Histories of Gender and Technology[1]

DIG 340

Fulfills History 300-level

Fulfills Gender and Sexuality Studies



Chambers 1006


Dr. Anelise Hanson Shrout

Elm 103

Office Hours: Wednesday 1:00-6:00


Two premises inform this class: Technologies have histories. Technologies are gendered.

Historians of science and practitioners of technology studies have recently begun to explore technology’s past.  They have demonstrated that personal Computers did not spring, fully formed, from the technological ethre; that the internet descends from telegraph lines and that camera phones were preceded by daguerreotypes.    In other words, technologies are not timeless.  They have histories.

At the same time, scholars of gender and sexuality studies have reminded us that understanding gender is integral to understanding the development of tech.  They show us how Alan Turing’s sexuality intersected with his experiences of code-breaking technology; how expectations about masculine forms impacted the genesis of robotics and how women’s labor was essential to the development of early computing.

This class brings together these two disciplinary approaches. In the process, students will become acquainted with foundational texts in the history of science, technology studies and gender and sexuality studies.


Studying technology can often feel teleological, as “old” and “obsolete” tech gives way to that which is “modern” and “better.” These are obviously constructed and contested categories, but they inform the way we think about technology.  After all, many technology theorists posit that we are moving inexorably towards “the singularity,” the point at which humans and robots become so dependent on one another that we are functionally merged.

Similarly many popular (and even a few scholarly) narratives of gender take a teleological perspective, suggesting that societies are moving inevitably (or have already reached) equity among genders, gender identities and sexual orientations.

In order to challenge the idea that both gendered relations and technology march inexorably forward, this class begins in the present – with a recent controversy about women, video games and the internet – and explores one issue by moving backwards through time.  It then repeats this cycle – returning to a pressing issue in the present and moving backwards – two more times.  This approach allows us to rethink the inevitability of technological developments, to seek parallels between experiences of gender and sexuality at different points in time, and to theorize possible antecedents to figures and events in the history of gender and technology.

Each class focuses on one figure (in some cases, a group) who have shaped the history of technology and gender.  Each class also traces an antecedent to the one that preceded it; unfolding the ways in which we experience intersections between technology and gender today.  This model is not meant to reify certain individuals, but to allow us to use the stories of well-documented men and women as an entry point into the histories of other people like them, and their engagement with and expectations of gender roles, sexuality and technology.


Upon completing this course, students will be able to:


This class is designed both to introduce students to the histories of gender and technology, and to equip them with different tools for engaging with the theories that inform history, gender and sexuality studies and digital studies. Through the class, students will learn about the philosophy and practice of these intersecting fields.  Students will consequently be expected to comment on and try their hands at different forms writing and intellectual production.  These will include informal writing, formal writing, theoretical engagement, assessment of artifacts/primary sources, creative engagement and class participation. Some of this work will be collaborative, in that students working on similar or related topics will be clustered in groups in which they will share, support, and critique each other’s work.



Davidson College is committed to ensuring the full participation of all students in its programs. If you have a documented disability (or think you may have a disability) and, as a result, need a reasonable accommodation to participate in this class, complete course requirements, or benefit from the College’s programs or services, contact the Academic Access and Disability Resources office as soon as possible. To receive any academic accommodation, you must be appropriately registered with AADR, whose staff works with students confidentially and does not disclose any disability-related information without their permission. The AADR serves as a clearinghouse on disability issues and works in partnership with faculty and all other student service offices.

Many of us learn in different ways, and this course is designed accommodate each student differently. For example, you may prefer to process information by speaking and listening, so while discussions are quite helpful for you, some of the written material may be difficult to absorb. Please talk to me as soon as you can about your individual learning needs and how this course can best accommodate them.

Even if you do not have a documented disability, remember that other support services, including the Writing Center and the Center for Teaching and Learning and the Speaking Center, are available to all students (http://sites.davidson.edu/ctl/students/).


There has been a lot of discussion recently about “trigger warnings” – indicators that something so disturbing as to make participation difficult (i.e. death, dismemberment, assault, gore) will be covered in a particular class. To the best of my knowledge, we will not be dealing with these types themes in this class, but the history of gender and the history of technology both are complicated, and I can’t guarantee that any of your projects won’t brush up against something that might be triggering. During the semester, I’ll do my best to be transparent about when we’ll be engaging with issues that I anticipate might particularly troubling, and I ask you to come see me if you have any concerns about topics that might actively disrupt your ability to participate in this course. If such issues do arise, I will work with you to find alternate assignments, or to strategically pick which classes to skip. Remember that you may skip up to three classes with no attendance penalty, and that you are free to use those absences for whatever purpose you wish – inclusive of potentially triggering material.

