Literally, writing technologies

  • Ways we talk about technologies help us see and understand them differently
  • How feminists enliven technologies, restore drama and story to their histories of process and production, enlarge the categories of material life
  • What is at stake in the analysis of work in these feminist technoscience approaches to technology?
  • The role classification schemes play in telling stories about technology
  • What about Donna Haraway? and what about Cyborgs, Cyberfeminism and other feminist approaches to technology?

Ways we talk about technologies help us see and understand them differently

The stories we tell about technologies highlight or elide how they are made and why, their outcomes and calculations, and they urge or assume how we might best encounter them. These stories can be dramatic or low-key, urgent or thoughtful, inviting or estranging, analytic or active, critical or admiring. As a result of these stories we can value technologies as opaque, multiple, and difficult; or as singular, transparent and seamless. These stories are very powerful; indeed four different types of such stories seem to take up all the story-telling space. Each one creates its own universe of legibility; yet even so they can paradoxically overlap and reinforce each other. Here I am going to call them "technological determinism," "symptomatic technology," "neutral technology," and "technologies as (momentarily) frozen social relations."

Some of these stories are better than others; indeed I want to argue that "technologies as (momentarily) frozen social relations" is the least misleading narrative with the most possibilities. I want myself to use this technological narrative throughout this book. But I also need to point out how compelling these other stories are, and that talking about technologies within only one of these narratives is quite difficult and perhaps not always most important. 

Consciously and unconsciously I simply will not be able to use only one narrative, even when that is what I intend. Each of these narratives has its virtues (that is, powers) and each is persuasive and useful. Learning which of these narratives one is using, habitually uses, matters more than producing a single critique.Why do you want to know about these stories? If your interests are in Cyberculture, say, your stakes in such stories might be obvious, but then, the materials presented here might seem only too familiar, at least initially. (As I go along my arguments and illustrations may turn out to be less familiar after all.) If your interests are in other areas of cultural production, technologies and their stories might embody the very areas of culture that you define your interests against. In such a case, they might be merely "boring," they might be anxiety-provoking, or they might even raise your ire. The reason I engage and tell and retell the stories of technologies at this point is in order to create with you-all, various readers with varying interests, one of the pidgin languages we can use to communicate across the ranges of power and discipline this book and its productions and receptions inhabit.

For those for whom the stories of technologies are familiar, I begin to make connections that may be current and currently interesting, as well as highlighting the contributions of feminist analysts. But for those for whom technologies are part of the everyday furniture of contemporary life, not to be taken too seriously perhaps, you will now be asked to do exactly that. If your interests are in the history of the book, say, you will be asked to do more than touch base with contemporary technologies as a way to enliven your arguments about the past. And if your interests are primarily in women as agents and actors, you will have to enlarge your ideas of how to examine women's agency. The examinations of power here are formed within feminist principles, and yet, however counterintuitively to some, they assume that gender or other identity politics are not the only salient lenses through which power is analyzed, even though these are lenses I do myself privilege.

Using TV. I am going to describe each of these narratives of technology in terms of television. TV is the global sign for a fascinating set of technologies that complicates a range of assumptions people bring to the phrase "writing technologies." Remember, I acknowledged earlier that it might even seem rather silly to call the various TV technologies writing technologies. But even for those who resist the largest meanings of writing technologies, as particular formalized processes of meaning-making embodied in specific cultural skills and devices, a second look at converging technologies may give them pause. Satellite and cable television are converging with telephone, computer and internet technologies in ways that only this largest meaning of writing can apprehend. This makes TV an extremely interesting example that calls upon and creates new intuitions about writing technologies.

There are other reasons to use TV for my examples as well. TV is a technology in which many interested in cultural production already have some investments. Those interested in new media have reasons to know more about the old media elements of TV (and its interrelations with film), as well as its convergences with and as new media. Of course contemporary TV carries with it a range of cultural attitudes too, some of them about the values of elite and popular culture; or commercial and artistic production. TV in these ranges is utterly "dirty": it occupies no purities and has no single idealized author. When we attempt to examine, say, the Book, and objects under its sign, we have to work very hard to recover these hybridic confusions, these instabilities, these corporate and collaborative productions. (Think for example, of Chartier's work in the history of reading.) But TV is very obvious in its confusing materialities and its disturbing statuses, and we have a complicated set of literatures that describe and analyze them, if not always adequately. Finally, TV is a site for feminist work with women as producers and users of para- and intra-TV cultures: as fans and as consumers, employing a range of writing technologies. Indeed, one of my case studies is about such female fandoms, producing, using and circulating sexualized images in global TV "networks." So, think of these women playing with and speaking these TV technologies, and think counterintuitively of objects under the sign of the Book, as I describe the stories of technologies in the terms of TV.

The four storytelling spaces. The narrative of technological determinism is possibly the most pervasive story about technology. This is the narrative in which we elaborate the social consequences that follow inevitably upon "the seemingly accidental invention" (as Richard Ohmann puts it) of TV. For example, telling this kind of story we might say: "The TV caused middle-class families of the 50s to retreat from community life and concentrate their nuclear focus, huddling together around the warm glow of the living room TV set." A journalist considering the convergence of TV, telephone and internet opines more generally, "Technologies acquire historical weight by reshaping the human condition." Ohmann focuses on what is misleading about such technological determinist stories: they suggest that these consequences are inevitable, that the technologies were invented without specific intentions, and that the technologies are singular, in themselves social forces.

Agreeing with Ohmann I want to add that stories of technological determinism convey a dramatic sense of significance, sometimes of discontinuity ("revolution") that is exciting and enticing. My examples are intended to highlight how attractive these stories are, how progressive people might use them, deliberately or unconsciously, and to what purpose. I am deliberately not giving examples that I think are easy to dismiss. I do not intend to dismiss these stories at all. I point myself ambivalently to the sublime stories of technological determinism told by Marshall McLuhan and Walter Ong, theorists to whom I am deeply indebted for such arresting tales, although of whom I can also be very critical. To the extent that some writing technologies belong to more and less distant pasts, recovering information about specific agencies and intentions is at times unlikely (and for that reason may misleadingly appear less salient). Histories of the Book and print cultures, and studies in orality and literacy are only too intertwined with narratives of technological determinism, and many of the pleasures of defamiliarization in these fields are tied up and together with these dramas of discontinuity and revolution.

Symptomatic technology names the narrative in which TV, invented on the margins of the social, is used by central forces informing society. Telling this story we might say, "Our children have become ravenous consumers of junk watching TV commercial after TV commercial." Or we might declare, "Digital hype about the AOL-Time Warner merger is a symptom of rapacious late capitalism's death grip on every new market." What is deceptive about the narrative of symptomatic technology is the idea that technological invention is marginal to other great social forces which exploit such invention. On the other hand, such stories convey urgency and sometimes imply manifestos for social change. While we can critique these critiques, we do not have to renounce them.

They contrast importantly with the third narrative, that of neutral technology. This is the narrative in which TV can be put to an amazing multitude of uses, oppressive and democratic, sexist and feminist, altruistic and profit-making. Inside this narrative we might say, "TV could either contribute to or work against teenage drinking; for every ad for drinking visible during the broadcast of athletic events, there is also some anti-drinking homily delivered by national and local stations and advertisers." (Yeah, sure, after much social protest, and as if that is a sufficient response.) Or in addressing the so-called digital divide we might assert, "Computers are not the problem, it is everyone not having access to them that is the concern." Such stories simply do not recognize technologies as created and deployed within, indeed embodying relations of power. Still, these stories can allow for the de-escalation of rhetorical passion, thus making room for uncommon collaborative engagements with technology.

But the problem is that each of these kinds of stories elides the processes of production of technologies and their agents and intentions. Ohmann clarifies, " itself a social process, saturated by the power relations around it, continually reshaped according to some people's intentions." (681) Ohmann points out three tell-tale signals that one of these mystifying narratives is in play. The first is using phrases like "the computer" "as if it were one single stable device." The second is deploying such a phrase as a grammatical agent (for example, making it the subject of a sentence), and the third is using phrases like "man," "the mind," and "the human condition." The great theorist of orality and literacy Walter Ong does all three as Ohmann quotes him saying, "...the alphabet or print or the computer enters the mind, producing new states of awareness there." (How often have you told or heard a similar story?) Ohmann observes, "[i]mplying that the technology somehow came before someone's intention to enable some minds to do some things" and making it appear "that technologies interact with people or with 'culture' in global, undifferentiated ways, rather than serving as an arena of interaction among classes, races, and other groups of unequal power." (681) It is to this clarification and correction that I attach Donna Haraway's term, naming the fourth narrative technologies as (momentarily) frozen social relations.

Demystifications: which to elaborate and how? But giving you an example of a sentence within this narrative requires some explanation. That is because this narrative isn't simply parallel to the others, but intended as their correction and clarification (if we follow and elaborate upon Ohmann, who doesn't actually offer an alternative narrative but only a critique of mystifications). Such a demystification, in Marxist terms, has a dynamic, visionary element: it is the narrative just in the process of coming-into-being as fields of power shift and reveal relationships previously difficult to apprehend. It is also the narrative within which such shiftings are examined in particular pasts, momentarily connected to this present when recent apprehensions shed new light on earlier configurations of technology and power.

So working within this narrative requires us to actively consider which demystifications to elaborate and how; Ohmann's telltale signals are instructive here. How do we describe technologies without usingphrases like "the computer" and making them grammatical agents, and without using other phrases like "man," "the mind," and "the human condition" and mobilizing the assumptions they embody? Do we want to do this? Will this sufficiently emphasize the processes of production of technologies and speak to their agents and intentions? How do we illuminate the saturation of social processes by power relations? How do we describe technologies without implying that they interact with people and culture in global, undifferentiated ways? The "virtue" of such narrative is the creation and scrutiny of newly usable pasts and alternative presents. What about the drama and urgency of these other narratives? Or their de-escalations and engagements? What sorts of contradictions are revealed here? What kinds of animated engagements are envisionable and enactable?

Users, active, productive, various, differentiated, reveal how neither stable or single the VCR is. Indeed, how about trying to do without phrases like "the computer"? What happens when you do this? Is a critique of mystifications properly addressed by an act of renunciation? Well, consider for a moment the phrase "the VCR" (referring to the video cassette recorder, sometimes just called "video"). For whom (and when) is the VCR a single stable device, and for whom is it multiple, fluidly shifting, differentially stratified by nation, region, television encodings, expense, professional and folk uses, and users raced and gendered? Let us emphasize the word "use" here and consider it too as various, not global, not undifferentiated. For the last eight odd years I have been hanging around with media fans, folks who come together to play with and to discuss television in its many possible enjoyments and intellectual engagements. Participating in and studying female media fandoms of global television is one of the case studies in feminism and writing technologies I work in. And it is while inhabiting worlds of media fans that I personally learned how much the VCR is not single or stable. Some of you too may find yourselves remembering the time when you had to specify whether you meant JVC's [Victor Corporation of Japan] VHS [Video Home System] or Sony Corporation's Betamax when referring to a VCR. Betamax persisted in some countries and among some professionals for a while, but today pretty much around the world the standard VCR is VHS.

But that does not mean that the video wars that Sony lost and JVC won resulted in a single stable device everywhere. As these women media fans I study know in very material ways, if you intend to share VHS tapes with other international fans you have to take into account whether your television signal format uses the U.S. standard NTSC [National Television Standards Committee] or the European standard PAL [Phase Alternating Line] and note that in France, Greece, parts of the Middle-East, and the former Soviet Union, TV is in Secam [Societe Electronique pour Couleur Avec Memoire]. A few very fancy very expensive, so-called "multi-system" players will play all these versions (Samsung puts out a "world-wide" player currently), but most VCRs will only play one of these variations, the local variety. Multi-system recorders and players are especially difficult to find and expensive in the U.S. European media fans find them more easily and less expensively. This is because the U.S., as dominant economic power and one of the great entertainment production centers of the world, consumes mostly its own products, while other countries, while wanting U.S. products, also want other international products, especially their own.

Female media fans might want to view, copy and exchange television shows made in countries other than their own, and/or to make their own alternatively same-sex erotic music videos (a genre called "slash") from video clips copied from broadcast, cable, or satellite TV (more than one "the TV"). These folks sometimes have such fancy VCRs to facilitate their use of copies made by fan friends internationally; but most do not. They know, because they have to work around it, that the phrase "the VCR" could mean at least Betamax (historically anyway), VHS NTSC, VHS PAL, and VHS SECAM, and only appears to be "singular" in one's own little local spot (which of these possibilities is "the VCR" is the result of winners and losers in various economic struggles in layers of locals and globals).

