Monday, May 28, 2007

Thought Provoking Readings from The Politics of Information

Terranovas claim in her essay “Free Labor, Producing Culture for the Digital Economy” that the Internet embodies a complex relation to late capitalist societies is rather fascinating. She asserts that this relationship is based on free labor: a trait of the cultural economy and fundamental yet undervalued part of capitalist societies. She cites that the internet is a specific instance of the role played by free labor. She states that the internet is not an unreal, empty space, but rather “the Internet is animated by cultural and technical labor through and through, a continuous production of value that is completely immanent to the flows of the network society at large” (100). However, I became increasingly enthralled as Terranova expanded on the social implications of the internet. She goes on to reiterate how she seeks to discover ways in which the Internet connects to the “social factory”: that is, how the social, cultural, and economic relationships of the internet connect to the larger relationships of labor, culture and power. Accordingly, the notion that the internet is connected to the development of postindustrial societies is a captivating one. Terranova makes her claim that “cultural flows” have originated in a field that is already capitalism. The active participation of subcultural members in the production of cultural goods provides the look, styles, and sounds that sell the goods. Consequently, the product of collective cultural labor has been challenged and structured in capitalist business practices. Complex, I know…

What are the politics of making decisions between the oral and the written? This is the question King addresses in her essay “Women in the Web.” King calls her field “Feminism and Writing Technologies” and she asserts that it combines the study and practices of oral and print culture, the creation and study of new cyber cultures, and the feminist investigations of techno science (wow, talk about a hefty workload!) She asserts that these practices all produce the others and serve as forms of everyday life.

Working in the field of writing technologies and feminism has led King to question the movements of power involved between the oral and the written. Additionally, I thought Ohmanns point about whether it is possible to describe technologies without using phrases such as “the computer” and making them grammatical agents and without using other phrases like “the man” “the mind” and “the human condition” to be thought provoking. How can we describe technologies without implying that they interact with people and cultures in global ways? Thus trying to do without phrases like “the computer” not only seems daunting, but by using it individuals are engaged in the discourses of technology.

Accordingly, I found Kings discussion of the gendering of technology to be extremely pertinent. For example, when she titles her class” Feminism and writing Technologies” her colleagues pointed out that this might sway female students from taking the class since it had technology in the title. The course also entailed addressing contemporary technologies of writing and their social meanings and power. But when contemporary technologies started being introduced in other classes, King sought to create a class that fused cyber culture, orality and literacy studies, and feminist technoscience: thus resulting in the formation of Women on the Web: Ways of Writing in Historical Perspective. I think that the resistance to technology on behalf of some women is making them subordinate. All too often women see the “maleness” associated with technology and fail to see women’s creative engagements with technology: particularly writing technologies. Consequently, I think that it is important for women to read Kings essay in order to reflect on how technology is intertwined with social meaning and power.


Andrea said...

I read King's work on the masculinity of technology and definitely agree that it is an issue pertinent to today's world. I also think that we are combating this prejudice by taking this class, which is demands us to utilize technology in terms of using the different media on the web.

Mitch Ryan said...

King's reluctance to rename her course is certainly understandable, considering the fact that through her course she is trying to subvert this notion of technology and masculinity existing as an ordered pair, and that furthermore technology and femininity were somehow in opposition. Despite this reluctance, it is also equally understandable that some colleagues, and indeed many of her students, whom themselves came to understand King's own argument and agree strongly with her, believed that renaming the course is necessary if only to draw more participants. The belief was that "you just need to get them to start the course," with an implication that they will come to understand King's point regarding the importance of studying the feminine role in written technologies. However, if they resist the course simply from the title then the message does not reach as widespread of an audience, rendering a course with a groundbreaking and accurate name that serves a much smaller audience.

The question that follows is as such: Should King have kept the course under the accurate title of "Feminism and Writing Technologies", or was it more productive to shift the title eventually to "Women on the Web: Ways of Writing in Historical Perspective"?

Finally, the answer to this question will relate to the period in which this course is offered. Do you think that "Feminism and Writing Technologies" will be an acceptable title in 2007 in reference to attracting ample students, or is the current title still more likely to bring in participants?