technology, virtual gender, and globalization

In a digitally complex world and society in which we live, educators must consider all forms of diversity and all forms of learning and communication.  Within feminist pedagogy one must consider the implications of identity and gender as related to online environments:  distance learning, social networking, second life, etc.  This pedagogy implicates the need to consider how one identifies oneself in a virtual space or ‘real’ space—constructed or not.  Because children are familiar with and exposed to online life on a daily basis, using it in the classroom can enhance not only course content but also interaction and understanding between students who may not have the opportunity to connect outside of that space.
Though cyberspace offers a disembodied experience, this does not mean that traditional stereotypes and gender roles do not exist. What should occur for equity to take place is to change the current patriarchal relations in cyberspace. An increase in the number of women and minorities accessing the internet is not the solution; instead all users must have agency to change the current power structure.

Also what, of ourselves, do we leave behind and what do we gain when we engage in cyber-life? What happens, for instance, to physicality and life-force?  Do they travel with us into our virtual identities and the representations we create for ourselves in places like Second Life?  Can we “represent” our personhood virtually in ways that carry our humanity with it?  With the proliferation of video games, blogs, social networking sites and chat rooms, it becomes important for adults and for the children in their care to learn how to take advantage of these potentially useful resources in ways that retain our humanity while expanding it.

Personal Enactments

For this enactment, let me set the stage.  I am the character in a play—one that seems a little surreal as I tell it.  I am the main character—the protagonist—so I think. 

Have you ever walked into a room in which you felt that everyone was looking right at you because you were the ‘other’ in the room?   You were different?  You looked different?  You walked differently?  No one really knew if you were different—it was just that you appeared different? I have.  Recently, this happened to me twice.  Once was in a gas station, and this is the one I will describe.  I stopped at this particular gas station because I needed fuel.  I was in an unfamiliar town and stopped at the nearest gas station.  When I pulled up to the pump, I realized there were bars on the doors and windows of the station, and other customers (at least I think they were store customers) were standing in the corners of the parking lot.  A few customers actually entered the store.  At this instant, I felt that I crossed a border—into unfamiliar territory.

I continued to pump my gas and went inside to pay.  Inside there was a wall of bullet proof glass between the patrons and the attendants.   There were several customers in line purchasing beverages in small brown paper bags.  Two customers to my right—fully clad in body piercing and tattoos—purchasing pay-as-you-go minutes for their cell phone.  One customer arrived at the line to check out at the same time I did…I gave her the nod to go in front of me.  She sheepishly stepped in front of me and shyly uttered ‘thank you’.  I was proud of allowing her to step in front of me.  I felt a sense of brotherly (sisterly) love….

I continued to stand in line patiently waiting my turn to pay.  My mind was reeling (I was actually praying for my safety).  I was, to be quite honest, a little nervous.  You see, I walked into this place dressed in heals, a black dress suit, my blonde hair pulled back neatly in a pony tail.

At that moment, I became fully aware of my whiteness.  Along with that whiteness came an inner conflict of who am I?  Do I belong here?  I was experiencing a bit of an identity crisis—and now that I reflect upon that experience—a struggle between power and privilege.   

I graciously allowed ‘another’ to step up in line in front of me…I helped her.  Or did I?  I was the privileged character in this act—the protagonist.  The one in control of the situation—or was I?

I have never given much thought to my whiteness—to power and privilege—until recently.  I have always experienced life as a middle -class white, heterosexual, married, professional woman.  I have never thought so much about what comes with my whiteness and my positionality.

Upon studying feminist theory, I realize that study requires change.  Any study requires “active interpretation and ownership…so that knowledge is converted into strategies for praxis” (Villaverde, p.5).   But what is my praxis?  What is praxis?  As Villaverde describes it, it is a cycle of critical reflection and action that translates into transformation. 

I must no longer look through a mirrored lens with the reflection always of me.  That day in the gas station—there was nothing happening there that was about me or privilege.  It was just simply about people living together in a world full of diversity.  I was the one that was different. But, I think I was the only one who cared.  In my mind, I was acting upon the perceived privilege in my head. 

Therein lies the issue.  How can I be an effective educator if I don’t realize what is happening within my own self?  If I don’t step aside for a moment and seek to understand others and their positionality, or lack thereof, and not just my own?

To enact upon this experience, I must continue to reflect upon my praxis and my positionality.  I know that how this plays out is critical in the classroom.  I must never not pay attention to others, who they are, where they are from…who I am, where I am from.  “It is just as important to recognize forces to which one is not yielding as it is to recognize forces by which one is being shaped or immobilized” (Villaverde, p.10). 

Someone told me recently, ‘seek to understand, before seeking to be understood’. 

The day in the gas station made me feel uncomfortable.  Have there been days that someone was near me and felt the same uneasiness about their own position and identity?  This has changed me.  The way I think about others—who they are—their identities. Not in binary terms of me and them, but of us as people.

                                                                                                                         –Jill Reinhardt

Jill’s Blog–a call for pedagogical change in this digital world

The theory of feminist pedagogy specifically is relatively new to me; however, basic tenets of good teaching and good instruction are not so foreign.  What I see within feminist pedagogy are the basics of accepting, recognizing, and acting upon diversity; seeing differences and multiple identities that surround us; creating environments or spaces within the classroom that are safe; recognizing that class dynamics are changed by the way we teach and interact with students. Relative to ‘good teaching’, I recognize that all of this aligns to respectful classrooms, differentiated instruction based on readiness levels and interest, and 21st Century skills of teaming, collaboration, and participatory learning.

But what does all of this have to do with virtual gender, technology, and globalization?

As 21st Century educators, we all are faced with functioning within a digitally enhanced world—personally and professionally.  This world entails multi-dimensional implications for learning:  how do we incorporate technology into learning?  How does technology affect identity?  Agency? Communities of meaning? Therefore, I pose two questions:  How does feminist pedagogy influence the classroom? And, further, how can feminist pedagogy influence hybrid, blended, or totally online learning environments? Within these questions, I also pose concerns about identity, relationships, and community that are created/constructed via online environments:   texting, social networking, virtual worlds, etc.

