I International Congress “Women, Technology and Power”

18 & 19 June 2024, Donostia-San Sebastian, Spain

The University of Deusto in San Sebastian hosted the First International Congress on Women, Technology, and Power in June 2024. Divided over two days, panelists from the USA, Italy, UK, Albania, Serbia, Turkey, Mexico, Spain, and China, among others, enriched the field by sharing their findings.

On Tuesday, 18th of June, during the inauguration ceremony, the attendants were welcomed by four authorities. First, Xabier Riezu, Vice Chancellor of the University of Deusto, stressed the policies that the institution has taken towards gender equality (such as power distribution and direct alliances with the Basque government in the path for equality). Next was Secretary of State for Equality and for the Eradication of Violence against Women from the Spanish Government Aina Calvo Sastre. Calvo emphasized the importance of the role of academia and universities regarding the design of algorithms and remembered the evolution from Clara Campoamor and Victoria Kent’s exception to the actual cipher of 56% of graduated people being women. Thirdly, Miren Elgarresta, the director of Emakunde and part of the Basque Government, called for the opportunities that a feminist algorithm could present. Finally, Pilar Rodriguez, a Professor at the University of Deusto and host of the ceremony, introduced the agenda, objectives, and different panels.

The first panelist of the congress was Catherine D’Ignazio, coming from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who presented “Counting Feminizide” a book that collects the work of many data activists, mainly women, across Latin America who are documenting such murders and challenging the reigning logic of data science by centering care, memory, and justice in their work. Additionally, D’Ignazio explained concepts such as surveillance capitalism, data extractivism, and data colonialism. To finalize, the scholar challenged the unavailability of creating such technologies and presented a trend of academics and activists, including Paola Ricaurte, that defended the idea of data epistemologies that are respectful to different cultures and the environment.

After a short break, the first panel took place. It was introduced by Mayo Fuster, who came from the University of Harvard and presented the economy platform as an emerging mode of production and consumption. She explained the intersectional analysis that she carried out in its application to the European Commission. Plus, Fuster emphasized the necessity of visualizing what a feminist platform would look like. Next, a conversation started among the panelists. Carolina Ferro, from the University of Salamanca, underlined the essentiality of indigenous peoples being consulted. She made part of the decision-making processes regarding mining in the Amazones and how fine the line between the benefits of tribes accessing technologies and the dangers of the internet and nonfiltered information entering their culture, as porn had been proven to become a problem. Second, Daniela Horta, from King’s College London, brought the connection among the issues that are usually treated isolated into the table to encourage an interdisciplinary visualization that would analyze both algorithms, oppression, and resistance. In the third place, Pinar Apaydin, represented by  Özge Subaşı, both from Koç University, presented a project that is taking place in Turkey to explore colonial justice through traditional feminist practices. Fourthly, Sonia Ruiz, from the Universitat Autonoma of Barcelona, proposed a bias assessment protocol via data filtering datasets. Finally, Nuria Soto, an activist for Rider’s rights in Spain, explained how the cooperative Mensakas visualizes three dimensions of urbanization with a gender perspective: how does the privatization of space invisibilize reproductive labor, how does the public space affect women regarding different physical needs (in the case of rider workers, a condition such as cystitis can condition the ability to work), and, how the virtual space can lead to harassment. Additionally, Soto presented Coopcycle, an open-source platform used to eliminate the automatization of task designations that takes human factors into account (menstruation, for instance). During the debate, numerous concepts were highlighted, among others, the acknowledgment of male privileges, the importance of transparency, the condition of migrant workers that might not appear officially, mutual support, the needed effort to make statements in understandable language for all publics and the importance of caring for all participants in every project.

Subsequently, Sasha Constanza Chock, an Associate Professor at Northeastern University’s College of Arts, Media, & Design and Faculty Associate with the Berkman-Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, presented “No AI for Genocide, Necropolítica algorítmica durante el fin del Imperio,” a project that analyses the different technologies the Israeli government is using to create kill-lists, including project Lavander, Where is Daddy, The Gospel and Project Nimbus. Chock defended that the ability to create such AI does not make it unavoidable; there should be a collective refusal and a ban, and designers’ efforts should concentrate on algorithms that contribute to a world that provides care and repair.

