We have open threads every few weeks so that people can comment on older posts (our regular posts stop accepting comments after 2 weeks), suggest links, or talk about whatever as long as it fits within our comment guidelines. Nothing is off-topic for this thread, so feel free to share more adorable cat videos.
Today’s open thread is brought to you by turtles.
I feel the xkcd comic above is much funnier if you read it then watch this terribly educational video about turtles:
Now that you know all about turtles… it’s time for an open thread! We have these every few weeks so that people can comment on older posts, make suggestions, and talk about feminist stuff. Nothing is off-topic for this post as long as you fit within our comment guidelines. Have fun!
(PS – That’s a tortoise.)
There are a lot of covers are the mario bros theme, but Jimmy Wong’s version is especially cute and singable because it goes beyond the source to make something really fun:
And as if the song itself weren’t amazing, the artist himself is a pretty neat guy. Check out the NPR story on him: Jimmy Wong Saves The Internet:
Jimmy Wong reminded me that the tools that can be deployed by the so-called cyberbullies are also freely available to those they harass.
The lyrics are funny and good-spirited, and effectively turn the tables on the original rant. And the song itself has a catchy hook, has been viewed about 800,000 times, and is now for sale on iTunes.
When I was a kid, here’s one thing I never thought of saying to a bully who was about to pummel me:
“Hey, don’t mess with me. I’ve got a quirky sense of humor, a great singing voice, and I know how to code!”
But Jimmy Wong and many others are proving those types of creative skills could be a decent way to put up a defense.
Jimmy’s Mario song is available on iTunes along with a bunch of his other music, and proceeds are currently going to the Japanese relief efforts.
Those of you who follow me elsewhere may notice I wrote this post originally for cuwise, but I love the song so much and we’re overdue for an open thread so I’m re-using the post for this open thread. We try to have these regularly to give you a chance to talk about whatever you’d like. So nothing is off-topic here as long as you stay within our comment guidelines. Talk about music, games, or whatever else you think you’d like to level up in…
As a tabletop gamer who carries dice in her bag, I’m highly amused by this d&d roleplaying parody of the Far East Movement’s “Like a G6” :
I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for the Far East Movement even un-parodied, mostly because of Rocketeer, but even She Owns the Night sounds to me like a “geek girl loves to dance” kinda anthem:
The only question is,
Watchu know about these stereotypes?
FM, come on.
So innocent you can tell by the clothes,
College girl with a 4.0,
Good girl by day,
Damn, who would have known?
We’re starting to collect some examples of photography/recording harassment experiences (still open , and some of the kinds of problems people mention there and elsewhere are:
- photography/recording conducted in a way that is designed to hide the fact of the photography/recording from the subject both before and after the shot/recording happens
- photography/recording that is indifferent to or careless of the subject’s feelings about being photographed/recorded
- photography/recording that is othering: “wow, women! *click click*” or “hey, babe, smile for the camera!” or later posted with othering, sexist or creepy commentary
- failing or refusing to stop photographing/recording on an explicit request or appearance of discomfort (eg turning away or frowning or covering one’s face, etc)
- publishing photographs without the subject’s consent, or after the subject’s explicit refusal of consent
- use of photographs to implicitly or explicitly endorse an event or community, eg, using pics of smiling participants from the previous year in publicity materials, without consent
Now most of these things are legal in my region (see NSW Photographer’s Rights, which as you will guess from the title is not focussed on subject’s concerns, but which is informative) and in many others. I believe the only exception (in NSW) may be the last, because the use of someone’s image to promote a product requires a model release, that is, consent from the subject. Whether/when using someone’s photo on a website is considered promotion I don’t know but that’s a side point.
For that matter, I’m not even arguing that they should be illegal or actionable (in this piece anyway, perhaps some of them are arguable). I’m sympathetic to many of the uses of non-consensual photography, even (art, journalism, historical documentation). I’m arguing more narrowly that in the context of geek events, which are usually private and which can therefore impose additional restrictions on behaviour as a condition of entry, that restrictions on photography could prevent some harassment. (As a short and possibly sloppy definition for people who haven’t seen many harassment discussions, I would define harassment as “unwelcome interpersonal interactions, which either a reasonable person would know are unwelcome, or which were stated to be unwelcome but continued after that.”)
I’m arguing that this collection of behaviours around photographs makes geek events hostile to some participants, especially women. After all, even though it’s (I think) legal to sneak-photograph a woman’s face, write a little essay about how attractive you find her and try and get it on Flickr Explore even as she emails you to say that she’s upset and repeatedly request that you take it down, that doesn’t mean it’s ethical.
