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Feminism and Constructivism: Do Artifacts Have Gender?

Author(s): Anne-Jorunn Berg and Merete Lie Reviewed work(s): Source: Science, Technology, & Human Values, Vol. 20, No. 3, Special Issue: Feminist and Constructivist Perspectives on New Technology (Summer, 1995), pp. 332-351 Published by: Sage Publications, Inc. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/690019 . Accessed: 05/07/2012 07:47
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Feminism Constructivism: and Do Artifacts HaveGender?


Anne-Jorunn Berg Universityof Trondheim Merete Lie Regional College of Sor-Trondelag

This article explores possibilities for establishing dialogues between feminism and constructivismin the field of technologystudies. Based on an overview of Norwegian feminist debates about technology, it indicates several points where feminism and constructivismmeet and can mutuallybenefitfrom each other. The article critically examinesfeministstudiesquestioningtheproblemsof technologicaldeterminism, social determinism,and essentialism. It criticizes constructivism a lack of concern for for gender and politics but holds that it is still possible to use theoretical tools from constructivismin feminist analyses. Fruitful dialogues require the application of the to principle of symmetry the dialogues and sharing some commongroundand mutual recognitionof each other'sstrengthsand weaknesses.

The "new"constructivist sociology of technologypromisesa bettergrasp As of the complexitiesof technologicaldevelopment.1 feministresearchers, we see this as an interestingchallengealso to the emergingfield of feminist researchon technology.The aim of this articleis to explore the possibilities of establishingdialoguesbetweenfeminismandconstructivism. base our We reflectionsandsuggestionson ourown experiencesof workingwith feminist technology studies in Norway since 1980, which by the end of the 1980s led us to constructivism.2
AUTHORS' NOTE: This article refers to the authors'experiences within the Women and Technology research group of the Foundationfor Scientific and IndustrialResearch at the NorwegianInstituteof Technology(SINTEF),Institutefor Social Researchin Industry(IFIM), Trondheim,Norway.The authorsemphasizethat the "we"used in the accountof the group's of history is, of course, only two members' interpretation what took place. The other four membersof the group, Hj0rdisKaul, Elin Kvande,Bente Rasmussen,and KnutH. S0rensen, voice in this articleaboutourhistory.We are heavily in debt to all four for have no independent for inspirationand many fruitfuldiscussions. We also thankAnn RudinowSaetnan her helpful suggestionsand carefulreadingof our Norwegianattemptsto write English. 1995 332-351 Vol. & Values, 20 No.3, Summer Science, Technology, Human ? 1995SagePublications Inc.
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Feminist researchlooks for changes in genderrelationships.Because we take feminism as ourpoint of departure, areconcernedwith the possibiliwe ties for changein genderedsocial structures thuswith thepoliticalaspects and of constructivism. roleof "politics" areemergingtopic of debatewithin The is constructivismas well as in feminist studies (Bijker 1993; Cockburnand Ormrod1993; Law and Bijker 1992; Wajcman1991). Is constructivisma useful theoretical approach given the feminist perspective of political Winner's(1985) question-"Do artifactshave change?Thus we paraphrase politics?"-in genderedterms: "Do artifactshave gender?"More recently, Winner (1993) has criticized constructivismfor its lack of politics, for neglecting the social consequences of specific technologies, for lack of concernfor groupsotherthanthe powerful,andfor being inherentlyconservative. In discussing feminismandconstructivism, however,we find it futile to rely on general characterizations and to reject an extensive research traditionon thatbasis. We shareWinner'spolitical critiqueof technological determinism,but his critique of constructivismoften seems to confuse a critiqueof theory with a critiqueof practices.We agree that constructivists generally have neglected politics and gender, but rather than merely criticizing their practices, we also examine their theoretical concepts to see what they might offer to feministresearchers. borrowanotherphrase To from the debate,we let "feminismconfront constructivism" 1991) (Wajcman with our feministquestionsbasedon a Scandinavian to approach technology studies. Technology is traditionallyregarded as a male activity and arena. In engineering,the linkbetweenhumansandmachineshasbeen studiedin terms of "man-machine" systems. Feminist researchhas shown that these manmachinesystems still exist as masculinedialogues(Cockburn Furst-Dilic and 1994), and they are reiteratedwithin the social studies of technology. Can to offer tools for constructivism,as a counterpart technologicaldeterminism, a betterunderstanding changein these relationships of wherethe dominance of men and masculinityare so persistent? To address these rather complicated questions, we examine our own encounter with constructivism.We use our own experiences as feminist studentsof technology because we find it important begin with feminist to questions and ask whetherconstructivismcan contributeto a betterunderstandingof the gender and technology relationship.We do not want to let constructivismset the agenda,nordo we wantto end up with anothergeneral critiqueof constructivism.However,we want to take seriously the feminist epistemological claim that knowledge production is situated (Haraway 1991). By trying to be open, self-reflexive, and personal by pointing to paradoxesin our own research,we attemptto make the process visible.

