A Network or a Line?: Gender, Technology, and Cyberfeminist Figurations of Time

Ellen Moll

[1] With the spread of new information technologies, it has become more apparent than ever that there is much to gain from investigating the nature and potential of technoscientific changes, especially for those interested in gender, identity, and social equality. In the past two decades, cyberfeminists in particular have been at the forefront of scholarly inquiry in this area, viewing these technoscientific shifts as opportunities to radically reconfigure the relationships between gender and technology, subject and object, and past and present. The stakes of this conversation are not only about how technology will be used and by whom; they are also about the myriad ways that technoscientific change creates a state of flux that can be taken advantage of by feminists and other justice-oriented groups in order to subvert traditional conceptions of gender roles, agencies, and subjectivities. Technoscientific change is cultural change, and is—or can be—interwoven with other kinds of social change in complex and layered ways.

[2] Given the prevalence of conversations about technoscientific change, both in cyberfeminist discourse and in a multitude of other sites, it is appropriate to ask how we tell stories about technoscientific change: How do we construct scientific "progress" or other notions of scientific change? Who benefits from dominant constructions of technoscientific change and who is excluded? What other ways might there be to narrate these changes? How might we construct narratives about these changes that attend to the multiple ways that technology and science are entangled with other aspects of culture, history, and identity?

[3] In order to explore these questions, this essay examines key cyberfeminist works about Ada Lovelace, the nineteenth century computer theorist. Specifically, I compare two such works from the early days of widespread Internet use, Lynn Hershman's 1997 film Conceiving Ada and Sadie Plant's 1997 book Zeros + Ones: Digital Women + the New Technoculture. In these works, the figure of Ada Lovelace serves as a bridge between past, present, and future, and as a symbol of both a new age for women and technology and a new way of telling stories about science, technology, time, and progress.

[4] There are a number of important similarities between these works that suggest this comparison. Both works explore the connections between Lovelace and today's digital women. Moreover, each engages with the life and work of Lovelace in order to reveal the dynamic instability of the boundaries between past and present. In doing so, these works portray Lovelace as part of a technocultural matrilineage by tracing the web-like strands that connect women and technologies with issues of embodiment, subjectivity, and agency. The 1990s were a foundational time in cyberfeminist explorations of a host of theoretical issues. It is notable that in that decade, an extremely influential cyberfeminist book and what was perhaps the most widely known cyberfeminist film both place Lovelace in the role of both ancestor of and collaborator with modern cyberfeminists. Moreover, the use of this early figure in computer history, particularly a figure whose work troubles traditional narratives of scientific and technological progress, enables these works to explore how cyberfeminist politics and digital technologies might transform how we understand technoscientific change, intellectual influence, and even time itself.

[5] These works by Plant and Hershman, in constructing this cyberfeminist matrilineage, and through their innovative articulations of the similarities between Lovelace and women of the information age, make two important moves. First, they shift the history of technology in a more women-centric direction, showing that women have always been at the center of technological change. Second, I argue that they do so in order to narrate the history of women and technology—and, more broadly, the relationship between past and present—in a way that is not so much a timeline as it is a network that spans different specific points in space and time.

[6] The ramifications of this are many. For one, the traditional Western linear view of progress is thereby shown to be an arbitrary and increasingly outdated understanding of knowledge and innovation. Influence and progress do not occur via a continuous chain of (mostly) men who hand down their influence directly and transparently to the next generation of illustrious scientists. Instead, there are a myriad of multi-layered ways that one technological change might relate to another, that one time period might relate to another, and that one group of women might relate to another. Knowledge-making (whether technological, scientific, or other knowledge) involves vast and heady leaps about time and space that take advantage of the vast connectivities that a network can provide. In this view, progress is not the dominant model for understanding how the past relates to the present: the model, instead, is time travel. [1]

[7] Thus, the cyberfeminist view of time enacted by these works demonstrates the feminist potential and necessity of more closely examining how we tell stories about science, knowledge, history, and progress. Moreover, these works are exemplary of key developments of cyberfeminism, including through their inquiry into agencies and subjectivities, their explorations of the long and complex historical relationship between women and machines, and their rhetorical techniques and theoretical methods for imagining possible futures. [2]

Organization and Method

[8] This essay will first provide a very brief overview of relevant background information about cyberfeminism and about Lovelace's contributions to computer theory. It will then compare how these two cyberfeminist works construct what I have called a "cyberfeminist matrilineage" and how they narrate a network and time travel model of technological change. Plant's book and Hershman's film are both very influential cyberfeminist works and are among the more prominent feminist treatments of Lovelace. The essay will then conclude with a discussion of the necessity and benefits of a women-centered "network" model of technology and of technology's relationship to politics and culture.

[9] The method of this essay draws from the interdisciplinary field of feminist technoscience, a prime example of which is the work of Donna Haraway, and the close reading techniques of literary studies. As is common in feminist technoscience works, [3] I attend to both the literary and creative facets of theoretical writing and the theoretical engagements found in fictional works, and I consider "narratives" to include the implicit and politically laden storytelling found in any discourse. Therefore, each work analyzed is considered in multiple ways: as a creative achievement, as a theoretical contribution, and as a cultural artifact that indicates the fascinations of the time period. The key questions that frame this argument are also influenced by Kath Weston's claim that wormholes through spacetime are a necessary model for how the past relates to the present, [4] and especially by Katie King's understanding of "pastpresents," or the continually negotiated co-constitution of past and present. [5] Moreover, the essay will also draw upon a wider set of cyberfeminist methods and questions, as discussed below.


[10] The term "cyberfeminism" may be best understood as a loosely bound and multiple set of communities and modes of inquiry rather than a single movement per se. A key defining characteristic of cyberfeminists is that they take seriously the feminist potential of the digital age. It would in many ways be against the spirit of cyberfeminism to think of it as a monolithic community that puts forth a single idea or mission; it might better be described as a set of nodes with diverse and varying connections to the term "cyberfeminism." This decentered nature has in fact been one of cyberfeminism's chief characteristics—and, arguably, one of its greatest strengths. Generally, however, identifying with the term "cyberfeminism" does imply an enthusiasm for the connections between women and technology, which in the cyberfeminist politic can have a much more expansive meaning than "women's use of technology." As will be shown, cyberfeminists trouble the definition of technology as a tool that a subject with agency uses, instead pushing at the definitions of how technologies reshape the subjectivities of people and things as well as their layered relationships of agency.

[11] Despite the fact that there is no single main thread of cyberfeminism but multiple sites of multi-layered connection, it is still possible and useful to note some key contributions of cyberfeminist inquiry. Like many scholars and activists interested in information technologies, cyberfeminism takes seriously the new opportunities for community building and activism made possible by the Internet. Cyberfeminists also, however, tend to examine women's relationship with technology in a broader sense, questioning assumptions about how we define technology, gender, and identity, and how we might redefine these categories in more fluid and more radical ways. For this reason, cyberfeminism may be considered a key site of development for theories of the posthuman, although it is not always acknowledged as such. Indeed, many cyberfeminists such as Sandy Stone take up questions of how subjectivities define our conceptions of technology and how technologies define our understanding of subjectivities. [6]

[12] Additionally, cyberfeminists tend to posit a special relationship between women and machines, an identification between two groups whose labor and agency have long been ignored. Indeed, Janet Abbate, in Recoding Gender, has found that women have had a much more central role in the history of computing than has been acknowledged. Notably, Abbate argues that understanding women's relationship with computing does far more to change our understanding of history than the standard "add women and stir" approach to women's history, a phrase she borrows from Charlotte Bunch and Mary Hunt (Abbate 5). According to Abbate, understanding the close connections between women and technology, and the way that our conceptualization of technological expertise has defined our definitions of men's and women's work—and vice versa—offers a transformative understanding of technological change with vast feminist potential.

