The opposite of fun: how would you build an educational game about bias?

2010 November 10

A friend of mine sent me a link to this article about a $2 Million Grant To Develop Game That Breaks Bias Against Women In Sciences, and he pointed out that making hard work decisions (as you do in the game) sounds rather like the opposite of fun.

The game will aim to put players in situations that could reveal such bias. For instance a faculty member might be asked by the game to hire a top scientist who requires wheelchair accessibility. Or a resume might have a work experience gap because of child-rearing, with the game asking players to consider their knee-jerk response to such situations.

In that example it also sounds a little too easy as a game. Sit down, think diversely, and make that decision. As commenters have pointed out here in previous threads in unconscious bias, it’s fairly easy to game those tests if you concentrate. You’re being led to a certain type of answer, and figuring out what that is can be very obvious. Just like other unconscious bias tests, you’re learning something in the process of having to concentrate, but I feel like maybe you could do better.

So here’s a question: how do you think you could make a different game that examined bias?

Off the wall ideas encouraged: I suspect thinking too conventionally is part of what results in educational games that just aren’t very different from previous attempts and maybe aren’t that much fun. Could you educate about hiring bias using a platformer? (What would an accessible platformer level look like?) Using a massively multiplayer online game? (Could you cause players to lose points for harassing other players? For telling sexist jokes in the trade channel?) Using a casual Facebook game? (bias vs farmville?) Using a role playing framework? (Could you play the minority candidates and experience bias from the other side and have to triumph despite it? e.g. doing the “same” job interview and discovering that your gender/race results in very different questions from the interviewer.)

Wednesday Geek Woman: Ursula K. Le Guin

2010 November 10

Wednesday Geek Woman submissions are currently open.

A version of this post appeared a few weeks ago at Hoyden About Town.

A little capsule summary for people who haven’t read her work: Ursula K. Le Guin is a novelist, poet and essayist. She is best known for science fiction and fantasy, particularly the six Earthsea books (five novels and a collection of stories) set in an archepeligo world with advanced magic and pre-industrial tech; and various books set in her Hainish universe, which is a future series in which Earth, among other planets among relatively nearby stars, turn out to have all have hominid species on them, established some millions of years ago by a still existing ancestral species the Hainish, in a series of biological/sociological experiments. This has allowed her to write, for example, The Left Hand of Darkness, Winter’s King and Coming of Age in Karhide, set in a world of primates with a sort of oestrous cycle in which their bodies can become either male or female, and who have otherwise no gender or sexuality; and The Matter of Seggri, about a world on which there are about sixteen women born for every man, and men are kept apart with their role in society being purely exhibition of strength, sex, and providing sperm.

Le Guin is something of a goto name for someone who wants to make sure their list of Great Science Fiction includes something, anything, by a woman: she’s white, she has by now become a big name and is award-winning and Taken Seriously (see Guest Post by Alisa Krasnostein: The Invisibility of Women in Science Fiction at Hoyden). I… do think she’s worth reading anyway! But don’t stop there, I doubt she’d want you to.

I’ve enjoyed Le Guin’s writing for years, but here is her crowning Hoyden moment for me, in a 2001 interview by Nick Gevers, a science fiction editor and critic:

[Gevers asks] Who, for you, are the finest SF authors now writing — both your fellow feminist writers and more generally?

[Le Guin answers] First I am to list fellow feminists and then… non-fellow anti-feminists? Come on, Nick, let’s get out of the pigeonholes. If feminism is the idea that differences between the genders, beyond the strictly physiological, are an interesting subject of study, but have not been determined, and so are not a sound basis for society to use in prescribing or proscribing any proclivity or activity — which is what I think it is — then I probably don’t read any non-feminist SF writers, these days. Do you?

Here’s a few selected pieces of Le Guin’s writing:

  • Two chapters from The Left Hand of Darkness
  • A Whitewashed Earthsea: How the Sci Fi Channel wrecked my books. (on a TV adaption of A Wizard of Earthsea)

Le Guin has a fairly large website with links to most of her recent online writing.

If I had to recommend a single piece of writing of hers, I would say that its the short story The Day Before the Revolution (probably easiest to find in the collection The Wind’s Twelve Quarters), which probably benefits a lot if you read The Dispossessed for context first (The Dispossessed is a fine novel, so not just for context). The Day Before the Revolution was published when Le Guin was 45 years old. She wasn’t old at the time, and I am not old yet, but it is the closest I come to understanding how it might be.

Wikipedia: Ursula K. Le Guin

Win An eReader And Support Speculative Fiction Writers: Carl Brandon Society Fundraiser

2010 November 9

The Carl Brandon Society, an organization dedicated to racial and ethnic diversity in speculative fiction, will hold a prize drawing of five eReaders to benefit the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship, a fund that sends two emerging writers of color to the Clarion and Clarion West writers workshops annually.

