Jul 26, 2013

Discussing 'Fairness' with an intersectional approach - the struggles of preparing a school project

It has been a while since our last entry in this blog and although we have been quite busy – our session at the 12thAnnual IAS-STS Conference in Graz was well attended (we are still working on a paper to sum up the discussion) and last week our first joint paper was published in the peer reviewed journal fzg – Freiburger Zeitschrift für GeschlechterStudien – there seems to be little more to be reported here. Most news and recommendations go as short messages on Twitter anyway (thanks to Anita who is a superactive tweep *applauseandhugs*). 

There is a topic, though, that has kept me awake for quite some nights now and I feel like sharing – you are, as always, very welcome to comment and share your thoughts on this! I have started a project with a secondary school where the majority of students are from families with a more or less recent history of immigration. I have learned that most of them are Muslims. The school is located in a less privileged area of the city and it seems that the students, as well, come from families with a lower socio-economic status. In short: I guess this is not exactly a school academic institutions would jump at to work with (maybe to study the kids rather than working WITH them). When asking the headmaster for cooperation we were aware that this might be a new challenge for us but I have been very much looking forward to working with the students. So, I am currently preparing for the first project weeks in September which revolve around the topic FAIRNESS as an umbrella term for social justice/injustice, ahimsa/violence which is a huge field to work in. This is challenge number one. 

The second one is that we want to start off with the 13/14-year-old students’ own experiences with injustice and violence but we also want them to think further, reflect their attitudes in regard to e. g. sexism, homophobia, transphobia (that’s a tough one, right?), elitism/poverty/illiteracy etc. We want to pick them up right where they are, make them aware that all these phenomena are faces of structual and symbolic violence/social injustice. The ultimate goal is not only to make them aware of them in general and maybe, hopefully, create a culture of acceptance of diversity, but also to be capable to identify these instances of injustice in the media – more specifically: in their favourite TV-series. Not exactly an easy objective – and this is challenge number two. 

The third challenge is my own small, prejudiced mind: I have chosen to work with an intersectionality approach because I have not met the students yet and I do not know how the students would define themselves (i. e. I use categorisations when imagining the students and try to answer to as many of these categories but I will probably also miss some). These are bad pre-conditions, I am aware of that. So, I have this idea to give the students portraits of Austrian immigrants with different national/cultural roots, who advocate some of the above mentioned topics, e. g. a gay activist with Turkish roots fighting against homophobia or an intersexual biotech-professor from Iran who founded the Oriental Queer Organisation. But I also choose portraits of inspiring individuals from all over the world – e. g. 16-year-old Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan who advocates the right to education for girls in her home country and for all children in the world. They should serve as role models – especially in regard to the more controversially discussed topics like homosexuality or transidentities. Now, my problem is that I assume that many of these people do not share the same pre-conditions with the students I am working with. I have read somewhere that the cultural or religious background may not have such a huge impact on the biography of a person as the socio-economic status and the educational level of the family they come from (this sounds a bit elitist to me, though). I wonder: Should I rather look for role models who, when growing up, shared EXACTLY the same living conditions of my young fellow researchers or is it ‘enough’ to have a history of immigration and cultural knowledge in common for them to identify to a certain extend with these individuals and their stories. 

My overall concern is that the introduction of controversial topics like non-heterosexualities and transidentities will turn into a disaster because I have made wrong assumptions about the students I will work with. I guess I can only hope for the best, hope for the teachers to give me constructive feedback on my material and hope for openminded teens who will react with couriosity rather than with rejection...

Apr 6, 2013

ScienceOnlineTeen - An unconference

Next Saturday (April 13), ScienceOnlineTeen – a conference bringing scientists, students and teachers together to share ideas – will take place in New York. Since some members of Queer STS repeatedly work on research projects with teens (Engineer Your Sound!, Picture.it and currently useITsmartly), we like this idea and would like to share some more information about it in this blog. So we contacted Stacy Baker, the creator and organizer of ScienceOnlineTeen, and had a little Q & A with her.

