Readings: Program or be programmed + Dads


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Read
Program or Be Programmed – Introduction by Douglas Rushkoff
and
The Dads of Tech by Astria Taylor and Joanne McNeil

And leave a thought in the comment section below relating the two texts. I want more than a summary or a personal reaction (I agree/I disagree).
You can start from these questions:


Can you think of an example of a computational system or artifact that “programs” our lives or deeply affect our society? What are its bias and problems (if any)? Can you envision a better alternative?

How do you think your gender affected your relation to technology and programming?

Astria Taylor’s and Joanne McNeil’s article is full of references to people, events, and controversies you may not be familiar with. Pick one and do some research around it.
Example: “telephone girls”

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12 comments

  1. Kate Werth

    Now with technology, specifically some like Google, people have access to information about anything. Thus, people are beginning to think that having information (or having access to information) is equal to having knowledge, or even that the two are the same thing. However there is a huge difference between true knowledge/intellect and information. The two are not interchangeable. With technology and the huge amount of information available, fewer and fewer people have well-thought out and well-informed opinions about the world and fewer people are truly skilled and knowledgable. What’s really important now is knowledge and having the ability to create rather than simply consume. More people need to be educated in a way that allows them to understand technology; right now, people are still being educated largely in the same way that they have been for over 50 years. Everyone uses technology, but so few people are creating technology and fully understand it.
    Being female has affected my relationship with technology and programming in a negative way. In my computer science classes, fellow male students often assume that females are not as smart or capable at programming as they are. I have actually had a male student in the same programming class I was in tell me, “oh this is probably hard for you to understand since females don’t think as logically as men.” These attitudes are ridiculous and honestly quite concerning.

  2. ndesmorn

    The media is an tool that is now embedded in our lives. It affects our knowledge and opinions on selected events happening around the world. While it does make people more aware of current events, it’s certainly very biased based on the news station or blog reporting it. For example, differing news stations with differing politics beliefs can have a divergent attitudes towards the president’s (or some other political figure) actions. These attitudes have great effect on how the viewers perceive the event. In addition, reporters can selectively choose which events they want to report. So not all sides are considered on trivial events. The problem with this is that people may not be as informed as they think, and will be ignorant on the reality of the situation. As a result, under-developed and immature decisions may be made by the people as a whole in reaction to the events.

    As a male, I have not had any gender-specific events with regards to technology. However, I could definitely imagine people tending to think of men as more authoritative over the field than women.

  3. Josh Archer

    What I find most interesting in comparing these two texts is that what becomes the focus of “Dad’s of Tech” (gender), is an assumption that “Program or Be Programmed” does not really consider. As if gender equality within the system already is, or will inevitably become inherent. While the main argument within “Program or Be Programmed” can seem pessimistic or cyincal, it’s final result struck as quite optimistic to me. What I mean is, the assumption of gender equality made within Rushkoff’s text seems ultimately like a positive message, not a failed assumption.

  4. Chris

    The previous comment was posted under Josh’s account by accident but is actually my comment (chris copeland) he will comment on his own account again.

    What I find most interesting in comparing these two texts is that what becomes the focus of “Dad’s of Tech” (gender), is an assumption that “Program or Be Programmed” does not really consider. As if gender equality within the system already is, or will inevitably become inherent. While the main argument within “Program or Be Programmed” can seem pessimistic or cyincal, it’s final result struck as quite optimistic to me. What I mean is, the assumption of gender equality made within Rushkoff’s text seems ultimately like a positive message, not a failed assumption.

  5. jasonm2

    One example of a computational system that programs our lives deeply could be Facebook. Prior to Facebook, people thought it was “weird” and unheard of to find certain personal information that is regarded as common information today. Facebook has completely transformed our social culture. Some problems related to Facebook would be the fact that Facebook is still a corporation, not a public funded entity. That means anything Facebook does is always for money, and nothing else. A better alternative could be having a neutral party run it, without it having to worry about finances (such as NPR, which is arguably neutral).

