In “A Place in the Online Feminist Documentary Cybercloset,” thinking after the fact about the ways that my feminist and social justice activist principles, methods, values, and goals had been sometimes overt while largely covert in the YouTube project where I had found myself engaging, for the first and only time in my long career, with and within corporate or mainstream culture (I had never housed my scholarship or media activism there, committed as I was to making my critical interventions within alternative culture), I determined to engage newly in other lines of critical Internet inquiry by situating my work not against dominant, corporate Internet culture but by theorizing and making alternative or even radical Internet culture with others.
Two large-scale projects followed. An ongoing, collective project that I initiated in 2012 in collaboration with Anne Balsamo, now the Dean of the School of Media Studies at the New School, that led us first to the formation of the listserv, FemTechNet, which brings together feminist scholars, artists, activists, librarians, tech people and others interested in discussing and innovating within feminist technology studies, and then to FemTechNet’s innovative feminist rethinking of the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) made by activating what we conceived and produced as our DOCC (Distributed Open Collaborative Course), now in its third iteration (see our manifesto here).
The second project was my course, speaking series, writing and their associated website interrogating and producing the possibility of Feminist Online Spaces: digital experiences (like our DOCC) that could be produced to extend, imagine, occupy, refashion, replicate and interrogate feminist and other overtly political spaces and their linked activities on the Internet to what we might once have called “the real world.”
In the class, which as for Learning from YouTube I taught three times, and in associated talks and writing, we defined for ourselves (and in conversation or even opposition) what made any site “feminist”
We built feminist things that might sit on such a site:
We engaged in feminist properties of production and community to make such things and the sites that might hold them:
Kong Jian, meaning “space” in Mandarin Chinese, explores a
translingual machine-made space and the voices within it. You can stream the
audio and download it as an uncompressed file at Soundcloud. Grapefruit Experiment made
the song from source materials drawn from the gallery on this site. These
sounds were contributed towards this end during talks at Re:Humanities 2012 (at
Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Swarthmore Colleges); the Women, Social Justice,
Documentary Symposium (at Smith College); and by using Google Translate. If you
go to Grapefruit Experiment’s Bandcamp page you can choose to download
the song based on a number of compressed formats.
All the while making room for self-aware and self-constructive criticism
of how both differences amongst us and the tools we inherit often limit
our most radical aspirations:
While onlinefeminsitspaces.com might itself be considered one such a space, most if not all of the sites
we explored on the Internet failed us in some of the core values and structures we had named. That’s why this space, here, is so important. Viable, flourishing, generative online feminist spaces are valuable, inspiring, and hard to do well. They must (have) live(d) in “real spaces” and occupy the Internet with the ideals, goals, methods, practices and politics that work/ed offline. They must invent new procedures for the online, allowing for expansion of lived experience together.