CSCW has recently seen a resurgence of interest in gender and feminist approaches, largely catapulted by formative work in Feminist HCI [1, 10] as well as a series of gender and queer studies of technology [7]. This workshop aims to capitalize on this revived momentum by providing an opportunity for interested scholars and practitioners to pragmatically reflect on the gains and challenges of a feminist approach to CSCW scholarship.

While advancements in collaborative technology have been commended for lowering barriers to entry or transcending differentiations between male and female bodies (e.g., early 90s internet futurism work of John Perry Barlow and Donna Haraway; rhetoric around crowd-scouring and open platforms [2, 4]), other formative work [3, 13] questions the reality of this ‘level playing field’ allusion, rather placing emphasis on the interrelationship between social context and the use, adoption, subversion, and non-use of new innovations. These feminist approaches examine the inequities of the social systems in which technologies exist, traditionally highlighting the oppression of women or queer persons by way of systemic structures like technological development, governance, or norms. Concerns and assumptions of a feminist kind are also subtly present within the worlds of infrastructure studies, which recognizes that oppressive social norms or values may be perpetuated by the production of sexist, gendered or disempowering infrastructural forms such as technologies, policies, or protocols [11].

At the heart of these dialogues is a recognition of the importance of things absent [14], invisible [12], vocal, silent or needed to be spoken for [11], or diminished [10] by technological development. This feminist approach orients people to the values and biases inherent in the design and deployment of new technological systems. It also teaches people to scrutinize the obvious affordances or intended uses of technological artifacts, disabusing them of their assumed innocence and provoking consideration of the balance of competences between credentialed and amateur, entitled and disadvantaged, and human and nonhuman. This said, we also recognize the plurality and tensions within this larger feminist approach—from liberal feminism to transnational feminism to women of color feminism to postmodern feminism—as well as the inherent responsibility of feminist theorists to critique themselves and their approaches.

Continuing the conversation begun at the successful Feminism & Social Media Workshop at CSCW 2014 [6], we will collectively address the role of feminism in our field through a program of open discussion and panel-led forum. We will attempt to answer questions such as: How do the concerns of feminism align with the central concerns of CSCW? How can we pragmatically employ feminist reflexivity to understand current CSCW interests in mobile development, big data, and social media, or distributed practices? How might we better represent our technological innovations and mediated collaborations through feminist approaches? What are the gaps that feminist perspectives can fill for CSCW scholarship? How can we employ feminist perspectives to consider the nature of both work and leisure life? How can feminist approaches be used to identify and legitimize different forms of work central to CSCW concern? In doing so, we hope to unpack the unifying threads connecting the many epistemological approaches across disciplines, field sites, theoretical contributions, and methodologies that employ the term “feminism” for studies of technology and collaboration.

We invite researchers who investigate factors such as race, ethnicity, gender expression, sexual orientation, class, and able-bodiedness to join us in drawing connections between feminist approaches and CSCW research practices as well as honing methods for observing absence, presence, and representation. We also welcome discussion of the implications of approaches such as Ramamurthy’s feminist commodity chain analysis [9] and Hochschild’s theory of emotional labor [5]. We are interested in those who tackle the thorny problems of technology’s gendered relationship to work [8, 14] as well as empirical research on gender in social media uses. By examining these and other perspectives such as gender positionality, sameness/difference theory, and theories of technology as masculine culture, we seek to assert the relevance of feminist thought in collaboration studies. In particular, we will showcase its particular strength for attending to issues of core CSCW concern such as dialogues around empowerment in crowd or peer-based systems, the democratization of hacker and maker cultures, the sociotechnical practices of work in the home, and the analytical tensions between binary member categories of gender versus queer theory’s more flexible and fluid gender identities.

CSCW is uniquely positioned to investigate the challenges of complex sociotechnical systems, signaling a ripe possibility space for grappling with inequity, underrepresentation, and invisibility [1, 10]. The cross-section of feminism and CSCW provides an opportunity to identify productive methodologies that enable us to bridge design with new understandings of identity, culture, morality, responsibility, and social justice. This work will generate and strengthen new networks of CSCW scholars as well as develop potential new contributions for an edited volume concerning feminist approaches and social computing.


[1] Bardzell, S. and Bardzell, J. (2011). Towards a feminist HCI methodology: Social science, feminism, and HCI. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’11). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 675-684.

[2] Barlow, J.P. (1996). A declaration of the independence of cyberspace. Retrieved online

[3] Garfinkel, H. (1984). Studies in Ethnomethodology. Los Angeles: Wiley-Blackwell.

[4] Haraway, D. (1991). A cyborg manifesto: Science, technology, and socialist-feminism in the late twentieth century. Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge, 149-181.

[5] Hochschild, A.R. (2012). The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling. Oakland: University of California Press.

[6] Hemphill, L., Erickson, I., Ribes, D., &  Mergel, I. (2014). Feminism and social media research. In Proceedings of the companion publication of the 17th ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing (CSCW Companion ’14). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 319-322.

[7] Kannabiran, G., Bardzell, J., & Bardzell, S. (2011). How HCI talks about sexuality: discursive strategies, blind spots, and opportunities for future research. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’11). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 695-704.

[8] Noble, D. (1979). Social choice in machine design: The case of automatically controlled machine tools. Politics & Society, 8(3-4), pp.313-347.

[9] Ramamurthy, P. (2004). Why is buying a “madras” cotton shirt a political act? A feminist commodity chain analysis. Feminist Studies, 30(3), 734-769.

[10] Rode, J. A. (2011). A theoretical agenda for feminist HCI. Interacting with Computers, 23(5), 393-400.

[11] Star, S. L. (1999). Infrastructure and ethnographic practice: Working on the fringes. American Behavioral Scientist, (43), 377-391.

[12] Suchman, L. (1995). Making work visible. Communications of the ACM, ACM, 38(9), 56–ff.

[13] Turkle, S. (1988). Computational reticence: Why women fear the intimate machine. In Kramarae, C. (Ed.) Technology and Women’s Voices. New York: Routeledge and Kegan Paul.

[14] Wajcman, J. (2000). Reflections on gender and technology studies: In what state is the art? Social Studies of Science, 30(3), 447464.

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