Now, obviously it would be nice not to have to spell ethical behaviour out to people, but the need for anti-harassment policies (and, for that matter, law) makes it clear that geek events do need to do so.
There’s quite a range of possible policies that could be adopted around photography:
- the status quo, obviously, which at many geek events is that any photography/recording that would be legally allowed in public spaces is allowed there;
- photography/recording should be treated like other potentially harassing interpersonal interactions at an event, that is, when one person in the interaction says “stop” or “leave me alone” (etc), the interaction must end;
- photography/recording shouldn’t be done in such a way as to hide from the subject that it’s happening, and upon the subject’s request the photo/footage/etc must be deleted;
- subjects cannot be photographed/recorded without prior explicit consent; and/or
- the above combined with some kind of explicit opt-in or opt-out marking so that one doesn’t need to necessarily ask every time if one can see the marking (in various conversations on this I have to say my main concern tends to be the need to peer closely at people’s chests to see their “PHOTOS/VIDEOS OK” or “NO PHOTOS/VIDEOS” marking on their badge, however, Skud says it works well at Wiscon).
There might be certain additional freedoms or restrictions regarding crowd photography/recording and/or photography/recording of organisers, scheduled speakers and people actively highlighted in similar formal events.
What do you think? Whether a photographer/videographer/recorder or subject of same, what do you think appropriate ethics are when photographing/recording at private geek events, and what do you think could/should be codified as policy?
Note to commenters: there are a couple of things that tend to come up a lot in these sorts of discussions, which are:
- “but this is perfectly legal [in my jurisdiction]”
- some geeks, including geek photographers, are shy and asking strangers for permission to photograph them is a confronting interaction, and thus very hard on shy people
I’m not saying that you need to totally avoid discussion of these points in comments here, but you can safely assume that everyone knows these points and has to some degree taken them into account and go from there. (My own perspective on the last one is that it’s odd at best to pay an enormous amount of heed to the social comfort of photographers at the expense of their subjects. You could, of course, consider both together.) Also if talking about legal aspects, do specify which jurisdiction(s) you are talking about: this is an area where laws vary substantially.
This is an anecdote gathering exercise, hopefully creating an opportunity for discussion around photography at geek events.
At present, the confererence anti-harassment policy (which, as a reminder, is designed to be edited to be made more appropriate for individual conferences) includes this text:
Harassment includes… harassing photography or recording…
Discussion after the application of this policy at linux.conf.au 2011 (see my entry Powerful people: Mark Pesce’s linux.conf.au keynote) focussed on this to an extent, with considerable pushback from people who like taking candid portrait photography after some proposals of making portrait photography opt-in at conferences. (I don’t want to focus on specific people’s opinions in this post or its comments, but see the linux-aus threads beginning with Some Anti-Harassment Policies considered harmful and Designated Photography Space at LCA? for some examples. Warning that a considerable number of commentators are unsympathetic to the idea that either Pesce’s talk or any candid photography can be harassing, and sometimes to feminist conceptions of harassment in general.)
It was fairly clear to me that, as is usual in these kinds of situations, people are picturing the most vindictive and trivial possible uses of the policy by overly powerful presumed-women photography subjects against poor defenseless presumed-men photographers. The real situation is of course considerably less sympathetic to some photographers and videographers, and viewers of their output. Recall my entry Conference recordings and harassment which shares a couple of stories about harassment by viewers of event imagery:
S gave a talk at a professional conference and related the following experience in chat:
S: linkedin pm I just got: “wow- you’re alot more younger and attractive than I imagined!.Thanks for showing your picture!”
S: I don’t like photographs and don’t let my likeness out much online. But a professional talk I gave a couple weeks ago was videoed (with my knowledge and consent). This was the result.
C gave a talk at a technical conference and a recorded version was also published with her consent. She subsequently received an anonymous email with a list of time offsets for the video and sexual commentary on her appearance at those time offsets.
The main point of that entry was to talk about official recordings, and how reluctance to appear in them might not just be due to “I hate sharing! I want to control my image for monetary gain!” as some event organisers seem to assume.
It seems we now need to talk about unofficial images and recordings, and how reluctance to appear in them might not (is usually not) “I hate people having pleasant memories and mementos of an event! I wish to end all event fun right now, and wipe people’s memories when they leave! I also hate art!”