The phrase "the VCR" (or "the TV" or "video") hides this play of possibility and the fields of power in which all these many objects are created and used. Notice too that naming it as a single stable device also obscures the varying gendered uses of this technology, especially its annexation as another domestic task. However, even if you are a media fan (dominantly but not exclusively female), when you practice home video taping in the U.S. in order to see your favorite program which is inconveniently showing on that evening when you have to go to your friend's birthday party, "the VCR" is a useful phrase when you tell your partner that yes, you've just programmed the VCR. Replacing the phrase "the VCR" does not result in a sentence, it results in several paragraphs, paragraphs which include information that is not always in local circulation (or is only in very local circulation; note locals and globals in layers).

Dating and outdating Digital. Of course, as my friend Bill says, the VCR's days seem numbered with the rise of DVD (Digital Video Disk). Under its sign we continue to experience a range of competitive struggles. When I began writing this book, in 2000 CE, two were embodied in the name DIVX, which actually named two different devices. The first one was a failed pay-per-view scheme fostered by Circuit City, creating special DIVX enhanced DVD players; while the second DivX refers to a video equivalent of MP3 audio players' software, which compresses video files off of the web and plays them on your computer, using a media player. (Some versions can play protected or encrypted content). DVD has also referred to DVD-ROM, a player intended not to be freestanding or connected to your TV, but part of your multimedia computer system. The software development for that has included variations that allowed for internet interactive DVD, referred to by its Intel evangelist as "infinite DVD."

Meanwhile the standards for DVD are in construction, so-called "standards" which actually appear to refer to company promulgated standards developed by Microsoft and which may depend upon its continued economic domination. (Instructive to think of Sony and Sony consumers who lost the Betamax wars.) Wisecracks about DVD include joking that it stands for Digital Vapor Disk, emphasizing that lots of people have DVD stars in their eyes, imagining a range of DVD-based and DVD-type technologies, many of which will either never come to market or will not remain there long. Imaginable software or hardware that does not pan out is called "vaporware" in similar witticisms. The cartoon PICKLES by Brian Crane, summer 2002, encapsulates the story of succession from VCR to DVD: Grandfather Earle says to very young grandson: "Come here, Nelson. I want to show you something." He continues as he manipulates VCR: "Look at this. I finally figured out how to program the VCR. Aren't you proud of me?" Grandson says, looking up at Grandfather: "People don't use VCR's anymore. They use DVD players." Grandson continues, "Poor Grampa!" as grandfather hits his head against the wall, "Bonk! Bonk! Bonk!"Media fans increasingly view DVDs rather than videotape, especially as television franchises realize that there is a market for entire seasons of past shows on DVD. But media fans who want to view international DVDs, or exchange them with international friends, find new complications. Not only do the various TV formats in which you watch the DVD still differ (NTSC, PAL and SECAM) but often DVDs are "regionally-coded" precisely so that they cannot be viewed outside the region of the world in which they were sold. This allows their manufacturers to control both prices and release dates, which differ from region to region. Again, there are multi-region DVD players, easier to find in Europe which did not really jump onto the DVD bandwagon until they became available. These are players in which regional coding has been deactivated in what was at first a semi-official menu option made available by Samsung, but which is now usually produced by hacking, or unofficially learning how to deactivate the code manually. But for media fans who informally copy, reuse, and recreate TV, DVD currently makes their "poaching" much more difficult, as corporations and professionals attempt to increase their share of revenues by charging for every possible use of their product, even these non-commercial ones. (Or believe that every instance of use beyond that of the franchise itself will infringe their copyright, or compromise "virtual" profits: those perhaps possible in some future.) So those fans are often still using videotape. As my neighbor Kit says: "There are still vids being made with two tape decks, a tape recorder and Scotch tape, from what I've seen."

Being observed through your PVR. And not only VCRs and DVDs but now PVRs or DVRs make the scene. TiVo and ReplayTV are current examples of these "personal" or "digital" video recorders. PVRs are networked recorders that make home taping easier for so-called "time-shifting." The first versions prevented "librarying" or creating personal home collections for multiple re-viewings (a necessity if cultivating the kind of knowledges important to media fans), but the latest versions allow for users to send copies of shows to others over the internet. Broadcasters are fearful that they will lose control over "primetime": the viewing time they charge advertisers the most money for. They are fearful that viewers will stop watching commercials altogether, as PVRs make fast forwarding through them a breeze. On the other hand, PVRs can collect data on viewers through its network with greater precision than any previous ratings system, and may make it possible to design ads for specific viewers who will want to watch them. As broadcasters loose control, they may nevertheless reap greater profits, a counter-intuitive possibility that the VCR seems to have instantiated. It was the so-called Betamax Case that defined the current parameters of fair use in video copying, another reason media fans remember Betamax even today as PVRs reconfigure copying possibilities. Copyright and fair use are of special importance to vidders, those using two tape decks and scotch tape and those who "rip" DVDs.

Notice that issues of technological access here are not either/or: you have it or you do not, you can afford pricey equipment or not. There are many more complicated possibilities, involving substitutions of hardware, software, folk knowledges, international communications--substitutions each for the other, with implications for who knows and can do what, where and for how much. Access is too unidimensional a term to describe what is really about accumulation and assemblage: workarounds, borrowing, sharing, using what someone else is throwing away, patching old stuff together. Users are inventive: "access" does not capture what are in fact multiple forms of agency, individual and collective. Knowledges of such workarounds in the U.S. are not confined to media fans either: in fact, some of the best places to get multi-system players, as well as international and regional DVDs and Video tapes, CDs and audio tapes, and international phone cards, is in sites that cater to recent immigrants. In the D.C. area (where I currently live) check out South Asian Indian grocery stores or sari shops, Asian restaurants, Ethiopian food and music stores. These are cultural locations in which skills, devices and the resources for their multiple cultural productions and interconnections are shared.What does the single, stable device make transparent? It is relatively easy to "see" multiple technologies, even under a single sign, during the very period of intense economic struggle, although knowing about their agents and intentions may be much more difficult, information available to insiders or astute observers with specialized knowledges. 

Knowing and discovering women's roles as agents in relation to such technologies is complicated and often requires new research agendas. Without sophisticated research and research strategies, much of this information can be lost, or is rendered invisible by dominant presumptions. After the fact histories may make available more of that sometimes proprietary information, but the appearance of an unmarked, ungendered "single stable device" becomes the very indication that popular knowledge of these struggles is now virtually invisible, or "transparent."

Operating within a local sphere in which that invisibility is never challenged, as when in the U.S. you pop your videocassette into your VCR without reference to which standard is in operation, makes the technology "seamless"; that is, device, software, skills, access and so on are all mutually reinforcing, enhancing that very invisibility with every use. The creation of a single, stable device is precisely what corporations often mean when they speak of "user-friendly" technology, and what most users want; indeed, the economic domination that creates the appearance and the material reality of a single, stable device is precisely the object of the argument Microsoft has been making for its own practices in its suit with the Justice Department.

Gender, class, race and nation are among the varying ranges of unequal powers shifting and refigured over time as "markets" within such arenas of interaction, and also mobilized by users as sites of identity, engagement and appropriation. For example, racializations, arguments about race, displacements of race, and redeployments of modernist humanism are the subjects of analysis of such identities, engagements and appropriations in Star Trek and its fandoms. Two of the Star Trek actors have used their instances of TV biography as opportunities to circulate identity histories and anti-racist actions and attitudes. Fans on the internet promote identity politics in Star Trek specific versions.

How feminists enliven technologies, restore drama and story to their histories of process and production, enlarge the categories of material life

Literalizing the materialities of texts. When I teach my class on Feminism and Writing Technologies I often begin the course with Ohmann's essay. Years ago I couldn't find my original copy, so I xeroxed the version I found on microfilm, a bad copy with bits of debris littering the microfilm plate. Handing it out I started to apologize, when I realized instead that those bits of debris altered the "transparency" we were used to: they alerted us to the various technologies through which the so-called "text" had passed. So on that first day of class we all traced back as many of these technological instruments as we could collectively imagine and the bits of information about them we only vaguely possessed. Back from xerox to microfilm to Linotype.... Or was it now (in the late 80s) photocomposition? Today, probably filmsetting...anyway, the journal processes, and earlier, the author, was he yet using a computer and word-processor in 1984? or still typing it himself, or arranging for someone else to type it? And how are these instrumentalities also a hierarchy of jobs and genders? A series of "black boxes" of technologies and technological infrastructures and the people with whom they are animated, about which we as a class knew bits and pieces, but no one, not even the teacher, knew it all (or especially the teacher? students sometimes have craft knowledges and experiences teachers do not have, and such craft knowledges are also classed, raced and gendered). I had been describing the materiality of the text in other contexts, but had not literalized it in these ways for myself or my students before. Around that same time period Roger E. Stoddard was writing: "Whatever they may do, authors do not write books. Books are not written at all. They are manufactured by scribes and other artisans, by mechanics and other engineers, and by printing presses and other machines."

I was relearning over and over the insights that had set my investigations into feminism and writing technologies into motion. In my dissertation I had used the writings of various technoscience theorists, or social studies of science folks, to rethink, defamiliarize, and recontextualize the editorial instabilities of poets Emily Dickinson and Audre Lorde. This was very helpful if a bit ironic: some of the social science work I was using was very much influenced by French deconstruction and by explicitly textual theories, indeed was describing technoscientific production as many apparatuses of inscription, of writing protocols, of communities of practice and interpretation. Writing technologies, literally and theoretically, are a material circuit among literary, historical, social science and scientific worlds. The stories I just told about the VCR are really simplified analogues to the even more complex and fascinating stories of early modern print culture and "science" in the making, told by Adrian Johns. Or a different set of stories also destabilizing authors, artists and agencies, told by Svetlana Alpers about Rembrandt's studio practices. It turns out that this literalization of the materialities of Ohmann's essay is another way to critique the notion of a single stable device. The essay is not one stable material device either, nor, as Stoddard insists, is its essential element its "text" or its essential originator its "author."I had come to understand this while completing my dissertation under the direction of feminist technoscience theorist, Donna Haraway (also being read by Shakespearean editor, Michael Warren and feminist literary critical pioneer Priscilla Shaw) and had learned that technologies, including those under the sign of the Book, are rather "(momentarily) frozen social relations."

The tools of feminist technoscience studies. I use Donna Haraway's term "frozen social relations"--attaching to it the caveat "(momentarily)"--deliberately to point to a body of feminist scholarship in which she participates as a principle actor and sometimes as a point of reference, and which addresses these concerns in methodologically and disciplinarily various ways. One might call this body of feminist scholarship "feminist technoscience studies," and point to its overlapping and contrastive relations to other feminist approaches to technology, including but not limited to cyberfeminism and to what I have called the technology question in feminism. When I say that one of the narratives of technology is technology as (momentarily) frozen social relations, that indeed it is the narrative I wish myself to use in this book, I am also referring to a range of research projects in feminist technoscience studies and the collaborating social visions they embody complexly, overlappingly, in layers of locals and globals. How does this feminist work alter ways we tell stories about technologies? How does it emphasize processes of production of technologies and speak to their agents and intentions? How does it urge us to describe technologies without implying that they interact with people and culture in global, undifferentiated ways? What kinds of animated engagements does it make envisionable and enactable?

Emphasizing the narrative of technology as (momentarily) frozen social relations has the potential to enliven technologies, to restore drama and story to their histories of process and production, to enlarge the categories of material life to which we attach these terms. When feminist information systems theorist Susan Leigh Star, for example, urges us "to study boring things," she means to study those elements of technological infrastructure that have become so taken for granted, so invisible, that liveliness is deleted. She insists that "we need good concepts to recognize the shortcomings of language," concepts that will enable us to tell stories recapturing that liveliness. But we also have to be willing to do the unfamiliar work that that recapture requires, and generously to tell and listen to the tales we create together and separately.

Part of the narrative of technology as (momentarily) frozen social relations is thus about our searches, searches for such concepts, for our creation of language that unfreezes what is frozen, that surfaces what is invisible, that recognizes what is animated, that makes fascinating what at first glance may seem only too boring. Star offers "tricks" for unfreezing the features of infrastructure. In the spirit of anthropologist and cybernetics theorist Gregory Bateson's claim that "What can be studied is always a relationship or an infinite regress of relationships. Never a ‘thing.'" Star points out that technological infrastructures are "relational and ecological." It was Bateson who taught me too to think in what I now call "layers of locals and globals" when I studied with him as an undergraduate. Think of the layers of technological infrastructure involved in my TV, VCR, DVD and Ohmann examples earlier. Star offers us "tricks" for thinking and talking about them. She calls this practice "ethnography of infrastructure."