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in Duringthe 1980s, we were "situated" a WomenandTechnologygroup atthe Institutefor Social Researchin Industry (IFIM),doingcontractresearch mainly for the Ministry of Work and the Norwegian Research Councils.3 IFIM is partof the Foundationfor Scientific and IndustrialResearchat the Norwegian Institute of Technology (SINTEF), one of the larger private technical research organizationsin Europe. Because SINTEF is closely involved in researchcooperationwith the NorwegianInstituteof Technology (NTH), the main educationalinstitutionfor civil engineers in Norway, our group was located in "the belly of the beast."Technologyhas always been centralwithinIFIM'sresearch.Ourresearchwas rootedin the Scandinavian traditionof democracyat work but was also inspiredby the British labor In process approach. technology studies,democracyat workbecameparticipatory workplacedesign and regulationof technology, and much research was done in cooperationwith tradeunions. The emergingfield of women's studies, at that time in a close dialogue with the women's movementwithin which we were also active, served as ourothersourceof inspiration.At first our researchquestions were conceived in the women's movement and were in formulated accordancewith the conditionslaid down by feminist politics. Wetriedto sharewith otherwomenourcuriosityandconcernfor technology. The history of the group can be described briefly as starting with the question (from 1981), "What are the impacts of new technologies on women's lives?," and ending with the question (from 1992), "Do artifacts have gender?"The two questions highlight two changes in our research orientation: first, our discussion shifted from women to genderand, second, we moved from studying mainly consequences to addressingthe broader of field of the genderization technologies.Examplesfrom our own research show that some of the Scandinavian debates ran parallel to the development of what we now call constructivism (Cronberg 1986; Lie et al. 1988). The questionswe raisedten years ago are still relevant,but can they be posed more clearly and answered better from within a constructivist approach? Women and Technology: The Same Old Questions? When we startedour researchon women and technology,we found that we were at the junction of two researchtraditionsthat did not point in the same direction. On the one hand, research on women and work seldom focused on the relationshipbetween women, the content of their work, and the technologies they used; it instead exanined the relationshipbetween

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work and home. Technology studies, on the other hand, analyzed either design processes or the impactof new technologies on workingconditions. Thesestudiesinvestigated placeswherethere mainlyleading-edgeindustries, was a lot of new technology but few women. As feminist researchers interestedin women andtechnology,we had the ambitionto bringthe theme of technologyinto women's studiesandthe themeof genderinto technology studies. We were interestedin new technologiesbecausethey offeredan opportunity to study change. Studyingtechnologicaldevelopmentmeant studying social change, and it was obvious to us that the field of social studies of technologyincludedthepossibilitiesof studyingchangesin genderrelations. How did we understand technology at the time? We quote from a paper presentedat a Norwegiannationalconferenceof women's researchin 1981. is "has" Whathas to be decided whether technology specificconsequences (Blauner),whetherspecific consequencesare "built into" technology whether on or, (Braverman), as analternative, depend howone consequences over theories usestechnology whohasinfluence howit is used.Wereject and on that they are poorly determinism the grounds involvingtechnological substantiated. et al. 1983,7) (Lie When looking back, we must admitthatour wish to confronttechnological determinismseemed to be strongerthan our arguments.However, our uneasiness about it was one of the main reasons for our future interest in constructivism.Ourreasoningabouttechnologicaldeterminism continued. involvea narrow [Theories determinism] involving technological theoryof that into socialandeconomic technological development doesnottake account factors.However,we will not go to the otherextremeand maintain that has in effectsondevelopments working Wefeel life. technology no explicable as it is bestconsidered anintermediate rather a causal than variable, variable, so thatit still has an explanatory value.We holdtechnology be an indeto of factor,butit is one amonga number factorswhoseimportance pendent to varies.Itis therefore of significant studytheconsequences technological while avoidingtreatingtechnologyin isolation.(Lie et al. development 1983,7) Our aim was to study women and technology in different contexts: educational institutions, work organizations,housework, and leisure. We wantedto shed light on women's use of existing technologiesratherthando more empiricalresearchon women's general lack of access to technology. We wantedto show that women handledtechnologies actively and competo tently.It was important study women as studentsof technicalsubjectsand as professionalsworkingwith technologies and to focus on women's use of technologiesat home andin the workplace.We saw an increasein the number

