Applying what you’ve learned so far: technological politics and intersectionality

Diversity in Tech History Class

Background: The purpose of this assignment is to get you comfortable writing a short, analytical essay that asks you to not only summarize what you’ve read but to come up with your own new insight by building on the insights of authors we have read in class. For the purpose of this exercise, those authors are primarily Langdon Winner and Kimberle Crenshaw. Use their theories to organize what you write for this assignment.

Basic steps to guide you as you write:
1. What technology did you choose, and why? How does it “have politics?” (3-4 sentences, one paragraph)

2. Can your technology be stripped of its politics without being completely redesigned or destroyed? What would that look like? (3-5 sentences, one paragraph)

3. What does an intersectional analysis of your chosen technology’s politics look like? If you’re confused, think about politics as the power relations that are built into a technology. These power relations are always connected to power relations in the society that the technology comes from and in which it is being used. (3-6 sentences, one to two paragraphs)

4. What new insights can you share given what you’ve thought about and written about here? In other words, what are the one or two most interesting or surprising things you’d try to tell another person, who is not in this class, based on the work you did for this exercise? Try to go for something that is non-obvious. (2-4 sentences, one paragraph)

Note: If you are confused about when to start a new paragraph, remember that each paragraph should explain one thought. If your paragraphs start getting long, go back and figure out where you changed from thinking and writing about one thing, to thinking and writing about a somewhat different thing. Start your new paragraph there. (This may require some rewriting and editing.)

Copy and paste your essay into a comment on this post by Wednesday, Sept 4, no later than 10pm. Please make sure to hit enter TWICE between your paragraphs because the comment system strips out tabs and other formatting, meaning your paragraphs will run together in one big block of text if you don’t leave an extra line between them. You may choose any handle you wish to use on your comment post–it does not have to be your real name. Make sure you enter your real IIT email address however–your email address will not be public and it will be how I figure out whose essay is whose. Don’t worry if your comment doesn’t show up right away–I have to manually approve the comments. If you prefer your comment to not be made public, just write a note to that effect at the top, before pasting in your essay text.


  1. Not many probably ever heard of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, but if you are interested in climate change then it is a very good technology to understand. In simple explanation this technology captures CO2 in the air and either turns it into another product like limestone or simply catch the CO2 and store the container somewhere. This technology has the potential to help lower the CO2 presence in the air which will help reduce the impact of climate change. This is the reason why I am very interested in CCS technology. The political aspect of this technology is that it is attached to the words climate change which is a politically divisive topic in the U.S.

    The political aspect of CCS technology is actual very new. Carbon Capture Storage has been in use way before we associate it with climate change. The primary function of this technology before it started being developed to reduce the carbon in the air is to store the carbon and sell the carbon to crude oil company to revitalize oil flow using. Also, dry ice is basically made from catching CO2 and freezing it. The dry ice is sold consumers. This is what CCS technology is before it was attached to the politics of climate change.

    Interestingly CCS technology is in the intersection of being a technology that contribute to climate change and a technology that can reduce the effect of climate change. As discussed above in the early years before climate change become a big deal CSS technology is used to provide crude oil company CO2 to revitalize oil fields and we know that oil is a combustible that directly adds to climate change. We also know that by nature CCS can reduce the CO2 in air by trapping it on a container. This puts CSS technology in a weird cross section of how we implement and use this technology can decide the role it plays in climate change.

    There are two things I would like a person learning about CSS technology take from this discussion. One that CCS is technology is in a peculiar position in which we can decide to make it work for or against climate change reduction. Two based on the change in politic of CCS technology we can say that technology that are inherently neutral or democratic can change politics attached to that technology.

  2. My item with politics is not a normal artifact but an app or a service, Uber. I chose Uber because I am from the suburbs, where everyone owns cars and does not need public transportation. Upon moving to Chicago, I have found that cars are more expensive and most ride the CTA instead. Uber has politics because it is a higher class, more efficient method of transportation. It creates an option for those who don’t want a car but can afford more than the CTA. This inherently excludes lower class people from Uber and pushes them towards the cheaper CTA. Uber may counter that they could employ lower class people to drive but that conflicts with the original issue of having a car in the first place. In reality, Uber pushes away the lower class and gives those who can already afford a car more opportunities.

    Ube could be stripped of its politics, but it wouldn’t be easy or realistic. In order for Uber to be accessible to everyone for jobs and as a service it would need to provide its own cars and lower its price. If Uber rented its cars to the driver, then lower class people could drive them to make money. The issue with this is Uber would have to charge more to buy cars, making it more exclusive than it already was for the consumer. Uber could become the next public transportation, without politics, if the government payed towards it. Overall, Uber could not be implemented without politics unless there was funding coming from somewhere else.

