AWARE roundtable on Technology and Gender

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It’s been years since I blogged regularly and I’m trying to get back to writing by having installed the WordPress Android app on my phone, but am still finding myself lazy to write. This and the previous post on the Nature Society‘s Green Corridor briefing were typed on my HTC G1 and I have not cleaned them up, hence the abbreviations and typos, and truncation of the meeting itself when my phone ran out of battery. Some relevant hyperlinks were added later.

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Very rough unedited notes on the meeting. This is the 1st time i have attended an AWARE event of for that matter any gender-related NGO event. Will be following my cousin to Pink Dot on Sat.

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Big surprise, when I signed in I saw one of my colleagues’ names on the attendee list. The colleague is a westerner.

1st speaker: Shirley, doing PhD thesis on Singapore’s “Intelligent Nation 2015″ campaign.
ICT is highly gendered, biased toward male by history of science and technology development.
iN2015, Sg’s 5th IT plan. Sets goals for IT use in all fields. Also futurological document setting out vision. “Freedom to connect, innovate, personalise, and create.”
IDA (infocomm dev authority) is a govt stat board.
Imagine Your World 2015 YouTube video farking hilarious, has every stereotype.
Discussion: girl buy bday present for mum, boy creates
Me & speaker: Chinese family normative, white professionalexpat, Malay taxi driver. Mod comments: Taxi drivers often complain left behind by technology (cost). Elder member says : although in NUS a lot of the IT technicians are Malay women; girls also dominate in polys.
That was the 2006 video, the 2008 one is worse. Technology looks like its gone backwards from touchscreens to remotes.
Wife#1 in 08 video is homemaker/shopper, wife in 06 video is professional.
Although technology is shown as enabling 2nd woman to integrate work/life also.
Protagonists in both vids are animators, why? Maybe they didnt hire a scriptwriter haha.

Speaker: Positive (can do stuff) vs negative (noninterference) freedoms: men are empowered by tech to do more things but women are merely freed from some drudgery.
Technology promoted as leading merely to a consumer utopia
IDA specifically mentions young homemakers & fertility.
[me to Singaporean friend] “Becky, quick! Get pregnant, it’s your duty!”
“They have to give me an iPad first.”
Funny consersation btwn old white lady and middleaged white lady about vacuums and washingmachines ensues. “Are you serious? You had to sprinkle tea leaves on your carpet?”

Global issues: UNDP report o womens empowerment (2007/8?)
Internet responsible for 21% of gdp growth in G8 countries over a 5y period.

Sg: enrolment in tertiary computing course abt 33% female. Emploment in infocomm 29% female in 2010.
Females nearly caught up as technicians/associate profdesionals but lag behind 2x as managers.
NS for men; armed forces have been computerizing heavily.

Quoting Cockbrun : look at the environment offered to women. Absence of woemn from world of technoscience stems from rejection of masculine values assoc with technology.

Using tech biases us to think of everything as a technological problem, including problems of social justice.

2ndspeaker: 2006 video has been taken down, replaced with flash anim w/ tweaked characters. Personal asst avatar is male, boy takes bus home, expat is married & wife works. Apparently video has poor feedback?

Neoliberal philosophy where moral value is linked to capacity for self-care.
Militarisation:”Total Defence”, network-centric warfare, use of modified computer games for training. Motivate & engage a games-savvy generation of soliders, recruiting tool.
WiMAX in maritime industry (15km from Sg coast range).
Tie-ups with NTU, Nanyang Poly. Not only crate software but also using poly students to test appeal of military games to youngsters.

Number of characters who are animators in IDA promo vidoes NOT a coincidence – its to encourage viewers to take it up.
Ministry finding that studnets, INCLUDING females, enthu abt use of tech in military & calls for girls to do NS hv increased.

Audience comment : iused 2b a commodities trader, nowadays its all done by machine, humans are not allowed to do certain things.

Mod comment: the idea of utopia since 1950s was that ppl wud not hv to work. But in reality those who have free time & cognitive surplus are the unemployed.

Audience member: i think the 2 presenters are a bit negative toward technology..
If eg you choose not to have a FB acct there are a lot of losses.
I think the military thing is a bit farfetched. Ppl go into army not because of tech but because it’s a system and they can survive in that system.

2nd speaker: I am a bit negative but its in reaction to the overwhekming positive attidue toward technology in Sg. Ppl ostracise u if udun hv FB.

Other aduience concur – you do get left out of a lot.

Shirley: technology allows women to break out of biological definition.
But we have to be critical (not same as anti-technologyx0. Sg is run by technocrats, tend to reduce everything as technicla issues. Eg poverty recast as “digital divide”. The ones who are left behind have to catch up.

[at this point my phone was nearly out of battery so I stopped typing]

In conversation after the formal discussion some other audience members (including the one who had pointed this out previously) and the moderator expressed their frustration that both speakers were somewhat anti-technology – IMHO the second one who explicitly said that she avoids using the Internet, Facebook, and smartphones as much as possible is simply not a good person to talk about the effect of IT on people’s lives given that she doesn’t blardy use it! The moderator is a programmer and she said that she loves the way that you can use it to solve problems – I would have liked to hear this person speak more, especially since the overwhelming numerical dominance of men in IT was something that came up early in discussion.

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One Response to AWARE roundtable on Technology and Gender

  1. John Ling says:

    Interesting…

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