In keeping with the Society’s support of literature from and about people of color, the prizes include five eReaders: two Barnes & Noble Nooks, two Kobo Readers, and one Alex eReader from Spring Design. Each eReader will come pre-loaded with books, short stories and essays by writers of color from the speculative fiction field, including: N. K. Jemisin, Nisi Shawl, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Terence Taylor, Ted Chiang, Shweta Narayan, Chesya Burke, Moondancer Drake, Saladin Ahmed, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz and more.

The drawing’s tickets will cost one dollar US ($1) and can be purchased here. Entrants may purchase an unlimited number of tickets, which will be available from November 5, 2010 through November 22nd, 2010. Sales will close at 11:59PM EDT on November 22nd. Winners will be drawn randomly from a digital “hat” and announced online.

To purchase tickets, read details about the eReaders, or to learn more about the Carl Brandon Society, or to see the full rules, please visit the Carl Brandon Society website.

Linkspamming into a brick wall (9th November, 2010)

2010 November 9
  • (Warning: intersectionality problems.) Feminism is no longer about sexism at all: It’s fascinating the extent to which women have been shamed out of even claiming a movement to address sexism. We just aren’t allowed to have that. Too strident. Too pushy.
  • Reporting Sexual Harassment in SF/F: Jim C. Hines has put together a set of resources for anyone harassed in SF/F fandom who wishes to report it.
  • Spelman Students Beat Out Harvard and MIT for Best Mobile App: Jonecia and Jazmine are living proof that innovation is not the exclusive domain of the white male geek. There are plenty of us black geeks out there too who need a little more support. Congrats to J and J — you deserve the recognition and that new iPad or iPhone. Meet Jonecia and Jazmine at their website Maromi Sai.
  • Communication Shutdown for Autism Awareness? No Thanks!: Corina Becker writes about being autistic, and protests against Communication Shutdown in favour of the Autistics Speaking Day on November 1.
  • If I May Be So Bold …: Aimée Morrison fights impostor syndrome.
  • Finsia Busts Common Myths About Women and Work (PDF media release, paper here): The Financial Services Institute of Australasia (Finsia)… today launched a policy exposition paper which debunks the most common myths with regard to the lack of women holding leadership roles in financial services…The paper has some interesting survey results, like the 'perception gap' between men and women when asked if they have observed different treatment of women compared to men in promotional opportunities, in meetings and training/development.
  • Australia: Management course to develop leadership skills for women in tech sector: The WIT Connections Program is a leadership and coaching course developed by and for women in IT, and delivered by women with senior experience in the sector.
  • In which I contemplate the ranks of the invisible: I think we can agree that in the world of popular science, women are largely invisible. I have, of course, heard the usual arguments: there really aren’t any well-known female scientists.

If you have links of interest, please share them in comments here, or if you’re a delicious user, tag them “geekfeminism” to bring them to our attention (twitter uses can use #geekfeminism). 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.

Some resources for people who want to be allies

2010 November 8

This is a 101 post and all of the links here are fairly well known to ‘net feminists, but Noirin being assaulted has caused newcomers to wonder what they can do to help create a safer environment for women and others at risk of assault.

Newcomers: we welcome your help! Here’s some things you could look at.

The Con Anti-Harassment Project: is a grass-roots campaign designed to help make conventions safer for everyone. Our aims are to encourage fandom, geek community and other non-business conventions to establish, articulate and act upon anti-harassment policies, especially sexual harassment policies, and to encourage mutual respect among con-goers, guests and staff. They have a lot of material, see particularly their tips for conferences/conventions who want to create a policy and their FAQ. If you aren’t an organiser, you could make a point of requesting an enforced policy from conferences you attend, and thanking those that have them.

Check out the The Open Source Women Back Each Other Up Project & Gentlemen’s Auxiliary which is more informal: you can share stories of harassment, assault and successful backing each other up, organise meetups at cons you attend, and purchase gear.

Make it not okay, really not okay around you to say the kinds of things people said to and about Noirin. You, presumably, believe* that women can attend conferences and go to bars and have fun and have male friends and consensually touch people and have a romantic/sexual history and have photos of themselves online and be a feminist and have the absolute right to refuse consent to intimate social situations, to touching and to sexual activity. You, presumably, also believe people you personally despise, or aren’t your idea of fun, or who hold opinions you disagree with, or who have hurt you in some fashion, have the absolute right to refuse consent in the same way. You presumably believe that sexualised approaches to people, and sexualised interactions with them are harassment unless they are welcome. If you believe those, and you are around people who don’t, don’t let them believe that they are with allies, if and when you have the power for that to be safe.

