FemTechNet is a feminist online educational resource founded in 2013 by Anne Balsamo and Alexandra Juhasz. Its online course on "Dialogues on Feminism and Technology" and an associated initiative, "Storming Wikipedia," have been described as "a new approach to collaborative learning", a "feminist anti-MOOC", and an "awesome" attempt to combat "Wikipedia's boy's club problem."
At its core, FemTechNet is “an activated network of scholars, artists and students who work on, with, and at the borders of technology, science and feminism in a variety of fields including STS, Media and Visual Studies, Art, Women's, Queer and Ethnic Studies.” FTN grew out of a coffee klatch between Balsamo and Juhasz, both of whom have written extensively on women and feminist pedagogy in technology. The pair shared concerns that women's contributions to technology, from academia to art, weren't being recognized, or even documented, and female representation in the field suffered for it.
FemTechNet proposed a new model they call a Distributed Open Collaborative Course (DOCC). The DOCC structure eschews centralization for several “nodal” classes that are based around proposed themes and augmented by video discussions available on FemTechNet's website. The first DOCC, "Dialogues in Feminism and Technology," was initiated in 2013 as for-credit courses at the following institutions: Rutgers University, The New School, CUNY, University of California at San Diego, University of Illinois, Ohio State University, Bowling Green State University, Pitzer College, Colby-Sawyer College, Penn State University, California Polytechnic University, Ontario College of Art and Design, Brown University, and Yale University. Non-traditional students take the course via the FTN website's free, self-directed learner component.
In 2013 FemTechNet launched "Storming Wikipedia", which aimed to encouraged students to engage in Wikipedia editing. Portrayed as a response to Wikipedia's gender imbalance, the assignment is also used to highlight "the significant contributions of feminists to technology."
FemTechNet articulates its vision in terms of a desire to create "projects of feminist technological innovation for the purposes of engaging the interests of colleagues and students on advanced topics in feminist science-technology studies. This project seeks to engender a set of digital practices among women and girls, to teach and encourage their participation in writing the technocultural histories of the future by becoming active participants in the creation of global digital archives."
Critiques of the DOCC
One critique of the Distributed Open Collaborative Course is the distribution of knowledge on an open source, without the access to control who comes and goes. "It is a feminist rethinking of the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) that has been widely used in distance learning education. A MOOC is pedagogically centralized and branded by a single institution. FemTechNet seeks to enhance the system using feminist principles and methods that support a decentralized, collaborative form of learning."
It has been criticized as being more concerned with political correctness than factual accuracy. Katherine Timpf, a reporter for the Leadership Institute's CampusReform.org, commented on the idea of Wikistorming saying, "They're more concerned with making it politically correct than factually correct". "Wikistorming" as defined by the site is "inject[ing] feminist thinking into the popular website Wikipedia -- something critics are calling an eye-opening case of campus bias."
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