Monday, August 21, 2017
Mary Anne Franks, Augmented Inequality, UC Davis Law Review (forthcoming)
The world we all live in is structured by inequality: of gender, race, class, sexual orientation, disability, and more. The promoters of virtual and augmented reality often claim that they offer a more perfect world, one that offers more stimulation, more connection, more freedom, more equality. For such technologies to be considered truly innovative, they should in some sense move us beyond our current limitations and prejudices. But when existing inequalities are unacknowledged and unaddressed in the “real” world, they tend to be replicated and augmented in virtual realities. We make new worlds based on who we are and what we do in old ones. All of our worlds, virtual and physical, are the product of human choice and human creation. The developers of virtual and augmented reality make choices about which aspects of our lived history they want to replicate, enhance, or change. The design – and design flaws - of new virtual and augmented reality technologies reveal much about the values of their developers and their consumers, providing a unique opportunity to evaluate just how innovative new technologies are with regard to social inequality.
Thursday, April 27, 2017
Judge Elinore Marsh Stormer, Perspectives from the Bench on Feminist Judgments, 8 ConLawNOW 81 (2017).
Judge Stormer gave these remarks as part of a panel discussion on feminist judging at a conference sponsored by the Center for Constitutional Law at the University of Akron in October 2016. She offered insights on her own experience as a woman judge and on the role of judges addressing issues of gender equality in their courts.
I’m going to give you a brief history of my life, because I’m so old that I’ve experienced many of the things that you read about in articles that you have before you. When I went to law school in 1979, I had just taken a gap year, which did not involve me going to school. I was a waitress at the Brown Derby. I was just sick of school and that was very educational. It actually formed a lot of the things that have happened to me since then. I was a union worker. I was sexually harassed by my boss, who didn’t feel that I could say or do anything about that, but found that I could get more tips if I was flirtatious. I’d lived this kind of intellectual life before that, and it really was very helpful to me as I went forward with the rest of my life.
I came to law school where twenty percent of my class was women, so obviously everyone else was a man. We had gotten past the question of whether or not women being in law school worked with taking a man’s job, which is what Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O’Connor encountered. We were there, but to some extent there was still reluctance to perceive us as equals. We had very few women law professors, as a matter of fact, I can only remember one, but there may have been more than that. She taught contracts.
When I would go on job interviews, I interviewed with a number of firms in Cleveland, and at that time it was perfectly permissible for them to ask you questions like “do you expect to get married,” “how many children do you think you want,” and sometimes they would couch these questions in terms of “where do you see yourself in ten years” and my standard answer was “well as a partner in your firm, of course” and they would sit back and look kind of grim.
Thursday, July 7, 2016
Abstract:A review essay discussing Danielle Keats Citron’s Hate Crimes in Cyberspace (Harvard University Press 2014) and Amy Adele Hasinoff’s, Sexting Panic: Rethinking Criminalization, Privacy and Consent (University of Illinois Press 2015). Both books consider the risks and harms in cyberspace, blaming of victims, and the interaction between law and online expression. Citron documents widespread hate speech, cyberstalking, revenge porn, and other speech that especially targets women online. Hasinoff, grounded in feminist and cultural studies, emphasizes the positive aspects of the agency girls who sext voluntarily display in exploring and displaying their sexuality, arguing that advising girls that control of their own lives must lead them refuse to sext (a widespread approach) deprives them of voice. Both books analyze law and propose legal reforms, and both also explore the relationship between social norms and legal regimes. Ross’s review finds commonality in the authors’ arguments that women “have a right to sexual expression without fear of moral or legal repercussions” and that both ultimately “look to greater self-policing by the technology industry,” and to promoting “cultural transformation” as much as legal change.
Thursday, December 3, 2015
Claire Bond Potter, Is the Internet the Final Bohemia?. Chronicle.
