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Gaining Focus

October 13, 2009

I’ve spent the beginning of this semester trying to figure out a way to focus this project. Now that I’ve had some time to concentrate on it, I’m planning to zero in on the experience of women as inventors/makers/builders.

Stereotypically, women are characterized as users of technology while men are framed as the creators. Men are ones who tinker with gadgets and take things apart to understand how they work. Women consume technology without engaging in it.

I’m interested in exploring the space where women are engaged in the “male” activities of invention and creation. Do women approach this process differently? Do they have different goals/motivations? How do these women perceive gender?

When speaking with Star, we discussed how she likes to create things that make her laugh. She sees technology as a tool for improving her life and/or the lives of others. However, most of her motivation for building things comes from a desire to be the best engineer that she can be. In a later email, Star elaborated on her “style” of invention:

A quote once heard that I like, regarding developing one’s personal style went something like;

“Many young sculptors attempt to sculpt like Michaelangelo — but that’s the wrong approach to take.  Michaelangelo wasn’t trying to sculpt like Michaelangelo, he was trying to be the best sculptor on the planet.  He couldn’t *help* but sculpt like Michaelangelo.”

And it is in that sense that I engineer as a woman — I try to be perceptive about ways to be the best engineer possible, and I can’t help but engineer like Star, as a woman and all the various other “things” I “am”.

But that got me thinking, what does it mean to be the best engineer possible? I’ve also been trying to decipher in my head what a “feminist engineer” would be like. But I think that will have to be a future post …

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