Date of Award

2017

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

English Language and Literatures

Sub-Department

College of Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Pat Gehrke

Abstract

The question of gender and gender representation has been an issue for STEM fields like computer science and software engineering for decades. This dissertation argues that the impact of labor practices in such fields promotes gender disparity by masking gender, and often sexuality, behind myths of mastery and correctness. In this dissertation, I approach technical objects like computer code and protocol specifications from the BitTorrent and Bitcoin software packages, and argue that gendered forms of labor that have existed since the inception of computer programming as a profession are evident in technical documents like code. Furthermore, I argue that this labor is a communicative labor steeped in political rhetoric and cultural practices. As such, moving past a relative examination of code or software as a text, or as a procedure, invites a performative investigation of code. Drawing from theories in feminist technology and queer computational studies, I argue that gender, activism, and power relations are implicit in these technical objects, and that a rhetoric of gender and computation can emerge as a critical and practical practice in fields such as software engineering and technical communication.

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