Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Poem Hacks and Listening

I’ve recently been thinking about a short article by Carmen Giménez Smith, a colleague from the Department of English here at NMSU. If you have not read the enjoyable “Twenty-Two Poem Hacks,” you are missing out. It sets loose the possibility of play in poetry (for both poets and readers). My goal is to use the “hacks” to think about subjects and events that are in addition to poetry. Imagine using hack #6 that states: “Check word frequency: If we use a single word in a poem more than once, we’ve created a pattern (the same goes for entire books). Is this a generative pattern, or an accident?” to think about the number of times I or others repeat a word (or words) in a conversation or day. Sometimes we are all aware of repeating words when nervous or as reactions when listening. How can this hack help promote reflective listening or teach us things about ourselves and others? The hacks can help us let loose the possibility of play in any number of different areas.

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

Compulsory “I’m sorry I haven’t posted” Post

Honestly.

I am sorry.

I’m behind.

Soon, I will get back on schedule and write away.

I promise.

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

Thinking Out Loud Podcast

It is almost time for the Fall 2013 school semester to begin. Where has the summer gone? Why haven’t I achieved all of the goals I have set for myself this summer? How close am I to having my syllabi written? My book chosen? My classes prepared? Take a couple of minutes to go on a mental journey with me while I “Think Out Loud” (my podcast) about putting together my Feminist Theory Seminar I teach each fall semester.

Thinking Out Loud: Getting Ready for Fall 2013

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

Judith Butler on the VALUE of the Humanities

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

MOOCs: The New Old School?

First off, I’d like to share these posts on Stephen Jay Gould and E.B. White on creativity and the art of the essay. I am thinking of both of them and their work in these areas for inspiration for the summer. Secondly, someone is selling Debbie Harry and David Bowie paper dolls on Fab.com. I truly need these as collector’s items. They are something I must have for my existence on this earth to be legitimated. Someday, Fab.com. Some. Day.

 

It’s summer… I have a truckload of projects and I’m teaching a summer class. I’m also wondering how I am going to focus. I know I’ll get done what needs to get done, but I’d really like to get done what I’d like to get done as well. I “like” everything I am doing this summer, but there are some things that are on my list of “This Needs to Happen Summer 2013.” Self-questioning is something. One of those tasks is further educating myself on MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and possibly taking one in the future (to educate myself about them more). If you travel in academic circles or are interested in learning/digital literacy, “MOOC” might be a term you are confronted with everywhere you turn. Perhaps you have a point of view on MOOCs or this just isn’t your fight. The term and discussions about MOOCs are all around for me. Is it because I do digital pedagogy or is it because it really is the time of the MOOCs? The New York Times named 2012 “the year of the MOOC.” We are well into 2013. I think it is the year of the “Discourse on the MOOC.”

 

For those of you who may not be familiar with MOOCs, they are web-based courses and they are not one in the same with Distance Ed, as one might think. This is something I find myself discussing a lot with people who are not familiar with the debates going on around MOOCs. They are a particular development in digital pedagogy. In the early stages (the late 2000s), MOOCs were free (sans cost), not-for-academic-credit courses generally offered by large universities. Today, some universities offer academic credit and either charge or continue the “sans cost” model. The original goal of the MOOC, I believe, was to make higher education more accessible to people in all walks life throughout the world who are digitally literate, have access, and a burning desire to further their education (generally, this desire is discussed as an avenue to help one get a better job, not necessarily to improve the self-as the philosophy education often touts).

 

Some of the enrollment in MOOCs has been documented to be as high as 100,000. After its initial success, many initiators started partnering with private companies, and perhaps this one sticking point that has started the floodgate of discourse. Earlier discussions on MOOCs did not generally focus on teaching methods, the low course retention/pass rates that continue to plague this learning model, the role of private companies that make MOOCs  “for pay” (since these were traditionally “open” or sans tuition cost–one interpretation of the first “O” in MOOC), behemoth universities dominating smaller universities, or the possibility of offering academic credit to students who complete them (to name a few hot discussions).  With the growing existence of “for pay” MOOCs, the term “EdX” has come into play to signify courses without tuition costs. In “Instruction for Masses Knocks Down Campus Walls,” Tamar Lewin proposes: “While the vast potential of free online courses has excited theoretical interest for decades, in the past few months hundreds of thousands of motivated students around the world who lack access to elite universities have been embracing them as a path toward sophisticated skills and high-paying jobs, without paying tuition or collecting a college degree. And in what some see as a threat to traditional institutions, several of these courses now come with an informal credential (though that, in most cases, will not be free).” One will have to wait to see the data that will eventually emerge about the role of MOOCs in helping people to secure higher paying jobs. However, it is possibly clear to see from this statement a couple of reasons why many universities have attempted to get on the MOOC bandwagon in one way or another: the fear of losing revenue to free MOOCs (or even those offered by private companies) and the domination of larger universities offering them to potential students worldwide.