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of women in technical educations and professions as a road to equality, and we worked for this aim politically as well as in our research. Another strategy aimed to empower women within different industries where they feared being "left behind by the technological development." Our strategy was to use our research to make their tasks and skills visible, thus making women see their own importance. We tried to impart this knowledge through different channels by speaking, writing, and setting up trade union training courses directed specifically to female audiences. We believed that a better understanding of the relationship between women and technology must be based on data from different contexts, and our critique of technology studies of the time followed from this belief. The greatestweaknessof muchof technologystudiesis the generalizednature of its formulations. life Working is viewed as one. However,theresultsof more specific studies of a particular problem,one individualbranchor workplace, presentmany nuances.The general conclusions concerningdevelopmentsin working life are ultimatelybased on generalizationsfrom studies of those branchesof industrywhere the automatization processhas come furthest,that is, primarilythe processing and workshopindustries.These generalizations and the considerable interestin these branchesarebasedon the belief thatthey are the most technically advanced and thereforeare leading the way. It is, however, highly uncertainhow relevantthese results are to the development in female occupations.(Lie et al. 1983, 9) Our studies stressed the futility of generalizing from one context to another and from studies of certain technologies to statements about technological development in general. In the empirical studies within different fields, our main questions were as follows. of How can women influencethe developmentand implementation technologies in differentsettingsor locations? To what extent are women's attitudesto technology differentfrom those of men? How are skills in women's work influencedby changes in technology? Are there specific "hidden" or unrecognized skills within female-dominated occupations? work in the home Whatimpactsdo technologieshave on women's traditional or in everydaylife? Echoes of similar questions are still heard within feminist technology studies, although they are formulated differently today. The way we raised them clearly touches on the problem of essentialism, a question to which we return later.

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The heritage of the (Tavistock) socio-technical school meant that our studies were task oriented, stressing what people do as importantfor their experience of technology. Because of the sexual division of labor, women and men not only use different technologies but use the same kinds of technology differentlyand have unequalaccess to trainingand information. on Thus we needed studies more concentrated women's tasks and tools. We reanalyzedour earlierstudies of industrialwork focusing on differentpositions of men andwomenin relationto machines(Kaul 1988, S0rensen1988). We studied office computerizationand tele-working and found that the "office revolution"never took place because the intellectualefforts of office while the capacitiesof computerswere overworkerswere underestimated estimated(Lie andRasmussen1983, Lie 1988).We attempted demonstrate to thathouseholdtechnologieswere made to satisfy the wishes of male designers rather thanthose of womenhouseworkers (Berg 1988, 1994a).Westudied womencivil engineersanddiscoveredthattheywereveryclose to technology but confronted a hostile social environment(Kvande 1984, Kvande and Rasmussen 1990). Ourstudieswere also change oriented,andwe assumedthattechnologies were not to be takenfor granted.The social shapingof technology provided to an alternative technologicaldeterminism (MacKenzieandWajcman1985). Social shaping did not imply social determinism(such as always defining women as victims). Althoughourstudiesmainlyconcernedconsequencesof technical change within different fields for women, we emphasized that of technologies were not "given"and stressedthe importance userparticipation. Empiricalstudies of houseworkand tele-workshowed thattechnology was not necessarilyused to achieve specific social change (Lie et al. 1988). Severalof our studiesconcludedthatchangingtechnologiesinitiatea period of instabilityandprovidepossibilitiesfor social change,but we also saw that desirablechanges had to be initiatedby humanaction. We learnedfromthese studiesthateven if intentionswere to be bakedinto lead to the intended technology, they wouldstill not necessarily consequences. This way of thinkingabouttechnologyis relatedto the constructivistnotion of "interpretative flexibility"(PinchandBijker 1987), one of the most useful the of theoretical determinism conceptsforsubstantiating critique technological (Bijker 1993). This is also where Winner'scriticism goes wrong. It is not open to the kind of relativismthatwe considercrucialfor political action. Our efforts to define a gender-sensitiveconcept of technology were not successfulin the firstround(BergandRasmussen1983), but our particularly concernfor the possibilities of influencingtechnology clearedthe way for a strongerfocus on how technologies were made.

