Week 1: Labour – Available Readings from the FemTechNet Syllabi

As in the previous post for the Prelude, I have gone through the FemTechNet Syllabi for this week and picked out the readings that are online for free and not behind an institutional login. There were fewer readings for this week than the Prelude, which covered a lot of ground, so I haven’t prioritised this list in the same way and have given a short description of each text.

Analyses uneven distribution of genders through professions as a product of people seeking upwards mobility or status within a still gender-essentialist environment; the outcome being that the number of women increases significantly only in high-status professions, where there are no more opportunities for advancement within traditionally female roles.

Discusses the formation of transitional labour markets within economies that operate globally and span online and offline environments. Individuals in these economies must continually participate in the formation of new economic-social networks and continually re-skill and re-culture themselves in order to operate  within these networks.  As individual identity is continually reformulated in this environment, so is  the market value of products; continual cultural novelty produces new commercial worth.

Gregg addresses shifts in working patterns that relate to technological change, the erosion of the boundary between work and the personal produced in a world where one is always in communication, always available to work. These patterns are related to pre-existing discussions of reproductive and affective labour in feminist economics.

Uses two examples of women in East Asia, one of whom produces iPhones in a Foxconn factory, one of whom uses three iPhones to produce covers of pop songs, to emphasise the inequalities produced by the global economy of technology.

subRosa is a cyberfeminist collective, and this essay outlines their work as focusing on the reproductive labour of women under capitalism, investigating how biotechnology and digital technologies are altering relations between women, their bodies and their labour, and analysing the global economy’s role in the production of gender and gender relations.

Discusses the role of the social in the digital economy and the importance of free labour in this environment, relating the digital economy to the autonomist notion of the ‘social factory’ and investigating how the internet interacts with wider networks  of social and cultural relationships to (re)configure labour and power relations.

Compares pessimistic and optimistic feminist approaches to the effects of technology on gender roles and relations. Wajcman criticises technological determinism, suggesting that positive changes in technological fields (such as increasing numbers of women working in technology) are due to feminist practices within those fields rather than results of technological change itself.

There is a link provided to an upload of Wajcman’s “Technofeminism”, but it seems to be broken. Anne Balsamo’s book “Designing Culture: the Technological Imagination at Work” is not available online, but the website for the book is here, her blog is here and there is a video about the book and website here. The film “Forbidden Voices: how to start a revolution with a laptop” appeared on the previous syllabi, but this time there is is also a link to an article about one of the bloggers. The other pieces (another article by Wajcman, a book chapter by Erin Manning, and three articles published in the ’80s), I couldn’t find.

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