Sunday, 24 June 2007

Cyberfeminist Reading: Gregg; Posting With Passion

Gregg, M.C., Posting With Passion: Blogs and the Politics of Gender, Uses of Blogs. Excerpt from Uses of Blogs.

I really like this article, it is one of the few I have found that really engages with the differences between men and womens blogging experiences rather than just assuming that the cybersphere is a gender free utopia. The article also contains many good references and links to interesting blogs.

Despite statistics showing that bloggers are fairly even in gender terms it is the perception that the more important and influential bloggers are men. Gregg examines factors that may contribute to this perception.

I think it is important to this article that Gregg refers to this phenomena as a ‘perception’ rather than a fact, for me this came across quite strongly in the line:
“…men’s blogs are often seen to be more engaged in political debate, especially when the notion of what counts as political remains undefined.” It is the perception of what is political and what is important that is, in a large part, against women bloggers. Gregg points out that women as a group spend more time in the domestic sphere so naturally write about it more than male bloggers. Although it may be true that women are concerned with the domestic, Gregg questions the idea of unimportance attached to this sphere, suggesting “an uncritical celebration of so-called feminine practices will only perpetuate the assumption that men are active agents leaving the home to work while women merely tend to the home’s reproduction, as if this were not also an exercise in labour”.

Gregg goes on to discuss technology use and gender noting “the adage ‘Blogs are for boys, journals are for girls’ summarized early observations that online diaries such as LiveJournal (LJ) served as natural extensions of the highly personal and intimate practice of teenage girls keeping a diary”. This is something I have noticed too, but previously not been able to put my finger on the difference, it seems that there is a general feeling of ‘blogs are for business and journals are for socialising’. This feeling is a large part of why we have deliberately chosen to distribute No Una Banana through blogger rather than live journal, despite live journal’s functionality and the familiarity many of the BananaGrrls have with the LJ interface.

Gregg finishes the article with an interesting discussion of her own blogging experience (which sadly linked to a 404) and women’s participation in blogs through commenting.

Gregg, M.C., Posting With Passion: Blogs and the Politics of Gender, Uses of Blogs, in Uses of Blogs, A.a.J. Bruns, Joanne, Editor. 2006, Peter Lang. p. 151-160.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Cyberfeminising Wikipedia

I noticed a little while ago that the entry for cyberfeminism in Wikipedia is, well, brief at best, you may even say superficial, you could even say that they just said ‘cyberfeminism is when feminists use the internet’ without any real understanding of the history and meaning of cyberfeminism.

From Wikipedia 5/6/2007:
“Cyberfeminism is a sub-movement of feminism that deals with female identity and feminist theory in the domain of 'cyberspace', i.e. computers, the internet and information technology. Women who choose to use communication technology as a means of organizing or activism. 'Definition as a political strategy Linking the terms "cyber" and "feminism" produces a crucial new formation in the history of feminism(s) and of the e-media. Each part of the term necessarily modifies the meaning of the other. "Feminism" (or more properly, "feminisms") has been understood as a historical--and contemporary--transnational movement for justice and freedom for women, which depends on women's activist participation in networked local, national, and international groups.”

Yep, that is the entire entry, it is what Wikipedia refers to as a stub. Much better than nothing of course, kudos for having a cyberfeminism entry at all and all that, but it did lead me to think about systemic gender imbalance in Wikipedia topics and contribution. And it was good to see I wasn’t the first one to think about this.

To take a cyberfeminist approach to this systemic gender imbalance it is important that we not only explore the theory and consider why this is so, but that we actually get in there and do something about it, get our hands dirty and have a little fun along the way.

My recent proposal for my thesis on cyberfeminism and web 2.0 has a good overview of the history of cyberfeminism, so let’s use that as a starting point.

Despite my love of Web 2.0 this is the first time I have edited an entry in Wikipedia, and I can see where much of the systemic imbalance comes from – the feeling is daunting. I suspect that it is the same unseen force that creates the gender imbalance often seen in convention panels, and indeed in the bloggesphere, the feeling that one needs to be the top expert in ones field before one dares to open ones mouth – even though this is not actually required. I have come to the conclusion that what participation really requires is a passion and a willingness to research.

