Tag Archives: digital methods

Mapping reprotechnologies and feminist mobilisations, FWSA 2013

2013-06-22 11.25.54.jpg

Music & Liberation Project (photo from the excibition at the conference venue)

At the FWSA 2013 conference today, I presented some findings from research that I have conducted, which maps feminist actors mobilising around ethical, social and political aspects of reproductive technologies.

For this research I used digital methods (Rogers) and focused on the 2011 consultation by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). Of particular interest to me was the payment for donors, a policy under review proposed by the consultation.The media analysis and network analysis of the consultation offers an understanding of public engagement with reproductive technologies, and the specificities of feminist interventions in particular.  In this paper I examined:

1) The dominant issues in three spheres (feminists, news, policy). I compared these issues once for ‘HFEA compensation’ and once for ‘egg donation’, across spheres and determined their specificity per sphere.

2) Construction of donor and the construction of ‘egg donation’ in public discourse and imagery.

This is complemented with research on (I did not present these findings):

3) Issue network of consultation, which provides the connections and linking behaviour of main actors (feminists, policy actors, NGOs, independent intellectuals, news/bloggers).

4) Construction of expertise of feminist academic actors (around the themes of reprotechnologies and egg donation), by analysing the status of publications and their influence, in comparison to science publications.

5) Close reading of commentary on a feminist guest blog about compensation, which analyses the dominant issues and identities that readers/commentators occupy.

The theoretical framework of this research is informed by conceptualisations of reproductive labour, clinical labour and biovalue (Dickenson 2002, Waldby and Cooper 2008; 2010), and methodologically by digital sociology and Actor network theory (ANT) (see Marres 2012, Scraping the social, Latour and Wiebel 2005 Making things public).

I am writing up this research at the moment.

In Nottingham, I also attended this excellent panel on Cultural Memory and Transformation on Saturday.

EDIT: This is how the FWSA blog summarised my paper:

Dr Aristea Fotopoulou (University of Sussex), “Reprotechnologies and feminist mobilisations: Mapping with digital methods”

Dr Fotopoulou presented findings from her current research mapping actors and feminist mobilisations within online discourses on reproductive technologies. The starting point for the research was the 2011 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) consultation on compensation for egg donors. Egg donation is classed in the same category as all forms of ‘tissue donation’ (including sperm donation), which restricts payments to compensation for the loss of earnings and expenses (this amount was increased to £750 from £250 following the consultation). The impetus for the review was framed around a discourse of scarcity of eggs, with eggs constructed as something that limits women’s fertility treatment in Britain. From a Marxist analysis, this can be understood in terms of the creation of a need, shifting towards the construction of egg donation as part of an industry. Employing a digital sociology approach, ‘scraping’ websites for relevant content, Dr Fotopoulou conducted a media analysis of news stories, feminist blogs and policy websites to explore the ways in which discussions about egg donation were framed in relation to this consultation. She looked at who the main actors in the discussions were, how the issues were represented visually and how the dominant imaginary constructed the egg donor. She was in particular interested in how feminists constructed the issues and their influence on the debate. Her results highlighted how policy documents focused mainly on issues related to travel expenses and overseas travel, while feminist discussions also covered issues more broadly related to the law, women’s health, and politics of reproductive technologies more generally. When scraping for images, the dominant representations of egg donation featuring living ‘things’ (as opposed to those which featured medical images or technology), tended to feature babies and (chicken) eggs (including babies emerging from chicken eggs). When women were pictured, they were mostly posed together with babies and families, rarely on their own. And in terms of the HFEA’s own discourse, Dr Fotopoulou found that it did not make women’s labour visible at all in the process of egg donation, dismissing the invasiveness of sourcing procedures.

Digifem conference odyssey and other adventures

EDIT 22 July:

The digifem Doctoral conference I organised with Laurence happened on the 5th of July and it was good – we got lots of good feedback, lots of love and hugs – new faces and exciting projects, all in one day’s programme. Some people said this was pretty intense and felt a bit squashed at times – and I too would have appreciated a bit more space for discussion.

Anne Welsh wrote a review about the day in the UCL Digital Humanities blog – and eagerly tweeted along with Karen and Catherine Redfern (f-word, one of the invited keynote speakers) during the day as well (the archive of the tweets here).

