The Art and Science of Everything

Formerly thoughts on gender and technology, I'm expanding this as a place to just generally geek out on gender, technology, design, cognition, perception, and culture. The title should not be considered hubris, but instead enthusiasm.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

I've finally bitten the bullet and moved over to a wordpress blog. I wanted tags and I got sick of waiting for Blogger to implement that.

Please read here:
in the future for posts of a nerdier tenor. I'll probably still cross-post some things to livejournal, but I'm not sure for what.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Ideologies and Community Design

At the Microsoft Social Computing Conference, I listened to Clay Shirky describe the editorial policies of Slashdot. I had long assumed that Slashdot employed explicitly collaborative filtering, using reader ratings and reader visibility preferences to render the comments above the acceptability threshold -- kind of anarcho-libertarian. However, Shirky explained that, in fact, the moderation system described in this CHI paper gives some moderation power to many, but it gives relatively unconstrained moderation power to the paid editorial staff.

Is such unconstrained power explained by a anarcho-libertarian ideology? I believe it is consistent with some strains of anarcho-libertarianism to have limited government for the protection from bodily or property harm. But can offensive or low quality posts be considered such harm? No. Instead, a moderation design decision has been made because of expedience, solving a problem in the way that seems most obvious despite contradiction to an ideology.

My big assumption here is that anarcho-libertarian ideology is dominant in the Slashdot team. I have little evidence for this at the moment, but my assumption is based on books like Paulina Borsook's Cyberselfish, documenting the libertarianism so common in Silicon Valley. I would love the opportunity to approach Slashdot as an ethnographer and unpack the ideologies that really influence the design.

I'm fascinated by this question of how ideologies influence design. My fascination was reengaged reading Lofland and Lofland's "Analyzing Social Settings" tonight.
At the broader level are meaning "packages" that are life-encompassing, that lay claim to relevance for virtually any topic that might be discussed. Such packages are often called ideologies, worldviews... (p. 113)
And later:
Because the situations of living are constantly changing, new and often novel meanings are constantly being generated to cope with new contingencies. (p.116)

It's this process of ideology negotiation, or ideology salience, or hypocrisy in the design of techno-social systems that I think is really interesting. What are the kinds of political or belief systems people try to reproduce through their technical systems? And how does it go? People reappropriate technologies all the time.

Projects that would be cool:
  • ethnographic account of design processes at two different sites of technological creation, especially when the technology has the property of being distributable at very low cost to many, many people -- bonus points for distributable across cultures.
  • investigation of what a moderated community means to its members; how is that moderation interpreted or experienced, if at all consciously?

Monday, July 03, 2006

Implications for Design by Paul Dourish (CHI 2006 paper)

Central points:
  • The requirements that ethnography provide an "implications for design" creates a relationship in which knowledge is produced for the benefit of the designers and administrators -- those who wish to create some goal state in a system that happens to have people ("users") in it. Instead, Suchman proposes ethnography as providing an account of the partnership in which producers and consumers co-constitute one another, in part through technological artifacts.
  • A key part of ethnography often lost in the way ethnography gets thrown about as a design methodology is the self-consciousness of the observer as a part of the social relations richly described. The observer is not a positivist instrument for transmitting impressions of the observed. (However, a lot of SCOT could be construed as including this subjectivity in non-human observation instruments' construction as well.)
  • Ethnography can have empirical outcomes, which inform others of the simple facts observed, as framed and understood by the observer, but we should not overlook the analytical outcome -- those that, when revealed, call into question or qualify assumptions tacit in the design, the specification, the technologist-consumer relationship...
I read this article because I was writing an email to PD and I wanted to make sure I didn't misuse ethnography and ethnomethodology when I really meant interview. I got more than I bargained for, but that's good.

Friday, April 14, 2006

A certain (99 + 1) dollar portable computer project is supposed to launch soon. I've heard some predict only a 50% chance of anything ever happening. But what a fascinating historical event if it does, to go and document the short and long term impacts of the deployment.

Case 1) No uptake whatsover - policy implications
Case 2) Some uptake - x-cultural usability issues?
Case 3) Massive uptake - emergent phenomena to be documented as it happens. Could it be the new skolt lapp parable?

Collaborative Virtual Environments

This project also could have relevance to my design for collective action and critical mass ideas. What constitutes a sense of critical mass? How do features of those being interacted with affect the ability to productively deliberate and unite in cause?

User Interface Principles for Mobile Video Diving

While it seems unrelated to my other interests, it actually seems like a concrete project that could be in my family of "information sharing for collective action" ideas.

What are the properties of technologies developed to support consensus building and collective action? How can technology provide a sense of critical mass? How are people mobilized to act?

How do these properties vary across cultures?

Ways to start researching this:
- inspirational interviews with people who organize lots of different kinds of emergent efforts
- readings in urban planning / space design, readings in crowd control (What design patterns does Irvine adhere to? Look at this as anti-goal.)
- readings in collective action
- ethnography in places where emergent efforts happen (Google, for example)

- software to support collective action
- software to help people identify and motivate each other to pursue causes they care about
- software for organizations like Google, where hierarchy is super flat and a lot of issues seem to get identified, prioritized, and strategized in an emergent way

Friday, April 07, 2006

Wendy Ju, at Stanford's Center for Design Research, has written a paper called Designing for Implicit Interactions. It's probably one of the most clear thinking, insightful, and useful design papers I've read in a while. Her frameworks are general enough that you can think about it in the context of ubicomp or just designing rich web interfaces.

