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Towards a feminist ia - lightning talk


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Grappling with ethics is challenging to do from within. The example of feminism and IA will help people see the connections, and extrapolate to other questions of ethics.

Published in: Technology
  • Towards a Feminist IA Pervasive through Space and Time My nightly wind down ritual involves coffee table books that have nothing to do with work. I read Japanese gardening and mid-century modern architecture. Areas nobody is even going to talk to me about. I find it very relaxing. I started a new topic, the royal leaders of India. And then it hit me – these are all men. There are no stories about women here. And of course, the history of Japanese gardening is a history about men. Architecture in the 20th century was entirely designed by men. All but entirely! Women doing the real work of the world is an edge case. The subjugation of women is so pervasive it takes an effort to see it. Women in Technology Karen Holtzblatt was a headline speaker at last year’s UXDC conference. She wrote the book on Contextual Inquiry. Her talk was in the main ballroom, to accommodate the huge crowd that was expected. But there was a problem. The title of her talk was “Women in Technology.” A dozen people came to that talk. Two of them were volunteers for the room. And all of them were women. It was a really great talk. Turns out, the problem isn’t women getting into tech, it’s women leaving tech at twice the rate men do And at a much higher rate than they do in other “hero” professions like banking, law, and medicine. What’s missing are very specific things, like local role models – people you want to be and can see yourself becoming. Christina Wodtke, a woman, gave a compelling talk on designing successful teams to a capacity crowd in that room. Yet Karen Holtzblatt, another iconic speaker, had only a tiny group who wanted to think about how to build successful teams that include women. Why was that? Maybe it’s uncomfortable to think about women’s equity. Or perhaps, it’s boring. Maybe things feel fine, we don’t see a need to make a change. Bad Feminists I dug through my library for books on women’s studies. I actually have nothing. No writings by women philosophers, no surveys of women literary theorists. I’m a bad feminist. In grad school I focused on the mainstream, where the superstars were all men. I wanted to be successful, I wanted to think correctly. For me that meant reading Derrida and Foucault. It meant following the men. Proto-feminist Christine de Pizan was a bad feminist, according to modern lights. She said misogeny comes from resentment or ignorance. She wrote that women can rule, that they can learn as well as men. But – she didn’t look to change the system. She believed women have distinct roles in society, and argued only that those roles should get respect. Roxane Gay coined the term Bad Feminist to describe herself. She likes rude, misogynistic music. She’s felt uncomfortable in being labeled a feminist. Like Christine de Pizan, like all of us, she exists in her cultural milieu. And as an ethicist and a feminist, she grapples with how to behave within and outside of that milieu. Towards a Feminist IA Before taking part in the Women’s March in January 2017, I hadn’t protested anything since Nixon’s second inauguration. Nothing prepared me for the scale of that experience, or the opening for new conversations. Around the IA Summit I found myself talking with many women and men about what a feminist information architecture might be. Let us think about where information architecture supports or ignores women participating fully in the real work of the world. Here are some of the many problems. • There’s a lack of women in tech • Few women are in leadership roles • Women are leaving the field • Design is male-centric, maybe (what would that be?) • Perhaps we use male-centric approaches (what are those?) How might equity in IA show up? • Further inclusion of women in the production of information architectures • The propagation of feminine approaches, if there are such, in solving IA problems • IA solutions that address the needs of female audiences (beyond “shrink it and pink it”) • Expanded inclusion, beyond white, straight, middle-class, American, cisgender people Close Grappling with feminism and IA is a microcosm that also helps us understand ethics more broadly. I challenge you to include feminist considerations in determining your own behaviors and in modeling right action for others. And be part of the conversation about what a feminist information architecture can be.
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Towards a feminist ia - lightning talk

  1. 1. Ethics and IA Reframe IA Roundtable 2018 Towards a Feminist IA Stacy Surla
  2. 2. Pervasive through Space and Time
  3. 3. Women in Technology 4
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  5. 5. Bad Feminists 7
  6. 6. sssss
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  8. 8. Towards a Feminist IA 10
  9. 9. Misogyny in Technology Number of women in the field Number pf women in leadership roles Retention of women in the field Male-centric design (?) Male-centric approaches (?)
  10. 10. Equity in IA More women Feminine approaches to IA problems IA solutions that address needs of female audiences Inclusion beyond white, straight, middle-class, cisgender Consideration of ethics more broadly in IA
  11. 11. Thomas Hawk A Challenge