Valerie Aurora points out also that if you attend events where harassment and assaults are happening and the event organisers and atmosphere are ignoring or contributing to the problem, stop going if you can. Support spaces that are doing better.

Finally, because I couldn’t find this written up in one place in a bite-sized way, don’t tell people what they have to or should do about abuse or assault or harassment. Abuse, assault and harassment are about withholding power from someone, about denying them self-determination. They need, and have a right to, the power to decide how to respond. It may be appropriate, if you are a witness or a good friend or an event organiser or the person on the spot or otherwise one of the people most likely to be able to help them, to offer them help in getting home, finding a shelter, getting some money, finding a crisis counsellor, going to the police, getting ongoing counselling, speaking out, overcoming fear of the next event, getting the hell out, now or in the future, as seems appropriate at that moment. And then let them decide whether they want to do that or anything else, and whether they want your help. (A reference in forming this thinking was Karen Healey’s Snakes in the grass. tigtog also pointed me at unusualmusic’s linkspam: Why didn’t you call the police? Part One.)

* If you do not believe the things in that paragraph we don’t really need to know why not.

Noirin’s hell of a time

2010 November 7

Warning: this post discusses sexual assault and links to both a survivor account and to hostile comments.

Noirin Shirley’s post A hell of a time in which she describes her sexual assault at ApacheCon on the 4th November and names her attacker is starting to show up in our Linkspam suggestions and so on.

We’ve seen it.

This post has been widely linked by tech news sites, including (trigger warnings for comments at all of these places) Reddit, Hacker News and Gawker and while some respondents have been sympathetic to or angry for Noirin, there’s a lot of victim blaming in the usual ways: “don’t ruin his life over one mistake”, “don’t go to bars”, “asking for it”.

I think this is hard for us to write about, as several of us (including me) know Noirin either online or in person. We want to acknowledge what happened to her and how she responded (go Noirin!) but the ferociousness of the don’t-speak-out wasn’t-that-bad this-is-how-human-sexuality-works get-over-it this-isn’t-news deserved-it has hit us all hard. It feels like we’ve been working our teaspoons super hard for ages, and someone built another dam and filled it up.

And we are just onlookers.

Noirin: sorry about what happened to you, both the assault and the response.

Surely I don’t really need to say this: comments will be moderated. Leaving anti-speaking-out or compulsory-police-reporting or pro-sexual-assault or I’m-not-necessarily-talking-about-this-situation-but-here’s-a-hypothetical-where-the-alleged-attacker-gets-hurt comment here is a waste of your time.

Update: if you have links to share, please place a warning if that link, or any comments it is allowing, are victim-blaming.

Linkspam migrating south for the winter (8th November, 2010)

2010 November 7
  • It’s official, over 5% of Ubuntu Members are women!
  • Stephen Fry declares the Stephen-Fry-says-women-don’t-enjoy-sex discussion Silliness (pushback at, for example, Ideologically Impure and Pickled Think via tigtog and also Rules for Anchorites).
  • Truthout About Kyriarchy: An Open Letter To “Feminist” Writers, Bloggers, and Journalists: Lisa Factora-Borchers explains what she was doing when she introduced Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza’s neologism “kyriarchy” to blogging, and where it’s gone wrong since.
  • Questioning Transphobia writers are fundraising: Lisa and I are both struggling to survive. Both of us are unemployed. I don’t have money for food this next fortnight–let alone internet or hormone treatments. Lisa has a staph infection she can’t afford to see a doctor for, and no money for hormones either.
  • Forget Cinderella, Find Fred Astaire: Why have companies worked so hard at improving the gender balance with such unsatisfactory results? Because the approach taken was to focus their efforts on the wrong part of the problem: women. It’s time to stop asking what’s the matter with women that they aren’t making it to the top? and start asking what’s the matter with our organization if we can’t recruit, retain, and promote the majority of the educated talent in the world today?
  • Why it matters: [The women] were complaining how silly it was that we were constantly talking about how great it was that there were more women speakers at this conference than any other year… My first thought was a flash of anger. And then I recalled that not very long ago, I was just like them.
  • Rosalind Franklin and DNA: How wronged was she?: Nicholas Wade and Lynne Osman Elkin debated the size of Rosalind Franklin’s contributions at a panel earlier this month.
  • The 30th Down Under Feminists Carnival is up.

If you have links of interest, please share them in comments here, or if you’re a delicious user, tag them “geekfeminism” to bring them to our attention (twitter uses can use #geekfeminism). 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.

Help Me Make A List Of The Most Important Women In Tech

2010 November 5
by K. Tempest Bradford

Following from the recent discussions about women in tech, I’ve been charged with putting together a list of the “Most Important Women” in tech for the magazine I work for. The measure of who is important comes down to several factors. Notability is a big one, but also a personal actions/activities or influence in the tech world. Women spearheading promising start ups, women involved in research and development of important technologies, even women who work within systems to make them more accessible or friendly to those outside of the majority.

