Cybersociology Magazine: Issue Five
Book Review by Heidi J. Figueroa Sarriera
"Processed Lives. Gender and Technology in Everyday Life". Edited by Jennifer Terry and Melodie Calvert (1997). London- New York: Routledge.
Traditionally feminist debates on gender and technology have navigated from two different and conflictive approaches; these are the technophobic and the technophilic imperatives. Nevertheless, there is an emerging discourse that opens a third way to focus on this issue and I would like to called it the techno-cautius perspective. This third approach tends to cope with the different and contradictory ways in which gender and technology are intertwined both in its liberatory as well as in its oppressive experience in our daily life. We can locate this collection of essays within this third effort.
Another important feature in this collection is the active presence of art and technology alliance as a powerful matrix producing amazing canvas of words and images that challenge some conventional understandings. First -as Rosi Braidotti has pointed out in her essay Cyberfeminism with a difference regarding new relationships between technology and art- we may say that it challenge the humanistic view where art and technology seems to appear as opposites. In the book this alliance has more than one presence. We can find chapters that are art works published along with essay chapters. But we can also find authors analyzing relevant works, especially in the visual arts.
Second, this collection is definitely an exceptional illustration of disciplinary flux. This is less related to the fact that the contributors come from diverse fields than to the transdisciplinarity sight from which these authors construct their objects of inquiry. Third, as the editors wrote in the introductory chapter it challenge the metaphor of technology as a tool and propose a definition of technology as a human/machine interface, "that is, in terms of how particular machines and mechanisms accomplish tasks of configuring, effecting, mediating, and embodying social relations" (4). This is a very important proposition because it intends not to reproduce a deterministic and very common posture where machines determines social relations, "but are situated in networked social relations, subject to uses and creative misuses by the humans (and other machines) that surround them." (4). This also means that technology can be redefined as an integrated system of programmed structures, organized mechanisms and processes of production and reproduction. Here of course, we are located on the political domain in ways in which creative appropriations of technology are produced as important political weapons from the contested terrain of an alternative imaginary. This book is a brilliant exposition of some of these creative appropriations, especially Queer art and political activism.
Also this perspective allows analyzing gender as itself a technology. This is- as Teresa de Lauretis and Donna Haraway, among others has pointed out- as far as gender "is a system of representation which assigns meaning and value to individuals in society, making them into either men or women"(6).
Following and extending this last posture there is in the writings of this collection an explicit positioning of the writer as an active subject produced and intersected by a particular fabric of technologies of gender, class and race. This positioning is in itself a valuable and very difficult reflexive political practice.
Finally this book constitutes an exquisite merge of images and text, rigour and humour, academia and political commitment and should be well processed. Bon appetite!
||Heidi J. Figueroa Sarriera, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, College of Social Sciences, Río Piedras Campus, University of Puerto Rico. She is doing research on the cultural representation of high tech design, especially interested on emerging cultures in computer mediated communication (CMC).|
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