Blogher '06 Session Discussion: Get Deeply Geeky on Day Two

BlogHer Original Post

12th in our series introducing you to each of our BlogHer Conference '06 sessions and their speakers, and finding out what you would like to get from each session. Today, I bring you from Day Two:

Get Deeply Geeky: BlogHers want to talk technology and gender. Is the web itself a feminine construct? How about open source? Join Laura Scott, mir verburg, Nancy White & futurist Melanie Swan to discuss.

I had a call with the geeky women who are holding this Room of Your Own discussion, and I hung up with my head spinning. This is a big, big topic, and it could go in a lot of directions, but we know this much: we want to know what you think about:

-Gender and identity online: While it's true that "on the Internet no one knows you're a dog", did you also know that in Second Life that hot chick is just as likely to really be a young male? And that at least in Second Life you can choose to be a gray-haired woman with small breasts, while in World of Warcraft you're either a hot, Heavy Metal-style chick or nothin'? Meanwhile you don't find too many men pretending to be women on blogs discussing technology or politics, do you?

-Gender and behavior with technology: Let's just ask the politically incorrect questions, shall we? Here at BlogHer we often point out that women comprise more than half of the internet users and about half the bloggers. If women don't approach technology differently, don't use it differently, don't have different behaviors with technology...then what difference does it make how many of us there are?

-Gender and technology development: First we'll look at the data. Exactly how many women are there going for engineering and computer science undergrad degrees? And how many go on to graduate school? And how many actually end up in development? We've all heard people theorize about what might be "wrong" with women to create such results. How about what's wrong with the culture? Or society? And most importantly: does it matter? A lot of groundbreaking Web 2.0 companies were co-founded by women (think SixApart, Pyra, Flickr.) Yeah, so? What's your point?

And who are the women willing to tackle all this and more? An impressive crew:

[img_assist|fid=653|thumb=1|alt=Laura Scott]
Laura Scott is, of course, the Drupal maven behind our very own BlogHer re-design. Laura is "interested in what kinds of barriers to entry exist in the technology and engineer fields." And if there are barriers, how to overcome them too. She thinks gender actually permeates technology and the web, but sees promise in the fact that self-publishing tools are helping women speak out.

[img_assist|fid=657|thumb=1|alt=Melanie Swan] Melanie Swan is a futurist (and formerly in finance) so she's used to environments with hardly any women at all...much to her chagrin. She also writes a blog that is way smart. Although Melanie wonders if it would change technology development if more women were engaged, she also asks if gender is still a valid debate point at all. By the way: Melanie is also the one who had a SecondLife avatar with gray hair and small breasts...ask her about the reactions she got from people.

[img_assist|fid=492|thumb=1|alt=Mir Verburg] Miriam Verburg is a web designer, a grad student completing her MA in media a studies with a focus on web 2.0 technologies at Concordia University, a die-hard BlogHer volunteer (and coordinator of our volunteers) and a dedicated feminist. Nonetheless, mir can understand why some people might say they're not into feminism, because she sees that for some people "equality" is often misconstrued to mean either sameness (as opposed to, in the same measure) or even over-compensation.

[img_assist|fid=340|thumb=1|alt=Nancy White] Nancy White is interested in how the gender influences how we learn and use technology. She's currently working with "non-geeks" (and mostly women) to help them use and leverage social media tools, and she finds that they are adapting to the technologies and that the technologies are resonating with them...and she wonders if there is something "feminine" about the technologies.

So, that's what we are envisioning for the session. But what do you think. What do you want to learn? What do you want to hear? What do you never want to hear again? What would make you attend this session?


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