DIY Feminist Pedagogies: Making Feminist Practices More Apparent in Technical Rhetorics Classrooms

by: , Nupoor Ranade & Missy F. Hannah , January 27, 2020

© Photo by Markus Spiske

This article explores practices that enable the production of pedagogical spaces for feminist alliance. We present three technical rhetorics courses that operationalise feminist approaches and methodologies. We share these courses as a way to grow a community of feminist-aligned thinkers, academics, and professionals who are interested in introducing feminist approaches in their own classrooms or in industry-based careers, and also to demonstrate how instructors and professors who teach courses in technical subject areas can draw on a do-it-yourself (DIY) mentality to create spaces for feminist work. Melissa Stone’s course asks students to explore the real-world potential for rhetorical studies of digital media technologies through feminist research practices and methodologies. Nupoor Ranade’s course takes on technical rhetorics that encourage students to consider perspectives that take up constructions of gender in the use and creation of AI technologies. Missy F. Hannah’s course, based on documentation design and evaluation, enacts a social justice approach that encourages students to consider how communicative practices are not neutral but rather exist within normative understandings of political and social contexts.

Our article and proposed courses are grounded in Erin Frost and Michel Eble’s concept of ‘technical rhetorics’, which refers to ‘a rhetorical assemblage that attempts to persuade a specific audience with a specialised set of knowledge’. (2015: 2) We also draw on Frost’s methodology for apparent feminism as a way to show that effective pedagogical work is dependent on ‘the existence and input of diverse audiences’. (2016: 3) Finally, the article elaborates on Michelle Kempson’s concept of DIY feminism as a practice of making and creating that acts as ‘a specific dimension of feminist expression centring upon grassroots politics and autonomous cultural production’. (2015: 461) Where Kempson sees DIY feminism as the creation of physical objects like zines, knitting, and craftwork that represent the feminist lifestyles and social and cultural contexts of the creator, in this article we use this same definition to describe the pedagogical methods we introduce to engage feminist ideological work in our classrooms, especially in a discipline where such topics are deemed to be unusual and thus are often negatively received. In order to work toward the creation of autonomous cultural production and alliances, feminist educators must make space in their pedagogical practices to think through how issues of identity intersect with dialogue, access, movement, and embodiment (Shelton 2019), for such issues have an impact on how we experience, co-produce, and share learning spaces.

DIY Feminist Placemaking & Pedagogies

In the fall of 2018, two of the authors of this article, Melissa Stone and Missy F. Hannah, participated in a graduate studies directed reading (DR) based in feminist approaches to technical rhetorics. At the graduate level in U.S. universities, DRs are courses that allow students to collaborate with professors on more specialised areas of study that are otherwise unavailable in a generalised graduate curriculum. We requested this DR because our research-intensive (R1) institution, located in the southeastern part of the U.S., lacks catalogue courses that address feminist topics in technical rhetorics. Our experience speaks to the larger frustration that many feminist scholars, both established and up-and-coming, seem to have across academic disciplines. After reading Frost’s work, we, along with Nupoor Ranade and our DR professor, Stacey Pigg, planned a gathering at her home in order to facilitate a ‘Feminist Technical Rhetorics Chat’. During this chat, we came together as students, professors, and industry professionals to discuss all the ways that feminist approaches can be introduced and highlighted in areas in which they might not be outwardly supported. This gathering became a space for discussion and debate about gender inequalities that exist in technical rhetoric fields. Because our university fails to offer courses that directly explore feminist ideas, scholarship and approaches, students and professors alike end up encountering feminist topics in private spheres (be they homes or private offices) rather than in university classrooms. This, we argue, is a form of DIY feminist placemaking that is vital to a full understanding of feminist pedagogical practice.