 

What I am interested in is pointing out some thought-provoking discussions on MOOCs that I have been reading. No matter where one falls on this subject, these posts offer strong reasons to think through MOOCs as a discourse. This one by Patrick Bigger and Victor E. Kappeler makes many sober claims about institutions and MOOCs’ role in higher learning in the future.  Aaron Bady makes furthers our thinking about MOOCs and institutions of higher learning in “The MOOC Moment and the End of Reform.”  Historian Ann M. Little throws her hat in the ring in this article that proposes a lot of solid questions and does interesting work talking about pedagogy. She brings in the importance of the innovations of feminist pedagogy, one of the disciplines that helped to rethink methods of teaching and learning. Her post, which has quite the title, push us to think about what is at risk with MOOCs, not only what we can gain or lose. “Risk” is a powerful concept to put up against “gain.” I think it opens even greater conversational spaces than “loss.”

 

Of special interest to me in the MOOC world is Christina Blanch’s course from Ball State that just wrapped up called “Gender Through Comics.” The Gender Studies and graphic narrative angle is part of my own teaching and research. Some have attempted to make the claim that this course disrupts what has been criticized as the return to the “lecturing white male professor” model of education in MOOCs. Does the very existence of the MOOC’s subject matter and the gender of the professor signal the disruption of a “new return” to older methods of pedagogy? Does it take more than the gender of a prof or the topic of a course to unpack the MOOC? This is why I call this post the “new old school.” MOOCs seem to combine a variety of “new school” digital literate methodologies and “old school” delivery of lectures.

 

This aspect of the MOOC discourse is especially important to me because I am in English, Gender/Women’s Studies, and Sexuality Studies. These are fields that are highly invested in decentering classrooms and process pedagogy/learning. I do not feel that my ability to decenter the “classroom” and focus on process are threatened in my Distance Ed courses. They are adaptable digital, online learning environments. In fact, I sometimes feel I have more freedom and the opportunity for innovation on a daily basis in my Distance Ed classes because I can  incorporate a number of social media tools in my courses almost seemingly seamlessly as well as disrupt notions of time and space in the “classroom” (Hey, I’m Dr. Who!). I love digital feminisms and feminist new media–making them a part of my Distance Ed courses is a joy that I believe enriches the classroom and makes course delivery methods much more exciting and attractive to students (and for the instructor). Is this a regular part of the MOOCs? Is this a part of Prof. Blanch‘s (a doctoral candidate in Educational Studies) course? As I have already mentioned, one of the critiques of them is their return to the traditional “lecture” model. I don’t know if Prof. Blanch’s was able to employ a Gender/Women’s Studies pedagogical methodology in her course. I do know that she was able to get a lot of interviews with important people in the  comic book field to enrich her course and that access-as well as the filmic artifacts these interviews produce-are potentially landmarks in education in Cultural/Gender Studies. I teach courses in literature/gender on a regular basis and I cannot imagine having the access Prof. Blanch’s MOOC was able to generate or the funding to create the videos. This is one of the appealing features of MOOCs: access to professors from “highly funded universities” and all the resources this phrase implies.

 

I am honestly sorry that I missed the class (I would have totally taken it) and I hope to converse with her someday about our common interests in graphic narrative, gender studies, and online pedagogy.  I taught my Gender and Graphic Narrative course online for this first time Spring 2013 and I really loved it. It was a Distance Ed course and was, I know, very different from her experience of teaching/creating a MOOC. Since her course was a MOOC, the size alone makes it different from a typical Distance Ed course. It also focused on using comic books and some mainstream graphic novels. I am also wondering if it was an Introduction to Gender Studies course since its title is about understanding gender through the reading of comics. My course is an upper-division literature/Gender Studies course focusing on literary graphic narrative that is autobiographic and demonstrates historical as well as innovative contributions to the form. It goes for the high art.

