Week Three (Wed, 2/2): Ideas to Actions






I.  Anne: course-keeping
sit w/ your small group

class notes today by MissArcher2jlebouvier

By midnight on Fri (as always), post your on-going thoughts about this week's discussion: after-thoughts; details from the small group discussion we're about to have; more information about historical or contemporary examples of gender diversity (always thinking: not just "what are you feeling" about this topic, but what information can you add?)

continued problems w/ posting (PLEASE
* be sure to join our "group,"
* to tag your audience as "GIST," and
* to use the "Word" icon when cutting and pasting from Word; otherwise lots of html garbage will knock out all the posts following yours....)

On Mon (having deconstructed the binary of gender identity??!!)
we'll reverse course to talk about the technologies of enhancing gender identity, with help from

Elaine Sciolino and Souad Mekhennet.
“In Europe, Debate Over Islam and Virginity.” The New York Times. June 11, 2008.

Dull, Diana and Candace West.
“Accounting for Cosmetic Surgery: The Accomplishment of Gender.” Social Problems, Vol. 38, No. 1 (Feb., 1991): 54-70  (link is to JSTOR copy–if you’re off-campus, you’ll need to log in to the library)

Victoria Bañales. “The Face Value of Dreams”: Gender, Race, Class, and the Politics of Cosmetic Surgery.” Beyond the Frame: Women of Color and Visual Representation. Ed. Neferti X.M. Tadiar and Angela Y. Davis. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. 131-152 -- in the password-protected file

N.B. from the Bookshop: buy all books before February 14 (when they will be returned): get your copy of Frankenstein now!

Fri a week, Feb. 11, your first 4-pp. project or multi-media "event" is due, exploring ways in which science and technology have been used to construct, de-construct and/or re-construct gender.

You must post 4-pp. projects on three of the four due dates
(2/11, 3/4, 4/1, 4/22)--
with a strong recommendation to do this one!

Here are your writing groups (these will switch mid-semester);
you are welcome to meet w/ your writing instructor before the paper is due;
you are required to meet w/ her once before spring break (after the first/before the second paper is due...)

Apocalipsis shin1068111
aybola50 cara
fawei ekthorp
Hilary G Hilary_Brashear
MissArcher2 izemmahi
merlin jlebouvier
kelliott J.Yoo
kgould rubikscube
Oak Franklin20
m.aghazarian MSA322
Marina PhreNic
leamirella Riki
tangerines TiffanyE
spreston vgaffney

SO: we'd better work some more
on learning one another's names!

Are you ready to name your neighbor?
and to say something about her??

(Monday we'll go the other way:
there will be tests!)

II. Two more important course-keeping bits:

** we have entered into a collaboration with a course being offered by Kim Surkin @ MIT this semester on Gender and Technology; we have some shared texts (they will be reading all the material we're using for next week, and Frankenstein, and watching the film Technolust (though not in synch w/ us); we are also hoping to be able to participate in late March, via Skype, in a guest lecture there by Abha Sur on Technology and Development (addressing our critique on Monday re: the U.S.-centricity of this course).

** we also are thinking it might be fun for us to follow the explorations, of
a 1/2-credit course being offered here this semester by Alice Lesnick and Howard Glasser, EDUC 255 - "Technology, Education and Society: Altering Environments" (they've also just finished Andy Clark...); @ twitter, you can follow #ed255

III. A reminder that still on the table are some of our reactions/
resistances to the sorts of boundary-blurrings that both Haraway and Clark were celebrating last week:

The thought of "no separation" is very new, very foreign, and very scary .... Are we using our machines or are our machines using us?

vgaffney: Although this new understanding of the interplay between the mind and technology complicates the notion of “agency”, Clark makes a compelling argument that the agency, or control, still rests with the self.

rubikscube: What really stuck out to me in Clark’s essay was the image of Stelarc’s third robotic arm ... this example of a computer controlling human muscles through voltage bursts... if we can use software to dictate a person’s movements, how long before we can stimulate the neurons in a brain to make people have certain thoughts?

MissArcher: I don't want to be a cyborg .... We like the idea of machines because they ... have the potential to be perfect. We like the idea of cyborgs because ... we can become perfect too .... But I remain adamant that we must stay separate from machines, because ... they will become the active participant and we the passive one. We will cease to use them to enhance our experiences as human beings -- an existence that I believe is a valid one, just the way it is.

cara: The mere act of writing on paper has become a mnemonic tool for me. My thoughts seem very delicate and unclear to me until I write them down; the act alone allowing me to remember ideas ... while the person was rejecting one kind of technology they still clung to countless others. In lieu of the typewriter, pen and paper were preferred ... there is a natural inclination to initially reject any kind of change.

