, has 5 prongs). Thomas said there isn’t the same thing as the UK, and that it’s nice to have international comparisons, but the cultural and human geography is different here in Australia, so he thinks there is need for Australia-specific measurements about digital strategies and inclusion. He acknowledged that yes, North America and Europe also have a divide between the country and city, but there are still unique geographies in Australia. He mentioned Broadband for the Bush as working in the space of digital inclusion in Australia. Digital Inclusion Dimension

Kristin Alford – Designing Research Experiences in the Technology Museum
Alford introduced herself as an engineer who has worked in mining and thinks in processes, and that her experiences with dance and gymnastics have critically shaped her thinking as well. She reflected ruefully that she sees the same percentage of women in her classes now as when she was a student. She said she reads a lot of fiction to take her to different worlds and is a futurist who likes the possibilities that fiction provides.

Her talk focused on how the MOD (Museum of Discovery) (where the conference opening reception was held) was designed and intentionally wants to be different than a typical museum. She mentioned the focus on the future that other places have and that this could be something to strive for, such as how in Dubai they’re already planning for a 100-year anniversary rather than a short-term one. She asked how do we showcase science in a way that doesn’t privilege one way of knowing, that allows for Western and Indigenous and other knowledge. She said kids aren’t inspired by the ‘get a job’ rhetoric around learning STEM, so she wants MOD to be different. Giving people more science doesn’t necessarily lead to better understanding; thus, the recent shift to more narrative and story-based museum experiences (ex. Museum of Tomorrow in Brazil).

She mentioned Kevin Kelly as a futurist from Edge.org. She said the fact is that if you tell the public, come learn about cancer, or tell young people, come learn how to transform industry, they’re going to think they have better things to do with their Friday night. She specified that MOD is deliberately not doing educational outreach or programs. Its aim is to try to get people to think of themselves as people who like science, rather than overtly encouraging them to like science. She mentioned the current exhibit on pain informing people that 90% of chronic pain is from your brain expecting signals and not a real physical cause. Finally, she provided some statistics about responses to MOD. Over 9 out of 10 rate is as good or excellent, and they are getting 1 in 3 visitors from their target 15-25-year-old target demographic. Since it has just recently opened, it will be a while until they have more data on visitors.

One of the questions was about whether there is any evidence that visiting a cultural institution about science will have an impact on going into STEM, or that it’s influencing academics. There doesn’t seem to yet be evidence on this. Another question was about how they recruited the teens they had involved in the design studio and workshops, and she said she focused on local teachers with whom she already had contact.

Digital Humanities in the Era of Linkage, Impact, Engagement and Innovation

Joanne Tompkins – ARC-funded DH Research

Tompkins noted that DH projects have more partnerships with industry and as a sector, DH should apply for more Linkage and LIEF grants. One tip in applying is that because the decision panel for Linkage grants is made up of a general audience, the project needs to be able to be understood by laypeople.

Panel: Joanna Tompkins, Penelope Aitken, Katherine Bode, Richard Maltby, Hamish Maxwell-Stewart

DH PanelAitken again urged academics to write outputs other than journal articles and believes it’s a skill that needs to be learned alongside traditional ones. Maltby called himself an occasional academic and observed that most people creating DH infrastructure are on short-term contracts (<2 years) even though sustainability is supposedly something that funders like ARC are concerned with.

Maxwell-Stewart said that unfortunately, putting data in a data repository tends to kill it off, so partnering with industry is critical for getting people to use it (basically, it needs a public interface). He finds it challenging to find postgraduate students who have skills that he doesn’t that he needs to do research. He spoke of GIS, math, and computer science and a frightening skills gap in the humanities. He said those who do have certain technical skills can end up being stretched thin because they aren’t that many of them. Bode mentioned the gap between those considered academics and those considered professional staff. There was a comment about needing better postgraduate training in DH and a question about how to get more complex assessment, so students don’t have to write 80,000 words every time to show their learning. Maxwell-Stewart suggested that more data visualization would be helpful and that that is the future.

