Monday, January 26, 2009

Is the Banner Sexist

We had quite a spirited debate in class about the banner or logo atop the home page at (a great feminist blog) is sexist. Some students thought this logo really objectified women and just reinforced all the stereotypes about how women must be thin and curvaceous to be real women. One student even argued that this logo would turn off stocky women from visiting the site.

Other students supported the use of these images in the banner, arguing that the effect is to reclaim the stereotyped "sexy airhead" for feminism.

We related these differing viewpoints to Patricia Hill Collins' discussion of standpoint epistemology - how a person's worldview is influenced by their own life experience, the groups (by race, class or gender) that they are part of, etc. We noted that a person's reaction to this logo might be strongly influenced by their own personal experiences - a woman teased for being overweight might have a different reaction than a woman who focuses on graphic design and frequently writes satirical articles.

The authors of explain the logo in their FAQ "The Feministing logo is meant to be ironic. We wanted to take a traditionally sexist image - the mudflap girl - and subvert her. Hence, the middle finger. We like to think of her as saying "fuck you" to the sexist beauty standard she is supposed to represent."

E-cards as Educational Outreach

While studying this week's assignment re Online Activism, I was struck by the blurb I saw at the WWF website in its online activism section. One of the suggestions is "Help spread the word about WWF by sending a free e-card to your friends and family."

Of course many web sites offer free e-cards, but I had never seen one with this explicit suggestion of how to use the e-card to spread the word about your environmental (or other cause) interests. Such a good idea and so easy to implement.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cloud Computing Problems - Demise of Google Notebooks

Much of the computer skills section of the course is devoted to online web services - composing Word docs online, creating PowerPoint like slideshows online, editing photos online, etc. As I point out to students, there are several advantages to using these online services (also known as cloud computing).

  • You don't have to buy expensive software to install on your computer.
  • You can work on your slideshow, essay, etc. from any computer - whether sitting in the library, in an Internet cafe, your home or your desk at work.

But when you keep all your work in the clouds on someone else's Web server, you run the risk of losing it all. I first became aware of this when my friend was horrified to learn that the photo sharing service she used was closing down - what would happen to her photos?

But it really struck home as I was preparing to teach this course. Last semester, I began using Google Notebook to store a lot of my notes online and had my students practice using it - I thought it might prove useful to them in other courses as well.

But this year, just after I had distributed my syllabus with a unit in using Google Notebook, I learned that the service was closing down. While previous users could still access and add notes to their notebooks, no new users would be accepted. So in addition to having to revise my syllabus, I have to worry about how long my own notebooks will be available - if Google is stopping all further development and not enrolling new users, how long will my old notebooks still work?

Serendipitously, researching for more information about the shutdown of Google Notebook led me to a petition someone had started pleading with Google to maintain the Notebook. So I learned about a wonderful free site iPetitions where anyone can start a petition.

If you are interested in signing the petition to Google to maintain Notebook, go here.

Beginnings - Blogging for Women and Computers course

This is part of an experiment in my Women and Computers course where each student is required to keep a blog to record what they are learning, queries and speculations, commentary on assigned readings, notes about serendipitous discoveries on the Web relevant to this course or to Women's Studies/feminism in general, etc.

To join with my students in this experiment, I am beginning this blog to record somewhat similar musings, but from a teacher's perspective.