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An intersectional reading of gender & technology

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Title: An intersectional reading of gender & technology
Author(s): Vigdor, Linda
Director of Research: Schwandt, Thomas A.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Schwandt, Thomas A.
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Frost, Samantha L.; Bruce, Bertram C.; Prior, Paul A.
Department / Program: Educational Psychology
Discipline: Educational Psychology
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): Gender & Technology Methodology Feminist Technoscience Theories of Knowledge Intersectionality Transdisciplinarity Objectivity STEM Ambiguity Complexity Anxiety Computing Social Imaginaries Difference Discipline Constituted Outsider Values and Ethics Posthumanism
Abstract: For the past thirty years, educators, researchers, parents, employers, policy-makers, and the popular press have been concerned about the gender gap in computing. Remarkably, there is little evidence of a similar scale of concern or effort at redressing gender gaps in other professions. The question is why, as a society, we care so much about girls and women’s representation in computing. The justification for trying to reduce the gender gap in computing has been largely driven by political, social, and economic concerns. My project takes issue with this basic premise and argues that the quest to solve the gender-computing gap must also be read as an ethical quest of far-reaching consequence regarding how we think about STEM fields in the 21st century. The contemporary gender-technology story is dependent on a number of transparent social-political-intellectual imaginaries and ill-defined concepts that circumscribe ethical, biological, ontological, and methodological explanations of the gender-technology relationship and its significance. These imaginaries and concepts are themselves grounded in a specifically modernist epistemology and relationship to technology, subjects, objects, and ethics that reflects values derived from the intersection of modern science and liberal humanism. This dissertation examines the bases of the gender-technology story by analyzing documents culled from educational research and policy, national and international STEM agencies, and the popular (U.S.) press, all largely focused around computing. The thesis presents a new reading of the gender-technology story through intersecting lenses drawn from STS, feminist theory and technoscience, political and cultural theory, and philosophies of technology. Using this multi-faceted social discourse analysis, it argues several claims. First, the g/t story helps to constitute the problem it wants to solve. Second, methodological and epistemological beliefs, particularly surrounding objectivity and method, have made it seem prudent to focus on the gender-computing gap as a political problem of (in)equity. Third, the drive for a clear political-educational fix is a self-limiting quest. Fourth, in the story, gender and women are used as placeholders for this new ethic. Fifth, a culture that is overly skeptical of practices of ambiguity and complexity is a huge problem to overcome and limits progress towards the new ethical relationship to technology that the gender-technology story is trying to articulate. Framing the gender-technology relationship in largely political-epistemological terms has made it seem reasonable to believe that bringing more women into computing will bring about radical social change. However, just as many tenets of modernism are proving insufficient to the challenges emerging in the 21st century (many the result of these values), so too, thinking about the gender-technology relationship (and problem) remains constrained by these same conceptual boundaries. I deconstruct the gender-technology story to reconstruct it as an expression of an emergent 21st century posthumanist desire for a new ethical relationship to technology and to the world.
Issue Date: 2010-08-31
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/17049
Rights Information: Copyright 2010 Linda Vigdor
Date Available in IDEALS: 2010-08-31
2012-09-07
Date Deposited: 2010-08
 

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