Contact and office hours:

I encourage you to come by office (Elm 103) hours (Wednesdays, 1:00-6:00 or by appointment) to check in during the term – feel free to discuss concerns or progress towards your final project, or to ask questions about things we have covered in class. Please plan to come see me sometime during the first two weeks of class to touch base, say hello and talk over any expectations or anxieties you have about the class.

I can be reached by e-mail during normal business hours (9-5, m-f), and will generally respond to e-mails received during those hours within 24 hours of receipt. I will strive for, but cannot guarantee speedy responses outside of those times.

I am usually in my office (barring meetings) during the day.  Before treking over to Elm, check shrouta.youcanbook.me to see if I am free/book a meeting.


Academic honesty:

Integrity and honor, as exemplified by the honor code are the college’s most fundamental commitment. Plagiarism of any kind will be penalized to the fullest possible extent. There is no mitigating circumstance, ever, for plagiarism.

Whenever you draw upon somebody else’s words or ideas to make a point, give them credit. The most common causes of plagiarism are not deliberate dishonesty. Often it is careless note-taking. Make sure that in your notes you distinguish clearly your thoughts on the reading and the words you have copied from a secondary source. Waiting too long to do the research and the stress and confusion that may result from that rush to finish may produce mistakes that in public represent the most serious violation of academic values. You are, therefore, strongly encouraged to start assignments well in advance of the deadline. If you are uncertain about how to deal with a question of fair credit, ask me. You are also encouraged to consult writing center tutors if you have writing questions.


You are expected to write formally for formal assignments.  While your citations may ultimately take a range of forms (i.e. hyperlinking to a digital book page, hover text with Chicago Style citations) you will nevertheless be required to master historical citation style, and writing conventions.

Good writing is central to clear communication – whether on paper or in the digital realm. That includes the questions of form, and it certainly concerns good grammar. For help with writing, please review the writing and style guide posted on the course website, and visit the Writing Center at Chambers Building, North Basement, Room B039. Website: http://sites.davidson.edu/ctl/students/tutoring/writing/. Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 2-4pm and 8-11pm

Late Assignments:

Late assignments lose 1/3 of a grade per day. E.g., a B paper submitted the morning after it was due, will receive a B-. Assignments handed in more than 72 hours late will receive an F.


I am happy to look at one draft per assignment, but in order to get my comments you must come to meet with me in person.   I will look at drafts sent to me by the MONDAY before the assignment is due, and meet with you during my normal office hours on Wednesdays.


You will be required to acquire some technical skills for this class. I have designed the course assuming little technical experience, but I will expect you to experiment with new tools, learn new technical skills, and develop the ability to find answers to technical questions on your own (though I will be available to help out!) Some tools will be useful your project, while others will not – but you should come to class prepared to try them with enthusiasm and an open mind.

Working (and sometimes failing) in public:

Some of your work for this course will be posted to a private class blog, but other work will be publicly available. Working in public, trying out new ideas, and responding to critique allows others to learn about what we do as digital historians, comment on what we do, and offer help when needed. Such writing requires the author to risk putting their ideas out into the public domain, but also makes possible the reward of writing for an audience beyond me and your peers in the class.


Attendance and Participation (you must pass this category to pass the course)


Forum posts (you must pass this category to pass the course)


Artifact (you must mass this category to pass the course)


Creative (you must pass this category to pass the course)


Theory (you must pass this category to pass the course)


Revised assignment (you must pass this category to pass the course)


Performing Parts submission


 Final grade equivalencies:





















Attendance and Participation

These policies take effect from the first day of class, regardless of when you begin attending the course. For example, if the first time you attend class is during the second week of the semester, you will have already been marked absent from two class meetings.

This is a collaborative and project-driven class. Class participation—inclusive of attendance, careful preparation and collaboration outside of the physical classroom—constitute one of its most important elements. In consequence, your learning depends upon your regular, informed and thoughtful participation in discussion, projects and blog posts. In order to participate fully you must have completed all readings or assignments before class.

You are permitted up to three absences during the semester, and at your own discretion. There is no excused/unexcused absences policy – each of you gets to decide which three classes you wish to miss. More than three absences will likely impact your final grade, and more than seven absences will cause you to fail the course. Regardless of your reason for missing a class, you will be responsible for the material covered that day.

I understand that speaking in class can be a stressful or daunting experience for some students, so I expect that everyone contribute to making the classroom a comfortable and respectful intellectual environment in which everyone can participate. If you have anxiety about public speaking, please arrange a meeting with me ASAP.