Yet flexible, voluntary networks in virtual space offer other political and intellectual possibilities, and we should imagine them before it is too late. Jacoby has said that even though he was wrong about a few things, he was right about most things. I’m glad he did. We may disagree about the importance of intellectual movements anchored principally by women, people of color, and queers, but we don’t disagree about how quickly these movements have been sucked into the academy — the barbarians at the gates becoming gatekeepers in turn. Internet bohemia, with its disdain for credentialing, and its networks that form, dissolve and form again according to new needs and desires, could, in fact, be different.
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Friday, September 18, 2015
MICROSOFT FACES A class action lawsuit from former employee and noted computer security researcher Katie Moussouris. The suit claims that during Moussouris’s seven years at Microsoft, she and other women were unfairly discriminated against on the basis of their gender, passed over for raises and promotions, and ranked below their male counterparts during bi-annual performance reviews.
Moussouris was instrumental in prompting Microsoft to launch its first bug bounty program in 2013, something the company resisted for years. The program pays researchers who find security vulnerabilities in its software. After resigning from Microsoft in May, Moussouris took a job as chief policy officer at HackerOne, which helps companies manage bug bounty programs and communicate with security researchers.
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
The barrister at the centre of a sexism furore over a complimentary LinkedIn message from a solicitor 30 years her senior has said she is facing a professional backlash over her decision to speak out.
Writing for the Independent, the human rights lawyer Charlotte Proudman said she did not regret her decision to make public a message from Alexander Carter-Silk that commented on her “stunning” photograph, because it had led to an outpouring of similar experiences from other women.
Proudman said she had named Carter-Silk because she believed the public interest in exposing the “eroticisation of women’s physical appearance” by an influential and senior lawyer was greater than his right to privacy.
Thursday, August 13, 2015
The title, from an Atlantic piece, just caught my eye.
Why can’t people imagine a future without falling into the sexist past? Why does the road ahead keep leading us back to a place that looks like the Tomorrowland of the 1950s? Well, when it comes to Moneypenny, here’s a relevant datapoint: More than two thirds of Facebook employees are men. That’s a ratio reflected among another key group: futurists.
Both the World Future Society and the Association of Professional Futurists are headed by women right now. And both of those women talked to me about their desire to bring more women to the field. Cindy Frewen, the head of theAssociation of Professional Futurists, estimates that about a third of their members are women. Amy Zalman, the CEO of the World Future Society, says that 23 percent of her group’s members identify as female. But most lists of “top futurists” perhaps include one female name. Often, that woman is no longer working in the field.
Friday, July 17, 2015
Tracy Chou, a young tech professional with Pinterest, started blogging about the dearth of women in the tech world. The story is in the latest issue of Mother Jones. Here are some of her findings:
The numbers were as bad as you might expect: Just 17 of Yelp's 206 engineers (8 percent) were women, for example. Dropbox was barely better, with 26 out of 275 (9 percent). Nextdoor, a social-media tool for neighborhoods, had 29 engineers—all male. Change.org, which bills itself as "the world's platform for change," had less than 13 percent women engineers; it has since changed for the better, with 20 percent.*
Chou's project helped fuel the wave of public criticism that has shamed big companies into coming clean. Seven months after the launch, Google disclosedthat 17 percent of its tech staff is female. (Chou heard that her Medium post had made it all the way to cofounder Larry Page.) Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo, and dozens of other companies coughed up their stats not long after: Most reported between 10 and 20 percent women in "tech" positions—which can be pretty loosely defined. Some household names, like IBM, Netflix, and Zynga, still have yet to produce meaningful diversity data. "The crowdsourced stuff is way better and more reliable than the official party line," notes Silicon Valley diversity consultant Nicole Sanchez, whom Github recently hired as a VP. (The racial diversity numbers are equally cringeworthy; see our related story on Jesse Jackson's efforts in Silicon Valley.)