[13] It is in this special relationship between women and machines that many cyberfeminists also see the revolutionary potential of digital technologies. Information technology destabilizes identities, labor, and economic relations, and allows for reconfigurations of activist and other communities. It challenges status quo assumptions about embodiment (or at least has the potential to), and helps to further muddle the countless boundaries that patriarchy depends on: boundaries of time and place, and identities and multiplicities and other categories, including gender.

[14] Some cyberfeminists have embraced these ideological fissures as a sign that it is likely or even inevitable that patriarchal assumptions will be drowned out in the technology-centered societies that are well on their way. Indeed, some scholars have critiqued cyberfeminism as having a too strong utopian element. [7] It should be considered, however, that many activist movements use the rhetoric of certain success; it is often important to assert that, despite the many apparent obstacles, we shall overcome. It might therefore be appropriate to view the techno-utopian impulse in cyberfeminism as a strategic rhetorical choice with a long activist history rather than as an unfounded optimism. Furthermore, some cyberfeminists arguably take a more Haraway-influenced approach, [8] arguing that among the instability and boundary-bursting of technological change and other globalization processes, there will be opportunities for feminists to reshape the categories that have long defined and oppressed women and other Others. In this view, revolution is not a certainty but a real possibility—if we take advantage of the chaos caused by technological and other changes. Indeed, overall, cyberfeminists generally claim to be heavily influenced by the related community of cyborg feminists, credited to Haraway. [9] Another way that Haraway's influence might be seen is in the fact that quite often in the cyberfeminist aesthetic, politics, ethics, spirituality, sexuality, language and materiality are all viewed as interconnected elements that co-constitute one another. [10]

[15] By most accounts, the term "cyberfeminism" arose spontaneously in different locations in the early 1990s, with the earliest uses often attributed to Plant and the collective the VNS Matrix. In 1991, the VNS Matrix released the "Cyberfeminist Manifesto for the 21st Century," which included their now famous statement that "the clitoris is a direct line to the matrix" (VNS Matrix). This phrase alone is worth closer examination; the terminology reflects the multitude of gendered meanings in the term "matrix," which is derived from the word for mother or womb and can mean different mathematical and computational objects as well. Already, it can be seen that cyberfeminist discourse aims to reshape the relationships between the body and technology, and between sexuality and political agency. Note that with the term "direct line," it is connectivity that is the key claim here; the revolutionary potential of new connectivities indeed becomes a major theme in other cyberfeminist works. The VNS' manifesto also asserts that "we are the virus of the new world disorder/ rupturing the symbolic from within" (VNS Matrix). Again, technology is seen as a force that is destructive to the status quo and that therefore gives feminists opportunities to create new, less oppressive formulations of the symbolic order; this argument again hearkens back to Haraway and would reappear frequently in cyberfeminist work. [11]

[16] Plant also used the term "cyberfeminism" to talk about how women and technology are already undermining patriarchal traditions; indeed, Plant argued that throughout history, women have been identified with, and interacted with, technology in ways that challenge dominant narratives of history. While Plant will be discussed much more fully below, it is worth noting that she, like the VNS Matrix, uses the computer virus as a sort of emblem or metaphor for cyberfeminism specifically, but more broadly for any "glitch" in the pre-ordained, patriarchal program. A virus disrupts the status quo, refuses to let the goals ordered from above proceed smoothly. A virus is information with agency; like women, it is something that is supposed to be a passive object but instead becomes a force in the world. [12]

[17] The term "cyberfeminism" did indeed spread like a virus, and took on various meanings, from educators interested in helping women to become more involved in technological careers to activists using online communities to combat sexism to artists [13] creating works that explore the ways that gendered bodies were undergoing profound shifts under globalization and the information age. Soon, there were numerous websites identifying with cyberfeminism, as well as books, organizations, and conferences devoted to cyberfeminism. A particularly influential conference was the First Cyberfeminist International in 1997, organized by the Old Boys Network, a cyberfeminist collective that has continued its influence for many years. Among other things, the conference participants continued the cyberfeminist tradition of resisting labeling the movement with any one ideology and instead emphasized alliances, collaboration, and multiplicity of purpose and approach, a trend that continued with many other cyberfeminist conferences.

[18] Cyberfeminist inquiry continued to expand as many theorists attended to the questions that cyberfeminism raised. Caroline Bassett observed that cyberfeminism often views itself as "an alliance of goods against their masters, an alliance of women and machines" (Basset quoted in Wilding 6). Faith Wilding also makes explicit the need to be aware that online space is indeed gendered, and that cyberfeminism need not be a utopian ideology but a set of alliances that use technology in strategic ways for diverse goals. Wilding has also been a collaborator in subRosa, an influential art and activist collective that has advocated for and explored cyberfeminism in many ways, including by creating artworks, organizing dialogues, and publishing anthologies of cyberfeminist essays. subRosa's anthologies have also covered a wide variety of topics in cyberfeminism, exploring the intersections of gender and race and placing some much needed emphasis on feminist inquiry into the way that biotechnologies are affecting bodies (and body politics) in new and complicated ways. [14]

[19] Radhika Gajjala has explored cyberfeminism's relation to globalization and the subaltern, questioning Western associations of technology with progress and development, and arguing for a more situated understanding of the multiply mediated connections among women, technology, labor relations, and empowerment. [15] Rosi Braidotti has encouraged more attention to the intersections of gender, race, class, and technology, and explored the postmodern "complexity, multiplicity, simultaneity" that cyberfeminism, riot grrl activisms, and other related movements need in a postmodern age (Braidotti). Lisa Nakamura has also examined the ways that online spaces are gendered and racialized, and the layered and situation-specific ways that technology complicates (not erases) identifications and oppressions. [16]

[20] There are of course, numerous others who have contributed to cyberfeminist conversations, and while it would be impossible to discuss all of them here, it is important to reiterate that cyberfeminism's proud embrace of its decentralized nature makes any discussion of its history a small piece of the larger puzzle, even more so than for other intellectual-artistic histories. Cyberfeminism has, however, contributed a great deal to how we think through the connections among genders, bodies, technologies, space and time. It is for this reason that it is useful to consider the portrayal of time in two works from possibly the most widely active period thus far in cyberfeminism's history, the mid-1990s.

Ada Lovelace

[21] It is possible to argue, however, that another key figure of cyberfeminism is the woman whose name is earliest in many histories of computer science. [17] Born in 1815, Ada Lovelace [18] was engaged with British scientific and intellectual circles from her teenage years onward. [19] The projects that she focused on for most of her adult life are her work on the Analytical Engine and a course of study on what we now call neuroscience.

[22] Lovelace's work on computer theory largely came about through her collaboration with Charles Babbage [20] on the Analytical Engine, which was, to put it simply, a computer that was designed and theorized long before any such computers were actually built. [21] One of Lovelace's major contributions came in 1841, after Babbage gave a lecture in Italy on the Engine, and Louís Menabrea published in French a brief description of the content of that lecture. Lovelace translated Menabrea's text into English and appended a series of notes. The final document, often simply referred to by scholars as "Notes," ended up being over twice as long as and far more substantial than the text being annotated; she signed it with her initials, A.A.L. The "Notes" are often considered a major contribution to computer science for several reasons. These "Notes" are the most thorough account of the design, operation, and future potential for the Analytical Engine. More importantly, it is the first work of computer theory. According to Swade, it was in Lovelace's "Notes" that the leap is made from a calculating machine to a computer—because Lovelace understood and explained that such a machine could do anything that could be reduced to the manipulation of symbols. [22]

[23] The "Notes" are also the first published step-by-step explanation of how one might use the Analytical Engine for a specific purpose (in this case, the rapid calculation of the Bernoulli numbers, a sequence of numbers important to the study of number theory), which is why Lovelace is often called the first computer programmer. This choice to demonstrate the Engine's potential for complex mathematical calculations—and precisely the kind of calculations that are time consuming and tedious for human beings without the use of machines to perform—is itself strong evidence for Lovelace's ability to understand precisely the applicability of this potential new technology. Consider that many early artificial intelligence theorists of the twentieth century believed that it would be far easier to "teach" computers to move and perform physical tasks than it would be to perform complicated mathematical operations (Hoffman 87). Furthermore, her comments seem to have predicted many of the lines of inquiry that computer scientists have been and are now developing. Many early theorists [23] were prone to making claims about future leaps in "intelligent behavior" and other capabilities of computers, which often turned out to be far more problematic than assumed. The "Notes," although quite imaginative, and although they take as their subject a machine which would not be built until the next century, are remarkable for their precision and restraint in equal parts with their daring and creativity.