First of all, classrooms interacting with or without technology should recognize the multiple identities of all the learners in the classroom.  Classrooms grounded in feminist pedagogy should emphasize the need for student voice, community, collaboration, empowerment, and action (Villaverde 2002).  These classrooms should allow students from all backgrounds, abilities, disabilities, identities, gender, sexual orientation, etc. to have a space in which learning is a shared, participatory, experiential process and knowledge that is constructed among peers and colleagues.  Knowledge is not imparted only by the teacher.

Chick and Hassel, in their article “Don’t Hate Me Because I’ Virtual:  Feminist Pedagogy in the Online Classroom”, point out that any classroom and specifically a classroom with online interactions should be and can be a collaborative, participatory environment.  They argue, “Feminist pedagogy isn’t just applicable to many different disciplines; it’s also applicable to nontraditional learning environments” (p. 196).   The implications for an online learning environment are great if one truly considers the basic principles of feminist pedagogy.  One must create an instructional venue in which learners are engaged in the content first, the technology only enhances that framework; learners are able to interact in the online environment in such a way that the space perpetuates relationships among the learners via deliberate interactions; the learners construct knowledge among themselves (knowledge isn’t solely imparted from the teacher); and, students feel a sense of agency in which they think critically and act upon the issues at hand (Chick and Hassel, 2009).

Chick and Hassel also emphasize a critical point related to feminist pedagogy:  “the more attention students pay to the specific identities of their classmates, the more they resist normalizing the identities of their classmates under invisible assumptions of whiteness, maleness, and other identities that may be challenged online” (p. 199).  In thinking about gender, virtual or ‘real’ and identities of our learners, I must connect this to a statement Villaverde made in her primer, Feminist Theories and Education (2008).  She states, “With the proliferation of access to a multitude of media outlets—especially as handheld devices carry greater capacity and online connections are available via wireless networks—issues can carry over to virtual spaces with less accountability” (. 91).  I must question:  how do I students identify with themselves and with others in real and/or virtual worlds?  

Sheryl Hamilton, in her article, “Virtual Gender or Virtually Gendered? Thinking about Cyberfeminism”, poses questions related to gender and the online, virtual world.  Her questions of identity and virtual gender are focused mainly on cyberfeminism and the effects of gendered identities of women.  She states that “technologies are not active agents:  they are always located within existing sociocultural relations” (2000).  Therefore, is there a correlation between the online learning environment, students’ identities, and the ability to create agency for themselves?  If we pay attention to how gender is constructed, a shifting of boundaries between “natural” and “virtual” realities/subjectivities (Villaverde, p. 91), and pedagogy in feminist classrooms, shouldn’t we consider the greater implications of what is happening with the student who is synced/connected 24/7 to a digital device?  Are we manifesting the cyborg as Donna Haraway did in 1985? 

I am left with thinking that there are huge implications for the 21st Century classroom.  We are faced with the call for pedagogical change that places the teacher at the center of understanding feminist pedagogy to create the proper environments for students with multiple identities and backgrounds, but teachers must also understand the implications of this digital world.  Teachers cannot resist the technology age.  How can we as educators resist the call to learn ourselves about virtual gender, online worlds of social networking?  Our children live in this world and the virtual world.  They create their identities in both.  We must understand both.  We must act, behave, and construct knowledge in and about both.  The idea of transference, by Britzman, is so relevant here.  This concept that we bring our own experiences to the classroom goes both ways—student and teacher.  If a teacher is not functioning in the digital world and does not bring that to the classroom, and the student is functioning in the digital world and does bring that to the classroom, haven’t we created a faultline that could rupture?  How can we NOT teach at minimum in a blended environment that includes face-to-face instruction and interaction AND online instruction and learning?

This is so important to the work of educators.  1:1 environments in which every student has a laptop, a handheld device, a Smartphone, are the buzz for education in 21st Century classrooms.  We must further delve into understanding the worlds that are created in the natural sense and the virtual and understand the basics of identity, learners, and instruction.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4g5M06YyVw&NR=1

Please watch this youtube video about 21st Century teachers.  This rings so true with where we are today…teachers must embrace this digital age. 

Chick, N. and Hassel, H. (2009).” Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Virtual: Feminist Pedagogy in the OnlineClassroom”. Feminist Teacher, 19 (3), 195-215.

Hamilton, S. (2000). “Virtual Gender or Virtually Gendered? Thinking about Cyberfeminism”. Paper presented at the Femmes Branchees Soiree: Salon #32: Feminism in the year     2000/International Web Artists. http://www.studioxx.org/f/programming/xwords/virtual.html. Accessed June 7, 2010.

Villaverde, L. (2008). Feminist Theories and Education. New York: Peter Lang.

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3 Responses to technology, virtual gender, and globalization

  1. LINDA’S PERSONAL ENACTMENT

    Linda’s Enactment #3

    The other day I was babysitting my two grandchildren, 4 year old Garrett and 1 year old Abigail. Garrett was playing with a book of stickers I bought him based on the characters from the animated film Toy Story. I went to him to show him how to extract one of the stickers from the sheet, choosing a “horseshoe” sticker because…well…I like horseshoes and a student recently gave me one. So, it was on my mind, I guess. I was “persuaded” to NOT pull the sticker out myself by his loud “I can do it, Mimi,” which carried with it that sound of determination that I knew could easily be accompanied by a staunch argument, if necessary. Garrett pulled out my horseshoe sticker, which I took to my refrigerator door and placed on the upper right corner of a letter hanging there reminding me to call my primary care physician about an expired prescription. As soon as I finished pasting up that sticker, he asked if I wanted another and I said, maybe you could find one for Uncle Marty to stick on his work schedule, (which was also magnetized to the fridge door). I was about to suggest one when he said “I’ll get the ranger for Uncle Mawty” and a moment later handed me a sticker depicting one of the toy soldiers from the movie. Hmm… I thought. Is this because Marty is a “boy” and the sticker is a “boy” or is it because all soldiers are boys? Or even worse, did Garrett relegate the soldier to Marty because he felt that Marty was “masculine” and therefore complicit in the western patriarchal “hegemonic masculinity” discussed in the recent article I just read in our RoutledgeFalmer Reader by Raewyn Connell. And, come to think of it, what if Garrett also identified himself with this dominant masculinity…he can be pretty boss, you know? Well, I thought this might be a “teachable” moment so I suggested that Mimi might also like that soldier on the other corner of her letter instead of putting it on Marty’s schedule and so asked if I could have it instead. He said that sure I could and seemed pleased that he was still needed to find a sticker that he could assign to Marty. I looked through the stickers with him and was about to suggest another horseshoe when he said, “Here, put the stawr” (that’s star) “on Mawty’s…” and tried to say “schedule,” but I can’t really duplicate the form that word took. At any rate, Marty’s schedule got the star and that seemed fine with Garrett.

