Blogger Grrrrrrrrrls: Feminist Practices, New Media, and Knowledge Production

panel / roundtable
  1. 1. Carolyn Guertin

    University of Texas, Arlington

  2. 2. Katie King

    University of Maryland, College Park

  3. 3. Marilee Lindemann

    University of Maryland, College Park

  4. 4. Ellen Moody

    George Mason University

  5. 5. Martha Nell Smith

    University of Maryland, College Park

Work text
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In our read/write world, the Blogosphere creates a variety
of semi-public and public spaces which can be
used for various purposes, be they political, social, commercial,
spiritual, intellectual. All of the presenters on
this panel are active bloggers, engaging the blogosphere
and its audiences for feminist purposes. As Marilee Lindemann
states about her creative nonfiction project, Roxie’s
World (, her blogging
creates “a place where I engage seriously with new
modes of writing and critical inquiry and where I translate
into a popular idiom much of what I have learned
in the course of 25 years of reading, teaching, and reflecting
on the politics of sex, gender, and other vectors
of difference in U.S. culture.” Katie King declares that
in using blogs with her classes and to create intellectual
community within and without her university and her
usual cohort, “we use it for notices and directions to various
groups: grad students and faculty in my women’s
studies department, and for my local LGBT book group.
For a political working group on feminism and global
academic restructuring we use it for document collection
and web research resources, and I use blogging to give
professional talks and at conferences, when I share my
research on feminist transdisciplinary practices.” Blogging
can demonstrate and even alter web technologies
like Google maps, and likewise demonstrate cognitive
activities like scaling and scoping. These are all realities. metaphors and models for thinking. Blog spaces are now
conceptual spaces for intellectual multi-connection and
feminist transdisciplinary practice.
Yet as Ellen Moody notes, “Women are the emigrant
minorities of cyberspace.” Indeed, every study from
1985 through to 2003 of the World Wide Web demonstrates
that it is a male construction: it was begun by men
and exploits technologies many women have not been
trained to use or are not comfortable using. A strongly
masculinistic ethos produces and structures many regions
and norms in Net life; much of cyberspace culture
is still controlled and dominated by men, and reflects
and encourages sexual and sheerly competitive aggression,
hostility towards, and debasement of women, and
disparages what’s thought to be female points of view
of social life. The language of the Net, the language of
instructions, commands, and descriptions of computer
behavior tends to be masculinist, and much of it still defines
and looks at the action a user needs to take from the
point of what an engineer or programmer has automatically
caused to happen to the machinery from his angle.
The jargon tends to be that of imagined cowboy and science
fiction adventure violence: bash, kill, abort, master/
slave, booting up. Much is rule- and product-outcome
based. What is generalized in the command word is often
not what the user imagines she is doing (type this in
here), or the user’s aims, but what the trained engineer
thinks he has to done to make his technology respond to
typed commands. Many of the instructional words refer
not to the user’s gesture, but to what is provided by some
remote machine. The type of training someone must go
through to become a computer programmer requires
women to repress ways they have been encouraged to
think and act, to replace picture and concrete thinking
and women’s metaphors with abstractions and metaphor
drawn from a male point of view. Claude Levi-Strauss
associated building through combining pictures with the
savage mind and called it bricolage, a process central to
the way website building has often been seen and experienced.
Lest one think that these descriptions of web
environments are exaggerated, all one needs to do is a
quick archive search on the vituperative, frequently sexist
spewings of the blogger boyz on Daily Kos (www. throughout the primary season of spring
2008. Or, one might review Carolyn Guertin’s presentation
at DH2007, “If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want To
Be In Your Digital Revolution,” in which she recounted
and analyzed the “seedy underbelly of the blogosphere
and cyberspace populated by Alpha Dogs, Griefers, and
Trolls. Alpha Dogs are people who will use any form of
abuse to pump themselves up or to ‘win’ a point; Griefers
are people who annoy other people, and Trolls are
people who post hate speech and inflammatory messages
about a person or topic in order to bait other users into
So all four panelists are acutely aware of both the great
promise and hope of the blogosphere and of the fact that
it is by no means an Edenic space, or at the very least
there are rapacious as well as facilitating, connective
machines in the new media garden. This panel’s presentations
will not dwell on what Guertin class the “seedy
underbelly” but will propose methodologies and practices
for reflecting on the important questions framing this
panel, questions about how and what kind of knowledge
we are producing in the wired world, how differences are
negotiated and communities are created, and how agencies
are located and distributed. The panel’s focus will
be on diversity not within digital humanities as a field
