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Welcome to the home page of
Computer Science/English/Film Studies/Gender & Sexuality 257
@ Bryn Mawr College, Spring 2009

“Our machines are disturbingly lively, and we ourselves frighteningly inert.”
(Donna Harraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and
Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century,” 1985)

“We’re at a turning point. There’s an opportunity to remake the culture
around the machine.” (Sherry Turkle. “Men, Women and Computers,”
Newsweek, May 16, 1994)

This course will explore
• the historical role technology has played in the production of gender;
• the historical role gender has played in the evolution of various technologies;
• how the co-construction of gender and technology has been represented in a
range of on-line, filmic, fictional and critical media;
• what all of the above suggest for the technological engagement of everyone in today’s world.

In our attempt to understand the varieties of ways in which we are all now implicated in the processes and outcomes of contemporary technology, we will begin with a dual historical examination, asking both how technologies have been used to construct gender, and how technology has been gendered over the course of time. We will then look in particular at women’s involvement in technological practices, at how initiating such involvement might mean altering such practices, and what role might women’s colleges like Bryn Mawr might play in such transformations. We will end by investigating current practices and exploring future possibilities: how might we educate ourselves to be literate, skeptical, and intelligent consumers and interpreters of new media?

Analyzing both historical case studies and imaginative test cases, we will interpret the representation of gender and technology in a range of experiences, documentaries and non-fictional texts, as well as in fictions and feature films; we will select from the list below to assign approximately 50 pp. of reading or two hours of viewing for each class. We may sponsor visits from women who are working in intersex activism, labor organization, filmmaking, and computer programming.

We will also be contributing to the scholarship in this area. As a way of engaging the course material with current technology, students will be blogging weekly throughout the semester. There were also be a sequence of more formal writing assignments: three 4-page essays and a final 12-page paper, all posted on-line; a multimedia project (an iMovie, or one made with a cellphone) may be substituted for one of these assignments. Because we expect to enroll students from a variety of disciplines, we will encourage projects that make sense for, and will expand on and develop, the range of individual interests students will bring to the course.