Often, feminist pedagogies are implemented as a way to instruct technical rhetorics students about approaches and histories that stray from generalised ways of thinking about communicative practices and technologies. The technical rhetorics educators that choose to include these feminist methodologies in their coursework often feel they must organise, instruct, and design feminist approaches in classrooms all on their own. Responding to this problem, we have turned to what we call a DIY feminist pedagogy. The challenging aspect of DR courses as outlined above is that they often go unpaid and are taken on in addition to the professor’s existing teaching load, required academic service, work with other graduate students, and their own research projects. However, these courses can create close-knit communities that encourage and support feminist intervention in academic and industry-based disciplines. The creation of these off-catalogue courses and the collaborations that come from them are examples of what a DIY feminist pedagogy might look like.

Though the boundary between private and public is often a fraught one for instructors and professors who explicitly adopt feminist practices and pedagogies, here we take a moment to address how our—the authors’—own social identities shape the perceived boundaries around our bodies and experiences in the classroom. Melissa Stone is a white U.S. doctoral student and her interest in the social constructions of menstruating bodies and feminist rhetorical action shapes both her research and her pedagogical orientation in the classroom. Nupoor Ranade is a doctoral student from India with a technological background and industry experience who brings her ability to engage students in cultural rhetorics and culturally diverse ideas about the uses of technologies to the classroom. Missy F. Hannah is a white U.S. bisexual doctoral student and technical writer whose work focuses on corporate social media campaign ethics, queer activisms, and public engagement.

In recent technical rhetorics scholarship and pedagogy, there has been a move to introduce social justice work and feminist perspectives. Such social justice exigencies invite participation from those who do not explicitly identify as feminist but do work that complements feminist goals. (Frost 2016) The social justice turn in technical rhetorics scholarship focuses on critical work that does not centre on analysis alone, but rather on incorporating a bridge between critical analysis and action. (Petersen & Walton 2018) Further, the social justice turn incorporates matters of identity and asks questions about diversity, inclusion, and representation. Scholarship that builds on this turn has impacted the way we understand and practice feminist approaches in our own research as well as how we implement these approaches in our classrooms. One useful social justice framework that we have drawn on is Frost’s apparent feminist methodology. Frost explains that an apparent feminist methodology ‘provides a new kind of response that addresses current political trends that render misogyny unapparent, the ubiquity of uncritically negative responses to the term feminism, and a decline in centralised feminist work in technical communication’.(2016: 3) Frost’s approach is especially useful in college classroom settings where it cannot be assumed that students identify as feminists or appreciate feminist practices. She further explains that the term ‘apparent feminism’, ‘like the dynamic spirit of rhetoric, is always in flux; it can be understood in different ways given different contexts, and it encourages practitioners to reflexively understand that apparent feminism is only one possible understanding of any given situation’. (2016: 10) Given that apparent feminism as a methodology can be adapted to meet the needs of many kinds of spaces, we use it in our technical rhetorics classrooms as a pedagogical approach. This orientation to teaching allows us to consider student learning outcomes in catalog courses from a feminist perspective, while still adhering to the strict university requirements within which we work.

We further argue that DIY feminist pedagogical practices should be implemented with thought and care, and with multiple student experiences in mind. DIY Feminism, Kempson argues, is multi-faceted and at its core embraces inclusive feminist practices; a core part of DIY feminism comes from the cultural production of spaces and objects. (2015: 464) Though many centre DIY in the art of physical creation and making, Kempson explains the importance of ‘understanding DIY feminism in terms of an ‘everyday life’ commitment: a premise that requires researchers to engage with the ‘everyday’ practices of feminist identification in order to gain a clearer picture of the specific historical influences of present feminist organising’. (2015: 470) Enacting a DIY feminist approach rests not only in the culture of making; it can also be implemented in higher education through a focus on how we as feminists conduct our own research and in how we instruct our students.

