Contrivers’ Review Call for Essays on Technology
This year marks the 30th anniversary of Donna Haraway’s “A Manifesto for Cyborgs,” an essay that blurred the boundaries between the organic human being and the human being as a machine, a set of social practices, and cultural modes of communication and representation. Since then the postmodern turn represented in texts like Haraway’s “Manifesto” has been itself superceded. We see a resurgence of Enlightenment thought–and all the baggage it brings–in initiatives like the re:enlightenment project and The History Manifesto. However, we undoubtedly live in a world inundated with technology so that Haraway’s claim that “We are all chimera” remains accurate even if the ground of technology, politics, and gender have dramatically shifted since 1985.
As part of our long term investigation of technology and the humanities, politics, and arts, Contrivers’ Review invites submissions on any subject relating to gendered and LGBT cultures and their intersection with technology broadly defined. Some issues that might be covered include:
Social media, violence, and harassment
Gender, Feminism, and gaming culture
Discrimination in the Tech Industry/Silicon Valley/Gamer Culture
Feminist and Queer history/historiography of new media
Technologies of bodies
Gender, professionalism, and online identities
Feminist Digital Humanities
Contrivers’ Review is an intellectual journal not a scholarly, refereed publication. As such, we publish essays and reviews that bridge academic audiences and the wider public. Submissions and pitch letters should be addressed to a broad audience, not fellow specialists in the academy. Essays should be between 1,500 and 3,000 words. Please send us a query letter at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, please refer to our masthead.
CFP: Essays on Technology March 29, 2015
Barbie F*cks It Up and Feminist Hackers Save the Day November 19, 2014
…So, I wasn’t going to click the link. Sexist books and toys are ubiquitous, and one grows weary of reading about them. But it turns out that even though the Barbie I can be… A Computer Engineer book is even more awful than you might expect (Barbie herself doesn’t write the code: she needs Steven and Brian for that.), Pamela Ribon’s righteous rant in response to Barbie’s ersatz engineering is worth the price of admission:
THE FUCKING END, PEOPLE. Despite having ruined her own laptop, her sister’s laptop, and the library’s computers, not to mention Steven and Brian’s afternoon, she takes full credit for her game design— only to get extra credit and decide she’s an awesome computer engineer! “I did it all by myself!”
Flip the book and you can read “Barbie: I can be an Actress,” where Barbie saves the day by filling in for the princess in Skipper’s school production of “Princess and the Pea.” […]
When you hold the book in your hands to read a story, the opposite book is upside down, facing out. So the final insult to this entire literary disaster is that when you read “Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer,” it appears that you are so fucking dumb, you’re reading “Barbie: I Can Be an Actress” upside down.
Even better, if it weren’t for Barbie I can be… A Computer Engineer, we would never have gotten to enjoy the Feminist Hacker Barbie site, at which readers are invited to improve the original book. Here’s one user’s suggested improvement:
Update: Great news! A female PhD student in computing has re-written the book to make it what it ought to have been in the first place. Here’s her version. Yay, intertubz!
Is the oculus rift sexist? March 29, 2014
danah boyd wrote an interesting piece in Quartz about her observations that men and women prioritise different depth cues. She has personal experience in a CAVE Automatic Virtual Environment that made her puke and she can’t see IMAX movies.
In short: artificial 3D environments, depth cues have to be programmed in. There are a lot of depth cues, and we don’t need all, but motion parallax is pretty easy to render in 3D, so that gets in. Motion parallax, according to boyd, is the one men’s brains pick out as the most important cue, but women prioritise on shape-from-shading, which is a lot more complicated. Therefore, for men in general, 3D environments work well, but for women, the poor rendering of shape-from-shading causes disorientation and nausea. This phenomenon may also be related to why some transsexuals experience strange visual side effects from their treatment.
If this is the case, there is indeed a problem with 3D technology. dana points out that a lot more research is needed.
I have been in the CAVE of the Centrum for Wiskunde & Informatica in Amsterdam which was totally awesome, and a very rare experience. No nausea experienced. However, IMAX theatres have been around for quite a while and are common. Some people do indeed experience motion sickness with them, but shouldn’t it have come to light by now if this was something particularly affecting women?