Feminism and ethnographies of infrastructures. Star speaks of nine properties of infrastructure that require examination, need to be "unfrozen," or give us clues about how to "read" it. In pointing them out I will refer briefly to my female media fan stories, but various readers could use this bare listing as the occasion for your own thought experiments: how are these properties pertinent for your own objects and projects, conceived within writing technology ecologies? The relationality of these properties should begin to give you-all a sense of what the term "ecologies" could cover. The first property, Embeddedness--or ways infrastructure is inside and part of social life and other technologies, and the second, Transparency --such that the infrastructure does not have to be reinvented over and over, are illustrated in the VHS NTSC standard for the VCR in the U.S. I mentioned earlier. It is not having to know about that infrastructure while using it that demonstrates how it seemlessly links VCR, TV and video tape every time we use them. (Or, for that matter, how essentially "textual" the essay by Ohmann appears in our very ignorance of its processes of production.)

Indeed, another property Star points to is Embodiment of Standards, the ways linked technologies connect in a standardized fashion. Such standards are affected by three other properties. Reach or scope , shows the range of the infrastructure. Learned as part of membership, and Links with conventions of practice, suggest that technological infrastructures are part of, shape and are shaped by communities of practice, that the infrastructure becomes familiar precisely as one becomes a member of its community of practice, learning and enacting its conventions. Jokes about VCRs that compare adults who have trouble using them to children who use them effortlessly depend upon these properties, humorously inverting generational memberships and their powers. The politics of access to and the domestication of a wide range of technologies and technological infrastructures, struggles for power and resources, and gender and generational shifts are palpable here. The different social worlds with different principle objects of literary theorist and printing engineer are examples.

Becomes visible upon breakdown is precisely the experience of the groups of female media fans who attempt to use VCR technological infrastructure beyond its scope, discovering then only too confusingly how visible, how fragmented, and how unlearned are the conventions of a trans-local set of practices. They then have to enlarge their knowledge of infrastructure, of standards in the plural, and learn new conventions thus entering new memberships, in order to assemble the devices, skills and knowledge that enlarge their range and make it possible to create their alternative videos and share them with each other. Because infrastructure is also Built upon an installed base they have to deal with the effects of these different technological histories; for example, when exchanging videos with French fans of the TV show Highlander, U.S. and Canadian fans also have to take into account that French TV is in Secam.

Learning, or attending to such infrastructure breakdown, Is Fixed in modular increments, not all at once or globally. As Star says, "Because infrastructure is big, layered, and complex, and because it means different things locally, it is never changed from above. Changes take time and negotiation, and adjustments with other aspects of the systems are involved." The female media fans must share information. On list-serves, newsgroups and web pages, orally at cons or media conventions, and through informal friendly apprenticeships and clubs, they manage their relationships with technological infrastructures and writing technologies. They enlarge their skills not only for making videos or viewing international shows, but also for writing, circulating and reading their fan fictions, and communicating with producers and writers what they want in plots and characters. The very layers of infrastructure and the complexities of skills and equipment needed, both require and produce the friendly linkages among fans, in layers of locals, neighborhoods, regions; trans-locally in cons, newsletters or zines, and internationally through web sites, list-serves and travels, in a complex writing technology ecology.
The labor of locating master narratives and invisible work. Star offers two "tricks" for "reading" infrastructure and for "unfreezing" its features, tricks that work for other technological layerings and cultural processes as well. She suggests we identify master narratives and the "others" created by them, and that we surface invisible work. Identifying master narratives means that we have to locate the central assumptions and their interrelationships in the various stories about a technological infrastructure or a technology. Indeed, when we think we are examining a "technology" we are often addressing an entire technological infrastructure, another of the ways in which the representation of "a single stable device" is misleading.

But this controlling center or master narrative is hard to locate precisely because it is transparently assumed by some, perhaps by us, perhaps unconsciously. So Star suggests that "[l]istening for the master narrative and identifying it as such means identifying first with that which has been made other...." Identifying the "other" or identifying with an "other" surprises or violates controlling assumptions; it also allows us to imagine new forms of access, and better to reflect multiple constituencies. Notice the interdisciplinary multiply cultural feminisms Star draws upon here. Both postcolonial literary feminisms and their analyses of "othering' within master narratives, and women of color writers' identity politics are resources as Star considers how to unfreeze infrastructure. The forms of analysis and the objects of analysis between feminist literary practitioners and feminist technoscience analysts are interchanged. Social science feminisms examining women's work and raced and gendered labor processes are intertwined with cultural production and constructions of science and technology. Star plays here with multiple audiences and varying constituencies of accountability and inspiration. The term "work" in her and other feminist technoscience examinations is a term of productive inclusion, emphasizing practices, processes and translations that interconnect communities of practice without reducing their particularities.

How to read a web address. Using Star's tricks, we might "read" some of the infrastructure differences revealed in, say, the addresses of an academic web page of Leigh Star in the U.S. and of an academic web page of another feminist technoscience theorist, anthropologist/sociologist Lucy Suchman, in the U.K. Using a Leigh Star "trick" we notice what has been "othered" in the infrastructure in which they are embedded. These are the two addresses. (Web addresses are notoriously ephemeral. These are their web pages as of the time of publication.)
  • (Star in U.S.)
  • (Suchman in U.K.)

The "http://" part refers to the rules, called "Hyper Text Transfer Protocol," under which a web browser reads documents in "html" or "Hyper Text Markup Language." The "www" part stands for World Wide Web, and servers (computers specified for this use) with documents specifically meant to be read in http often have names that begin with "www," but not all. Especially today when the Web is perhaps the dominant form of access to internet documents it is often unnecessary to specify which servers have web files; above, one address uses www, and one does not. The whole address used to be called a URL (uniform resource locator) and often still is informally, but the current technical term is URI (uniform resource indicator). One can use other protocols to access files on servers intended for other particular kinds of documents, for example, "ftp://" for "file transfer protocol" documents on an ftp server. One can use particular applications such as Fetch to access files with an ftp uri, or, properly configured, may be able to use a web browser to view them.

The colon followed by two right slashes ("://") indicates that what follows is the network name standing in for the IP (Internet Protocol) address numbers of the particular machine on which are located the directories and files that follow the later slashes. All such machines have been assigned a specific set of numbers (these IP addresses) that identify them to other machines, and that set of numbers has been given a unique registered name (although it is possible for a machine to have more than one address). In the first case, "" names the machine on its network and "people/f_star.html" names the directory and file in which the web page's text and associated graphics are located. "Dot html (.html)" at the end of a file name indicates that the file is written in hypertext markup language, what one might call the "grammar" of the web page. It codes, or one might suggest in analogy, "punctuates," the file with terms that indicate to the web browser how to make the document appear visually and facilitates how it performs various interactions.

Learning about the Domain Name System. Now, what I want to emphasize here are what are called the second and top-level domain names that help to locate the machine. In the first case "communication" is the name of the machine on its network, while "ucsd" names the networked institution, in this case the University of California, San Diego. The top-level domain name, "dot edu (.edu)," is, in this case, a"gTLD" or "generic top-level domain" and indicates that this is an educational institution in the U.S., either a university or four year college. In the second case the location of the directory and file "sociology/lsuchman.html" are on the networked machine "" located at "lancs" or Lancaster University in the U.K. The top-level domain name, in this case a "ccTLD" or "country-code top-level domain," is "dot uk (.uk)" and the second level domain is "dot ac" which in the U.K. specifies an academic institution, a university or polytechnic. Why is it that "dot edu" is not followed by "dot us" parallel to the U.K. address? Or why is it that "dot ac" is not sufficient to name a U.K. academic domain without a country-code as "dot edu" does? In other words, why is "dot edu" a top-level domain, but not "dot ac"? Instead the non-U.S. address in this case specifies the ccTLD "dot uk." As Star suggests, we notice this "othering" within the structure of the narrative produced by the domain names and their differences.The master narrative embodied in the domain name system centers the U.S., both historically and in contemporary debates over domain names, their systemization and the governance structures they materialize, especially when they are most "generic," or unmarked. The Domain Name System (DNS), as Star's properties of infrastructure reminds us to notice, was built upon an installed base. The first domain names emerged in 1985, on top of what was already a long history bringing into being the internet. The ARPANET, the largest of the early infrastructures that eventually were brought together as "the Internet," was an element in the U.S. military-research university alliance during the Cold War. The ARPANET represented a difficult negotiation between the military and the research university, with the government playing an important mediating role. It connected sites internationally that produced and benefited from the strategic research which developed its distinctive decentralized but hierarchical communications infrastructure. Its organizational structure assumed an international focus that was U.S. communications centered, while its packet switching innovations made possible a decentralized (and variously militarized) survivability and flexibility.

Against the backdrop of this history, in reading their master narrative the gTLDs and the U.S. are the centers against which we can identify the ccTLDs, "othered" on this historical base which assumed U.S. military, scientific and strategic dominance, together with various international scientific alliances. Now, during our current period of privatization of the internet, a period of U.S. economic dominance, there is pressure to increase the number of TLDs, or top-level domains, as short, easy-to-remember commercial names become valuable, nationally and internationally, and as new sites for electronic commerce become visible or imaginable. The whole structure of the Domain Name System and the governance of the internet it has come to embody are contested under the shifting powers of privatization. Should the number of generic top-level domains be expanded to accommodate the commercial desire for short names with trademark potential? And under that system will "dot com" and its registrars be financially advantaged? Or should the domain structure be deepened geographically and "nationalized"? Is it possible still to intervene into the commercial mapping of trademarks onto domain names? Whose interests are advanced in these alternative materializations? Will the U.S. remain centered economically and organizationally in one or all? Are there other alternatives?

Non-profits and privatization, ICANN and VeriSign. Until 1998 a single organization, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority or IANA (some insist a single man, Jon Postel) assigned the numbers machines needed to locate other machines on the internet, while a single commercial company, Network Solutions, Inc. or NSI, under contract with the U.S. Department of Defense, was responsible for matching those numbers and registering four generic top-level domain names: "dot com (.com)" (which has become a synonym for e-commerce or commercial activities over the internet), dot net , dot org, and dot edu. (Other gTLDs are restricted to and/or administered by the U.S. government, including "dot mil," "dot int," and "dot gov." NSI is now owned by VeriSign, which will be required to give up registration of dot org in 2002, partly because it has new TLDs to register. See below.) In October 1998 the U.S. government created a new not-for-profit corporation, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers or ICANN, to administer both numbers and names under the Domain Name System and to create competition in the now privatized, money-making registration of this set of domain names (and possible and now created new others) by a variety of ICANN-accredited registrars.

While ICANN has international members and cedes to them registration authority in countries other than the U.S., it also has the power to name and accredit those ccTLD (country-code) registrars as well as the competitive gTLD (generic) registrars. Country registrars may set their own rules (subject to legalities in their country) for administration of ccTLDs, and while many registered domain names under ccTLDs are located in that country, they need not be, just as gTLDs like "dot com" can be used by companies or corporations located in any country (thus the term "generic"). ICANN is new and the range of its authority is being tested. A coalition called the Council of European National Top-level Domain Registries or CENTR (despite the name not limited to European ccTLD registrars) refused one of ICANN's first acts of authority: the levy of fees to ccTLDs to fund its organization. While they refused the invoices they received from ICANN, CENTR's point was that they had not ceded any authority to ICANN, that any such authority, including provisions for funding contributions, had yet to be agreed upon in consultation with ccTLD registrars. This was reported in the U.S. business press as "European Domain Operators Refuse to Pay Bills." In other words, the very negotiation CENTR claimed was fundamental was ignored by the U.S. business press, which, knowingly or unknowingly, assumed and promoted ICANN's powers unilaterally.

In April 2000 the European Commission proposed to CENTR the establishment of a new "dot EU" TLD which CENTR enthusiastically endorsed. Would this be a ccTLD, or could it be a gTLD since the European Union is not a single country but a collection of them? It complicates a simple location within the narrative of U.S. dominations embodied in the distinction between and materialized in the governance of gTLDs and ccTLDs, just as does the selling of ccTLDs by impoverished nations. Tuvalu, a Pacific Island nation, sold the now privatized registration rights to its ccTLD "dot tv" to the Canadian Dot tv Corporation. The Dot tv Corporation began selling the registration of web addresses ending in "dot tv", thus by fiat creating a new TLD that traded in on the narrative complexities of distinctions between gTLDs and ccTLDs. (The Dot tv Corporation is now a "wholly owned subsidiary" of VeriSign, the corporation that took over NSI.) Meanwhile Tuvalu both exploits and is exploited by the very status of "other" in the master narrative.

