A Sanguine Neurastheniac

Entries categorized as ‘Gender and tech’

Trans Technology Symposium at Rutgers next Tuesday, 3/5

February 27, 2013 · Leave a Comment


My friend Christina Dunbar-Hester and her colleague Bryce Renninger are guest curators of a pretty eclectic and awesome exhibit of gender-subversive art and artifacts which runs through June 3, 2013 at Rutgers University Institute for Women and Art in the Douglass Library.  In their words, “Trans Technology focuses on technological art and artifacts that engage in trans, queer and feminist projects that help to trans (to use the word as a verb: spanning; interrogating; crossing; fusing) conceptions of the heterosexual matrix in technology.” A bunch of the featured creators will be at a symposium this Tuesday, March 5, 2013.

I was asked to contribute a jokey tee shirt with a series of (fallopian) tubes (Senator Stevens, don’t tie our tubes!) that I made back in 2006.  Click here for the back story.  My friend and frequent collaborator, Georgia Guthrie, is showing a piece that she knit from network cable and a computer keyboard.  She and I will also be participating throughout the day on a hacking demonstration in the morning and a panel in the afternoon.


It’s not a big truck!

It’s exciting and humbling to be featured alongside Micha Cárdenas, who recently has been working on a wearable electronics art-activist project that would allow people to alert each other of danger or harm with the push of a button by connecting the wearables wirelessly.  It’s also amazing to be on a bill with the Barbie Liberation Organization, famous for swapping the voice boxes in talking Barbie and G. I. Joe dolls.  Artists featured in the exhibit include: Shana Agid, Stephanie Alarcón, Zach Blas, Micha Cárdenas, Heather Cassils, Zackary Drucker, Georgia Guthrie, Jacolby Satterwhite, and Sandy Stone; including two artist/activist groups- Genderchangers and the Barbie Liberation Organization (BLO)

With those teasers, I’ll leave you to explore the other artists and participants on your own.  Here’s the schedule for the day, and if you can’t make it on Tuesday, consider checking out the exhibit during its run until June 3.


SYMPOSIUM / March 5, 2013

This event is free and open to the public

Mabel Smith Douglass Room

Hacking Workshop/Demonstration  11 AM – 12:15 PM
Artists: Georgia Guthrie, Stephanie Alarcon, and Micha Cardenas


Lunch 12:15 -1:15 PM
(Click here to RSVP)

Teleconference Lecture Hall, 4th Floor

Interventions in Tech Industry and STEM  2 – 3:30 PM
Panelists: Stephanie Alarcon (artist), Zach Blas (artist), Georgia Guthrie (artist), and Jessa Lingel (Rutgers PhD Candidate, LIS)
Moderator: Katie McCollough (Rutgers PhD Candidate, Media Studies)


Utopian Technics  4 – 5:30 PM
Panelists: Micha Cardenas (artist), Heather Cassils (artist), Jacolby Satterwhite (artist), and Leah Devus (Associate Professor, Rutgers History Department)
Moderator: Aren Aizura (Rutgers Institute for Research on Women, Post-Doctoral Researcher)

On View: Trans Technology
Circuits of Culture, Self, Belonging

January 22 – June 3, 2013
Mary H. Dana Women Artists Series, Douglass Library
Gallery Hours: 9 AM – 4:30 PM; Weekends by appointment
Press Release


Categories: Gender and tech
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Adacamp was my dream un-conference, and so can you!

February 8, 2013 · Leave a Comment

TLDR: Click here to indicate your interest in AdaCamp 2013 in San Francisco this June.  You’re interested because the last one was awesome.

Wall of compliments at AdaCamp DC (c) Máirín Duffy CC-BY-SA

Wall of compliments at AdaCamp DC (c) Máirín Duffy CC-BY-SA

Ladies and lady-positive people, you know that tech gathering that you dream about, the one where you’re surrounded by people who are smart and strong but modest and appreciative of all the factors that helped them get where they are?  The one where privacy and maintaining a safe space is conspicuously valued even more highly than the conference’s own publicity?  Where the women’s room sees some traffic and the men’s room is declared an all-gender space? Where the food is sensitive to a range of dietary needs and tastes AMAZING?  And the one where you wish you could be friends with everyone there?

I was there, and let me tell you, it was awesome. In July, 2012 I went to AdaCamp, an unconference organized by the Ada Initiative, who support women in open technology and culture.