There’s also the issue of harassment by photographers/recorders themselves. I’d like to gather stories of experiences if possible. If you’ve been photographed or recorded in a harassing way at a geek event, or have been harassed by viewers of the photograph/recording, you are invited to share your story here, including impact on you and follow-up if any.
Stories here will hopefully be useful to activists, policy designers and event organisers, to give them a sense of what real harassment scenarios are, and the impact they have on attendees.
Notes for commenting:
- participation in this thread is totally voluntary. Do not feel obliged to share experiences.
- this post is focussing on peoples experiences of being photographed and recorded. That means one’s experiences of being a photographer, videographer or recorder, even if you think your practices are far more ethical than those of photographers described by commenters, are off-topic for this entry, as are comments like “I take photographs in [some particular way] do people think that’s OK?”. I will probably put up a companion piece in a day or two for more general discussion of photography, harassment, artistic freedom and ethics, and intersections of same.
- responses are not limited to women (nor do you have to identify your gender in your reply): if you’re not a woman and you’ve been subjected to harassing photography/recordings or responses to them, you are welcome to share
- you are welcome to use a new and one-time pseudonym for this post if you like. Check carefully before you do so that the pseudonym you choose has not already been used in the thread so that there’s no chance that you and someone else are assumed to be the same person. Comments must otherwise adhere to our comments policy.
Notes for using/interpreting comments here: these are not necessarily representative experiences and of course we have not verified them. They have the status of anecdotes.
Despite the fact that I grew up to earn a degree in mathematics, I remember math classes in my elementary school as pretty much the dullest subject on earth. Which is probably one of the reasons I love Vi’s doodles so much. Experiencing mathematics through doodling while bored seems way more fun than paying attention did. Here’s a video of binary tree and fractal doodles:
Check out the other neat stuff (including more in the doodle series) at vihart.com.
This Wednesday fun is actually something connected to CUWISE: We met the fine folk working on Dot Diva at GHC09 and got to hear about some of their plans to make computing seem like a cool career for girls. While most of us seem to focus on fun outreach science programs, they took things in a different direction: seeing as crime shows like CSI have increased the public interest in careers in forensics, they thought perhaps TV would be the best way to make younger girls realise that computer science is actually pretty cool.
They’ve released the first episode of Dot Diva:
KATE, a sarcastic fan of alt- and indie-rock. ALI, a lover of kittens, chick flicks, and the mall. Two girls with NOTHING in common… except for being ace programmers at a seriously-crazy video game company.
As they work to launch Rocklette’s first-ever game, these two Dot Divas have to outwit their smarmy boss, Kate’s doofus boyfriend, and the spy within their midst.
If the video embed doesn’t work for you, click here to view the video
I wasn’t too sure about the first episode initially, since it seemed like they were throwing a lot of the stereotypes in there, but I think they dealt with them ok for a first look, and I expect we’ll be seeing more nuanced stuff as the characters develop. I found myself caught up in their story despite my initial feelings of awkwardness. One thing I really loved was how different the two women main characters are, while still both being programmers.
Now, I’m actually guessing some of our readers here on Geek Feminism are going to be irked by this video because it’s once again conventionally pretty young women depicting geeks, but I’d really like to hear comments about more than their appearances here. Would this show have appealed to you as a tween (their target demographic)? What else would you want to see? What other stereotypes would you like to see them deal with and maybe overcome? What else do you think could make the career of programmer appeal more to girls? Do you think this actually does make it more appealing to girls? Have you shown it to girls you know? What do they think?
Please be constructive in your comments — remember the women who produced this are genuinely trying to help the image of computer programmers in a way beyond Barbie, and that they actually have a decent amount of media savvy but likely had to choose their battles to make something appealing to both their sponsors and their target demographic.
Note: I’ll be taking a heavier hand to moderation here than I usually do because I don’t feel like hosting a whole lot of hate towards this project, though I do think readers may have interesting suggestions, criticisms and ideas for future episodes. If you’d like to rant, you may wish to keep a copy of your post for your own blog, or find a way to balance it with constructive ideas.
Team Antipodes is a team of three girls “headquartered in Pacifica, California, USA, but dedicated to collaboration with similar teams from around the globe.” They competed in the 2009 FIRST Lego League, placing third in their regional championships, and have extensively documented their work in the form of notes, video and CAD models to encourage others to experiment and compete.
We caught up with Violet, Emma, Kjersti and their coach, Ken, for an interview via email.