You will be assessed for participation for each class meeting.  On days when we are doing collaborative work, your participation will consist of talking to your colleagues.  On days with lectures or whole-class discussion, your participation will consist of comments made to the whole class.  Your participation scores will be averaged over the semester.

Attends and actively participates = 100 points

Attends but does not contribute = 75 points

Does not attend = 0 points

Forum responses

Throughout the semester, you will be asked to write SEVEN 250~500 word response to the class’s readings, themes, and SEVEN responses your colleagues’ work.  These will be posted to the private course blog (this means that you should tag these posts using the “private” category.  If you do not do so, they will not turn up on the course blog and you will not get credit for them). 

For these posts, you will be divided into groups.  For each class, the individuals in one group will be required to post in response to the assigned readings. These should substantively summarize and critique the reading, but need not (indeed, should not) be exhaustive.  Pick one aspect of the reading and ruminate on it. Posts are due by MIDNIGHT on the day before class.  

The individuals in another group will be required to post, and to SUBSTANTIVELY engage with something that a colleague wrote for that day’s class.  This means, at a minimum, linking to a colleague’s post.  Do not simply summarize what your colleague has said - respond specifically.  Also remember that this is a community of scholars, so make these responses constructive rather than adversarial.  Responses are due by NOON the day of class.  So, for Tuesday classes, posts must be up by Monday at midnight, responses must be up by Tuesday at noon.  For Thursday classes, posts must be up by Wednesday at midnight, responses must be up by Thursday at noon.  This should give me and your colleagues enough time to read the posts and responses

Each week, one group will have one class “off” from posting, but this does NOT mean that you are not responsible for the readings.

This blog is meant to be a conversation amongst scholars (you and your peers), but is also a space where you should feel free to test out new ideas and concepts. Feel free to include images, music, video, or references to current events in these responses. You are both permitted and encouraged to post other items of interest.

Through these responses, you will develop the skills necessary to critically read texts and react to methodologies. These blog responses might identify and comment on the central questions that inform the readings, convey your impressions, likes, dislikes about the readings or convey your impressions, likes and dislikes about the class’s theme, or chart progress towards your final project. These responses are meant to be informal, to get you thinking about the theme for the week or class, and to keep a log of your progress throughout the class. They are also designed to foster critical thinking.

Your assessment for these posts will be binary – 100 points if you complete a post, 0 points if you do not. If you post more than you are scheduled to, excess blog posts will be counted as replacements for missed classes. If you post fewer than the times you are scheduled to, any missing posts will be counted as a 0, and CANNOT be made up.  Your post scores will be averaged, and will together comprise twenty percent of your final grade.

Major assignments:

You will have three major assignments over the course of the semester.  They are all due on Fridays, by 5 PM.  Each will each be equivalent to a 5-7 page papers.  Longer descriptions of these assignments will be posted on the course site.

The first will ask you to contextualize an historically-specific artifact about gender and technology in terms of our readings to date as well as outside readings.  

The second will ask you to imaginatively engage with the histories of gender, technology, and domesticity by producing a piece of heavily annotated non-academic writing, art, math or computing that imaginatively contextualizes the experience of a person at the intersection of the histories of gender and technology.  This piece should identify the person you are investigating, articulate the methodology for investigating that person, and make some claim about that person’s life.

The third asks for a synthesis of what we’ve learned, how the ideas and theories of the course can be brought to bear on your own experience of technology, and for a review of the dominant themes of your blog posts as well as of the course as a whole.

At the end of the class, you will present on a revised and substantially developed assignment of your choice.  

All of these will be posted to the PUBLIC course blog, which will serve as a record of the intellectual work of the course.

Performing Parts - A Conference about Media, Gender and Technology

On April 1st and 2nd Davidson College will be hosting a conference on gender, media and technology.  In those two days, there will be a variety of activities to challenge students to think across disciplines and collaborate in new ways. The work with be grounded in seminars and workshops led by scholars and artists that are each anchored by a group of fifteen student participants. In order to take part, students must submit abstracts for a particular seminar or workshop on one of the organizing themes of the conference: Digital Performance, Social Staging, or Embodied Enactment.

For this class, each of you will be required to write and submit one-page documents (thesis articulations for seminars and artist statements for workshops), which, if accepted, will be pre-circulated to the entire group. If you are accepted, conference attendance will count in lieu of one reading response and one response to a colleague.