Let’s define some terms.  An unconference is a gathering where the participants both set the agenda and provide the content.  Think of it like the salad bar of the conference world.  Typically, the schedule emerges from a process where people post topics they want to learn about and/or can teach about on a wall.  Attendees vote by putting tick marks on the proposals that interest them the most and the most popular ones get organized into a day’s worth of talks and workshops.  Open technology and culture are projects where the work is shared openly with the goal of allowing everyone to be more creative, more accurate, or simply make progress faster.  Open source software is the typical example, but it includes things like open hardware and transformative works (fan fiction) as well.  The Ada Initiative’s namesake is Ada Lovelace, widely considered the world’s first computer programmer.

AdaCampDC was the second gathering sponsored by the Ada Initiative and had something like 150 participants, mostly women.  It felt like a profoundly safe space with a diverse range of industries, ages, nationalities, and professional experience.  There were nitty-gritty sessions on things like career development and asking for more money, intros to tech topics like OpenStreetMap and programming, and even a super fun soft circuit workshop where we made an old pillowcase into an LED-bedazzled AdaCamp memento.

There were classy touches like photo-consent indicators and the best conference food ever.  When you got to the conference space you were offered a green, yellow, or red sticker for your nametag.  Green meant “ok to photograph me”, red meant “please don’t photograph me”, and yellow meant “ask first.”  Ahhh!  It’s so refreshing not to have to explain that it’s rude to take my picture without asking.  And seriously, the food.  Middle Eastern and…wait for it… Ethiopian.  Unheard of.  So good.

It was a profoundly healing and uplifting space.  Early sessions on imposter syndrome were so popular that they ran pretty much the whole second day, speaking to a deep need for participants to work out unjustified feelings of inadequacy.

Little spots of magic popped up throughout the two days.  Several companies had sponsored dinner for a bunch of people so we could split into interest groups and have deeper conversations in a more intimate setting.  People self-organized into dinners via a shared spreadsheet that worked amazingly well.  One favorite feature was a spontaneous wall of compliments that was dreamed up during an imposter syndrome session.  The idea was people would write compliments and post them on the wall.  Anytime you were feeling low you could go to this wall and take one for yourself.  I stuck compliments on several of my friends.  It was a fun, silly way to express real appreciation.

So, yes, it was a respectful and healing love-fest where we got to talk about both our successes and the times we’ve felt beaten up.  But it was also a pretty heady connection-maker.  I met people doing archival data storage, heavy lifting in coding and databases, and really worthwhile non-profit work.  In fact the opportunity to work with OTI came to me across the AdaCamp alumni list.

In summary, you should go to the next one this year in San Francisco, June 8-9.  The organizers are polling for interest to estimate how big a space to secure.  If you think you might like to go, click here to help them plan the next awesome gathering.

Categories: Gender and tech
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Hacking The Gender Gap this Thursday

January 29, 2013 · Leave a Comment

Hacking the Gender Gap” is a hands-on workshop for understanding and defeating the gender gap in tech.  I helped develop it last March for the Women In Tech Summit with my good friend and Hacktory powerhouse, Georgia Guthrie.  Amy Guthrie (no relation, another awesome Hacktory organizer) and I will be facilitating it this Thursday evening at our new space at 3711 Market St. for Girl Geek Dinners.  We’ve done it at Adacamp, HOPE9, and HacDC, and if you’ve heard of it, it might have been as “that timeline thing.”  In a nutshell, participants share their experiences with technology–both positive and negative–on a physical timeline; identify patterns in the assembled experiences; and discuss ways to make tech communities more inclusive, and ways that awesome people already have.  (Many thanks to Katie Bechtold who, I think, wrote that description for HacDC.)

Check out the Meetup link for details and to sign up.  There are only a few seats left!  This event is open only to people who identify themselves as women, but my understanding is that most GGDs are open to non-women if they are guests of a woman in tech.

Also, if you’re interested in being a facilitator in the future, keep an eye on The Hacktory‘s website.  We’ll be holding trainings throughout the year.

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Doing It Right: The GNOME Foundation Outreach Program for Women

December 12, 2012 · 1 Comment

opw-poster-USLetter-2013-littleYesterday I got news that I was accepted into a super cool internship program. For the first quarter of 2013, I’ll be working with the Open Technology Institute to help them integrate Tor with their mesh networking platform called Commotion.

The internship is part of the GNOME Foundation‘s Outreach Program for WomenGNOME is an open source desktop environment, and my preferred desktop on Linux.  In 2006 they ran an internship program whose goal was to get more women contributing to Free and Open Source Software (FOSS).  People loved it and in 2010 they revived the effort and started running it twice a year.

