Introduction: Open Call

Issue 9 of Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology brings together an array of nuanced and intersectional discussions around current topics of significance to research on gender, technology and new media. The articles in this issue offer critical explorations of topics ranging from

  • digitizing knowledge
  • the construction of femmescapes through blogging
  • the “dadification” of games
  • the erasure of gendered labor in the building of digital book collections
  • and engagement with a queer futurity that foregrounds race and gender through alternate forms of (post)humanity.

These articles foreground the complex nature of categories of gender, race, class and geography as these play out in digital contexts, weaving visible material and digital embodiment in and out each analysis. The physical body is never far away in these authors’ discussions of online texts and non-human objects (such as the AI bot Bina48). Each article carefully navigates the in-betweenness of digital complexity. Overall as a collection the articles tackle important concerns around simultaneous erasure and surfacing —  of gender, race, labor, body — while negotiating contextualized publics and politics of identity.

Issue 9 extends Ada’s tradition of bringing together writers from diverse interdisciplinary backgrounds who critically explore and surface issues of race, labor, gender and queer futurity in digital cultures. For example, “Bina48: Gender, Race, and Queer Artificial Life” is a creative exploration of race, AI, and gender performed in writing. The performative writing allows the author of the piece, Shelleen Greene, to reveal contradictions around “immortality” coded through artificial intelligence. Even as the AI is designed to look like an African American woman, contradictions in relation to their embodied histories and contexts reveal what Greene describes Bina48’s radical “possible hybrid, future constructions of self” not through conventional tropes of embodied transcendence, but through “her convergence of cybernetics, queer, and racial emancipatory politics.”

In their article on digitizing books, Anna Lauren Hoffman and Raina Bloom critically examine the Google books project noting how the project recontextualizes local and historical processes of library practice. There analysis of how the project  erases the gendered work contributions to the building of library collections over time should alert us all to think through issues of labor in historical context as we rush to build digital humanities archives globally. The layered, embodied and contextual nature of archive building risks being rendered invisible when brought into digital contexts. Hoffman and Bloom note how this happens in the case of Google Books through “overcoming localized practices” that include “removing collections of books from contexts traditionally informed by gendered work and subjecting them to the technical rationality of Google.” This erasure of women’s work and localized practice through digital platforms is not new and this article shows us how this very dynamic continues to play out in the context of Google books. The article also  introduces a discussion of a feminist ideology of access through librarianship by calling attention to this  gendered labor of library work and asking for a rethinking of what access means.

In their essay on “Editing Diversity In: Reading Diversity Discourses on Wikipedia” Maggie MacAulay and Rebecca Visser use Sara Ahmed’s On Being Included to advance the discussion of the dearth of diversity on the online encyclopedia, building on important conversations across Ada issues about the politics of knowledge.

In “Critical Blogging: Constructing Femmescapes Online,” Andi Schwartz uses Gordon Brent Ingram’s concept of “queerscapes,” or a network of queer spaces that enables queer survival (1997, p. 29)  and van de Sande’s prefigurative politics (2013) to argue that femme blogs are an important aspect of “femmescapes,” or networked public spaces that allow for performances of queer femininity and celebrations of practices associated with it.

In “Daddy Issues,” Gerald Voorhees explores what he describes as the “dadification of digital games,” which he identifies as the increasing popularity of father figures. His comparison of fatherhood in The Last of Us and BioShock Infinite reveal how these games feature varying constructions masculinities, with significant implications for feminist theory and politics.

—CITATION—
Gajjala, R., Stabile, C. & (2016) Introduction: Issue 9. Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology, No.9. doi:10.7264/N3KW5DBJ

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Radhika Gajjala

Radhika Gajjala (PhD, University of Pittsburgh, 1998) is Acting Director, 2016-2017, of the American Culture Studies Program and Professor of Media and Communication at Bowling Green State University, USA. She was Fulbright Professor in Digital Culture at University of Bergen, Norway for the year 2015-2016. In 2012, she was Senior Fulbright scholar at Soegijapranata Catholic University. She has researched non-profit organizations and also engaged in community partnerships with biracial communities in the U.S. She has been director of Women’s Studies and of American Culture studies programs at BGSU. Her work engages themes related to globalization, digital labor, feminism and social justice. Published books include "Cyberculture and the Subaltern" (Lexington Press, 2012) and "Cyberselves: Feminist Ethnographies of South Asian Women" (Altamira, 2004). Co-edited collections include "Cyberfeminism 2.0" (2012), "Global Media Culture and Identity" (2011), "South Asian Technospaces"(2008) and "Webbing Cyberfeminist Practice" (2008). She is currently work on book length projects and articles related to Philanthropy 2.0, Games for Change, Archives of Subalternity and Digital Humanities, Carework and Affective Labor, E-Health in International contexts. South Asian Digital Diasporas and on DIY craft networks. Her latest book on Philanthropy 2.0 is forthcoming in 2017. She is currently working on a book length tentatively titled “Gendered Digital Labor: Affective Networks through Domestic Space.”

Carol Stabile

Carol Stabile is interim divisional dean for social science at the University of Oregon. She is the author of Feminism and the Technological Fix, editor of Turning the Century: Essays in Media and Cultural Studies, co-editor of Prime Time Animation: Television Animation and American Culture, and author of White Victims, Black Villains: Gender, Race, and Crime News in US Culture. She is completing a book entitled The Broadcast 41: Women and the Media Blacklist. She is a founding member of Fembot; co-editor of Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology, and she edits the Feminist Media Studies book series for University of Illinois Press

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Introduction: Open Call