A note on scheduling:

This class does not quite fit the “cloistered work” model that often characterizes classes at Davidson. Digital history (and indeed, many tasks in your lives after college) often require something different: collaboration among group members who bring different intellectual and technical skills to interdisciplinary projects. This class will occasionally require you to work with your colleagues, devise a plan for distributing responsibilities, and sharing credit.

You will also have an opportunity to select which weeks you’ll be writing response papers, and will have leeway in selecting time slots for some assignments.

As a result, your workload and pace of work might differ from that of your colleagues and collaborators. Depending upon group work and how you schedule your responses, you might have to work with greater intensity early in the semester, or to provide support for other colleagues later in the semester.

All of this is a long way of saying that you will have a substantial amount of control over when during the semester you will be busiest, and I encourage you to plan accordingly.

A note on support:

There are many people at Davidson with different levels of historical and digital expertise.  If you have questions about digital projects, you are strongly encouraged to come by the digital open office hours, which will be held in Studio D on Fridays (times TBD) and digital lunches, which are in Commons on Fridays (times TBD).

PART I: Introductions and Structures









Introduction to the Course/ Domains



Why study gender and technology?

Donna Haraway. “A Cyborg Manifesto” in Simians, Cyborgs and Women.  (34 pages)

Introduction. Has Feminism Changed Science? (18 pages)




A (brief) introduction to gender and sexuality studies

Judy Wajcman.  “Male Designs on Technology” in TechnoFeminism (22 pages)

Judith Butler.  “‘Women’ as the Subject of Feminism,” “Gender: The Circular Ruins of Contemporary Debate,” Gender Trouble. (20 pages)

Scott, Joan W., “Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis,” in

American Historical Review

91:5 (1986): 1053-1075 (24 pages)

Come up with URL for your Davidson Domain.

Fill out the statement of interest form at domains.davidson.edu



A (brief) introduction to the history of science

Thomas Kuhn.  The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (excrepts)

Share the URL for your subdomain containing a wordpress site for this course, as well as URLs for RSS feeds for private and public categories.  Use this google form.

Style your blog.

Write a test post (very short – can even be “hello world”) in each of the post categories

PART II: Gamergate – or – Why are technological spaces gendered?






Ladies on the Internet




Adrienne Massanari. “#Gamergate and The Fappening: How Reddit’s algorithm, governance, and culture support toxic technocultures” in new media & society

Nina Huntermann. “Introduction: feminist game studies” in ada: a journal of gender, new media & technology 

Group A Posts/Group B Responds



Women on Wikipedia

Maria Elvira Callapez and Vanessa Silva. “Beyond the Academy – Histories of Gender and Knowledge” in Icon.  Vol. 20, No. 2 (2014), pp. 166-172 (6 pages)

“Art+Feminism’s 2015 Wikipedia Edit-a-thon Adds 334 Articles on Female Artists”

Group B Posts/ Group C responds

Coding and Breaking



Alan Turing

Watch Breaking the Code (on YouTube) also on reserve (90 minutes)

Group C Posts/ Group A Responds



Alan Turing

Turing’s Cathedral (excerpts)

Group A Posts/Group B Responds

Intermediate spaces






Harry Houdini

John F. Kasson. “The Manly Art of Escape” in Houdini, Tarzan and the Perfect Man pp. 77-156 (80 pages)

Group B Posts/ Group C responds


GenderTech artifact selection, due to the PUBLIC WRITING site

The (Female) Origins of Computing


Performing Parts one-pager due



The Astronomers of Harvard

“To Embrace or Decline Marriage and Family” in The Madame Curie Complex (28 pages)

Rossiter, Margaret W. "Women's Work" in Science, 1880-1910." Isis (1980): 381-398. (17 pages)

Group C Posts/ Group A Responds



Ada Lovelace

Alison Winter. “A Calculus of Suffering: Ada Lovelace and the Bodily Constraints on Women's Knowledge in Early Victorian England” in Science Incarnate: Historical Embodiments of Natural Knowledge (38 pages)

Abbate, Janet. "Guest Editor's Introduction: Women and Gender in the History of Computing." IEEE Annals of the History of Computing 4 (2003): 4-8. (5 pages)

Group A Posts/Group B Responds


GenderTech artifact assessment.  Find an artifact of some aspect of the relationship between gender and technology (i.e. the Zoe Quinn post) and contextualize it in terms of THREE course readings and TWO additional readings.

PART III: Technologies of the Domestic – or – Why do some things count as tech when others don’t?