Remember Star's earlier point: ""Because infrastructure is big, layered, and complex, and because it means different things locally, it is never changed from above. Changes take time and negotiation, and adjustments with other aspects of the systems are involved." Dot EU is still in process this summer 2002, not one of the seven new TLDs chosen by ICANN in November of 2000. These new TLDs are all generic: the conspicuously "European-styled" dot aero , sponsored by the air-transport industry; dot biz, unsponsored for businesses; dot coop, sponsored by cooperatives; dot info, unsponsored with unrestricted use; dot museum, sponsored by museums; dot name, unsponsored for registration by individuals; and dot pro, unsponsored for accountants, lawyers, physicians, and other professionals. In July of 2000, just four months before "dot name" became available, a wonderful cartoon by SIX CHIXS artist Kathryn Lemieux appeared: Two business women are standing in the reception area of some office. One seemingly unpregnant one puts her hand lovingly on the belly of the other extremely pregnant one carrying a large briefcase, and says: "Have you decided on a domain name yet?"Mastering the Master narrative. Notice some difficulties with telling a story about a master narrative however. One difficulty is to do so without, as Star says is a characteristic of master narratives themselves, "turning a diverse set of activities and interests into one actor with a presumably monolithic agenda." (Thus creating a very version of the master narrative; possibly all too much the case in the story I have just outlined.) It is very difficult to emphasize the long term effects of, say, the ARPANET defense backbone, or the current powers of ICANN, without implying (as I may have done more than I wish here) that there was some monolithic agenda involved, rather than a set of contingent circumstances that nonetheless are utterly shaped by relationships of power. It is especially difficult not to position global capitalism as the great social force of which technological changes are symptomatic. To speak to these particular sets of non-global actors and their diverse interests requires even more explanation; perhaps I have managed to convey a broader range of interests today. Such a trajectory, from monolithic beginnings to contemporary diversity of interests is also only too much a characteristic of a kind of master narrative, an origin story, and only too difficult to break apart even while analyzing.

Authoritative and alternative, relative and relational. This master narrative here leaves out alternative origins of the Internet: at the very least the stories of CERN in Switzerland and the beginnings of the World Wide Web, other U.S. possible alternative infrastructures that are absorbed into the story such as BITNET and the USENET, and the alternative origins of the U.K.'s research and educational network infrastructure JANET. It leaves out the alternate "roots" that contest with ICANN for the DNS and for other structures of internet organization and governance. It just barely alludes to a wide range of stories of connection to and creation of the internet in many countries around the world. By describing U.S. dominance in this way, it actually perpetuates this dominance at the expense of stories that would emphasize the importance of other actors, that is, other people, collections of people, and the devices, skills and infrastructures they animate.
Identifying a master narrative often means coming to grips with the need for new research agendas and methodologies, for new sources of information and ways of collecting data, for greater resources of time and more numbers of researchers. It means telling much longer stories. And it may require a kind of narrative self-consciousness that at worst can be paralyzing, at best productive of new methods, but always discomforting in the necessity to talk about talking about technology as well as addressing issues about technologies. You may well ask why I did not use the materials I have cited in this paragraph to tell a better, alternate story. These materials, laboriously collected, alert me to these absences, but they do not yet enable me to construct from them another story; although that does not mean that someone else might not be able to do so, either from these materials or with others. And it is also important to point out that the work of conceptualizing absences is itself difficult, valuable work, if incomplete. I cite these materials to support my point that new research agendas are required, but also to provide avenues of entrance into projects already begun. Thus conceptualizing these absences is another way of identifying "others," in order to consider how to "identify with" them.

Where does one look for other agents and agencies? Star's second "trick," surfacing invisible work, offers one way to reconceive and research non-global actors and their diversity of activities and interests once you have identified some "others" in the master narrative. Let me offer now a thought experiment concerning the internet Domain Name System. This set of stories about power, about corporate and national interests, and about engineering protocols, without naming specific female actors, might well be assumed to be gendered "male." This is another indication that the unmarked category does not really stand for all humans: if it did we would assume that both women and men were involved in these stories, especially when they are not named as such. How does one intervene into such assumptions and indeed, realities, and how does one complicate these stories? Where does one look for other agents and agencies? Star's trick suggests starting with communities of work, and especially with surfacing the work that seems "invisible" in the stories.

"Work" here is that inclusive meta-term that signals interlocking material processes in intra-acting agencies, human and non-human. In this case we might consider taking a second look at those who worked with Jon Postel assigning IP numbers, in IANA (the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) or at ISI (Information Sciences Institute, the California think tank he worked for). The point would be to intervene into the story of a single heroic male figure responsible for the pivotal activity, replacing that story with more complicated stories of additional agents and agencies, emphasizing layered processes. For example, when Jon Postel died in October 1998, IANA was moving to restructure itself as a new non-profit corporation, ICANN. Upon his death his colleague, Zita Wenzel, who had been working with Postel for many years, became acting director of IANA.

When ICANN was incorporated that same month, Zita Wenzel was elected Interim Vice President, Interim Chief Financial Officer and Interim Secretary. The following year, with two others, she co-authored The History of the Internet in Thailand, based on work supported by an NSF grant. In 2000 she became an alternate on the Initial ccTLD Administration Committee, representing the ccTLD (country-code top-level domains) Constituency of the DNSO (Domain Name Supporting Organization, policy advisors to ICANN. The ccTLD Constituency is made up of the regional organizations: AFTLD, Africa; APTLD, Asia and Pacific; CENTR, Europe; LACTLD, Latin America and Caribbean; NATLD, North America; and other associated organizations: IATLD [International Association of Top-level Domains]; and AfriDNS - African Domain Names). And in 2002, when Zita Wenzel was appointed to the position of Associate Vice-president for Education of the Internet Society, the following bio was conveyed in the press release:

Dr. Zita Wenzel is the coordinator of APRUNet activities for the Association of Pacific Rim Universities at the University of Southern California (USC). She was Project Director at the Information Sciences Institute (ISI) for the transition of services provided by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) which resulted in the creation of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). She was also director of the administration and transition of the US domain (.us). She represented the United States (.us) in the country-code top-level domain (ccTLD) constituency of ICANN where she regularly argued for the needs of low bandwidth countries and economies. Wenzel is also a NATO networking consultant, primarily responsible for the Republic of Georgia and the Caucasus. In addition, she is a member of the NATO Silk Task Force which is a satellite project to provide cost-effective connectivity to five countries of Central Asia and three countries of the Caucasus. The NSRC [Network Startup Resource Center] collaborates with Wenzel on international networking activities; she provides assistance to network engineers and ccTLD administrators that contact the NSRC for information. Under the auspices of the NSRC, Wenzel produced a document entitled, 'Guide to Administrative Procedures of the Internet Infrastructure' which has been translated into French and Spanish and is used in networking workshops worldwide. This document has been approved by the Internet Engineering Steering Group and published as Informational RFC 2901. She has also been involved with the IETF [Internet Engineering Task Force] Internationalized Domain Names working group and was co-editor of the requirements document.

Notice all the interconnecting threads to our exemplary stories (indeed, if I had not told these stories this bio might not have made sense), and Wenzel's association in various cases with the less powerful member of a powerful duality: for example, with the ccTLDs rather than the gTLDs, or Associate Vice-president, Alternate and Interim officer in various powerful organizations. Interestingly enough, the story that Wenzel and her co-authors Sirin Palasri and Steven Huter tell about the internet in Thailand is one in which a Thai woman professor, Dr. Kanchana Kanchanasut, plays a pivotal initiating role. Note that Wenzel has been an advocate for "low bandwidth countries and economies." Notice too the continuing influence of military alliances in the construction of internet connectivity, as in the NATO Silk Project. Some of the pivotal activities Wenzel engages are involved with universities and technology transfer (especially with the Association of Pacific Rim Universities): economic globalization projects in academic capitalism.

Above all note the layered and interlocking activities, the levels of creativity required to engage their interconnections. Consider the savvy tactics such interactions require as well as the smart use of contingent circumstance. We do not practice this thought experiment in order to celebrate a (relatively speaking) uncelebrated woman, or even to demonstrate that these activities are not necessarily engaged in only by men. Rather this is an example of how to begin a process of understanding the systems, the ecologies, revealed in retelling these stories from another (an Other) angle. Is doing so a key to considering how these stories are gendered? In what ways might that matter, or not? Does Zita Wenzel act consciously as a female or feminist agent, and is that important? If so, how or why? Are such consciously female or feminist agents the actors women's studies and feminism are or should be most concerned with? What about non-human agencies? (And what does that even mean?)

RACE: Row-based ASCII Compatible Encoding. Continuing this thought experiment: how might surfacing the work of this woman make visible a range of unmarked categories? For example, how can we think about the complexes of meaning, identity and agency which, in 2002, the word "race" attempts to engage in U.S. identity politics? How does surfacing invisible work surprise or violate controlling assumptions there? One of the writing technologies named in Wenzel's biography are standards for internationalizing domain names. There are some competing possibilities for how non-English characters will be represented in domain names, and Wenzel's working group is responsible for analyzing these and their impact on the domain name system. Strangely enough, the acronym for one of these possibilities is RACE: Row-based ASCII Compatible Encoding. [ASCII stands for American Standard Code for Information Exchange.]

The issue is two-fold: English is the dominant language of the Internet today but this is clearly in the process of changing, and we do not know yet what the various futures of other languages as Internet languages might look like. (And how the master narrative of English as "originary" language might affect what agencies are possible.) Secondly, Latin characters used in English are also the characters that the current domain name infrastructure uses, or rather a particular version of them, ASCII. A variety of possible standards could be used to somehow include non-English characters or map them onto ASCII, some are even now being used in an assertively entrepreneurial manner. Will the standards that end up being used be decided in a rationalized way, in a top-down decision process or more broadly negotiated, or the balance tipped by economic interests and who uses what? (And are these the only possibilities?)

The "others" of English and its Latin characters here are numerous: languages using a variety of written forms, nationality and nation-building processes, ethnicities reconstructing, religions in various interconnections of identity and writing, geography, economics, family and other groupings, travels from tourism to forced migration, reproductions, speech and even physiognomy. As long ago as the early modern period various of these were indices of the fluid conceptualizations in circulation and in production of what we come to call race. Today race, specifically as a liberatory formation in U.S. feminist identity politics, also is laboriously produced by bringing together and/or recognizing such elements in particular historic configurations.

Meanwhile some of these indices are brought together today instead of, in addition to, or as alternate formations; that is, as other "identities" in identity politics: for example, speech and physiognomy may play large roles as elements in constructing "disability" as a feminist political identity in the U.S., especially with regard to computer use and internet access. The identities of U.S. feminist identity politics are relative and relational: what counts as "racial" politics, in and beyond feminism, shifts in layers of locals and globals: in some parts of the world connected by the internet as well as interconnected through numerous other processes of globalization. These are indices of power as well, dominations as well as agencies. Because these powers are also relative and relational, the mix of agencies and oppressions vary widely, as do the local and global namings of various collectivities, sometimes imposed, sometimes chosen, sometimes historically continuous. The relationships between "rationalities and racisms" is pivotal, as cultural critic Paul Gilroy points out, and it calls for, as he says, "a response to racism that doesn't reify the concept of race."

Rationalities, racializations and racisms. How does "race" figure in the domain name system? At every level and kind of materialization: from the raced, gendered and nationalized divisions of labor in the U.S. and in other countries' factories where the silicon chips of the computers are manufactured, to the people of Tuvalu selling their "property in themselves" as figured in the domain name of their country, nation, culture: dot tv. From the racially and economically stratified U.S. school system held inappropriately accountable as principle agent to democratize computer access in <school-name>.<district>.K12.<state-code>.US, to the racial and ethnic groups targeted as new telecommunications, entertainment and computer markets by transnational corporations in the 90s, reflected in trademarks mapped onto domain names (like Latino Professional Network or From the migrant computer professional in the U.S. on a H-IB visa sending email back "home," to the neo-nazi groups with racially abusive domain names permitted in economically imploding Argentina. From the Hawaiian, Catalan, Navajo and Gaelic language revitalization web sites in which diasporic languages and their speakers create collectivities for transmission, willing new linguistic futures, to the Cajun musicians who share, sell and protect their cultural traditions. From, the domain name of the African-American activist female a cappella ensemble, to, exploring futurist themes in black cultural technological production. From the distinctly African origins of binary code, to Ernest Everett Just's contributions to what would later become General Systems Theory, in black cybernetic communities.

Going backstage...and recovering the mess. What Star is talking about in surfacing invisible work is a related sort of thinking process although Star's own methodologies are generally ethnographic. Yet similarly this thinking process is also an intervention into master narratives (in which phrase one can hear now only too clearly what Gilroy calls "the complicity of rationality with racial terror" /213). Star describes this kind of analysis: "[It] means going backstage...and recovering the mess obscured by the boring sameness of the information presented. It is often in such backstage work that important requirements are discovered....With any form of work, there are always people whose work goes unnoticed or is not formally recognized...leaving out what are locally perceived as 'nonpeople' can mean a nonworking system.... There is often a delicate balance of this sort between making things visible and leaving things tacit.... Make it explicit, and it will become a target...[It may require] making their work just visible enough for legitimation, but maintaining an area of discretion."