The second panel started after a conversation between Chock and Diego Casado, from the University of Deusto, who moderated the debate. The first panelist was Ane Arruabarrena, who presented GuLink’s project. Next, Bresena Kopliku from the University of Shkodra. Third, Shang Gao, from Örebro University, expressed his surprise when only 10 of his 100 students were women and emphasized the necessity to increase women’s representation in STEAM. Ainhoa Izaguirre, from the University of Deusto, followed Gao.

Wednesday, 19th of June, started with Stefania Milan’s presentation. Coming from the University of Amsterdam, Milan displayed her interest in infrastructure and its interaction with agencies. The scholar grants the same importance to “how” to do research, comparing it to the “what,” and offered ten key concepts for engaged research that does not pursue filling up the gaps in literature but aims to answer important questions for society: relation-building among participants, the power imbalances among academics and activists, the personal, multilingüism, accountability related to whom is helpful research, sharing, failure, building our infrastructure, care as prefigurative politics and community building.

Diego Álvarez, from the Polytechnic University of Valencia, initiated the third panel of the congress about deconstructing toxic digital masculinities. Elsa García-Mingo, from the Complutense University of Madrid, presented the manosphere and exhibited the different actions taken in such spaces. The scholar asked two questions: how could this happen, and what have we (the feminists) missed? Subsequently, the rest of the panelists joined the conversation. Ainhoa Izaguirre, from Deusto University, explained the work she has been doing with children and stressed the need for an awareness campaign among teachers, parents, and society as a whole. Silvia Semenzin, from the Complutense University of Madrid, defended that technology is equally responsible for creating an environment for hegemonic masculinity imaginaries and raised two problems: first, the difficulties for ethical research as by using such misogynistic digital platforms they are being trained, second, the protection of researchers while being exposed to harmful content. Third, Flavia Saxler, from the University of Cambridge, presented the concept of self-censoring and how the response of girls when being exposed to online harassment is to stop using the platforms while boys who are exposed to disturbing content get used to it.

The fourth panel, moderated by Pilar Rodríguez from the University of Deusto, started with Maria Lozano’s presentation. Coming from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Lozano exposed how misogyny and women are missing from most operative definitions of terrorism while being central to most manifestos that have been the basis for extreme violence of diverse ideologies. The conversation continued with Sara Esposito from Università degli Studi di Milano Bicocca, who brought up a discussion about only fans and the general suspicion under female sexual freedom, which is analyzed. Next, Anita Fuentes, coming from the Complutense University of Madrid, displayed the new ethical dilemmas, such as protecting the privacy of participants and knowing where to draw the line on what requires consent during the inquiries. Graciela Padilla Castillo, from the Complutense University of Madrid, underlined the importance of trust regarding consumer data. Maria Silvestre, from Deusto University, presented a cyber resistance project that is taking place, showing technological tools to children that take family dynamics into account.

Finally, the fifth panel started with Guimar Rovira’s presentation. Coming from the University of Girona, Rovira introduced a collective of women hackers in Mexico who have been reappropriating digital tools and politicizing digital infrastructures. Ana Vidu, from Deusto University, joined the conversation to explain the analysis she had carried out about Jesuit universities and their policies mitigating women’s exclusion in STEAM fields. Subsequently, Jaclyn Hovsmith, from Netlight University, displayed the coercive ways that some platforms have regarding personal data registration and defended the possibility of creating ethical designs that could take a Hippocratic oath. Next, María López-Belloso, from Deusto University, divided cyber resistance into three elements: access, intensity, and the quality of the use. Miren Berasategui, from University of Deusto, denounced female stereotypes in science and maths and spoke about how women create self-fulfilling prophecies that need to be challenged. Last but not least, Teresa Hernandez Martin presented her company Women TechEU, exposed the data on the percentages of women that are in the field, and shared how to take part in the process for grants for starting projects.

In conclusion, we heard inspiring words and scientifi evidence about how women must occupy technology and appropriate it to build a better world. This tech should be decentralized, slower, and able to generate disruptions in the type of world that Big Tech wishes to impose on society and the type of discrimination emerging from digital tech. We must think about whether feminist platforms can exist and what they could look like. We do this by sharing power and creating community, working collectively and generating not only alternative infrastructures and tools but also the policies and rules that govern them. We do it by asking to whom our research is useful. We do it by investigating how sexualizing and violent content affects children, dehumanizing boys and disciplining girls. We do it by offering feminist choices, collaborating, and thinking about utopia. We do it by making it together.