[iDC] Where have all the women gone?

Joline Blais Joline_Blais at umit.maine.edu
Tue Jul 11 12:23:31 EDT 2006

Danny Butts is exactly right to focus on gender imbalances among decision-makers. In addition to asking what effect such imbalances have on the diversity of their constituents, we should ask what effect they have on the structure of discourse.

An example: three women organized the 2003 Distributed Creativity forum that Trebor footnoted in his essay "The Participatory Challenge" ([ http://eyebeam.org/distributedcreativity/ ]http://eyebeam.org/distributedcreativity/). Significantly, of
invited participants, 13 were women, 16 were men. If network media run a risk of fragmenting public discourse--a theme broached by Benkler and discussed earlier on this list--then this forum practiced the reverse. Distributed Creativity wove
together five separate email lists over a six week period, ranging from Sydney (Fibreculture) to New Delhi (Sarai) to Dublin (DATA) to New York (Rhizome) to San Francisco (Creative Commons). During the run of the forum, posters to individual lists
also posted to the collective forum.

The Distributed Creativity forum's embodiment of the principle of "integrate rather than segregate," common in Permaculture teachings, was not welcome in every email list. In a post to the nettime, Tim Druckrey urged members of that male-dominated
granddaddy of net discussion lists not to join Distributed Creativity, arguing that "the essential issue remains that nettime is a 'channel.'"

Certainly there is a value in focus. But who is represented by these "channels," and who is not? Meeting to negotiate an important treaty in the early 1700s, a group of perplexed Cherokee asked their British counterparts, "Where are your women?" If
Benjamin Franklin left women out of the US Constitution, it’s because he chose to forget that his Iroquois envoys, while men, were reporting to him decisions reached by the women’s councils. As Danny knows as well as I, women play a *structural*
role in indigenous cultures that has been forgotten in Euroethnic politics.

In carrying on the legacy of the Distributed Creativity forum, Trebor's iDC list has quickly brought a diversity of participants to the table. Nonetheless, new technologies easily reinscribe old habits if we don't proactively and relentlessly
reinvent their social as well as technical functions.


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