April 24, 2014
On Thursday, April 17, the College’s Digital Humanities Initiative arranged a talk on women and technology with Director and Associate Professor in the Digital Technology and Culture Program at Washington State University Dr. Dene Grigar. In her lecture, Dr. Grigar discussed how women are currently struggling to find a place in the digital humanities, to safely navigate social platforms like Twitter and to acquire jobs in science, technology, engineering and math.
Grigar began her speech by saying, “I’m coming at this topic from lived experiences.” To her, cyberfeminism is a matter of social justice. “We need to master technology so we won’t be enslaved by it,” she said.
Grigar discussed how men and women used technology at equal levels until 1992. After 1995, however, men had greater access to and knowledge of computer systems. Women have significantly lagged behind in technology since then. Grigar stressed how crucial it is to have technology in everyday life, asking her audience to “imagine going one day without technology.” In the twenty-first century, Grigar pointed out, “you can’t get a job” or “find a house” without access to the Internet. The number of women behind computers is fewer than the number of men, and as such, men are controlling the codes and systems that drive the Internet. Grigar aimed to make everyone a “cyberfeminist” and to encourage women to become more active in the digital world. She asserted, “If you can’t go behind [a computer] and tweak the code, you’re not in control.”
The following day, Grigar conducted a workshop entitled “Electronic Literature & How To Teach It.” She played “Samsung” by Young-Hae Chung Heavy Industries on a large screen and asked the group in the audience to interpret the electronic literature, or “flashing” literature, before them. Grigar agreed with a member of the audience who said that the reader has no control over the pace of the electronic literature. Sabrina Hua ’15, a participant in the workshop, interpreted the work as representative of “corporate culture.” In a different piece of electronic literature, Grigar explained how the art of constructing the work required “synching” music with literature.
Grigar also discussed women’s preservation and knowledge of older technological devices. Grigar keeps a collection of digital works in a computer lab that has models dating back to the 1980s. Because print media is being taken over by digital media, Grigar stressed, “We have to now think in this [digital] medium.” According to Grigar, it is essential for women to be better educated in fields related to the digital humanities. She explained, “It’s a matter of social justice,” to bridge the gap between males and females in today’s technological world.