HT to Hank Greely for bringing this to my attention.
One Perk of NYC E-Hail Taxi Apps: Reducing Discrimination April 24, 2013
In a case about whether to allow New York City Taxis to use E-hail apps, which allow passengers to summon a taxi by using the app on their phone, the judge points out how this app may reduce the degree to which taxi drivers discriminate by passing over some fares.
“At least on its face, the program appears better aimed at avoiding discriminatory passenger selection,” she wrote. “The driver must accept an e-hail without knowing the passenger’s identity or destination.”
The Ethics of Public Shaming March 22, 2013
I came across an article today about an instance of public shaming and its backlash in the tech industry. There is something about this story that bothers me, so I’m going to try to spell out exactly what. It’s connected to my experience of conversations about public shaming within philosophy as a profession. I’m hoping people who have thought longer and harder about this than I have will chime in.
Here are my (underdeveloped) thoughts on public shaming and the ethics of using it to combat hostile environments:
When it comes to holding people accountable for their actions in a community, our uncertain knowledge of others’ action is a big morass–one that I want to leave to the side for right now. In the articles I’ve linked to, there is a big issue that goes beyond uncertainty as to whether something inappropriate did occur. PyCon was relatively certain the men in the audience did something inappropriate, since it reprimanded them. The men in the audience pretty much admitted they did something inappropriate, since they apologized and promised to alter their future behavior. But given that relative certainty, PyCon and others have still said that Richard’s use of public shaming was an inappropriate response to overhearing inappropriate jokes. (I believe, regardless of whether such shaming had led to anyone getting fired or not.)
In short, PyCon and Ars Technica seem to be making the following argument: While there is indeed a hostile atmosphere for women in the programming field, publicly shaming two men on twitter for making sexually offensive jokes at a programming conference was uncalled for, overkill, and a violation of their privacy.
(more after the jump)
Etsy’s Recipe For Recruiting and Retaining Women Engineers February 8, 2013
As if these awesome dinosaur leggings weren’t reason enough to love Etsy, First Bond Capital reports on its blog that Etsy nearly quintupled its number of women engineers in just a year through a series of smart decisions and innovative methods. [See the coverage of this in The Atlantic, too.] In particular, Etsy aimed for more junior hires but helped to train those hires by providing them with grants to enroll in Hacker School. Etsy CTO, Kellan Elliott-McCrea, reckons their approach wasn’t just equity supporting — it also helped the company to recruit better and more economically. The post should be required reading at all universities and tech companies. Here’s a taste:
Etsy… had a substantial “boys versus girls” dynamic, where engineers (mostly male) sat on one side and the women on the other… It was a broken system that required changes on both sides of the house…. Simply saying that you value diversity internally isn’t enough – there’s just no reason for an outside observer to believe you if they come and see a scarcity of women in the organization.
Thanks, Mr. Jender!
Scientists seem to have moved on from their Jurassic Park-esque dreams of “Raising the Mammoth” to a Jurassic Parkesque dream of raising a real live Neanderthal…inside a real live human’s womb.
If you think you have the right qualifications (a womb and, according to one of the scientists involved, an “adventurous” spirit,) you can fill out an application here.
(The application is a spoof)
What is not a spoof, however, is this quote from the same scientist dude (who might have been the inspiration for the scientist in the movie Bats–check the list of quotes for the joke):
… everyone will want to have a Neanderthal kid. Were they superstrong or supersmart? Who knows? But there’s one way to find out.”
Shout-out to my friend Nick for the tip on this one!
Even my laptop isn’t pretty enough October 23, 2012
The Floral Kiss series features a unified design sensibility that has been developed for the female consumer—from the PC’s design to accessories, such as the mouse and case, and optional add-ons. Users can select their favorite color from among three variations: Elegant White, Feminine Pink and Luxury Brown.
It even comes with nifty scrapbooking, diary, and horoscope applications standard–golly gee!
What Is the Current State of Feminism’s PR? October 9, 2012
I hope everyone had a very nice Let’s-Glorify-Imperialism Day.