Birds of a Feather: Upskilling Approaches

This session was presented by Greg D’Arcy, an informatics specialist for HASS, and Nicole Laurent, a project archivist for the Find and Connect web resource, eScholarship Research Centre. Slides are available: go.unimelb.edu.au/ofc6. The context was that Chang et al.’s abstract for eResearch Australasia Conference shows that information professionals and library staff need expertise in lots of data-related skills. SCIP (scip.unimelb.edu.au) was designed to help break the ice for people who aren’t comfortable with digital stuff. They found there was a low response to ‘come learn about data visualization’, and that the just-in-time element was missing (many didn’t have their data ready). We know there is a lot of content out there (ex. YouTube), but it still needs to be packaged for students and it can be difficult when you’re working in isolation trying to learn stuff like Python. Another issue is that a lot of humanities researchers don’t see their data as data, and this can create discord when discussing it in that way with them. Learning with a purpose works well. There were questions about which tool to learn to start with (basically, whichever one is most relevant to the data you have and what you want to do with it, or what is used in your future career), what pitfalls there are to learning technology (having a learning group to collaborate with is helpful), and whether humanities researchers should do more to discuss their methodology to enable others to follow it in their research like scientists do (yes). The Future Humanities Workforce project in Australia was mentioned.

I didn’t attend the workshop with 3-D modeling of networks, but it looked fun, with LEGO and other craft materials used to make the models. 3-D modeling

Digital Humanities Article

I am excited to share that my Digital Humanities article on digital literacy has been published in the open-access journal Digital Humanities Quarterly (DHQ) in a special issue (11.3) on undergraduate education. The article is titled “A Long-Belated Welcome: Accepting Digital Humanities Methods into Non-DH Classrooms” and argues that there is a place for DH methods in all Humanities classrooms and that women especially can benefit from increased engagement and confidence with digital technology in the subjects in which they comprise the majority of students.

I look forward to reading all of the other articles in this issue and appreciate being able to share it widely because DHQ is open access! Thanks to all those who have supported me in the two-year journey from start to finish.

Hidden Figures of Digital Humanities

Watching the film Hidden Figures reminded me of my research on women in computing and some of the gender issues in the field of Digital Humanities. In a discussion after the screening that I had both attended and helped to organize/promote with other women (as a special fundraiser to help create an undergraduate scholarship for a woman to study STEM), I mentioned how frustrating it was that women had been written out of the history of computing at large, not just in regards to the space program. It was only after seeing the quizzical looks on the women’s faces around me that I realized the presence of women in computing is not common knowledge either. The stereotype that seems to predominate in the popular culture is that computing belongs to Silicon Valley and male computer programmers.  I have been fortunate to have discovered more of women’s history in computing due to my involvement with Digital Humanities, but it is important that the involvement of women become more widely known. So I write this post as a brief introduction to some of the insights I have come across – to share with those who want to learn about some ‘hidden figures’ and to wonder about whose stories are still left to be discovered in the field of Digital Humanities. Because in fact, women have been instrumental to computing since the beginning…

Hidden Figures posterFor those who haven’t viewed the film (highly recommend! – nominated for three Academy Awards), Hidden Figures follows the stories of three African-American women – Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Johnson – in the U.S. during the Space Race whose efforts in computing, mathematics, and engineering were crucial to the success of the mission to put astronaut John Glenn into orbit. Each woman must overcome various obstacles including racial and gender biases in order to be taken seriously and be respected by her coworkers, and to succeed at her job. For example, one building lacks a bathroom for black women (bathrooms were segregated at this time), and it is not until this issue impedes on the mission’s ability to meet a deadline that something is done about it. The film showcases the genius and resourcefulness of these women whom I and others I talked to admittedly had never heard of before. This film did a great job of bringing their stories and brilliance to life.

Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace, first computer programmer

Ada Lovelace (1815-1852), born Augusta Ada Byron, was a gifted mathematician who is now considered to be the first computer programmer, given that she wrote instructions for the first computer program, all the way back in the 1800s. She was the daughter of the famous poet Lord Byron and his spouse, Lady Anne Isabella Milbanke Byron. She met Charles Babbage, known as the father of the computer, when she was 17 and he mentored her and enabled her to study advanced math with a University of London professor. Although Babbage invented the difference engine and analytical engine, after Lovelace was asked to translate one of his articles, she added her own ideas about his machine which were about how codes could be used to handle letters and symbols, not just numbers. She also came up with a theory for repetition of instructions, now known as the looping process that modern computer programs use. Though few paid attention to her article when she was alive, she is now honored through the celebration of Ada Lovelace Day, first held in 2009.

