Digital dilemmas: feminist reflections on current debates

Digital dilemmas: feminist reflections on current debates

“It’s a Long Walk Down the Clinic Driveway”: Using Digital Photography to Explore Rural Youth Sexualities

Katrina Peddle PhD Candidate, Communication Studies

In this presentation I discuss how young people in Southern Labrador negotiate issues of sexuality in their everyday lives. Drawing from a digital photography workshop series held in Labrador in Fall 2006, I elaborate on the ways in which rural youth articulate their thoughts about sexuality, their opinions on alternative sexualities, and the barriers they face in terms of access to information about sexual health. I also argue that participatory methodology offers valuable insight into rural youth sexualities, and that community technology can be used to engage youth in creative ways that situate them as experts in their own lives.

“It Just Sucks You In!”: Young Women’s Use of Facebook

Leslie Regan Shade Associate Professor, Communication Studies

This presentation reports on focus groups conducted by Media Action and Ekos Research Associates in June 2007 with young women aged 14-24 in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, and Vancouver on their perceptions of popular social networking sites such as Facebook. Questions focused on the nature and use of social networking sites (SNS), perceptions and awareness of privacy issues, and whether or not social networking sites can be used as a viable tool to disseminate alternative messages about female sexuality distinct from mainstream media. This research raises important questions around issues of gender and SNS, particularly gender-based commodification processes latent in Web 2.0 applications, young women’s perceptions of privacy, whether they are cognizant of proprietary terms of content they produce, and how these dynamics interact to prevent young women from engaging in or generating the creation of alternative/positive messages.

From Pixel-dust to Ro-dot world: agency, art and lo-fi embodiment

Kim Sawchuk Associate Professor, Communication Studies

Two core concerns within feminist theory are “agency” and “embodiment.” This paper will discuss these terms by examining Nell Tenhaaf and Melanie Baljko’s research-creation project “Artificial Agents and Lo-Fi Embodiment”. The project was designed for two inter-related

This panel presents four papers that examine, through diverse methodologies including participatory action research, focus groups, political economy, case studies and interviews, various ways that women of distinct generations engage with digital technologies. From engaging youth in discussions about sexual health in a rural context, to gauging young women’s perceptions of privacy on popular social networking site Facebook, to assessing the potential contribution of feminism to science and the relationship of art to “agency” and “embodiment” to, finally, exploring the shifting nature of archives and the impacts of emergent technologies that challenge (the absence of) queer women’s historical trajectories—this panel offers a range of topics which come together through their decidedly feminist frameworks.

purposes: as a future interactive art installation and to conduct experimental research into our understanding of the attribution of agency, which is a part of the research terrain of cognitive linguistics, computer science and artificial life. The result, thus far, has been a series of prototypes that serve this dual function. In their experimental prototype users actively engage with two sets of projected images, or two virtual universes, known as “pixel-dust” and “ro-dot world.” A web camera tracks the movements of inter-actants allowing them to have agency, or believe they have agency, through their movements and gestures. In this paper, I will address how the legacy of feminism has informed the project aesthetically and conceptually, but as well, how working within computer science has transformed Baljko and Tenhaaf’s ideas of the potential contribution of feminism to science, technology and art. In so doing, I draw on the research of Justine Cassell on gendering in human-computer-interaction (HCI) and my own observations of the project as a participant-observer.

Portals of Proclivities: Archives done differently

Mél Hogan PhD Student, Communication Studies

In this paper, I suggest that lesbian and queer women’s lives are not prioritized within any memory institution in Canada; as such, I propose that traditional archives are limited in their function as historical repositories. Increasingly, online portals are used to record and disseminate information about sexuality and queer histories, which simultaneously mediates and expands its reaches. Using both queer and non-queer online archives as case studies (,, I explore and expand on the shifting nature of archives and the impacts of emergent technologies that challenge, defy, reject and/or re-conceptualize queer women’s attachment to the past, our need for collective narratives, and our reliance on original and valuable artifacts as evidence of historical trajectories. In particular, I look to these alternative modes of preservation, display and dissemination, in order to put forward an argument about social change as it is reflected in our everyday engagements with media and its potentially transformative power in re-imagining the social.