Q: ScienceOnlineTeen is a conference addressing scientists, students, and teachers and is about how the Web influences the way science is done and communicated. Why this conference, what would you like it to provide the target groups with?
Stacy Baker: Typical conferences involve speakers talking to the audience, not with the audience. They use presentations and not conversations. ScienceOnlineTeen aims to provide more of an informal, conversational, networking experience for teens and teachers. We believe very strongly that the teens and teachers have just as many great ideas to communicate to the scientists as the scientists have to communicate with them. So, what really sets us apart is this idea of equal sharing of ideas and giving power and a voice to teens. Discussions will be centered around how science is communicated via social media and how the Web is changing the way we think about science. Social media has made it easier for people to interact and we hope to get more teens interested in getting involved with online science communities.

Q: Looking at the program, there are many names and topics listed in the sessions. How does the design of the conference work?
S. B.: Yes, there are four session blocks with concurrent sessions running during each block. So, participants choose one topic to attend in each block. There's one exception; the third block is a blitz session and involves more free form discussions and participants floating around to different "idea" rooms. They are more about quick bursts of imagination and idea sharing. This includes an online streaming room where we'll be using Google + Hangouts to interact with the online audience. The final session is a workshop where participants try to put into action some of the ideas they've developed earlier on in the day. Another thing that really sets our conference apart is that we have built into the program many, long break periods to encourage mingling and networking. We want participants to converse one-on-one with each other and not be limited to a group discussion.

Q: There is an amazing variety of people participating in the conference and moderating sessions. How did you win them for contributing in ScienceOnlineTeen? Or put differently: What is their motivation to join ScienceOnlineTeen?
S. B.: ScienceOnlineTeen is the first topical, regional event inspired by the main ScienceOnline event that takes place in North Carolina each year. That event is directed at adults and only a small number of teens attend each year. So, I wanted to create an event just like the one in North Carolina that reaches more teens and teachers. A lot of the people who jumped on board for ScioTeen have met me over the years at ScienceOnline and have even worked with my students in the past. They already know what a great community ScienceOnline is and they are eager to be involved in new projects associated with it. So, it wasn't too hard finding a lot of amazing people to get involved. I think many of the new moderators wanted to join the event because they really appreciate what we're trying to do. Convincing teens and teachers to attend was a little harder at first as most have never attended an "unconference" before and so they weren't quite sure what to make of the event. But, now we're completely full and the teens and teachers who are coming are very excited to attend.
Q: ScienceOnlineTeen takes place in New York City but, as the title suggests, the conference is about science and the Internet. How can non-local teens, scientists and teachers get involved in the event?
S. B.: There are multiple ways to interact with participants online. We'll have a Google+ Hangout from 2:00-2:50 EST [that’s 8:00-8:50 p.m. CET] during the conference where participants will chat with the online audience about what they've been discussing at the event. Several of the session moderators will go online for a few minutes each to interact with the online audience. The link to the Hangout will be published on the conference website the morning of the event and it will be streamed on YouTube.
Another way to interact is to use the hashtag #scioteen to join the conversations that take place on Twitter during the event.
And yet another way to interact is to comment to the Learnistboards where we'll be live posting notes from each of the sessions. The online audience can comment to the notes and ask questions. You have to sign up for a free Learnist account in order to leave comments. The link to all of the session Learnist boards will be available on the conferencewebsite.

Q: Are there any plans yet for another ScienceOnlineTeen-event, maybe with a more international audience via Web-based participation?
S. B.: If another ScioTeen event is held in the future I hope to have more of the sessions streamed online. I have to be careful about privacy concerns considering many of our participants are minors, so a 100% online streamed event is unlikely. But, I'd also like to consider doing it in a different city just to broaden the outreach. If anyone is interested in holding a ScioTeen event in Europe or somewhere else international they should definitely get in touch with me!