but within the social and political networks being created
in the blogosphere. One blog featured in the panel,
Roxie’s World, can serve as an example for the kinds of
expressions explored by the panel as a whole. Queer,
feminist, comedic, and utopian, Roxie’s World is written
by a prominent Americanist, feminist, queer theory
scholar in the voice of a 14 ½ year old wire haired fox
terrier with a leaky heart and a laoptop. It is postmodern
in its giddy appropriation and re-contextualization of images,
video, words, and music, in its gleeful movement
back and forth across the boundaries between the animal
and the human, the fictive and the factual, the personal
and the political. It is political in its determination to
“talk back”—to borrow a term from bell hooks—to a
culture of images and talking heads and to dissent from
the authoritarianism of post-9/11 Bush/Cheneyism. It is
classically, literarily “American” in its deployment of an
innocent narrator as the vehicle for critique and satire, a
narrator constantly surprised by the betrayals and disappointments
of the adult humans in charge of the world.
Our critical inquiries are situated at the intersection of
queer/feminist studies of the public sphere (Lauren Berlant,
Michael Warner); an emerging discourse of blog
studies (particularly two recent online collections, Into
the Blogosphere: Rhetoric, Community, and the Culture
of Weblogs from the University of Minnesota and Blogging
Feminism: (Web)sites of Resistance from the Barnard
Center for Research on Women); and, at least in
the case of Roxie’s World, canine cultural studies (Marge
Garber, Donna Haraway, Alice Kuzniar [who gets credit
for the term “Canine Cultural Studies,” by the way].
Our experiments in the blogosphere have afforded us
opportunities to reflect upon what blogs are, what they
do—culturally, politically, literarily—and what they can
teach us about practices of reading, writing, and social
networking in the twenty-first century. On our blogs, we
each engage in gestures of “digital self-fashioning” that we regard with a certain wariness, seeing them not necessarily
as liberatory or equalizing but also as evasions,
erasures, or denials of real and powerful social locations
and differences. All of us in the digital humanities long
ago recognized that new technologies had helped to produce
forms of textuality and ways of reading and writing
that are genuinely new and worth reckoning with, but,
demanding participation, blogging arguably helps clarify
the stakes and the possibilities of a whole new way
of conceptualizing and doing humanistic work in ways
that our other tools do not (or at least not so readily). As
scholars, critics, teachers, and writers of various kinds,
we all have a stake in getting into the game and seeing
what we can do in it and with it. The tools are there. It’s
up to us to find innovative ways to use them, ways that
will reflect our values and commitments and advance our
scholarly and cultural work. It’s important to do so not
just to prove our relevance or to find common ground
with our tech-savvy students, though those are not insignificant
considerations. It’s important because the transition
to post-print culture is advancing by the nanosecond.
As Richard Miller of Rutgers has recently pointed
out, a revolution in human expression is taking place. As
scholars of the culture of human expression, we simply
must develop the skills necessary for interpreting and
understanding emerging forms of textuality, and, as Lindemann
has written, “there is a lot to be said for learning
by doing, which is how I have justified my now lengthy
experiment in digital creativity. In other words, and you
had to know I would come to this, my old dog has taught
me several new tricks, and I am grateful to her for being
both a loyal companion and an extraordinary teacher.”
Guertin, King, Lindemann, and Moody will examine issues
of gender and other identity relations and formations,
the perils and possibilities of enclaves, and the
meanings of new ways and means of writing and reading
to postulate ways in which blogging might be harnessed
to advance knowledge production and forge new humanhuman
and human-machine interactions. Doing so, we
will probe the following in order “to rethink the intricate,
the increasingly intimate, configurations of the human
and the machine” and configurations of human-human
interactions through machine-facilitated interactions:
• The irreducibility of lived practice, embodied and
• The value of empirical investigation in the midst of
the relentless valuing of categorical debate;
• The displacement of reason from a position of supremacy
to one among many ways of knowing and
• The heterogeneous sociomateriality and real-time
contingency of performance;
• New agencies and accountabilities effected through
reconfigured relations of human and machine.
(Lucy Suchman, Human-Machine Reconfigurations
1, xii).
Important also for our considerations are the special issue
of Frontiers devoted to gender, race, and information
technology (
fro26.1.html); recent books by feminist thinkers such as
Isabel Zorn, J. McGrath Cohoon and William Aspray, as
well as Suchman; and the recent issue of Vectors devoted
to Difference (Fall 2007;
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Conference Info


ADHO - 2009

Hosted at University of Maryland, College Park

College Park, Maryland, United States

June 20, 2009 - June 25, 2009

176 works by 303 authors indexed

Series: ADHO (4)

Organizers: ADHO

  • Keywords: None
  • Language: English
  • Topics: None