    The financial barriers to Uber as a consumer and an employee involve a smartphone, cost per ride, and owning a car. These barriers of financial status can easily be traced back to race. A person of color might not have been born in the same financial situation as a Caucasian, but if they were, they could struggle to land a job after an interview or even be trusted to buy a car. In situations where white people have similar financial situations to racial minorities, the white people could be seen as more reliable or professional. This blunt racism is seen between two people with the same financial situation but different skin color. These problems in society could be linked back to how Uber forces its politics into its system. A citizen of low class might be able to afford an uber or a car, but another citizen of color would not be able to get either. Uber’s politics segregate the poor from the financially stable and a minority in the same situations multiplies the issue.

    The most shocking thing to me is that something as simple as Uber can have politics. Looking outside or on google maps I can see slow transportation. Pace bikes and the trains are limited to the direction and speed they go. For example, a store might be a 15-minute car or Uber ride away but is an hour and half away by train or bike. This creates an advantage in life for those who could afford a car or Uber. People with a car or Uber access could go anywhere they please within a short amount of time given they have the money to provide for this car. This advantage gives people more jobs, money, and opportunity to people who already have it and keeps it away from those who need it.

  3. The technology I chose for this assignment is the online dating service. This has inherent “politics” in the fact that it was made to match people with others based on their compatibility. It also is inherently biased when these services are tailored to specific identities.

    This technology I believe can be stripped of its politics without being redesigned. I’m sure that if said service was inclusive and promoted use for all types of consumers, regardless of: race, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, religion and so forth, that it would prove a useful tool for collecting raw survey data and comparing the consumer’s likes and dislikes with those of another user. It would prove to be very difficult since common biases such as race and sexual orientation play a factor in these services. However, with a diverse team of individuals, I believe making online dating universally inclusive could eventually be a reality.

    The intersectional breakdown of online dating services has been the subject of much discussion for many developers. One might argue that such dialogue is the reason for the creation of tailored dating services such as: Black People Meet, Christian Mingle, Taimi, and many others. However, it seems that these dating services solely benefit the identity that they are tailored towards. As such, an intersectional perspective can be the cause of discrimination on these sites, such as being biracial on dating services tailored African-Americans, or being a bisexual or transgender male on a gay male dating app such as Taimi. Intersectionality can prove to be problematic in cases like these where one’s identity isn’t completely accounted for on these sites.

    One insight I would like to share is that the development of tailored dating websites that hone in on things like race, religion, or sexual orientation was most likely the result of the inherent bias of early dating services to benefit straight, white, cisgender individuals. And even as we continue to include more and more identities, the intersectional approach to online dating can still be rather troublesome to fully realize. For example, the very nature of the dating website favors monogamy, and the online dating scene can be difficult for polyamorous individuals to navigate.

  4. In this short essay, I will examine programming as a technology that contains a
    variety of political, socioeconomic, and historic factors that affect how
    current demographics of women and minorities in programming jobs are

    Programming is one of the few professions that can be performed completely
    remotely. It has no **explicit** requirements for race, gender, sex, or physical
    abilities. Its only hard requirements are a human and a human-computer
    interface, like a laptop. It seems like the field that no discrimination could
    take place in.

    However, one of the largest social issues in technology of this generation is a
    lack of women in computing. Why is this?

    Programming used to actually be a mainly female job, around the 1940s-50s, with
    large amounts of women working for universities and governments, including NASA.
    At this time, programming was perceived as “women’s work” and received very
    little pay or honors.

    It was in the 1960s and beyond that programming shifted to be male work, with
    employers targeting men in ads and preferring to hire men for programming.

    This technology mainly discriminates currently because of the people who exist
    within its ecosystem who deter minorities who wish to join.

    There is a smaller economic barrier to joining programming as low-cost computers
    such as Raspberry Pis or Linux netbooks will allow poorer people to create code,
    and there is a plethora of learning resources available that one can use to

    An intersectional analysis of this technology would have to examine educational
    programs that are given to disadvantaged black communities and the culture
    within white male technology groups, specifically how they can deter minorities
    from joining tecnical fields.

    We would want to look at poor black communities and their educational programs,
    the resources afforded to poor black schools versus richer ones, and how that
    affects engagement in and understanding of programming as a profession.

    In addition to this, we would need to see why women and minorities are deterred from joining the programming field, and tech fields as a whole.

    This essay allows us to look at a technology (programming) that has a very large
    potential to be an ‘egalitarian’ technology in that it has no apparently
    inherent political or social bias, but one which still discriminates.

