Tag Archives: feminism

Take Back the Net: Joy Rankin’s A People’s History of Computing in the United States

Should I post a tough parenting question on Twitter, ask my Facebook community, or email a few friends who are most likely to have useful suggestions? What would be the best place to reach people to share an intriguing job announcement? These days, we have a multitude of network options, and we assume that computers will facilitate our networked communities. Until I read Joy Lisi Rankin’s new book, A People’s History of Computing in the United States (Harvard University Press, 2018), I assumed I should attribute all these ways of connecting with my communities to the work of Mark Zuckerberg and the rest of the self-proclaimed Silicon Valley heroes who have taken credit for our increasingly networked world.

A People’s History of Computing in the United States by Joy Lisi Rankin. (Harvard University Press)

Rankin shows, in contrast, that it was the hippie ‘60s and ‘70s, not the corporate and consumerist ‘80s and ‘90s, that first gave shape and possibility to connectedness via computing. She gives us a new origin story for computer-based connectedness…

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Are Our Smart Devices Turning Us into Dumb Humans?

Are all of our “smart” devices training us to be “dumb” humans, too-often indistinguishable from mere machines? As click-through contracts and “like” buttons increasingly channel our social and personal relationships into algorithm-guided paths, are we losing something crucial about ourselves and our relationships? Is our very humanity at stake? In their new book, Re-Engineering Humanity, law scholar Brett Frischmann and philosopher Evan Selinger sound the alarm. I share their concern, so I am glad to see them taking on the problem in a rigorous and thoughtful way.

Full disclosure: Brett and I are friends, and we have discussed these ideas periodically since he first started research for the book. Brett knows that he can count on me to give him a hard time from a feminist perspective, for the good of the work. So here goes…

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Are We Free to Be President Yet? The Legacy of Pat Schroeder and 1970s Feminism

I was born into 1970s feminism. I came into the world in 1972, the year Free to Be You and Me came out. It must have made a big impression on my elementary school teachers, because I saw the filmstrip version of it in school at least three times. I loved it at least as much as my teachers did. I loved the skit in which two babies, played by Marlo Thomas and Mel Brooks, try to figure out which of them is the boy and which is the girl. After much deliberation, they decide that the brave, impatient one who wants to be a firefighter must be the boy. (Of course they’re wrong.) I can still sing along with Rosey Grier’s rendition of “It’s Alright to Cry” in my head…

1972 was also the year that Pat Schroeder, a young lawyer from Denver, first ran for Congress…

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