Domestic Technology



Julia Child

“Assistants, Housekeepers and Interchangeable Parts” in The Madame Curie Complex (introduction to the section - pp. 11-20) (10 pages)

“The feminist and the cook: Julia Child, Betty Friedan and domestic femininity” in Gender and Consumption : Domestic Cultures and the Commercialisation of Everyday Life (18 pages)

Group B Posts/ Group C responds



Lilian Gilbreth

“Making Science Domestic and Domesticity Scientific” in The Madame Curie Complex (36 pages)

Group C Posts/ Group A Responds

2/26/16 - by 5 PM

Creative project identification.  Write a few sentences (posted to the private blog) about what you might do for your “un-paper” assignment.  







Schedule a meeting to talk about your creative project.




Grace Murray Hopper

“The Cult of Masculinity in the Age of Heroic Science” in The Madame Curie Complex (13 pages)

Goyal, Amlta. "Women in computing: historical roles, the perpetual glass ceiling, and current opportunities." Annals of the History of Computing, IEEE 18.3 (1996): 36-42. (6 pages)

Group A Posts/Group B Responds


If you have not already been, visit the exhibit in the VAC.  One of the artists will be coming to class on Thursday.



Dorothea Lange

Gordon, Linda. "Dorothea Lange: The photographer as agricultural sociologist." The Journal of American History 93, no. 3 (2006): 698-727. (29 pages)

Sandweiss, Martha A. "Image and artifact: The photograph as evidence in the digital age." The Journal of American History 94, no. 1 (2007): 193-202. (10 pages)

Group B Posts/ Group C responds

3/11/16 - by 5 PM

Submit an annotated rubric for your “un-paper” project.

Gendered medicine



Hysteria and vibrators

“A Job Nobody Wanted” and “Female Sexuality as Hysterical Pathology” from The Technology of Orgasm (47 pages)

Group C Posts/ Group A Responds



Florence Nightingale

Mary Poovey. “A Housewifely Woman: The Social Construction of Florence Nightingale” in Uneven Developments (35 pages)

Group A Posts/Group B Responds

3/18/16 - by 5 PM

Creative engagement with themes of gender and technology

PART IV: Writing histories of gender and technology – or – why did a recent book on the history of Science contain no women?






Women and tech in the 20th century



Frances Allen

“Women in Science” in Has Feminism Changed Science? (46 pages)


Frances Allen’s Turing Award Citation

Group B Posts/ Group C responds



Sally Ride

Foster, Amy. 2008. “The Gendered Anniversary: The Story of America's Women Astronauts”. The Florida Historical Quarterly 87 (2)

Group C Posts/ Group A Responds






Preparing for Performing Parts

“Gender in the Cultures of Science” in Has Feminism Changed Science? (40 pages)


Read back through your blog posts.  Identify three or four themes that you have explored thus far.



Marie Curie

“Biology” in Has Feminism Changed Science? (15 pages)

“Madame Curie’s American Tours” in The Madame Curie Complex (30 pages)

Group A Posts/Group B Responds



Margaret Sanger

Tone, Andrea. "Making room for rubbers: Gender, technology, and birth control before the pill." History and technology 18, no. 1 (2002): 51-76. (25 pages_


Look over Margaret Sanger Papers Project. Margaret Sanger and The Woman Rebel (digital edition) 

Group B Posts/ Group C responds

4/8/16 - BY 5 PM

Pick one theme that you are going to elucidate for your literature review - Private blog

Where are the Women in the History of Science?



Caroline Hershel

Review the Table of Contents of The Herschel Chronicle: The Life-Story of William Herschel And His Sister Caroline Herschel

“Caroline Herschel As Observer”

Group C Posts/ Group A Responds



Unsung women of science

“Conclusion” in Has Feminism Changed Science? (16 pages)

4/15/16 - BY 5 PM

Submit assessment of one of the themes of the course, citing FIVE things we have read thus far.

(Follow the prompt here)


PART V: Wrapping up – or – what have we learned?








State of the Field

“American Women and Science in Transition” in The Madame Curie Complex (50 pages)

Everyone posts something (one sentence) that they found interesting about the reading.



State of the Field

Nina E. Lerman.  “Categories of Difference, Categories of Power: Bringing Gender and Race into the History of Technology” in Technology and Culture

Everyone posts a response (one paragraph) about where they would like to see the field move next.




Come to class with some idea of what your final project will be.



Self-directed work - I will be on hand to answer questions if need be






Final project due for seniors


Final project due for everyone else

[1] The structure of this course was inspired by Caleb McDaniel’s “Backwards Survey.”  When putting together the content of the class, I drew on Gender and Technology syllabi from MIT, University of Mary Washington, UMass Amherst, and others from the Women’s Caucus of the History of Science Society’s syllabus project.