[24] What may be even more remarkable is that the "Notes" foresee, long before any such machine was built, a host of issues and possibilities that seem uncannily prescient today. Just a few are: the transformation of the realm of possibilities for scientific and mathematical work with its speed and accuracy; the possibility of many other purposes for computers such as the composition of music; the aforementioned question of artificial intelligence (now referred to as the "Lovelace question," a phrase coined by Alan Turing, who was influenced by Lovelace and Babbage's work); [24] the inseparability of mathematics and metaphysics when discussing thinking machines; and especially the clear and forceful recognition of precisely how innovative this machine would be, precisely what makes it distinct from all previous machines; and, the Analytical Engine's potential to revolutionize practically all human endeavors. The Analytical Engine was never built, however, due to a variety of political, financial, and engineering constraints, and nothing even like it was built for a century. [25]

[25] Throughout her life, Lovelace delved into ideas that seemed better suited for a twentieth century scientist; even as a child, she tried to design a flying machine, and carefully studied avian anatomy to shape her plans. [26] As an adult, Lovelace was well-versed in many intellectual fields of her day, and was particularly interested in developing a theory of what we would now call neuroscience. [27] In her approaches and insights, Lovelace could be, and sometimes has been, thought to fit better in today's world than in her own. The "Notes," however, including the computer program written long before computers actually existed, are the primary reason why many narratives of Lovelace, both fictional and biographical, tend to portray her as refusing to stay put in her own century. As will be shown, it is this characteristic—as much as or more than her key role in computer history—that makes Lovelace such an engaging historical figure for cyberfeminists interested in exploring how we conceive of time and technocultural change.

Motherboards and Matrilineage in Conceiving Ada

[26] Lovelace is a key character in the 1997 film, Conceiving Ada, which was written and directed by Lynn Hershman. Hershman identifies explicitly with cyberfeminism, and the film portrays the relationship between women and information technologies as intimate, transformative, and, most importantly, mutual. Furthermore, the film suggests an understanding of technological change and influence that subverts traditional notions of linear progress and offers as an alternative a multi-layered network of cyberfeminist kinship.

[27] The film is about a scientist in the present named Emmy, who finds a way to connect with people, things, and time periods which were previously assumed to be inaccessible—in other words, she ventures into all the areas that are off limits, blurring boundaries along the way. As Emmy develops this technology, she interacts with Lovelace, who is portrayed as her feminist and scientific ancestor as well as a kindred spirit. [28] The film is fictional, of course, but there are numerous scenes depicting interpretations of biographical information about Lovelace's life. Additionally, there are many scenes in which Ada and Emmy directly converse with each other, a feat made possible by Emmy's technology.[29]

[28] Emmy's technological explorations, and particularly her relationship with Lovelace, take a central role in the film. Emmy is a computer scientist working on artificial life forms, and the press calls her the "mother of cybergenetics." She feels a special kinship with Lovelace as part of her intellectual heritage, since she believes that, "[it was] with Ada Lovelace that the history of computing ... and women's liberation were directly woven together." [30] Emmy's work involves creating simulated life forms, and these simulations eventually take on their own agency. An animated dog, for example, is programmed to repeat words but acts suspiciously like a conscious subject. Emmy also uses an artificial life called "Charlene," a simulation of a robotic bird, into the past to allow Emmy to view various events of other time periods. Eventually, this work enables her to access and communicate with Lovelace, and even more importantly, Lovelace can hear her and respond. In parts of this process, Emmy even seems to be able to see or remember Lovelace's life experiences through Lovelace's own eyes. To Emmy, therefore, Lovelace is a technological achievement, a technological innovator, an object of study, a subject who studies her back, an encounter with another time period, a feminist ancestor, and a companion all at once; such are the complexities of their technocultural matrilineage.

[29] Lovelace's role as a cyberfeminist ancestor is further complicated by the end of the film. In the middle of the film, Emmy discovers that she is pregnant. While she is uncertain about whether she wants to be a mother and how it might affect her work, the end of the film shows a flash-forward with an apparently free spirited (i.e., motorbike riding) Emmy happily sharing her love of computers with a daughter. The ending may problematically suggest that today's (professional, urban, Western) women can "have it all," and that conflicts of responsibility can be satisfactorily tackled with some combination of technology, female strength, and inspiration regardless of a lack of institutional change. More interestingly, however, this "happy ending" is achieved by the daughter being inspired by Lovelace—quite probably in the old, literal sense of the word "inspiration" as inhabiting, as in a being that inhabits a person. At the end of the film, it is shown that Ada's consciousness has been downloaded in a sense to Emmy's daughter, presumably in large part because Emmy was pregnant at the time of her communion with Ada. In fact, since the daughter has "inherited" Ada's memories, Lovelace is literally an ancestor to future digital women; she has passed on part of herself in ways that go far beyond the metaphorical.

[30] Given the portrayal of these relationships—among characters and between characters and technology—it is important to consider the nature of this cyberfeminist kinship that Hershman constructs. At the most basic level, the relationship between Lovelace and Emmy is a friendship made possible by the women's technological achievements. These achievements allow two women to exchange ideas, perspectives, and support, even though they would not normally be able to, and they do so by working around the traditional ways that such relationships are mediated or even prevented, including by the passage of time itself. It is not the case, of course, that their relationship is unmediated, but rather that they have created new and more complex structures of mediation. In this sense, their relationship exemplifies and extends the kind of alliance building that many cyberfeminists have hoped could come from information technologies.

[31] Furthermore, Lovelace and Emmy's technological relationship resonates with many other similarities that make them akin to each other. For example, Emmy and Ada are both portrayed as visionaries who are "mothers" of their fields, which may evoke strength and gynocentrism but also tricky issues with the classification of women's intellectual work. Relatedly, the subplot in which Emmy questions her feelings on her newfound pregnancy parallels the many ways that Ada wishes to reject the responsibilities of Victorian motherhood to better concentrate on her work. Additionally, both Ada and Emmy reject dominant assumptions about women's desires and eroticism, again evoking the question of how meaning is inscribed on women's bodies, and how technology and knowledge might create glitches in this process, which is again an important cyberfeminist concern.

[32] Emmy and Lovelace's professional and intellectual similarities continue: according to Emmy, Lovelace "[wove] together" women's liberation and the history of computing in ways that subverted dominant understandings of women and of technology, and arguably the film suggests that Emmy has done the same. Moreover, Lovelace and Emmy both revolutionize the relationship between persons and technology by creating an entirely new theory for new fields of study, which resonates strongly with cyberfeminists' traditional focus on the transformative potential of the relationship between women and technology. Additionally, both Ada and Emmy are characterized as too far ahead of their respective times. For example, a television interviewer incorrectly assumes that Emmy's current work will not actually occur until many years in the future. Ada's and Emmy's accomplishments thus make them seem not merely more "advanced" but downright ill-suited for their own time periods. This is perhaps why Emmy tries time travel: to meet another woman who sticks out like a sore thumb from the dominant narratives of technological progress that assume that things proceed in a nice, understandable (male-dominated) order.