DIY Feminist Approaches to Technical Rhetorics Courses

A majority of students who graduate from technical writing programs enter industry-based careers, which are still male dominated and have age-old stereotypes about women as emotional, unpredictable, and difficult to understand. (Hacker 1981; Beckman 1991; Herrick, 1999; Ernst, et al. 2014) Along with addressing the various ways in which we experience gender inequality, Kate White, et al. underscore the issue of embodiment and rhetorics of female coded bodies along with technology and design considerations for audiences made up of a multitude of gender identities. (2016) They argue that technologies and bodies interact, and therefore studies in technical rhetorics must examine gender differences in human-technology interactions. (White et al. 2016) Further, Mary Beckman argues that we can help students to critique communication practices in businesses and have more choices about agency in the workplace. (1991)

As instructors of technical rhetorics, we need a DIY feminist pedagogical orientation to help students understand the choices they can make and the agency they have in classrooms and in workplaces. In each course design, we offer a course description, a summary of our learning objectives, suggested assigned texts, an in-class activity that references our assigned texts, and a major course assignment prompt that encourages students to explore the course objectives. Through our course designs we display the feminist DIY approaches we bring into our classrooms, and we share the teaching materials that help us to put these approaches into practice. We welcome the use and critique of these materials and hope that this invitation continues to build and grow a network of feminist academics, activists, and industry leaders.

Melissa Stone’s Feminist Rhetorics and Digital Media Course

This course examines digital media texts and artefacts through feminist technical rhetorics with a focus on social constructions of gender, representations of the body, and technologies informed by these subjects. In this course, students consider both visual modes of communication and interactions with digital technologies. Students explore technical rhetorics and digital media through feminist research practices and methodologies and their real-world world potential. Theoretically, we define and problematise what these interrelated ideas and concepts are and what work they do, especially in terms of current issues in the communication of gendered bodies and gendered technologies. Practically, we examine writing and communication in and with feminist texts and artefacts that employ these topics through academic projects that allow for an applied approach. A syllabus focused upon feminist methods in technical rhetorics is invaluable for students who want to critically consider texts, artefacts, and technologies from alternate perspectives as a means to communicate and inform target audiences about matters of emerging technologies and the social constructions of gender identities.

The course materials overviewed here provide students interested in technical rhetorics with practical experience in the discipline that ranges from text and artefact analysis to ethical academic research practices and technical applications related to the field of rhetorical studies. The trajectory of the course themes and their accompanying materials provides students with the history, language, and methodologies necessary for refiguring dominant structures of digital media knowledge. In designing and working on these projects, students critically consider texts, artefacts, and technologies from multiple feminist perspectives that are designed to communicate technical information in terms of those texts’ and artefacts’ target audiences. Further, students are tasked with designing and implementing a feminist methodology to explore a research question of their own.

Feminist scholars have highlighted, both in their published work and in their classrooms, the absence of feminist perspectives in fields related to science and technology studies (STS). Katherine T. Durack’s influential article, for instance, provides a brief history of how and why feminist approaches in technical rhetorics studies came to be. (1997) She states, ‘Women are largely absent from our recorded disciplinary past, whether as technical writers, as scientists, or as inventors or users of technology’. (1997: 249) While the recognition of women’s contributions to STS disciplines and the ability for women to make these contributions has significantly improved since the publication of Durack’s article, there is still a need for feminist intervention in these disciplines. Beginning with this historical perspective is an important starting point for students in this course because it illustrates: 1) the fact that women have not been considered to be ‘significant originators of technical, scientific, or medical achievement’ and therefore are frequently not afforded agency in fields related to STS; 2) the idea that women’s tools are often not seen as ‘sufficiently technical, nor their work sufficiently important to warrant study of their supporting texts’ (Durack 1997: 251); 3) how women’s inventive accomplishments have often been obscured by being misclassified, trivialised, underreported, or attributed to men; and 4) the fact that technologies that pertain specifically to women’s biological functions and social roles have always been purposefully ignored by male historians of technology.