    I relaxed a little, but really only for the time being because Garrett is definitely being raised to think in terms of what it means to be “masculine” in this society and what it means to be “feminine. I am an important person in Garrett’s life right now but my authority has certain boundaries, particularly when Mom and Dad are around. Often, as when certain disciplines are taking place and when values are being enforced that I don’t agree with I say nothing because I know that my speaking up will result in an argument. “Don’t baby him, Mom” is the bottom line, and is especially enforced after a punishment is doled out. If he hurts himself, it needs to be pretty serious to elicit pity because we don’t want him to be a “sissy,” of course. I still push it a little because in my heart I feel that if I can’t “baby” him while he’s still somewhat of a baby, then who can?? Isn’t that why we have grandma’s? But, when push comes to shove, I’m expected to comply to his parents’ wishes, so I have to use the teachable moments when I get them—usually when Mom and Dad aren’t around!

    Connell’s article “The Big Picture: Masculinities in recent world history” written over ten years ago examines masculinity as “a cultural problem” brought about by movements such as Women’s and Gay Liberation, but while there has been some restructuring of masculinity norms and some breaking from the “old restrictive ‘male sex role,” she claims that for the most part “cultural turbulence” around these issues is worse and the Rambo-type “musclebound and destructive masculinity” is even more rampant (1997, pp. 101-02). Connell places some of the responsibility for this problem onto intellectuals who are the “makers of sexual ideologies” (p.102) who might find better language with which to write about masculinity; it needs alternative definitions. The author, I discovered is one of the foremost sociologists in Australia who introduced the concept of “hegemonic masculinity” in 1995 and is widely known for, among other things, her studies in the social construction of masculinity. Up until that time theories focused on notions of masculinity as psychological essence or core nature; of the male sex role, entailing certain expectations and stereotypes, and; to cultural representations such as films that link war and sexuality. A fourth way, that she seems to suggest is a better way to think about masculinities, is in their cultural context, which might lead to a better way of challenging western masculinity norms. Also, putting new forms to practice, she aptly claims, “is situational…and transformative.” One cannot change a way of “being” without challenging the practices and conditions that created that construction. Connell, by the way, is a transsexual who has some lived experience with this topic.

    In my limited experience with children, I have found that little boys seem more prone to be impulsively aggressive in their play and in the ways that they deal with stress. Historically, it would seem that our society (as others) have taken these characteristics and built on them to establish a “hegemonic masculinity in patriarchy [that embodies] a successful strategy for the subordination of women” (Connell, 1990). This form of masculinity can be displaced by other forms, however, when the historical strategies for its success are altered, as feminism and gay liberation have altered hegemonic masculinity. In just four years, Garrett has already learned a particular form of masculinity that is practiced by his Dad and his uncle, both of whom play large roles in his life. In many ways, this learning is going to help Garrett to grow into a very good person. In other ways, it can limit him and others in his life because it can place limitations on his expectations for himself and therefore on the choices he makes for himself and for his loved ones. I don’t pretend to be able to “displace” this long-held historical notion of masculinity with the feeble under-the-table protestations of a grandmother, but I can’t really stop trying to, and still think of myself as progressively-minded, now can I?
    Linda Sabo

    Linda Sabo’s Blog Learning about Feminist Pedagogy

    I am prefacing this reflection of issues discussed in my Feminist Theories and Education class by confessing that I am apprehensive about my ability to always present my ideas in ways that will not imply bias on my part. I do give a great deal of thought and consideration to new ideas and strive to stay “intellectually flexible” (Villaverde, 2008, p. 124) by continuing to read and research a variety of viewpoints. I feel the need to say this, however, because I have been cautioned by Dr. Villaverde (Villaverde, personal communication, June 10, 2010) to recognize that some of the difficulty I have with the ambiguities presented by feminist pedagogy as ways that could make it possible for me to see things differently and expand my learning; most certainly, that is what I am here to do. Also, in a blog containing responses to the Second Life documentary viewed by the class, she wrote: “If we continue to demonize all of these modes of communication without a critical investigation of the systems at play we compound the inequities we function within on a daily basis” (Villaverde, 2010). I would not want to approach any material in that way, and am vigilant to remain non-judgmental. Even though I am always open to new knowledge, I cannot help but have adopted certain beliefs in six decades of living, which may account for what at times may seem like a closed mind. These beliefs, however, do not preclude my remaining open and receptive to contemporary thought. I continue to be a work in progress.

    In my blog I have chosen to first examine connections between writing feminist theory and subjectivity after which I will review ideas examined in class by my “Think Tank” that have to do with virtual identity and the use of technology in feminist pedagogy.

    Feminist Theory and Subjectivity
    I do not want to be guilty of too much reflexivity in my writing, trusting only my lived experience and ignoring or being ignorant of current thought that may have already debunked a theory I may still consider. However, the act of writing “through the body” and writing reflexively is important in dance studies. I value the ways dance scholarship intersects with ideas of certain poststructuralist feminist writers like Hélène Cixous who consider the importance of the body in their own writing. “We’ve been turned away from our bodies,” wrote Cixous, “shamefully taught to ignore them…Women must write through their bodies, they must invent the impregnable language that will wreck partitions, classes and rhetoric, regulations and codes, they must submerge, cut through, get beyond the ultimate reverse-discourse…” (Cixous, 1971). In Women, Native, Other, filmmaker and writer Trinh T. Minh-ha qualifies this idea by suggesting that “a distinction needs to be made between ‘Write yourself. Write your body’ and write about yourself, your body, your inner life, your fears, inhibitions, desires, and pleasures. The first refers to a scriptive act—the emergence of a writing-self—the second, to a consolidation of writing from the self. The two often overlap, the type that consistently inundates the market is without doubt the second one.” (1989, p. 28)