The more I think about the idea of household appliances that communicate how much has been done with them and by whom, the more I doubt that it is a viable approach to self-consciousness of gender relations.

A practical starting point I just thought of was doing fieldwork in homes to understand the dynamics of how household labor gets coordinated and allocated. A specific observation from my own life is that people can get out of housework by emphasizing their incompetence. (In my mom's case, she sometimes emphasizes her importance by emphasizing my incompetence. :) ) So what's the problem? Are the tools not usable or learnable? Does knowledge of applicance operations strike a blow to some's masculinity? Could you make household appliances more like a game to motivate participation?

Overall, what are ways that household appliance design assumes a certain kind of commited, regular user or a user who learns how to use it through socialization rather than experience and experimentation?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

What are the elements of collective action? How everyday technologies such as cell phones be designed to support collective action and coordination? What do we get when we look at different cases of collective action, such as:
* flash mobs (which have tried to defy purpose)
* mass protests in south east asia

But Lilly, you find this fascinating, but not enough to actually follow up on and read about. What does that tell you?

The really difficult thing about the stuff I'm interested in is that there is messy middle point between technological determinism (the idea that technologies have an stable and constant "impact" that is determined by it's form/design/capabilities) and socially constructed and understood technologies.

Yes, technologies reify certain cultural values and afford or privilege certain ways of being over others. But they are also used and hacked in ways that the designers did not expect to allow, but they do. So value sensitive design is not an answer, but flexible and open design at least makes a deliberate move towards greater agnosticism. But flexible and open design might be the analog of political libertarianism, where it privileges those who are already privileged by the system beyond the technology/law.

Brain. Exploding.

How does diversity influence creativity in complex problem solving? What are the kinds of conditions under which this creativity is fostered?

This kind of research is going on at the biz school at Stanford, and also seems related to brigid's background, though not as much her current work.

From an email I sent someone, again, to hold on to it:
How communication technologies are used and appropriated to uphold, subvert, or make flexible traditionally gendered divisions of labor.

What are examples of this? Required background reading is Ruth Schwartz Cohen's "More Work for Mother" where she describes how many labor saving devices actually just raised standards of, say, cleanliness and saved labor for the sorts of things that men used to do.

What has the history of these technologies getting developed? What kind of utopian narrative did the designers have in their heads? Where they male?

But how are labor "saving" -- or displacing -- devices different from communication technologies? Are there ways that technology is making invisible work visible? Or is it simply enabling women to manage more tasks, but still saddling them with kinwork?

From an email I'm writing someone, but I like the phrasing so to keep it:

I have been interested in understanding how everyday interactive technologies, such as email, online communities, IM, privilege certain cultural and psychological styles over others. My longer term goal is to influence designers and builders.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Random research idea: One problem at contributes to girls' not participating in programming kinds of creativity is that they often don't have access to a social network that provides support and information to help them get started and keep going. While they boys are teaching each other video game cheats and network card installation, the few girls who may be interested are problem being left out. (This is exactly what happened to me, anyways.) What if there was some sort of programming/development environment where, say, one person would script something of interest and then have cool things they could do by getting others to respond with their own interoperable scripts? Maggie builds a MySpace mosaic patch and invites her friend Jen to script her own little piece to add to the mosaic. Jen instantly has one person who knows the environment better than she does, and a social and creative motivation for participating. It's a pretty handwavy idea, but what if we build viral properties into programming to make it more powerful and more supportive of learning?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Flash-mobbing: An Introduction

I heard there was a flashmob in Dolores Park yesterday at 7:30pm. This got me thinking about flashmobs as a demonstration of collective rally strength. Collective demonstrations like protests, or riots. (Not that I'm advocating rioting as political action.) So I turned to the web to learn more. I was suprised to read that "it is clear that a sense of play, rather than politics, lies at the root of the flash-mob."

While the article was written in 2003, it seems that even if flash mobbing hasn't been applied to obvious political action, mass play is political. Flash mobs are a mass play phenomenon where the first rule of flash mob is you don't tell people who ask why you're doing whatever you're doing. There is instant in- and out-group. And it seems that in a culture seeded with puritan work ethic and economic value creation, making such a loud statement about the value of play is an action that undercuts the foundations of American society.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Ethical slippery slopes I don't want Google to slide down:

Study finds Burma uses western tools to censor web: "Xeni Jardin: A new report from human rights tech project OpenNet Initiative provides new insight into how internet filtering technologies developed in the West are used by oppressive governments. Snip from New York Times story:

Myanmar 'employs one of the most restrictive regimes of Internet filtering worldwide that we have studied,' said Ronald J. Deibert, a principal investigator for the OpenNet Initiative and the director of the Citizen Lab at the Munk Center for International Studies at the University of Toronto.

Myanmar now joins several nations, including China, Iran and Singapore, in relying on Western software and hardware to accomplish their goals, Mr. Deibert said.

Microsoft, Cisco and Yahoo, for example, have all come under fire recently for providing technology or otherwise cooperating with the Chinese government to enable it to monitor and censor Internet use.

In the case of Myanmar, the regulations and customs are quite clear. The Digital Freedom Network, a human rights group based in New Jersey, notes that among things forbidden by Myanmar's Web regulations, introduced in January 2000, are the posting of 'any writings directly or indirectly detrimental to the current policies' of the government. The rules also forbid 'any writings detrimental to the interests of the Union of Myanmar.' "

Sunday, May 15, 2005

I'm geeking out on Square One Research on The Human Eye and Sight. It is the best explanation of perception I've seen with frequent explanations of relevance to design -- environmmental, software, architecture, and even lighting.