*Source: Ada Lovelace Biography.com (2017)

Women Computer Programmers in the 20th Century

During World War II when there was a need for ‘human computers’ who could solve equations by hand and also program computers, women stepped up to fill these roles. Jean Jennings Bartik was one of six female mathematicians who created programs for a new machine belonging to the U.S. Army called the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer), which was one of the first all-electronic general-purpose computers. Men built the hardware and circuits but didn’t think the programming was an important job. Bartik said in an interview in 2008 that even though the women were responsible for getting the machine to work the night before its first demo, they weren’t invited out to dinner the next day and weren’t named in the photos. They were basically invisible. Adele Goldstine was another key woman in the development of ENIAC who created a systematic method of programming and the program manual, yet has only recently been acknowledged for her work in the field.

After the war was over, Bartik and her team moved on to the UNIVAC, a major commercial computer. They worked with Grace Murray Hopper, who was a tenured math professor in the Navy Reserve. Hopper discovered a way to program with words instead of numbers, which became a programming language known as COBOL (Common Business Oriented Language) that is still used today. She retired from the Navy with the rank of rear admiral and is sometimes known as being the Queen of Software for her work in developing programming languages. There was even a 1967 article called “The Computer Girls” in Cosmopolitan magazine which quoted Hopper as comparing programming to planning a dinner, where you have to plan ahead and schedule everything.

Computer Girls magazine article

“The Computer Girls” article in Cosmopolitan magazine

She said women are ‘naturals’ at computer programming and her goal was that all people should be able to use and program computers. Another woman who worked on the UNIVAC, Adele Mildred Koss, actually found that working in computing was quite accommodating to female programmers who were mothers, making a work-life balance more possible. Many women did not actually have formal training in computing but took advantage of the opportunities that it provided and found success.

*Sources:

Further information: 2014 documentary film Top Secret Rosies: The Female Computers of World War II and interactive iPad book app The Computer Wore Heels

Women in Early Digital Humanities

This brings us to the history of women in the field of Digital Humanities. For those who haven’t heard of Digital Humanities, it is a relatively new field which sits at the intersection of digital technologies and the humanities (like English literature, philosophy, and history). It sometimes functions more like the sciences in terms of having labs and teams rather than individuals working alone, and can include projects that involve making websites for cultural material, using databases, creating network analyses, examining social media, and doing other tasks that further the study of human culture and generate new ways of teaching and researching. Before it was known as Digital Humanities, however, it was sometimes called Humanities Computing, and its history goes back to the 1940s with its father, Father Roberto Busa in Italy, and what is considered to be the first Digital Humanities project.

Father Busa was a Jesuit priest who thought that the newly developing computing technology could be harnessed to help him create an index of the works of St. Thomas Aquinas. He went to the U.S. to visit Thomas J. Watson at IBM and received some assistance to process punchcard data to make his index, which included some 9 to 11 million words of medieval Latin. What is often left out of this story is the fact that Father Busa then employed dozens of women to do the programming, and he proudly believed he was helping them attain valuable job skills through their work on the project. I only know about these women due to Digital Humanities scholar Melissa Terras’ work on uncovering the stories of these women. In fact, she has written a blog post (for Ada Lovelace Day, 2013) about her research, which included traveling to Italy and obtaining permission to share several photos of the women with permission from the CIRCSE Research Centre at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan, Italy with a Creative Commons license (CC-BY-NC), which are also in the blog post. I have included three of them here:

Women in Busa Project

Women working on Father Roberto Busa’s index project (1950s-60s) CC-BY-NC CIRCSE Research Centre

 

Women in Busa Project

Women working on Father Roberto Busa’s index project (back left: Rosetta Rossi Bertolli; bottom right Livia Canestraro) (1950s-60s) CC-BY-NC CIRCSE Research Centre

 

Women in Busa Project

Livia Canestraro working on Father Roberto Busa’s index project, being overseen by visiting dignitaries (1950s-60s) CC-BY-NC CIRCSE Research Centre

(This last photo is my favorite, with Ms. Canestraro reminding me of Princess Leia, surrounded by men but seemingly unperturbed.) I consider it a point of pride that women were so instrumental in working on this pivotal Digital Humanities project. But the pioneering work of women in computing leads me to wonder how we moved from women being so connected with computers to the present, where research continues to show that women often feel alienated from computing.

