Hyperrhiz 21

Quiz: Which FemTechNet Feminist Scholar Are You?

Elizabeth Losh
William & Mary

Citation: Losh, Elizabeth. “Quiz: Which FemTechNet Feminist Scholar Are You?.” Hyperrhiz: New Media Cultures, no. 21, 2019. doi:10.20415/hyp/021.bt0

Abstract: Elizabeth Losh’s quiz reappropriates the celebrity personality quiz by connecting participants with the femtechnet theorist most aligned with their ethos (priorities and persona). This was originally published as an interactive media-rich quiz on Buzzfeed Community, and is being re-published here as a magazine-style print quiz.

Keywords: feminism, femtechnet, technology, gender, criticism, scholars, identity, quizzes.


Below a soft-focus photo of a panel of feminist scholars facing the camera, the now deactivated FemTechNet Buzzfeed quiz began with a number of images that illustrated how people use technologies and how technologies use people: a disassembled disk drive, a white hand holding the disembodied black hand of a document digitizer, a Foxconn employee on an assembly line manufacturing smartphone components, a photo grid of online activists holding poster boards, two Indian women shooting a duo-selfie, and a cyber soldier looking down the scope of a high-tech weapon. Each image referenced an attitude about technology as material, as embodied, as labor intensive, as affectively entangled with race, as situated in particular contexts, or as expressive of specific cultural values, such as militarism.

FemTechNet – a collective of scholars, learners, artists, and activists was initially founded in 2012 as a response to the “Year of the MOOC,” which uncritically hyped massive open online courses from elite institutions. While companies like Coursera, Udacity, and edX peddled neoliberalism in the form of canned video lessons and skill-and-drill instruction, FemTechNet modeled the messier co-construction of knowledge among communities of learners and encouraged participants to explore how new technological platforms might exacerbate existing forms of precarity. Participants also benefitted by being part of an activated network with senior feminist scholars who provided models for interdisciplinary work that they could emulate.

This quiz parodied online questions designed to reveal someone’s similarity to movie characters or celebrities and skewered how academics often seek to identify themselves with “star” faculty. Early members of the collective included eminent techno-feminists such as Anne Balsamo, Lisa Nakamura, Wendy Chun, Judy Wajcman, Faith Wilding, and Lucy Suchman, who were featured in the video dialogues. These were the names that appeared as the final “answers” when points in the quiz were tabulated. The quiz also lampooned the automated multiple-choice format of many MOOC assessments. It is worth noting that the quiz was created before Buzzfeed became a cutting-edge venue for reporting about sexual harassment and abuse, even as the site continues to offer up the banal listicles and explainers with clickable content. The first question of the quiz is the most significant, because the author was attempting to highlight common themes among materials in a sprawling online archive generated by an extremely heterogeneous network of researchers “working on, with, and at the borders of technology, science, and feminism in a variety of fields including Science & Technology Studies (STS), Media and Visual Studies, Art, Gender, Queer, and Ethnic Studies.”

The quiz included some of the memorable lines from FemTechNet videos that showed the levity of many of the dialogues. The author considered adding reaction gifs from the dialogues as well. Overall, the quiz was intended to offer an ironic commentary on superficial forms of online interactivity, which were so different from the deep engagements that FemTechNet championed. After all, many sought community in FemTechNet by participating in hours of regular committee meetings via teleconference technologies and managing a shifting repertoire of platforms for community, self-reflection, and critique. Today FemTechNet online activity is largely contained to the Facebook page where the quiz was initially posted, although members continue to collaborate, publish, and promote new forms of feminist collectivity.

Which FemTechNet Feminist Scholar Are You?

You argue that technology:

  1. is material, although it is often presented as virtual
  2. involves embodiment, although it is often presented as disembodied
  3. is labor-intensive, although it is often presented as labor-saving
  4. involves feelings about race, although it is often presented as appealing to rational interests
  5. is situated, although it is often presented as a manifestation of universal design
  6. promotes values, although it is often presented as values neutral

Your best FemTechNet.org video dialogues zinger:

  1. Are you a feminist machine? Are you a schema? Are you an independent body? Or are you a technology -- a skill, a craft, that has become a logos?
  2. Teledildonics, vibrators, telesex, the Visible Women.
  3. Haven’t you noticed that all the people in political science are men?
  4. If the birth control fails, they don’t say “technology has really failed me now.”
  5. When I think about systems it immediately throws me into an ambivalent state.
  6. Participation is another one of those keywords everybody loves. Who can be against participation? Like kittens, we all should just love participation.

What do you do when you are caught rolling your eyes at a sexist comment?

  1. You claim you are vibrant matter
  2. You assert it is performance art
  3. You argue that it is better than monetizing eyeballs
  4. You say you were just looking for feminist allies in the room
  5. You tell people you were meeting the gaze of the machine
  6. You insist you were just thinking about budgets

Preferred Apparel:

  1. Orange and Black PhD hood
  2. Green shiny scarf
  3. Beads
  4. Pink and red macramé scarf
  5. CHI badge
  6. Psychedelic fuzzy scarf

If you picked:

Mostly A: You are Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Professor and Chair of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University. You have studied both Systems Design Engineering and English Literature, which you combine and mutate in your current work on digital media. You are the author of Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics and Programmed Visions: Software and Memory.

Mostly B: You are Faith Wilding, a Paraguayan American multidisciplinary artist, writer and educator, widely known for your contribution to the progressive development of feminist art. Your work is featured in the classic documentary about the feminist art movement, !Women Art Revolution, a 2010 film directed by Lynn Hershman Leeson. With Hyla Willis you are co-founder of the feminist collective subRosa, which honors feminist pioneers in art, activism, labor, science, and politics.

Mostly C:  You are Judy Wajcman, and the Anthony Giddens Professor of Sociology who joined the LSE as Head of the Sociology Department in 2009. You were previously Professor of Sociology in the Research School of Social Sciences at the Australian National University and have held posts in Cambridge, Edinburgh, Manchester, Sydney, Tokyo, Vienna, Warwick, and Zurich. You are the author of Feminism Confronts Technology, TechnoFeminism, and Managing Like a Man: Women and Men in Corporate Management.

Mostly D: You are Lisa Nakamura, the Gwendolyn Calvert Baker Collegiate Professor of American Culture and Screen Arts at the University of Michigan and the author of Cybertypes: race, ethnicity, and identity on the Internet and Digitizing Race: visual cultures of the Internet. With Sharon Irish and Elizabeth Losh, you are one of the co-facilitators of FemTechNet. 

Mostly E: You are Lucy Suchman, incoming president of the Society for Social Studies of Science. You are a Professor of Anthropology of Science and Technology in the Department of Sociology at Lancaster. Before coming to Lancaster, you worked for 22 years at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center, where you held the positions of Principal Scientist and Manager of the Work Practice and Technology laboratory

Mostly F: You are Anne Balsamo, Dean of the School Media Studies and Professor of Media Studies, as well as the author of Technologies of the gendered body: reading cyborg women and Designing culture: the technological imagination at work. With Alexandra Juhasz, you are the co-founder of FemTechNet.

Original Quiz: http://www.buzzfeed.com/lizlosh/which-femtechnet-feminist-scholar-are-you-15do7