GF: When and how did you take an interest in robotics?
Violet: Ever since I was little, my dad has been exposing me to all sorts ofÂ technology. One of these things was robots. Robots fascinated me because they had a mind of their own. I wanted to be a part ofÂ making these machines and learn more about them.
Emma: The year before we started the team Antipodes my dad was doing a project with it. At first I didnâ€™t want to do it but one day I got bored and started helping him out with the programming. Now Iâ€™m here.
Kjersti: The beginning of my 8th grade year. My friendâ€™s Dad started a team, and he invited me to join it because he found out about robotics through my mom. It seemed like a cool thing to do, so I tried it out. This year was way cooler than my first year.
GF: How did the three of you come together to form Team Antipodes, and compete in tournaments?
Violet: Last year, our coach went to an event at NASA Ames and saw oneÂ of the FIRST robots. He got interested and was inspired to start aÂ team. At first, it was through 4-H, which both of his daughters areÂ involved in. Two of our team members, Kjersti and Emma, were on theÂ team that year. It was not as successful as they had hoped. They had many people who were not very dedicated or interested.Â He gave Kjersti and Emma the choice to craft this yearâ€™s team, and they decided to shrink the team and only include people who were extremely interestedÂ in robotics, so they invited me onto the team.
Emma: Kjersti and I did it the year before and Violet was our friend who was interested in it also. We competed really well. We are all really good friends and helped each other out.
Kjersti: Emma and I were on the original team in 8th grade, but we split off from that and decided to form our own team independently. Violet was our friend who is super smart and seemed interested, so we recruited her. We felt satisfied with just the three of us, soÂ we stopped there.
GF: What have been the most enjoyable, and most difficult, times in the
Violet: The most enjoyable are the meetings, because there are always jokes going around, and theÂ car rides back from the tournaments are always fun because the stress is gone. Seeing the robot, named TOR, do well in the competition is always rewarding, too. Though I have to say, our recent trip to Istanbul was one of the most memorable things in the wholeÂ season. The most difficult times are when it is the night before one of our competitions and things arenâ€™t working like we had hoped.Â Also when the robot is having a hard time at the competition and weÂ don’t know why.
Emma: The most enjoyable have been meeting new people at the tournaments and hanging out. The most difficult are definitely when something is not working right and we donâ€™t know how to fix it and also the long, early car rides to tournaments.
Kjersti: Some of the most enjoyable times have been the competitions. We are there, having fun with each other and at a point where there really isnâ€™t a whole lot we can do the change what we have and we have to be happy. So we are. Some of the most difficult have been the night before a competition. We usually sleep over at our coachâ€™s house the night before (his daughter is on the team) and the whole night we are stressing about our robot and just totally freaking out. Itâ€™s probably when we are the most stressed, and there have been break downs.
GF: How do you feel about competing internationally in the Open European
Violet: We were thrilled when we found out. We fundraised so much and worked hard to go. When we got there, we were overwhelmed. We got to meet kids from all over the world and compete with them. It wasÂ a chance that few get to have and we were lucky enough to get.
Emma: Iâ€™m a little nervous but also very excited, it should be amazing to meet people from all over the world and see how their competition is run.
Kjersti: Totally amazed, honestly. Our goal at the first competition was to not get dead last. We accomplished that, but we never dreamed we would make it to an international tournament. We were trying not to be too nervous or stress about the competition, because we were there to have fun.
GF: What do you do when you aren’t making robots?
Violet: I do a lot of plays. In fact during the season, I was in two different shows.Â Kjersti plays the saxophone and is in the marching band at our high school. Kjersti and I are also in Girl Scouts and a youth group together. Emma is involved with 4-H, doesÂ Cross Country, and horseback riding.
Emma: I run cross country, I do mock trial, Iâ€™m in a 4-H club, and I ride horses three days a week.
Kjersti: I’m in my local high school, Terra Nova’s marching band. It takes up a lot of time and practice, but I love it. I also love swimming and watching movies, but most of my time is taken up by school work.
Ken: Violet forgot to mention that she also does mock trial with Emma.
GF: You’ve decided to take a very open and collaborative approach to your work, as evidenced by the detailed information on your website (notes, designs, video and so on). How and why did you choose this approach?
Violet: We want to help other teams that need an idea of how to get startedÂ and let people see how we came up with our ideas.