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Paths to Influence Women's possibilities to influence the processes of change was to us a main researchquestion. The Scandinaviantraditionof democracy at work was an interestingpath to explore as a possibility for improving women's to workingconditionsandattachment the labormarketandthustheirgeneral statusin society. When new technologiesareintroduced Norway,workersareentitledto in Since 1975, a special agreementbetween the nationalfederaparticipation. tion of unions (LO) and that of employers (NHO) allows employees to influence decisions concerningthe introduction new technologies. Local of unions can elect a specific shop stewardwho is responsiblefor technology issues. TheWorkEnvironment of 1977 mandates rightto information Act the on plans for new technologyand gives unionsthe rightto influenceconcerning health and safety. The law also gives each workerthe rightto variation and cooperationat work, and it emphasizesan active role for employees in improvingtheirown workingconditions.Workresearchers played an importantrole in the initiativesand in the formulationand implementationof the law. Workershave to influence on both the individualand collective levels, but they generallylacked knowledge of how to use the new possibilities of and co-determination hadlittle knowledgeof technology.Because the workers were active and motivated,we had audiencesand discussion partnersin our researchprojects. The Scandinavianresearchon technology and work suggested that to makeit possiblefor workersto influencetheimpactsof technologicalchange, one had to move "upstream," is, from where technology was appliedto that where it was designed (Elden et al. 1982). To implement the laws and for had agreements democracyat work,workers'participation to begin in the of the design process (Ehn 1988). We criticized the research early stages however, by pointing to the limitationsimplicit in its reliance on approach, thelinearmodel of innovation,which includedonly the phases of design and We implementation. arguedfor the inclusionof the phase afterimplementation, what today we would call the consumptionphase, to include users as in activeparticipants the process (Lie and Rasmussen 1983, 1990). Becausestudiesof technologygenerallyinvestigatedareasconsideredthe leadingedge of technicalchange,such as processingindustriesandengineering, women workers were not included. Moreover, when workers were included in the design process, the unions that were invited to participate were the strongestones (Nygaardand Bergo 1975, Ehn 1988). These were the male strongholdsof the labor movement. When we starteda study of we office computerization, decided to work in two parallelways. First, we

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studied the introductionof computers in the office and found that the female workforceand a genderedhierarchy were the reasons predominantly structure. why computerssimply were addedto a traditionalorganizational and Communication,interpretation, serving others were the main tasks of female office workers,and the skills they developed to performthese tasks were generallyconfusedwith feminine "natural abilities,"so thatthe importance of their tasks and skills remained invisible. Second, we used the knowledge we acquiredin tradeunion courses for women office workers. However,we kept the two initiativesapartand did not includeparticipatory design in our research.Why could this not be another"success" story of Scandinavian participatory design?Thewomenoffice workersarenotinvited to participate developersof the computersystems, andthe office workers' by unions are not powerfulenoughto set the agendafor participation. Because the skills of office workers are not valued as much as those of a labor aristocracyamong male industrialworkers,our initial work had to include an effortto substantiate makevisible the skills neededin women's work. and Such an initial step was not requiredin the other projects of participatory design. Today, women are present in office organizationsand hospitals where dramatictechnologicalchange is takingplace. But with constructivism,the focus of technology studies has moved another step "upstream" the to laboratories technicalinstitutes.Womenagainhave disappeared and fromthe "interesting"field of study as research has moved to new arenas where women are scarcely present (Berg 1994b). Why are women continuously "slippingaway"from the analyses?4

Feminist Social Determinism? Even within feminist researchduringthe 1980s, little attentionwas paid to technology.SOne of the reasons for this, we think, can be found in the traditionaldefinition of femininity as concernedwith the "soft"aspects of society. In Norway, the debate about "female culture" in the women's movement emphasizedthis. Technologywas identifiedas belonging to the "hard" aspects of society and thus considereda threatto female culture.In this sense, technology represented anotherdisguise for patriarchy-and just could be reducedto social power relations.Substantially helped by technothe logical determinism, pictureof technologyas an evil force of exploitation and destructionin the hands of men posed technology as the opposite of femininity,as somethingto attackratherthanto study.In this context,in our own critical explorationsof technology,we have tried to put an end to two

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myths: that women have little to do with technology and that women fear technology. Is it true that women have little to do with technology?When studying what is generallydefined as technology,one will find men as designers of technology, teachersof technical subjects, and participantsin political debates. In everyday life, men seem to tinker more with machines: cars, computers, and so on. As long as one does not question the concept of technology, this predominanceof men seems to substantiatethe view that women have little to do with technology. Following the relativist and/or reflexivistcritiquesof science, we hold thatthe theoriesandconcepts we use to answerourquestionsarealso socially constructed thus gendered.The and generallyaccepted,traditional concept of technology associatedtechnology with heavy and greasy machineryand, later,with new technologies such as of (S0rensenandBerg 1987).Thisunderstanding technology,with computers its masculine connotations,was also reflectedin the researchliterature.By includingtechnologiesconnectedto women's work, such as houseworkand office work, it became evident thatwomen had a lot to do with technology, butnot necessarilyin the same way as men.Thediscussionsaboutthe concept of technology are importantbecause technical artifacts used by mainly women tend to be excluded, reinforcingthe connectionbetween men, masculinity,and technology. Another widespread belief is that women fear technology because it values. Alternatively, women are said not to participate destroys"feminine" in technological design because they suffer from techno-fear.There are, however, better explanations.First, studies show that women are denied access to technologies andtechnicalcompetence(Kvande 1984; Rasmussen and Hapnes 1991). Second, machines and technical systems are designed accordingto the designers'expectationsaboutwomen users.A non-competentuseris often the point of departure well as the result(Lie 1985). Third, as studies of women civil engineers show that they are critical of the way technologyis taughtand the way certaintechnologiesaredesigned (Kvande 1988).Faced with technologiesthatdo not suit theirneeds or interests,users tend to protest or avoid them. An entirely appropriate response or critical protesthas often been confused with techno-fear(Turkle1988). These two myths about women and technology are connected. When technology mainly used by women is treated as "real" technology, we develop a differentand more nuancedview of women's attitudesto technology. These attitudesshow a greatdeal of variation.We found women loving theirwashing machinesand mobile phones, we found women criticalof the inflexible systems in their computers, and we found women who were indifferentto telephone answeringmachines and videotext systems. Such