    I believe that the main reason that programming as a field of work discriminates
    is for social reasons that have to do with the culture that people inside the
    field have.

    I believe there are as also some economic reasons for women and minorities being
    a minority in programming fields as compared to social reasons, but opportunity
    and the cost and time of pursuing education is definitely a factor. The largest
    factor may be the cost of a college education when looking at economic reasons
    for this.

  5. While at first glance, the immediate use of electricity appears to be providing energy at power outlets, cheaper than any other form of energy, this technology can be used in ways that precede its apparent application similar to the Robert Moses’s overpasses, McCormick’s molding machine or even the tomato harvester designed by researchers at the University of California (Winner, 1980). Before U.S. electricity market was deregulated, the California electricity crisis happened which was the result of misuse of market power by electric companies. If not supervised correctly, electric companies can exploit this technology for their economic and political gains.

    In the year 2000, the giant power company, Enron used it market power to create artificial shortage of supply by taking its power plants offline for maintenance and caused steep increase in price of electricity (Weare, 2003). Enron used market manipulation to increase its profit. A similar scenario was also shown in the “House of Cards” TV series in which the owner of a nuclear power plant was able to put pressure on the president by taking power plants offline for maintenance and causing blackouts. Therefore, I believe electricity belongs to the first category of varieties of interpretation that Winner (1980) introduces. In this category, technologies are flexible and their design features and arrangements could provide establishment of authority.

    From intersectional point of view, these planned blackouts may be scheduled in neighborhoods with low-income residents (Calma, 2019). Furthermore, these neighborhoods could be associated with residents that majority of which are refugees, immigrants or a racial minority group. These groups of people have been pushed to these neighborhoods due to the urban planning policies from 1930s to 1960s (Madrigal, 2014). Discrimination against nationality and race is well-known and in the case of electricity we can see that continuous supply of power might be prioritized based on income level. This scenario as Crenshaw (1989) describes it can be counted as double-discrimination.

    As a measure to strip this technology of its politic, U.S. electricity market was deregulated which helped in providing a free market in which no one could form a monopoly. The US power market was redesigned but not destroyed and some of its problems regarding monopoly was solved. Surprisingly, as Calma (2019) states, even in the year 2019, New York utility had planned outages in low-income neighborhoods during the heatwave. A supervisory entity can oversee these planned blackouts to make sure they are really needed and also all types of neighborhoods go through these scheduled blackouts. Therefore, there is no need for complete redesign of this technology to stripe it from its politics.


    Calma, J. (2019). During deadly heat wave, New York utility cut power to high-risk neighborhoods. Retrieved from
    Crenshaw, K. (1989). Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory and antiracist politics. u. Chi. Legal f., 139.
    Madrigal, A. C. (2014). The racist housing policy that made your neighborhood. Retrieved from
    Weare, C. (2003). The California electricity crisis: causes and policy options: Public Policy Instit. of CA.
    Winner, L. (1980). Do artifacts have politics? Daedalus, 121-136.

  6. A technology that I believe to possess politics are social media platforms. With the advancement of technology, the possibility to check social media or browse the web at any given second of the day via smartphone is fully realized. As wonderful as this may be, it is also much easier to for these platforms to persuade people to adopt more extreme positions toward political/social issues. This is due to targeted advertisements and news articles that are biased towards what data has been collected on a person’s general political persuasion.

    Theoretically, this technology could be stripped of its politics without being redesigned or destroyed. However redesigning social media would be harmful to the monetary success of all platforms. This is because one of the largest sources of revenue for these companies is the ad revenue received from users clicking on shocking articles or even purchasing an item targeted to the user in the ad itself. If the ability to collect information on consumers was dismissed, then there would be no choice but to release ads and articles that would cater to a more neutral perspective on political/social issues in order to appeal to the masses equally. The downside to this is that less people would be interested in said advertisements and articles, which would lead to less success for these social media platforms, and therefore it is unlikely to ever occur.

    There is an intersectionality with this technology because it seems to create a social divide more so than a social unification. The only people that see ads or articles that educate people on gender or racial discrimination (with the exception people that actively search for them) are typically the people that are already knowledgeable about the issue and the algorithm for targeted content has picked up on this. People on social media platforms are far more likely to see what they want to see rather than seeing the reality of many issues.

    The ability to control what a consumer sees on a specific platform can be a frightening thing once it is understood how complex this algorithm is becoming. Social media outlets have the technology to target low-income citizens with cigarette ads, or even pinpoint a time in a person’s life when they feel motivated with ads for gym memberships. This shows why social media advertising can be a very good thing as well as a very bad thing. It is up to the consumer to educate themselves on every perspective of a political situation otherwise they will be shown what they want to see.

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