Crossing Boundaries, Focusing Foundations, Trying Translations: Feminist Technoscience Strategies in Computer Science

Document type: Dissertations
Full text:
Author(s): Christina Björkman
Title: Crossing Boundaries, Focusing Foundations, Trying Translations: Feminist Technoscience Strategies in Computer Science
Translated title: Gränsöverskridanden, grundvalsfrågor, översättningsförsk: feministiska teknovetenskapliga strategier i datavetenskap
Series: Blekinge Institute of Technology Dissertation Series
Year: 2005
Issue: 2
Pagination: 245
ISBN: ISBN 91-7295-057-9
ISSN: ISSN 1650-2159
Publisher: Blekinge Institute of Technology
City: Karlskrona
Organization: Blekinge Institute of Technology
Department: School of Technoculture, Humanities and Planning (Sektionen för teknokultur, humaniora och samhällsbyggnad)
School of Technoculture, Humanities and Planning S-371 79 Karlskrona
+46 455 38 50 00
Authors e-mail:
Language: English
Abstract: In this thesis I explore feminist technoscience strategies in computer science, starting in “the gender question in computer science”, and ending up in communication and translation between feminist technoscience research and computer science educational practice. Necessary parts in this work concern issues of boundary crossings between disciplines, and focusing on the foundations of computer science: what it means to “know computer science”.

The point of departure is in computer science (CS), in particular CS education. There are at this starting point two intertwined issues: the gender question in computer science (often formulated as “what to do about the situation of women in computer science?”) and the foundation question: “what does it mean to know computer science?”. These are not primarily questions looking for answers; they are calls for action, for change and transformation. The main focus and goal of this thesis concerns how to broaden the meaning of “knowing computer science”; to accommodate epistemological pluralism and diversity within the practices and among the practitioners of CS.

I have identified translation as fundamental, to make feminist research and epistemological perspectives communicable into the community of computer science practitioners. In this, questions of knowledge and how knowledge is perceived and talked about are central. Communication and translation also depend on the ability and willingness to cross boundaries, to engage in “world-travelling” (Lugones). Additional issues of importance are asking questions open enough to invite to dialogues, and upholding critical (self) reflection.

An important goal for feminist research is transformation. Because of this, interventions have been part of my research, interventions in which I myself am implicated.

The work has been based in feminist epistemological thinking, where the concepts of positioning and partial perspectives (Haraway) have been of particular importance.

After an introduction, the thesis consists of three parts, each part relating to one of the three issues in the title, issues identified as important for feminist technoscience work in computer science.

In part A, I investigate and discuss what it means to be simultaneously an engineer/computer scientist and a feminist technoscience researcher. What boundary crossings, challenges, conflicts, negotiations and issues of being inside and outside are involved? This part also focuses on what the implications of these boundary crossings and different “mind-sets” are for transformatory work in science and engineering education, as well as a discussion of what feminist technoscience research can be and how it can be used for interventions and transformations.

Part B focuses on foundations of computer science. This part consists of studies of texts, which I critically read and query from a feminist technoscience perspective, in order to challenge existing approaches and concepts within computer science. The texts are about the gender question in computer science; foundational topics of “what is computer science”, as well as epistemological questions concerning approaches to knowledge in computer science: “what does it mean to know computer science”?

Part C deals with a concrete intervention project aiming at establishing conversations with computer science faculty. In this project, the issues of communication and translation appear as central. The focus in this part is communication between computer science educational practice and feminist technoscience research, language as a carrier of epistemology, and a discussion of translation.

Subject: Technoscience Studies\General
Keywords: computer science, feminist research, epistemology
URN: urn:nbn:se:bth-00296