Week 4 – Questions about Reclaiming Power

Katina Rogers

Many thanks to Jen and Sean for putting together this thoughtful selection of materials for our discussion this week! A few questions/thoughts that came to mind for me while reading:

  • In what ways are certain skills coded as conveying power? In what ways is the opposite true—can you think of instances where *not* understanding a given skill or tool is a power move? How is this fluency (or lack thereof) used strategically?
  • The literal colonial elements of digital tools are so important—the physical and environmental footprint of server farms, the stolen land on which they operate, the water they use and the soil and air they pollute.
  • I am not sure that I’m convinced by the main argument of the “Dismantling Tech” piece. Is a sense of mastery/ownership over our tools the overarching problem with tech? Would a different relationship with, e.g., AI tools really shift the colonial dynamic of server farms and resource use? I’m not sure. I think that may be a midstream problem, rather than a foundational problem. The ‘master-slave’ comparison also makes me really uncomfortable, as it seems to be comparing non-sentient computer code with real human abuse and suffering. Did anyone else feel unsettled by this? (and, as I write that, is ‘unsettling’ perhaps part of the point?)
  • FemTechNet: What do we make of the fact that FemTechNet isn’t really active anymore? What is required for the care and maintenance of feminist technology? Or is it ok for things to bloom and fade?
  • Collective action, peer-to-peer learning, mutual aid models, interdependence—these distributed and relationship-focused approaches seem to offer the greatest promise for ethical tech (and just ethical social engagement in general). They’re also actively anti-capitalist. How do we make space for this kind of work in systems that are antithetical to the kinds of space and time that relational work requires?

To that last point, I love the use of institutional materials to think through reclaiming power. How can we bend those systems in ways that they may not be intended, but that better serve the goals and values that we hold? As one friend and colleague puts it, how can we practice ‘activist administration’—knowing when to work within, push against, or outright flout the norms and structures to which we feel beholden?

That’s all from me for now—looking forward to reading/hearing others’ reflections, and to discussing together in class tomorrow.

3 thoughts on “Week 4 – Questions about Reclaiming Power

  1. Jen Hoyer (she/her)

    I’m so glad you asked questions about specific skills conveying power (or not) — that was definitely something I had in mind when looking at some of the readings, and as I work with colleagues on filling in the kinds of forms that Sean shared, I’m reminded of how the simple skills of being able to interact with some kinds of bureaucratic technology puts people in positions of power or lack of power.

    And, I really like your note that specific models of ethical tech are anti-capitalist; I’d love to bring those frameworks into dialogue with the way relationships with tech are described and reimagined in “Dismantling Tech.” What are the terms that we ultimately *want* to use for framing technology’s uses and usefulness?

  2. Brieanna Scolaro (They)

    Katina – To your point, “The literal colonial elements of digital tools are so important—the physical and environmental footprint of server farms, the stolen land on which they operate, the water they use and the soil and air they pollute,” this is something that I was unaware of. I am curious now to look up stories about the extent of the relationship between technology, data hosting, stolen lands, and even climate change/climate injustice. For instance, I have no idea if the USA keeps data farms in other countries/lands that cause harm to other nations /communities, or what laws regulate this, what movements seek to combat this. This is just a space I am unfamiliar with.

    1. Katina Rogers (she/her) Post author

      Oh, I’m sure—it’s not my area of expertise either, but I have to imagine multinational corporations are chasing cheap land for computing power just like they chase tax incentives and cheap labor…

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