Obviously there are a lot of women who fit these descriptions, and I’m sure there are other criteria for what makes a woman “important” in tech. Which is why I’ve come to you.

I have a preliminary list, but I welcome any suggestions from the GeekFeminism community. I spend a lot of time working with consumer electronics, so I don’t always know who the superstars in the Linux community are, for instance, or who is working on tech projects that haven’t yet made it to the consumer level.

Please leave your suggestions in the comments with links, if you have them, to pertinent information about the women you’re suggesting. The only overarching criteria I have is that the women have to be current — so no Ada Lovelace, even though she deserves to be on the list!

Wednesday Geek Woman monthly submissions thread (November)

2010 November 4

Wednesday Geek Woman is like Ada Lovelace Day every week! Most of our submissions are by guest posters, and we’ll have a post like this once a month to allow you to submit women to the series.

Submit your profile of a geek woman in (hidden) comments here and selected ones will be posted (perhaps lightly edited) on Wednesdays. Here’s what to include:

  1. Optional: a quick one sentence bio paragraph about yourself, with any links you want. For example: Mary is a humble geek blogger and you can find her at <a href=""></a> (if this is missing, you will be assumed to want to be anonymous!)
  2. Compulsory: two or more parapraphs describing your geek woman, ideally including why you admire her in particular.
  3. Optional: links to her biography, her Wikipedia page, and so on.
  4. Optional: agreement that your post can be used under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (posts that have this can be used in the Geek Feminism wiki).

See previous posts for examples.

Here’s a form you could copy and paste into comments:

My bio (one sentence only, optional):

Name or pseudonym of the geek woman I am submitting:

My post about this woman (two or more paragraphs):

Links to this woman elsewhere (optional):

[Please delete this line if you don't agree!] I agree to licence my post under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.

Notes on things we do welcome:

  • a broad definition of ‘geek’: crafters, writers, community organisers, scientists, hackers and creators all welcome
  • profiles submitted by anyone, including men
  • multiple submissions by the same person are fine, so if you submitted last time, or you’ve already submitted this time, no problem!
  • famous geek women: no geek woman is too well-known for this series at this point (unless we’ve featured her before). If more than one person submits the same woman to this round, their profiles will be combined.
  • we’d prefer living or historical women, fictional women will be occasionally accepted but won’t be the main feature
  • it’s fine to profile a woman who uses a pseudonym
  • you’re welcome to submit your writing that’s been published somewhere in the past (as long as you kept the copyright), for example, an Ada Lovelace Day post you made. If your piece has appeared at another URL, please give us that URL.

We may not publish your profile if it falls into these categories:

  • there are lots of geek women past and present, so for now we will not be re-posting a woman subject who has already been featured. See previously posted women.
  • profiles of women who don’t have some kind of public profile, which might include things like a public blog, a professional homepage with a professional bio, an academic homepage listing her publications, a Wikipedia page with her biography, may not be accepted. We don’t want to highlight someone who’d rather not have a Web presence.
  • per How Not to Do Ada Lovelace Day, profiles of women focussed on them being a supportive life-helper to a man geek will not be accepted (collaborative geeking with men of course accepted)
  • this really shouldn’t need to be said, but your post should be about the woman’s geeking, not about her appearance or personal life

Want some inspiration? Check the Geek Feminism wiki for women in science, women in computer science, women in Open Source and other women in geek culture collections.

Wednesday Geek Woman: Émilie du Châtelet

2010 November 3

This is a guest post by Megan. Megan is a life-long geek and feminist currently working towards a PhD in Chemistry.

Émilie du Châtelet is one of the most under-celebrated scientists of the Age of Enlightenment. Born in 1706 in France, she received an unparalleled education at the encouragement of her father. By 12 she was fluent in French, German, Italian, Latin, and Greek. She continued to study mathematics and physics throughout her adult life, and used her mathematical skills to win extra money through gambling. After her death, Voltaire wrote that Émilie was “a great man whose only fault was being a woman.”

She translated Newton’s Principia Mathematica into French, but her greatest contribution to science came from proving one of Newton’s theories wrong. Newton believed the kinetic energy of a moving object was proportional to its velocity while Liebniz proposed the energy was proportional to the velocity squared. Émilie du Châtelet experimentally proved the energy was proportional to the square of the velocity. Émilie’s dedication to understanding the physical world and eagerness to use experiments to investigate physical theory make her an important figure in scientific history.

Wikipedia: Émilie du Châtelet Emilie du Châtelet: the genius without a beard
NOVA: Emilie du Châtelet (1706-1749)

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