Notice this strange term "nonpeople." These complex "Others" are not the non-human agents (of whom more later), but rather an index of more than one kind of salience in play. The analyst may have different values, perceptions and intentions as agent than do the local actors. The analyst has to inhibit more than one reality simultaneously in order to surface invisible work and to identify "Others": otherwise both would remain invisible. "More than one reality" may mean multiple local realities, and/or realities of both locals and globals. The ecologies of interconnection are understood in these "layers of locals and globals." Neither meta-terms of the analysis or local terms (perhaps multiple local terms) of the particular work system are sufficient. Their interlayerings are necessary to create this visibility."Nonpeople" is a meta-term for a local attitude. It is not the analyst's attitude; naming it in fact demonstrates this. It is the naming of one kind of value system by another kind of value system, a naming which then interlayers them, creating new forms of accountability. It also suggests that some local attitudes can hinder understanding of the very local systems: that not valuing some agents may mean that changes based on such attitudes will create systems that no longer "work." In other words, social relations embody various powers.

The 17th c. Sowle family print shop "near the meeting House in White-Hart-Court in Grace-Church-Street." I could give a very different kind of example of this same strategy of surfacing invisible workdrawing upon another historical institution and specific work site, a 17th c. London print shop where some of the Quaker women's pamphlets I study were printed. This points to the other principle case study in feminism and writing technologies within which I currently work. Until recently the ubiquitous figure of the master printer was a man, and indeed, typically speaking master printers in England were men in the 17th c. It is all too easy for us today to assume, because of that, that such 17th c. print shops were the sites of men's work (a possible master narrative). Yet these print shops were part of a very different structure of work than what we assume today, a different ecology of agencies and materialities, if you will. Regulated by guilds, they formally and informally organized the labor of a whole household, comprised of journeymen, apprentices, and other household members, including servants.

Some of the work done by women in the past is rendered invisible by our contemporary assumptions about the meanings of male domination of craft production, what counts as "work" now

Indeed, such work by women was probably visible and invisible at the time too, according to assumptions and institutionalizations of guild governance and social order locally, what counted as "work" then. Nonetheless, as Londa Schiebinger, feminist historian of women and science states, general patterns of women's participation in craft production were as: "[1] daughters and apprentices; [2] wives who assisted their husbands as paid or unpaid artisans; [3] independent artisans; or [4] widows who inherited the family business." Thus, both women and children were part of invisible work in 17th c. print shops, their invisibility complexly mediated by our own assumptions and institutionalizations and by their local assumptions and institutionalizations, in pastpresents. Using this inclusive term "work" to interlayer these pastpresent meanings allows for another visibility, another, indeed contemporary feminist understanding of what makes this local historical site "work."

This 17th c. London print shop that is one site for explorations into 17th c. Quaker women's writing and feminism and writing technologies is that of the Sowle family "near the meeting House in White-Hart-Court in Grace-Church-Street." Women figure in this family print shop in all the ways Schiebinger names for women's participation in craft production: Tace Sowle is her father's apprentice when he is master printer (indeed he had been apprenticed himself to a woman printer), and she becomes the master printer of the shop after his death, as an independent artisan, until her marriage. After her marriage the shop operates under her mother's name, J. Sowle, as widow owner of the family business, while her daughter Tace continued to head the shop. Tace's sister Elizabeth married a printer and together she and her husband became the first Quaker printers in the American colonies. The atypical visibility of the work of this woman in this print shop makes it possible to examine the relative invisibility and visibility of the work of women elsewhere. Feminist book trade historian Maureen Bell points out: "Behind the (usually male) names in title-page imprints lie domestic partnerships of husbands and wives engaged in complex networks of interest: commercial and economic certainly, but also familial, religious and political. Women were active at every level of the book trade, from the legal operation of presses and the running of bookshops to the risky underground organization of secret presses and the hawking of 'seditious' pamphlets. As individuals they were thus crucial agents, helping to shape the specific religious, political and cultural networks in which they themselves were engaged."

Printing as technological infrastructure across pastpresents. Surfacing invisible work in the consideration of printing as technological infrastructure and the print shop as but one element in an entire 17th c. writing technology ecology is another way to see clearly the inadequacies of the notion of "a single stable device." A print shop is the location for a range of devices and skills, as well as various relationships, technical and social, that make up printing as activity and technology. The press itself is only a metonym for all that printing encompasses: certainly the entire infrastructure of printing, but even at times for all the writing technology ecologies of which it is locally only one part. Overvaluing that metonymic reduction results in misdefining and misgendering technological processes. Work by women is made invisible in such metonymic reduction by definition. Thus "technology"--reduced to what women do not do--becomes tautologically "male" as it misrepresents the relational ecology of the work site and the technical devices and skills employed there. 

Describing without replicating local assumptions about those who are locally what Star analyzes as "nonpeople" in the work place is also necessary for adequate accounts of the technological ecology. Overvaluing local knowledge can be distorting. Overvaluing "typicality" has similar effects in historical representations. Emphasizing a typical male master printer makes invisible the 112 women printers, publishers and booksellers (categories that overlap in ecologically relational ways) documented so far in this period by feminist scholars. It is describing the "layers of locals and globals" that makes it possible to see the interconnections among all these forms of knowledge and practice, in intra-acting pastpresents.

Women prophets publishing Truth. I have also been looking at Quaker women's writings on women's public speech in the context of the twenty year period (approximately 1640-1660) in which for political and religious reasons controls on printing shifted, affecting guild and state control, access to presses and who was able to print, legally and illegally. Women printers were also part of this complicated writing technological ecology. After 1641 state and guild controls on printing were weakened and restrictions on the numbers of printers, apprentices and presses ended. In London illegal printing, piracies, and unregistered materials all increased. 

Maureen Bell says: "What is particularly striking is that a large proportion of...[women's] writing [after 1640] came from women of a lower social status than the predominately aristocratic and genteel writers of the preceding sixty years, and much of it was the product of women inspired by their commitment to the radical puritan movement." One way Quakers named themselves was "Publishers of Truth," and as Paula McDowell, a feminist literary historian, points out, "Quaker commitment to the use of the press may be inferred from the fact that in 1659 and 1660 this illegal Nonconformist sect, despite comprising less than 1 percent of the population, published about 10 percent of all the titles printed in England." Women prophets "publishing truth"--speaking, performing religious enactments, writing out and circulating in manuscript and also in print their prophesy within a complex writing technological ecology--were part of the shifts in leadership and power among religious groups in the period before and after Quakerism becomes a bounded sect.

New historical re-representations of pasts, of past writing technologies, cannot assume that what is typical is an adequate standard for representation. Representation may have to focus on the atypical in a defamiliarizing move in order to surface the invisible work of representative groups of people and with writing technologies otherwise lost to sight. In Colonial Williamsburg, an entertainment and archeological site in the U.S. depicting national dramas of colonial and revolutionary America and with its own local history of re-representations and performances, today's souvenir guide book highlights the work of woman printer and newspaper publisher Clementina Rind, although her tenure as printer was only a few years. A children's book published by the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and sold in the souvenir shop of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., imagines a girl child's work in the manuscript workshop of her father in 15th c. Paris, drawing upon art historical scholarship about women and manuscript illumination, and upon desires for new narratives for girls. These historical re-representations of women in writing technological ecologies are products of new social movements, new research agendas, new publics of interest, and new contests for historical meaning. Changes in what we might call "infrastructures of historical representation" also echo Star's comments: "Because [infrastructures of representation are] big, layered, and complex, and because [they mean] different things locally, [they are] never changed from above. Changes take time and negotiation, and adjustments with other aspects of the systems are involved." Understanding these representations as particular forms of information infrastructure we might turn to other comments by Star: "In information infrastructure, every conceivable form of variation in practice, culture, and norm is inscribed at the deepest levels of design. Some are malleable, changeable, and programmable--if you have the knowledge, time, and other resources to do so. Others...present barriers to users that may only be changed by a full-scale social movement."

What is at stake in the analysis of work in these feminist technoscience approaches to technology? 

Working relations construct technologies and put them to use. In feminist narratives of technology as (momentary) frozen social relations ideas of invisible work, particularly "articulation work," are analytic elements in new practices of social accountability and scientific objectivity. These analytic elements allow for spaces to see and imagine along with other social possibilities women's creative engagements with technologies, as in the preceding examples. Lucy Suchman (whose academic home page in the U.K. I used as an example earlier) is an anthropologist/sociologist who worked for twenty years at Xerox's corporate think tank the Palo Alto Research Center, also known as Xerox PARC. There she collaborated with others in projects analyzing "working relations": "Working relations are understood as sociomaterial connections that sustain the visible and invisible work required to construct coherent technologies and put them into use." Suchman tells stories about what it takes to construct technologies. She quotes "knowledge infrastructure" theorist Mike Hales: "Users 'construct' technology; they do this both symbolically, in their 'reading' of artefacts, and literally, in the articulation work that is essential before a concrete configuration of artefacts (as distinct from the generic system-products that emerge from usability labs in Silicon Valley) can serve as an adequate day-to-day supporting structure for a live practice."

Articulation work is required because work sites are characterized by, as Suchman says: "artifactual richness." "...a kind of archaeological layering of artifacts acquired, in bits and pieces, over time." Think of the female media fans using the intricate writing technology ecologies of video making and fan fictions. Or perhaps of the Quaker women prophets, searching out illegal print shops to print their revelations, themselves distributing these published truths, perhaps even at the scene of a religious enactment with others. Such users provide the articulation work needed to construct technological processes out of the assemblage of devices and conditions of work. "...the coherence of artifacts is a contingent and ongoing achievement of practices of design-in-use, in ways and to an extent that is missing from professional talk about finished products." Or, one might add, missing from discussions of access in U.S. identity politics. Once again we demystify the idea of a technology as "a single stable device" and instead emphasize a range of processes of production, much of which is not done by socially recognized "producers" but also by others, some of whom may be locally "nonpeople," in a range of kinds of invisible work, including "use." Notice that the ranges of productions, including "uses," are "always a relationship or an infinite regress of relationships" as Bateson says. Imaginatively call to mind here the living rooms of my female media fans, or the print shop of Tace Sowle, marking the ranges of articulation work that women do in these locations, points in large relational ecologies.

"Of whose work we were only dimly aware." Suchman describes some of her insights while working with others on projects at Xerox PARC: "As members of a very large enterprise engaged in the production of new technologies, I and my colleagues found ourselves enmeshed in an overwhelmingly complex network of relations, for the most part made up of others we had never met and of whose work we are only dimly aware. The simple dichotomy of technology production and use masks (or indexes as we begin to respecify it) what is in actuality an increasingly dense and differentiated layering of people and activities, each operating within a limited sphere of knowing and acting that includes variously crude or sophisticated conceptualizations of the others." This movement from perceiving the masking to respecifying and indexing is crucial to the narrative of technology as (momentarily) frozen social relations and one of the ways it differs from the demystification process that Ohmann presupposes. While it includes or begins with demystifications, unmasking is not enough; new practices of social accountability and scientific objectivity are also called upon. Indexing "dense and differentiated layers of people and activities," indexing numerous "limited spheres of knowing and acting," and indexing "variously crude or sophisticated conceptualizations" translated between layers of peoples and their understandings of activities and others, all are called upon in a practice of technoscientific accountability and objectivity that pays attention to "working relations."

Knowledge in dynamic production, reproduction and transformation. Drawing upon Donna Haraway's work on situated knowledges, Suchman expresses these concerns by saying: "My starting place is recent moves to reframe objectivity from an established body of knowledge to knowledge in dynamic production, reproduction and transformation....The movement is from a single, asituated, master perspective that bases its claims to objectivity in the closure of debate, to multiple, located, partial perspectives that find their objective character through ongoing dialogue. The premise is that the latter is not only a better route to objectivity, but that it is in actuality the only way in which claims to objectivity are or ever could be grounded, however much the lived work of knowledge production is deleted from traditional scientific discourse. The feminist move in particular reframes the locus of objectivity from an established body of knowledge not produced or owned by anyone, to knowledges in dynamic production for which we are all responsible."

Knowledges understood in this way and technologies are linked: "The agenda in the case of design becomes working for the presence of multiple voices not only in knowledge production but in the production of technologies as knowledges objectified [read "frozen"] in a particular way." Suchman suggests two forms such objectification or freezing or stabilization of technologies as knowledges can take: [1] "handing-off of technologies across multiple, discontinuous worlds each of which stands as a black box for the others," thus relying upon invisible articulation work at each boundary crossing, without challenging crude conceptualizations of others' work; and [2] "awareness of and orientation to the work required to achieve technology stabilization and one's location" within working relations understood in layered, complex terms, possibly with active attempts at translations across boundaries. Notice that technology stabilization or freezing is not necessarily undesirable. (Using the phrase "the VCR" is simpler than telling a long story about its history.) What are problematic are the forms of accountability the process does and does not permit. In other words, we like "user-friendly" technology, we need at times to "black box" the processual history of the VCR and just call it that; but what is at stake is what we have to pay for these totally necessary conveniences. Who benefits most from "black boxing" and who pays most for it?