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differencesshouldalso help us to understand neithergendernor technolthat ogy should be takenfor grantedand thatthe details of specific technologies and gender relationsmust be studied within their contexts. By focusing on women as active users and producersof technology,we were able to make the morenuanced one-dimensional pictureof womenas victimsof technology. We do not deny thatwomenarevictimsof technology-women often are, and so aremen-but thisis nottheonly aspectof women'srelationship technoloto gies. The challenge is to see how the vicious circle of victimizationcan be broken-and how we go aboutthis withoutending in barren essentialism.

The Problem of Essentialism Feministresearchfrom the 1970s has been criticizedfor essentialismand for relying on simplistic, dualistic categories of gender. In this context, essentialismrefersto the attribution inherentand generalgender-specific of traits to men and women. Essentialism can be seen as a kind of gender determinism.The concept of gender,developed during the 1980s, aims to question these dichotomousdistinctionsbetween the two sexes by emphasizing not only differencesbetween women and men but also differences withineach category(Moore 1993). Genderstudies give accountsof gender as fluid, flexible, and complex. It is a matterof process, and it is socially constructed negotiationson all societallevels.6How can we still insist that by there are genderedpatternsof inequalitywithout relying on some kind of Herewe wantto throwlight on two sociological or biological determinism? relatedaspectsof this debate:first,the discussionof samenessanddifference and, second, the discussion of sex and gender. Withingenderstudies, the concepts of "women"and "men"have proved These difficultiesfind an echo in questionssuch as the followproblematic.7 ing. Are therespecific female values or interests?Who can speak on behalf of women? Do we reproducesubjugationby insisting on a feminine way of doing things?In our own research,the problemof essentialismis reflected in the change of focus from women and technology to the genderizationof technologies.In our empiricaland theoretical work, we were concernedwith variations and differences in women's relations to technology. We also encountered the problem of essentialism in our practical work oriented towardrecruitingmore women to science and civil engineeringeducation. The category"women"is complex, and it is difficult to generalizefrom this category. To say thatgenderis socially constructed throughnegotiationsmeans that male and female are continuallyin the making.Thus thereis ampleopportu-

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nity for change in genderrelations.But in a society based on hierarchyand inequality, gender negotiationsdo not take place between equal partners. Hierarchyand inequalitycannot simply be wished away, and we need to explorehow they arenegotiatedin relationto technologyto locate possibilities for change. And, yet, changes in people's relationsto technology may takeplace withoutchangingthe patternsof inequality.The paradoxis thatto be able to ask political questions, we still have to speak about male and female, and sometimes aboutmen and women, withoutimplying that these aretwo inevitablydichotomouscategories.Withina feministunderstanding, social constructivismincludes the concepts of power and hierarchy,which have to be consideredwhen studyinggenderrelations.Withinconstructivist studies of science and technology,however, we detect a reluctancetoward using these concepts, and they seem not to be included in the mainstream analyticaltools. distinctionbetweenbiologiEssentialismis also relatedto the traditional cal sex and social gender.In English, thereis a distinctionbetween sex and genderparallelto the distinctionbetweennatureandculture(Haraway1992). is In Norwegian, the one word, kjOnn, used for both sex and gender.This meansthatthe distinctionbetweenbiological sex andsocial genderhas often been implicit and has slippedaway from ourexplicit agenda.The advantage of of the concept of kjOnnis that it points to the interrelatedness sex and and does not presuppose a clear dichotomy or a choice between gender We biological or social phenomena. thinkthatfindingconceptsthatquestion rather than presuppose dichotomies is important.Thus the difference in languageis a path to explore further. A parallelproblemin constructivismarises in discussions of the distinction between technology and society (Bijkerand Law 1992b) as shown by the metaphorof the "seamlessweb."We do not yet have concepts thatcatch the interwovenmeaningsof whathavepreviouslybeenthoughtof as separate categories. How can we speak about male and female withoutbeing labeled essentialist? Femininistresearchersare striving not to reiteratethe stereotypical on categories, but who can look "unbiased" this subject?Ignoring gender categoriesis just as bada solutionas is essentialism.The lackof concernwith gender in the "new"sociology of technology seems to be based on a myth that taking gender as the startingpoint is inherentlyessentialist. The challenge, as we see it, is to find a "thirdway,"where speakingaboutgenderis meaningfulwithoutrelying on essentialistassumptions. In the feministdebatesaboutthe "sciencequestionin feminism"(Harding 1986), we have found interestingelements and inspirationfor exploring further what a third way might imply. Harding identifies three feminist

