Activist Technical Communication at Girls' Technology Camps: Building Girls' Confidence in Digital Literacies
thesisposted on 02.08.2019, 15:47 by Carolyn K Grant
Activist Technical Communication at Girls’ Technology Camps: Building Girls’ Confidence in Digital Literacies presents a mixed-method empirical study investigating the capacity of a girls’ summer technology camp, Girls Go Digital, to foster girls’ confidence and interest in STEM subjects. I build on the work of a growing number of university technical communication and composition programs hosting local digital camps for middle school-aged girls, responding to the gap in STEM confidence that grows between boys and girls after middle school. My dissertation works in partnership with a large, national, for-profit version of these camps, and I utilize a community engagement approach. Though some may see the aims of a for-profit tech camp as incompatible with engagement ethics, I argue that we ought not to ignore the potential for community impact offered by their resources and reach. With a camp design targeted to reach girls who may feel discouraged by a mixed gender setting, a week of camp at Girls Go Digital leads to statistically significant positive impacts on girls’ confidence in their technology skills, as well as attitudes relating to technology. These findings contribute not only to strategies for technofeminist interventions, but also to the growing body of technical communication scholarship with social justice aims. In order to build girls’ confidence at camp, technical instruction is intertwined with instructors’ roles as emotionally supportive mentors for their campers. Complicating technical communication’s prioritization of clarity and efficiency, my study suggests that for girls learning STEM subjects, and for many other disenfranchised audiences, truly effective technical communication must also be trust-building advocacy work.