I am particularly sensitive to Adi’s critique of the day (Adi Kuntsman was one of the invited keynote speakers) as an event focused on white, middle-class, educated and gender-normative feminism. The scopes of the day were to give voice to interdisciplinarity, to talk about methods, and bring together researchers who are positioned as feminists in their work (this was also the idea behind the words ‘feminist approaches’ for me – Kate O’Riordan posed a question about how ‘feminist approaches’ can be equally essentialist to ‘feminist methods’). The Call for Papers went out to lists like the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR), Brighton and Sussex Sexuality Network (BSSN), Womens Studies, the Media, Cultural Studies and Communication Association (MeCCSA) and various other academic lists. It also went arount non-academic lists like the Feminist Activist Forum (about it ) and Feminist Fightback list and, I think,  it went out to the Queer Mutiny Brighton folk as well. I’m saying that we consciously tried to engage with a broad definition of ‘feminist’ – both academic and non-academic. It seems that this is not always succesful or perhaps different positions within feminism were not heard explicitly during the day. I think that asking what is  ‘feminist’ or ‘queer’  in approaches and methodologies is important, especially when these words operate as umbrella terms for a set of assumptions.

But I am also very uncomfortable with the characterisation ‘middle-class’ – to clarify, I understand and accept that Adi’s critique concerns the focus of the event, the kinds of feminism which were examined, and not persons. My uncomfortability is with ‘middle-class’ when this is used to describe all people involved in higher education or working within academia. Many of the speakers were unfunded students, many were non-british, and some were on benefits. It is important to be reflexive of our own privileges as researchers placed within the academy or/and as using Doctorate studies as a transition from working class to middle-class status. Still for some this transition takes longer than for others and for some it never actually happens. Sleeping in a hostel or desperately trying to find somebody to host you at their airbed so that you can attend a free-event (free food) and minimise costs (to travel expenses) while on a strict budget is a material reality for some Doctoral students during a minimum of three years. This kind of reality is difficult to grasp for middle class people – and it is the specificity of raciality and ethnicity that need to be accounted as well – middle class in greece and middle class in britain is a different set of conditions. I think that the tendency to name  educational events and cultures middle class actually performatively operates as an interpelation (see Judith Butler’s work on Athusser’s concept of interpellation) – it constructs the subjects it supposedly questions (middle class as tantamount to educated) and it makes working class, non-britishness and non-whiteness invisible.

Apart from feeling a bit invisible in terms of class and ethnicity, I feel happy to have met Zem Moffat and hear her talk about Mirror Mirror (I’ve written about this here last year) and ask her questions and also speed-date with her academically at the dinner in Planet India later. Sussex holds a copy of her film, and she told me there is a course on Shared Anthropology which will be including it in the student material. And I’m happy to have met Red (again) and hear her talk with enthusiasm about her PhD project on feminist memory .

I’ll soon complete a proper report for the event – which will be for the Sussex Doctoral School blog.

As for other adventures, Red kindly asked me for an interview and she even called me inspirational! Thanks Red, I may be grumpy about research blogs but I actually take this as an invitation to reconnect with my blog 🙂

And Kate O’Riordan revisits internet research ethics in a e-research ethics blog post where she draws

‘attention to mediation, to the relations between technologies, spaces, texts and people. My manifesto point is that importing one size fits all models of informed consent [which themselves have problematic provenance] – or assuming that human subjects do not appear – can both be failures to open up an ethical space. Conversely a close attention to the relations of internet research – and a relational account – could provide an opportunity to develop a more critical analysis of the current technocultural conjuncture’ (my emphasis).

Digital Methods, Cultural Politics and Feminist Approaches

Registration now open for Digital Methods, Cultural Politics and Feminist Approaches: A One – Day Graduate Conference

Monday 5 July 2010, 9 am- 6pm

Centre for Material Digital Culture, Media Film and Music, University of Sussex

This one-day conference will examine the intersections of digital methods, cultural politics and feminist theory. The conference will bring together Doctoral students as well as early career researchers working in media and cultural studies, gender studies, digital media, feminist science and technology studies, and queer studies.

Keynotes speakers: Adi Kuntsman, Catherine Redfern

Further information will be posted at here.

Download the programme here.

Attendance is free but spaces are limited. Advanced registration is necessary.

Please email a.fotopoulou@sussex.ac.uk with your name, affiliation and DIGIFEM in the subject line to reserve a place.