3-5 May 2021
Europe/Vienna timezone

D - Gender, Technology and Society

D.1 Inequalities in Higher Education: (intersecting) theoretical, empirical, and practical examinations

Froebus, Katarina, Scheer, Lisa, Kink-Hampersberger, Susanne (University of Graz)

For decades now, inequalities in education have been intensively researched and theorized. Bourdieu and Passeron (1971), bell hooks (1994), and recently Eribon (2017), to name just a few, discuss in their publications how educational institutions and the people involved contribute to reproducing intersecting inequalities along the lines of e.g. gender, class, ethnicity, and disability. Also for quite some time now, policies and measures directed at equal access to education have been in place at a national as well as institutional level – in Austria just as in many other countries.

Despite these long efforts in both theory and practice and despite important achievements along the way, teaching and learning continue to be shaped by hierarchies and inequalities. It still seems adequate to characterize the education system as preserving the “illusion of equal opportunity” as Bourdieu and Passeron (1971) did almost 50 years ago: It pretends to allow open participation and to measure achievements objectively, but instead it reproduces and even consolidates social hierarchies by creating the illusion of a just selection through alleged objectivity of achievements and seemingly equally distributed opportunities (Schneickert 2013). Bourdieu’s sociological view shows that the individual forms of the habitus unfold their effect and contribute to the stability of definitions and classifications into social categories. Acquired in class/gender/age/race-related socialization processes, specific basic orientations, world views as well as patterns of perception and evaluation appear in the habitus as expression of an incorporated social structure. Stauber and Parreira do Amaral (2015) offer another set on questions/perspectives on the subject by pointing out that it is useful to differentiate between access and accessibility: “[F]ocusing on access to as well as on the accessibility of education” allows taking up different perspectives and asking variant questions because the two terms point at “different analytical levels – structural, institutional, discourse/representation, and individual agency” (Stauber/Parreira do Amaral 2015, p. 22).

Altogether, the focus of the session lies on mechanisms of privilege and inequality, on habitus and power, on educational access and accessibility as well as on reflection and transformation in HE. We are interested in contributions on 

  • theoretical and empirical work applying an intersectional approach;
  • reflections and accompanying research on measures aimed at initiating the reflection and irritation of “habitual orientations” of students, especially student teachers;
  • experiences with initiating processes of unlearning (Haug 2003) and risking to loose and to unlearn privileges (Danius et al. 1993);
  • studies and practical experiences on overcoming social injustices and increasing diversity.


KEYWORDS: higher education, social inequality, intersectionality, reflection, transformations


D.2 Beyond Subservient Femininity: Troubling Conversational Agents

Spiel, Katta (KU Leuven), Weiss, Astrid (TU Wien)

Agent-like technology, such as voice assistants, social robots, and embodied conversational agents increasingly enter our public and private spheres. Alexa, Cortana, even automated announcements on public transport – they all have one thing in common: a voice or avatar that implies strong associations with femininity. The android robots Sophia and Erica, designed as conversation companions, embody appearances, behavourisms and speech patterns that draw on traditional subservience assigned to women in cis-binary concepts of gender.
As critical scholars, we raise several questions as matters of concern: What are the dominant power structures that drive the design of virtual assistants and conversation companions? How does machine learning reinforce stereotypes? And what are the societal consequences of these technologies? With an increasing awareness within academia and industry, we are interested in submissions critically analysing the status quo of agent-like technologies and/or reflecting on the potentials of co-construction in society, scientific practice, and technology design. We intend to center two different perspectives: 1) How can we make the design process more reflexive and inclusive of the perspectives of diverse stakeholders? and 2) How can we design technology to be more sensitive and adaptable to salient cultural values and practices?

We expect contributions from perspectives drawing on the fields of STS, Human-Computer Interaction, Gender Studies, and Sociology of Technology who work on assessing, building, critiquing and/or designing technologies.


