As a scholar and an activist, Mary Daly has been on the forefront of feminist theory. Her 1987 parody of patriarchal dictionaries, the Websters First New Intergalactic Wickedary of the English Language (Wickedary), is a document written in hypertext. It may be confined to the printed page, but with its bits of information cross-referenced, coded and annotated, its text occupies an intellectual space rather than a flat page. The Wickedary allows the reader to freely navigate terms and concepts from her other books. She gives the readers connections to follow at their discretion and gives them notes that expand her text into other writers works, making connections to the larger feminist community and an intellectual heritage. The Wickedary.com realizes these features digitally.
The Wickedary.com is my attempt to offer an alternate experience of feminist philosophy by highlighting and facilitating the hypertextual features of the book version. The user of Wickedary.com should be able to browse Dalys terms with fluidity impossible in the book format. Key philosophical ideas should emerge in the users mind organically as s/he navigates the site. The interactive nature of hypermedia should reinforce the users empowerment. This step into hyperspace, fulfills Dalys own demand for "Weaving" by "Websters," "Lusty Leaping," "Journeying" and occupying the "Otherworld," all terms made up or modified by Daly.
Dalys word plays and their various meanings keep the mind sharp and nimble for learning new things. Wickedary.com is also intended to be nimble in that I hope to add new words and new definitions. For example, I hope to add Donna Haraways "Cyborg" and S. Paige Batys "Matrix" to the digital Wickedary. I also plan to add the word "Computer" to highlight cyber-feminist Sadie Plants observation that computers were formerly groups of women who computed targeting coordinates for the military. Each of these additions participates in Dalys challenging of language and culture. Ultimately, I intend to bring together different feminist heritages to highlight their similarities rather than their distinctions.
As a Sketch in the Art and Culture category at Siggraph2000, I hope to present the Wickedary.com as an experiment. The questions that I hope to open to discussion are:
- Does the Wickedary.com accomplish the empowerment and/or education of the user, especially the woman and feminist as user?
- What are the limitations of hypermedia as a feminist medium?
- Do economic forces impact the potential of hypertext as a medium for feminist or philosophical discourse?
- Is there anything particularly "feminist" about hypertext navigation? If so does the Wickedary.com achieve or reflect this?
- Are there features that I can add to the Wickedary.com to make it better reflect its purpose as a feminist site?
With the Wickedary.com, I hope to demand a playful engagement with feminist ideas. Inspired by the hacker ethic outlined in Steven Levys Hackers, I am in the process of dividing Dalys philosophy into data tidbits that can be manipulated. However, instead of using this deconstruction to dismantle her perspective, I hope to use these feminist tidbits to infiltrate the culture at large.
The Wickedary.com is the first step in the process, creating a dynamic version of Dalys text, but this is not where my work ends. My creation of a database populated by Dalys ideas enables such subversive digital acts as taking a published website, filtering its words through the Wickedary, and republishing it in Daly-speak. This "dialectizing" exercises Dalys linguistic play, giving it a space to be encountered in direct relation to the culture at large. For example, using a keyword matching system based on the content of the Wickedary.com, republish the front page of the New York Times website using words such as "snool," "academentia," "cockocracy," "Hags," and other Wickedary words. This should provide a test bed for Dalys radical feminist language.