    While I prefer the scriptive act and is what I refer to here, at times I find it ineffectual to introduce or justify a point of view unless it is connected to a lived experience. Writing reflexively allows the researcher to combine personal experience and reflection with critical thought, and seems an inherently useful way to approach feminist theory, as well as dance theory. As Carol Hanisch wrote “the personal is political” (1969). Writing reflexively can be an honest and effective way to sort through deeply felt personal and political issues of concern to feminist writers. However, Villaverde wisely cautions against relying solely on subjectivity stating, “Regardless of its evolution or shifts, researchers must grapple with the intricacies of exploring, analyzing, and articulating their subjectivity” to allow for “discernment in the quality of experience and consequent constructed knowledge” (Villaverde 2008, p. 110). I agree with this, but because my research and knowledge of supporting literature is so important to me, I often find that one of the most difficult aspects of scholarly writing is when to stop researching and when to begin writing. The idea that what I am about to say may have already been expressed by someone else, or that I may miss that perfect bit of research that will most successfully support my thesis seems always to be looming over me. Perhaps more often than not, this is true, but I am also aware that we cannot all read absolutely everything there is to read! So as a mentor recently said to me, at some point just stop researching and start writing.

    I have changed and gained new knowledge that I will use from ELC 678 in the future, particularly regarding technology and feminist pedagogy, disability studies and online identity. In some ways of thinking I have not changed, and at least one issue has arisen during the last half of the course that I find disturbing and one I will continue to try to understand. My belief in the importance of my materiality when theorizing has been reinforced by previous research I have done in the study of the body and movement, somatic theories, dance, and lived experience regarding identity development in my children, my students and myself. Issues that are of greatest concern to me have to do with the body and those places where I feel science (and now technology) intersects with experience and history, or what is lived, and also with theory, or what is thought; ideas about physiology and praxis. I am invested in all of these sites. I believe in them all. For me, at this point in my life, thinking about issues of gender identity or embodiment continually refer back to the body because as a human being I cannot fathom another way of experiencing the world, and I also cannot fathom how people do not consider the body when theorizing. I don’t feel this way because I am a dancer. I believe I feel this way because I am…alive. My body is what I think, and what I think is also my body. During class last week, a student remarked that for her the theory will always come back to the words, or ideas…that she does not even consider her body as important to the development of theory or how she thinks about herself in the world; and based on a class activity we did that day, my sense is that many others in the class share that feeling. This is one of the areas where I am most likely behind current thought in feminist theory, but as someone who works in the performing arts the idea of embodiment is a deep and personal concern of mine. A performer’s body is his instrument. For all teachers of young people in elementary and secondary education, I would think these issues are even more important, particularly as young men and women mature and struggle with their bodies and with ways of making identity. While the tendency of some of my classmates’ to negate the body is stunning to me, I am still willing to re-examine my beliefs, and it is my intention to do so here.

    Feminist Pedagogy and Technology
    …more than other senses, the eye objectifies and masters. it sets at a distance, maintains the distance. in our culture, the predominance of the look over smell, taste, touch, hearing, has brought about an improverishment of bodily relations…the moment the look dominates, the body loses its materiality -luce irigaray

    The idea of “embodiment” came up during our class discussion regarding technology, virtual gender and globalization. Ann Dils’ article examined implications of the dancing figure in the digital dance installation Ghostcatching, a work by digital artists Paul Kaiser and Shelley Eshkar and choreographer Bill T. Jones. Ghostcatching is a virtual depiction of Jones dancing. Kaiser and Eshkar placed sensors on Jones’ body and created a virtual art work through “motion capture” (see video of Ghostcatching at http://www.lumeneclipse.com/gallery/18/oeg/index.html). Dils wonders what movement means if there is nothing internal driving it, “if the thinking of the movement comes from outside the body” (2001, p. 464). She states that she doesn’t consider these images “as disembodied spirits. What remains of Jones are movement patterns that suggest spirit or personality. But his animus—his animating spirit or will—and material body are both missing” (p. 463). While the figures themselves are embodiments of Jones’ movement she still feels the “sense of Jones as a mover with animating purpose is missing…the sense of human possibility that inhabits motion is gone” (p. 468). And yet the dance did invoke a “sympathetic” (p. 466) response from her, (which is similar to my own response), and Dils wonders if that is due to its “oblique” nature. Its indirectness allows viewers to find internal personal connections making the figures seem more real and less like “theatrical entities”
    (pp. 466-467). Like television or film, the digital process of motion capture transmits an image or representation of the subject that retains a sense of life, or at least continuity. Perhaps our own memory helps the process by remembering what it is to be human and so it fills up spaces that may be left between the representation and the actual person. Researching these topics brought me into touch with scholarly examinations of virtual gender and the idea of the cyborg, first introduced in 1985 by Donna Haraway in her essay “A Cyborg Manifesto.”

    I am aware that the notion of cyborgs is no longer a new idea nor is it an issue that will ever reverse or disappear. I accept the idea of the cyborg. Every time I get into my car and turn on the ignition, I am no longer only a biological organism. When I pick up a knife or a spatula, I connect my biological self to a mechanism that extends me and allows me to function in a way I could not without the mechanism. This connection to non-biological entities outside of the body is much older than the industrial revolution but over the past twenty or thirty years, because of the advent of computers, the idea has become more significant because until now the will behind the function of the instrument has come from the living organism, not the mechanism, apparatus, instrument, or machine. And while we say that it is still human thought that drives the computer, I argue that this line is blurring. As the boundary between the virtual world and what we think of as the real world becomes more ambiguous, in my mind so does the idea of what is driving the life force.

    The animated image representations of human beings used in the online networking game Second Life (Second Life Website, 2010), have different qualities than the figures seen in Ghostcatching. Second Life is an online video game where computer users construct identities and entirely new lives for themselves; where they meet people and interact and where they can be whatever they want to be. A class discussion ensued after we viewed a documentary regarding a woman who chose to live thirteen hours a day in cyberspace with her Second Life lover, rather than live in her first life with her four children and husband (see “Virtual Adultery and Cyberspace Love” documentary at http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/virtual-adultery/).

