On 19 January 2022, Camille from CoLET joined Njera Keith of 400 + 1 and Liz Barry of Public Lab in conversation with Rayya El Zein of the Digital Infrastructure Incubator of Code for Science & Society in "Visions of Mutual Power", a wide-ranging and illuminating conversation about radical visions for building and holding power.
Intersectionality and Tech
Here's what we'll be discussing and watching over the next few months. As usual, it's a work in progress and subject to change. The best way to keep up with changes is to check the Events page or subscribe to our iCal feed.
“We misconstrue machine learning as being powered by data, when in fact machine learning makes use of data to produce within techno-social system…we can’t understand machine learning in isolation of the black female form. In other words, in order to understand automation and capital we must return to the racialized and gendered conception of what it means to be a body itself.”
A short talk by Ramon Amaro presented as part of After Work: Life, Labour and Automation, a symposium exploring work and resistance through and against technology.
The event took place at University of West London, on 27 January 2018. It was organised by the Gender, Technology and Work research cluster at UWL, in collaboration with Autonomy, a thinktank focused on issues around the crisis of work, and wrkwrkwrk, an interdisciplinary feminist study group.
Ramon Amaro (@SambaRhino) is a Lecturer in the Department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London; visiting tutor in Media Theory at the Royal Academy of Art, The Hague (KABK); and former Research Fellow in Digital Culture at Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam. His research interests include machine learning, engineering, black ontology, and philosophies of being. Ramon has completed his PhD in Philosophy at Goldsmiths, while holding a Masters degree in Sociological Research from the University of Essex and a BSe in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He has worked as Assistant Editor for the SAGE open access journal Big Data & Society; quality design engineer for General Motors; and programmes manager for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).
artwork from Brooklyn-artist Nona Faustine’s White Shoe series
As we’ve continued to think more critically about what we want to work on, it has become abundantly clear that our focus does not need to be on just writing more software. Much of the software that radical and progressive groups need for communication and collaboration is already available; the problem is that it is either ugly, too hard to learn, or difficult to use. We think that as a female-led and radical feminist tech collective, we think our aim should be to redefine women’s work as we actively seek to feminize tech.
What feminizing tech means concretely for us is that we want to build and promote the communication and connections and care that will enable more people to understand and adopt open technology. The open technology that we promote is free to use, modify, share, and the groups that work on it attempt to be aligned with a transformative vision for our communities and our planet. Not everyone will or has the time to “Read The Manual“, so we want to explore what we can we do to soften/demystify the software and support more of those working on global transformation.
“The most permanent and comprehensive component of democratisation is woman’s freedom.” – Abdullah Öcalan
Feminizing tech also means centering women’s leadership and embracing fallibility, humility, and experimentation. We want to put people at ease with their devices and software tools by educating people about how their phones and computers work and what happens when they put their data online. We want to create brave spaces to train people and allow them to try things without fear of breaking anything. We are doing risky things and all our gambles may not pay off, but we will admit when we fuck up.
“You’re born naked. The rest is drag.” – RuPaul
Feminizing tech is not just about blindly embracing cliche’ performances of femininity, it is about wielding that care work, sensitivity, and attention to detail which has been trained into us against capital. We find inspiration in queer explorations of gender and performance, and continue to interrogate what role femme gender performance has played/can play in the ways that we appear in primarily white, male dominated radical tech spaces.
Feminizing tech is not about doing care work or emotional labor for these men. In these spaces, we will often take a harder, more critical stance, but this is as much a part of our feminizing effort. We critique because we know the importance of the work that is being done; we are in the room for the people who cannot be. We ready the space and prop the doors open for them. Our critique is care. Our presence is care.