[33] Therefore, Lovelace and Emmy take part in a shared matrilineage in that they directly influence each other personally and intellectually, but also because they have a kinship based on deep resonances between the two women's goals, achievements, desires, conflicts, and responses to dominant notions of women in science. Their kinship thus demonstrates the way that technological change is intimately intertwined with politics, sexualities, bodies, and cultures.

[34] Another key attribute of this networked cyberfeminist matrilineage is mutuality. It is especially important that the relationship between Ada and Emmy is mutual, particularly since otherwise Ada might merely be the "object" of Emmy's study. Interestingly, the first communication between them evokes the question of whether the mutual communication of Ada and Emmy is really mutual or if it is something Emmy does to Ada. Ada is terrified at first but eventually of her own volition removes her hands from her face and gazes back. The fact that Ada can speak back is also key; the object of study is also a subject in her own right, with her own agency. Furthermore, the relationship between the scientist and "the studied" appears to be based on caring and mutual respect. A person in the past is not a passive object to be studied but a node in a network that can connect to specific points in the present for information exchange; past and present are in dialogue, each continuing to shape each other. The portrayal of time here resonates well with King's concept of pastpresents. Drawing on cyborg feminism, especially on Haraway's notion of the co-constitution of natures and cultures, King argues that pasts and presents are always in the process of co-constituting each other, in ways that can be both exciting and problematic ("Pastpresents..."). Conceiving Ada, however, primarily reveals the liberatory potential of these processes; through technology's subversion of linear time, women can reshape the relationships of agency between past and present, subject and object, flesh and information.

[35] Another way the film comments on the agencies of these relationships is the fact that Ada's memories are saved at the end of the film. Neither Ada nor Emmy take direct action to "save" Ada's memories, although Emmy makes the offer. But the memories are saved nonetheless. While it is possible that Ada's consciousness being saved is the result of some inept tampering by Emmy's lover, or that Ada denied wanting to live on but then changed her mind, it is also quite possible that the memories themselves took the action. Memories—or more specifically information—are agents in the world. Digitalized information is not stored or downloaded in a completely passive sense but in these processes, the information itself is acting; the information itself is shaping its relationships of agency. Indeed, throughout the film we see meditations on non-human agencies, from the depiction of artificial intelligences, to the proclamations by Emmy's mentor, Sims, that information is a field that surrounds us, in which we are but a part, and that the boundaries between self and other, and between one and many, are illusory. Subverting the boundaries of time and subjectivity in this film is a vital part of reshaping relationships of agency.

[36] Indeed, we see in the film a strong sense of the feminist potential of troubling boundaries, a keystone of feminist thought at least since Gloria Anzaldúa. [31] There are clearly a number of important border crossings in the film. As the "mother of cybergenetics," Emmy is blurring the biological and the digital in unprecedented ways. Obviously, the communication with Ada is another. Seeing through Ada's eyes makes Emmy able to blur the boundary between self and other, but in a specific, directed way. This is not precisely the vaunted technofantasy of transcending identity, since in this communication those aspects of her identity that she finds most important—woman, feminist, scientist—are enhanced rather than elided. Furthermore, this Ada that she contacts is simultaneously the historical Ada Lovelace and the AI (artificial intelligence) Ada. Ada is thus simultaneously ancestor and daughter, who helped Emmy come about and who came about because of Emmy; again, mutuality is a defining characteristic of their relationship. Lines that separate human from animal and biological from machine are likewise blurred or reformulated in the film, again speaking to the political potential of boundary crossing. Not surprisingly, images of liminality abound in the film: for example, Ada is most often pictured, and first accessed, in a hallway full of doors. Given this attention to the potential of the liminal, the portrayal of time might be seen as a series of boundaries or thresholds connecting specific points in space and time in ways that resist traditional notions of gender and agency. And again, a network is a better model for this understanding of time than a line.

[37] Furthermore, the film's portrayal of a networked matrilineage makes a key intervention in dominant understandings of linear time and technoscientific progress. Traditional Eurocentric and androcentric histories suggest that scientific and technological change come about due to the progression of great minds, with each generation since the Renaissance (to use a common example of a starting point) passing down their innovations and methods and the other products of their genius to the next. This traditional view of technoscientific progress [32] thus suggests a continuous timeline of direct influence, which in the Modern era is presumed to be largely free of gaps and twists and fragmented curves, with each great technological step forward a direct result of the accomplishments of the directly preceding generation. Note that this portrayal depends on the assumption that it is extremely rare for great accomplishments to be ignored in their own time or forgotten by later generations (an assumption countered by the work of Lovelace and Babbage). Furthermore, such views create this sense of a continuous timeline of technological history by portraying each step "forward" as part of one linear path, and each "great mind" is bound or affixed to its time period; all valuable knowledge work, in the model of linear progress, is a push in the same direction, with each person involved inflexibly tied to a time period or era. [33] In this narrative, the importance of women, non-Europeans, working class and middle class contributors, and others tend to be erased.

[38] This traditional view is clearly a patrilineage, [34] in which inheritance from the past is direct and transparent. It is often implicit in this view of progress that science and technology are always progressing forward, that science and technology are universally and equally beneficial to all of humanity, and that the history of scientific progress is the history of triumphs, with each step toward progress naturally following the next. The historical Lovelace, however, is a prime example of what is left out of these narratives. Her achievements were largely unknown for more than a century, and even now are often mischaracterized. This erasure of Lovelace from history is not unusual among women in science, especially when women collaborated with more famous men [35] (often the only way for women in previous time periods to be actively involved in science). This erasure was also because until Turing, the work on the Analytical Engine (by Lovelace, Babbage, and many collaborators) was thought to be of little importance; legal, financial, and technical difficulties prevented the completion of their work. Their example shows that technological progress is not a relentless march forward, one step clearly coming after the next, but a product of cultural and institutional contingencies. [36]

[39] It is especially appropriate then that Lovelace is such a key figure in a film that reconceptualizes the traditional relationships between the scientist and her intellectual heritage. Emmy acknowledges Lovelace's central contributions to her field but it is clear that she is making a choice to think of Lovelace as feminist ancestor, resisting history's long indifference to Lovelace. Emmy is motivated to use her technology to connect more intimately with Ada, resisting the way that traditional histories of science might suggest that their connection was vague and only through a long series of others (mostly men) who were the "central" figures of computer history, from Babbage to Turing to modern computer scientists.

[40] More importantly, the matrilineal kinship here is not simply a female version of the patrilineal notion of progress; despite its etymology, the matrilineage is decidedly non-linear. The film shows that Ada in many ways is akin to a late-twentieth century woman and scientists, not only in the forward-thinkingness of her scientific ideas but also in her embrace of late-twentieth century Anglo feminist notions of family, sexuality, and work. [37] Furthermore, Ada and Emmy have many aforementioned similarities, each an important node of connection in addition to their direct encounter. Thus, instead of merely being distantly connected parts of a vast linear historical timeline of technological development, Ada and Emmy have multiple connections and resonances. They are part of a network connecting gender, technology, sexuality, and subjectivities, and they have multiple, mutual connections through which they both influence each other; compare this view with the traditional, one-way and one-dimensional understanding of influence in the history of technoscientific change.

[41] The ways in which Emmy (and her daughter) "inherits" from Ada also subvert the traditional linear narrative of progress. Knowledge is not simply a product that can be given from one generation to another. As shown above, in this film, knowledge and information have their own agency. In contrast to the traditional patriarchal model of direct, continuous influence, in Conceiving Ada, women (and others), technologies, information, and bodies have multiple ways of connecting and therefore of transforming one another.