    Was the woman who first sat down at that computer still controlling the technology or was the technology controlling her somehow? In an addictive way the game was certainly controlling her, but was there also another will asserting itself, something connected to the cyborg identity she manifested when she functioned online? What might sap her will to live in her real life within her material body and shun it for a virtual world outside of her body? More disturbing to me is what acted on her psyche to allow her to have cyber-sex with her Second Life lover in a common area of her home while her children watched television or studied, waiting for their mother to come “home”? What takes over or compromises a game player’s ability to censor actions that might not be in the best interest of their children or family? I understand the folly of my passing judgment on another person, and having at one time been an at-home mother I also understand how difficult that job can be. In addition, I understand the appeal of Second Life and was tempted to explore it more myself when I visited the website. However, the conditions this young mother created for herself and her family were extreme and I question some of the choices she made as I work through a way to analyze her actions in relation to her own materiality, life force and individual agency.

    Even more troubling is that Second Life, rather than subverting debilitating norms and power structures of the real world, reinforces them. This young woman was pulled into what she viewed as a utopian world because of the dullness, drudgery and lack of agency she felt plagued by in her “first life.” In her new world, she chose to represent herself as a barbie doll figure with wings, a sexually charged image of what has been referred to as “frankenbarbie” by professors from the University of Western Ontario in their paper “Cyborg Feminism.” They observe that Second Life depicts these stereotypes in many ways, “from the prevalence of the so-called ‘frankenbarbie,’ the laminated, large-breasted, and wasp-waisted female avatar all too common in Second Life night clubs and other social venues, to the prevalence of pornographic representations of women that embrace even the most violent forms of misogyny” (Alsop, Paulson, Dalglish, and McDayter, 2009). While the wings of her avatar alluded to a sense of empowerment by affording her the power of flight and a means of escape, (should she need one), instead of using them to free herself of the imposed stereotypes of her first life that objectified her womanhood and intensified her dependency, she instead augmented that objectification by sexualizing herself even more and then relying on and therefore becoming dependent upon her male cyborg lover to define and complete her new identity.

    Looking at this issue from another angle, Sarah Colonna, a classmate from ELC 678 stated in her blog on the Second Life documentary that “regarding the deconstruction of binaries we must also recognize that while things do change and we must be critical of these technologies we must also address the fluidity of identity and the reality of connection. Is someone’s first life or second life more important? I think the documentary showed us that it depends. One couple seemed to have a dysfunctional life as a result of this game (or was it dysfunctional before?) and the other [couple] found the strength to leave other relationships and create a new one for themselves as a result of the game. In all of this, the avatars exist because of the person, but whether they are a completely different person begs to be discussed” (Colonna, 2010).

    Another classmate, middle school teacher Jill Reinhardt states an even more pressing concern regarding online identity and the escalating use of online technology in the classroom:
    “A true concern of mine is to understand the full implications of the development of fluidity of identity among our teen-agers. According to Sherry Turkle, author of “Life on the Screen” texting for teens may be problematic. In a Good Morning America interview, Dr. Turkle spoke of the dangers: loss of intimacy, inability to feel, loss of reflection, loss of identity. Classroom implications for me are clear as related to feminist pedagogy. If we are to educate in a society that is inundated with technology, collaborative online environments with multiple users, global access at our finger tips, we must follow much of what [educators] Nancy Chick and Holly Hassel mention: develop an environment that is conducive to collaborative learning with a sense of community in which teachers and students interact in order to create knowledge. The notion is to create this environment with and without the technologies” (Reinhardt, 2010).

    Adolescence is a time of life when young people are trying to establish full fledged identities for themselves as individuals that are separate and apart from their parents and other authority figures; a person responsible for his own reality in the midst of an important time of life for identity construction and deconstruction of previously enforced behaviors. Reinhardt’s concern that constant or excessive exposure to online environments that foster fluidity of identity, (and/or fantasy identity), reminds me that there are possible implications far beyond the scope of this paper. Clarification of feminist methodology being used in the classroom, as stated above, as well as constant student/teacher interaction are important ways of making students aware of issues that concern identity-making and helping them to understand and deal with their own responses to that.

    What we see or perceive in these images that represent us and others is important on many levels, such as how the digital world connects with our children, for instance, and what that “seeing” will promote/create/allow. Our children are mini-cyborgs attached to images that they manipulate, images that can be harmless, fun or educational, but also images that are sexually charged, violent and full of rage; sometimes images that kill other images. These images are virtually connected to us as participants in the virtual gaming world, and to our children. Villaverde makes a concise and effective case for the influence of visual culture in our society; the persistent presence of the visual in our lives today and its power in the construction of our (internal and external) identities. She states that “whoever creates any form of visual communication has a responsibility to consider implications and consequences once the artwork is publicized on any level, and whoever views it must have the skills to question or analyze what he or she is confronted with” (2008, p. 87). As a person who creates theatrical visual experiences on the stage I do, and have for many years, agreed with this idea of the importance of what we see. I took it very seriously as my children were growing up. Images have power just a words have power and pop culture or popular art, particularly in the form of the media, may offer the most powerful persuasion of all simply because of the sheer volume of people that partake in it. Pop culture is accessible and non-elitist in its appeal but it is unfortunate that many of those responsible for its proliferation do not have a more altruistic purpose.

    Problematizing virtual identity a step further, Sheryl Hamilton’s essay “Virtual Gender or Virtually Gendered” questions the binary thinking that surrounds the ideas of material and non-material. “Can we both embody and disembody at the same time,” she queries (Hamilton, 2000, Part 5). Some of my classmates argue that using the word “disembodied” to describe how humans function in Second Life reinforces the binary notion of the mind/body split, however, my opinion about whether or not an experience is “embodied” is not about an idea; it is about materiality. The “mind” is embedded (for lack of a better word) in the body; embedded in a fluid way. I posit that the memory exists inside our muscles, in our bones and organs and on a cellular level. When I speak of the body, I am also speaking of the mind. And so, either the body exists or it does not. If matter does exist, however, and our physical make up is a part of that, either I am engaging it or I am not. For instance, if I see dance in my mind’s eye and can even “feel” it kinesthetically when watching someone else dance, there is a physical engagement, but it is certainly not complete. It is the same for dancers who dance and move only technically, with no engagement of the mind or spirit. There may be a kind of embodiment in either case, but in either case it is not complete. Hence, without full engagement with her actual physical self, the young mother is (at least) only partially embodied in Second Life. In this way I propose one can “embody and disembody at the same time” in response to Hamilton’s query (2000).

