Gender, Technology, and Computer Culture

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Spring Semester 1998

Professor Sherry Turkle
Program in Science, Technology and Society
MIT Room E51-296C / tel: 253-4068 / email: sturkle@media.mit.edu
Office hours:  by appointment;  send email to set up appointment
All selections included in reader or in class handouts, except where noted
by * which indicates a book to buy.
 

February 3.  Introduction

February 10.  Feminist Epistemology

  • Carol Gilligan, In a Different Voice (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982), pp. 1-63.*
  • Evelyn Fox Keller, "Women, Science, and Popular Mythology" in Joan Rothschild (ed.), Machina Ex Dea: Feminist Perspectives on Technology (New York: Pergamon Press, 1983).
  • Judy Wajcman, "Feminist Critiques of Science and Technology" and "Conclusion" from Feminism Confronts Technology  (Pennsylvania: Penn State University Press, 1991).

February 17.  (no class)

  • Sherry Turkle, "Introduction" and "The Quality of Emergence" in Life on the Screen:  Identity in the Age of the Internet (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995).*

February 24.  Feminist Epistemology II

March 3.  Historical Case Studies on Gender and Technology

  • Judith A. McGaw, "Women and the History of American Technology" in Sandra Harding and Jean F. O'Barr (Eds.) Sex and Scientific Inquiry (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987).
  • Margery W. Davies, "Women Clerical Workers and the Typewriter: The Writing Machine" in Cheris Kramarae (Ed.) Technology and Women's Voices: Keeping in Touch (New York: Routledge, 1988).
  • Lana F. Rakow, "Women and the Telephone: The Gendering of a Communications Technology" in Cheris Kramarae (Ed.) Technology and Women's Voices: Keeping in Touch (New York: Routledge, 1988).
  • Sally Otos and Ellen Levy, "Word Processing: This is Not a Final Draft" in Jan Zimmerman (Ed.) The Technological Woman (New York: Praeger Publishing, 1983).

March 10. Reticence and Pluralism:  Stages vs. Styles

  • Sherry Turkle, "Computational Reticence" in Cheris Kramarae (Ed.) Technology and Women's Voices: Keeping in Touch (New York: Routledge, 1986).
  • Sherry Turkle and Seymour Papert, "Epistemological Pluralism and the Revaluation of the Concrete" Journal of Mathematical Behavior, 11:1992, 3-33.
  • Ellen Ullman, "Out of Time: Reflections on the Programming Life" in James Brooks and Iain Boal (Eds.) Resisting the Virtual Life (San Francisco: City Lights, 1995).
  • Margaret Lowe Benston, "Women's Voices/Men's Voices: Technology as Language" in Cheris Kramarae (Ed.) Technology and Women's Voices: Keeping in Touch (New York: Routledge, 1986).

March 17.  Women, Computing and TechnoScientific Cultures: Continuing the Debate on Reticence

  • Karen Coyle, "How Hard Can It Be" in Lynn Cherny and Elizabeth Weise (Eds.) wired_women  (Washington: Seal Press, 1996).
  • Newsweek, "Men, Women and Computers" May 16, 1994.
  • Laura Miller, "Women and Children First: Gender and the Settling of the Electronic Frontier" in James Brooks and Iain Boal (Eds.) Resisting the Virtual Life (San Francisco: City Lights, 1995).
  • Judy Wajcman, "Technology as Masculine Culture" from Feminism Confronts Technology  (Pennsylvania: Penn State University Press, 1991).
  • Sharon Traweek, "Pilgrim's Progress:  Male Tales Told During a Life in Physics," from Beamtimes and Lifetimes:  The World of High Energy Physics (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988).

March 24.  (no class)

  • Sherry Turkle, "Taking Things at Interface Value" from Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995).*

March 31.  The Changing Computer Culture:  Revisiting the Question of Style

  • Sherry Turkle, "Hackers;  Loving  the Machine for Itself" from The Second Self  (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984).
  • Sara Kiesler, Lee Sproull, and Jaclyn Eccles, "Pool Halls, Chips and War Games" Psychology of Women Quarterly, 9: 1985, pp. 451-462.
  • Sherry Turkle, "A Tale of Two Aesthetics" from Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995).*
  • Sherry Turkle, "The Triumph of Tinkering" from Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet. *

