Minutes of the first planning meeting for Scholar and Feminist X, 1982
To: The Scholar and the Feminist X Planning Committee From: Lee Coppernoll, Women's Center Subject: Minutes of the First Planning Committee, September 15, 1982 Jane Gould welcomed everyone to the first planning comittee meeting of the tenth annual Scholar and Feminist conference and introduced Bettina Berch the academic coordinator for the conference. The next meeting date was set for September 30 at 4:15 pm and subsequentmeetingswill be held every other Thursday at 4:15. The date for the conference was set for April 16, 1983. Janie Kritzman outlined the schedule of the planning committee which meets throughout the fall to conceptualize and refine the conference theme. By November the committee selects the morning speakers and by the end of January all workshop topics and leaders are chosen. Registration flyers are mailed during the first week of March and the planning committee meets usually 2-3 times during the spring to finalize arrangements. Bettina introduced the topic of women and technology and described her interest in the subject and the need for constructing a feminist analysis of technology. She presented the following points for consideration: — The need to understand technology as a social process and product which is not value neutral. - The impact of technology on women, as producers of technology (women in micro processor assembly plants), women as paid workers using new technology (video—display terminal workers), women as unpaid users (household technology). - The kinds of information processed by the new technology; the world view implied; ethnocentrism of linear thinking. - The impact of the dominance of the new technology - information poverty, the deskilling of work, suburbanization of work, the return to cottage industries, reduction of manual labor... - Reproductive engineering — taking away women's control over their bodies. — The construction of feminist futurist scenarios, looking to feminist science fiction, development of alternative technologies with an eye to "taking back the future". The rest of the meeting was devoted to discussion of these and other points. Issues of freedom and control were raised in terms of the impact of technology on women as workers: what will be the impact of the electronic cottage on women in the home - will it lead to more freedom of choice in women's lives or to greater restriction of women to the private sphere? How are we to understand the tensions between the job opportunities for women skilled in the new technologies and the health hazards to women working with the technologies? The distinction between making the choice to become skilled in office technologies and the imposition of technologies in the lives of women without consent (birth control and birthing technologies, military arms technology, etc.) was emphasized.
_ 2 _ Other issues of control and power were raised. If computer language is ethnocentric and male-oriented can it be redeemed for use by women? Is the new technology inherently oppressive or is it oppressive as a result of the way it is used? Who will have control and access to the new technology - for example, what will be the power differential between children in middle class schools with access to computers and children in poorer schools with little or no access to the new technology? It was suggested that we need to examine research on the history of technology to address the biases in its development. Throughout the discussion the issue of women's fear of science and technology surfaced. The point was made that women need to have expertise in technology to influence the ways in which it is used in order to maintain their position in the job market. A response to the notion of women's fear of technology was that perhaps women aren't phobic but rather are not interested in working with technology as it is now developed. People responded that there is a need to examine the dynamics of women's anxiety about technology in order to reduce the anxiety. Other issues raised for discussion included: educating faculty who are computer illiterates while children are becoming increasingly skilled in their use; the fact that students want technology they can use and will take courses in computers but not physics or chemistry; the possibility of involving women who are developing computer technology in the planning of the conference; the possibility of teaching computer technology with a focus on social responsibility; the need to integrate abstract theory and concrete experience as we plan the conference. There was general agreement that the conference topic is an interdisciplinary one. Bettina suggested the following headings for the next meeting (which will be kept together with other books and articles on women and technology on a shelf in the Women's Center): - "Technology and the Future of Women: Haven't We Met Somewhere Before" by Jan Zimmerman. Women's Studies International Quarterly, Vol. 4 No. 3, 1981. — a book review by Joan Rothschild of The Death of Nature: Women,4Ecology, and the Scientific Revolution by Carolyn Merchant; Why the Green Nigger: Re-Mything Genesis by Elizabeth Dodson Gray; Women and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her by Susan Griffin. Women's Studies International Quarterly, Vol.4 N03. — Chapter 9, "Machinery", Labor and Monopoly Capital, Harry Braverman, Monthly Review Press, 1980. Sue Sacks will bring in a copy of the New Yorker interview with Marvin Minsky, a leader in the development of artificial intelligence at MIT. Bettina asked people to let others interested in the topic of women and technology know about the planning committee which meets again on Thursday, September 30 at 4:15 pm. If you are unable to come, we urge you to share any ideas or suggestions you have in a note or a call to either Bettina (280-2082) or the Women's Center (280-2067). Present: Bettina Berch, Alice Amsden, Christina Bickford, Constance Blake, Leslie Calman, Sally Chapman, Lee Coppernoll, Wendy Fairey, Jane Gould, Eve Hochwald, Janie Kritzman, Maria La Sala, Marsha Love, Mary Marphree, Nancy Miller, Sue Sacks, Rosemary Siciliano, Quandra Stadler, Mary Ellen Tucker.