My favorite facts so far:

  • The persistence of vision of cones is much longer than that of rods, around 1/20th of a second. This is why flicker is much easier to detect out of the corners of the eye rather than directly in front.
    (Cones are sensitive to different frequencies of light, whereas rods are sensitive to light levels. Rods are concentrated away from the macular, the central focus point of the eye.)

  • Comfort and visibility are dependent upon the luminance patterns within the visual field. Comfort is dependent on the variation in luminances in the visual field (luminance ratios)...Clutter can create an overload of the visual system due to excessive luminance ratios.
    Luminance is the amount of light reflected off of an object and into the eye. I hadn't thought about the discomfort caused by clutter, since my concern over clutter is dominted by the difficulties cluttered design pose for visual search (predictability to help scanning as well as to make it easier to draw attention by breaking the pattern).

  • The highest visibility occurs when the object is brighter than the background (white print on black paper).
    How the history of paper, ink, and computer interfaces has flown in the face of perception science. Lament!

  • As the level of background luminance increases, the time required to interpret details will decrease. Just as the camera requires a longer exposure time in dim light than in bright light, so does the eye. The eye can distinguish and discriminate details at low luminance levels if given enough time.
    Kinda useless to me, unless I try to design watermarks that only emerge if stared at or some such, but still cool.

All this was prompted by me wanting to review the human eye's discrimination of detail in terms of degrees, since I interviewed a HCI-cog psych PhD the other day and he geeked too quickly for me to keep up when talking about details. I found that on the Square one page too, under "Visual Acuity," all the way at the bottom. :P The journey was long and geeky, but worth it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

I'm trying this crazy scheme where I can post to various topical blogs I want to host and have those posts fed to my livejournal. If you're not interested in some of my more esoteric tastes, I'm sorry. :) Maybe some of you secretly share interests or fascinations with me.

Testing testing 123.


I just found out about an amazing conference Friday and Saturday at Stanford looking at gender in science and technology.

In particular, there is a Saturday session featuring designers from Volvo:
"If You Meet the Expectations of Women, You Exceed the Expectations of Men: How
Volvo Cars took Women Customers into Consideration and Made World Headlines with the YCC Concept Car" which I hope would connect diversity to design. Immediately following, there is a more theoretical session by Lucy Suchman titled "Agency in Technology Design: Feminist Reconfigurations." Lucy was a researcher at parc in computer supported cooperative work for many years.

I'm going to attend as much of Saturday as I can before I have to leave for an flight to Berlin halfway through the Suchman talk. And it almost makes me cry that I can't stay for the whole thing.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Jane Margolis and Allan Fisher are talking about their research, documented in "Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing," at Google right now. This is my fifth time seeing them talk, I've read the book, and it inspired my thesis.

Sitting here three years after first reading the manuscript, passed on to me by Eric Roberts, who had it passed on to him by John Hennessey, I'm making some connections that I hadn't thought of before. I'm not sure they're at all worth their salt.

But one of the quotes Jane reads is about the girl describing the expressionless faces of so many people in front of the computer for hours and hours -- feeling like she could never be like that. The implication is this feeling is more frequently expressed by women, though they acknowledge more men than they expected expressed dissatisfaction with such getting in the zone. What I'm wondering is whether that expressionlessness is related to "flow". I wonder if flow, like autism, can be a gender related phenomenon. I know I'm comparing apples and oranges because while flow and autism are both based on observable behavior, autism has a bit more medical research behind it. But is there a gender correlation?

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Aesthetic Interaction
- Aesthetics is not about prescribing meaning but invoking imagination. Seeking poetic principles for this. Serendipity and improvisation in interaction.
- design for mind/body, design for instrumentality, design for socio-cultural context
- concept of user relation

- art in discourse almost something beyond use

Emotion, Experience, and Co-experience

This panel proposes a theoretical framework for experience design. One panelist's web-site also has summaries of other theoretical HCI contributions (their words, not mine).

Their framework posits that three dimensions of experience are:
1) the constant stream of experience that happens when we are conscious
2) narratives describing experience (and change the context and user as a result)
3) co-experience, when experiences are created with others.

They also break down user interactions into three types:
1) sub-conscious (or pre-attentive?)
2) cognitive, requiring attention and changing user and context as a result
3) narrative, in which a sequence of interactions is had with a product.

Is the point of this just to introduce a vocabulary?

Sunday, August 01, 2004

I'm at DIS2004 in Boston this week! The conference hasn't even started, but thanks to my next-door neighbor, UI teammate, and buddy Chad Thornton, I met many interesting people over dinner and drinks this evening and the learning has already begun.

We ended up talking about persona-based design and I asked my CS247A rant-y question that I have yet to get a good answer to: What are the ethical implications of persona based design when it is based on personas built off of the *current* demographic of a user group? What subtle values get embedded in software designed, say, for personas representing the male sysadmin population but no women?

What I learned is that Robert Reimmann thought about it and thought it was an interesting open question. One of the problems is that for formal persona building, you base personas on the existing user group. But Robert suggested that you can use other data -- from surveys, existing research, etc -- to build provisional personas to expand thinking about design decisions and task scenarios that the interface should manage. He admitted that the answer seemed a slipperly slope though. He definitely acknowledged that it's a really interesting question, but he also put it in perspective, pointing out that we already have so long to go to create software that is effective at all. "Who is it effective for?" seems a secondary question.