*Sources:

Disappearing Figures

Despite women’s instrumental roles as ‘computers’ themselves and as programmers, by the 1980s, when Steve Jobs and Bill Gates began to appear in the media and personal computers came about, the number of women who majored in computer science began to drop. From the 1980s to 2010, females went from being 37% of college students receiving bachelor’s degrees in Computer and Information Sciences to 18%. This happened even though the overall percentage of female college students was increasing and women were a majority.

There may have been several reasons proposed for this gender shift. Men may have wanted to get into the challenging tasks of programming and with their entry, the field may then have become more prestigious. Professional associations that excluded women may also have prevented them from entering the field. Personal computers were often marketed as toys for boys and the stereotype of the male computer geek became more prevalent in the popular culture.

In just a few decades then, computing and information technology became seen as male-dominated fields, and computing culture became decidedly more associated with masculine traits. The history of women’s achievements is only recently being recovered, with many girls and women unaware at how influential women have been in the field.

*Sources:

Where are the Women?

I see this as relating to Digital Humanities in that I have seen the field struggling recently with issues of diversity, access, and privilege, and that people are speaking out to try to address them. During Digital Humanities scholar Deb Verhoeven’s speech “Has anyone seen a woman?” at the 2015 Digital Humanities Conference, she boldly took the stage and called for men to exit it to allow more women to be heard and recognized. She was addressing the invisibility of women after a “parade of patriarchs” had dominated the stage on the opening day of the conference.

Deb Verhoeven speech

Deb Verhoeven’s speech “Has anyone seen a woman?” at 2015 Digital Humanities Conference

Soon her words ended up having a direct impact on me because just days later I was asked to speak on that very same stage at a small gathering of people for an annual meeting. At first I balked but then was encouraged by two men who were trying to heed her words, and it ended up being a positive experience. Her voice had raised the consciousness of many, and it helped persuade me that it was important for women to be heard even if they may not feel comfortable with public speaking.

Raising women’s visibility – both past and present – and reclaiming women’s history and stories is an important part of feminism; there are countless achievements to celebrate, from small to large. The question becomes how does a field like Digital Humanities avoid making the same mistakes as the history books have with the African-American women at NASA and women in computing? How does it avoid obscuring the labor that often goes on behind-the-scenes in Digital Humanities projects?

If we were to construct a narrative or timeline of women in Digital Humanities, what would it look like? How many ‘hidden figures’ in labs, teams, and projects might be in Digital Humanities?

Effective Altruism

I first heard about effective altruism through a guest lecture by Dr. Catherine Low from Students for High Impact Charity on “Effective Altruism and the Environment” in December 2016. At the end of the lecture, the audience split into small groups to debate the merits of several charities that she had pointed out were effective in various areas, and then everyone voted on which one to donate $500 to (with the funds provided by her organization). There was also an opportunity to sign up to receive a free copy by mail of a book by William Macaskill entitled Doing Good Better: Effective Altruism and a Radical New Way to Make a Difference (first published in 2015), so I signed up, not being able to resist a free book and wanting to learn more about the evidence behind this emerging movement. effective_altruism_bookThe thinking behind it offers an interesting critique of the personal-responsibility kind of changes we’ve been led to believe we should be doing, and I’d like to offer some highlights from the lecture and book that people may not have considered before (especially regarding Fairtrade and sweatshop goods!).

Dr. Low’s main thesis was that effective altruism is about using evidence and analysis to do the most good we can do, and that many things we might think are really good aren’t actually making the best use of our money, time, or resources. One of the examples was that the BBC in 2006 was freaking out about Brits keeping phone chargers plugged in because of the ‘ghost energy’ they were wasting. But it turns out that they hardly consume any energy (.01% would be saved by unplugging them). Yet people choose to focus on these minor, inconsequential issues rather than looking at the bigger picture. There was also a study by David Anderson that found that up to 75% of social programs in the U.S. had little or no effect. It turns out that many initiatives aren’t really studied at all and are based on someone’s gut instinct on what will do good rather than research. An example that she mentioned and that is in the introduction of the book is the Playpump, which was rolled out in Africa to get children to help pump water while playing but turned out to be quite ineffective. It was created with the best of intentions, but not enough research and design went into seeing if it would actually work.