About Stacy Baker: She is the creator and organizer of ScienceOnlineTeen. She is a science and technology teacher in NYC. She started a class blog with her biology students seven years ago called Extreme Biology which led to her ongoing involvement in the ScienceOnline community. Stacy’s students have appeared on NPR and in online magazines and countless newspapers for their science writing. Contact Stacy Baker:

Find a German translation of this Q & A in our EYS-blog

Feb 16, 2013

Some thoughts about the left-brain/right-brain-myth

Some myths about how our brain works are very persistent. For instance I came across the good old right-creative-brain vs. left-logic-brain myth when I searched the internet for engineering education. And I found something called "engineers are people too" which made me laugh, but then ... first things first:

As for instance Christian Jarrett (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/brain-myths/201206/why-the-left-brain-right-brain-myth-will-probably-never-die) pointed out this myth is based on actual research. But not only that this respective brain research has been conducted in the 60ies (and believe it or not brain research had some pretty amazing findings the last 50 years), this research back then were so called 'split-brain-studies' ... so if you are not suffering from a very serious head insury you most probably will not have a split brain (no seriously we have no two separately working brain halfs, thanks to our Corpus Callosum).

So when I see that seminars are based on exactly this myth (for instance http://www.engineersarepeopletoo.com/company) I need the urge to write a blog post. 

But there is more to that than just not accurate knowledge presented in adult education. 

Dichotomies like technology vs. nature, creativity vs. logic, etc. often end up in gender-binary and heteronormative stereotypes which are used to explain and legitimate structural inequalities and injustice. 

And now the 'shocking'  truth: we already know for decades about the issue because great scholars like Anne Fausto-Sterling wrote about such myths and their implications on gender relation (see Fausto-Sterling 1992: Myths of Gender: Biological Theories About Women and Men).

So all I'm saying is that I wish that whoever educates others (in schools, adult education, job trainings) would base their philosophies and didactics not on myths and stereotypes. 

Nov 9, 2012

New Call for Abstracts: 12th IAS-STS Annual Conference, May 6-7, 2013

The new Call for Abstracts for our annual conference is out! For next year we have two special sessions we would like to point out to: The first is organised by us, the other one is co-organised by two Queer STS-members. Here are the descriptions of said sessions, for the full CfA see the website of IAS-STS.

Special Session: Queer perspectives on STS
The working group 'Queer STS' questions hegemonic values and norms in society, in particular in science and technology research. We are interested in marginalised perpectives and boundary processes that lead to their marginalisation. This implies not only the original meaning of 'queer' related to non-heterosexualities and to a critique of heteronormativity but a broader understanding of the term: We critically review how especially science and technology-related research contribute to the perpetuation of inclusion and exclusion, norms and marginalisations, biologisations of social constructs, etc. For this session we invite researchers and scholars dealing with similar questions and perspectives to contribute and participate in discussion and networking. Contributions can be theoretical considerations, empirical work in progress or finished studies.

Special Session: Social justice and Diversity
For this session the IFZ-working group „Social Justice and Diversity“ is looking for contributions which deal with the technology access and participation in technology development in the context of social justice, and how the issue of diversity plays a crucial part in these processes (e.g. age, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, socio-economic status, etc.). Contributions can be (among others) on topics as:
  • Access to technological goods and services (medical treatment, education, energy-saving technologies, etc.) and the distribution of resources (e.g. energy poverty)
  • Provision of infrastructure and social inclusion
  • Environmental or climate justice
  • Informal technology-based learning as a means of democratization and participation in political arenas through new media technologies
  • Participation in socially fair and environmentally sustainable production and consumption
  • Inclusion of the diverse needs of various social groups in technology development
  • Representations of social groups in public discourse on aspects of individual lives (choice of profession, personal interests, relationships, etc.) and social structures as such

Aug 3, 2012

Proceedings of the 11th IAS-STS Conference

Abstracts, presentation slides and articles to our Queer STS-session of the 11th IAS-STS Conference in Graz on May 8 2012 are available now:

Birgit Hofstätter: Queer STS: An Introduction  - Abstract - Paper - Presentation

Susanne Kink & Magdalena Wicher: Bringing a queer perspective in qualitative research about scientific cultures - Abstract

Julian Anslinger & Lisa Scheer: Queer perspectives on psychological studies on the relationship between sex and intelligence - Abstract - Paper

Full proceedings of the conference

Jun 19, 2012

We will be at these two conferences - do we meet?

