Readings: Program or be programmed + Dads

Program or Be Programmed – Introduction by Douglas Rushkoff
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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  1. Brandon

    Mass-produced tupperware containers deeply affect our society in their bias towards being discarded, adding to the ever-growing quantities of non-compostable waste, particularly in large urban centers. A better alternative would be the consistent re-use of the tupperware container; making use of the humble plastic artifact to its full potential.

    As with the relationship between my gender and technology and programming, I think my experience of the two up until this point in time would not have been different had I been born female, but only for the reason that I have been a consumer of technology for most of my life thus far, not having created any significant software or programs.

  2. Sarah Kim

    I thought it was interesting to ask a question “do we really need to know how to make a program?”. I do understand the author’s argument and fully agree with it but what happens if we are all “elites”? I personally cannot imagine the different turnouts it will bring to our society. One thing for sure though is that if we do educate ourselves to have power over the technology, then we will later be able to diminish the embedded sexism in tech culture. For example, the second author mentioned about the Silicone Valley and how majority of the employers and those in power are male and it is them who has the power to choose the employees. The situation will evolve to where male and female are equally in power and only those who are talented, not judged by their gender, will be selected as their employees, eventually diminishing the stereotypes on both men and women in tech culture.

  3. ggsimmon

    While “Program or Be Programmed” was about user understanding interface, and “The Dads of Tech” was about gender issues within the coding world, both articles have to do with blindly accepting a model, when really, challenging the status quo, or being inquisitive, is the necessary second step. As humans in a modern world, we see technology as a tool that is advantageous, sleek – the only way forward. Advancement is so rapid that we quickly grasp at whatever is handed to us, to the degree where it’s not just keeping up with the Joneses, but also, people see it as necessary to social acceptance. The main mistake here is that we see programs as undeniable avenues of individuality and expression, when in reality, there is always a template to conform to, and that can be damaging. In other words, inviting technology in is not the same as understanding it, and understanding how manipulative it can be, or how we are being used and abused (in subtle and not so subtle ways). We believe there is integrity in our tools without investigating.
    In much the same way, within the culture of tech, we accept a certain stereotype as the “master”: geeky, white males. Purportedly the world of coding is a world of free speech and open knowledge and accessibility, and we all want to believe it. We see amazing things being made and we elevate the creators to the status of heroes, usually without really knowing the full story, or their actual credentials (but we accept it all if they seem like the “type” who would make those sorts of things). So again, we accept the template without realizing how constricting the system is, particularly to females, below the surface. People bring all the attention to futuristic strides being made, without addressing the age-old, still existence issues of harassment and belittlement towards women in the workplace. We don’t understand that even as new frontiers are being explored, we still have basic moral issues going on, and we need to have more human engagement and understanding, rather than just reckless devotion to what seems shiny and new.

  4. smsyjuco

    It’s impossible to ignore how the expectations of programmers, or of those social circles, change depending on one’s gender. It’s interesting, almost ironic, that the field of programming was initially touted as a good field for women. Rarely is it closely examined, but it isn’t just the stereotypical image of the programmer that has been “aggressively masculinized,” it is the very expectation of anyone actively participating in the field. In any programming classes that I participated in during high school, the women in the class were subjected to off-hand comments from teachers, belittled, and for the most part, allowed to fall behind and were expected to always ask for help. I thought that, perhaps, that was just a product of that specific school, because I hadn’t encountered any such things in programming classes here at Carnegie Mellon, where I haven’t felt gender has ever figured into my programming classes. But the fact that it is plaguing the programming community as a whole is concerning, though hardly shocking. Given that it hasn’t taken steps forward, but has actively been taking steps back, one wonders how much farther this can go.

  5. kgonzale

    Having been brought up and educated during the time of growing technology (iPhones, tablets, apps, etc) it was never a second thought that my being a woman would effect my skills to work with those technologies. I always believed that the skills required to manage technology, from as simple to using a word document to coding an entire video game or website, was something that everyone was welcome to do.
    Rushkoff’s article is more important to me because it puts forward the question of what our relationship is to developing technology regardless of gender. It highlights the important question of “Are we more focused on the result of using a new technology than we are the actual creation and development of it?” Articles like The Dads of Tech are pointless because they apply a very popular topic to a certain category just because they can. Even though there is sexism in the technology development industry, and many industries in general, I think that it should not be as much of a concern as successful projects should be. Putting too much focus on whether a woman can code or not is dumb because despite gender a worker should be chosen for their skill and their ability to advance the history of technology. But that is all idealistic…

  6. rlawanta

    I personally did not realize the extent of sexism in the industry until I read the article. I find it ridiculous and unacceptable, but also surprising. This is because I have never witnessed tech-related sexism myself, but then again I have only ever been on the consumer end of the spectrum. I have never studied coding and as such I am also unaware of the general classroom attitude towards women in that particular field nowadays. However, it is encouraging to see that women have been able to get more involved in the field. For example, 48% of CMU’s current first-year CS undergrad are women, which is far above the national average as far as I’m aware. Hopefully, this will lead the way for other schools and industries as well.

