Name, acknowledge and share.
The work, concepts and ideas that new digital technology is being built upon must be credited. We must demystify technology's founding narratives. »The first unavoidable step into a feminist internet is the act of naming all creators, inventors that nurture the infrastructure and the code.«
— Valentina Pelizzer Hvale
»Naming is inherently political. By naming we acknowledge those who have come before us: those who participated in creating particular technologies or who contributed to its design. It is also a feminist practice. Yet naming, crediting and acknowledging the creators of certain technologies, and looking at the genealogy of how things come to be, is rarely part of technology’s dominant discourse.
Western societies have constructed a myth for technology. Under the pretense of progress and machine neutrality, this myth entails the promise of an imagined objectivity, which is disembodied and devoid of biases.
On the one hand, mostly white male scientists and researchers have defined the field for generations and the same applies to the tech billionaires who own the code. Obviously, they are hyper-visible. Then there are those who, historically and also in contemporary times, have been relegated to the margins this narrative. Either they’ve been excluded from the creation of technology, or they participated in the creation but their work wasn’t deemed worthy or their contributions were just forgotten. The writers of history excluded them. That is what the dominant practices of naming look like, currently.
There are many collectives and people creating alternative technological practices which resist this – who not only name, acknowledge and share with each other, but also co-create, think together and build with others. The notion of generosity is very important here.
For feminist tech, naming is necessary, because any feminist practice has to engage with those who have come before us and those who will come after us. The idea of trans-generational work is at the core of feminist practices, as is the idea of centering around the margin – those who have been rendered invisible, forgotten, silenced, whose contributions have been systematically diminished. This isn’t limited to technology.
And before naming, there’s also the question of how we define technology. What is it? In Eurocentric discourse, technology is linked to modernity and to notions of development and progress. But technology doesn’t have to mean that.«
Who can inspire us with their work?
»A person actively engaged in naming, acknowledging and sharing is Iyo Bisseck, a programmer and designer based in France, whose work questions where things come from, and who names, acknowledges and shares her findings. This practice is also very visible in the work of Timnit Gebru, both in her own scholarship and in her wider work which questions who is included in technology scholarship and research – whose voices are heard. The question is always, who you acknowledge, who you name?« — Maya Ober
In Living a Feminist Life, Sara Ahmed writes, »Citation is feminist memory. Citation is how we acknowledge our debt to those who came before; those who helped us find our way when the way was obscured because we deviated from the paths we were told to follow.« Her work also inspired the Citation Practices Challenge, organised by Eve Tuck, K. Wayne Yang and Rubén Gaztambide-Fernández as well as their ongoing tumblr blog on citation practices, currently curated by Fiona Cheuk.