In case you all didn’t know this. I freaking love you.
It’s been several years now, since we all found each other through FemTechNet … and I’m so glad I did. I think I remember being recruited to the network by Liz Losh in 2013 when I was a postdoc at UCLA. I was in an Asian American studies department and in a transnational studies postdoc program where no one did digital stuff. I was living in the Valley. All of my friends were really far away.
Frankly, I was pretty miserable.
In many ways FemTechNet gave me something to cling to. Maybe it was the same for you? I think we all, as women and non-binary folx of color, found ourselves in what was then the “Ethnic Studies Committee”, which later became the “Critical Race and Ethnic Studies Committee”, and then later transformed into our little haven, “SCR+M”. Even at its peak, there were never that many of us who regularly met in that group, and in a network of hundreds (over 2,000 if you count the members of our Facebook group), we’re the only ones remaining. We’re the ones who show up.
Every two weeks. We meet in virtual space—a Bluejeans room provided by the University of Michigan that feels like the swankiest virtual conferencing space because it was a virtual conference provided by the University of Michigan—from our respective time zones in California, Arizona, Texas, Minnesota, Michigan, South Africa, Singapore, Taiwan, wherever we are. For almost all of us, we’re the oddball “other” in our units, departments, or institutions. That one BIPOC woman or gender non-conforming person interested in race, gender, sexuality, and technology. This Bluejeans room is where we gather to plan talks, write projects, mastermind grant applications, conference proposals, digital projects; to share the latest drama in our lives, to squeal over the newest puppy, or to complain about the weather.
These meetings are where we’ve engaged in what we’ve come to call, “hang-based pedagogy.” We like each other. We love each other. We trust each other. The collective learning and teaching we engage in together only happens through intentional sharing of time and space. To facilitate this hang-based pedagogy, we conspire to find ways to unite in person and produce teaching resources and scholarship—these are the things we have been able to leverage to bring us together, in person, at conferences and symposia. This is how we survive the academy, a system that would cannibalize us and our work if given the chance. This is the method to our “survival praxis.”
In the end, we’re the ones left to transform the network, break it, reorient it, and reshape it into the organization we need and want it to be. We keep coming back to the network that others grew out of or didn’t have the time or capacity to continue with. It perhaps started out of necessity because we needed the support network, the space to vent, but the work we’ve accomplished, the way we work, and the innovative ways in which we get this done (READ: hacking platforms and resources beyond their original intent) speak volumes about our commitments and politics:
I will bullet point four of those commitments here:
- We make decisions based on our needs, our abilities and capacities, and we do it with consensus, and not because of external pressures placed on us by others (our institutions, funders, our mentors, etc.)
- We moved FemTechNet’s summer workshop to the Allied Media Conference in Detroit as a single-day Network Gathering –transitioning away from traditional academic conferences and venues and into an open, inclusive, community-centered, collective environment that explicitly names its commitments to the racialized, gendered, class-based struggles of the people of Detroit.
- We diversified our funding structures beyond traditional institutional funding to support our work. 100% of this credit goes to Alex, who helped us reimagine fundraising as a commitment to each other and to the struggle by hacking the Honeyfund.
- We reframed our own history, narrative, and archive through our bojagi MediaMap to produce a non-linear, selective, subjective archive of SCR+M that highlights those moments and achievements that are important to us.
Like the network itself, and the map, we are a work in progress. We will change as we change and grow. We’ll make mistakes. We’ll figure stuff out. But, we’ll do it together, and we’ll do it with love.
So, SCR+M friends. I’m proud of us. I love you all and I’m looking forward to breaking stuff and building things together for a long time yet.