Start typing the phrase “why do men” or “why do women” in Google and the search engine’s auto-suggest feature will list the most common search queries beginning with those three words. The results are at once comical and disturbing, and they provide an intriguing window into the world where gender, culture, and algorithms meet. This class is about those intersections.
The representation of men and women in digital media—whether in Google search results or the latest blockbuster video game—is only the starting point for our exploration of the relationship between gender and technology in the digital age. We will go beyond questions of representation in order to consider the countless ways modern technology shapes our attitudes toward and experiences of sex, power, play, and work, and even the way digital technology shapes our bodies. Indeed, the figure of the cyborg will animate much of our discussion throughout the semester. We’ll also look at social media, queer gaming, and feminism and protest in digital spaces. Finally, the intersections of gender with race and class dynamics will also be an ongoing concern.
Upon completion of DIG 340, students will be able to:
- Contrast representations of women and technology with historical and social evidence of the role of women in technology
- Analyze gendered associations of various forms of technologies
- Map the relationship between power and technology in specific social and historical contexts
- Evaluate the contested meanings that arise from digital spaces, platforms, and practices
- Apply feminist theories of representation, power, and agency to science and technology
- Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818 edition) (Broadview Literary Texts, 1999)
- Ira Levin, The Stepford Wives (1972)
- Various journal articles, book chapters, and online material, available through the library, Moodle, and the class website. Reserve material will include Shirley Jackson, Patchwork Girl (1995) and at least one videogame, such as Gone Home (2013).
The graded work for DIG 340 includes five components, detailed below: (1) engagement; (2) blogging circles; (3) a gender hack; (4) a draft research project; and (5) the final research project.
- This class places a high premium on engagement in and outside of class. It is essential that everyone has carefully considered the day’s material and comes to class prepared to discuss it. Bring the day’s readings to class, well-marked up with notes and annotations. Small in-class and out-of-class quizzes and writing assignments will also count towards your engagement grade. More than two absences will lower your engagement grade by at least 10 percent. More than four absences will lower your engagement grade by 50 percent. Engagement is worth 20% of the final grade.
- The blogging circles are groups of 4-5 students who will share and respond to written reflections with each other throughout the semester. Thanks to the Davidson Domains pilot, each student will be provided with his or her own web domain. This domain will serve as a platform for your blogging. You will write at least one post and one substantive comment a week, and each person in your blogging circle will be responsible for reading, commenting upon, and evaluating your work. In addition, every week each blogging circle will “promote” one of their blog posts to appear on the main course blog. The blogging circles are worth 20% of the final grade.
- The gender hack is a critical and creative project that attempts to transform, undo, subvert, or challenge some conventional aspect of gender and technology. You should envision your hack as a boundary object. As we will discover in our readings, a boundary object is an object (either physical or virtual) that operates within multiple contexts simultaneously and which is imbued with both personal and shared meaning. Your gender hack will be accompanied by a written critical analysis. The gender hack and analysis is worth 20% of the final grade.
- A draft of your final research project is a full-fledged version of your final project, complete with an argument, evidence, analysis, conclusion, and works cited. It is due April 16. The rough draft is worth 20% of your final grade.
- The final research paper is a 10-12 page (double-spaced) analytical paper, focusing on some aspect of gender and technology. This paper will require outside research, using 4-5 sources from scholarly journals or books (as opposed to popular or journalistic sources). Be sure to cite your sources and format the paper according to MLA guidelines. Note that if you do nothing with your draft and hand it in for your final paper you will automatically receive a grade one letter lower than your draft grade. The final paper is worth 20% of your final grade.
Blog posts and comments will be assessed on a weekly basis by yourself and fellow students in your blogging circle. I will provide a rubric for these assessments and a method of sharing these assessments with me. I will evaluate other work with a letter grade that has a percentage equivalent:
A = 98% /A- = 92%
B+ = 88% / B = 85% / B- = 82%
C+ = 78% / C = 75% / C- = 72%
D+ = 68% / D = 65% /F = below 60%
I am committed to the principle of inclusive learning. This means that our classroom, our virtual spaces, our practices, and our interactions be as inclusive as possible. Mutual respect, civility, and the ability to listen and observe others carefully are crucial to inclusive learning.
Any student with particular needs should contact Nance Longworth (x2129), the Academic Access and Disability Resources Coordinator, at the start of the semester. The Dean of Students’ office will forward any necessary information to me. Then you and I can work out the details of any accommodations needed for this course.
Students at Davidson College abide by an Honor Code. The principle of academic integrity is taken very seriously and violations are treated gravely. What does academic integrity mean in this course? Essentially this: when you are responsible for a task, you will perform that task. When you rely on someone else’s work in an aspect of the performance of that task, you will give full credit in the proper, accepted form.
Another aspect of academic integrity is the free play of ideas. Vigorous discussion and debate are encouraged in this course, with the firm expectation that all aspects of the class will be conducted with civility and respect for differing ideas, perspectives, and traditions. When in doubt (of any kind) please ask for guidance and clarification.
While this course embraces the digital world it also recognizes that digital tools and environments complicate personal interactions. Studies have shown that students who use laptops in class often receive lower grades than those who don’t. Research also shows that laptop users distract students around them. I permit laptops and tablets in class, but only when used for classroom activities, such as note-taking or class readings. Occasionally I may ask students to turn off all digital devices.
Messaging or other cell phone use is unacceptable. Any student whose phone rings during class or who texts in class will be responsible for kicking off the next class day’s discussion.
Late arrivals or early departures from class are disruptive and should be avoided.