April 7.  From Artificial Life to Virtual Pets:  Shifts in Gaming

  • Sherry Turkle, "Making a Pass at a Robot" from Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995).*
  • Sherry Turkle, "Artificial Life as the New Frontier" from Life on the Screen:  Identity in the Age of the Internet. *
  • Sherry Turkle, "Child Philosophers:  Are Smart Machines Alive?" from The Second Self:  Computers and the Human Spirit (New York:  Simon and Schuster, 1984).
  • Ted Friedman, "Making Sense of Software: Computer Games and Interactive Textuality" in Steven Jones (Ed.) Cybersociety (Thousand Oaks: Sage, 1995).
  • Collection of Web pages on Girls, Gaming, and Virtual Pets

April 14.  Gender and the Internet

  • Sherry Turkle, "Virtuality and Its Discontents,"  "Aspects of the Self" and "TinySex and Gender Trouble" from Life on the Screen:  Identity in the Age of the Internet. *
  • Julian Dibbell, "A Rape in Cyberspace" Village Voice (Dec. 21, 1993).
  • Lori Kendall, "MUDder? I Hardly Know 'Er! Adventures of a Feminist MUDder" in Lynn Cherny and Elizabeth Weise (Eds.) wired_women (Washington: Seal Press, 1996).

April 21 (no class)

April 28. Gender and the Internet II

  • Dawn Dietrich, "(Re)-Fashioning the Techno-Erotic Woman: Gender and Textuality in the Cybercultural Matrix" in Steven Jones (Ed.) Virtual Culture (London: Sage, 1997).
  • Jennifer Light, "The Digital Landscape:  A New Place for Women" Gender, Place, and Culture, 2(2) September 1995.
  • Susan Leigh Star, "From Hestia to Home Page: Feminism and the Concept of Home in Cyberspace" in Nina Lykke & Rosi Braidotti (Eds.) Between Monsters, Goddesses and Cyborgs (London: ZED Books, 1996).
  • Susan Clerc, "Estrogen Brigades and 'Big Tits' Threads: Media Fandom Online and Off" in Lynn Cherny and Elizabeth Weise (Eds.) wired_women (Washington: Seal Press, 1996).

May 5.  Gender and Technoscientific Imaginaries: Cyberpunk as a Case Study

  • William Gibson, Neuromancer (New York: Ace, 1984).*
  • Andrew Ross, "Cyberpunk in Boystown" from Strange Weather (London: Verson, 1991).
  • Jenny Wolmark, "Cyberpunk, Cyborgs, and Feminist Science Fiction" from Aliens and Others (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1994).

May 12. Conclusion and Class Presentations

  • Dale Spender, "Women, Power and Cyberspace" from Nattering on the Net (North Melbourne: Spinifex, 1995).

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Hands-on/Experimentation:

As the class proceeds, students will choose to engage in hands-on exploration of the following materials.  They will be discussed in conjunction with the readings.

  • Chat rooms -- AOL, IRC, Compuserve, Web-based
  • Computer games -- different kinds/genres ("slash & burn" vs. "girls games")
  • Virtual worlds -- MUDs, graphical worlds, Palace, etc.
  • Tamagotchi -- using one, exploring web sites
  • Artificial Life -- computer programs (Dolphin, Fish, etc. also, Sim series)

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Class format: During the first class meeting, the class will divide itself into groups. Each week, members of one group will get together before the class period, discuss the assignment (Where could the readings have gone further?  What questions did they raise?  What are their greatest strengths?  Their greatest vulnerabilities?), and produce 3 questions for each of the readings.

The class period will be divided in half;  a discussion of the readings led by the group that has prepared questions for the class and a lecture/discussion by the instructor.  At the conclusion of each class, the instructor will bring the class to a close and foreshadow important themes in the following week's assignment.  Additionally, there will be a 15 minute break.
 
Final paper:  A final paper is due in class on May 5th of approximately 20-25 pages. It should examine some aspect of the course is greater detail. For example, the paper could examine some aspect of gender on the Internet (in MUDs, on IRC, on newsgroups);  experiences of women in the world of computing; the rhetoric of computer science (including artificial intelligence and artificial life) seen from a gender-sensitive perspective; gender and science fiction;  women's political action on the Internet and Web.

Graduate Student Requirements:   The final paper for graduate students should be a seminar-style paper of approximately 30 pages in length.

Grades:  The grade will be based on class participation and the quality of  the final paper.

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