Kjersti: It just sort of happened, but with a lot of pushing from our coach. He’s an architect and knows that it’s important to keep track of everything we do, and after a little bit we discovered that it was really helpful, especially since we weren’t always able to meet at the same times. It became an important tool to keep up with each other.
Ken: The reason we share our work and designs with our competitors, and anyone with access to the internet, is manyfold:
First, it’s a general principal of our league (FIRST – For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) to be gracious competitors. Second, we’ve been recipients of openness and help from older teams (most notably the LegoGuards and TechnoGuards), and it was immediately apparent this was the right thing to do. Third, I’ve been impressed by the many accounts of the long-term benefits of 1980’s Silicon Valley openness vs. Boston Area secretiveness. Fourth, it’s consistent with the whole idea of Antipodes (which means location on the opposite side of the globe) to push the envelope of engineering collaboration with students as far away as possible (Australians). Fifth, it took countless hours of web surfing to get started as a new team.Â I realized it would be a valuable resource to have a single location to learn as many lessons as possible from our experience, down to the invaluable detail of remembering to change your tires the week before the tournament and to adjust your programming to account for the better traction.
Matt, as the team’s coach, I didn’t give the team much choice about this.Â I just told them that openness is what we do, and they never questioned it.Â Although, I know they can tell the difference from most of their competitors that don’t show their designs.
GF: What is your creative process like when you work together? How do your projects begin, develop and get completed through collaboration?
Violet: When we run into a problem, or just need to figure how to doÂ something, usually someone suggests a possible solution. Then we start questioning it and trying to figure out every single detailÂ of it. Since there are a few very visual people on the team, this usually involves a bunch of drawings and sketches. If we decide the solution is not going to work, someone else suggests something elseÂ and we start over. Once we agree on a solution we start working onÂ it. Usually we divvy up the work and assign different tasks to different people. If someone runs into a problem with their task, they will ask for advice from the rest of the team. Eventually, theÂ final work will be achieved whether it is a solution to a minorÂ problem or a whole project.
Kjersti: We start with the problem, and basically brainstorm about what needs to happen. There’s a lot of trial and error that goes on, and we try each otherâ€™s ideas, until we find the best one and go with it.
Ken: Iâ€™d like to add that for any major design issue, we always break out the white board. The girls sit together on the couch as comfortably relaxed as possible and one of them volunteers to write the problems and suggestions out on the board in front of the others.
GF: Do you have any words of advice for other girls who are interested in robotics, as to how to get started?
Violet: Don’t let other people hold you down. Your friends may tell you that you are wasting your time, or someone may tell you that you can’t do it. You have to learn to not listen to these people.Â Â Find a robotics team of some sort, or start your own. It is really a great experienceÂ and you learn a ton. FIRST has programs for all ages, and you can contact them about finding a team near you.
Kjersti: I’d say go for it! It’s a lot of work but it pays off in the end. There are more opportunities than you might think to get involved in robotics, so you can ask around, or go to the FLL website to get more information.
The team gave a Google Tech Talk in Mountain View in June, where they discussed their team and activities, and gave a demonstration of their robot:
Having competed in the European Championship in Istanbul, they are seeking donations to help cover their travel expenses. Due to the eruption of EyjafjallajÃ¶kull, the trip was much more expensive than anticipated and as of this writing they are about $4000 short. If you wish to support them, you can do so on their website.
- jadelennox gives concrete ways that able-bodied people can fight ableism, on top of or instead of blogging about it.
- On that note, Anna has founded a transcripts community on Dreamwidth, for volunteers to help out with transcribing video and audio on the ‘net.
- Steph writes about working conditions and worker suicides in PRC factories that manufacture Apple products.
- Hilarity! Richie digs out an old gamer magazine introducing the “Other, Significant” monster, whose special attacks include
Withering Stare, Cell Phone, Silent Treatment, Mother-in-Law. He also has a video response (no transcript) to anti-feminist/anti-women YouTube clips.
- riko talks about 6 things that people seem to be unaware of when talking about disability with basic tenets of disability identity, in response to “disability” appearing as a prompt on a fanfic challenge
- There’s an Ask Metafilter thread about being a geek woman being bullied by another woman.
- FemaleScienceProfessor explains that that first adjective in her pseudonym is important… or that it sure has been important to her male colleagues.
If you have links of interest, please share them in comments here, or if youâ€™re a delicious user, tag them â€œgeekfeminismâ€ to bring them to our attention. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).
Thanks to everyone who suggested links in comments and on delicious.