[42] Hershman thus portrays technoscientific innovation as the result of surprising connections and relationships that border cross, time travel, hybridize, and create new relationships of agency. Different nodes of innovation are connected in multiple ways, and a "direct" connection may be based on many possible resonances and not merely by one's location within a linear model of progress. The relationships among technoscientific women of different time periods is therefore not determined by how closely each woman aligns to the center or dominant narrative of technoscientific change. These relationships can form along multiple pathways, circuiting around traditional notions of center and margin, and weaving women and politics throughout the history of technology. In this conception of cyberfeminist kinship relations, to view time and progress in a linear, one-dimensional fashion is to completely misunderstand the nature, breadth, and complexity of the agencies involved in producing technoscientific change.

Ada + (Not Ada): Hybrid Subjectivities in Zeros + Ones

[43] Sadie Plant's 1997 book Zeros + Ones: Digital Women + the New Technoculture is another text that narrates Lovelace's work in ways that suggest a network model of time and subvert traditional linear models. Plant uses Lovelace's life and work as a frame to create a wide-ranging narrative, combining the literary qualities of a historical narrative, a manifesto, and a prose poem about gender and technology amid a wide variety of cultural shifts.

[44] Plant's book has been highly influential on cyberfeminist and other communities, including through its explorations of how information technology and feminist thought might shift our understanding of embodiment, virtuality, and hybridity, all of which are key cyberfeminist nodes of inquiry. Another prominent theme in the book, the potential for decentralized narratives to subvert hierarchical orders, is also reflected in the structure and organization of the book. Shunning traditional narrative structure and embracing digression and seeming tangents, Plant offers a meditation on a host of vastly diverse yet interconnected issues that leaps from one topic to another, juxtaposing historical narration, quotations from varied sources, theoretical arguments, wordplay, and prose poetry in ways that allow the themes and through lines of the book to emerge through complex processes and in a way that greatly resembles hypertext. Although the book does not have a main argument that is clearly stated in the conventional sense, it is possible to discern the overall direction of the book's discussion: that everything is changing—for women and for machines—and that women and machines are the reason why.

[45] Lovelace is a key figure in Plant's discussion of these changes. After the preamble, the first 25 pages of the book are dedicated to Lovelace's life and work (with some tangents of course—as is necessitated by the decentralized structure of the book). Lovelace's ideas about machines, the nature of thought, illness, the brain and body, and the cosmos, as well as the triumphs and obstacles of her life, are used to frame the key conversations that Plant explores throughout the book. To this end, Plant foregrounds the importance and creativity of Lovelace's work and also the way that gender roles shaped what she was able to do within her lifetime and how she collaborated with others. Plant also argues here that Lovelace was among the first to subvert hierarchical orderings of technoscientific knowledge; Lovelace's "Notes" were far more substantial than the text she was annotating, and Plant suggests that this is a radical reversal of text and footnote that foreshadows both hypertext and modern understandings of intertextuality (9-10). Additionally, Plant notes that just as digital technology today reveals (and enacts) a hyperconnectivity, a sense of immense multiplicities of connection points among seemingly divergent points of inquiry, Lovelace too thought that "All, and everything is naturally related and interconnected. A volume I could write on this subject" (Plant 11). Indeed, the importance of this hyperconnectivity – and its feminist potential – is argued for throughout this book, both through its content and its structure. This commitment to hyperconnectivity is, however, only one of the ways that Plant sets up Lovelace as a precursor and a parallel to—indeed a key ancestor of—digital women today.

[46] Other discussion of and quotes from Lovelace reoccur throughout the book, showing how Lovelace connects to a surprisingly diverse number of issues. For example, a brief discussion of Lovelace's childhood imaginings of flying machines is used to bridge a discussion between the fear of female power and the dominant assumption that imagination poses no real threat to society with the centrality of women's labor in twentieth century technological fields (73). Plant also emphasizes Lovelace's predictions about how fully technology might change society, again portraying Lovelace as someone who seems to fit well in the conversations of the 1990s and thus bridges different time periods in ways that help us construct close connections to cyberfeminists of the past, a tactic reminiscent of Hershman's use of time travel. In fact, Plant uses Lovelace's predictions as part of a broader argument for technology's potential to transform the very boundaries of time, again recalling Hershman. Plant begins a discussion of the proliferation of high-speed communications by positing that "By the end of the nineteenth century, the countess [Lovelace] was no longer alone. ... Time stretches out, unfolds, implodes. Something connects. Tugs on the thread" (114). As in Hershman's film, new connectivities and the implosion of traditional understandings of time are parallel processes.

[47] It will also be useful to consider how the portrayal of Lovelace reveals the book's overall depiction of technocultural change, especially since the book's decentralized structure means that its overall arguments often emerge over the course of the book rather than being stated explicitly. The preamble narrates the beginnings of life on earth in the sea, at a time before sex or class or even a sense of individuality:

No parents, no children, just ourselves, strings of inseparable sisters, warm and wet, indistinguishable one from the other, gloriously indiscriminate, promiscuous and fused. No generations. No future, no past. ... [L]imitless webs of interacting blendings, leakings, mergings, weaving through ourselves. ... amok. ... without regard for borders and boundaries. (3)

This originary state is then poisoned, made inhospitable, and "we mutated to such an extent that we were unrecognizable to ourselves, banding together in units of a kind which, like everything, had been unthinkable before. ... We became components of our own imprisonment. To all intents and purposes, we disappeared" (4). With this rhetorical move, Plant reframes traditional identities, hierarchies, and boundaries as self-destructive reactions to a poisonous environment; a logical consequence of this reframing is that chaotic disruptions to these traditions are naturalized as a life-affirming return to a state truer to our past.

[48] This sense of a distant past of hyperconnected fluidity is echoed throughout the book by Plant's discussion of the beneficial chaos that technology—and that women's ideas, labor, and bodies—can bring to traditional hierarchies. The book argues, in other words, that due to technology and feminism—and especially the confluence of the two—we are thankfully finding our way back to a better, earlier state. For this reason, it is especially significant that the preamble is immediately followed by a lengthy discussion of Lovelace. Lovelace's prominence in the book—more so than any other single individual of the many mentioned in the text—suggests that Lovelace is key example, symbol, and instigator of this shift (back) toward a more fluid, hyperconnected world. Moreover, Plant's discussion of Lovelace draws out the many ways that Lovelace relates to today's digital women—in the obstacles they face and sometimes overcome, in their incredibly vital but oft-overlooked role in technological change, in their ability to draw together vastly different kinds of knowledge and conversations, and in their capacity to imagine a radically different future. One might argue, then, that the protagonist of this book is both Ada Lovelace and late-twentieth century digital women. As in Conceiving Ada, Lovelace is the modern digital woman's ancestor, compatriot, collaborator, and metaphorical representation all at once.

[49] These connections between Lovelace and today's digital women also shed light on the way that Zeros + Ones ends. The last chapter of the book expresses Lovelace's thoughts on what will be required to enact necessary technoscientific change and better understanding of the universe: "Such a discovery (if possible at all) could only be made thro' very indirect methods; --& would demand a mind that should unite habits of matter of fact reasoning and observation, with the highest imagination" (256). Of her own work, Lovelace adds that it resembles neither a man's style or a woman's style. [38] Plant notes that Lovelace's work is "instead a code for the numbers to come" (256). In the context of the book's overall parallels between Lovelace and modern digital women, this ending may be read as a call for feminists today to embrace the possibilities of new codes, new knowledge practices, and new politics in a world characterized by multiplicity of identities, hyperconnectedness, and rapid change. Thus, with this ending, Plant asserts that women today, like Lovelace, must live and think with one foot in the future.

