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Queer(y)-ing Technical Practice: Queer Experiences in Student Theater Productions at a Technical University

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society Division Technical Session 6

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Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

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Paper Authors


Mitch Cieminski Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Orcid 16x16

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Mitch Cieminski received a B.S. in electrical and computer engineering from Olin College of Engineering in Needham, MA in 2017. They are currently pursuing a PhD in Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, studying the intersections of engineering cultures, peace and ethics, educational power structures, and the experiences of disabled, queer, and trans engineers.

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This pilot study presents a potentially novel way to consider gender and sexual diversity in STEM by attempting to identify sociotechnical practices which might be considered “queer” in a broad sense—by being of, by, for, or regarding queer people—and by seeking to understand how these practices might challenge and complement other technical practice and education. To explore these questions, I conducted participant-observation fieldwork at a student-run theater organization at a mid-sized technical university, identified by students as “outstandingly queer” for both its increased proportion of LGBTQ+ students and its notably welcoming attitude toward them. From examining student-run practices across technical theater, acting, directing, and organizational management, I find that the practices of identity negotiation, performance, and flexible democratic decision-making, situated in an alternative technical-social space, are sociotechnical practices with a queer inflection important to the site. These can help engineering educators in three ways: 1) by simply providing a description of some meaningful sociotechnical experiences of queer students; 2) by beginning to bridge the “diversity-oriented” and “technically oriented” streams in engineering education research through considering how queer STEM students are innovative technologists in their own right; and 3) by contributing to the body of useful cases for potential changes to the sociotechnical environment of engineering education. This paper presents these practices, as well as the role of in/authenticity, as some salient aspects of queer student experience as I observed it.

Cieminski, M. (2019, June), Queer(y)-ing Technical Practice: Queer Experiences in Student Theater Productions at a Technical University Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33222

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