The making of computer scientists: rendering technical knowledge, gender, and entrepreneurialism in Singapore

Breslin, Samantha (2018) The making of computer scientists: rendering technical knowledge, gender, and entrepreneurialism in Singapore. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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This dissertation explores the making of computer scientists in Singapore. I explore how transnational computer science epistemologies and Singaporean state policies work to render the world into technical problems that computer scientists can manipulate and solve. Computer science knowledge and practice is thereby presented as mobile, while masking the colonization of places like Singapore by specifically rendered and gendered American computer science. I also map out the diffractive effects of these transnationally mobile renderings. This research is based on participant observation and interviews centring on an undergraduate computer science program in Singapore. Singaporean and technology media, Singaporean government policies, and university and computer science curricula are also analyzed. I first show how students learn to model and render “reality” into technical frames, creating naturalized computing “worlds,” but ones wherein magic is real and computer scientists are the magicians. Heteronormative binary renderings of gender are (re)produced within these worlds through narratives about algorithms and computing “problems” that constitute a transnational, but US-centric, tradition and that govern the possible ways for students and professors to think about and do computer science. I also show how students themselves are “rendered technical” and their lives and identities “torqued” as they are summoned to inhabit gender norms and hegemonic values of neoliberal competition, passion, and entrepreneurialism. In particular, the performance of passion by certain students works to create a gendered benchmark against which all students come to measure themselves, but which often turns to promoting over-work and exploitation in the name of career development and innovation. Moreover, while some students perform situationally dependent and fluid gender identities, I argue that the predominance of research reducing gender to the question of “women in” computing limits the possibilities both for research on and enactments of gender in computer science and works both to mask and reproduce gender inequalities. Yet, I also show how – in the space produced through conflicting intra-actions of different norms and values – students’ performances of self complicate binary renderings of gender and disrupt the hegemonic status of neoliberal passion and entrepreneurialism, suggesting new possibilities for becoming/being a “good” computer scientist.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
Item ID: 13499
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 385-430).
Keywords: Gender, Entrepreneurship, Neoliberalism, Transnationalism, Heteronormativity, Computer Science, Education, Singapore, Feminist Technology Studies, Hidden Curriculum
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Anthropology
Date: August 2018
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Computer scientists--Education (Higher)--Singapore; Computer scientists--Social conditions--Singapore

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