[50] Indeed, throughout the book Plant suggests that Lovelace—and today's digital women—are characterized by an uncanny ability to cross, blur, and reconfigure boundaries, including those among past, present, and future. Plant reminds us that both cultures and bodies operate through feedback loops that are subject to change, interference, adaptation, and bugs. Plant, however, emphasizes the way that "bugs" in the system might be viewed as more than glitches. In particular, Plant compares feminists and other women in technology to viruses: both were thought to be anomalies, signals of something gone wrong, but Plant claims them as expressions of agency that the programming never intended to create but who made their way into being anyway (127-130). Plant also draws parallels between digital women/computer bugs and guerilla warfare, suggesting that the invisibility of these illegitimate agencies might actually be the key to their eventual takeover. Again, Plant depicts a special relationship between women and "artificial" life and between feminism and technological change. Thus, as in Conceiving Ada, the agency of women is closely bound to a recognition or a creation/discovery of non-human agencies. These correlations speak not only to the long history of the dehumanization of women, which is in large part why women's agencies have been conceived of, in a sense, as non-human agencies. They also speak to the political potential of chaotic times in which old subjectivities are being reconfigured into something new (again hearkening back to Haraway). These new, unstable subjectivities and relationships of agency further undermine the notion of progress as a linear chain of direct influence from one traditional masculinist subject to another; according to Plant, technological-social change happens through complex interactions, divergences, glitches, and boundary jumps, through time, space, and shifting relationships of agency.

[51] Also similar to Conceiving Ada is Plant's portrayal of networks. The highly decentralized structure of the book, crossing across subject matters, genres, and time periods, illustrates the way that hypertext may be thought of as a kind of time travel. As in the film, Lovelace is a key node of connection across time and space, especially as a way to explore the long history of women as innovators and other laborers in technoscientific work, as well as objects of scientific and philosophical study. Of course, creating a narrative of women's intellectual contributions through time, especially in science and technology, has long been a strategy for working against the more damaging or absurd aspects of normative gender roles. [39] Plant, like many before her, draws lines of continuity and connection among women in science and technology, connecting those whom the dominant narrative portrays as a series of isolated exceptions to the normal course of events (in the case of women whose names are well known), and highlighting those who are not usually mentioned at all, including the unnamed women who developed weaving techniques over centuries, the women who were the first "calculators" before machines could calculate, and women working in technology today. Moreover, Plant narrates this history in a way that places women at the center of every major development in technological and computer history, from spinning wheels, to Lovelace and Babbage, to Enigma and ENIAC (foundational projects in information technology), to ADA (the computer language), to microprocessing manufacturers in sweatshops, mentioning many other women along the way. Plant retells the traditional narrative of progress in a way that turns the history of technology into a network of cyberfeminist matrilineage that has led the way for technoscientific change from prehistory to today.

[52] There are a number of feminist, historical, ethical, and other reasons for telling a story this way, including of course the long history of erasure of women from dominant narratives of progress. While "direct" influence is important to trace in these narratives of continuity, unlike in more androcentric narratives of technological "progress," this continuity does not depend on one great mind directly influencing the next generation's great minds. Again, although there is certainly discussion of how women have influenced one another's accomplishments, [40] Plant focuses on other feminist tactics to illustrate the long and interwoven history of women and/as technology. Lovelace's significance is not defined only by traditional notions of influence, since defining a tradition by direct influences assigns value to knowledge work based on the legitimacy and visibility it receives in Eurocentric masculinisms. Instead, Plant's narrative of continuity—an ancestry that jumps back and forth through time—enacts a vast set of connectivities and interfaces, which find similarities and kinships in unexpected places but nevertheless attend to differences. [41] As in Conceiving Ada, this model of engagement across time suggests a network rather than a linear narrative.

[53] The portrayal of movement across time and space closely parallels the book's depiction of the necessity of jumping across different kinds of knowledge work and the impossibility of drawing permanent lines around any area of inquiry:

There is no center of operations, no organizing core; there are no defining causes, overriding reasons, fundamental bases, no starting points or prime movers; no easy explanations, straightforward narratives, simple accounts, or balanced books. Any attempt to deal with some particular development immediately opens onto them all. (45)

This decentered, rapidly transporting narrative thus suggests that all intellectually and ethically valuable knowledge work is best understood as travel in a network; there is no coherent body of systematic knowledge (as distinct from other bodies of knowledge) except for the thread that the reader or writer is currently tracing. All subject matters are hyperconnected in such specific and locally influenced ways that it is impossible to siphon off categories of knowledge, except as a performative, temporary enactment or motion within a vast network. Zeros + Ones offers readers many points of access, many threads that interconnect many locations, and without a clear center around which all other points must gather. Lovelace and women and technology connect to everything, and importantly, these connections reveal the very nature of connectivity. In this view, any attempt to fit the many permutations and connections into a monolithic linear narrative seems absurd. Again, as with Conceiving Ada, Plant suggests a network alternative to the linear story, which is, by definition of a "line," one-dimensional.

[54] Furthermore, in Plant's network aesthetic, it is not the case that the strongest or most important connections are to one's disciplinary neighbors, although a linear model of technoscientific change might suggest this view. In Plant's book, mathematics and engineering are not necessarily more profoundly connected to each other than either is to feminism or to globalization, for example. Psychoanalysis is as much a part of computer history as mathematics is part of the history of sexuality. Similarly, digital women today are not necessarily more connected to recent trends in information technology than they are to Lovelace, for instance, or to ancient weaving technology. In this view of knowledge work, connectivity is not distance-dependent; connectivity remakes traditional notions of time and space. In this way, Plant's book (as she argues Lovelace's work does as well) exemplifies and argues for an aesthetic that values multiplicities and episodic narratives over monolithic and hierarchical narratives about knowledge. As the book's organization shows, Plant's aesthetic values lists, repetitions with variation, and sudden bursts or chains of many disparate-seeming conversations. Plant's use of this network style in her writing also suggests how problematic or even arbitrary it is to try to stick knowledge work in a single fixed place in space, time, and intellectual heritage. Knowledge is performative, local, and involving far and unlikely jumps across time, space, and subject matter, jumps that entangle [42] knowledge with the political and epistemic networks through which it traverses. By understanding technoscientific (and other) changes as actions of a hyperconnected network, Plant makes transparent the ways that technology is shaped by its vast interconnections with gender, bodies, and history. By contrast, a traditional, patriarchal linear narrative of progress tends to obscure such considerations by positing that the cause of an innovation should be primarily traced to a succession of highly visible geniuses. While Plant does indeed praise Lovelace's genius, the cyberfeminist matrilineage constructed is one in which different points in time are part of a sprawling hypertext of knowledge and experiences; Plant traces many threads in this complex weave, but even more importantly, she suggests that there are infinitely more to explore still. The network model of change is thus key to Plant's explorations of gender, technology, and the nature of knowledge.

[55] A network model of technological change, that assumes that connections are multiple and may happen across vast boundaries of time period and discipline, is thus a necessity for understanding technology and its role in an increasingly complex and hyperconnected world. Thus, Zeros + Ones, like Conceiving Ada, narrates a cyberfeminist matrilineage in which Lovelace is connected to the present, past, and future, in multiple and complex ways that are entangled in layers of genders, bodies, and shifting subjectivities and relationships of agency.


[56] This comparison of these cyberfeminist materials reveal that the local, specific, embodied, intellectual, spiritual, and other connectivities implicated in technology make time travelling networks a better model for understanding technocultural change than a timeline. This time travel is not always literal but instead occurs among vast, shifting networks of multiple possibilities and surprising, far-leaping connections. Plant's and Hershman's works about Ada Lovelace demonstrate that this alternate theorization of time and progress is vital to larger cyberfeminist inquiry into issues of embodiment, subjectivity, and agency.