Riki: Someone in class said that skin is a physical boundary between and organism and its environment. I disagree with this. Our bodies are constantly interacting with the environment -- sharing electrons, exchanging gases and nutrients, hosting viruses and bacteria, etc. So I don't really see extending ourselves into technology as something completely foreign.... It seems inevitable that our lives will be seamlessly entwined with technology .... Clark's just saying that humans are wired to adapt. This isn't even a uniquely human characteristic -- every living organism is capable of adapting to its environment ... I think we often underestimate how plastic our brains are.

Apocalipsis: I wonder if our obsession/ dependence on technology is changing the way our brains are structured. I am concerned that technology is leading out world into one of solitary confinement when we were breed to be social beings.

Andy Clark: Isolation ... is often a mater of perspective
. The apparently isolated individul tapping away night after night is, in many cases, spending quality time in her own chosen community. These eclectic electronic communities often bring together a great number of like-minded folks (pp. 190-191).

IV. Bringing this concern with merger, this desire to keep the categories "separate," back to Roughgarden,

breaking into small groups for 15-20 minutes,
to apply a series of questions to the categories of
[male and female sexes (defined, p. 23f) --DONE W/ THAT ONE!]
* masculine and feminine genders (defined, p. 26f)
** gay and straight sexualities (function of homosexuality, p. 155f)
* male and female homosexuality (genital geometry, p. 157f)
** transgender and cisgendered peoples (transgender experience, p. 263f)
* intersex and nonintersexed conditions ("nor intersexes," p. 299f).

What uses have these categories served?  Can they still serve?
What damage have they done?
Do we want to continue to use/replace/get rid of them? How?

Liz: report out from each group:  
What is your proposal?
What key ideas shaped it?

III. In some ways, we've put the cart before the horse here,
putting Roughgarden's ideas into action,
w/out digging into how she constructs her argument.
So let's step back a bit and pay some more attention
to how she does this.

What is in a word?  
Facts, values, and meaning-making (stories).

Roughgarden  interprets the facts, i.e., creates meaning, from a set of observations by shaping an account that highlights cooperation through transactional relationship building--in exchange for this, you get that.

Is Roughgarden's language of social cooperation more justified than Darwin's language of competition?

Is she making the same error that she criticizes other scientists for? 

Where does the science end and the ethics begin? 

  • Are some accounts better than others?  Why?
  • Are non-anthropomorphic stories possible?  Examples?
  • What are the intentions expressed by language choices?
    • to explain
    • to influence
    • to entertain
    • ...others?...

IV. Making and refuting claims--a numbers game?

Roughgarden's tactic for countering the universal claim of sexual selection is to provide a plethora of counter-examples which admit a different interpretation.

Does it matter that the counter-examples are in the minority in many cases?

What weight does a single example have in our different spheres of meaning-making?  In science?  In culture?

Does it mean that you have to take the claim down?
and when it's gone, what's left?

This seems another example of a binary:
if you can only make universal claims, the world becomes dichotomous.

If you introduce the notion of relative knowledge value,
you can capture more of what we know and don't know, 
captured by multiple examples and multiple possible interpretations.

Roughgarden participates in Haraway's continuum--
several stories could match your data, but one doesn't have to prevail prematurely.

What other scientific debates are happening now that reveal a dichotomous pressure to resolve into black and white?

V. Anne:  Roughgarden ends her book w/ a series of "Policy Recommendations"

premedical curriculum in biological diversity
medical curriculum in human sexuality
psychology curriculum in classifaction, evolutionary biology,
molecular genetics and endrocrinology

Medical Practice:
FDA-certified list of diseases 
"          "        "    " medical procedures

Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology
Oath of Proessional Ethics: "I promise to protect the human gene pool.
I promise to use biotechnology for peace."

Professional Biotechnologist License
Corporate Policy on Ethics
Epidemolgoical Impact Report
Common Code for Ecological and Environmental Impact Reports

Roughgarden's recommendations range from 
concrete curricular suggestions, through 
technical applications, to a large cultural symbol.

Rachel Grobstein Gallery: "Diversity"

Given what we've read, and the discussions we've had,
what public policy recommendations (hers or others) seem to you 
a way to begin acting on what you've learned?
Where shall we/do you want to start?

You can pitch your intervention @ the individual level (what will you do?)
or make it institutional (in this class; @ Bryn Mawr or Haverford), 
national, international...

Class notes by MissArcher2jlebouvier