Okay, so this is what I am starting with:

A Cyberfeminist History
The term Cyberfeminism was first used by the Australian collective VNS Matrix (pronounced Venus Matrix) in their 1991 cyberfeminist manifesto for the 21st century [2]. In this manifesto VNS Matrix famously proclaimed “The clitoris is a direct line to the matrix”[3]. Julienne Pierce from VNS Matrix explained:

“four bored girls decided to have some fun with art and French feminist theory… with homage to Donna Haraway they began to play around with the idea of cyberfeminism… Beginning as if by spontaneous combustion, from a few hot nodes in Europe, America and Australia, cyberfeminism became a viral meme infecting theory, art and the academy [4]. “

At around the same time in Europe, Sadie Plant independently started using the term cyberfeminism, and a few years later the first Cyberfeminist International was held as part of the Document X conference in Kassel, Germany, in 1997.

Put simply cyberfeminism refers to feminism(s) applied to and/or performed in cyberspace. An authoritative definition of cyberfeminism is difficult to find in written works due to the fact that early cyberfeminists deliberately evaded a rigid elucidation. At the first international cyberfeminist conference, delegates avoided stating what cyberfeminism was and instead devised with 100 anti-theses and defined what cyberfeminism was not. The idea of defining/not defining it through several overlapping ideas (anti-theses) is appropriate to post-modern feminist ideals of a fluid worldview rather than a rigid binary oppositional view and refects the diversity of theoretical positions in contemporary feminism. The 100 anti-theses range from the serious and instructional, for example “Cyberfeminism is not just using words with no knowledge of numbers” (i.e. cyberfeminism requires active engagement with technology in addition to theory), to the whimsical, for example “Cyberfeminismo es no una banana”. The 100 Anti-theses is written primarily in English but includes several other languages in line with the 100th anti-thesis “cyberfeminism has not only one language” denoting cyberfeminism as an international movement. This combination of serious real world action mixed with a good dose of irony and sense of fun is also evident in many cyberfeminist artworks.

Cyberfeminism arose partly as a reaction to “the pessimism of the 1980s feminist approaches that stressed the inherently masculine nature of techno-science”[5], a counter movement against the ‘toys for boys’ perception of new Internet technologies[6]. As cyberfeminist artist Faith Wilding argued:

“If feminism is to be adequate to its cyberpotential then it must mutate to keep up with the shifting complexities of social realities and life conditions as they are changed by the profound impact communications technologies and techno science have on all our lives. It is up to cyberfeminists to use feminist theoretical insights and strategic tools and join them with cybertechniques to battle the very real sexism, racism, and militarism encoded in the software and hardware of the Net, thus politicizing this environment.[7]”

Yet cyberfeminists do not choose to boycott this male dominated technology, but to embrace the technology, and use it with a mixture of irony, humour, seriousness and subversion for their own feminist ends. It is for this reason that cyberfeminist practice often takes the form of Internet art.

Cyberfeminist Art
“Cyberfeminism in its very nature necessitates a decentered, multiple, participatory practice in which many lines of flight coexist.[8]”
Alex Galloway

The practice of cyberfeminist art is inextricably intertwined with cyberfeminist theory. The 100 anti-theses make clear that cyberfeminism is not just about theory, while theory is extremely important, cyberfeminism requires participation. As one member of the cyberfeminist collective the Old Boys Network writes, cyberfeminism is “linked to aesthetic and ironic strategies as intrinsic tools within the growing importance of design and aesthetics in the new world order of flowing pancapitalism” [6]. Cyberfeminism also has strong connections with the DIY feminism movement, as noted in the seminal text DIY Feminism[9], a grass roots movement that encourages active participation, especially as a solo practitioner or a small collective.