[57] Given the many and often surprising ways that Lovelace's ideas resonate with both feminist and technological conversations of later centuries, it is no surprise that Lovelace continues to be a key figure for feminist engagement with technology. For instance, Lovelace appears, quite aptly, in the journal title of Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology, a journal launched in 2012 by the FemBotCollective. Additionally, since 2009, Ada Lovelace Day has served as an international day of celebration for women in science, mathematics, and technology. [43] As another example, the Ada Initiative encourages women's participation in open technology and has also established programs such as the AdaCamp "unconferences." In all of these cultural sites, Lovelace is not only an inspiration for digital women today but also a technofeminist icon—an anomaly or glitch in traditional narratives of progress—who encourages different ways of telling stories about the past, present, and future and about how technological processes are gendered. Hershman's and Plant's work are thus early examples of the way that Lovelace has been and continues to be a transformative figure for those inquiring into, and intervening in, the long and politically tangled relationship between women and science and technology.

[58] Specifically, the works of both Hershman and Plant demonstrate that Lovelace has become a cyberfeminist symbol of the creative and world-altering possibilities of the relationship between women and technology—a relationship that pervades and can reconfigure networks of knowledge. Furthermore, in this view of the network, patterns of influence and "progress" are not a top-down affair. Relationships of influence and engagement are multiply layered and challenge dominant assumptions about linear time. Clearly, the two narratives discussed here are not "mere" encomia to examples of greatness, or to role models, or even necessarily an unquestioning valorization of individualism and androcentric notions of the select and few "great minds" who are sometimes thought to be solely responsible for the progress of the world. Instead, this claiming of a network-based technocultural matrilineage—including Lovelace's role as cyberfeminist—radicalizes notions of connectivity, kinship, progress, and causality.

[59] The network and time-travel based model described in this essay therefore has several distinct advantages that suggest it could and should be used more broadly and more explicitly by anyone studying technology, science, women, culture, or the relationships among these. First of all, this network model encourages exploration of the very aspects of technoscientific history most ignored by dominant linear models. It encourages the inclusion of women and other traditionally "invisible" groups by creating a decentralized rather than a monolithic understanding of technological change, thus reshaping relationships between center and margin. The network model also privileges hybrid formations and hybrid subjectivities, since on a network, multiple and far-reaching connections are expected and vital to functionality. By considering time travel as a more important metaphor or model than a timeline, the network model encourages us to attend to the multiple and complex ways that the past and present relate—in other words, to attend to King's understanding of pastpresents, or the way that past and present are categories that mutually construct each other, with heady political stakes.

[60] The network model also of course emphasizes connectivities and the way those connectivities shape agencies; I would further argue that the network model also encourages us to consider the agencies of machines and things, since the network is not merely about connections among people but also among things, ideas, changes, contexts, political stakes, and so on. The network model also encourages us to take seriously the idea of feminist ancestry but without necessarily romanticizing this ancestry. For instance, digital women may have a special connection with Lovelace, for example, but this connection in no way separates them from masculinist histories but rather shifts how they are implicated in such histories. This connection to Lovelace is important but it is only one key connection among many.

[61] Finally, the network model provides a less masculinist way of understanding innovation. In this model, technoscientific "progress" is not a notch forward of the linear arrow of time but an addition of a new node to the network. This node may then connect in multiple ways with any other node; innovation is not then a step "forward" toward an assumed endpoint of enlightened total knowledge but instead an increase in the complexity of the network. In this view, a technoscientific achievement—Lovelace's or any other—may be valued for its past and potential connectivities rather than its conformity to a narrow and traditional construction of scientific progress. This understanding of innovation not only expands the definition of innovation but also encourages us to consider the way any innovation inherently connects to questions of gender and other political and ethical stakes.

[62] For all of these reasons, we might consider the value of adapting the network model of technoscientific change, both to the history of women in technology, and to all of us looking for better ways to know the hyperconnected world we inhabit—and to think through the politics and ethics of how we know. In short, we might benefit if the linear view of progress became, ironically, an archaic custom.

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[1] In Gender in Real Time, Kath Weston extensively discusses the feminist value of using time travel, spacetime, and wormholes as metaphors for how we engage with other time periods in ways that involve politics, identity, and gendering processes.

[2] I would like to thank Katie King, John Fuegi, Regina Harrison, and Kari Kraus for their helpful suggestions on an earlier version of this article.

[3] See, for instance, Haraway's Modest_Witness@Second_Millennium.

[4] Weston develops a theory of wormholes as a way to understand how meaning, difference, and identity are constructed through contrasts and crises of understanding that make these leaps through spacetime. She notes that "[i]in physics, a wormhole describes a fleeting passage that opens at sub-microscopic levels in the quantum foam... but has no definitive structure," and that her metaphorical use of "wormholes" suggests the ways in which such a "temporal, temporary opening connects bodies to memories to time" and allows for travel to "alternate universes" (120-121).

[5] In "Pastpresents: Playing Cat's Cradle with Donna Haraway," King argues that the term "pastpresents" be used to inquire into the processes by which pasts and presents mutually constitute each other, in much the same way that Haraway's "naturecultures" refer to specific, culturally located, and politically non-innocent processes of co-constitution.

[6] For example, see Stone's The War of Desire and Technology at the Close of the Mechanical Age.

[7] Judy Wajcman argues this point in TechnoFeminism, for instance.

[8] In "A Manifesto for Cyborgs," Haraway notes that we are already living in a science fiction world in which technology is reshaping bodies, identities, and power. She argues that in such a shifting and even apocalyptic world, it would be wise to embrace "the cyborg" as an ironic metaphor for the ways that feminists might use the destabilizations caused by technology to radically reshape relationships of identity and power.

[9] Katie King, "Speaking with Things: an Introduction to Writing Technologies."

[10] Haraway frequently uses "co-constitution" as a way of describing the relationships she examines; the discussion that frames the argument in Where Species Meet is a good example.

[11] For this reason, cyberfeminism may be considered, in one small part, to be a response to handwringing that technology was set to destroy society's most cherished institutions and traditions; from a feminist point of view, these traditions might signify centuries of oppression.

[12] It is notable that these early cyberfeminists center their inquiry on broad questions of ideology, embodiment, and the feminist potential of chaos and disruption. Some stereotypes of cyberfeminism, on the other hand, suggest that cyberfeminist inquiry has largely been about the feminist potential of individuals taking on the names and identities of a different gender online. While this topic is indeed interesting to cyberfeminists and others, there appears in these sites to be an inaccurate narrowing of cyberfeminism, which has since its inception theorized about the multitude of ways that technology creates cracks in hegemonic understandings of bodies, subjectivities, and agencies.

[13] See, for example the works of Faith Wilding, Linda Dement, Shu Lea Cheang, and Evelyn Stermitz, just to name a very few.

[14] The anthology Domain Errors is a good example of their work in this area and also the overall diversity of approaches in their publications.

[15] While these themes appear in much of Gajjala's work, a good example is the 2003 article "South Asian Digital Diasporas and Cyberfeminist Webs: Negotiating Globalization, Nation, Gender, and Information Technology Design."

[16] For instance, see Nakamura's 2002 book Cybertypes.

[17] Most histories of computer science start with the work either of Jacquard or of Babbage and Lovelace (unless Lovelace's work is erased from the story). Clearly, this convention does not take into account the fact that the history of machines might equally be considered part of the history of computers. There have, however, been efforts to correct these erasures, such as articles on the abacus and other similar handheld devices in the Annals of the History of Computer Science.

[18] This essay will refer to her as "Ada Lovelace" since most recent texts and films do so; the fuller (and technically correct) name is Ada Byron King, Countess Lovelace.