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theory,and femiepistemologicalpositions:feminist empiricism,standpoint nist postmodernism.In our opinion the thirdway is located in the tensions between what she refers to as standpointtheory and postmodernism.This means a location where our knowledge can be both stable and on the move. The challengeis to say somethingmeaningfulaboutpatternsof inequality ending neither in dualism nor in ignorance of gender.When insisting on speakingsometimes aboutmale andfemale or femininitiesandmasculinities to indicate differences, we again insist on the importanceof specifying context. We have found inspirationto elaborate along such lines in the feminist critiquesof science andespecially in the conceptof situatedknowledges (Haraway199 lb). As genderedsubjects,ourresearchis situatedwithin specific discourses,times and places, class relations,knowledge structures, and so on. Thus we do not insist thatour researchhas the answersbut insist that we produce knowledge valid within certain contexts and frames of analysis. This applies to the conceptof technology as well as thatof gender. In short,the pleasuresof the dilemmacan be expressedin the following way: How can we insiston genderas a sociallyconstructed category-continuously in the making,fluid andflexible-and at the sametime be feminists,insisting thatit makes a differencewhetherone is a man or a woman?

Feminist Questions, Constructivist Answers? to We shall now return ourresearchquestionsandask againwhetherthere are better answers to be found within a constructivistapproach.The main questions that we still find relevantare the following: what are the impacts of new technologies on women's lives, and how can women influence technologies in the making? It should come as no surprisewhen we concludethat,within mainstream our The constructivism, feministquestionshave not beenraisedor addressed. question of end users' influence was vital within the laborprocess tradition butless so withinconstructivist constructivism been has writing.Mainstream concerned less with empiricalstudies of technological impacts than it has with the more general ambition of proving that technologies are socially constructed.Consequently,constructivismhas had little to offer when it comes to extendingourempiricalknowledgewith regardto impactsor users of technology. However, we see a focus on users and impacts within a constructivistframeworkas one of the more fruitfulpossibilities of dialogue between feminist researchand constructivism(Berg and Aune 1994). Genderis rarelyan explicit concernof constructivists. readaboutmen We building networks, following strategies, and reaching agreements;in this

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sense, the old story about man-machinesystems is repeated.This takes us back to the political aspects of constructivism.What we see as the greatest potentialof constructivismis its consistentlynon-deterministic perspective on technology. This implies a potential for influence during all stages of technological processes and so also potentials for change. To study this in potentialempirically,not to mentiontryingto participate such processes, has, however, been of marginalinterest to constructivistresearchers.The Norwegian traditionof "sociology from below" has been importantwithin feminist researchbut not within constructivism. The questionof power that is so centralwithinfeministstudies was also important the social shaping in tradition has no centralpositionwithinconstructivism. but Who decides what is a relevantsocial group?And where is the analysis of power differences between relevant social groups and between them and the "non-relevant" groups? When we read constructiviststories aboutnetworksand strategies,only the knowledge that "man"in this context is not a gender-neutral concept enablesus to readsome of themalso as storiesaboutgender-mainly stories of masculinities.Thinkof all the interestingstorieswe have missed because of this lack of attention to gender. What does technology mean for the construction men andmasculinities?Whatis the importance technoloof of for gies andtechnicalenvironments the creationof bondsbetweenmen?And which role does technology, especially technical competence, play in the reconstruction male power and female subordination? of Some feminist researchers have seen this challenge (Berg 1994a, Cockburn 1983, 1985; Hacker 1989; Lie forthcoming;S0rensen and Berg 1987; Wajcman 1991, 1995), but perhaps male researchersmight tell us moreland perhaps differently-about the constructionof masculinitiesin relationto technology (Haddon1991). If knowledges are situatedand if the reflexivity is necessary, it is strange to notice that the researchers'own (understandingof) gender has rarely been made an explicit concern in constructivist writingabouttechnology. Does the constructivist approachconsideran explicit genderperspective unnecessary?The programof following the actors seems to imply that as as actorsor as arelevantsocial group, long as womendo not appear important is not a relevantcategory.If genderwere important, would reveal it gender itself as such and appearas empiricalevidence. Such a position can hardly be defended by researcherswho argue that scientific "discoveries" are socially constructed.The relevance of genderdoes not springto one's eyes unless gender is actively used as an analytical tool. Here it suffices to point out the efforts of feminist researchers during the last 25 years in making visible the effects of genderon all levels of society. Before gender

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was introduced as an analytical tool, this knowledge was invisible and nonexistent.