    In terms of online activity, is this “partial embodiment” harmful in any way or might it, in fact, be useful? In their essay “Feminist Pedagogy in the Online Classroom,” Chick and Hassel put forth a number of reasons why online learning can reverse the consumerist model of education if feminist pedagogy is applied to it. Their study offers many examples of how feminist principles can be applied by describing activities such as “Ask the Class,” Fishbowl Discussion,” “Hallway” and “Discussion Chain” (Chick and Hassel, 2009), activities that utilize both face to face and online environments in the way of blogs, discussion boards, Wikis, and other such resources and address not only course content but also values such as tolerance, ethics, and diversity. “Rather than insisting on the incompatibility of feminist pedagogy with the cyber-classroom,” they say, “we believe it is critical to explore the ways that technology can not only accommodate feminist teaching strategies but may be in other ways more compatible with some of the student-centered, collaborative, democratized, and action-oriented approaches that are characteristic of feminist teaching” (2009, p. 212). Finding safe, nurturing and beneficial ways of interacting on the web is the current charge to educators throughout the world, particularly feminist pedagogues.

    Despite an attempt to remain somewhat linear in my organization, issues I address here have had a “feminist” tendency to overlap, interweave, appear, disappear, and re-appear. However, I have attempted to examine more closely ideas about the connectivity of certain issues touched upon in ELC 678 and also ideas that are either of particular interest to me or were new ideas that I know will affect my teaching and writing in the future. Theory, subjectivity and materiality are all interconnected issues that inform my writing and have been a large part of my graduate research focus. Online resources are becoming more and more important to classroom teaching and the topics explored here will help me make it a larger part of my own pedagogy in the near future.
    References

    Chick, N and Hassel, H. (2009). Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Virtual: Feminist Pedagogy in the
    Online Classroom. Feminist Teacher, 19 (3), 195-215.

    Cixous, Helen. (1971). The Laugh of the Medusa.
    http://www.colorado.edu/English/courses/ENGL2012Klages/cixous.html. Accessed
    June 15, 2010.

    Colonna, S. (2010, June 8, 6:58 p.m.). Linda’s “blog.” University of North Carolina at
    Greensboro, ELC 678 WIKI: https://blackboard.uncg.edu/webapps/portal/frameset. jsp?
    tab=courses&url=/bin/common/course.pl?course_id=_71858. Retrieved 2010-14-06.

    Dils, A. (2001). Absent/Presence. In A. Dils and A.Cooper Albright (Eds.), Moving history /
    dancing cultures: a dance history reader
    (pp.462-471). Middletown, CT: Wesleyan
    University Press.

    Ghostcatching. (1999) Open Ended Group and Bill T. Jones.
    http://www.lumeneclipse.com/gallery/18/oeg/index.html. Accessed May 28, 2010.

    Hamilton, S. (2000). Virtual Gender or Virtually Gendered? Thinking about Cyberfeminism.
    Paper presented at the Femmes Branchees Soiree: Salon #32: Feminism in the year 2000/
    International Web Artists. http://www.studioxx.org/f/programming/xwords/virtual.html.
    Accessed June 7, 2010.

    Hanisch, C. (1969). The Personal is Political. Redstockings: Feminist Revolution (pp. 204-205).
    http://www.carolhanisch.org/CHwritings/PIP.html. Retrieved 2010-16-06.

    Haraway, D. (1985). A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the
    Late Twentieth Century. http://www.stanford.edu/dept/HPS/Haraway/ CyborgManifesto.html.
    Retrieved 2010-14-06.

    Trinh, T. Minh-ha. (1989).Woman, Native, Other. Bloomington and Indianapolis, IL: Indiana
    University Press.

    Reinhardt, J. (June 8, 2010, 6: 54 p.m.) Linda’s “blog”. University of North Carolina at
    Greensboro, ELC 678 WIKI: https://blackboard.uncg.edu/webapps/portal/frameset. jsp?
    tab=courses&url=/bin/common/course.pl?course_id=_71858. Retrieved 2010-14-06.

    Second Life Website (2010). (http://secondlife.com/whatis/?sourceid=0410-sergoog-slSecondLife-
    wisl&gclid=CNTP5Ir5pKICFROdnAod3HXoxg). Accessed June 15, 2010.

    Villaverde, L. (2008). Feminist Theories and Education: Primer. New York, NY: Bloomington
    University Press.

    Villaverde, L. (2010 June 8, 6:43 p.m.) Linda’s “blog”. University of North Carolina at
    Greensboro, ELC 678 WIKI: https://blackboard.uncg.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?
    tab=courses&url=/bin/common/course.pl?course_id=_71858. (Retrieved on 2010-15-06.)

    Virtual Adultery and Cyberspace Love. Top Documentary Films Website.
    http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/virtual-adultery/. Accessed May 28, 2010

  2. Bradley’s Enactment

    Readings in feminist theory have caused me to consider the definition of masculinity and what I considered to be masculine as a child, young adult, and now as a parent. I chose Jane Kenway’s and Lindsay Fitzclarence’s Masculinity, Violence and Schooling as a further study into my identity as a male. I am not only interested in understanding my awareness of masculinity but also what and how my six year old son will develop his identity and what being a male means to him.