I came across this screen shot on failbook (which surprising takes quite a few shots at oppressive cultural patterns) and at first I had myself a mighty wince over seeing all the hackneyed stereotypes of feminism get thrown around. But then I found the article that the screen shot comes from, and that adds a whole new context: the #sorryfeminists hashtag was created by feminists. To mock these stereotypes. (here’s the article on Slate):
One of the most frustrating parts of being a feminist is how negative stereotypes created to discredit feminism are now pretty much conventional wisdom. Like the population at large, actual feminists can be funny and sexy, despite our bad rap as sexless and dour. It’s like living in Oz but repeatedly being told you’re in Kansas. That frustration boiled over this morning when Deborah Needleman, the editor of T Magazine (and the stylish wife of Slate‘s own Jacob Weisberg), put up this joking tweet suggesting that feminists dislike women being sexy:
At this point, stereotypes of feminists are mocked so thoroughly that it’s impossible to determine if someone who invokes one is trying to reinforce it, making fun of it, or playing up the ambiguity so that you get a little from both camps. Anna Holmes, the founder of Jezebel, and Irin Carmon of Salon (full disclosure: real-life friends of mine who are, may I say, ridiculously sexy ladies) decided to respond in a way that the Internet does best: embracing the confusion by creating the hashtag #sorryfeminists on Twitter.
It worked. The #sorryfeminists meme is, as I type, expertly tearing apart the idea that feminists hate fun, hate sex, and hate beauty. (It’s also, like any other Twitter meme, devolving into layers of irony and meta-jokes that pretty much stop making sense altogether.
So it seems like there are both people using the #sorryfeminists hashtag to make fun of stereotypes and makes fun of feminists.
Okay and now there’s yet another level. If you actually look on twitter (#sorryfeminists) there’s a lot of people using this hastag to critique the white-washing and middle-class-centrism of feminism and its public face. For instance:
#sorryfeminists is fun/funny to people who can afford to be that stereotype, or who have the knowledge to refute that stereotype.
Cutesy side of 2nd wave. What
#sorryfeminists is NOT addressing? Those OTHER labels: at worst oppressive/racist, at best willfully blind.
You gotta stop this echo chamber of white feminists who are given book deals to recycle the same tired ideas.
#sorryfeminists I’m not sorry.
If I was introduced to white feminism 1st I would’ve NEVER been a feminist. Thank goodness for Black/brown feminist scholars
Feminism has a double PR problem. It still hasn’t shaken some of these ridiculous stereotypes but it also all too often puts forward white middle class women and issues that are particularly (or only) pertinent to white middle class women–so they become interpreted as “the” issues of feminism.
(I sometimes catch myself doing this still: abortion is not the only issue for women’s reproductive rights and health; balancing work and family is not a “new” issue for lots of families; fighting to gain respect for not changing your last name has little resonance for people whose marriage isn’t recognized as legitimate no matter what they do with their name, etc.)
So in the name of helping improve feminism’s PR, I’m giving a shout out to some of my favorite blogs that join in the dismantling of anti-woman oppression and that address issues that aren’t often given the spotlight:
Stereotypes and the first laptop September 25, 2012
An interesting article over at the Atlantic on how gender stereotypes and the keyboard might have made it more difficult for the first laptop to catch on.
‘This is an amazing fact. We had this product. It was designed for business executives. And the biggest obstacle, one of the biggest obstacles, we had for selling the product was the fact — believe it or not — that it had a keyboard. I was in sales and marketing. I saw this first-hand. At that time, 1982, business people, who were in their 40s and 50s, did not have any computer or keyboard in their offices. And it was associated with being part of the secretarial pool or the word processing (remember that industry?) department. And so you’d put this thing in their office and they’d say, “Get that out of here.” It was like getting a demotion. They really were uncomfortable with it.’
Though Hawkins doesn’t quite say it. There is a distinct gendered component to this discomfort. Typing was women’s work and these business people, born in the 1930s and 1940s, didn’t scrap their way up the bureaucracy to be relegated to the very secretarial work they’d been devaluing all along.
Of course, it also cost something like $20,000 in today’s currency–still, this makes me wonder what interesting cases for agnotology we might find in forms of practical knowledge.