A Future of Constructive Dialogues? If, however, we feel so uneasy about mainstreamconstructivism,why have we not rejectedit as a tool for our researchon technology and gender? of we Whencriticizingconstructivism, have applieda flexible interpretation is whatconstructivism about.We havecriticizedits practicesor "effects"but, following an anti-deterministicline of reasoning, we believe that such shortcomingsdo not necessarily imply that constructivisttheoreticalconcepts are useless or thatconstructivismcannotserve as an analyticalinstrumentfor genderstudiesof technology.We see severalpointswherefeminism meet andcan mutuallybenefiteach other.A most imporandconstructivism tant meeting point is in the attemptto analyze technologies and gender as in social constructs.This meansthatgenderis important the social construcin tion of technologyandthattechnologiesareimportant the social construction of gender.Meaningfuldialoguesrequirethe applicationof the principle of symmetry.The participantshave to share some common ground and recognize one another by paying attention to each other's strengths and weaknesses. in Duringrecentyears,we have participated andbenefitedfromthe larger theoretical debates.We see signs of a new awarenessof gender constructivist in connectionwithtechnology,andwe findtherenewedinterestin technology a assessmentinteresting.We sharewith constructivism curiosityconcerning how technologies have come to be as they are.We sharethe belief thatthey couldhave been differentandthattechnologyis animportant all too often and neglected aspect of our lives. Constructivismhas broughtactors and the micro level into focus in technology studies, just as in feminist studies on researchhas concentrated empiricalstudieson the microlevel. Moreover, the need to embrace complexity and heterogeneityis recognized in both constructivistand feministstudies of technology. the We sharewith constructivism concernsandproblemsof the seamless web of the social and technological.We acknowledgethe "needto blur the of in boundaries categoriesthatarenormallykeptapart," the wordsof Bijker and Law (1992a, 4). These categories include the technical and the social, cultureand nature,humanand non-human,sex and gender,and masculinity and femininity. In feminist studies of technology, the powerful image of In and cyborgshas gainedincreasedattention. herentertaining deadlyserious writingson cyborgs, Haraway(199la) has shown possibilities for manifold

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encounters.8 drawattention cyborgimages in this contextbecausethey We to catch the tensions andpossibilities in takingresponsibilityfor dualismsand, at the same time, try to overcomethem.This is also a fruitfulattemptto mix technology with feminist politics and new images of women and gender relations.To us, "cyborgology" representsone of the common groundsfor wheretherearerich possibilities for dialogues feminism and constructivism of many kinds. Another meeting point is the extension of constructionprocesses to include the phase of consumptionwith users as actors.Such an approachis elaboratedby Akrich(1992) in her descriptionof the design of photoelectric lighting kits with which users were not supposed to tamper.In her account of this constructionprocess, Akrich introduces the concept of script in technology andemphasizesthe user's role in the shapingof the technology.9 The concept of script as "rules"for users' behavior,and the descriptionof how this script is designed and built into the artifact,mean that gendercan be includedin the script.To "follow the actors,"includingthe users,gives us the possibility of includingwomen as active actorsand not only as victims of technology, which has been a prevailingview in the feminist studies of technology. directsour attentionto artifactsas partof the "glue"that Constructivism keeps society together,which again implies "thatthe social is not purely we social at all"(Law 1991,7). We fully agree,as in ourapproach studyhow gendered artifacts may constitute part of the glue that sometimes keeps genderrelationsstable, sometimeson the move (Berg 1995; Lie 1994). The conceptof delegationin Latour'swritingabouthotel keys andthe automatic door closer can be useful for analyzing delegation of gender to artifacts (Latour 1991, 1992). Thus constructivistscould use their own tools to are of elaboratean understanding how artifacts genderedandtherebyencourof studieson the meaningof the preservation genderedinequality age further and on possibilities for change. Winner(1993) did not find politics in constructiviststudies of artifacts and has criticized constructivismfor finding the black box of technology empty when the constructivistsopen it. We share his concern for a lack of hollow politics, but we arenot convincedthatthe blackbox is "aremarkably one."We find people andprocesses,althoughwe still ask for powerrelations and genderrelationswithin the processes. To us, constructivismis political in the sense thatit is a well-foundedargument againstbothtechnologicaland social determinism.When it opens the black box, we see a multitude of negotiations,controversies,and, in our opinion,possibilities for change. in An issue we now areinterested following up is how to handlethe fruitful character technologicalartifacts of paradoxof the hardnessor "ready-made"

