Empowering Girls as Change Makers in Maker Culture

Explore Paula MacDowell’s PhD Research

Empowering girls as change makers in maker culture:
Stories from a summer camp for girls in design, media & technology

My dissertation investigates how girls develop new affinities towards and capabilities in media and technology. Thirty co-researchers, girls aged 10 to 13, were recruited into 101 Technology Fun, a series of summer camps with learning labs in animation, game design, movie production, robotics programming, and web development. The design studio setting, created by the How We Learn (Media & Technology Across the Lifespan) collective, offered girls their own makerspace to explore new roles as media and technology producers. Highlighting the importance for youth voices to be recognized and given influence in the academic research concerning their lives and learning circumstances, the findings focus on the catalytic or generative artifacts and “little stories” (e.g., Lyotard’s petits récits) revealing the co-researchers’ experiences and expressions of girlhood-in-interaction-with-technology (the key unit of analysis).

Artifacts are addressed as they relate to stories made or analyzed by the girls, including their concerns, needs, talents, inspiration, literacy, and volition. The artifacts, such as music videos, robotic amusement park, and the momME alternate reality game, are catalytic for storymaking and, symmetrically, the stories are catalytic to artifact production and sharing. Four distinct yet interrelated elements characterize the co-researchers’ fieldwork and designworks:
(1) agency (girls having influence and power);
(2) ingenuity (girls being clever and inventive);
(3) self-interpretation (girls making sense and significance); and
(4) self-efficacy (girls believing in or judging their technological capabilities).

Findings underscore the matter concerning how, why, and where do girls learn to become innovators, leaders, and producers of media and technology (thereby overturning traditional gender and generational stereotypes)? Indeed, how a group of female youth story changes in their sense of technological self-efficacy, self-interpretation, ingenuity, and agency is one of the most important contributions of this study. Another contribution involves the formation of the Tween Empowerment & Advocacy Methodology (TEAM), a design-based and participatory research approach that emphasizes relational ethics through artifact production, storymaking, mind scripting, invention, and imagination. Questions, both guiding and emergent, are articulated in artifact and text to motivate further scholarly inquiry, action, and advocacy, thus generating more opportunities for girls to participate in, design, make, and transform technology culture.

Visit 101 Technology Fun

Paula MacDowell



Comments are closed.