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FemTechNet Hopes to Revolutionize SA’s Higher Education Possibilities

Photo: Donte Griffin, License: N/A

Donte Griffin

Geeks who think: FemTechNet San Antonio’s Laura Varela (left) and Penelope Boyer at Geekdom


Where to get such continuing education locally? Alamo Colleges and Our Lady of the Lake offer a bevy of variously priced courses and workshops geared toward professional skill development. Northside and North East ISDs also offer some skill and hobby-based education classes for fees ranging from $20 to more than $200. UTSA houses an extended studies program that allows non-students to register and attend undergraduate courses on a “space available” condition, but each course could cost as much as $400, excluding transportation and books, a expensive proposition if not working toward degree credit.

Even current college students may want to avail themselves of the local FemTechNet Taller, because if they’re interested in women’s studies, they have few options locally. UTSA just unveiled their women’s studies program for undergraduates in Fall 2012, offering an admittedly drool-worthy slate of feminist theory courses (Feminism and Globalization—yes, please!). Trinity offers only a minor with some fairly unspecific classes, other than the four core courses. Alamo Colleges provides a certificate in women’s studies, in which the only class specifically mentioning females in the title is “Women’s Literature.”

Locally, the FemTechNet Taller is something of an oasis, then, and the early interest seems to back it up. Boyer and Varela do not as of yet know how many plan to attend their Taller, but their local Facebook page has 168 “likes” and counting. Among the formal courses, FTN classes have attracted more than 300 participants so far.

I asked Juhasz what she hopes participants take away from the experience at the end of the course. In an answer I should have seen coming, she responded, “There’s no one takeaway, there’s 100 possible takeaways.” She kindly went on to specify anyway, “But on that list for me, it’s thinking on a meta-level about online education because that’s a huge issue.” Juhasz continued “I want [participants] to understand a sophisticated conversation among feminist thinkers and artists and I want them to feel that they are now in this conversation … and understand themselves as makers of culture. Not just receiving the knowledge, [but to] leave feeling empowered as people who make this conversation.”

While the content itself is indeed needed, and will hopefully achieve Juhasz’ and FTN’s goals of sparking advanced discussion, documentation and participation of and by women in technology, in a way the practice, the DOCC, is already a major success. The DOCC has applications well beyond feminist theory courses, in fact, it’s hard to think of a topic that the DOCC’s participatory structure wouldn’t be suited to, and it could be the answer to the question The New York Times posed last November about being massive and intimate at once. It was also the brainchild of two women, and is infused with feminist theory, two things that can’t be ignored should the DOCC take off as a viable alternative education model. Sounds like one hell of a “beautiful digital object” to me.

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