Translation work may be an element of articulation work, relatively visible and invisible. Suchman describes reactions to her and her fellow multidisciplinary ethnographers' reluctance to undertake such translation work for a corporate contract: "The first proposal was that, as ethnographers, we might mediate relations between designers and users. Increasingly, however, our reluctance to translate our practice directly into design terms was met with frustrations from the design community. Our hesitation to produce such translations led to our characterization as recalcitrant social scientists, unwilling to roll up our sleeves and engage in the real work of design. For a time I at least was confused by this, feeling that to deliver design implications was indeed my responsibility but that I was unable to do so. I dwelled uncomfortably for several years within this gap between my practice and that of my design co-workers, seeing it not as a systemic discontinuity but as a personal shortcoming."

Nonetheless this very reluctance and the inability to explain it or overcome it in time produces insights into these working relations: "Gradually, however, we came to see that the problem lay neither in ourselves nor in our colleagues, but in the division of professional labor and the assumptions about knowledge production that lay behind it. The discontinuities across our intellectual and professional traditions and associated discursive practices meant that we could not simply produce 'results' that could be handed off to our colleagues. What we were learning was inextricably tied to the ongoing development of our own theorizing and practice, such that it could not be cut loose and exported elsewhere....we began to resist those rejecting assumptions on the basis of which the demands for our knowledge were being made...we began to argue the need for mutual learning and partial translations. This in turn required new working relations not then in place."

Notice how the "reluctance to translate" becomes a clue to the existence of systematic discontinuities to be analyzed. Dwelling in the gap between practices and thus surfacing one's own invisible work, is a process uncomfortable enough that the very reluctance to do it feels like a personal shortcoming endangering the job getting done. Surfacing this invisible work however is a prelude to transforming working relations, while the analysis of the reluctance to do it is the ground upon which such changes can take place. The otherwise transparent divisions of professional labor and the boundaries between their multiple, discontinuous worlds become painfully opaque, although at first the pain is personalized. The reluctance is respecified as both the difficulty of and in this case the undesirability of maintaining the series of black boxes that devalues articulation work and renders it invisible, that misrepresents the very processes of production that supposedly are to be explained, and that keeps intact crude understandings of others' spheres of work even while supposedly explaining them. Actual explanations required not translations that keep black boxes intact, but reconstructions of working relations that share more of the articulation work, making elements of it explicit rather than tacit.

Nonhuman agencies. The concept of articulation work also allows us to analyze technology as (momentarily) frozen social relations as a two part process, in which human activities are frozen and also in which technical artifacts are animated and given subjectivity. (Some of the indications of which are those tell tale signs of Ohmann's in which specific technologies are figured as global actors and as grammatical agents.) "The assimilations of lived experience to technique goes both ways, which only makes the project of re-imaging technologies the more urgent." Suchman learns from the work of science, literature and rhetoric scholar Richard Doyle, who "has proposed that the vitality and autonomy of computational artifacts emerge through the camouflaging of the networks that support them. By 'camouflage' he means encoding in ways that depend crucially on obscuring the embodied activities that are the conditions of possibility for artificial life; that is, 'machines, bodies, desires, and other practices on all sides of the screen.' In contrast, Doyle argues that the vitality of artifacts comes from a massive assemblage of machines, users and rhetorics that semiotically and materially distribute their 'vitality effect.'"

Notice the massive assemblage here. Denying nonhuman agency is not what Suchman means by describing how some human agencies are enacted by imagining technical artifacts with subjectivity. A complexly intertwined world is not moved only by human agency, and even human agencies are not only effected by individuals. Other agencies exist, and many agencies are collaborative, contesting, diffused, aggregated, ecologically relational. Indeed, the concept of articulation work helps us to understand ways in which lines drawn between devices, humans, other organisms and worldly elements and their agencies are lines drawn for a variety of reasons, some of them crucially misleading. Contesting these lines drawn and offering alternative metaphors with fittingly evocative analytic richness is the common project of both feminist technoscience studies and cyberfeminism.

Cyborg sightings figure here, out of colored bands of light, diffractions through the grained work of Donna Haraway, used to shift the horizon of thought in both feminist technoscience projects and in cyberfeminist projects. Envisioning metaphors for many agencies is diffracted for feminists in fringed parallels through the edges of actor/actant theory and the work of Bruno Latour and others, feminist and not, in Science Studies. Quoting Australian historian and philosopher of science Monica Mulcahy, Suchman says: "Agency on this view is rather 'a relational effect that is generated in different configurations of [human and nonhuman] materials.'" Suchman explains: "The problem is less that we attribute agency to computational artifacts, than that our language for talking about agency, whether for persons or artifacts, presupposes a field of discrete, self-standing individuals." Recall Bateson's concern that we think we are addressing "things" when instead we are examining relationships. Suchman clarifies: "...the price of recognizing the agency of artifacts need not be the denial of our own. Agency...resides neither in us nor in our artifacts, but in our intra-actions....we can intra-act responsibly and productively with and through them."

Humansciences as naturecultures. Suchman's study of human and machine intra-action and agency takes up Bruno's Latour's challenge to "direct our attention simultaneously to the work of purification and the work of hybridization...." Practices of purification keep artifacts and humans ontologically separated; practices of hybridization use translations to create new hybrids of nature and culture, like the Cyborg. Latour contends that modernism defines itself by keeping these two practices distinct, as the very condition of practicing both. Instead, attending to these kinds of work simultaneously allows us to become "retrospectively aware that the two sets of practices have always already been at work....Our past begins to change." (11) "This retrospective attitude...deploys instead of unveiling, adds instead of subtracting, fraternizes instead of denouncing, sorts out instead of debunking...." (47) "When we see them as networks, Western innovations remain recognizable and important, but they no longer suffice as the stuff of saga, a vast saga of radical rupture, fatal destiny, irreversible good or bad fortune." (49)

Demystification is a practice of purification; as I said before, while narratives of technology as (momentarily) frozen social relations begin with demystifications, unmasking gives way to indexing and respecifying, requiring and creating new practices of social accountability and scientific objectivity. Suchman says: "[such writings on human/nonhuman boundaries in humanities and social sciences work] provide the reconceptualizations needed to move outside the frame of purification and opposition on which modernist theorizing and disciplinary boundaries depend. My engagement with these concerns, however, came first in the context not of the humanities but of technology and engineering, where the situation is in important respects reversed. Far from being excluded, nature and technology in the regimes of research and development are centered, while ‘the social' is separated out and relegated to the margins...The way forward, clearly, is not simply to recenter the social as the proper subject matter of the natural sciences and engineering, as yet one more step in a kind of pendulum swing across the disciplines. Rather, the problem lies in the very constitution of the sciences as either human or natural, social or technological." (Of the "sciences" as knowledges, one might add.) As I stated in my introduction, this process of defining against, as when the humanities defines itself against the natural and/or the social sciences (and vice versa), obscures valuable interconnections among disciplines and interdisciplines, but Suchman shows that it also obscures the intra-action among people and artifacts (even those artifacts under the sign of the Book).

The role classification schemes play in telling stories about technology

Classification systems put to work. In their new book, Sorting Things Out: Classification and its Consequences Leigh Star and Geoff Bowker discuss what they call "categorical work and boundary infrastructures." The analysis of categorical work proceeds too from the analysis of articulation work. Some of the examples of classification the book documents historically and ethnographically include the International Classification of Diseases, the classification of viruses and of tuberculosis, race classification under apartheid, and the Nursing Interventions Classification. Classifications and classification infrastructures are information technologies. "Classifications as technologies are powerful artifacts that may link thousands of communities and span highly complex boundaries." (285) Certainly this is clear with the example in their book of the International Classification of Diseases. Or consider our earlier discussions of the Domain Name System, or of international TV signal formats. (In the next chapter I will add the classifications of "oral" and "written".) "A classification is a spatial, temporal, or spatio-temporal segmentation of the world. A 'classification system' is a set of boxes (metaphorical or literal) into which things can be put to then do some kind of work--bureaucratic or knowledge production." (10)

To lesser or greater degrees such boxes may be so-called "black boxes." "Black boxes" in particular bracket what is occurring at that location, for example the skills, the apparatus, the time, the resources necessary for that set of tasks to occur or that data to be collected. Instead only what exists before and after those processes is made visible. Recall the kinds of "black boxes" Suchman describes, through which a technology is handed from one community of practice to another over the course of its production (including "use"). Suchman is concerned that knowing other communities of practice only as "black boxes" in a division of production may mean that only one group of people is held responsible for articulation or translation work. That kind of "translation" work cannot really make clear what is actually occurring if each division of labor remains a black box. Only the sharing of the work of partial translation and articulation would do that in the site she was analyzing.

But Bowker and Star make a different point. Generally speaking in classification systems "[b]lack boxes are necessary, and not necessarily evil. The moral questions arise when...policy decisions are layered into inaccessible technological structures; when one group's visibility [and the visibility of their work] comes at the expense of another's suffering." (320; my inserted amplification) Bowker and Star are also concerned to highlight the kinds of skilled work involved in categories: "categories--our own and that of others--come from action and in turn from relationships...continually remade and refreshed, with a lot of skilled work." (285) Categorical work is "the work that people do to juggle both...multiple memberships [in communities of practice] and the multiple naturalizations of objects...[understanding] how objects are used differently across communities." (286) Think again of the VCR as an object with different meanings, indeed different concrete realizations across communities and nations, and the categorical work required when using the VCR across multiple communities of practice, not to mention over time. I also think of the objects of knowledge privileged in particular disciplinary formations, and of the professional apprenticeships required to enter their memberships. In the interdisciplinary practices of women's studies the translation work required to speak across these communities of practice is considerable.

Categorical work is about both things and people, intertwining simultaneous memberships in a variety of communities of practice or social worlds with the objects-concepts-things-technologies that appear natural, taken for granted, invisible, frozen in those worlds. Understanding those objects-concepts-things-technologies and thus taking them for granted is a condition of membership in each community of practice. Thus the naturalization of things and membership in communities of practice are inseparable. I remember a bit painfully years ago explaining to an interdisciplinary work-in-progress group of feminists that I was investigating what counts as "oral" or "written." One historian said with evident disdain and exasperation, "Why something just is oral or written!" The naturalization of these categories could not have been made more plain. That the naturalization of things and membership in communities of practice are inseparable is precisely the information that is deleted in the black boxes of conceptual technology "handed off" from one point of labor to another that Suchman describes. Bowker and Star's analysis recovers that work by examining these dual elements of categorical work--gaining membership in communities of practice is intertwined with the naturalization of objects that is the very condition of membership. (Inter)interdisciplinary communication is often derailed by differences in the naturalization of various intellectual objects, both those analyzed and those used to produce analysis. My denaturalization of the categories "oral" and "written" as a member of one community of practice left me looking quite crazy to those inhabiting others.

"Boundary objects are those objects that both inhabit several communities of practice and satisfy the informational requirements of each of them...plastic enough to adapt to local needs and constraints...yet robust enough to maintain a common identity across sites. They are weakly structured in common use and become strongly structured in individual-site use. These objects may be abstract or concrete.... The creation and management of boundary objects is a key process in developing and maintaining coherence across intersecting communities.... [they] arise over time from durable cooperation among communities of practice...[they] resolve anomalies of naturalization [in other words they resolve issues that arise when, for example, people have a range of familiarity with particular objects-technologies]...." (297; my inserts and emphasis) In the next chapter I will consider the categories "oral" and "written" as precisely these kinds of boundary objects: managing coherence across intersecting disciplinary communities of practice. And in a moment I will discuss the notion of the Cyborg and indeed the very figure of Donna Haraway as also boundary objects, across feminisms and across other approaches and politics of technological explanation.

What Ohmann calls "a single stable device" (think: "the VCR" or "the Book") may be precisely such a boundary object, a global sign. Thus boundary objects mediate among communities of practice, for individuals and groups, as they are used to account for and manage the intra-action of people and machines-objects-things-technologies along a trajectory of naturalization, or taking things for granted, or freezing technologies. Notice that objects and technologies may be abstract and concrete as well as symbolic and material. Classification systems, such as race classification under South African apartheid, are striking examples of technologies that are simultaneously symbolic and vigorously material, the very embodiments of social relations. Examining apartheid as classification system allows one, in Gilroy's language, to protest the linkages of "rationalities and racisms " without reifying race. Similarly classification systems that become standards for, say, production and use, as in the VHS NTSC standard, are dramatically concrete. And the differences in the Domain Name System between country-code top-level domain names or ccTLDs and generic top-level domain names or gTLDs are both abstract and concrete simultaneously. All embody relations of power.