 

I find Prof. Blanch’s concept intriguing-the use of the popular comic book and graphic novel to teach gender. She ventures into a straight, white male-dominated world of comics that is either highly critiqued by feminists/gender scholars or is not frequented by those in Gender Studies who work in graphic narrative/Comic Studies. Her class is an intervention in Gender/Women’s Studies for this reason alone. It also confirms how Gender Studies has many proponents of online learning in this field. As Prof. Blanch states in an interview: “I thought using comic books could be a way to approach teaching gender without the trepidation some students feel.” I totally agree. Rethinking the models we use to telegraph the concepts of a field can be enlightening for students. It has also been my experience that online teaching helps to relax tensions and open worlds for students in Gender/Women’s Studies in ways that face-to-face classes can sometimes have difficulties bridging. I really do wonder how all of this played out in Prof. Blanch’s MOOC and I look forward to the day I can hear her speak or read a paper about the experience.

 

Earlier I stated that I would like to take a MOOC. When I say this I make the claim as someone interested in digital education and the furthering of learning. I would probably have a very different reaction if this was brought as a proposition to my university or department. The dropout/failure rate for MOOCs is enough to give me great pause as a potential student and educator. Is there a way to change MOOCs so that this trend changes? Is there enough to change human beings so that this is changing trend? Perhaps, the creation of decentered MOOCs with new forms of pedagogy is the answer. I can’t help but wonder if the success of the MOOC is its failure. It takes more than the lack of tuition to engage learners.

 

 

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Academic Hipster Poésie

As seems to be my way, I get at what I include in these posts by thinking of other things. For example, I wanted to write about Mistral previously and ended up writing about Fleetwood Mac/Stevie Nicks (I am, in fact, listening to them now. I am truly swimming in the FleetNicks pond). Today, I have been thinking a lot about brevity and its power. I have been working in the back of my mind for some time about a post I want to contribute to Michele Norris’s The Race Card Project. The project states: “Think about the word Race. How would you distill your thoughts, experiences or observations about race into one sentence that only has six words?” If you have not encountered or yet participated in this digital project, please check it out. Even if you do not end up participating with your own six words (as the project invites), give yourself the time to read about what others have contributed. As for me, I am still reflecting and coming up with my six words. Some people go over six words. I want to really force myself to communicate in six words for this archive/project because it calls forth the importance of saying a great deal in few words (the process of distilling). For me, the six words work as a metaphor for race in the U.S.A. The U.S.A.  is a society that speaks of “color blindness” about race (and often gender, sexuality, class, as well as other categories of identity) while it also continually marks it or makes it visible. Racialized discourses are employed to disenfranchise and prioritize groups. Race in the U.S.A. is the supposed easily constructed “six words” and the immensity of bold commentary/experience at the same time. I am sure my first card will be an observation and that it will take some time to talk about my own experience. I usually always say “I am processing,” but now I am saying “distilling.”

Another project that is currently using brevity to make important and bold statements is The Six Word Memoir. I really admire and appreciate this project as well. Can you imagine writing a six word memoir about your life? What would you say? How would you organize it (i.e., what period of your life would you focus on for the memoir)? Would it be a fun statement or something serious? For fun, check out #6words to get a glance at how others are going about this on Twitter. These are both strong projects to think about to include in teaching, which is what I plan to do with them. We all need to work on making statements and not getting to lost in details. Sometimes when I work with students who are really gifted at thinking through a plethora of ideas and concepts, I want to so desperately ask them to distill what they are saying into a statement. When they have the statement, they really have something. The statement is a starting point, a position. It gives purpose and it declarative.

This desire for statement and my current admiration at  the power of brevity, of distilling, started happening to me around the time I discovered an old poem I wrote a few years ago. The poem is clearly what I now name “hipster academic poetry.” I define hipster academic poetry as poetry that is a treasure trove of pop culture, theory, historical reference, ephemera, and attempts at commentary or/and world-building. This is full-on Derrida poetry territory. Trace. Supplement. Metaphysics of Presence. Lucuna. Aporia. Could writing hipster academic poetry be a way to help students understand critical theory and to also make statements?