For one particular activity in this course, students read the Frost and Petersen and Walton articles that we have previously discussed in this article. Frost’s article encourages technical rhetoricians to take up apparent feminism as a methodology to ‘point out and intervene in systemic oppression’ (2018: 21) that exists in male-dominated disciplines like STS. Petersen & Walton’s piece similarly presses technical rhetoricians to take up feminist practices in their work as a way to support the social justice turn currently taking place in the field of technical rhetorics. These articles are useful in teaching students to pause on the analysis of documentation and networks of communication before taking action to effect change. Using feminist methods, Petersen and Walton argue, is ‘praxis as activism’ because it gives students a foundation that challenges the way previous critical research has been done in technical fields. (2018: 2)

After reading these articles, students participate in a two-part in-class activity that asks them to analyse and compare technical manuals and technical instructions. The manuals and instructions students analyse range in variety from tampon or menstrual cup insertion instructions and manuals for vacuums and other household appliances, to DIY instructional zines. In small groups students choose two manuals to compare and contrast while they consider the following questions: 1) What rhetorical choices are made in each text that might inform how an audience comes to understand them? 2) What assumptions about audiences do these texts make? 3) What similarities and differences exist between each text in terms of communication design? 4) Is one text more successful than the other, and if so, why? Following a discussion about how their assigned technical manuals can be improved upon, students participate in a critical making workshop where they translate technical manuals into DIY feminist zines. This workshop has students participate in the creation of zines, or what Kempson calls ‘resistive texts’. (2015: 460) Translating a technical manual into a feminist instructional zine allows students to further think through the accessibility of technical communication design, how to be more inclusive of different audiences, and the importance of analysing instructional communication design from a user-centred approach.

For the final assignment in this course, students collaborate with each other to create a rhetorical text of their own, and they write a reflection that explains the rhetorical choices they make in their design process. In part one, students create a technical text that enacts feminist methods and practices. Examples of texts students create include but are not limited to: social media campaigns, video clips, podcasts, small-scale video games, websites, interactive databases, and digital instructional manuals. In part two of this assignment, students write individual analyses of their own technical texts. In this reflective rhetorical analysis, students use the assigned course texts to critically consider the feminist theories and methodologies they use in their research design for the project, who their intended audience is for the project and why they chose this audience, and whether or not they created a successful project design that upholds feminist methods and values. In creating a technical text with feminist approaches in mind, students can demonstrate the knowledge learned from the course and have a tangible example of how feminist methodologies work in practice.

Nupoor Ranade’s Feminist Rhetorics and Artificial Intelligence Course

This course investigates human interaction with artificial intelligence (AI) systems, especially online chatbots. Through close readings of texts and provocative in-class discussions resulting from topics like gender identity, post-humanism, and cultural beliefs, students explore theories that frame their understanding of rhetoric and AI. Through rhetorical analysis, students learn to build chatbots using the appropriate tools and technologies. The design components enable students to visualise socio-technical networks in the making of chatbots, develop algorithmic structures, and test their design for diverse audience experiences. This class thus focuses on both rhetorical theory and praxis to help in (re)defining what information design means for artificial intelligence platforms and gender identities.

Algorithms and computer codes are rhetorical and they function in complex acts to facilitate information exchange and retrieval. Because algorithms embody logical procedures for action they have persuasive abilities in their systematic functionalities. In the consideration of conversations about human-technology interaction and user experiences, instructors should aim to help students design systems that interact with users and respond to user actions. To create this level of persuasion through interaction we try to make those systems intelligent. Predicting users’ actions and designing responses to encourage further user action is constituted through the gendered rhetoric of embodiment; for example, conversational agents like Siri, Apple, Inc.’s virtual assistant, are primarily designed as female personalities. The theoretical works that students study in this class help them to consider feminist embodiment rhetorics in algorithmic work as related to AI technologies and to think critically about the following questions: 1) What if we could re-contextualise bodies and consider AI’s physical body as an entity with its own rhetorical agency? 2) How can we extend these discussions to make choices about gender identities in AI?

