Irish publishes on history of Illinois WITS group

irish_croppedIn 1991, a group of scholars on the University of Illinois Urbana campus came together to form the Women, Information Technology and Scholarship (WITS) group to explore how issues of gender, race, and class were interwoven in emerging information technologies. This group was hosted at GSLIS in its final two years (1996-1998) and former GSLIS dean Leigh Estabrook was an active member.

Sharon Irish, project coordinator in the Center for Digital Inclusion, has researched the history of the WITS group and published her findings in an open-access digital magazine, Technology’s Stories, an initiative of the Society for the History of Technology. Her piece, “Hierarchies in the Circuitry: Women, Information Technology and Scholarship (WITS) at Illinois” puts into context the creation of the group as well as the lasting impact it has had on scholarship at Illinois.

“Technology changes so fast, and therefore we tend to think that we are the first ones to tackle an issue related to social implications of networked systems. But, really, social hierarchies continue through the decades, and others have challenged them before us. Their support structures and strategies are important for us to remember, so that we can build on their hard work and adapt the lessons they learned to the ever-shifting socio-technical landscape. We have to continue to name the inequities and connect them to other forms of inequality, while we implement better ways to work together,” said Irish.

Irish also organized a video conversation with four former WITS members including Jenny Barrett, Estabrook, Gail Hawisher, and Angharad Valdivia. The video is a contribution to the archive being collected by FemTechNet of video dialogues with leaders in feminism and technology. Irish serves on the steering committee of FemTechNet and co-taught a course “Dialogues on Feminism and Technology” in the fall of 2013. The course was a Distributed Open Collaborative Course (DOCC) taught at 15 institutions in the fall of 2013.

Reposted courtesy of GSLIS news:

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