While I do not consider myself a hipster–natch– it could be argued by some that I am a “hipster academic” due to my interests in music, pop culture, theory, film, digital humanities, the oxford comma, and lit. But, there is something hipster (or at least “hipster academic”) about this project. No matter how I think of myself personally or as a professor,  I am an academic, that is for sure, which is probably why I gave myself this “assignment.” My discovered poem is the opposite of brevity. It is the attempt to bring many things together under one banner (statement). The poem plays with Star Wars as its metaphorical core! I am not even the big Star Wars fan of the family (my partner is). I am the Xena and Dr. Who reboot fanatic of the house, but they are nowhere to be found here. I need Vader. I watch Once Upon a Time to bask in the glory that is Lana Parrilla‘s Regina Mills (going all fan girl and femslash now…). I didn’t need to add that, especially since the show was not on TV when I wrote the poem, but I did want to talk about Lana Parrilla (as I seem to do a lot these days without noticing it).

At some point a couple of years ago, I challenged myself to some hipster academic  poesie that put Star Wars into conversation with Freud, Melanie Klein, Sylvia Plath, and the French Revolution. It is, for me, the tresor trové. I have to admit I had a lot of fun making this poem and a couple others I made during this period. While the point was never to produce a poem, statement, or memoir through a few words, I did want to play with brevity and metaphor–or even narrative. I use several words to talk about what is seemingly small or un/connected because everything is knotted up. We do not see the knot tying things together.

My poem plays with the notion of Princess Leia and Darth Vader as father, but it allows me to think about so many patriarchal social structures and play with the idea of wondering where is the daughter in the father/son dyad. How could I not go to Vader? All everyone is thinking about is Vader and Luke. What about Leia? Think about what Luke loses and then think about Leia losing Alderaan–just for a starting point. Metaphics of Presence. Lucuna. Aproia.

This is why it is taking me so long to do my card for The Race Card Project. What seems like something that should be so easy to do can actually be quite difficult because there is a knot of threads wound up pretending like there is very little there beside what is most obvious. Trace. Supplement.

I am still working out how to make my “academic hipster poem” into a substantive assignment for my theory students. But, I am going through the steps of something that is the opposite of the word brevity, but shares a commitment to distillation and bringing forth what is well beneath the surface or presence (finding the entangled threads of the knot). As the wonderful queer poet Richard Siken writes in “Anyway,” a Twitter poem Siken composed in 24hrs in 2011: “He was pointing at the moon but I was looking at his hand.” My academic hipster poetry assignment is about looking at the hand and not the moon.

 

Idem

 

Hello ghost

Obi-Wan

 

Our most

desperate hour

 

Power in

the force

 

Destroy

the death

star

 

Supersized

Superweapon

Super moon-shaped

star

 

Use

the force

 

Use force

 

Luke Matthew Mark

and John

 

Only hope now

 

The tragic arc

of the romantic assault

against the enlightenment

 

And Madame Roland told them

the revolution is stained

by the hands of villains

from Faubourg Saint-Marcel

Our rebel alliance

 

Free the prostitutes

and kill the

twenty-five

madwomen

still in their chains

 

Pitié-Salpêtrière

September 1792

 

Betray the rebels

Leia Organa

Save yourself

Save Alderran

The empire

will rebuild

the Death Star

anyway

 

While we were not looking

Little Hans

stole the eyelashes from horses

 

He ate at them

with broad beans

and red wine

from Tuscany

in squat bottles

 

Victuals salted in equinophobia

and the dread of

Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital

 

It is strange

what they say of murderous wishes

Melanie Klein

 

Death Star schematics:

The axiomatic suspicion

of fathers and sons

the invention of sexual difference

 

Central antagonist:

the éminence grise

or cherchez la femme

 

Place Marie-Curie, Boulevard de L’Hôpital

Freud and Jean-Martin Charcot

are ghosted by Aeschylus’ trilogy

A hauntology making rounds

among the medical errors

of the late nineteenth century

 

Freud‘s first son

will be named

Jean-Martin

 

Hysteria diagnosis

Anna O.

