Monday, March 27, 2017

#11: Interviews as Making, Disruptive Masculinity, Feminist Maker Spaces

Interview and Collaborative Making

Kayla and I spent our activity and studio time conducting the first three interviews of our MaKerZine project! I wasn’t able to participate in the fashion design activities (I’m super impressed by what was made in such short time!), but I instead had the privilege of listening to my peers’ stories and capturing their lovely and complex reflections on making, hobbies, gender, projects, risks, and life.

While listening to the stories in the AADL Secret Lab, I found myself especially aware of the material, physical reality of sharing and capturing stories - the colors and the reverberations in the room, the physicality of sharing work-in-progress plastic and wool. Interviews are an opportunity to pluck stories and ideas and perspectives out of a personal, internal space and make them into a performed, recordable, digital, tangible artifact. I hadn’t really thought of an interview in these terms before, and it was lovely to contextualize the moment within the many forms of making we undertake in our class.

On The Reading

Throughout Innocent Experiments, Onion shows men passing along science (through sci-fi, chemistry kits, model rockets…) to teach boys to circumvent authority and social limitations, which are wound up in the perceived women gatekeepers of the mother, the teacher, and the librarian (!) In the later chapters, Onion further links this type of education to libertarian values of science as limitless doing. In this process, I believe the book does a phenomenal job exposing the many interlinked values we content with today across our society, whether it’s the disruption-focused entrepreneurial tech culture which remains hostile to women or the wave of Trumpism in our country that values masculine-coded doing (and unapologetic destruction of institutions) over inclusion and empathy.

I sincerely hope that making communities can transcend this project of encouraging disruptive/rogue masculinity and instead find ways to center the contributions and experiences of women. But I wonder, do women face the same glass ceiling of self-actualization that Proddy faced in Prodkayne of Mars when they are not fully supported in STEM studies in their postsecondary studies or drop out of hostile environments in the workforce? If the issue is a cultural discourse of participatory science that is gendered from the beginning, how do we create and foster an entirely different feminist construction of participatory science?

When I lived in Seattle, I briefly participated in a feminist and women-centric making space that took a lovely approach to this. A February 2015 article in Yes Magazine summarizes some of the challenges that feminist maker spaces attempt to tackle, which sound quite familiar at this point:

Taking things apart and putting them back together, after all, is a core activity of the maker movement, which commentators have hailed as everything from the face of America’s new industrial revolution to a force unleashing a new era of small businesses.
That’s great, but where do we start? How are people like me, who’ve never been particularly techie, supposed to join in? And what if the “hackerspaces”—the central institutions of the maker movement, where makers gather to build, collaborate, and learn—tend to be dominated by white guys whose first reaction to someone new is, “Here, I’ll do it for you”?

After spending a good amount of time considering the weaknesses in the Make community (as advanced by Make Inc), it’s helpful to encounter some examples of communities that seek their founding principles not in a libertarian idea of freedom, but a feminist concept of intersectional inclusion, equity, and justice. I’m definitely curious to learn more about what would make spaces like Seattle Attic grow and the role of feminism within making more broadly.


  1. I really like your classification of interviewing as making! I'd never thought about the interview process with that much depth before (even after taking 501 ;D), but I think you're right - it definitely takes some "crafting" ability to create a good interview process and product.

    I also agree that celebrating the "disruptive" nature of science/making is not something that should be continued. While making is supposedly a revolution, I'm pretty sure that acclaiming the "disruption" of making really just supports existing power structures, seeing as most of the examples we've seen have been white men. It's not revolution - it's putting a new face on business as usual.

  2. Seattle Attic sounds like a wonderland, to be honest. I'd love to experience this type of space, and its existence may lead to other spaces following its principles and becoming more inclusive. I've become a member of local Meetups like Girls Who Code or attended Software Carpentry workshops where they talk about implicit bias and stereotype threat. I love that these spaces often have codes of conduct that explicitly calls out the space's desire to be inclusive, but these are more on the coding side and less on the actual physical tools side. I'm still completely intimidated by saws and similar power tools, and I think that learning from a peer without that real or perceived experience of being talked down to would make for a better learning environment for all.

  3. I really like your dialogue both here and in class about trying to reframe the idea of participatory science, not as a male space that women can enter, but as a construction that can be read as feminine as well. It's a big challenge considering how deeply embedded a lot of this ideas are in our culture - as someone who deviated from STEM training myself in favor of slightly softer sciences, I sometimes questions whether my decisions were influenced by the gendered nature of the work. I hope that girls in the future will have less of those pressures, and be able to find their own space in those fields.