  7. Annie

    This first article was pretty straight forwards, and it basically just tells the reader again and again the importance of learning how to code over merely understanding how to used the already developed programs. And I believe the example that article provides are ver convincing. Personally, like pointed out in the article, I never felt the necessity of coding as an important skill simply because I know how to use devises such as computers and smart phones very well. Thus, even-though our generation had be educated on the importance of technology all the time, I never felt the need to study code at all since everything was already made for us and easy to use. Even after coming to CMU, the top CS school, I only began to realize the need to know some basic computing skills because everyone else are doing it. After reading this article, I just it brings me a new insight on the role that computing plays in the rapidly developing world that I’ve never thought before.
    For the second article, I also felt very shocking that gender stereotypes and gender discriminations can still exist in an area represented by the most intelligent minds of the world.

  8. ldenegre

    Though I haven’t taken programming classes or worked in the tech industry, as a woman, having to fight to be considered capable or intelligent is a familiar feeling. The first article tells us that unless we learn to program, until we become producers, we don’t get a voice in where technology is going. But in some ways I think this is the same as saying that “the master’s tools” can “dismantle the master’s house. Is it really only possible to make to make change from within? Even if women or minorities or anyone who’s considered “other” know how to code, they are being pushed out of the tech industry. Does that mean that they can’t make change? What about people who don’t have the resources to learn to program? I think that even if we are not programmers, that doesn’t mean that we cannot use the tools that are produced for our own means and uses. Women changed the use of the telephone simply by using it for what they wanted.

  9. anathani

    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?

    I think of something like marijuana, and how it can be used for a number of medicinal causes but we have this inherent bias that it is a gateway drug which in fact it can be argued that it is the opposite. It’s a better alternative for something like tobacco and can benefit your health.

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

    In 10th grade I finally realized that I wasn’t bad at math. I took initiative and was put into our advanced math course. Subsequently, Girls Who Code just started in my school and I started getting involved as most of the advanced math girls were. Throughout the end of high schoo (I went to all girls school)l I participated and organized hackathons and encouraged younger girls to start coding. My senior year, I took our only computer science course and found that coding was really similar to art. For the longest time I thought I wasn’t capable of being able to program, but being in an environment where the norm is being challenged (i.e. all girls school encouraging STEM careers), it was really encouraging to challenge myself in that way. I’m glad to see that we’re advancing somewhat but I believe that the initial environment for education must provide a level playing field for all genders in order to encourage women to know that they are just as capable.

    If you get a chance, I think this article is really relevant within the context of these other readings. I read it around 2.5 years ago, right when I started to code and it really changed my perspective and is a nice snapshot in time of what was going on in 2014.

  10. mreyes

    Both of these articles bring up the need for an advanced and more active approach to the way the collective thinks about the way we think about computational systems. Rushkoff talks about the need for education of programing both in how it works and a common practice of writing code itself (as he compared to early writing and reading). However, the reading doesn’t address educational systems. Rushkoff briefly mentions how “laptop curriculums” are ineffective, but doesn’t address what is effective. While there are free sites and resources that are growing for most public high schools programing isn’t even an offered course. Programing classes are a niche for schools that can afford the resources or for an extracurricular activity. To my knowledge , if you can afford to go to College it becomes more accessible to take classes. However, College classes are hard and without some prior knowledge to coding a programing class can be intimidating.

  11. rnayyar

    I see that the ‘Program or be programmed’ Intro is a good way to highlight various methods of taking advantage of technology to further one’s position in their class or career. Rather than painting us as ‘slaves’ to big bad technology, Rushkoff assigns us the roles of either creator and user. Both roles have something to gain in their position/relation to technology. Nevertheless, technological revelations are furthered by the “grooming” of human interactions that utilize specific tools. The way we use specific aspects of technology is directly related to its rapid upgrades. This is a lame example but we went from hand-washing our clothes for centuries, to the mass-produced home washing machine, to a new branch of products catering to the washing machine’s effectiveness (detergent, softener, stain removers, etc.). Then, washing machines are upgraded to have specific run cycles for different materials and articles, and products are updated and separated to work with whites and darks and such, and then we have convenience products like ‘Tide To-Go’ or just plain tide pods in general. Does technology have to be updated because it widens the horizons for human innovation and consumption? Or are these updates simply more effective in aiding human achievements?