    I agree with the “Dads of Tech” article that being a male definitely makes me more inclined to be tech savvy, as that’s more common among males. Going off of this idea, I think there could be some linkage between the fact that those who are programming (mentioned in article 1) will be dominant, and that most likely those who program will be male, but maybe I’m just too tired and my mind’s going places.

  6. gsunder

    The idea of the “Program or be Programmed” essay was probably reactionary to the Silicon Valley culture of not only believing that computers are the answers to everything but also what amounts to essentially a cult of personality in startup culture. The get rich quick and long term goals of mechanization are overly willing to believe that the easy solution to the world’s problems is within not only their code, but within their comfortable bubble of “normal” and privilege. Which actually ends up touching on the biggest problem in the article, the argument that computers copy human thought processing. That is absolutely not true, speaking as a psych major, as much as dystopian techphobes like to think. I think the idea of it replacing human thought, however, comes from a place where the instant gratification attitude of the dominant people progressing the field means the culture of study also forgets that the potential for efficiency of computers over human processing sidesteps the question of efficacy. I think the sexism and gendering of technology is kind of a symptom of that, because technology isn’t at the point to replace the humanities and analysis of cultural context. These ongoing discussions we have about privilege and general health of our society probably get excessively negative responses off/online because it tries to get these privileged men–the women of Silicon Valley, I’ve noticed, tend to get it–to slow down and challenge the reckless idealism of startup culture, the new American Dream. That idealism ignores things like the fact that women are still asked to leave from most tech companies when they get pregnant

  7. bescott

    The “Program or be Programmed” text seemed to be written like a newspaper headline. The phrase that comes to mind is “Kill or be Killed”, and that seems like it doesn’t really apply to the topic at hand: it’s a gratuitious escalation of what’s actually happening in the world, written as such just to get your attention, and be “edgy” (e.g., “Choose the latter, and it could be the last real choice you get to make.” Really?). If one can ignore its theatrics, there’s a point to be found. “Program or be Programmed” raises questions about the power struggle that exists between people and corporations.

    To actually address the prompt, here, I don’t think that the specific example of a computation system or artifact is necessary, what’s important is the trend:

    Companies can hire programmers, and take advantage over laypeople who don’t know how things work. They have already tilted the internet to their favor, and we can see the results. The more aggressive suits (“businessmen”) are probably behind those terrible “I’m-going-to-drop-down-from-the-top-of-your-screen-and-obscure-the-whole-webpage-until-you-pay-me” sorts of advertisements. They’re going to do nasty things to the internet because people don’t know enough to stop them, so in that sense, “Program or be Programmed” is quite an apt name.

    Being male, I have no concept of what it’s like for women in this field of study. From reading “The Dads of Tech”, I don’t think that sexism is much worse in this field than in any other non-traditional workplace. It claims that women have been “written out of the dominant narritives”, among other things. I don’t agree with that. Ada Lovelace is widely accepted to be *the first computer programmer*, and Grace Hopper invented the compiler: these are no small feats, nor have I seen their accomplishments diminished or belittled, at all.

    tl;dr I don’t think tech is any harder on women than any of the other traditionally-male fields of study. Is this to say that other male-dominated workplaces aren’t hard on women? No, of course not. More than anything, this is an even stronger call to action! We know that this sort of rampant sexism isn’t just happening in tech, it’s everywhere, and we need to fight it everywhere to fix the problem.

  8. lingdonh

    # Can you think of an example of a computational system or artifact that “programs” our lives or deeply affect our society? What are its bias and problems (if any)? Can you envision a better alternative?

    We are deeply programmed by the logic and causality of this world. We are so used to this system and so dependent on it, that our thoughts are fixed into its mode. We expect to die after falling down a cliff, and expect to starve after not eating, and we cannot think any other way. However, there’s no better alternative.

    # How do you think your gender affected your relation to technology and programming?

    I believe my gender enhances my relation to technology and programming. As a male, I am granted logical thinking to tackle problems in such areas, and energy to work untiringly on them. Moreover, people expect me to be more closely related to technology and programming because of my gender. However, I can say nothing about whether women can be as good as men in such fields, because I am no women.

    # Astria Taylor’s and Joanne McNeil’s article is full of references to people, events, and controversies you may not be familiar with. Pick one and do some research around it.

