Before and After
Devon Hodges for the editorial collective
Before September 11th, questions related to "Gender and Technology" were the focus of our sixth issue of ://English Matters. The internet, as well as the materials and methods associated with it, have often been understood as the province of geeks, hackers, and programmers, all of them members of a futuristic boys’ club. If this is where the boys are, does this mean girls are hostile to technology because somehow closer to nature and the nostalgic past? This familiar gendering of technology (and its opposed "reality") is belied by our own experience here at George Mason University, where many of the most sophisticated designers and programmers of multimedia pieces are women. Do men really dominate the new technologies?

After September 11th, the planned focus of this issue, already too large, expanded even more. We felt compelled to consider some of the networked reverberations of the catastrophic events sent in motion that day. As a result, we have gathered messages and links to archives and images related to 9-11. We present them here as found objects, flickering responses to loss. These objects need to be placed into larger narratives that will carefully explore their significance as elegy, rumor, protest, and propaganda. Many of us, as if paralyzed by the weight of events and the sheer volume of words, images, and acts prompted by them, have been slow to bestir ourselves to the difficult intellectual task of sorting out what has happened and why. That some political groups have admonished scholars for conducting teach-ins and asking questions has made this work feel at once more burdensome and more urgent.

The rhetoric of "before and after" promises clear distinctions, although the past and present are not easily separable. Nonetheless, there remains the mark of a defining trauma, incessantly talked about and yet never fully represented. In an odd way, the net, with its updates, broken links, vanishings, and insurgent, unwanted messages, is a resonant cultural site of disrupted and revisionary communication. It readily lends itself to the voices of a post-traumatic world, some of them recorded in this issue.