His youngest daughter

will be called

Anna

 

Josephine Baker

and Diana of Wells

death notices

from Salpêtrière

 

When Vader

captures you

Do not send

the droid

to find

the ghost man

on the desert

planet

 

Leia Organa

iconic slave girl

third movie

the metal bikini

at the palace of

Jabba

 

The seduction of aesthetics

 

Remember, Aristophanes

blames Aspasia

slave girl

for the Peloponnesian War

Plutarch claims

no better

 

Courtesan

conversationalist

poised at the avant-garde

of the old gender trouble

in metal bikini

object of Han Solo and Pericles’ affliction

 

Salpêtrière

1786

 

Sweep the streets of Paris

couple the prostitutes

with violent criminals

Send them to New France

 

Power in

the force

 

Our most

desperate hour

 

Use the force

 

Use force

 

Only hope now

 

And they never told you

Leia Organa

about daddy issues

You only know

Sylvia Plath

and the tragic arc

of fully operational

death stars

 

Hipster academic poetry, a tool for thinking about history, theory, culture, ethics, and what is too damn cool. Now only to revise and resubmit. After thinking so much about brevity, it is time to really distill what is happening here in words and metaphors. Time for to bring out the scissors and bring forth here what is truly moon and hand.

 

BTW, happy Earth Day. I am off to read some Virginia Woolf with the lights off!

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

Mistral, Nicks, and Fleetwood Mac: Well Maybe…

 

Or Gabriela Mistral Writes “Why Reeds Are Hollow” and Stevie Nicks Sings “Do not turn away, my friend/Like a willow I can bend”

 

I was reading about the Chilean poet, Gabriela Mistral today and how a new academic text seeks to rethink the public and nationalist image of  her gender identity and possibly her sexuality. She is always put into opposition with Neruda. He is the young and lustful one; she is the stately mother of the nation. The nationalistic contrasting of Mistral and Neruda usually puts Mistral’s support of Neruda on the back burner and doesn’t speak of how her work was not celebrated in Chile until after the Nobel Prize. She even lived the last decades of her life abroad. 

As  the time moved along, it became clear to me that A Queer Mother for the Nation could go on the list of possible recent texts to use in my yearly Feminist Theory seminar. Licia Fiol-Matta’s text seeks to create a nuanced reading of gender and the state and how identity-even  identities that  defy gender norms and expectations-can be used by the state for its own ideological purposes. In this moment of reading and thinking with strains of Mistral and Neruda (even flashes of Il Postino) floating all around me, I note that I am once again listening to Fleetwood Mac/Stevie Nicks while working. Why FleetNicks? Why their music while I am thinking so much about Mistral and Neruda. Is it a Nicks/Buckingham thing? Is it something all together different?

I have fallen into an ocean of Fleetwood Mac/Stevie Nicks, and I cannot seem to find the shore. Lyrical and musical refrains from their collective musical compositions fill my mind. Seriously. It is a FleetNicks holiday season in my brain these days and all over my Spotify. But why?  Why now? What is the time?  The voices, words, and sounds wave in and out of my head like some kind of crisp radio signal that comes into range from moment to moment, and I am literally unable to break the chain these successive moments form.  I have fallen into the purple prose… I grew up loving the band, especially the genius and contributions of Nicks. Lindsey Buckingham is, of course, a wunderkind himself, and I have grown to appreciate and really listen for the different contributions of Christine Mcvie as I grow older. She is someone who has really come to stand out for me in the band’s work as I learn to listen for moments in their music that go beyond what I generally seek out.

Desire.Excess.Hurt.Anger.Love.Longing.Transcendence.Space.Mystery.

It is sad she retired from the band after they were inducted into the Rock&Roll Hall of Fame. I mourn the fact that I will probably never see them play live with her as a member of the band.

