I'm a doctoral student in Library and Information Science by day, teaching classes such as Race, Gender, and Information Technology and working on diversifying the field of Library and Information Science. However I also manage the website content and some of the design, as well as create multimedia for the Department of Gender and Women's Studies. This is one of my favorite things to do, it is more extracurricular than work for me. The department is full of wonderful and supportive professors who do amazing work, and students who passionately employ what they learn in the classroom to their own academic, activist, and personal lives. My job is to transfer all of this into bytes, and since I'm also a feminist working on my Graduate Minor in Queer Theory, its also my job to challenge the types of heteronormative, gender bias, and/or misogynistic implications that is built into the website formatting that I'm working with. I want to think through a few experiences I've had on how to manage a website from a feminist and queer theory platform (pun intended).
Implement a flexible techagogy- Its important to remember, and remind myself, that I’m always learning how to be aware and sensitive to creating content and design for a public website. I’m a cisgendered Mexican woman with light skin privilege, so I’m always learning about those who might be different from myself, as well as reading new theory on gender and race and thinking through how they might challenge my work with information technologies. I try to leave my approach to design and content management flexible, and keep up on new theories that might challenge me further.
- What I’m reading and thinking through this year: Dean Spade’s Normal Life, Lisa Cacho’s Social Death, Sarah Ahmed’s On Being Included.
Think and ask before posting: I’ve realized over the past year that I’ve been doing this work that not everyone wants to have a social media presence. Professors and students alike might not want an online presence, and as designers, website builders, and content managers, we should respect their wishes. I try to check with those I might be writing stories about and have them look through what I’ve written, I make it optional to have their picture up, or give them the option of sending me an image that represents their work, or an avatar.
Names are important: Check with professors and students to make sure you have the details correct. Sometimes the name that a person goes by might not be the name that is in the University system. I make sure I have the title and name correct in a headline that I have written. Often professors and students will let me know the name they go by, or that a part of their name is important to them to include.
Respect gender pronouns:When I worked with activists in Madison on mining-resistance in Northern Wisconsin, we started group meetings by asking people to say their name and preferred gender-pronoun. How do we implement this into the cybersphere? Professors and students have let me know which pronouns they go by when I approach them for a headline, but its important not to assume. Try to include an open response for gender pronoun identification that resists gender binaries and allows people to self-identify.
Don’t be afraid to resists the larger structures: I am not the main website designer for this site. I work with multiple tech groups on campus and use a wide variety of digital tools to maintain the website. If there is a problem with the site or something that I want to change within the ‘hierarchy’, I have to go through others to make it happen. So, when I was building a professor’s professional profile and realizes that I could not enter her dance performances into her list of accomplishments, because the system was not built to allow dance as a productive tenured-track accomplishment in the neoliberal university system, such as a ‘publication’ ‘presentation’, I knew it was a problem. I approached the designer with this change, and we had to have a few back and forth conversations as to why ‘dance’ and ‘performance’ are important to academia. Ultimately the designer allowed me to make the change for this professor, and I asked them to consider it a change for the entire profiles tool. I didn’t take down the system, I barely made a dent. But these digital nudges are what we need to keep pushing up against to change larger systems of code, website design, etc.
- Thinking about: Digital Dead End by Virginia Eubanks, The Alliance for Networking Visual Culture (work by Tara McPherson)
I’ve been involved in various types of community organizing- on gentrification, housing rights, environmental rights, and immigrant rights. There are a lot of roles needed when approaching a larger issue. Everyone brings different skills to the table and all of those are needed to make a difference. When I think about code, multimedia, and website content, I try to think about it in the same way. What are my skills and how can I transfer them to pushing back on this behemoth that is technology?