[SIGCIS-Members] A response to a SIGCIS Command Line panel session presentation on PLATO
mhicks1 at iit.edu
Mon May 22 20:01:50 PDT 2017
Yes--I heartily agree with Chris. Joy and others who are working on ignored or suppressed issues are welcome in the SIGCIS and our group benefits greatly from their work.
I vividly remember how, when I came to my first SIGCIS in 2005 (at the insistence of of dissertation advisor), I was scared stiff that folks would think I wasn't doing "real" computing history because I was focusing on women, and labor, and had a feminist approach. I was relieved to find this was not the case, and I was endlessly thankful for Jen Light and Nathan Ensmenger, who came up to me and heartily welcomed me to the group not in spite of what I was working on but rather because of it. Over the years many other SIGCISers have been invaluable supporters of my work and have helped me in all aspects of my career. And yet, until recently, my topic and approach made me somewhat of an outlier, and I was always slightly nervous.
Things have changed over the years and I hope the SIGCIS has gotten to be an easier place to be for folks who are telling new stories that we need to hear. As Vice Chair USA of the SIGCIS, and one of the organizers of Command Lines, I want to publicly go on record as saying Joy and scholars like her are welcome in the SIGCIS and folks who are trying to write histories that center previously-ignored or suppressed issues should not be subject to attempts to suppress their work within our group.
Joy Rankin is a member of the SIGCIS and a careful scholar. She does not deserve a response like your Medium post, Brian, which quite frankly reads like a personal attack coming from someone with different political views. Many of your points miscategorize her work and misunderstand what she's said. What you've posted, Brian, is also pretty ironic, given that Joy's whole point is that this history has been suppressed. She is trying to correct the record and enhance our understanding.
Those of us who work on previously "hidden histories" contend with a lot of doubt and a lot of pushback. The SIGCIS is here to support them as they do their work, not tear them down.
SIGCIS Vice-Chair (USA)
Co-organizer of Command Lines (with David Brock, Laine Nooney, and Andy Russell)
Marie Hicks, Ph.D.
Asst. Professor, History of Technology
Illinois Institute of Technology
Chicago, IL USA
mhicks1 at iit.edu | mariehicks.net | @histoftech
Programmed Inequality: How Britain Discarded Women Technologists and Lost Its Edge in Computing (MIT Press, 2017)
On May 23, 2017, at 3:36 AM, Sarah T. Roberts <sarah.roberts at ucla.edu> wrote:
I couldn't agree more. Thank you, Chris.
S a r a h T. R o b e r t s, P h. D.
University of California, Los Angeles
Department of Information Studies
Graduate School of Education & Information Studies
Blogging periodically at
> On May 22, 2017, at 19:06, Christopher Leslie <chris.leslie at nyu.edu> wrote:
> Dear Brian,
> I am perplexed by your lengthy attack on Joy Rankin's presentation. The author of a book, you castigate a scholar's 20-minute presentation. Most incredibly. Yyu criticize her for being ignorant of history, but at the same time, you do not consider your ignorance of gender studies to be a problem. This is the exact problem with privilege that SIGCIS and other groups are contending with.
> It's no longer a secret that there were a lot of women in computing. From Jennifer Light to Hidden Figures, we are sure that women were there. Recently, Marie Hicks has given us a solid study of how the women were filtered out through procedure and system. It is not that computing was from the start hostile to women, but it does seem as if as it developed it became so. This is in line with what other feminist historians of science have noticed (cf. Schiebinger's comment about the number of female astronomers). An analysis of this process is sorely needed.
> By the way, only a man could say that an attack on a woman was not important because others spoke up to protest. You might be interested in the rich and growing literature on microagreessions and how they impact diversity in STEM. Given the pervasive interest in enhancing diversity in computing and STEM more generally, I am uncertain why you feel PLATO or other projects have something to lose by contending with the experience of women in the field.
> I applaud Rankin and others for their solid work in this difficult area. Their findings are not, as you suggest, anomalous misreadings of history. Contending with the pervasive and persistent sexism (and other isms) in STEM will be the challenge of the current generation of scholars. I feel lucky to be at NYU, where such conversations are at least entertained without polemical attacks. Your screed, though, shows how far the profession has to go.
> Chris Leslie
>> On Mon, May 22, 2017 at 8:03 PM, Brian Dear <brian at platohistory.org> wrote:
>> The link below is my in-depth response to a presentation given by Dr. Joy Rankin entitled “Performing Gender on PLATO” at the recent SIGCIS Command Line conference held at the Computer History Museum this past March.
>> Many assertions were made in that presentation that concerned me greatly and I felt it necessary to not only write up a detailed response based on my own decades’ worth of research into the history of the PLATO system and its community, but also I sought out and included comments from former PLATO people who were named in Dr. Rankin’s talk, about the presentation and the claims made therein. Every single PLATO person I contacted shared the same concerns.
>> I welcome thoughts from fellow SIGCIS members.
>> - Brian
>> Brian Dear
>> PLATO History Project
>> Santa Fe, NM
>> brian at platohistory.org
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> Christopher S. Leslie, Ph.D.
> Co-Director and Lecturer, Science and Technology Studies
> Faculty Fellow in Residence for Othmer Hall and Clark Street
> Chair, IFIP History of Computing Working Group 9.7
> NYU Tandon School of Engineering
> 5 MetroTech Center, LC 131
> Brooklyn, NY 11201
> (646) 997-3130
> This email is relayed from members at sigcis.org, the email discussion list of SHOT SIGCIS. Opinions expressed here are those of the member posting and are not reviewed, edited, or endorsed by SIGCIS. The list archives are at http://lists.sigcis.org/pipermail/members-sigcis.org/ and you can change your subscription options at http://lists.sigcis.org/listinfo.cgi/members-sigcis.org
This email is relayed from members at sigcis.org, the email discussion list of SHOT SIGCIS. Opinions expressed here are those of the member posting and are not reviewed, edited, or endorsed by SIGCIS. The list archives are at http://lists.sigcis.org/pipermail/members-sigcis.org/ and you can change your subscription options at http://lists.sigcis.org/listinfo.cgi/members-sigcis.org
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