KEYWORDS: critical design, gender, voice assistants, human-agent interaction, techno-troubles

D.3 Let´s talk about money, sister! –  Governance strategies for structural change in science and research

Thaler, Anita, Karner, Sandra (IFZ),  Jennifer Dahmen-Adkins (RWTH Aachen)

The European Commission financed in its last two framework programmes for research and innovation (FP7, H2020) the implementation and monitoring of gender equality plans (GEPs) in research performing organisations as part of a number of projects (called ‘sister projects’). For the upcoming research funding programme ‘Horizon Europe’ it is discussed to make GEPs a mandatory element of proposals or to require a gender equality plan from applicants..

This is one example of a governance strategy where the allocation of (monetary) resources – in terms of funding – is linked to fostering gender equality in European science and research organisations.

While all sister projects aimed at making decision making bodies more gender equal, only some explicitly focused on financial strategies, for instance by integrating gender budgeting. Others included the money perspective on a regional, national and European level by researching mechanisms of how science and research can be made more gender equal through effective strategies in science policies and research funding.

In this session we want to talk about money, and how it can be used

  • to provide incentives to encourage research performing organisations to become more inclusive and gender equal work places, and moreover
  • to change the whole science and research system towards more fairness and gender equity.


We invite fellows to share their results from researching strategies to promote gender equality through funding, as well as representatives from Research Funding Organisations sharing their experiences.


KEYWORDS:  Gender Budgeting,  Gender Equality,  Research funding, Governance,  Structural change


D.4 Playing with a Politics-of-How: Sensuous Practices-in-the-Making 

Skeide, Annekatrin, Mandler, Tait (University of Amsterdam)
In much science and technology studies (STS), knowledge is positioned as both alpha and omega—knowing subjects produce knowledge and, thereby, enact ‘objects’. Feminist STS scholars such as Annemarie Mol have adhered to an ‘ontological turn’, arguing that ‘objects’ are not only known but also practiced. The political momentum of the shift towards practices consists of the possibilities of attending to the normativities involved when multiple versions of ‘objects’ are enacted in practices. The ‘politics-of-what’ (to do) (Mol 2002, 172–77) acknowledges the different goods, e.g. goals to achieve or values to share, that are shaped in practice when ‘objects’, such as bodies in medical practices, are brought about. For Mol (2002, 177): “In a political cosmology ‘what to do’ is not given in the order of things, but needs to be established. Doing good does not follow on finding out about it, but is a matter of, indeed, doing. Of trying, tinkering, struggling, failing, and trying again.”

Our proposed session seeks to socio-materially engage, play with, and develop a sensuous ‘politics-of-how’. Taking ‘radical relationalities’ (Pols 2014)—everything(s) and everyone(s) are unfinishedly and unfinishably becoming in relation to each other—and materialities of bodies seriously, we would like to taste, hear, feel, or otherwise sense the method(olog)ical and political dimensions of stepping from knowing to practicing. Together with feminist geographers Hayes-Conroy and Hayes-Conroy, we suppose that “addressing the visceral realm—and hence the catalytic potential of bodily sensations—has the potential to increase political understandings of how people can be moved or mobilised either as individuals or as groups of social actors” (2008, 462). We are eager to conflate knowing about, knowing with, and knowing through bodies (Hirschauer 2008b), and, more importantly, to experiment with sensating, which makes knowing and the knowing subject possible (Serres 2008, 325-6). We’re interested in bodies’ constant need for adjustment, for more-than-human “mutual attuning” (Abrahamsson and Bertoni 2014: 137) as well as bodies’ potentials and capacities to sense, to affect and to be affected. Collectively and multi-sensorially, we indulge in activities, such as tasting beer or listening to fetal heart sounds, that do not necessarily create passion and continuous attachments (as in the work of Gomart and Hennion 1999) but perhaps interests (Despret 2004). Sharing and multiplying sensibilities and interests, we map out our sensible togethernesses.

This nontraditional session will take a workshop-like form, we welcome contributions that invite bodies to sense beyond seeing, talking, or hearing while also providing some assistance in reflecting together what we do and how we do it. Please bring something to taste, to listen to, to feel, to do, so that we can practice a politics-of-how together.