In academia, computer science, discipline on April 7, 2014 at 9:41 am
An New York Times article about sexism in the tech industry has been making the rounds on Facebook. One explanation that some of my friends have used to address the why such rampant and explicit misogyny exists is the lack of education. Not engineering/computing education, but a well rounded one in which people would come to understand why its inappropriate and why having a diverse workforce actually matters.
I was making the same argument the other day about a different topic. When Snowdon, Assange, and Manning decided to leak intelligence secrets all of them claimed they had done so because to do otherwise would be ethically wrong. I/You/the NSA may disagree, but they all agree that they had a moral/ethical/civil duty to do so. As I said to a colleague, what drives this moral/ethical/civic sensibility? I shared the thought with my colleague that perhaps a lack of a well-rounded education might play a role here.
For decades we’ve shortchanged all education. It cost us too much. Further, we’ve long prioritized the sciences over the social sciences and the humanities. (We now find it alarming that Congress ridicules the sciences, but as another colleague of mine pointed out, that’s how long many/some in the sciences have treated the social sciences/humanities). But it is just these maligned disciplines that would have gone some way to create the critical thinkers that seem to have vanished from the tech sector. And now we have an industry that’s unabashed in its misogyny. We have “rogue” technologists who now have the power to decide when to leak secrets, and deciding to do so based on moral principles that at least to some are questionable. I wonder whether we did it to ourselves and if there is worse to come.
p.s. if you want to be even more depressed here’s a timeline of sexist incidents (thanks to the friend of another colleague) in the Tech Sector.
In crafts and craftiness on March 31, 2014 at 3:38 pm
I was just re-reading a great paper on how sites like Ravelry transform knitting in a variety of ways. One thing that comes up in the paper is a discussion of knitting in public. Knitting is typically not a public act, the paper suggests, and sites like Ravelry through their focus on advertising local events provide opportunities for people to get together and knit outside of the domestic circle.
I’ve been knitting in public for a while now. It’s an interesting experience. I’ve written about it before. I also knit at work. I’ve said less about that. At first I felt the need to explain to colleagues that when I was knitting my concentration was better than it would be without yarn. I tried to explain that for the things I knit in meetings, I don’t have to know the patterns because they are encoded in my finger and hand movements. Its a physical knowledge, not one that requires mental attention. If it does, I have to stop and either deal with the knitting or wait until we have a break to do something like, say, count the number of remaining stitches.
Explaining the presence of the knitting is different from justifying the laptop or phone. The laptop is easy to explain, as a machine with a keyboard it seems obvious that one could be taking notes. Although that’s not the only things that laptops are capable of doing during meetings. The phone/tablet is more curious. I don’t see my colleagues justifying using these devices in meetings, even though its pretty clear to me that they are not note taking devices. Knitting ought to be in the same category as the phone, and yet, I’ve not gotten there with it. I think it’s because I believe it to be unfamiliar to many of my colleagues. Unlike phones—where we all share a global understanding of their pros and cons in meetings and what work they might do, or not—knitting is not something I expect my colleagues to know about. I thought that they might wonder whether I was so focused on the knitting that I was essentially not present.
Also, I still have a list of work related meetings I won’t knit in. Obviously, I can’t knit and teach. I could knit during class presentations, but again I feel that the students might not understand that I was concentrating. Their unfamiliarity with knitting (presumed by me of course) along with their unfamiliarity in giving presentations makes me leave the sticks behind. There are also meetings in which I think even the presence of laptops/phones is frowned upon. Meetings about really important topics. I don’t take my knitting there either.
Over time, I suppose I’ve started to think about my workscape in a new way, places to knit, places not to knit. Who are the stakeholders in each setting? What do I owe them? What can I assume about their knowledge? (Interestingly I get far fewer questions about knitting from my colleagues even when I do it in front of them than I do when knitting out in public in Atlanta). Asking, can I knit here has been an interesting way to reexplore the place I work.