The praxis for this course utilises students’ understanding of the rhetorical issues like agency and identity to make informed choices in the design of their own AI system: a chatbot used for social media. Students personify their chatbot not just to create an identity but also to add human qualities like tone and style of language displaying strong, focused understanding of audience and purpose which are key elements in studying the rhetorical situation. The assignments in this course are based on a scaffolding approach to give students ample amount of time to study the literature, cultivate digital skills required for chatbot implementation and to reflect on their designs. This multimodal approach for understanding technical rhetorics and AI technologies provides an opportunity to be creative and imaginative while thinking critically about feminist rhetorical considerations for such projects. These course design principles are embedded into the assignment through specific learning outcomes. Using existing rhetorical scholarship, students are expected to critically identify and analyse rhetorical situations. Using network visualisation tools like Gephi and Netlytic, in-class discussions and collaborative projects, students are encouraged to visualise various technical genres and their connections with the audience, interface, technology, design and developers. Students are expected to create a chatbot by constructively applying a rhetorical perspective, and they are also required to demonstrate their understanding of human experience through interactions with conversational interfaces through a reflection report of their work.

Two relevant texts that students read for this course include Donna Haraway’s ‘A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s’ from her book Siminians, Cyborgs, and Women (1991) and Jack Halberstam’s ‘Automating Gender: Postmodern Feminism in the Age of the Intelligent Machine’ (1991). These works help students question the gender construction of most chatbots used today and the feminine embodiment of conversational agents like Siri and Cortana. Haraway’s work on cyborgs is key to research related to embodiment of AI because she breaks down the connection between human and animal, human and machine, and calls for a revision of the concept of gender, which moves away from patriarchal essentialism toward the utopian idea of a world without gender. Haraway calls for a reconstruction of identity that is no longer determined by naturalism and taxonomy but instead by affinity wherein individuals can construct their own groups by choice. Through these texts, students learn to define and understand the rhetorical situation, the function of chatbots, and the role of gender (or genderless-ness), that can be then translated for the purposes of designing a chatbot. Halberstam discusses how Alan Turing’s early computing system was made up of a network of women called ‘computers’ who were assigned jobs that required them to perform calculations repeatedly. Women were chosen for these jobs because of their presumed bodily limitations. Halberstam’s work helps students look at this exact phenomenon in dialogue with postmodern theories of the body and with feminist theories of gender politics. History has also heavily influenced the pervasiveness of feminine embodiment in AI technologies. The director Fritz Lang gave Maria, the first robot in cinema, a female gender. In the film, Maria, who portrayed maternal qualities, was shown as a ‘man-made female machine’ invented to serve male counterparts in the society. (Hales, 2010) Reading this work is crucial in the design and implementation process of chatbots, which students work on as part of their final assignment.

This course is completed in two parts. Student begin the first part by setting up the goals of the chatbot and addressing concerns about the purpose, audience and data used to create dialogue. Next, they design the personality of the chatbot by considering the information architecture, subjectivity and embodiment that transforms the intelligent information-processing platform. This step also includes answering questions about identity including gender, tone, and nature (formal or informal), and other considerations about delivery. The chatbots must have the ability to be either hosted on social media websites or function as stand-alone applications depending on the technology used to implement them. This assignment is completed in collaborative groups, and some class sessions are devoted to workshops where students can work on their projects and ask questions of the instructor, or lead discussions based on their challenges or findings.

In part two of this assignment, students test each other’s chatbots and write a reflective rhetorical analysis. Using the theories on feminist embodiment rhetorics assigned in class and methods for information design and human-computer interaction, students evaluate their own and their peers’ projects. Along with rhetorical implications, students also test the chatbot for accessibility and user experience to situate their understandings in a multidisciplinary workspace. Finally, students document their project work by discussing the effectiveness of chatbots and drawing on the rhetorical choices they made in the design and implementation process. This assignment gives students an opportunity to reflect on the course by critically considering how they understand the use of feminist theories and approaches in technical communication design; how conversations of gender and identity can be extended in other projects in technical disciplines; and how useful the chatbot assignment is in the context of their personal and professional goals.