The very fact that apartheid in South Africa is being dismantled today, that the VHS NTSC standard is taken for granted only in particular places and times (spatio-temporal, say, in the U.S.), that the Domain Name System is in the process of being renegotiated today as embedded in systems of international commerce, technical standardization, and struggles over internet democracy and governance, and that the perception of women as active agents in histories of technology is newly visible; all these examples underscore the point Star and Bowker make that "both membership and naturalization are relations along a trajectory." (300; their emphasis) "Objects exist, with respect to a community, along a trajectory of naturalization. This trajectory has elements of both ambiguity and duration. It is not predetermined whether an object will ever become naturalized, or how long it will remain so; rather, practice-activity is required to make it so and keep it so...the more invisible the contingent and historical circumstances of its birth, the more it sinks into the community's routinely forgotten memory." (299)

Consider the social effects, practice-activity of children's books with girls in pivotal historical writing technological roles, or guide books taking for granted while also explaining women's technological labors; as well as the social movements of which they are the result. "We seek to understand classification systems according to the work that they are doing and the networks within which they are embedded....When we ask historical questions about the deeply and heterogeneously structured space of classification systems and standards, we are dealing with a four-dimensional archaeology. The systems move in space, time, and process. Some of the archaeological structures we uncover are stable, some in motion, some evolving, some decaying. They are not consistent." (42) Think of the various futures and dirges projected upon "the Book," as well as recovered histories of its variation. When objects are "frozen" they are frozen in duration too. Enlivening objects and classification systems in particular strategically emphasizes process, duration, and ambiguity of naturalization. That is, whether and when naturalization may occur, and if it does how long it will last. Think of the fervent contestations and renegotiations of the very ontology of "facts" engaged in the so-called Culture Wars or Science Wars.Notice some of the work that this analysis of classifications does. Like other theoretical descriptions of the very specific details of data-intensive scholarly practice, here archival and ethnographic, Bowker and Star's book abstracts from that material in order to make it useful across sites of investigation, either within a community of practice or between communities of practice, or both. I have abstracted even further from the Bowker and Star book version of this analysis, with its intensive details of specific classification systems followed by extensive systematic modeling out of that material, myself then reordering, recontextualizing, interconnecting to quite other data-specific sites of analysis. The power of theory used this way is to share methods of reordering data and thus highlighting new features within that data that might not have been valued otherwise; that is, to sort and value them differently. But knowing how to use abstractions of this sort, with what kinds of data, sites of investigation, or materials of life, and to what purpose, is itself more and less specified within and across communities of practice and in a specific trajectory of naturalization.

In other words, in some communities of practice such abstraction will be more useful than in others. Its applications will be more apparent for some because it has been abstracted and less so for others also because it has been abstracted. This too is a kind of articulation work, variously visible and invisible in specific communities of practice. It is the very process of so-called "interdisciplinary" labor. The phrase "writing technologies" speaks to this kind of technological labor as well, and its inevitably entangled categorical work. Such categorical work is the subject of the next chapter, and in it I will consider one material history of the production of a vast interdisciplinary classification system using the categories "oral" and "written." Writing technologies are objects, some of them sometimes boundary objects as described by Star and Bowker, and writing technologies is also a meaning-making process--that is, "writing" or patterning, sorting, valuing, naturalizing and denaturalizing--technologies. Thus "writing technologies" encompasses both objects and the labor associated with those objects. Successful, partial, failed and envisioned movements across memberships in communities of practice are inevitable in this intra-action of "writing technologies."

Comparing the incomparable. Star and Suchman both move among various communities of practice--Science Studies academics and activists, librarians, sociological theorists, ethnographers, industry analysts and designers, feminist poets and theorists--abstracting from the work of some communities to speak to the concerns about work in others. In this sense they are "writing technologies." They move in and out of indexing simultaneously the work of translation and the work of purification, as when Suchman described the particular need for reconstructions of working relations that shared the articulation work all around. In a different example, in an article published in a special issue of a professional journal for librarians on Classification, Star compares two methodologies specific to two particular disciplinary communities of practice: academic librarians concerned with "faceted classification," and sociologists concerned with "grounded theory." In doing so she addresses the reasons for making such comparisons: linking previously unlinked research allows for producing languages of analysis that start off as specific to one or the other methodology, but which become useful for both.

Abstraction makes these local terms and methods useful translocally. In other words, "[c]omparing the apparently non-comparable" allows for the building of analytic languages that are ethnographically faithful to their sites of origin, while simultaneously illuminating sites of analysis translocally or even globally. This creation of "compound subjects" allows for understanding logical relationships in new ways, and for understanding new logical relationships created in this comparison process. Comparing the seemingly incomparable, using local analytic terms faithfully but also translocally or even globally, and the creation of compound subjects and thus new logical relationships, these too are features of the action of "writing technologies."

An ecological understanding of the path of re-representation. Star and Bowker's analysis of classification systems, boundary objects, information infrastructure, categorical work and particular historical trajectories and uses of classification systems helps us to view what they call "the path of re-representation" ecologically. Here we have to engage in layers of abstraction, layers of the concrete, layers of locals and globals, in order to have a sense of the ecological complexities, precisely how such objects are simultaneously symbolic and material. The intra-action of people-things-technologies instantiated in the interwoven trajectories of the naturalization of objects and memberships in communities of practice, is implicit here. Bowker and Star name four major requirements for "such an ecological understanding of the path of re-representation":

    • "How objects can inhabit multiple contexts at once, and have both local and shared meaning.
    • "How people, who live in one community and draw their meanings from people and objects situated there, may communicate with those inhabiting another.
    • "How relationships form between (1) and (2) above--how can we model the information ecology of people and things across multiple communities?
    • "What range of solutions to these three questions is possible and what moral and political consequences attend each of them?"

Bowker and Star point out that standardization "has been one of the common solutions to this class of problems," but that "standards do not remain standard for very long, and that one person's standard is another's confusion and mess." They insist: "We need a richer vocabulary than that of standardization or formalization with which to characterize the heterogeneity and the processual nature of information ecologies." (293) I want to again emphasize how both standardization and formalization, as kinds of "freezing" of information technologies, delete especially this processual element, that is, duration and especially ambiguity in the trajectory of the naturalization of objects (whether they will become naturalized). Both the objects we look at, and the ones we look with, are approached ecologically: "always a relationship or an infinite regress of relationships" as Bateson said.

What about Donna Haraway? and what about Cyborgs, Cyberfeminism and other feminist approaches to technology?

Sharing feminist communities of practice. Star's and Suchman's tools for crafting narratives of technology as (momentarily) frozen social relations emphasize complex agencies of people-things in intra-action. Far from implying that technologies interact with people and culture in global, undifferentiated ways, they emphasize ecological relationships in layers of locals and globals, within and between communities of practice. These approaches are not feminist because they center women as their objects of study, but rather they are feminist because they center feminist methods and practices that attend to various relations of power including those of gender. They extend and elaborate upon those methods and their logics. Feminist methods and practices are shared with and ways of sharing their other communities of practice.

Star and Suchman were trained as sociologist and anthropologist respectively, but others who contribute to feminist technoscience studies come from or end up in a range of disciplinary, interdisciplinary and (inter)interdisciplinary locations: anthropology, political theory, communications, biology, cultural studies, women's studies, studies of literature and science, feminist social studies of science, medicine and technology, STS or science, technology and society programs, history and/or philosophy of science, and so on. Some of these (inter)interdisciplines have non-standard names, such as Donna Haraway's institutional location in the History of Consciousness, Sharon Traweek's affiliation with the Center for the Cultural Studies of Science, Technology and Medicine, or Zoë Sofoulis (Sofia)'s association with the new School of Cultural Histories and Futures (or that was her institutional location until academic capitalism's influence on her Australian university required mainstreaming the name).

Star and Suchman, like others engaging in feminist technoscience studies, often position themselves in relation to the work of Donna Haraway and/or to that boundary object the Cyborg, with whom Haraway, among others, has become associated. Haraway's "word-loving" statements of theory and history are points of inspiration and insight, and her language and metaphors are taken up as tools for departure, for self-reflexive method, for the pleasures of story-telling and activist engagements with the world, and for the kind of humor that attends ardent feminist practices of denaturalization and renaturalization. "Irony is about contradictions that do not resolve into larger wholes, even dialectically, about the tension of holding incompatible things together because both or all are necessary and true. Irony is about humor and serious play."

Diffracting worldly processes. "...the point is to learn to remember that we might have been otherwise, and might yet be...." (171) The narrative of technology as (momentarily) frozen social relations is about that kind of memory and vision connected together through complex agencies, human and nonhuman. The Cyborg is about pasts and futures in pastpresents, machines, peoples and companion organisms, natures and cultures, inextricably interconnected, messy, contradictory, not innocent, and generative. As Haraway uses it, the Cyborg (cybernetic organism) is a figure for a set of specific entities that "became historically possible around World War II and just after. The Cyborg is intimately involved in specific histories of militarization, of specific research projects with ties to psychiatry and communications theory, behavioral research and psychopharmacological research, theories of information and information processing....What interests me most about the cyborg is that it does unexpected things and accounts for contradictory histories while allowing for some kind of working in and of the world." (128-129; my emphasis)

"Diffraction" is the term Haraway uses to describe such a "worldly" historical analysis: "I'm interested in the way diffraction patterns record the history of interaction, interference, reinforcement, difference. In this sense, 'diffraction' is a narrative, graphic, psychological, spiritual, and political technology for making consequential meanings." (102) "...when light passes through slits, the light rays that pass through are broken up. And if you have a screen at one end to register what happens, what you get is a record of the passage of the light rays onto the screen. This 'record' shows the history of their passage through the slits. So what you get is not a reflection; it's the record of a passage....As a metaphor it drops the metaphysics of identity and the metaphysics of representation and says optics is full of a whole other potent way of thinking about light, which is about history." (103) "You have to register the 'interference.' So I feel like that is the way I work, and the way I enjoy working. It's simply to make visible all those things that have been lost in an object; not in order to make the other meanings disappear, but rather to make it impossible for the bottom line to be one single statement." (105) "Understanding the world is about living inside stories. There's no place to be in the world outside of stories. And those stories are literalized in these objects. Or better, objects are frozen stories. Our own bodies are a metaphor in the most literal sense. This is the oxymoronic quality of physicality that is the result of the permanent coexistence of stories embedded in physical semiotic fleshy bloody existence. None of this is an abstraction...." (107)

Haraway's gnomic, ironic, and thickly described stories of naturecultures ("as one word--implosions of the discursive realms of nature and culture." 105) are performative, whether written or enacted. "...a lot of people get my stuff through the public performances first and only then find the writing more public speaking all kinds of issues are possible to perform physically. It is such an intermedia event where voice, gesture, slides, enthusiasm all shape the density of the words. Oddly, I think people can handle the density better in a performance than on the page." (108) This performative element is perhaps especially bewitching to those cyberfeminists who also position themselves in relation to Haraway and to the figure of the Cyborg. By way of Haraway and the Cyborg cyberfeminism and feminist technoscience studies overlap.

Cyberfeminism has been especially lively in European and in non-U.S. English-speaking locations around the globe, and is inextricably connected with arts of all kinds but especially avant-garde performance and computer art in a range of new media. The Cyborg in this context is more and more clearly a boundary object, sometimes less the post-WWII entity Haraway herself finds worth scrutinizing, and more a wild amalgam of goddess imagery and technophilia performing a range of new historical and artistic connections across centuries and across generations. In this context the Cyborg performs the work of connecting women and technology through and within many pasts. The narrative of (momentarily) frozen social relations is not the narrative in construction here. Rather all the narratives of technology are overlayered and engaged, each for its virtues and each bringing along its baggage. Cyberfeminism shares enthusiastically Haraway's poetic passions and evocative analytic and performative language, while feminist technoscience studies shares Haraway's fascination with concrete historical specificity and theories of complex agencies of materialization. The Cyborg performs boundary work across various communities of practice embodied in ranges of either technoscience or cyberfeminism, "weakly structured in common use" and "strongly structured in individual-site use."

Technologies as bodies. It is the past and future aspects of the Cyborg having to do especially with female identity and materialities of embodiment that create an early set of linkages with and among cyberfeminisms. Note that for cyberfeminisms embodiment and the body as central meanings are positioned as interventions into analyses, including feminist ones, that assume new technologies are sites of dis-embodiment. Around 1991, Sadie Plant in the UK and the art activist group VNS Matrix in Australia simultaneously began using the term "cyberfeminist," as did others soon following, or perhaps imagining it simultaneously as well. VNS Matrix proclaimed in their Cyberfeminist Manifesto: "...we are the virus of the new world disorder / rupturing the symbolic from within / saboteurs of big daddy mainframe / the clitoris is the direct line to the matrix / VNS Matrix...." And even before her 1997 book, Zeros + Ones: Digital Women + the New Technoculture, Sadie Plant was speaking a "new mythology," one in which the practice of weaving stands for women's deeply historical relationships with rather than against technology. In this transformative mythology the teenage girl, Ada Lady Lovelace, mathematically mutates activities of weaving, the automations of the Jacquard loom in particular, into the codes that work the newly invented computer, here understood as the multitasking machine that mirrors women's multiple worlds of necessity, creation and "ordered disorder."

