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“Hacking Diversity” to Receive ASIS&T 2021 Best Information Science Book Award

The Association for Information Science & Technology (ASIS&T) is delighted to announce that Hacking Diversity: The Politics of Inclusion in Open Technology Cultures, written by Christina Dunbar-Hester of the University of Southern California and published by Princeton University Press is the recipient of the ASIS&T Best Information Science Book Award for 2021. The award’s purpose is to recognize the outstanding book in information science published during the preceding calendar year. The award is given to the author(s) whose book is judged to have made the most outstanding contribution in the field of information science during the year. 

In Hacking Diversity: The Politics of Inclusion in Open Technology Cultures, Dunbar-Hester asserts that hacking, as a mode of technical and cultural production, is commonly celebrated for its extraordinary freedoms of creation and circulation. Yet surprisingly few women participate in it: rates of involvement by technologically skilled women are drastically lower in hacking communities than in industry and academia. Hacking Diversity investigates the activists engaged in free and open-source software to understand why, despite their efforts, they fail to achieve the diversity that their ideals support.

Christina Dunbar-Hester shows that within this well-meaning volunteer world, beyond the sway of human resource departments and equal opportunity legislation, members of underrepresented groups face unique challenges. She brings together more than five years of firsthand research: attending software conferences and training events, working on message boards and listservs, and frequenting North American hackerspaces. She explores who participates in voluntaristic technology cultures, to what ends, and with what consequences. Digging deep into the fundamental assumptions underpinning STEM-oriented societies, Dunbar-Hester demonstrates that while the preferred solutions of tech enthusiasts—their “hacks” of projects and cultures—can ameliorate some of the “bugs” within their own communities, these methods come up short for issues of unequal social and economic power. Distributing “diversity” in technical production is not equal to generating justice.

“Hacking Diversity” reframes questions of diversity advocacy to consider what interventions might appropriately broaden inclusion and participation in the hacking world and beyond.

Dunbar-Hester is associate professor of Communication in the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. She is also the author of Low Power to the People: Pirates, Protest, and Politics in FM Radio Activism, which was selected as the co-winner of the 2014 McGannon Award for Social and Ethical Relevance in Communications Technology Research. Dunbar-Hester holds a Ph.D. in Science & Technology Studies from Cornell University. Prior to joining USC Annenberg, she was faculty in the School of Communication & Information at Rutgers University. Her research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Berggruen Institute, the Virtual Knowledge Studio for the Humanities and Social Sciences, and the Institute for Advanced Studies on Science, Technology & Society. 

Upon learning of her book’s selection as the 2020 Best Information Science Book winner, Dunbar-Hester said, “I am so pleased that Hacking Diversity is receiving this recognition from ASIS&T, an important stakeholder community in the sort of research in this book. I thank the members of the award committee for their service, especially during this difficult time.” 

Dunbar-Hester will receive her award at the 2021 meeting of the Association for Information Science & Technology (ASIS&T) which will be held October 30 - November 2, 2021 in Salt Lake City, Utah.