Missy F. Hannah’s Documentation Design and Evaluation Course

This course is designed to introduce students to the principles of technical documentation and technical rhetorics through a social justice approach. Often these kinds of courses are taught without a feminist pedagogical orientation because this perspective is seen as ‘unnecessary’ in technical document design; in this course, therefore, issues of accessibility and inclusivity are discussed in order to pushback against this dominant idea. We address how technical rhetoricians move their readers to action through the skilled use of verbal, visual, and interactive discourse. We also learn about the theory and design of documentation for user guides, reference manuals, quick reference guides, tutorials, and online documentation for content and media delivery programs. This course trains students to use alternative forms of professional document design skills and is technology focused, using different kinds of document design software such as GitHub, OxygenXML, Adobe Illustrator, Camtasia, and Audacity. Often these technologies are used in the workplace, even though some have faced backlash over their gender bias. (Olteanu, Castillo, Diaz & Kiciman 2016) Consequently, students are asked to think critically about design decisions through the consideration of different audiences and structures of technical communication, while also examining the rhetoric of design using various feminist readings throughout the course.

The learning objectives for this course ask students to write for the purposes, audiences, constraints, and conventions of written communication in industrial and technical settings, while recognising the relationship between visual, verbal, and written communication. Students must also practice various rhetorical tasks that are typical of industry professionals by engaging in the instructor-guided practice of technological media used in document design. Students begin the course by selecting an object of study, such as a button maker, a sewing machine, or other tool that might need documented instructions. This object becomes their main focus through the various steps in the documentation and valuation process throughout the semester. Students start this project by writing technical descriptions of their objects of study. This unit of the course includes an introduction on how to structure, organise, and draw on industry standards for describing their various objects of study. Often, this course is taught without a feminist focus, so a DIY feminist pedagogy is used to introduce feminist ideologies in all our readings and discussions. These discussions become an important part of developing students’ understanding of the rhetorical decisions they make throughout the design process and how those decisions can potentially reinforce non-inclusive design practices.

A core assignment for the course has students write a task-oriented manual. In this assignment, students demonstrate their ability to write clear and concise instructions while remaining focused on the goals their user wants to complete by reading the manual. Through their writing, students also learn specific design practices used in various industries, from medical device manuals to software instructions. Students are encouraged to make the instructions task-oriented, ensure that the document is as accessible as possible, and make certain that the document follows best practices for writing instructional content. As such, students must add all needed prerequisites to start operating the object, structure their content for easy readability, and highlight any hazardous steps users may need to note. While working on their assignment, we read Natasha Jones’ article ‘The Technical Communicator as Advocate: Integrating a Social Justice Approach in Technical Communication’ (2016), which works to supports students in the exploration of how the field of technical rhetorics has recently been oriented toward issues of social justice. Jones (2016) argues that this change is crucial as we centre communication in human experience, and she reiterates that technical communication is not neutral but exists within political and social contexts and their effects on identity construction.

To put these ideas into practice, students pose critical design questions at the beginning of the task-oriented procedure assignment. Students must build their own persona by diving deeper into various user experiences. Posing these questions and contemplating their target audience should help students centre human experience and ethical design in their assignment. Further questions students consider for this reflection are: 1) Is this set of task-oriented procedures accessible for my target audience? 2) Does this set of task-oriented procedures include needed accessibility documentation? 3) Is the use of language in this set of task-oriented procedures inclusive and intersectional? 4) Are any assumptions about the target audience present in this set of task-oriented procedures? In technical documentation design it is imperative that students understand not only the technical tools to master the skills expected of them in industry, but that they also understand how identity bias often takes place in the documentation they create and interact with. Further, encouraging students to understand that widespread normative practices in document design often employ exclusionary language and make misogynistic, racist, classist and heteronormative assumptions about users is essential in implementing a feminist DIY pedagogy in a course like this.