Regarding New Zealand charitable giving, she asked us to compare the $40,000 cost of training a guide dog (which who could argue against that cause) with the $25 for cataract surgery to prevent blindness in the Global South. It is clear which one is a better value for money, but that doesn’t mean that people donate according to that criteria. There was also the comparison between $9,000 for a Make-a-wish holiday for a sick child compared to a far lower amount to buy bednets against malaria and save a couple lives in Africa. Again, the former is a nice cause, but the latter makes the money not only go farther but can actually save lives.

Dr. Low said that part of the reason why effective altruism is more possible now is that we have more information to make better decisions about giving. She listed the following places that provide this kind of information:

There is also Stanford’s Carbon Footprint site where you can calculate how much greenhouse gas your activities produce. If you see how much your airline travel is producing, for example, you could offset it by donating to an organization like CoolEarth, which for $350 can protect a hectare of rainforest. This might be more effective than buying an electric car, because there are other costs and issues you need to weigh — if you don’t do that much driving, you could have spent the extra money on a more effective way of protecting the environment, for example. In the same way, you probably don’t need to fret over the Energy Star Rating for appliances, because the $100 or whichever amount you would have spent on buying a more efficient device might be better spent on a charity, since you’re unlikely to get as much energy savings as you think, especially if you use it infrequently. One of questions she left us with was: Are we more morally obliged to prevent human-made suffering (like climate change) or naturally-occurring ones (like malaria)? It’s something to consider as we choose which causes to support.

The book reiterated the point that some ideas are good but are not actually the most effective, or the best use of resources, and most are not evaluated to see if they are working. It offered several seemingly harsh realities, including:

  • You probably shouldn’t give to disaster relief because there is likely to be a large number of people hearing about and giving to those causes, so your contribution will make less of an impact.
  • It is possible that people could have been better off without a charitable intervention, or might actually have been harmed by it, so some intervention is not necessarily better than none. Some problems work themselves out.
  • Looking at overheard percentages, which some evaluations do, is not a good measure of effectiveness. Spending a lot on good administration and fundraising does not mean a charity is not also being very effective at its programs. Outcomes are more important.
  • Following your passion in terms of a career is bad advice because you can have impact in all kinds of fields and don’t need to necessarily go to work for a non-profit or charity to change the world. The book states: “Research shows that the most consistent predictor of job satisfaction is engaging work, which can be broken down into five factors (this is known in psychology as the ‘job characteristics theory’): Independence…Sense of Completion…Variety…Feedback from the job…Contribution” (Macaskill pg. 187). Basically, personal fit is a better indicator to go by, and you can gain a passion out of a variety of types of work. You can look up what you might be interested in at the site 80,000 Hours.
  • Sweatshop goods are sometimes providing better jobs for people in developing economies than other forms of labor and are considered the ‘good’ jobs, alternatives to backbreaking farm work or unemployment. In one case in 1993, a child labor bill brought to Congress prompted factories in Bangladesh to lay off 50,000 child workers; UNICEF then investigated and found that many of them had to turn to more desperate ways to survive, including hustling and prostitution (Macaskill pg. 160-163). So although boycotting sweatshop goods may seem like a good thing to do, it may be more effective to work to end the poverty in those countries that makes those jobs so attractive.
  • Buying Fairtrade-certified products is another example of how what may seem like a no-brainer thing to do may not actually be the best use of that extra money you spend for the Fairtrade product. One of the issues is that only a very small percentage of the money you pay for Fairtrade reaches the farmers. In one analysis by the World Bank, less than 1% at a British cafe chain reached coffee exporters in poor countries; in an analysis in Finland, only 11% reached the countries that produced the coffee; and in an analysis in the US, for an extra $5 per pound for Fairtrade coffee, only 40 cents or 8% would make it to coffee producers) (Macaskill pg. 165). A lot goes to the people in the middle, so you would be better to put the money you would have spent on Fairtrade toward a more effective charity to help the poor in those countries (such as GiveDirectly, in which 90 cents of $1 donated reaches the poor).
  • Thinking rationally rather than emotionally sounds harsh–especially because it might mean saying no to local causes or people asking for money on your doorstep–but it is necessary to be able to evaluate charities and see which programs are most effective.

As presented in the lecture and the book, effective altruism makes a lot of sense from a rational perspective. The trick is that so many charitable appeals work on an emotional level (or religious level), and the urge to help others we can see, in our community, probably won’t be going away any time soon. Thinking more abstractly about giving is certainly a new concept to consider thoughtfully.

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