    As a young male in society in the 1970’s I recall being able to relate to what Kenway, J. and Fitzclarence, L. recognize as “hegemonic masculinity being mobilized around physical strength, adventurousness, emotional neutrality, certainty, control, assertiveness, self-reliance, individuality, competiveness, instrumental skills, public knowledge, discipline, reason, objectivity, and rationality” (p. 208). As a school aged child it was instilled upon me that maleness was displayed through strength, such as sports, and adventure or “daredevil” activities such as entering abandon buildings, climbing the tops of trees, or performing stunts on bikes. My peer group identified that an inability of being able to do any of these was a lack of courage and would ultimately cause one to be labeled as a “girl”. I distinctly remember a hierarchy in my neighborhood “friends” with Greg being the dominant figure that rejected school achievement and took an anti-authority stance with his teachers (p.209). Greg led the group of boys on Greenwood Drive through the use of physical violence and/or threat of expulsion from the pack which scared us boys as much as the physical violence. Fortunately for me I only had to live with Greg’s tyranny until the fifth grade which is when I moved to another school system. Once in a new school I identified that I was not only looked at differently by being a new student, but a real outsider since I was a northerner who had moved to the south. To protect myself and identity I turned to acts of disrespect to authority at my school as well as violence toward others to establish positional power amongst groups at the school, especially those that I perceived had the respect of their peers. Thus these are some events early in my life that I feel had an influence as to what I thought it meant to be masculine and in control.

    What I discovered to be most interesting of the article was the idea that schools can be a place of harboring and educating the violent imagination. It is stated that “if schools fear “the feminine” and avoid and discourage empathetic, compassionate, nurturant and affilative behaviors and emotional responsibility and instead favor heavy-handed discipline and control then they are complicit to violence” (p.212). I’ve never been a proponent of corporal punishment in schools nor would allow such discipline to be given to my son. It is my experience as a teacher that encouraging resolve to student-student or student-teacher conflict through conversation and compassion then authoritarian policies and pedagogies helped diffuse the majority of disagreement that I faced or observed. Unfortunately it has also been my privilege to work with teachers who enforce a strict discipline policy which caused them to distance themselves from their students as well as have the students disengage in the classroom. An example of schools using their authority to try and control violence is through the use of SMOD, or Standard Code of Dress. Though it is perceived that SMOD reduces the struggle students and parents have of purchasing expensive clothing, when it might actually smother a student’s form of self expression. Also, it causes females to wear clothing that has masculine connotation such as khaki pants. An article in Administrator magazine states that schools need to become more boy-friendly, and that some school districts are trying to hire more male teachers, single-sex classrooms and schools, even using texts aimed at boys. This need of differential instruction is in response to the widening gap between male and female achievement and an expulsion rate 4.5 times higher than girls during the elementary years.

    Finally, White and Epston are referred to in their work of narrative therapy in which “persons face the task of arranging their experiences of events in sequences across time in such a way as to arrive at a coherent account of themselves and the world around them” (p.216). Through the use of narrative therapy people are encouraged to retell a dominant story of a socially unacceptable occurrence and to accept responsibility for their actions which enables them to reshape a new storyline and potentially rebuild a new identity and future. This helps the narrator understand that identities are fluid and can be rewritten or retold.

    With my own reflection, I have concern as a father of a six year old on how these notions of “maleness” might be instilled in my son and how this will impact his sense of masculinity. He has already experienced physical violence while riding to school on the bus. Was this student seeking positional power by intimidating a younger student and if so where did he gain this sense of power? If this is a behavior that has been incurred by masculine pedagogy that endorses male entitlement at school, then school should help students develop “emotional intelligence” (Goleman, 1996) “to understand the implications of their emotions for the ways they behave” Through feminine pedagogy I want to empower my son not to fear what society labels as feminine, but to “discover his own truths about gender, marginality and age and violence and develop his own preventive practices” (p. 214).

    Kenway, J. and Fitzclarence, L. (1997) Masculinity, Violence and Schooling

    Gender and Education, 9, 1 pp206-219

  3. Bradley’s Blog
    How can technology influence globalization in developing countries and improve gender equity? To tackle this question, we must first identify the factors that have inhibited women from accessing computers and the internet.These include“literacy and education, language, time, cost, geographical location of facilities, social and cultural norms, insufficient computer and information management skills”. (Hafkin, N. and Taggart, N. 2000) Men living in the same developing countries have greater access to technology due to negative attitudes of women and their ability to excel in the areas of science and mathematics. By limiting the accessibility to technologies, women continue to be marginalized thus hampering their ability to gain social and economic capital. Another
    limiting factor to technology accessibility is insufficient infrastructure. Rural
    communities are impacted greater due to a lack of service unlike urban settings. This makes it difficult for those with limited modes of transportation and for women who based on cultural stereotypes assume responsibility for children and the elderly.

    How does global equity in technology occur? Women must have opportunities to be educated on using and incorporating technology into their daily lives. By having access to the internet women can continue further their education and begin to change the gender divide. This change is occurring in countries like Argentina, Panama, and Singapore where 50% of the women enrolled in universities are studying the natural sciences and informational technology. According to Hafkin, N. and Taggart, N., “young women in developing countries are not as affected as United States women by attitudes that computer science is not an appropriate field for women to enter”. Based on this statement, are these countries further developed in embracing feminist pedagogy by encouraging all students to excel in math and science unlike educational systems in the United States? Other considerations for improving global equity would be through multi-national efforts to develop satellite communications so rural communities can have accessibility through wireless technology rather than wired. With the advancement of air travel and space exploration one wonders if the cost of these technologies is what impedes the distribution of these services or the fear by hegemonic masculinity that people will gain accessibility to a tool that can possibly provide social impartiality. Through participation in information technology women’s voices become more powerful in the political process, improving the performance of elected officials, increasing women’s access to government and its services and disseminate knowledge. Nancy Hafkin and Nancy Taggart state “it is imperative that the gender dimension of the digital divide be considered early in the process if information technology diffusion, rather than a corrective measure after the fact”.

    I would like to now focus on feminist collaboration for the globalization of discipline communication and the pitfalls that can occur. Feminist collaboration across international boundaries are influenced by “top-down institutional hierarchical approaches of collaboration that value product over process, efficiency over efficacy, consensus over disagreements, and resolution of conflicts over appreciation of and respect for differences”. This control by institutions of higher education greatly influences the sense of individualism and competiveness amongst women instead of collective action to bring about social change. According to Sonja Foss and Karen Foss, “persuasion with its intent to change others, violates our definition of feminism because it focuses on control and domination”. Instead of using a hegemonic form of collaboration that could be seen as hostile and marginalized several authors suggest the use of “invitational communication” which encompasses listening, offering, reflecting, and possibly changing a person’s own vision to gain new insight. Some scholars consider this form of communication to be rigidly fixed and void of conflict and struggle, while others view this as a means of communication that should be considered, but not as the only form of communication. During collaboration several questions should be taken into consideration such as: What are the barriers caused by fluency and proficiency of language? What type of on-line space will benefit all members of the group (blogs, wikis, and chat rooms)? How do race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and age influence the dynamics of the group? Through the effective use of information technologies and feminist pedagogy an environment can be created that changes traditional research and encourages feminist collaboration across disciplines and nations.