Seeing them live…. There is even the Fleetwood Mac concert that I am going to in the summer in Nicks’s native Arizona. Her words and persona are the very antithesis of the current image of the Anglo from the state. Her sense of soul, respect, the spirit and the sacred, and the land could not be further from hatred that shuts down Ethnic Studies programs or supports anti-Latin@ political biaseshomophobes and transphobia. When I first moved to the southwest about five years ago, it was Nicks that helped me immediately connect with the geographic space. After my first night in the house I initially lived in here in NM, I awoke from the air bed I was sleeping on with windows wide open to the sound of a bird I never heard call before. My partner and I looked at each other and started to sing with wonder and big smiles the chorus from “The Edge of 17.”  Nicks taught me the sound of the white winged dove before I ever really saw or heard one.  “Just like the white winged dove/Sings a song/Sounds like she’s singin’/Said, whoo, baby, whoo/Said, whoo.” It is hard for me to even put into words the way “Landslide” makes me feel or enters my heart as I look at the mountains and rock formations while driving across the southwest. Perhaps this is why FleetNicks flows through me so heavily these days.  The landslide. The music evokes the sadness and mystery, the loss, the quiet, the stillness and the cries of the spaces…  Regrets and longing… The hauntedness of the place… I am coming up on my fifth year anniversary in southern NM. I left Purdue in West Lafayette, IN to accept my first full-time tenure track position on the fourth of July in 2008.

There are many reasons for me to love their work, craft, histories and mystery that go well beyond what I am ready to discuss here (I have not spent proper time to reflect and inventory my ideas). I didn’t even plan to write this post; I was listening. I have not even written about the Night of a Thousand Stevies or  the new queer cinema films The Edge of Seventeen and Gypsy 83, both penned by the Sandusky, OH raised Todd Stephens.  Queer women adore Stevie as well (and I am no Gleek), but no one has yet to really make something of our fandom (as is so often the case). Fleetwood Mac is not even my “most” fave band, if I could truly say I have one of those. I don’t have one. What I do know its that they have woven themselves into my everyday and I can complete tasks while listening to their music and remain in a state of contemplation, a counting of a rosary of musical sorts. And I have a sense of this geographic space in which I live that gives me a feeling of never really being alone because FleetNicks are here with me to feel the melancholia and loneliness of the land, of myself in the vastness and sadness of the bright and sunny southwest. This is where I am now near year five.

….

I need to think more about Licia Fiol-Matta’s argument and her use of queer when it comes to Mistral. From where I am now, it makes leaps and bounds. Is it the same to be queer (to be a sexual/gender minority-troubler of norms) and non-traditional? What of Mistral’s privilege? If she is so queer, why does the state always need to put her in contrast with Neruda?  Question to answer for another day. 

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

Queer Theory, Ocularcentrism, and the Western episteme

A recent article in the NYT discusses the melding of queer theory and cabaret (“Queer Theory May Not Have a Beat, but Academicians Can Still Dance to It“). I title this post from a correction to the article where the awesome Ann Pellegrini informs the NYT that they quoted incorrectly from a comment she made. The correction states: “while she was impersonating the gender theorist Judith Butler and deconstructing the lyrics of ‘The Girl From Ipanema.’ She said that the lyrics reflect ‘the ocularcentrism of the Western episteme,’ not the “oracular-centrism.” I love this comment. There is really something very QT about it by making sure there is not confusion between the “ocular” and “oracular.” Or is there? Are they almost one in the same in a “Western episteme.” Either way, I enjoy reading about the event and wish very much that I had been there.

I appreciate the actions the event undertakes, even through the filters of  the article, because even in its “third decade” (the way I keep hearing about the field in discussions of queer theory), queer theory does still have a beat. It has many beats, beats that have not even been formed into any signature of musical time and people are still dancing (not just academicians). Queer theory has much to say and many internal conversations to stage. This is happening and needs to happen further, even if it can become the trend to decry, damage, or disclaim QT (not that the cabaret event did so). There is nothing wrong with uncomfortable conversations about entitlements and clinging to norms, challenging or poking fun at what QT is supposed to be. But, QT is not one dance. It is not one beat. And there are so many rhythms and collaborations to create.