Around the late nineties several cyberfeminist artists and theorists gained a measure of recognition for their works, including the above mentioned VNS Matrix and their Cyberfeminist Manifesto for the 21st Century [3], and Faith Wilding and Critical Art Ensemble. Some of the better known examples of cyberfeminist work include Olia Lialina’s My Boyfriend Came Back From the War [10] a browser based art work that plays with the conventions of HTML; Linda Dement’s Cyberflesh Girlmonster [11] a hypertext work that incorporates images of women’s body parts and remixes them to create new monstrous yet beautiful shapes; and Shu Lea Cheang with the 1998 work Brandon [12] which was the first Internet based artwork to be commissioned and collected by the Guggenheim.

The decline in volume of cyberfeminist literature in recent years would suggest that cyberfeminism has somewhat lost momentum as a movement, however, in terms of artists and artworks cyberfeminism is still taking place. Recent artworks of note include Evelin Stermitz’s World of Female Avatars [13] in which the artist has collected quotes and images from women over the world and displayed them in an interactive browser based format, and Regina Pinto’s Many Faces of Eve [14].

The Goals of Cyberfeminism
The goals of cyberfeminist artists are varied, as there is no one ‘feminism’ but rather many feminisms, and cyberfeminist artists are as likely to draw on any one particular feminist school of thought (for example socialist feminism) as they are to work without acknowledgment of any theoretical background. However, Faith Wilding in her account of the first Cyberfeminist International listed several areas that were agreed upon as areas in which more research and further work was considered desirable, including: promotion of cyberfeminist artists theorists and speakers; publishing of cyberfeminist theory and criticism; cyberfeminist education projects; creating coalitions with female technical professionals; and creating new self-representations and avatars that “disrupt and recode the gender biases usual in current commercially available ones” [7].

With the public acceptance of the Internet came a utopian belief that in this new neutral territory users would be able to shed their gendered bodies and be androgynus equals in cyberspace. Unsurprisingly, this has not turned out to be the case – “every social issue that we are familiar with in the real world will now have its counter-part in the virtual one” [15].

Although there was a surge of art and research happening in the cyberfeminist field in the late nineties, that surge has subsided and many may conclude we are living in a post-cyberfeminist world (wide web). This backlash is evident in real-world feminism also, with many young women believing that feminism is either for ‘unattractive hairy arm-pitted lesbians’ or that it has succeeded in providing equality for the sexes and is no longer needed [16]. Yet inequality remains both on-line and in the world and thus the objectives of neither cyberfeminism nor real-world feminism have been fully realised.

(references sited will be listed in wikipedia, but for the sake of brevity in this already very long post can be found here)
I think this is probably not as objective as Wikipedia aims for, so I look to the rest of you BannanaGrrls to edit it and make it work. Get in there and get dirty, and have fun!

Monday, 11 June 2007

VIRTUAL CONCERTS TalkShoe Talk casts

Hi All,

Just thought I would put this out there - I keep getting these requests from this site due to an exhibition connection I had with one podcast- and I finally checked it out - they have some great podcast archived episodes on art, ecology, ecofeminism, feminism amongst many other interesting topics... just posted the last upcoming talk list that I recently received but you can check out past casts via HERE

Listen to or Join the Talkcast: Virtual Concerts
(join within 15 minutes of start time or anytime after)

Talkcast information:
  • Talkcast Name: Virtual Concerts
  • Host: Ghost Nets -
  • Next episode: Tom & Constance Merriman, artists: Saving Hays Woods, Tue, June 12, 2007 10:00 AM EDT
    The Merrimans have struggled for years, as activist ecological artists, to conserve a significant protion of open land in the Pittsburg area. They will speak to how and why sthey did that and the recent but precarious successes they have finally seen.
  • Phone number: (724) 444-7444
  • Talkcast ID: 1210
  • PIN: The phone number or 10-digit PIN you signed up with
  • Other future episodes:
    • Gary Machlis, Univ of Idaho: A Unified Field Theory for Ecological Change?, Tue, June 19, 2007 10:00 AM EDT
    • Hans Dieleman on Sustainability 2, Tue, June 26, 2007 10:00 AM EDT
    • Ruth Wallen- Is Suburbia the Problem?, Tue, July 10, 2007 10:00 AM EDT
    • Carey Lovelace- Can Feminism Come to the Rescue Again?, Tue, July 17, 2007 10:00 AM EDT
    • Eve Laramee- Nuclear Solution/ Nuclear Waste Disposal, Tue, July 24, 2007 10:00 AM EDT
    • Steven Miller- The Sounds of Environment, Tue, July 31, 2007 10:00 AM EDT

