23 Sep 2022 12:30-1:30pm (BST) Online


Experiments in computational feminism

The Bechdel test – named after cartoonist Alison Bechdel – asks three simple questions of every work of fiction: does it include two named women? Do they talk to one another? About something besides a man?

The test has inspired much academic as well as popular discussion. It has also been the subject of digital and crowdsourcing-based projects. For years, the Bechdel Test Movie List has gathered 8,000 films along with pass/fail responses from thousands of viewers. Bechdel.io is an open-source script which scans movie scripts for evidence of female character dialogue.

Critiques and responses to the original Bechdel test have adapted this formula to investigate expressions of other forms of inequality and discrimination in cultural media, such as racism, homophobia or transphobia.

In this session we will present the results of an experimental Guided Project run by Cambridge Digital Humanities with participation from early career researchers in the Arts, Humanities, Technology and Gender Studies. The project explored the challenges of ‘rewiring’ the Bechdel test using computational methods to apply it to a dataset composed of superheromovies.

Dr Anne Alexander has been Director of Learning at CDH since its foundation. She was previously Co-ordinator of the Cambridge Digital Humanities Network. Her research interests include ethics of big data, activist media in the Middle East and the political economy of the Internet.

Dr Ryan Heuser is a Junior Research Fellow in King’s College, Cambridge, where he studies English literature and the digital humanities. Ryan’s work brings computational methods of text analysis to the study of literature and its history.

Cambridge Digital Humanities

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