Also, Abigail Travis and I started talking about the cultural situatedness, as well as aesthetics as being integral to the task of creating a functional UI. She told me about a talk she saw by someone from Microsoft describing the process of internationalizing the Tablet PC. They found that while in western cultures, we value whitespace greatly, in China, an empty desktop -- whitespace -- was seen as wasted space and the user experience was considered less valuable. According to MS via Abigail, this is also evident in comparing western newspaper layouts to Chinese newspaper layouts. Some googling revealed no MS papers on this, but I did find an interesting poster on cultural concerns in UI decision making form 1998: Integrating Culture Into User-Interface Design

I found this especially interesting because Google is all about that minimalist design and our home page is all whitespace. I wonder what our presence in China is, compared to other search options.

I'll report what more I find!

Thursday, June 03, 2004

I've been reading Donna Haraway's "Cyborg Manifesto" as closely as I can recently as I'm grappling with the potential of her metpahor for suggesting feminist technology productions, especially with respect to HCI. One question it has prompted that is unanswered right now is how and when technologies actually are used to strengthen ontologies of gender by "moppping up" boundary cases. Certainly sex assignment and disambiguation at birth is one example. I suspect you can argue that cosmetic surgery is another, medical textbooks often feature ideal female and male facial forms that are divergent just how you'd expect (jawlines, for example) (Balsamo, "Technologies of the Gendered Body").

I'd also be really interested in a theory explaining when gender "purification" happens rather than gender subversion. I have a feeling it might have something to do with how public the gender display is and how permanent the technological enagement is. For example, a highly permanent intervention like plastic surgery is far less likely to experiment with resistant interventions that cross into the "opposite" gender's space than fairly temporary or undoable experiences like piercing and MUDding.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

A short presentation on the topic of gender and notions of skill in HCI, with many references I would probably like to look at at some point.

If you're reading this and you're not me, then welcome! I'm sorry this blog is largely notes to myself right now, but shortly will become far more coherent regarding the themes spewed about.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Recommended book:

radical equations
Math Literacy and Civil Rights
by Robert P. Moses and Charles E. Cobb, Jr.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

From Balsamo, Technologies of the Gendered Body:
- "a political judgement of any technology is difficult to render in the bastract. Technologies always have multiple effects" (146).
- "corporeal feminism" is described by Elizabeth Grosz as "an understanding of corporeality that is compatible wtih feminist struggles to undermine patriarchal structures and to form self-defined terms and representations" (157). not a bad starting definition of what feminist metaphors of hci should strive for. Grosz refigures "the body so that it moves from the periphery to teh center of analysis, so that it can now be understood as the very 'stuff' of subjectivity" (157).

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

I propose the framework of Bruno Latour’s actor-network theory as a way of conceptualizing gender – feminism’s central locus of concern – as neither a function of biology nor a total social construction, but instead as a co-construction of social actors and sexual characteristics. Avoiding essentializing biological definitions of woman, however, I instead argue that the metaphors our culture lives by, entailed by women’s reproductive capacities make it impossible to a bipolar gender system.

Castells describes research in HCI that uses EEGs to adapt interfaces to the mental states of the user -- the organic recombinant in our cyborg fantasy.(73) This very literal interpretations of Haraway's cyborg manifest in directing HCI research entails the same genderedness.

However, there is power in Haraway's metaphor to emphasize multiple, situated identities making up our individual wholes. The computing technology of MUDs serves as one example of an environment in which Haraway's cyborg can make temporary retreats from the embodied actors in the gender network, experimenting and elucidating the many layers and textures of personality that can, in different situations, become natural to them.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Turkle, "Life on Screen"
MUDing as a space to explore alternate gender identities, "form of consciounsess raising" (214)
"MUDs and the virtual personae one adopts within them are objects-to-think-with for reflecting on the social construction of gender" (213). obj-to-think-with becomes sort of like a cyborg composition, and yet, in the current culture of virtual reality, there is always an out and almost always a clear recognition of which part of the cyborg composition is "reality." (Fundamentally disabling anonymity on the internet would probably threaten this.) But I don't want to trivialize this cyborg experience. Case, the married 34-year old Turkle interviews, describes experiencing emotional pain in relation to some of his MUDing experiences -- "the kind of learning that comes from hard times" (213). Describes the repression of the willful

But this experimentation is only possible because virtual space is virtual, not "real." As one 13-year old who sexually experiments in internet chat rooms made clear to Sherry Turkle, "she feels safe because she can always just 'disconnect'" (227). ( Turkle describes a married 41-year old who was thrilled at the opportunity for sexual experimentation offered by MUDs. "I really am monogamous," he explained. "I'm really not interested in something outside my marriage. But being able to have, you know, a Tiny romance is kind of cool." Another MUDders wife was hurt by her husband's participation in MUD romance, though she explicitly placed MUDs outside the realm of "real life." The irreality of virtual worlds is nothing more than a cultural agreement, subject to slippage over time. Certainly the tension between real life hurt feelings and the trivialization of virtual experiences as unreal point to a crumbling wall at best. But if embodiment is fundamental to sex and sex one element in the actor-network that constructs gender, the meat of the body will never truly become vapor lest we , though such disappearance of the body is a prominent trope in cyberpunk fantasies, rooted in Norbert Wiener's "Human Use of Human Beings." (Synners) [But we don't really have a way of dealing with animal/machine/man hybrids. My imagination cannot conceive of a robot interacting with a human. But what if a robot has a human heart implanted in it? Then I think, if that heart can actually function, it is a human. And that is a genderless being. With stem cell cloning, the continual production of such genderless beings is imaginable. But this is not a victory for feminism. This is simply rendering the issue moot.]

Experience matters - "To pass as a woman for any length of time requires understanding how gender inflects speech, manner, the interpretation of experience" (212).

[Case] picks up [the expression 'aspects of self' eagerly, for MUDding reminds him of how Hindu gods could have different aspects or subpersonalities, all the while having a whole self." -> cyborg a la Chela Sandoval

"There is a chance to discover...gender is constructed" (223). <-- this is what I push against.

Possibilities of Feminist HCI:

object-to-think-with almost seems heidegerrian to me, for some reason. But I think it's just a verbal similarity as Heidegger's bent is that we can operate in the world without having a theory of the world. that objects we operate are ready-to-hand and our theories and knowledge about them only come through breakdown. Well, Turkle's tools are a way of stepping outside the reference frame and evoking dissonance and breakdown so we can get beyond our embodied experience. So maybe this is a genuine feminist possibility in HCI. Only by having a theory of alternatives can you actually consider yourself off exercising choice. (There go the feminists, ruining people's lives by confusing issues and overwhelming us with choices again.)

reading squires' thoughts on "fabulous, flexible feminism" as promised by cyberfeminists:
What remains remarkably absent from the cyborg conceptions of Shulamith Firestone, Donna Haraway, and Sadie Plant is an actual research program proposing pieces of work that would reify the theories of liberation they point to.

For Firestone, it's going to the steady march of technology to free women of the burden of reproduction and to deskill and destabilize patriarchs. For Haraway, cyborgs are a metaphor that she calls us to play a role in guiding (quote about women in the valley or something) but she never actually directs us or cautions us with tools we can use in guiding technological production towards her dream. Plant simply sees the white male youth generated cyberpunk culture as liberating to a totalized, essentialized, historically wily woman just as it is. (I think it's cracked up, to be honest.)

As Squires points out,
"the appropriation of the cyborg for the mapping of possible feminist futures has the potential to be a subversive act. But let us not imagine that persuasive rhetoric alone is sufficient to shift the distribution of power" (370).

Monday, May 17, 2004

My sketched possible thesis, but gonna read a few more articles before committing to starting to write:
Cyberfeminism's hope for the ontological upheavals of in the network enabled future is unlikely to subvert the gender paradigms which, by the power of metaphor, entail many of the inequalities and expectations that shape gendered experiences today.

I. While cyborgs offer to blur the boundaries between man, woman, and animal, a cybernetic organism by definition is integrated with an individual's embodiment.
- donna haraway, cyborg manifesto, potential to delete gender

III. Reproduction of gender system in the ontology of technology
- balsamo: inscriptions of gender in cyberpunk technology,

III. Reproduction as metaphor, femininity as entailments
- Virginia Valian argues, the metphors of reproduction serve as our culture's most powerful signifier of femininity.
- as long as women are the sole holders of biological reproduction and incubation, even distributing the ability through artificial means across genders

IV. Cyberspace as embodiment neutral?
- balsamo: VR embodiment repressed, all you get in canonical embodiment experience when it comes to perspective, cinemantic "eye"

V. Cyberspace as an extension of embodied social practice
- turkle: tinymoos and gender trouble
- while muds don't bind people to adhering to certain gender identity, they still exist in a very real cultural consciousness. if people react against it, they still react against hegemonic cultural beliefs of gender identity and entailment.

VI. Provide a space to experiment with alternate embodiments. But can't get beyong drag-like characterizations of embodiments experimented with.
- laurel: VR as embodiment extension
- drag culture? doesn't extend embodiment in the permanent, difficult to deal with ways. Drag kings don't get morning wood and drag queens don't get monthly periods or the chemical fluctuations that make the hormonal nature of emotion see very believable.
- problems of semiotics was it? when did we and tim discuss the fact that even if you learned a language, having never had the experience of it, you would never be native. linguistics theory.

another cyberculture reading list

Judith Squires - Fabulous Feminist Futures and the Lure of Cyberculture
Sherry Turkle - Constructions and Reconstructions of Self in Virtual Reality (In: Druckrey, Timothy: Electronic Culture. Technology and Visual Representation. Aperture, Romford, 1996.)
Chela Sandoval - Methodology of the Oppressed (book); New Sciences: Cyborg Feminism and the Methodology of the Oppressed (in the Cybercultures Reader); summary of her work might be adequate to my purposes

Lorde, Audre: "The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House." In: Sister Outsider. Crossing Press, Trumansberg New York, 1984.

In answer to previous post...

One answer to the continually shifting ontologies might be varying cyborg configurations and thus, in some, varying agencies and accountabilities we allow to exist outside of our bodies, sort of in reference to the beginning of the Human / Machine paper with that AI researcher woman's work just as one possibility of this.

Ontologie of domination:

dialog/direct manipulation?

Suchman, "Human/Machine Reconsidered"

Man, this references a lot of critical studies of sci/tech. Boy am I glad I took Lenoir's class last quarter!