    “The Accelerator Group”

    Based in London, The Accelerator Group (TAG) has been an advisor and investor in early stage and start-up companies since 1995. They focus on the Internet services, eCommerce and multi-channel retail sectors, investing primarily in the US and Europe.

  9. Michael Quinn

    “The Dad’s of Tech” describes the differences between how powerful and elite (typically male) representatives portray the effects of progressive growth in the digital world, and the reality of how programming and computer design fields are dominated by men, exclusionary toward women, and not nearly as influential a tool for social upheaval as many think.

    “Program or be Programmed” highlights the alarming effects of a highly relied upon medium of information and communication overcoming peoples’ understanding of it’s mechanisms and how it works. It likens the laymen’s tendency to ignore the ways digital technology defies his own wants needs and goals, and instead forces himself to mold his own needs and methods to inefficient systems not designed by him, to all kinds of technological/cultural changes of the past. It recalls how the elite of always taken the greater control over the media, whatever new form it takes, while the common people, who COULD use the medium to revolutionize how they do things, end up resigned to accepting how it is used and controlled by the elite.

    The essay begs the reader to seize the medium. To grapple with the task of truly understanding how the technology their world is built on works, and learn how to shape it to suit their needs and ambitions. It is about breaking the cycle of mediocre interaction with advancements that have revolutionary potential.

  10. garamk

    Personally, the smart phone is one work of program that affects every part of my life, more than any other programmed products. I believe it is biased towards omnipresence, which means that it works towards being able to do everything anywhere. By being the ultimate portable computer, with the addition of communication techniques, it carries and expands on both the advantages and the disadvantages of a computer. While it enables extreme multitasking, the depth of “stuff to do” available also prevents proper concentration and therefore results in the failure of processes that require such concentration.
    Being only a consumer, my gender has not been a big problem in exploring technology. That being said, I still experience weird glances and slight condescension when entering electronic shops. When asking a question or answering one, people do not expect me to be reliable on electronics. Being the most knowledgeable on electronics in the family, I get pushed into such situations frequently and it stresses me.

    “Trolls”
    – internet trolls are people who like to cause arguments through sensational comments, regardless of being logical or right. It is said that trolls tend to be keyboard warriors who satisfy their need for attention by becoming the center of argument in the online world.

  11. aeedward

    The first artifact that comes to mind when I think of programming people/society is the way self preservation. The traits that kept humans alive, operational and able to learn have grown and adapted to every quality of life. I am particularly interested in how this has shaped and been shaped by social media. Self preservation has manifested itself in the unwritten etiquette of various websites. It doesn’t seem so much a system to evaluated as a problem to be solved but more similar to a culture to be studied. Like digital-anthropology.

    The initial manifestation of SP is the insular, self-validating behavior of the internet. This is most poetically summed up by Google Maps. With a detailed visual of most of the world’s countries, we default to the novelty of looking for our own home. We rarely wander to places we’ll likely never live. We seek familiarity. We seek friends, like minded people, mutual interests. We bubble ourselves because it’s comfortable. We tailor our experiences to give us only the content we find personally entertaining. And in our usage of the internet SP works to turn the user into a specialist rather than a generalist in the troves of information it has available.

    So we get all these niches in the internet. SP work to codify the content to best utilize the outlets, we wanna best utilize our social media outlets of choice, but then quirks appear. Nothing inherently makes multiple posts more or less appropriate on instagram or tumblr but there is a different stigma that attaches to the acts. Twitter invents new grammar. Text transforms tonal writing. Tender reworks the vernacular in personal presentation. I just really enjoy how various standards develop and how stringently some will adhere. Some facebook communities prize lengthy text posts while others only parrot the articles and information of others as entertainment. And SP works to intensify these behaviors in an effort to remain relevant and adherent to one’s insular community of choice.

    As much as we are being programmed by others, the masses usage of a program can transform how a program will grow. Kik and Snapchat developed for the same reason, but have diverged largely because of how people used them. And now the two carry very different associations.
    A tool’s future is ultimately affected by the result it has on the medium it’s intended to manipulate. So the person has power over the program in how it chooses to react.

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