    Moving on to gender, it’s always been a slippery slope. The initial submission of women dates all the way back to the first settled civilizations (think Mesopotamia). Once land and wealth inheritance came into the picture, women were not trusted to continue on the blood line and were therefore confined to prevent any “mix-ups”… Obviously, now, it runs far deeper than that. It’s been hammered so deep into human psyche that women are naturally subordinate to men and this belief perseveres today…Especially in STEM fields. I’m not here to complain much, as a first world girl in a first world society at a top-tier university with excellent STEM programs… I just mean to say that even though we, as women, are frequently looked over in light of technological and digital breakthroughs because we’re still trying to shatter the mold that centuries of forced submission has shunted us into. It’s simply tiring to be frequently demeaned, degraded, and disrespected based on assumptions that we are fundamentally incapable of matching a man’s understanding of programming. Like Rushkoff said,
    “When human beings acquired language, we learned not just how to listen but how to speak. When we gained literacy, we learned not just how to read but how to write. And as we move into an increasingly digital reality, we must learn not just how to use programs but how to make them.”
    This applies to humans. To people that are capable of these means of communication. This is not a gender-exclusive language!!!!

  12. Shannon

    Something that really struck me from the “Program Or Be Programmed” reading was the fact that in order to be successful in life you have to be able to program. I’ve never considered myself to be tech savvy, and have honestly struggled to use even some of the simplest programs (such as photoshop). This has always caused me frustration, as I see others easily coding and creating programs that I would struggle to even use. Coming to Carnegie Mellon was at first terrifying, as it seems like everyone here is so much smarter and more experienced than I would ever be. The “Dad’s Of Tech” reading really hit home with this, as most of the people I admire for being smart and good with technology are men. I haven’t had a strong female role model in the tech field, and had never even considered that this would be a job that I could do. I felt like an idiot thrown into a high tech environment- but something that I realized in over time here is that working hard to master these skills pays off- and its actually so empowering. There is this huge feeling of satisfaction when I am able to code even a simple program. Though it might be an easy feat to others at CMU, I realized from this reading that even these small things are more than the majority of the population has bothered to learn. Being at CMU it feels like everyone is smarter, works harder, or just has more experience with technology- but it has dawned on me that being inside of this bubble has forced me to grow and learn to keep up with my peers and has given me an advantage over so many who don’t have this opportunity.

  13. Toby Donoghue

    Im pretty well versed in feminism and the feminist issues that affect people in our contemporary society, but i was never aware of the extent of the extreme bias in fields such as computer programming. The second article, “The Dads of Tech,” really made me think about these biases and I was particularly shocked by the stories of women like Grace Hopper who led the team that invented the COBOL language and received little to no credit for the work. The tale of women being excluded from the workforce or being belittled, talked over, or not given credit for their ideas is not a new one, but since i know very little about computer science and programming these particular stories were new and upsetting to me. it got me thinking about why perhaps I never developed an interest in computer programming or video games even though my brothers did. My dad does lots of computer programming and is even working on his own virtual reality video game right now and always played video games with my brothers when we were younger. Even though i was sometimes encouraged to play games like mario party with the family there was definitely an increased amount of attention payed to my brother with regards to video games. Even when my dad started to teach my little brother coding and how to build games, I realize now that i was never asked if that was something I wanted to learn how to do as well. I think the notion that technology and gaming as a male fascination and occupation subtly and slowly permeates throughout our society and across generations, and often times the bias is so subtle it seems insignificant.
    In general i resonated with this article in terms of feeling like as a woman i have to fight much harder and be much louder and more in your face to get my ideas heard, acknowledged, and actually listened to, but i personally do not feel like society has told me that I am incapable of coding or programming, just subtly steered me away from wanting to do it.
    I think that nan obvious system or artifact that control and programs alot of peoples minds is instagram, and particularly celebrity and advertising culture on that social media platform. Celebrities like Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian have millions of followers and because of they media coverage have the power to influence alot of people, particularly in how young girls should feel about their sexuality, how they look and dress, how they act in public and pose for pictures (emphasis on image in general), etc. I think this becomes all the more dangerous when advertisements come into play and celebrities get sponsored per post selling and promoting different products. it creates a really dangerous internet perpetuated culture that is designed to promote one ideal of body image and body care and that may not work for everyone. I think this could potentially be fixed by stricter social media protocols or an overall increase in awareness, promotion of body positive imagery and education for young people, etc.

  14. Adela Kapuscinska

    My relation to technology was always somewhat strained: mainly because of the cynicism that I had for it, which I can only think now that was a result of not having enough of it around me (in a European capital, no less). As to coding, I wasn’t truly exposed to it until college; before, knowing only as much in terms of game, web design and how things generally worked, but with no actual possibility to study it (my schools simply did not offer that in their curriculum). The reality described in “Dads of Tech” – and one that I was not fully aware of – is baffling and ludicrous, which is why I’m glad I was introduced to the discipline in the pioneering and nondiscriminatory to my best knowledge environment at Carnegie. That being said, as with the universal point made in “Program or Be Programmed”, women should take up as much responsibility as their counterparts to set the development of technology but mainly our human identity in it on an entirely new trajectory, that is both aware and self-improving.

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