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

Digital Feminisms and New Media are Feminisms

Hello! I am Dr. J, an Asst. Professor of Women’s Studies at New Mexico State University. I coordinate the website for the Women’s Studies Program at NMSU, as well as maintain Twitter and Tumblr feeds and a Facebook group connected to Women/Gender/Queer (GLBTQIA) Studies and categories of identity, such as race, class, dis/ability, postcoloniality, and nation. It is a small comment to say that I am interested in digital feminisms and new media. When I started my course on digital feminisms and new media at NMSU around 5 years ago, I struggled with what to call the class. I wanted a title that would reflect conversations in the ever growing field and would also be recognizable to students as online feminisms. I originally called the class “Cyberfeminisms: Feminist Digital Cultures.” While I still like the “Feminist Digital Cultures” subtitle, I now laugh at using the term “Cyberfeminisms.” Does anyone use the term cyberfeminism anymore? Even when I developed my course five years ago, I felt as though I was creating it in the nebulous space of what has come after “cyberfeminisms” (read here: it was then called Web 2.0) and what was becoming digital humanities and critical feminist new media studies and activisms. Cyberfeminism was something I studied as a student and was aware of the movement’s aims, but while I was greatly interested by the goals and philosophies produced in the movement, I was also troubled by many of the utopian ideas about “cyberspace,”  access, and identity that were circulated. To be honest, many of these ideas appeared in manifestos, and manifestos are, if anything, attempts to be visionary and polemical. Even though a part of my class in those days worked toward informing students about “feminist internet history,” the exciting spaces for the class always were connected to new media and its growing potential. In those days, blogs were at the center (blogs-to-books time), while Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and other spaces of social interaction and feminist critique were continuously becoming shaped and reshaped in addition to becoming the spaces of activisms, networking/connection, and public academia that I know today.

While, as I stated before, I am a great believer in digital humanities and feminism, I have also developed a strong interest in the work and ideas of Lawrence Lessig. Anyone who knows me personally knows I am a constant user of Tumblr and Twitter, but Lessig makes me think twice about the “free culture” I participate in and what can it mean for digital humanities and critical feminist new media. There seems to be no end for the creativity, connection, and possibility of new media, but Lessig makes one consider if these tools might be, to borrow from the highly quoted phrase from Audre Lorde, “master’s tools.” But, even while I write those words I cannot help but go to the ideas of Homi Bhabha and Judith Butler. Can the so-called “master’s tools” be used against the master or at least against the seemingly colonizing/hegemonic purposes for which they have been intended? Can they be used against themselves for purposes never imagined by their creators? Is that were feminist new media and digital humanities come into play (or can come into play)?

We are in a swiftly changing space in academia even if it does not feel this way. At times, we seem to operate in age old methods, approaches, and systems, and, at other times, we struggle for ways for public academia and new media engagements for professors to be accepted and measured by our colleagues, students, and administration. I often feel very isolated in this way from those around me. I feel invisible as a digital feminist/humanities scholar and activist to my colleagues, students, PandT committee, and administration. So far, doing this kind of labor is listed as service and does not count toward outreach, scholarship, or directly as part of my teaching. How can I change that? What kind of process needs to begin to recognize this work? I do not ask this specifically about my location, but about public academia and engages with new media by scholars in general.

No matter the path that comes into view for me, I am very delighted to see the new study by Courtney Martin and Vanessa Valenti through the Barnard Center for Research on Women. This is the positive move forward… Martin and Vance worked with over twenty online feminist scholars and activists to get a sense of the field, its demands and positionality, as well as the future of digital feminisms. The report called “#FemFuture: Online Revolution” is an important contribution to ongoing conversations in this area. I highly encourage reading the report and other information made available. But, I also advise you to comment and discuss. Share your voice about the study because there are many ideas circulated in the study that are reductive and problematic. Since the study is now complete, the next step is to make sure that it is circulated and to begin even new conversations. Something powerful that the study does is to help remove some of the invisibility that many face working in online feminism, especially in academic environments. It shows the power, the risks, and some of the impact of work in this area. There are so many new voices, communities, and strategies coalescing through digital interactions, this study helps get into touch with much of the excitement, energy, and realities of online feminisms.

What can be read as the negative space created by and in the study is in its representation of digital feminisms (it’s a millennial thing! it’s a white thing!) and how it envisions future partnerships to advance online gender work (partner with corps!). There have been many strong voices and points describing and detailing gaps in this study. I find myself agreeing with them again and again, which means to me that the authors of the study should have consulted with a larger sample group and worked toward envisioning a current notion of “feminist online futures” that involves taking into account online histories and interventions and the people who are creating them. Here is a really interesting post on the subject. This study has become such a important point for conversation that it has superseded the hashtag; a Twitter feed focused around #FemFutures Responses has been created.

Here are some interesting points being made or at least ones that echo what many are saying: