COGR 275: Feminist Dialogues on Technology (Spring 2013)

Spring 2013, W 9-11:50, Comm 201, UCSD

Course website:

Recent Announcements (more)

Feminist Infrastructures and Technologies Assembly
A meeting of the UCHRI Feminist and Technology Working Group
April 18-20 2013, Cymer Conference Center, SME Building, UCSD
(Tue Feb 05, 12:30 p.m.)


Lisa Cartwright (Professor)

/ phone: 858-822-6295

Office Hours: W 2-3 or by appointment in Comm 124B

Elizabeth Losh (Professor)

/ phone: (858) 822-1666

Office Hours: M 12-1 or by appointment in PCYN 249

Course Description

This graduate seminar on feminism and technology is part of a larger distributed online collaborative course (DOCC) initiative described at It provides an overview of major feminist technology theory and practice through consideration of posthumanism, cyborg culture, bioinformatics, reproductive technovisions, disability, gendered and racialized digital labor, and feminist game design and critical sci-art with attention to questions of embodiment, agency, mediation, and difference.  Peer to peer teaching and learning, institutional intersectionality, and critical mediation and practice are explored reflexively through projects that feature opportunities for collaborative writing, interpretation, design, media production, and other forms of distributed activity. 



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Additional Readings

Geisel e-reserves and electronic book links listed here for items not in required books.

e-reserves password: LC275 (not case sensitive) 

See bottom of page for Schedule items marked (Course Links).


Week 1 (April 3)

Bowker and Star, Sorting Things Out, Ch 9: "Categorical Work and Boundary Structures"  (285-319)

Electronic book

Designing Culture: The Technological Imagination at Work

Anne Balsamo (Duke 2011)

Chapter 4, “Designing Learning” (133-184)

Electronic book 

Week 2 (April 10)

How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics N. Katherine Hayles (Chicago, 1999)

Prologue (xi-xiv) and Ch  1-2 (1-50)

Electronic Book


Week 3 (April 17)

The Right Tools for the Job Adele Clarke and Joan Fujimora (Princeton 1992) 

Introduction, "What Tools? Which Job? Why Right?" (3-46)

The Global Biopolitics of the IUD: How Science Constructs Contraceptive Users and Women’s Bodies by Chikako Takeshita (MIT 2011)

Chapter 2, "Birth Control for a Nation: The IUD as Technoscientific Biopower" (33-72)

“Limits of ‘Labor’: Accounting for Affect and the Biological in Transnational Surrogacy and Service Work” Kalindi Vora, South Atlantic Quarterly 111:4, Fall 2012 (681-700)


Week 4 (April 24)

Fictions of Feminist Ethnography by Kamala Viswesweran (Minnesota 1994)

Ch 2 “Defining Feminist Ethnography” (17-39) and Ch 6 “Feminist Ehtnography as Failure (95-113)

Electronic book

The Queer Art of Failure

Judith Halberstam, Duke 2011

Ch 4: "Shadow Feminism"

Electronic book

Doing Sensory Ethnography by Sarah Pink (Sage 2009)

Ch 3 Preparing for Sensory Research (44-60)


Inclusion: The Politics of Difference in Medical Research by Steve Epstein,

Ch1 "How to Study a Biopolitical Paradigm" (1-17); Ch 10 “"To Profile or Not to Profile: What Difference Does Race Make?" (203-33); and Ch 11 "Sex Differences and the New Politics of Women's Health" (233-58)

Week 8 (May 22)

The Queer Art of Failure

Judith Halberstam, Duke 2011

Ch 1 and 6

Electronic book

Week 5 (May 1)

Affect and Artificial Intelligence by Elizabeth Wilson (University of Washington 2010)

“The Machine Has No Fear” (3-31) and "Shaming AI: Helplessness, Confusion, and Error” (58-82)


Week 6 (May 8)

N. Katherine Hayles, “Desiring Agency: Limiting Metaphors and Enabling Constraints in Dawkins and Deleuze/Guattari,” SubStance 94/5,  2001 (144-159)

Week 7 (May 15)

Virtualpolitik: An Electronic History of Government Media-Making in a Time of War, Scandal, Disaster, Miscommunication, and Mistakes by Elizabeth Losh (MIT 2009)

Ch 8 "Reading Room: The Nation-State and Digital Library Initiatives" (239-279) and Ch. 10 "The Past as Prologue: Cultural Politics and the Founding Narratives of Information Science" (311-332)


Digital Networks and the State: Some Governance Questions, Saskia Sassen, Theory, Culture and Society 17:4, 2000 (19-33)

“Automating Gender,” Judith Halberstam, Feminist Studies 17: 3 (Autumn 1991), 439-460

Week 8 (May 22)

Animacies : Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect

Mel Y. Chen, Duke 2012

Ch 3 "Queer Animality"

Electronic book

Animacies : Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect

Mel Y. Chen, Duke 2012

Introduction, Ch 1 :Mattering Humans" and Ch 5 "Lead's Racial Matters"

Electronic book

Bowker and Star, Sorting Things Out: Introduction; Ch 6: "The Case of Race Classification" (195-226)

Electronic book

When Biometrics Fail : Gender, Race, and the Technology of Identity

Shoshana Amielle Magnet, Duke 2011

Ch 1-4 and conclusion

Electronic Book

Camera Obscura 24: 1 (70), 2009, Special Issue: Race and/as Technology

Introduction: Race and/as Technology; or, How to Do Things to Race by Wendy Hui Kyong Chun (6-34)  and Race as Technology by Beth Coleman (177-207)


Week 9 (May 29)

Critical Play: Radical Game Design by Mary Flanagan (MIT 2013)

Ch 2. "Playing House" (17-62) and and Ch. 7 "Critical Computer Games" (222-249)


Week 10 (June 5)

Life After New Media by Sarah Kember and Joanna Zylinska (MIT 2012)

"Mediation and the Vitality of Media" (1-28)  

Lisa Parks, "Zeroing In: Overheard Imagery, Infrastructure Ruins, and Datalands in Afghanistan and Iraq"

Ch 14 in The Visual Culture reader, 3rd Ed., ed. Nicholas Mirzoeff, Routledge 2012

Course Details and Policies

ADA statement

In accordance with the Americans With Disabilities Act, it is the intention of the professors to support the full participation of all students in the teaching and learning process of this class.  Situations may occur in which the physical or mental needs or learning styles of individual students are not met by the instructional climate.  It is the expectation of the professors that students who require specific or additional support to participate in class, to acquire the course content, or to demonstrate their achievement of course objectives will inform the professors of their needs immediately so accommodations can be arranged. All requests will be treated with respect and confidentiality.


UCSD disability services

To get services from the Office for Students with Disabilities you must apply to this office directly. Please note that ADD/ADHD, psychological, and learning disabilities are among those categories included in the OSD assessment guidelines and documentation categories. To start this process you may go online to the OSD website at and click on “how to apply for services”; call (858)534-4382 (Voice/TDD); or go in person to the OSD office in Building 985 behind Center Hall on Gilman Drive between Library Walk and Myers Drive (call first for appointment and for on-site designated parking space information and driving directions).

Phone: (858) 534-4382
Office for Students with Disabilities, University Center 202

Physical Address: University Center 202

Hours of Operation: Monday - Friday, 8:00am - 4:30pm


858.534.4382 (Voice)

858.534.4650 (Fax)

858.534.9709 (TTY) - Reserved for people who are deaf or hard of hearing

Email: (general email) (requests for deaf/hard of hearing services) (requests for formats other than standard print)

Five Assignments:

  • One blog comment (200-250 words)
  • One Wikistorming entry (revision or new entry)
  • One object (prototype, zine, map, exhibit, assemblage, craft object, etc.)
  • One boundary object video or audio recording (interview, essay, vlog, digital storytelling, demo, etc. )
  • One literature review, book review, or annotated syllabus

Course Schedule

Week Date Topic Readings Assignments Notes
1 Wed Apr 03 Introduction
Balsamo, "Designing Learning"

Bowker and Star, Ch 9 "Categorical Work and Boundary Structures"



Balsamo, ""Taking Culture Seriously in the Age of Innovation" (1-16)

Star and Griesemer original boundary objects essay (Course Links) and Star essays on onions and boundary objects in Documents, Marick in Documents
2 Wed Apr 10 Posthumanism (Losh)
Hayles, How We Became Posthuman, Prologue and Chapters 1-2
Barad, "Living in a Posthumanist Material World" ( in Bits of Life)



Whitehead and Wesch, "Human No More" (Course Links)
3 Tue Apr 16 Recommended activity
Donna Haraway lecture, "Cosmopolitan Critters"
UCSD San Diego Supercomputer Center, 4 - 6 pm
Donna Haraway, Companion Species Manifesto (Book and Course Link)
Wed Apr 17 Tools, Biopolitics (Cartwright)
Clarke and Fujimora, "What Tools? Which Job? Why Right?"

Takeshita, "The IUD as Technoscientific Biopower"

Vora, "Limits of 'Labor'”

From Tactical Biopolitics:
da Costa and Philip, Introduction;
Vesna, "Seeing the World in a Grain of Sand"; &
Daniel, "The Database Aesthetic"
subRosa art collective (Course Link)