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
The Chronicle, Ten Tips for Tweeting at Conferences
It’s no surprise that we here at ProfHacker like Twitter. We’ve covered how to start tweeting (and why you might want to) and practical advice for teaching with Twitter. I’ve found Twitter to be a tremendous boon to developing my professional networks and helping me stay on top of what’s happening in my fields of scholarship. But there’s one place where where Twitter perhaps ends up being more valuable for me than other place: at conferences.
Tweeting at conferences is a great way to share what you’re learning in a session with your followers and the wider world. It’s also a great way to be in two places at once, as you can read tweets from other sessions that you weren’t able to attend. You can read those tweets as they come in or—if you’d rather not fracture your attention—read them after the fact using a Twitter search. I personally find tweeting during conference sessions to be a great way for me to take notes; it helps me pay closer attention to what someone is saying than if I were simply working with pen and paper. It can even turn into something of a competition.
Monday, June 15, 2015
When it comes to gender equity, the technology ecosystem, which prides itself on being a meritocracy in so many other respects, is failing badly.
How else can we explain that women held 34% of software and computing jobs in 1990, but only 27% in 2011? Or that, according to the “Women Entrepreneurs 2014” report from Babson College, the “total number of women partners in venture capital firms declined significantly since 1999 from 10% to 6%.” Or that, as the Babson report also observed, in the three years from 2011 to 2013, “companies with no women on the executive team received almost 90% of the total investments in semiconductors, computers and peripherals/electronics and instrumentation, and media and entertainment.”
So, what is to be done? Five proposals, with the first one being:
- Push companies to publish data about gender diversity
Pushing companies to collect and publicize data on the proportion of women in tech and leadership capacities adds an element of public accountability, and provides an important frame of reference to assess progress. Understanding the state of gender (and other forms of) diversity on a company-specific basis can catalyze greater awareness of diversity in hiring and promotions. And, year-over-year comparisons provide a way to measure progress both within a single company and more broadly.
Thursday, June 11, 2015
To some people, the idea for an iPhone app designed to let students record video statements of agreement before engaging in sexual activity sounds like a bad joke. Or perhaps just a well-intended overuse of technology.
But Michael Lissack has come up with a set of such apps, and he defends them as a way to reset the conversation around sex on the campus. His creation, called We-Consent, is actually three apps — one that lets students document mutual consent to a sexual encounter by video-recording a conversation about it with the cellphone’s camera, and two "no" apps that record an individual watching a message on the phone that clearly states "no," so there is a record of that individual having received the message.
Mr. Lissack, who is executive director of the Institute for the Study of Coherence and Emergence, said the videos are encrypted and unhackable; they don’t save onto a user’s phone, but they are stored in an offline database. The only time the videos can be viewed is when there is a legal reason to disclose them, such as a court proceeding or university adjudication. Right now, the two "no" apps are available through the App Store on Apple's iTunes, but the yes app is accessible only on the apps’ website. Mr. Lissack said that Apple considered the yes app "icky."
Monday, June 8, 2015
A growing number of children’s app makers are upping their efforts to ensure their products do a better job of reflecting the diversity of their young audiences.
And (regarding the picture above, of the robot):
As an example, he gave Toca Robot Lab, a robot-building app that was released in 2011: a “classically boy-skewing theme of building robots” that the auditor suggested played to those stereotypes with its colour scheme and art-style of “rusty old things that you might find in a garage, as opposed to everyday things you might find at home”.
Toca Boca redesigned the game’s visuals and added in more of the latter kind of objects. “It opened it up and made it much more inclusive than it was from the beginning,” said Jeffery, who cited his company’s Toca Hair Salon range of apps as much more successful in bucking gender stereotypes.
Friday, June 5, 2015
The tech world deservedly catches some flack for its lack of gender diversity.
As lopsided as those numbers are, they pale in comparison to the gender breakdown at the finals of this year’s DARPA Robotics Challenge, which takes place Friday and Saturday in Pomona, Calif. Eleven of the 24 teams competing are made up completely of men. Of the 444 individuals on the teams, only 23 are women. An alarming 94.8 percent of the participants are men.