We are very happy that we have been invited to present our current work at these two upcoming conferences:

1. NeuroCultures - NeuroGenderings II: 13 - 15 September 2012, University ofVienna (http://neurocultures2012.univie.ac.at)
In co-operation with the network NeuroGenderings, the Gender Research Office at the University of Vienna, will launch a three-day international, interdisciplinary conference entitled "NeuroCultures – NeuroGenderings II" 13 - 15 September 2012 at the University of Vienna.
The aim of the conference "NeuroCultures – NeuroGenderings II" is to improve reflective scientific approaches concerned with sex/gender and the brain, and to gain particular insight into the transformation or persistence of gendered norms and values that accompany the mutual entanglements between brain research, various disciplines and public discourse.

2. Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Science and Technology: October 17-20, 2012Copenhagen Business SchoolFrederiksbergDenmark(http://4sonline.org/meeting)
“Design and displacement – social studies of science and technology”
For the Joint 4S/EASST conference 2012 papers are invited that address the dynamics and interrelationships between science, technology and society. Papers which address the meeting’s theme ‘Design and Displacement’ are especially relevant, but papers on any topic in STS are welcome.
The conference encourages analytic, critical and practical engagement with design and displacement in several ways. First, it points to the need for investigating the relation between design intentions and their displacements, for example as catalysts for change and conflict. It also highlights the importance of investigating design controversies. It locates design practices in broader political contexts, and focuses attention on how design facilitates or hinders social inclusion, locally and globally. The theme ‘Design and Displacement’ invites careful analyses of the way design practices take part in shaping worlds. However, ‘Design and Displacement’ also raises questions around STS as design work and practice-based interventions. In this sense design becomes simultaneously topic and outcome, a situation that raises new questions concerning the role of STS research.

Maybe you will be at one or at both of these conferences too?

May 21, 2012

Announcement: To Be Published

The next session of the presentation series "To Be Published" (hosted by the Coordination Centre for Women's Studies, Gender Research and Affirmative Action for Women of the University of Graz, the research unit of Gender Studies at the Department of Sociology, and IFZ) is organized in collaboration with the Department of American Studies and the Department of Educational Sciences and will be held on
June 4, 2012
4 pm at SR 35.K4, Merangasse 18, 8010 Graz

I was invited to present my study on Stephenie Meyer's The Twilight Saga, in which I analyzed the representations of gender relations and sexuality with a special focus on the film adaptions.

Here an abstract of what the study is about:

The international success of “The Twilight Saga”, a series of novels by the American author Stephenie Meyer which were made into films, was the motive for taking a closer look at the franchise and its attraction for a mainly female target group. This thesis in particular is a discussion of the gender relations represented in the films. What do teenagers potentially learn about gender and sexuality? This research question is the starting point for the analysis of the social relationships among the characters and the social structure in regard to heteronormativity. The results are evaluated from a perspective of a pedagogy of diversity. The methodological setup of this interdisciplinary study consists of a mixture of approaches from cultural and social studies.
The story of a 17-year-old girl falling in love with a vampire boy reflects a heterosexual norm which structures binary and hierarchical gender relations. This norm is binding to almost all characters of the saga; non-heterosexual relationships are marginalized and associated with the antagonists to the lovers. Furthermore, the gender binary as well as heterosexuality are depicted as biologically determined. The results also show the construction of a biological association of masculinity with violence and that the saga seems to propagate voluntary subordination of women to men. In the face of the tremendous success of the franchise among teenagers, these results are to be seen as especially critical, for there is a high potential of fans to identify with the protagonists and thus with problematic role models.

Looking forward to seeing you at presentation!