Karen Barad: "Boundaries are not our enemies, they are necessary for making meanings, but this does not make them innocent...Our goal should not be to find less false boundaries for all spacetime, but reliable, accountable, located temporary boundaries, which we should anticipate will quickly close in against us (p.187)."

This seems like a design principle for feminist HCI if I've ever read one, but it isn't easily understood what kinds of designs and technologies would fit this requirement. Perhaps that can now be the job of my paper. :)

Feminism --> about having the choice to place yourself wherever you want in selecting characteristics that might fit on disparate parts of the typology. As long as their are embodied, rough categories -- to birth or not to birth -- the gender system can extend its categories. It seems that creation of ontology is a fundamental human tendency that allows us to make sense of and survive in the world. But teh key to empowerment is having a passport that allows free travel across these borders? Or is it the power to reconfigure the ontologies altogether?

Yes, in theory. In practice, hard for me to imagine as it is hard for me to imagine existing within another scientific paradigm. So perhaps historical ontologies involving gender might be a useful object of study.

Sleep, fucka.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Cyborg HCI Reading List


PageRank uses the linking structure of the web to assess the relevance and quality of materials and information to be returned to the user. But the authorship of teh web is biased by the same biases as those who can produce HTML, right? (Not quite as the print world gets put on the web as well. But still. Prominent bloggers all seem to be guys, for example.)

Can I discern a gender effect on Google?

Alice Jardine, described in Balsamo "Technologies of the Gendered Body," advocates reconstruction of "our reading practices...written through 'the continual attention -- historical, ideological, and affective -- to the place from which we speak'(32). This...perfectly describes Donna Haraway's response to feminism's 'profound paradox,' and indeed, the founding imperative for her feminist manifesto...that takes the discursively constructed material body as its starting point and narrates a reconstructed fiction of gender identity" (32).

Postmod at its finest. Replace hegemonic fictions with your own as a form of empowerment.

What, then, is a feminist HCI?
knowing from where you speak speaks to my concerns about scenario construction, persona selection. (gender recreated in cyberspace --> orkut sexiness rating histograms by age (female chart and male chart) - I'd expect the peak sexiness age for men to tend towards middle age and for women to tend towards youth. simply informating cultural phenomena in a way that increasingly obscures the cultural meanings of the attributions of sexiness.)

so then would a feminist design highlight the place from which you speak? what the hell does that mean anyways? obscuring it seems to be the way of things -- informating obscures the body, obscures the cultural identities, though they still seep through. does this have to do with subjectivity (term ppl use that puzzles me a bit...maybe time to tease out what they mean?

Balsamo, "Forms of Technological Embodiment"

Four forms of postmodern embodiment:
1) laboring body
2) marked body
3) repressed body
4) disappearing body

  • repressed typically a male-identified transcendental cultural narrative linked with typical VR programs that reduce sensory inputs to narrow channels, eliminate pain. points out that "reconstructed body does not guarantee reconstructed cultural identity" (247). (gendered patterns of communication still follow us in cyberspace, for example) this form

  • disappearing body - informating of bodies (human genome, info theory opened door for this?). "one that promises...the final erasure of gender and race as culturally organized systems of differentiation" (248). bio-engineered parts replace body parts, challenge and shift notions of natural bodies. Uses Life magazine example to point out that discourse around these technologies points to man as a fully embodied being while women are "container for a fetus" (as breast forms obvious exclusion from magazine spread...what about breast implants?)

  • marked bodies are "where bodies become signs and signs become commodities." points to UI of tools for plastic surgery, where features can be rewritten to match ideal western gendered face with tools such as "erasers, pencils, and 'agenic cursors'" (245)

  • laboring bodies - asian women making microelectronics because of small nimble fingers. bodies give them a distinct place in system of production.

"masculinist attempts at body repression signal a desire to return to the 'neutrality' of the body, to be rid of the culturally marked body" (251). This makes perfect sense to me as body for white man in post modern seems to have been retold as a source of privilege, source of guilt. Transcending body is a return to "equality" if so simple as that. Anti-affirmitive action arguments also seem to be linked to this. Meritocracy? Informated merit so let us just isolate it to that. (The argument falters before the counterargument that for those benefitting from affirmitive action, embodiment has been one constant factor in cultural identity that can be discriminated against. [Valian argument])

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Body is being erased in postmodern virtuality. Body as nature, organic seat of feminine power and privilege -- child birth. Sex Revolts can back up my assertion of the prevalance of this narrative in at least American culture. Now there is this idea that body is of no consequence -- a more perfect brain (closed world discource). No unified feminist stance on what the implications of this are:
- cyborgs can offer us post-gender possibilities
- buy into this disembodiment thing? (plant?) or reembodiment as cyborgs, blurring gender lines (haraway)
- technology is inscribed with cultural narratives and situated and computer is another site of this

plan of action:
- get intimate with haraway's argument. try to get gist of what sadie plant's deal is. read balsamo article. read suchman.
then turkle's 2nd self, etc. (balsamo doesn't actually talk about UI. she talks about body. but I think
grade papers, mofo. part animal part machine in 3rd wave agenda reader. read balsamo ch 1, 5, 6

Beginnings of Notes On Brenda Laurel's "Utopian Entrepreneur" (but only as it relates to my paper)