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

lj feed

Thanks to my friend callistra we now have a syndicated livejournal feed so those of you who use lj can read no una banana from your friends page!

an intro of sorts

I am Sarah. Cyberfeminist, artist, researcher, mother, monster, but not yet machine. DCA candidate (woot!), cunt activist, tree hugger, post-post-modern cowgirl. I am researching technology from the inside, I can’t even pretend to be objective here, with one hand holding a baby to the boob and another hand on the keyboard I am living in a cyberfeminist world. I love the theory and live the practice. Cyberfeminism rocks!

Monday, 4 June 2007

Uber Hello's

Hello’s - this is a long one but I'm a rambler...sorry in advance :)

I’m Cynthia and I’m primarily an artist who works with biotechnology (bioart) and sometimes electronic and digital technology. I have a dip and BA in Fine Arts, BA Hon in Media Society and Culture and am currently a provisional PhD student (Helen as there a theme here? Damn she’s good huh?! You know it!). I teach Internet Communications at Curtin Uni to bring in extra dollars and it's fun! I struggle with theory (having thought during fine art study that it can be shoved to the back a little :) but I guess that’s the unique thing about my work and allows me to have some decent questions about why things are the way the are – nothings a stupid question to me and nothing is a stupid idea

So, my thesis candidacy topic is always verging on something to do with Zombies and currently sits around an idea/question that cyborg as posterchild for posthuman (amongst others) theory has come to exclude some elements of technology (such as biotech) and that biotech born monsters like Zombies and bioart ‘products’ could be an additional way of exploring the theory and offer some new chunky stuff... Anyway, it’s not final and expected to change.

On the question of how I view the place of technology in my art/work/research and what impact being a women has on the above: Technology for me in my art is tool in some ways and subject in other ways – and this I think reflects how heavily entwined we already are with technology. These elements of tool and subject are also linked to each other now and are becoming difficult to separate - exploring this in my new artistic endeavours where we are trying (with Adam Fiannaca my new collaborator) to create a lab in our kitchen using domestic objects only and fashioning new hybrid equipment so that ‘science’ is implied and blurred with domesticity. As a woman, all this has obvious implications but through my collaborations I feel that in my own work it places more emphasis on gender rather than feminism – I know there are those connections and drives into gender theory but this is changing and reforming in interesting ways surely! The masculinist may have something to say about himself in a 'domesticity and science' that I find interesting! Anyway, access for women in science and bioart has a way to go (the most talked about visual in bioart/science when I did my residency was of a pregnant artist in the lab! That says it all). I find that digital and electronic access and acceptance of women in new media is far more advanced and almost expected with the arts now - where will it go??!!. Anyways – rambling :) Looking forward to chatting and sharing back and forth with everyone :)

my website

mine & Adams
blog for IncuBra

Friday, 1 June 2007

hello world!

i'm kate. i'm originally from canada, but am also an undercover kiwi. i'm doing my phd at curtin university in the internet studies program, with the lovely helen as my advisor:) i'm still working out my thesis topic, but it will most probably be on the design of social software and how it influences the culture that evolves around it, but also how the cultural/political/economic environment around it informs the design of social software.

before starting my phd i worked at an ngo in canada for youth and social change called TakingITGlobal, where i did online community stuff.

i dont explicitly write about cyberfeminism or feminism, but those angles are definitely implicit in my work, especially since im a geek grrl. i'm always thinking about gender roles and ideology when i'm thinking about things, such as how gender is performed through software design choices (even just the choices we have in what gender we which to say we are is political!) also, i think as any woman who works in technology you have to be a feminist (overtly or not) because the "interesting" experiences we get to have that, sadly, tend to other or alienate us.

i also keep my own blog at cuz i <3 livejournal;)