Monday, May 4, 2015
“Super Sad True Love Story,” Gary Shteyngart’s novel set in a social-media dystopia, each person is publicly assigned a “fuckability” score, determined by various algorithms. Lulu, an app founded in 2013, is the closest anyone has come, so far, to making Shteyngart’s vision come true. “We look up everything these days,” Alexandra Chong, Lulu’s founder, said recently. “Before we go out for a drink, we look up bars. Why should we not also have references when it comes to the most important thing?” Chong calls her startup “a community where women can talk honestly about what matters to them.” Others have called it Yelp for men.
Friday, April 24, 2015
From Bloomberg Business:
Venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers offered to drop its bid for legal costs after defeating Ellen Pao’s gender bias claims if she forgoes an appeal.
The firm filed its $1 million reimbursement request a month after a jury soundly rejected the former Kleiner junior partner’s claims of discrimination and retaliation and demand for $16 million in damages.
“KPCB has offered to waive all legal costs due to the firm should Ellen Pao choose to bring this legal matter to a close,” Christina Lee, a spokeswoman for Kleiner, said in an e-mail. “We believe that women in technology would be best served by having all parties focus on making progress on the issues of gender diversity outside of continued litigation.”
Wednesday, April 8, 2015
From the Men's Style section of the NYT:
John McWhorter, a linguist who teaches at Columbia University, said that some men shy away from emoji because, as he put it, “Women use them more.” That may not continue to be the case, he added.
“Women tend to be more overtly expressive in language,” he said. “But something women start in language has a way of making it to men. Men would benefit from using emoji more.”
Emoji, he said, allow for an expressive, human way of translating the spoken word into text, with the goofy symbols providing a texter or tweeter with the means to convey tone. “There should be male ways to use emoji,” he added.
Monday, March 30, 2015
Ellen Pao recently lost her high-profile gender discrimination lawsuit. The case was big news because it brought to public attention the glaring dearth of women in the tech industry, and whether such dearth might be caused by prejudice.
A NYT background story on the case. Some commentary by Fortune magazine. A discussion by CNET of Pao's post-verdict tweets. Some comments by Prof. Tracy Thomas and I in the Daily Princetonian (Pao had graduated from Princeton).
Monday, March 23, 2015
Feb. 24, 2015: Ellen Pao, center, with her attorney, Therese Lawless, left, leaves the Civic Center Courthouse during a lunch break in her trial. (AP)
SAN FRANCISCO – A California trial judge ruled Saturday that a woman suing a Silicon Valley venture capital firm in a high-profile gender bias case may seek punitive damages that could add tens of millions of dollars to the $16 million in lost wages and bonuses she is pursuing.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Harold Kahn denied a request by lawyers for Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers to have Ellen Pao's demand for unspecified punitive damages thrown out. Pao, the interim CEO of the news and social networking site Reddit, claims she was passed over for a promotion at the firm because she is a woman and then fired in 2012 after she complained.
Kahn said there was enough evidence for the jury considering Pao's lawsuit to conclude that Kleiner Perkins acted with malice, oppression or fraud, which in California is the legal threshold for awarding damages that are designed to punish and deter particularly bad behavior.
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
The sometimes ironically named "social" media brims with sexual harassment and shocking threats against women. Twitter, for one, seems to be aware of this but doesn't quite know what to do about it. From a story in the Guardian UK from February:
Twitter’s chief executive has acknowledged that the company “sucks at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform, and we’ve sucked at it for years”, in a leaked memo.
Dick Costolo’s statement was posted on Twitter’s internal forums, in response to an employee who had highlighted an article in the Guardian by columnist Lindy West about her experience with trolls on social media.
In the memo, obtained on Thursday by The Verge , Costolo writes: “I’m frankly ashamed of how poorly we’ve dealt with this issue during my tenure as CEO. It’s absurd. There’s no excuse for it. I take full responsibility for not being more aggressive on this front. It’s nobody else’s fault but mine, and it’s embarrassing.”