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Fall 2007

Volume 36
Number 2

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Women, Gender, and Technology


Women, Gender, and Technology, Eds. Mary Frank Fox, Deborah G. Johnson, and Sue V. Rosser (University of Illinois Press, 2006, $20.00 paperback)

Taking as its premise the co-creation thesis--that while gender informs the development of technology, technology simultaneously guides interpretations of gender--this multidisciplinary anthology probes the multivalent relationships between women and technology. Beginning with an excellent article by editor Sue V. Rosser on the ways different schools of feminism interpret the relationship between gender and technology, the anthology proceeds through a wide variety of subjects. These include women’s participation in the fields of engineering and technology, the implications of the “feminization of work in the information age,” the current status of the “digital divide,” the implications of genetic and reproductive technologies, and cultural uses of technology in film and religion.

As the first in a planned series on women and technology, this volume succeeds in opening an expansive and promising discussion about an intensively interdisciplinary topic. The selected articles aptly illustrate the range of questions that lie at the intersections of the title’s three named elements. While particular articles will appeal to people working in certain disciplines (medicine, literary studies, the burgeoning field of science and technology studies), the collection proves the inadequacy of examining women and technology through a single lens. Fox, Johnson, and Rosser have laid the groundwork for essential conversations and opened the door for continued inquiry.


Among the Stars: The Life of Maria Mitchell


Among the Stars: The Life of Maria Mitchell, by Margaret Moore Booker (Mill Hill Press, 2007, $59.95 cloth)

Maria Mitchell, popularly regarded as the first female professional astronomer in the United States, rose from humble roots in Nantucket, Massachusetts to become (as this volume’s subtitle proclaims her) “Astronomer, Educator, and Women’s Rights Activist.” Encouraged by her parents to pursue her interest in astronomy, Mitchell gained worldwide fame by identifying a previously-unknown comet in 1847. This discovery led to a part-time job collecting astronomical data for the American Nautical Almanac, election as the first female member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and eventual appointment as first professor of astronomy at the fledgling Vassar College. Mitchell built on her professional success to campaign for women’s educational and professional rights, advocating with particular vigor for increased opportunities for women in the sciences.

Drawing on an array of key resources, including personal correspondence, travel journals, and newspapers, Booker paints Mitchell’s portrait with a steady hand and an eye for realism. Through her extensive compendium of sources she to fleshes out, as fully as possible, this key figure in American science and education, making Mitchell’s personality and accomplishments accessible to the modern reader. In recounting the circumstances of Mitchell’s travels and scientific pursuits, she hearkens to the past, while simultaneously reminding readers that many of the rights for which Mitchell advocated--equal pay, educational access, and institutional endowment--remain unfulfilled more than a century later. Her portrait of Mitchell is an excellent tribute and a reminder of the work still to be done.

 



Technology and Diversity in Higher Education: New Challenges

Technology and Diversity in Higher Education: New Challenges, Ed. Yukiko Inoue (Information Science Publishing, 2007, $89.95 hardcover)

Yukiko Inoue’s collection of articles confronts two challenges facing higher education today: increasing levels of diversity among student populations, and the need to translate investments in information technology into effective teaching and learning tools.The book questions whether, and how, educators can tackle these two challenges in tandem. Individual articles range from cautionary warnings of the unintended consequences that arise as educators increasingly rely on digital media (e.g., Schreiner’s “Scanners and Readers: Digital Literacy and the Experience of Reading”) to detailed accounts of how particular schools have developed, implemented, and followed up on their technology-based efforts (e.g., Stoicovy and Sanchez’s “Crossing the Digital Divide: Online Portfolios in a Diverse Student Environment”).

In aggregate, these articles suggest that technology can help bring meaningful learning experiences to diverse populations of students. However, they also caution that technology can be counterproductive to educational goals, sometimes encouraging detrimental practices such as scanning (instead of literary reading) or internet addiction. Through case studies offering practical guidance in managing potential pitfalls, the collection provides valuable information to anyone confronted with the dual challenge of increasing diversity and while responding to rapid technological change.The collection calls institutions of higher education to be mindful and deliberate when incorporating technological advances on their campuses and into their curricula.

 


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