Banff VR project - an attempt to turn computers inside out. Rather than creating interfaces that act as channels or conduits of our reduction of input into a system and a thin stream of output in return, recognize the whole body as an interface. Extend your experiential capabilities, not just your information processing capabilities. (She calls for the user of simulations to help us stage the consequences of our actions and make more utilitarian(?) decisions. Funny that this is the very use envisioned for computers in closed world 1950s US while we were on the brink of nuclear war. But Laurel's technolgies are consequences of personal action, not organizational/governmental action. Successor to computer personalization possibility. For her, it really doesn't seem to be about connecting, but about staging. weird. read up on edwards' metaphors chapter if this becomes important)0

Cultural myths guide our imagination, guide what technologicall artifacts we produce and the fervor with which we defend them. These artifacts, in turn, guide and constrain our actual experiences and thus our imaginations. Earlier, she makes an argument that points to economic structures as what can make a big impact on how technologies are develop and whose rights are preserved by them. So she would argue, I guess, that cultural narratives and values that they display are, in some cases, made manifest in the transactions that take place in these economic structures. Certainly, an economic system such as capital creates and is created by a certain cultural narrative -- the invisible hand, high order right from individual actions performed by informed individuals. (Informed. Yeah. Many consequences are out of our perceptual grasp, as Laurel points out. You never see news stories about how your taxes went into a bridge that didn't collapse. Are there economic systems better suited for our strengths and weaknesses as humans?)

Feminist possibilties of purple moon -- very third wave. Don't judge. Just meet girls where they are, show them that they have options -- choices -- that will impact future situations. Give them a stage on which to rehearse and explore those options so they are better prepared to deal with daily life. But I perceive this tension between the online world being rehearsal space and the online world being part of the real space we exist in. In some sense, these computers as theatre are a place for girls to extend childhood's reduced accountability to an extreme of being able to "rewind" the virtual life. I suppose you can do that because you are not dealing with any humans on this stage of experimentation.

Is the virtual world a rehearsal stage for boys as well? Doesn't seem like it is one when I think of the hours spent playing quake and descent. Laurel points out that taking away violence in video games will just beget violence as a means of acting out, venting, showing agency in the form of high school shootings, violence. In some ways, this makes boys the ones in need of demon vents. What do girls need? A place to be bitchy?Is there research on how girls respond to video games traditionally played by boys?How much of their avoidance is access and boy culture and the lack of critical girl gamer mass and how much is it that they don't respond the same way? Maybe the gender inclusive game design book might have something on this.

If my key question is: What is the role of the computer in the feminist imagination? Laurel's answer might be: It is a site of cultural story telling by way of the role it plays in art, the roles ascribed to it in human interactions. It offers extremely broad possibilities, bound in our minds by its myths. So we need to encourage women, men, etc as equal participants in the myth making -- in the tools we design, the problems we try to solve, and the terms under which we partner with it.

What are Laurel's ideal terms for partnership with a machine?
Embodied interaction, safe space for "consciousness raising" in pre-"CR" people (read girls without a lifetime of marginalization to raise experiential consciousness about). Increase understanding of the world and others' experiences of it, rather than escape. Increase empathy.

Edwards chapter 10 - Minds, Machines, and Subjectivity in the Closed World might be helpful.

Edwards (153): "Here we will find...neither scientists coerced into producing particular theories, nor of theories that merely reflect underlying relations of production. Instead, we will encounter...what Donna Haraway has called "constrained and contested story-telling." Such story-telling 'grows from and enables concrete ways of life."...'theories are accounts of and for specific kinds of lives." I think I'm interested in replacing theories with imagined needs and expectations reified in form and scientists with "designers." Which sorta brings you to Laurel by way of Haraway and Lakoff.
(157) "metaphor is not merely descriptive, but also prescriptive."

What kinds of power relations are written into the desktop metaphor of the Star? From LIza Loop, got impression that intended audience was not managers but secretaries -- the scribes and information encoding machine interface of the day. This would be somewhat of a historical project of digging through the old documentation and rhetoric surrounding the star, not what has been rewritten of its history over the time. And I don't think I myself could handle just reading the object.

(158) "master tropes provide what amount to basic structures for thought and experience." "politics of culture is, very largely, a politics of metaphor, and an investigation of metaphor must play an integral role in the full understanding of any cultural object. The mind is such an object and the computer is such a metaphor."

From Nass, Reeves "The Media Equation" (Online summary:
Gender stereotyping applies to computer voices: Female voices are perceived as less effective evaluators and more nurturing than are male-voiced systems. Female voiced computers are perceived as better teachers of love and relationships and worse teachers of technical subjects than are male-voiced teaching systems

Can we subvert the gender system while leaving it intact? It seems like as gender and sex become increasingly disconnectable, gender can be more of a choice. (A male can script an interaction that ultimately gets mediated by a female computer voice, and rapper Katastrophe (whose work is described in a PopMatters column) has undergone sex reassignment after living as a man for his post-adolescent life.)

However, this can be a copout. Few people have access to the technology or the invasive medical miracles that makes such slippage possible in its extremes. And say male and female gender become complete social constructions. Then the question becomes whether categorization is even avoidable. Categories and the stereotypes that go with them seem like the heuristics that make the world processable on an immediate, moment-to-moment basis. These stereotypes, in light of the Maturana we've been reading in Winograd's class, are not approximations of rational implications for quick application, but instead just reactionas we have because of the structure-determined nature of our minds. It's not that stereotypes approximate reality, then, that we have them, but because our experiences are like creedlets that have, in a sense, eroded certain structures and patterns of structural reaction (only afterwards, or in the proper conditions, abstracted into a rational justification) that we act in ways that are also explainable as stereotypes. (What changes in the equation when stereotypes become a form of shared cultural knowledge?)