For this iteration, they’ve partnered with a slew of FOSS projects to offer some pretty diverse opportunities in cloud computing, security, and tools for privacy and fighting censorship.  The internships are set up as full-time work from home, making them accessible for women of many geographic areas and income levels.

The application process was a little unusual. When I first read through it, it sounded awfully onerous. But the more I thought about it and stepped through it, the more I was convinced that it was cleverly designed to have several positive “unintended” consequences that would result in women engaging with FOSS projects regardless of whether they were selected.

Applicants were asked to look through the available programs, dig into the ones that looked most interesting, get in touch with people working on the project, take on a small assignment (typically a bug fix), submit it for feedback and make any requested fixes, THEN fill out an application. So even before you apply, you can say you’re a contributor to a FOSS project. That’s pretty neat.

All of that had to happen in less than three weeks. Applications opened on Nov. 14 and were due on Dec. 3, making the application period feel more like a sprint than a waiting game. I’m one of those always-busy people so I assumed I wouldn’t be able to get to it, but the compressed schedule actually made me work more efficiently.  I didn’t have time to get stressed out or expand the scope of my contribution, and in fact I had to focus on paring it down to something very doable. It was nice to have this out of the way well before the holidays, and I suspect the organizers felt similarly.

Where this application process really shines, though, is in the human contact that it requires. Each organization has a few ways for applicants to jump into the community, like IRC, mailing lists, and individual mentors. Additionally, there is an IRC channel and mailing list specifically for the program where applicants can ask questions or even coach and encourage each other. I was fortunate that Dan Staples, the coordinator for the project I had my eye on, was very responsive both by email and on IRC. I did see some people in IRC who were frustrated that their emails went unanswered or they had other communication issues that hurt their applications. But I think the idea was to put candidates and projects in touch with each other in ways that might persist beyond the application. Several surveys have indicated that people often feel like open source projects have a high barrier to entry. Simply being invited to jump in and say hello was really helpful to me. Now I feel like I have a way to connect with a range of awesome projects and make myself useful.

Why was this so much more effective for me than simply finding a contact email address on a project’s website?  Well, for one, because it spoke to me, personally.  In fact, the person who spoke to me, personally, was Marina Zhurakhinskaya, one of the organizers.  I had some questions about whether the program was a good fit for my skills and goals, and she explained what the program was going for and how to make a strong application.  That was super useful and friendly. Further, reading a page that says, we are looking for PEOPLE LIKE YOU to help us with this specific thing, and here’s the helpful person who can get you going, breaks through the awkwardness of emailing a project cold with little sense of what they need or if they are able to get people up to speed. For me it opened up a wormhole into an organization that I’d been sort of quietly checking out for a while. Three weeks later I’ve tripled the number of contacts I have at OTI and gotten a feel for their collective sense of humor. Without this invitation, I don’t know if I would have done that.

So, kudos go out to the people behind this program for their work, clever design, time spent getting new folks up to speed, and friendliness throughout a very tight timeline. Can’t wait to dig in and send some packets through the air!

Categories: Gender and tech
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Hacking the Gender Gap at the Women In Tech Summit

April 20, 2012 · Leave a Comment

TechGirlzTomorrow, The Hacktory is excited to present a workshop at the Women In Tech Summit called Hacking the Gender Gap: A Hands-On Workshop for Boosting Gender Diversity in Tech. Georgia, Sarah, and Steph will facilitate activities to pull from people’s positive and negative experiences in tech as well as some of the research on the gender gap in STEM. We’ll work through strategies for combating sexist behavior and building a more diverse tech community. We hope to use this workshop as a first step in gathering data and stories that women, girls, and their allies can use in their organizations.

Check back here for a resource list and some of the outcomes from the session. And if you haven’t signed up for the summit they may still be taking some last minute registrations!

Happy Tech Week, everyone!

Categories: Gender and tech · Uncategorized
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11 To-Do’s for Women In Tech

December 7, 2011 · 3 Comments

Cross-posted at The Hacktory.

I’m at the venerable LISA (Large Installation System Administration) Conference in Boston this week. I just left a panel on Women in Tech. This rap session/problem-solving brainstorm was a great way to wrap up an exhilarating and encouraging year for women in IT. I was reminded of two of my favorite works on why the gender gap persists, not to mention lots of other diversity gaps: a 2006 study by the Free/Libre/Open Source Software Policy Support project and Skud’s amazing 13 minute breakdown of everything you need to know from OSCon 2009.

The discussion ranged from (more…)

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