Valorizing such metamorphosis is intended as an intervention into essentialisms of "male" technology, essentialisms constitutive of modern industrial U.S. and European cultures, and elements even in some feminist critiques of technology and its globalizations. Zeros + Ones presents an alternative picture meant to enhearten women and motivate them to delight in female possibility actualized within new technocultures. Strategically and unabashedly optimistic, Zeros + Ones is intended to challenge women in a "positive anarchic" nonlinear poetic performance piece of alternate useable pasts and futures. "Hardware, software, wetware--before their beginnings and beyond their ends, women have been the simulators, assemblers, and programmers of the digital machines."

Feminisms in generations. Also in 1997 "the First Cyberfeminist International (CI) met at Documenta X, an international exhibition of contemporary art" and progressive politics in Kassel, Germany. Feminist artist and theorist Faith Wilding (one of the founders of the 70s women's arts movement in the U.S. and a member of the Old Boys Network, an international group organizing the conference, and including former VNS Matrix member Julianne Pierce) in her analysis of generational attitudes she encountered at the conference, urged cyberfeminists both to define cyberfeminism and to develop theory to enhance these insurgent art activisms. Playing upon the last line of Donna Haraway's 1985 "Manifesto for Cyborgs" ("Though both are bound in the spiral dance, I would rather be a cyborg, than a goddess.") Wilding goads: "If I’d rather be a cyberfeminist than a goddess, I’d damned well better know why, and be willing to say so." She questioned what she saw as a feminist political generational "ambivalence in many wired women’s relationship to what they perceive to be a monumental past feminist history, theory, and practice." The three manifestations of this ambivalence she described as "1. Repudiation of 'old style' (1970s) feminism"; "2. Cybergrrl-ism," by which she indicated an anti-theoretical practice of passionate netart; and "3. Net utopianism." She urged instead: "While affirming new possibilities for women in cyberspace, cyberfeminists must critique utopic and mythic constructions of the Net, and strive to work with other resistant netgroups in activist coalitions. Cyberfeminists need to declare solidarity with transnational feminist and postcolonial initiatives, and work to use their access to communications technologies and electronic networks to support such initiatives."

By 1999 cyberfeminism was a ranging term that passed among a variety of feminisms, generations, visualizations of embodiment, while at the same time most often centering art activist strategies rehistoricizing connections among women and technologies. Women are at the center of this vision of cyberfeminism, while its methodologies so far have been anarchically moving and artistically postmodern. In 1999 in Rotterdam the Next Cyberfeminist International met. Speaking for the collective and allied groups that put it together, TechWomen of Rotterdam, the Old Boys Network and more, Yvonne Volkart and Cornelia Sollfrank of OBN, called for "A New Cyberfeminism," noting in the editorial preface to the catalog of the event that "the subtitle of the conference was 'Strategies for a New Cyberfeminism' or 'Discourses of the New Cyberfeminism'. The proposal for a 'new' Cyberfeminism sprang from our need to distinguish ourselves from the first generation of cyberfeminists who coined the term in a way we found too narrow."

This very intermixing is the pivotal dilemma of feminist technoscience activisms. In the mid-90s Australian culture and technology theorist Zoë Sofoulis (Sofia), and one of the VNS Matrix artists, Virginia Barratt, had found while conducting interviews with Australian female digital media artists, that virtually all had been inspired by Donna Haraway's "Manifesto for Cyborgs." Sofoulis analyzes the "Manifesto's" key ideas, its academic and feminist receptions, and its influences in cyberculture itself as well as on studies of cyberculture in her essay "Cyberquake." Feminists and other progressives have valorized, critiqued, argued with and for the "Manifesto," in various understandings and appropriations of its meanings. Thick, sticky, rich and wily in its language, the "Manifesto's" poetic utterances, like other ample literary works, are easy to misunderstand, easy to decontextualize, and liable to promiscuous travel. Technophiles and technophobes have assumed it valorizes the technologies it describes, picking and choosing among the variety. Imaginatively unable to engage its simultaneous and ironic discussions of terrors and pleasures deeply interwoven, they miss its argument that this very intermixingis the pivotal dilemma of feminist technoscience activisms.

This dilemma can be addressed by neither technophobic nor technophilic purifications, but rather requires our creation of political strategies and meanings quite other. The metaphors and images Haraway draws upon to open up our political imaginations, to prod us humorously and evocatively to engage this lived reality, one we utterly know and utterly mis-figure, are assumed to be wholly celebratory rather than profoundly analytical. Remember Haraway's point I quoted earlier: "Irony is about contradictions that do not resolve into larger wholes, even dialectically, about the tension of holding incompatible things together because both or all are necessary and true. Irony is about humor and serious play." 

Cyberfeminist and other appropriations of the Cyborg are misleadingly read back into the "Manifesto," with little regard for its "strongly structured" meanings in that specific context, historical, political, analytic. Rather the Cyborg's meanings "weakly structured in common use" are imputed to Haraway, rather than understood as linked from elsewhere to her. At worst this results in a sloppy sort of techophobia, such as that exemplified in the so-called "parody" Cyborg Manifesto circulated by Adbusters. Strangely enough, yet evidence of the boundary object status of the "Manifesto," this so-called "parody" has so little relation to Haraway's essay as to give no evidence that its authors have ever read it. It might not have been worth mention were it not for the so-called "feminist" but woman-hating "jokes" it promoted, one particularly nasty at Haraway's expense, which, most to the point perhaps, erased her long activist history and her actual political views. These kinds of misjudgments and projections also are a consequence of this boundary object status.

Cyborg Melodies. Also in 1999 publications situating cyberfeminism more clearly in relation to globalization processes, postcolonial analyses and women and development projects appeared. Multimedia and new technologies professor Radhika Gajjala critically reviewed one of these and the rhetoric of development as applied to women and new technologies, while in her own pivotal work she also elaborated such critiques and offered alternative collaborations mobilizing the term "cyberfeminist." The book she reviewed was a complex collection of essays by international activists, professionals including academics and policy analysts, NGO operatives, and grassroots workers of various sorts; a book which includes case studies of projects: Wendy Harcourt's Women @ Internet: creating new cultures in cyberspace. While undoubtedly one of the most practice-oriented examinations of women's global uses of the internet and electronic media so far, Gajjala's point was that even its critical rhetoric of development and its goals of "empowering" women assume a top-down epistemology. She asks, "how are we to confuse and blur analytic categories and boundaries as we attempt to 'revive' indigenous knowledges and ecology-friendly rural modes of production within a (global) framing that implicitly suggests that indigenous and ancient traditions and knowledges are frozen and mummified within 'the local' while modernity, urbanity and digitality are making a fluid, linear 'progression' to further Enlightenment?" Although such cautions seem to presume that a cyberpolitics friendly to indigenous knowledges can be purified of Enlightenment modernisms, Gajjala's own practice models a complexly collaborative and risk-taking politics, one interrogating the ranges of power and presupposition within which it too operates.

Harcourt notes that the project Women on the Net (WoN) communicates among its members on a "cyborg list" serve, where the term Cyborg itself loosely exemplifies tensions and contradictions in its members' political visions, drawing inspiration from their understandings of Haraway's "Manifesto" and its complexities, defining themselves in critique, translating to each other, and changing each others' minds. She calls the whole process in which each activist attempts to share their visions, critiques, inspirations and reservations, a "Cyborg Melody." Gajjala's own biting analytic warns: "As we perform cyborg melodies online, are we in fact being surveilled, disciplined and our voices being re-appropriated within a digital matrix/panopticon?"

I feel sympathetic to this frustrated critical commentary, which I think many of us feel as we attempt to engage in critiques that are not simply debunkings, but rather doorways into new epistemologies. With all these others I too wonder how to shape our critical inquiries so that they do not take their main force from the shortcomings of other feminist visionshow to find clues to whatever is an opening that we ourselves are not yet in a position to quite see. What sorts of critical generosities stretching out must we learn to practice in order to recognize new liberatory possibilities when they are spoken, performed, enacted, analyzed or evoked, even as we do not discharge the hard work to recognize their very relations of power? Such indexing and specifying, as first steps toward discerning liberatory possibilities as they begin to manifest, can be more difficult than debunking, and must not be confused with technophilic celebration. I prefer Haraway's "strongly structured" figuration of the Cyborg as that position never harmlessly impure, and Haraway's analytic as it nevertheless eschews purification and models cautionary but curious "worldly" engagements with possibilities not yet decidably liberatory, decidably oppressive, but difficultly and dangerously intermixed in a trajectory of ambiguity and duration.

Which cyberfeminism? Unlike these cyberfeminisms, some self-identified cyberfeminists define themselves strictly against the Cyborg and Donna Haraway, as they fantasize each as emblems of "post-modern ideology" and "eroticised technobodies." Susan Hawthorne and Renate Kline among them, argue instead for feminist holisms claiming "CyberFeminism can be the answer to both cyborg fantasies and cybergoddess yearning...[d]isregarding the 'high' disembodied theories that current plague the minds...of post-modern cybernerds...." Another but different example of an approach to technology defines itself against feminist technoscience studies and cyberfeminism, and includes both approaches under a large umbrella of cyberfeminism, postmodernism and the Cyborg. This is the gender discourse analysis of Melanie Stewart Millar, a Canadian political scientist. She looks at the rhetoric of Wired magazine for a rich example of gendered digital ideology in her book Cracking the Gender Code: Who Rules the Wired World?

Stewart Millar defines her politics against the technophilia and "technovangelism" she finds in each of what she concludes are the two most popular feminist approaches to technology: "a more traditional liberal feminist view and an emerging cyberfeminist perspective." She concludes that each are overwhelmed by digital ideology mobilized through popular culture and its forms of consumption, embedded in global divisions of labor. While "recommended by the pragmatism and common-sense logic of their approach" she faults liberal feminists for their narratives of neutral technology which cannot account for "the extent to which digital technologies are embedded in socioeconomic practice" and "how these technologies are experienced very differently by different women," "implicated in larger processes of class, race and gender exploitation." (57-8) While she points out how "seductive" is its optimism about technologies and its promotion of women who are not victims, she questions cyberfeminism for representing the effects of digital technologies as "novel and unprecedented," pointing out that, for example, "playing with gender is nothing new." (61) She suggests that cyberfeminism ignores the actual experiences of harassment of women online and other reasons for women's absences online, such as "huge obstacles of access and literacy." (62)

Stewart Millar is especially concerned that both liberal feminists and cyberfeminists will buy, in all the senses of that term, the systems of commodification that new technologies embody and make possible. New technological infrastructures, she points out, advantage their producers, multinational corporations. Instead she proposes what she calls "a feminist politics of anticipation." (67) Such anticipation is cued by discourse analysis since "[e]merging discourses offer clues about how our society is developing--they let us see how knowledge is constructed, how truths are deployed and identities altered. They also offer us a way to see how power is being circulated and how different social interests would like to organize our society in the future...[presenting] feminists and other social justice activists with a unique opportunity to anticipate and critically respond to the emerging digital culture before it becomes widely accepted." (67)

The technology question in feminism. These and other feminist approaches to technology thus predate, define themselves against, or collaborate with albeit by very different methodological routes, either feminist technoscience studies or cyberfeminisms. Playing off of Sandra Harding's book title The Science Question in Feminism these contestations, alliances, parallel and intersecting paths interweave what one might call "the technology question in feminism." Sandra Harding has herself in various texts attempted not only to map these feminist questions in philosophical terms, but also to map political questions of science and technology globally in ethno-specific institutional and cultural formations. She points out: "...the political problem is how to encourage and energize the democratic tendencies and desires arising in social life. In our writing, teaching, and politics, how can we hail the most progressive tendencies in one another and in our students and colleagues? In particular, the question for those of us already engaged in liberatory efforts is how to create continuities and encourage progressive relationships between our projects. The old-style politics of unity -- "either you're with us or you're against us" -- is no longer effective or appropriate, if it ever was."

Other feminists have focused on the access of women, girls and people of color to scientific education and to the fruits of scientific research in health care and technological innovation; on the exclusions of women and other marked groups in research protocols, scientific imagery and enabling metaphors; as well as charting the abuses of women, girls and people of color in the histories of scientific investigation, laboratory practices, and administration. Other feminists have specifically worked on a range of histories of women in relation to technologies of many kinds, most emphasizing the last two centuries and specifying modern industrial societies, but some have worked in earlier periods or even across periods.