Much to tease out...maybe a 378 paper?? :)

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Netwoman: The blog of a Sociology PhD candidate doing interesting stuff at University of Toronto.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Cosmetic surgery and the fight against entropy

Disorganization, asymmetry, degradation, Wiener's death fought against in increasinly iterative plastic surgery rituals -- botox parties

in some ways, contradictory since these physical augmentations actually desensitize (nipples, lips, etc) but at the same time succumb to or celebrate the pressures of embodiment. by exerting control over our bodies, we influence our lived experience and even our minds as people frequently describe that they feel more confident after plastic surgery.


Kate Hayles on page 108 uses the metaphors of celibacy and eroticism to describe intellectual discovery. This was a theme I was interested in exploring with regards to the masculinity of science as well, though it's definitely seeming to be one of those fuzzy metaphorical thoughts where I'm not sure what the practical real world implications are. I suppose you could argue that this metaphor we live by would imply certain entailments.

must read instead of dwelling...

Cosmetic surgery and the fight against entropy

Disorganization, asymmetry, degradation, Wiener's death fought against in increasinly iterative plastic surgery rituals -- botox parties

in some ways, contradictory since these physical augmentations actually desensitize (nipples, lips, etc) but at the same time succumb to or celebrate the pressures of embodiment. by exerting control over our bodies, we influence our lived experience and even our minds as people frequently describe that they feel more confident after plastic surgery.

Krista Scott's gender and technology comprehensive examination notes site

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Brenda Laurel's rise and fall of Purple Moon in SIGNUM.

female management typology.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

I'm flipping through a 1962 volume titled "The Sociology of Science" that I got at a used bookstore a few months ago. (I was trying to recruit used booksellers for my design project and felt compelled to browse, buy, and get a feel for the place before springing my request on them -- an expensive effort to get 3 sellers.)

An article by Margaret Mead caught my eye since she's famous for studying Samoans, not scientists, and I was amused by this quote. Mead explains that the image of scientists is overwhelmingly negative "when the question becomes one of personal contact with science, as a career choice or involving a choice of a husband."

The odds are good but the goods are odd haha chuckle chuckle they say to those of us in male dominated majors. Mostly, it's novel to see Mead, often described as a feminist anthropologist, communicate the assumption that the scientist will be male.

Almost everywhere in the 60s-70s science studies literature I've been looking at, you see the actors referred to as "he" and I won't jump to the conclusion that it's sexist (though someone wanting to have a more radical discussion might) as there are many who use he as shorthand for he/she, not liking the awkward construction. Maybe I should also assume husband is shorthand for husband/wife? No, not when spouse would is shorter than husband. :)

(cross posted to my livejournal)

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

backlash against nielsen:
backlash against everything:

these resonate with me because of the thoughts that led to me writing my humanities and HCI mini-manifesta

Saturday, March 06, 2004

some design principles of computer science learning experience design

Fill these in with cases of how this has happened in different sorts of contexts, paying attention to any possibly subte particulars about the context that made the described practice successful in supporting the design principle.

* Students should be able to frequently and accurately assess their performance in relation to the class.
- therefore giving hour estimates for how long a program takes isn't successful as it doesn't account for the perceptual flexibility of time; what are you going to do -- journal your hours?
- What are strategies for mediating attribution differences in men and women?

* Students should be able to validly assess their performance in relation to their peers.

* Students should feel safe participating in course activities, both emotionally and physically. (i.e. a lab can be a great place, but maybe not for a campus where you need to walk and there are muggings right and left)

* Curricula should support varied styles of learning.
- i.e. Listeners, readers, talkers

* Curricula should support varied styles of conceptualizing and solving problems. (This does not imply "writing sloppy code is okay." Solutions will be subject to the same standards and models to the same tests of robustness.)

more more more! we need more! these are but paltry examples

Friday, March 05, 2004

Concrete sigcse women in CS things that I will follow up on:
- Univ of Colorado group working on women in CS questions
- SIGCSE committee on expanding the community of women in computer science
- These teachers really need tools for cultural and classroom evaluation, probably more than all but the most general directives -- design principles coupled with tools to understand if their current classrooms meet those needs

My talk @ SIGCSE:
- cohesive thought that came out of it for me was that the problem is really this disconnect in gendered communication styles and pedagogical choices should abide by the design principle that a course should afford opportunities for students to see how their peers *really* work, rather than giving an open space for them to talk about it
- I really should talk about the whole study at some point, since 106A really frames it, maybe submit other chunks of paper (the fem stud journal submission) to
- learn to talk slower :P

Product designing computer science with the goal of making it equitable, inclusive, and vibrant:
- how do you cause a frame shift?
- broken windows principles, tipping point strategies for who to get in the boat, etc
- just because a workaround is there doesn't mean that there isn't a problem

Panel on ethics @ SIGCSE:
from conversation with Flo Appel - feminist ethics, social ethics, intellectual property ethics
ethics course speaker teaches uses 5 online discussions, 2 face to face discussions, grading basis?
- sometimes outside experts help (getting them in a dialogue with students rather than lecture format would be really cool)
- each page has off-site links to related articles, a study guide, discussion ?s, "breaking news" (google news alerts?)
- submission to peer review "independent study topics" - how does eric's presentation day do this? students present to TAs or to classmates also? making ethical interrogations is a useful skill (as is giving UI critique)