[Humanist] 27.910 gendered and epistemological pluralism

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sat Mar 22 11:14:16 CET 2014

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 27, No. 910.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Sat, 22 Mar 2014 09:49:54 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: gendered and epistemological pluralism

Some time ago we had a brief fling at the question of gender and 
computing. This is to rekindle that discussion, if any there be who are 
interested, by pointing to Sherry Turkle and Seymour Papert, 
"Epistemological pluralism and the revaluation of the concrete", in 
Constructivism: Research Reports and Essays 1985-1990, ed. I. Harel and 
S. Papert, 161-91 (Norwood, N.J.: Ablex) -- which, fortunately, Turkle 
put online, at 
I quote the first paragraph to give you an idea, and I hope incentive to 
click and read:

> The concerns that fuel the discussion of women and computers are best
> served by talking about more than women and more than computers.
> Women's access to science and engineering has historically been
> blocked by prejudice and discrimination. Here we address sources of
> exclusion determined, not by rules that keep women out, but by ways
> of thinking that make them reluclant to join in. Our central thesis
> is that equal access to even the most basic elements of computation
> requires an epistemological pluralism, accepting the validity of
> multiple ways of knowing and thinking.

and the last:

> On a more down-to-earth level, there is every reason to think that
> revaluing the concrete will contribute to a computer culture that
> treats the computer as an expressive medium and encourages
> differentiated styles of use and relationship with. There is every
> reason to think that this computer culture will be more welcoming and
> nurturing to women--and to men. Gilligan has said that "women's place
> in man's life cycle" is to protect the recognition "of the continuing
> importance of attachment in human life" (Gilligan. 1982. p. 23). We
> conclude with an analogous point. The role of feminist studies in the
> nascent computer culture is to promote the recognition of diversity
> in how we think about and appropriate formal systems and encourage
> the acceptance of our profound human connection with tools.

The problem is not only for (gendered) humans but also for human 
activities, which we tend to gender metaphorically, such as the (soft) 
humanities and the (hard) sciences. Insofar as it is of the humanities, 
digital humanities must hunger equally for that epistemological 
pluralism, no?



Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
Humanities, King's College London, and Research Group in Digital
Humanities, University of Western Sydney

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