Mapjunkie (mapjunkie) wrote in post_modernism,

I, for one, welcome our feminist overlords

(This is somewhat in response to the previous post, but should also be self-standing.)

Although the feminist and post-feminist movements still have not cleared away mainstream cultural artifacts as antithetical to their goals as any (see "Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture" by Ariel Levy), they were widely successful in changing both the role of the working woman and the structure of technoculture generally, such that there is no appropriate barrier to either women in leadership roles throughout the military-industrial complex, nor any specific advantage to masculine over feminine management tactics. Furthermore, we can expect that our current set of technocultural challenges (particularly environmental and military challenges) will be better addressed in the void of certain norms for work and home. Despite whatever specific antipathy some feminists and masculinists might show for specific members of the opposite gender, it should be clear to any male members of Francis Fukuyama's "Last Man" contingent that feminists have played a positive key role in shaping what Fukuyama would call the post-historical landscape.

In some ways, the feminists were in the right place at the right time, having established many cultural programs by the time of the arrival of information technology (IT), which leads to a massive power shift (as articulated by Alvin and Heidi Toffler in their book of the same name). This power shift is partially accommodated by IT's decentralizing effect, leading to competitive flexibilities through stygmergy against the more mass-mobilization infrastructure mindset of modernism. (To understand the difference, consider two different strategies for building sidewalks on a college campus. Either you can strive to build all the sidewalks students might want, possibly overbuilding a great deal, or you can build the minimum, and then build new walks as trails wearing in the grass becomes apparent. Information technology is both the paths themselves, as well as the engineering tools to do the civil engineering for the complexly curved paths that may result).

With the information technology to facilitate this infrastructural change, the feminist moves to change the workplace had a massive impact. First of all, as workplace concessions are made, the entire workforce is not as fast to adopt changes to the ideas of the proper role of the female worker. This means that the workforce as a whole skews towards more "womanly" careers (as understood at the time), and in turn away from hard labor, and toward business and IT. This idea of role can be seen very clearly in the very early days of computation where (with notable exceptions both ways) women were programmers and men were electrical engineers. Given the workplace changes, production would begin to skew away from brute force and towards more IT centric business approaches. We might expect that capital investment towards productivity would soon also be skewed in this direction, and similar follow-on effects such as urbanization to follow. In the first generation of this transition, earlier birthrate standards would provide for a "best-of-both-worlds" scenario, in which decreasing birthrates would mean that each family is responsible for a fewer number of children, while their elders had maintained a previous high-quantity standard, boosting the productive worker to overall population ratio to a maximum This investment in IT then does well to provide for future generations, who must rely on smarter production choices made during the productive period. We might very well be in such a condition today, and have the feminist movement to thank for making this transition gracefully, instead of under the economic pressure of a population peak (as might be currently happening in China).

This change in role also has had positive effects in the consideration of home. Home labor is still inappropriately accounted for, but in mutual feedback with the above change, labor-saving devices for the home removed the need for direct managed constant attention, and instead moved all of household tasks to the realm of maintenance, boosted with an understanding of shearing layers: that various maintenance tasks have extremely different rates of change, separated by orders-of-magnitude. The home now has little to differentiate itself from the rest of the material infrastructure, and we now imagine that the challenges of home economics have little specific difference from maintaining other infrastructure (like a ship's maintenance log, for example; the path from a boat, to a houseboat, to a house in terms of maintenance processes are small steps in terms of the possible IT infrastructure, although sadly they remain giant leaps culturally). In any case, working from home is changing from being marginalized to the technical infrastructure to the hip margin of the new startup. Similarly, we might see child raising move from being an experience unlike that experienced in the rough-and-tumble, dog-eat-dog working work to a canonical example of the care networks that might permeate the decentralized life.

These feminist changes to the cultural considerations of work and home, beyond their obvious impact, also provide us with certain exits to various problems invoked by modernization. These exits are in terms of thinking about flexibly adopting to demands within a network with no explicit territorial distinction between home and work. First I will look at the environment, and then I will consider military strategy.

The feminist alteration of the work/home split could aide us greatly in future environmental pursuits. First of all, home-based industrial production, through increasingly capable 3-D printing technology, is paved way for by the dual emergence of home craft businesses enabled by the widespread reach of EBay and a movement towards the home IT worker moving into more hardware-oriented projects (as signaled by Make magazine), altogether hinting at a technology-friendly green movement occasionally known as bright-green (an exemplar of which is the WorldChanging group, known both for their blog and their book, which is organized roughly along shearing layers, starting with the product and moving outward through the home into the world). To analyze households and factories as part of a network of production and consumption will necessitate IT infrastructure to better understand the flow of commodities, which will in turn bring waste to light, with follow-on effects in opportunities, incentives, and regulation.

The turn to networks has also profoundly effected military strategy. For almost all powers today, ideal tactics no longer include massive infrastructure buildups, but instead focus on networks unable to be untangled from the general population. By maintaining adaptive, personalized flows, such fifth-generation warfare tactics confound current military planners, as they respect no particular lines in national boundary and form no particular mobilization. With the combination of home industry to manufacture significant weaponry, we can see that the only hope of current military tactics is to maintain equal pace with the network spread and resource flow, which the military attempts to do in the fast-decision practices of network-centric warfare. Although understanding network tactics, the military has yet to adapt to the mixed military/civilian structures which will be needed. Nonetheless, military tacticians such as Thomas P.M. Barnett are aware of such necessities, and have turned to such metrics as the average education level of women to gauge national levels of movement towards cultural connectedness with countries operating after a power-shift away from infrastructural modernization.
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