Blog Comment
Bonnie Nardi once observed that "the modal number of comments in individually authored blogs has been found to be zero," which was a theme picked up in Geert Lovink's book Zero Comments.  This assignment asks you to make a substantive comment on a blog posting that addresses issues relevant to this course (HASTAC, CASTAC, Media Praxis, Planned Obsolescence, The Difference Engine, etc.) and to observe the principles of generosity, confidence, humility flexibility, and integrity from Balsamo
Wed Apr 17 Recommended activity
Beatriz da Costa, Dying for the Other
LACE, Los Angeles, 6-9pm
Thu Apr 18 Feminist IT Assembly screenings and performances:
6 pm -10 pm
Thu Apr 18 Recommended activity
N. Katherine Hayles lecture, Center for the Humanities
3 pm - 5 pm
Thu Apr 18 Recommended activity
Storming Wikipedia, a workshop with Adrianne Wadewitz, Mellon Digital Scholarship Fellow at the Center for Digital Learning and Research of Occidental College, 11-12:20pm, in the Copley International Conference Center at UCSD
Fri Apr 19 Feminist IT Assembly
9 am - 7 pm
Sat Apr 20 Feminist IT conference: grad session
9.30 am - 3 pm
4 Wed Apr 24 Feminist ethnographic research methods and ethics
Ethnography and Virtual Worlds, "Ten Myths" (29-51); "Ethics" 129-15)

Viswesweran, "Defining Feminist Ethnography" and "Feminist Ethnography as Failure"

Halberstam, Queer Art of Failure, Ch 4: "Shadow Feminism"

Listen to Halberstam on Queer Art of Failure
(Course Links)

Pink, "Preparing for Sensory Research"
AoIR Ethics Guide

Ethnography and Virtual Worlds, "Data Analysis" (159-81)

IRB training materials
Examining the online materials for IRB training in the context of this week's readings should raise some substantive questions about what might not be communicated by an online tutorial about failure, affect, and other areas of attention for those concerned with feminist research ethics.
5 Wed May 01 Affect, Animacy, Queer Intelligence  (Cartwright)

Wilson, Affect and Artificial Intelligence (2011), "Shaming AI" and "The Machine Has No Fear"

Chen, Ch 3 "Queer Animality" in Animacies

Halberstam, Ch 1 and 6 in
the Queer Art of Failure

Halberstam, "Automating Gender" (1991)
Create an entry or revise an entry using information from the Wikipedia help page: 

See this blog entry from another FemTechNet course for other pedagogical experiments.
6 Wed May 08 Machines, Assemblages (Losh)
Suchman, Human-Machine Reconfigurations (Second Ed)

Hayles, "Desiring Agency"

Licklider, "Man-Computer Symbiosis" (Course Link)
Haraway, "Cyborg Manifesto" (Course Link)

Suchman, "The End of Innovation" (Course Link)

Create a 2D or 3D object that can serve as a display or explanatory medium to foster conversation in the course or to express an argument, sentiment, gesture, collaborative effort, or networking possibility.  Be ready to discuss your object with our group!
7 Wed May 15 Labor, the Political (Losh)
Losh, Virtualpolitik, Chapters 8 & 10

Sassen, "Digital Networks and the State"

Nakamura, "Native American Women's Labor, Counterculture Narratives, and the Roots of Digital Utopianism" (link to come)
  Optional video and audio editing workshop in Sixth College
8 Wed May 22 Race, Classification, Boundary structures (Cartwright)
Chen, Introduction, Ch 1 :Mattering Humans" and Ch 5 "Lead's Racial Matters" in Animacies

Bowker and Star, Ch 6 "The Case of Race Classification"

Magnet, When Biometrics Fail: Gender, Race, and the Technology of Identity Ch 1-4 and conclusion

Chun and Coleman in Camera Obscura 70, 2009

Epstein, Ch 2 "From the Human Standard to Niche Standardization"; Ch 10 "To Profile or Not to Profile: What Difference Does Race Make?" Ch 11 "Sex Differences"

Takeshita, "Body-Technology Relationships in Racialized Global Context" (in The Global Politics of the IUD)

Boundary Object Video or Audio Recording
Create a video or audio recording that responds to the keyword project of FemTechNet.  See keywords posted at and videos posted at for ideas.  Be ready to screen your recording for the group!
9 Wed May 29 Systems, Information (Losh) Flanagan, "Playing House" and "Critical Computer Games" (Course Links)

Ludica, "Playing Dress-up" and "Hegemony of Play"
  Optional digital humanities tools workshop in Sixth College
10 Wed Jun 05 Life, Matter, Media (Cartwright)
Kember and Zylinska, "Mediation and the Vitality of Media" in Life After New Media

Shildrik and Price, "Queer Corporealities: Shrinking Global Disability"
(Course Link)

Parks, "Zeroing In: Overheard Imagery, Infrastructure Ruins, and Datalands in Afghanistan and Iraq"
Barad, "Posthumanist Performativity" (Course Link)

Bits of Life (Lykke,Van Dijck,  Braidotti, Stacey)

Geismar on Ginsburg (Course Link)

Cooper, Life as Surplus
Review or Annotation Final Project
Timed sample exam response, twenty-minute conference presentation, or seminar paper.

(You may also think about how "book reviews, literature reviews, and annotated syllabi are all important ways to disseminate feminist scholarly discourses about technology"  with the aim eventually to
"formulate your work to be part of a traditional dissertation chapter").