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flexibilwhile exploringthe possibilities of changeofferedby interpretative ity. As we see it, an acknowledgment of hardness is not a return to "old-fashioned"technological determinism.We have previously felt troubled by the constructivistfocus on never-endingnetworksof social actors, as afraidthattechnologicalartifactswould againevaporateandreturn "pure" social struggle.But a growingconcernfor the interpretation artifactsand of their scripts holds technology contingently in view. To us, the study of technical artifactsis importantbecause, as social constructs, artifactsare reservoirsof informationon socio-culturalpatternsbut also on possibilities for change within these patterns. Then we come back to our question:Do artifactshave gender?It should not come as a surprisethatour tentativeansweris yes, they do. Artifactsdo have genderand genderpolitics in the sense thatthey are designed andused in genderedcontexts. But holding that gender is inscribedin technologies does not mean that they are not open to change. As we have tried to show here, to say that artifactshave gender implies talking about gender and technology as simultaneouslynegotiatedand constructedwithin the metaphorof the seamless web or of the cyborg.Dialogues betweenfeminismand constructivism offer the possibility of learning more about gender and technology relations.Feministpolitics cannotdo without an understanding of the power of technology,andtechnologystudieswill remainratherstodgy withoutthe tensions andpleasuresof genderpolitics.

Notes
1. We use a ratherloose notion of constructivismhere that includes social constructivism, actornetworktheory,andsystemsapproaches. Thisusageis fairlysimilarto thatof Bijker(1993). 2. Social studies of science have not been a centralfield in Norwegiansocial research.In a to has Norwegiancontext,this is important keep in mind becauseconstructivism its roots in the sociology of science. 3. The activitiesof this researchgroupwere fundedby the Ministryof Work(1981-1985) as a specific programwas launched for studying technical change and equal opportunities. The activities continueduntil the last two persons in the group-the authors-left IFIM in 1992. Most of us still workwith questionsrelatedto this field. 4. Our empiricalstudies indicatedthat when comparingmen and women within the same context, men are often more concernedwith technical artifactsand technical content of their work, whereaswomen are moreinterestedin questionsof use and impact.Does this also apply to female and male researchersin the social studies of technology? The technically intensive branchesandthe scientific-technical milieus seem to attract moremale thanfemale researchers. Even within this field of research,thereis a markedsexual division of laborrelatedto research focus and perhapsalso to the choice of theoreticalapproach. 5. Here we shouldmentionCynthiaCockbum'sworkas an important exception and source of inspirationfor us. Cockburn's(1983) book, Brothers:Male dominanceand technological

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Change,was the first study we found of genderand technologicalchange in industry.She has visited us severaltimes and has been a most valuablediscussionpartner. 6. Social processes in which both gender and technologies are made and remade can be studiedas processes of negotiation(Rudie 1984, Haavind1982). By the conceptof negotiation, we mean the conscious efforts to preservetechnology as a male domain and, perhapsmore importantly,the almost invisible, unintended,or unconscious aspects of gendered relationand ships-the detailsof everydayaction-where gender,social inequality, male powerareoften (Lie forthcoming). reproduced 7. There is a vast body of feminist literaturedealing with this problem. The title of an anthology of Dutch feminist writing, Sharing the Difference, pinpointsthe tensions in these debates (Hermsenand van Lenning 1991). We can add that we see many similaritiesbetween this accountof Dutch feminismand the Norwegiandebates. 8. It has taken us considerabletime and effort to get a feeling of what cyborgs are about. from a U.S. contextto everydaylife in Norway. They are not easily translated 9. Cowan (1987) discussed the role of users or the consumption of technology in connection with actor network theory in the widely read "yellow" book on constructivism (Bijker,Hughes, and Pinch 1987). Since then, we have not found many articlesthat elaborate on the role of users.

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Anne-Jorunn Berg is a Sociologist and a Researcherat the Centrefor Technologyand (STS, UNIT,7055 Dragvoll, Norway). She is Society of the Universityof Trondheim currentlyinvolvedin researchon users'domesticationof telematicsin everydaylife and the constructionoffemininityand masculinityin this process. Merete Lie is a Social Anthropologist and teaches at the Regional College of 7005 Trondheim, (HST,Sosialfagutdanningen, Sor-Trondelag Norway).Sincethe 1970s, she has conductedresearchon the themesof women,work,and technology.She recently published (with R. Lund) RenegotiatingLocal Values:WorkingWomen and Foreign Industryin Malaysia (Curzon,1994).