    The access to educational resources enables people to gain knowledge and understanding of complex social, environmental, industrial, and financial issues that can enable them to succeed in an evolving global economy. Universities have offered correspondence courses that allow individuals to take courses without stepping on campus. Assignments and instruction are sent through snail mail making the relationship between the student and professor almost non-existent and void of any student – student interaction. The age of internet has changed this method of learning through the development of blackboard, moodle, webinar, wikki and the like. University professors have delved into the creation of on-line courses that cater to those who are not able to travel, have family obligations, live in rural areas, towns, states, and countries. In addition to university leveled courses for college students, high school students have an opportunity for online instruction as well. The following is a link to courses offered online by UNCG: http://web.uncg.edu/dcl/web/ischool/index.php. Also available to high school students are online courses for credit recovery, an opportunity for those who have missed or failed core courses to receive credit through an online program. Though different kinds of courses have become available on-line what must be considered are various dynamics such as instruction by the professor, the interaction of the students with each other, and the professor-student relationship. Chick and Hassel note that “pedagogical framework” must be considered and added in conjunction with technology and that “pedagogical practices can and should drive the structure of the course, and the principles of feminist pedagogy should be present from the beginning, rather than add-ons at the end”. Instructors of on-line courses must consider several questions such as: Does the on-line learning environment promote students to interact without fear of being criticized? How do I encourage students to communicate a sense of authority and power without relinquishing my own? How do I promote equality despite student gender, race, and socioeconomic status? Jeannie Ludlow describes principles of the feminist classroom as: simultaneous collaboration and contention; situated knowledge’s; unresolved contradictions and simultaneous truths; intersectional understanding of identity; accountability; and interrogation of systems of power”. With careful planning of the structural framework of an on-line learning environment an instructor can foster student collaboration, democratic resolve, social understanding and activism.
    How have virtual communities such as second life, gaming, MOO’s, and chat rooms impacted gender representation? Online users have the ability to create an experience in various virtual communities that enable them to represent themselves in a disembodied state that is different from their embodied state. Here people are able to create an avatar, present a description, or choose from models in a gaming environment that depicts who they see themselves as outside of their embodiment. This in theory allows a person to have an experience that is liberating and set apart from power and domination by capitalist views. In the cyber world of Moo’s and second life individuals have an opportunity to accentuate certain physical features that are apart from the embodied, thus depicting attributes that are desired or based on one’s own curiosity. For example, a person could choose from gender depictions such as male, female, transgendered, or androgynous. This, according to Sherry Turkle, “enables people to experience what it “feels” like to be the opposite gender or to have no gender at all, [gender-swapping] encourages reflection on the way ideas about gender shape our expectations.” Does this gender construction truly allow a person to experience and appreciate the social implications that a person of gender faces outside of the cyber world? Can virtual worlds reconstruct daily interactions people of gender have at work, school, supermarkets etc.? Sheryl Hamilton raises the following questions about virtual gender: “Can we both embody and disembody at the same time? How can we take account of the bodies’ virtual or virtualized status as well as its material embeddedness in power relations?” Though cyber communities offer a person an opportunity to role play, do exaggerated gender stereotypes through virtual gestures/emotions/features and movements classified as masculine or feminine alter a person’s perception of gender outside of the digital space or reinforce current social norms?

    Advancements in technology have afforded the fortunate an opportunity to receive and distribute information through wireless/wired and mobile/immobile means, thus leaving those without accessibility behind furthering equality in society. A change must occur in the political and social arena to identify the disparity of access not only in developing countries, but also in those countries with wealth and power. The current social stigma of male dominance in the cyber world needs to evolve and include all persons no matter of gender, race, or social status. The internet provides an opportunity for collaboration, research, entertainment, and education that must be afforded by all who would choose to use this resource. As a tool of learning feminist teachings must be in place that offer a safe environment where the exchange of ideas can occur and where everyone’s voice counts and mutual respect is shared.

    Resources:

    Buchmuller, S. and Joost, G. (2009). The Role of Interface in Virtual Gender Representations.
    Retrieved from http://www.informatik.uni-bremen.de/soteg/gict2009/proceedings/GICT2009_Buchmueller.pdf

    Chick, N. and Hassel, H. (2009). Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Virtual: Feminist Pedagogy in the Online Classroom. Feminist Teacher, 19 (3), 195-215

    Foss, S. and Foss, K. (2003). Reconceptualizing the Role of Change in the Communication Discipline.
    Retrieved from http://www.sonjafoss.com/html/UntitledFrameset-77.html

    Geiger, R.S. (2006). A Critical Analysis of Identity Liberation in Virtual Gaming Communities.
    Retrieved from http://www.stuartgeiger.com/portfolio/papers/liberation.pdf

    Hafkin, N. and Taggart, N. (2000). Gender; Information Technology, and Developing Countries: An Analytic Study.
    Retrieved from http://learnlink.aed.org/Publications/Gender_Book/executive_summary/4gender_impact.htm

    Hamilton, S. (2000). Virtual Gender or Virtually Gendered? Thinking about Cyberfeminism. Paper presented at the Femmes Branchees Soiree: Salon #32: Feminism in the year 2000/International Web Artists.
    Retrieved from http://www.studioxx.org/f/programming/xwords/virtual.html

    Wikibook Gender, Communication, and Technology/Feminist Invitational Collaboration in a Digital Age: Looking over Disciplinary and National Borders (2008).
    Retrieved from http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Gender,_Communication,_and_Technology/Feminist_Invitational_Collaboration_in_a_Digital_Age:_Looking_over_Disciplinary_and_National_Borders

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