The Future of DIY Feminist Pedagogy

All three of our courses are specifically geared to help students in technical fields learn foundations that they can apply in their future academic or industry-based careers. They all try to do this not only through analysis but also by encouraging students to directly participate in activities that help them to understand forms of oppression and marginalisation in technical fields. However, each of our courses differs in how we address aspects of technology design and development as it intersects with identity bias. This includes: analysing technological texts in terms of representation and (in)accessibility, which is the cornerstone for Melissa Stone’s feminist rhetorics and digital media course; working with and creating the technologies themselves, which is the focus in Nupoor Ranade’s rhetorics of AI course; and finally, working through ways of deconstructing our assumptions about the gendered neutrality of technology users, which Missy F. Hannah takes up in her documentation design course.

Although these course outlines demonstrate our practices of DIY feminist pedagogical methods, we understand and recognise that we benefit from the privilege of access. Many other feminist graduate students, undergraduate students, and even professors do not have access to courses with direct instruction on feminist theories and methods, or even other feminist mentors with whom to make DIY feminist places. Identifying this issue is crucial for pushing back against oppressive understandings of identities that differ from the perceived norm. We believe that a DIY feminist approach should allow for the consideration of the different positionalities of students and instructors alike as a way to acknowledge these kinds of privileges. Additionally, we feel it is necessary to highlight how our mutual status as cis-gendered women, each with our own set of different privileges, affects our capacity to fully capture the idea that identity bias exists in STS and technical rhetorics fields because a) those who have never experienced identity oppression may struggle to understand why feminist practices are necessary in the first place; and b) those who have experienced these forms of oppression may feel that feminist practices taught from instructors with privileged positions may not allow them the experience necessary to discuss the struggles they have themselves faced. We believe inclusive feminist practices in technical rhetorics classrooms must acknowledge the way technological design and academic institutions have often silenced the voices of those most marginalised.

Further, White et al. (2016) state that along with issues of embodiment and technology, we need to put methods into practice that allow technical rhetoricians to better acknowledge in our classrooms the experiences that marginalised identities will face in industry-based careers. Due to the modern advances of technologies and a lack of critical examinations, some previous ways of teaching gender studies can often fall short. Because of this we believe that continued research at the intersection of gender identity and technology design should take up an interdisciplinary perspective like that presented in our course designs through a DIY pedagogical approach. Instead of solely focusing on pedagogical research in technical writing studies, more work needs to be done to include approaches that take up an intersectional approach to understanding how different identities relate to and are affected by gendered practices in areas like user experience (UX), visual communication, data science, and technological development. Through the design and practice of our three courses we hope that we are able to bring these intersectional and interdisciplinary perspectives to our students so that they are able to in turn put these ideas and methodologies into practice when they move into their own careers.

Finally, we argue that while alternate DIY feminist placemaking practices have been an important part of our growth as feminist scholars, more courses need to be taught in public college classrooms that have direct instruction on feminist history and practices. We recognise that our technical rhetorics course designs would not exist without our experience with DIY feminist placemaking practices, such as our DR and the ‘Feminist Technical Rhetorics Chat’. These feminist placemaking experiences have been foundational to creating our own network of feminist activists, scholars, and industry leaders. Our DIY discussions and experiences, by their very nature, push back directly against the historically ‘western’ straight white male view in academic institutions, which makes academia an inherently exclusionary place for those who identify differently. We hope that by making our DIY feminist placemaking practices more apparent we can continue to expand our feminist networks and collaborate with feminists who use DIY feminist practices to bridge analysis with action as a means to affect change in technical rhetorics fields.


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