[19] The biographical information in this introductory section comes from the following sources: John Fuegi and Jo Francis, Plant, and Betty Alexandra Toole for her intellectual contributions, with additional personal information from Doris Langley Moore and Toole. There have been significant debates about Lovelace's abilities and contributions, occasionally over stating Lovelace's achievements, but frequently going to the opposite extreme and dismissing all of Lovelace's intellectual work. The latter is particularly true in work that draws from Dorothy Stein's 1985 biography, whose claims have been largely refuted by later research and analyses by Doron Swade, and by Fuegi and Francis. It is not the intent of this essay to rehash these arguments, but rather to examine how and why recent cultural sites find resonance between Lovelace and late-twentieth and early-twenty-first centuries cultures. It is appropriate, however, to acknowledge my use of the more recent scholarship, including the more technically rigorous work of Swade, as an influence on how I interpret these cultural sites.

[20] They met when Ada was only a teenager, but her support for and understanding of his work on the Difference Engine and especially the Analytical Engine produced a friendship that gradually shifted from mentorship to collegiality.

[21] While the Difference Engine was very much like a calculator, the Analytical Engine was a far more ambitious project that, although it was never built, is now recognized by many in the field of computer science as the first computer. The plan was to create an engine that could handle highly complex operations that could be directed by the user with a series of punched cards, such as those in Jacquard's loom. Lovelace was fascinated by the plans for the machine and became Babbage's collaborator, and much of the significant work on the Analytical Engine was done in conjunction between Babbage and Lovelace and several other collaborators. Lovelace and Babbage worked on the mathematical and technoscientific aspects of this project as well as (less successfully) attempting to garner public interest in and a continuation of government funding for it.

[22] Swade explains this point in the documentary film about Lovelace, To Dream Tomorrow.

[23] Here, I am using "early" to refer to pre-1960's computer science.

[24] In addition to providing this information, Fuegi and Francis, in the article "Lovelace & Babbage and the Creation of the 1843 'Notes'," in The Annals of the History of Computer Science, provide a more in-depth look at the direct connections and influences that Lovelace had on Turing and on the development of the twentieth century computer, a connection that has long been denied. I focus in this essay, however, on the narrative and political possibilities of looking at a multiplicity of indirect connections.

[25] The purpose of this essay is not to enter the debate over the intellectual contributions of Lovelace but to examine how and why these contributions are of interest to feminist communities of the past two decades. Because there is some contention over the issue of Lovelace's work, however, it is worth noting that recent scholarship, such as the sources named above, has largely confirmed Lovelace's authorship of the Notes, her independent theorizing on the Analytical Engine, and her overall contributions to their collaboration. While many histories have questioned Lovelace's skill, knowledge, achievement, or value to the work on the Analytical Engine, most have used Stein's 1987 biography as their source. The central claims of this work, that Lovelace contributed very little of scientific value, and that she had no real understanding of this work, has been called into question (and I think refuted) by recent works by Swade, Toole, and Fuegi and Francis; examination of the correspondence between Lovelace and Babbage, edited by Toole, provides confirmation.

[26] Leonardo Da Vinci famously had similar dreams.

[27] Lovelace's work on neuroscience, like her work on the Analytical Engine, was also quite forward-thinking, since she had "hopes and very distinct ones too, of one day getting cerebral phenomena such that I can put them into mathematical equations; in short, a law or laws for the mutual action of the molecules of the brain" (Toole 166); it is so prescient, in fact, that it, like her work on computer theory, may explain why some recent narratives portray Lovelace as jumping to the present or future rather than staying put, so to speak, in the Victorian age.

[28] Information about and a clip from the film may be found at Hershman's website, «http://www.lynnhershman.com/».

[29] Many of these scenes seem to draw on some common tropes of the biographical accounts of Lovelace which might be problematic to the film's declared feminist sensibilities: an uncharacteristic humorlessness in Lovelace, the portrayal of Lady Byron as a relatively simple-minded force of oppression, etc., and there are some inaccuracies in names and dates as well. However, since the film is clearly fictional, I will not note all the biographical inaccuracies, and instead consider the entirety of the film to be an imaginative rather than a historically accurate narrative.

[30] Weaving, technology, and women are central themes to other depictions of Lovelace as well, as discussed later in this essay.

[31] Anzaldúa's Borderlands: The New Mestiza = La Frontera is a particularly influential work, for example.

[32] A good example of this view of "progress" in science and technology is the metaphor of "standing on the shoulders of giants," an image made famous by Isaac Newton. The latent masculinism of this metaphor is telling in that it connects towering "greatness" with the notion that it is only through direct and continuous connection and influence with past greats that the "hidden" view is discovered. Implicit is the assumption that science is largely about individuals (on their own, and not propped up by the knowledge work of their subordinates) who discover and explore previously unseen territory. See Londa Schiebinger's argument that the Western colonial-scientific projects in the name of "Discovery" made the colonization of (feminized, lower) Nature the guiding mode of Western science (Nature's Body: Gender in the Making of Modern Science), and Phillip Davis and Reuben Hersh's critique of the Western romanticizations of the lone genius with special access to the secrets of the cosmos (The Mathematical Experience).

[33] For example, perceptions of da Vinci's genius are in part tied to the way da Vinci ostensibly expresses the spirit of the Renaissance. Thus, the assumption is that technoscientific innovation unfolds through time in a way that provides a sense of order to the passage of time and progress; displacement is not part of the equation.

[34] I do not argue, of course, that no women are present in these traditional narratives—though until recently, it was not uncommon to find Marie Curie as the only woman mentioned in histories of science—but I instead suggest that the overall focus of traditional histories is on male geniuses and more broadly on patriarchal values and notions of influence.

[35] See, for example, Caroline Herschel, Theano, Sophia Brahe, Lucia Galvani, and others.

[36] Indeed, the thought of how technology—and the world—might have been different if the Analytical Engine had been completed has inspired literary works, including The Difference Engine, which is often called the first Western steampunk novel.

[37] This is not to suggest that there is feminist consensus on these issues, but rather that Ada's views on these issues is identifiably more late-twentieth century than Victorian, at least according to modern portrayals of her.

[38] Plant, throughout the book, expresses the benefits or need for the dissolution (or at least the troubling) of gender as a category, from the preamble about a sex-less world to her discussions of the way that women's bodies are always virtual constructs to her examination of the medical establishment's problematic relationship with transgender people. Plant is thus interested in undermining the category of gender even as she uses the category of "women" as a necessary feminist category to resist patriarchy. In this way, her approach to gender is perhaps more diverse than Hershman's.

[39] For example, see the reference to female mathematicians of ancient times in the works of Mary Darby Robinson in "Letter to the Women of England," which posits that her readers are the descendants in spirit of remarkable women throughout history, and that despite beliefs to the contrary, there has never been a time when achievements were left only to men. Christine de Pisan employs a similar strategy of crafting an edifice of women's constant achievement in the Book of the City of Ladies.

[40] Mary Somerville's substantial influence on Lovelace is a good example, as are the contributions of Lovelace's mother, who directed her education.

[41] Amy Kit-Sze Chan's excellent essay, "When Cyberfeminism Meets Chinese Philosophy: Computer, Weaving, and Women," extends Plant's discussion of Lovelace's relationship to weaving, cyberfeminism, and globalization using many similar tactics.

[42] While the term "entangled" suggest threads, weaving, etc., it is also relevant that feminist physicist and philosopher Karen Barad uses the term "entanglement" to suggest an interconnectedness of all matter that makes it a performative, political act to cut off certain parts of the universe to observe or consider and not others.

[43] Ada Lovelace Day was also the inspiration for the steampunk, math-centered webcomic, "The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage": «http://sydneypadua.com/2dgoggles/lovelace-the-origin-2/»