[SIGCIS-Members] A response to a SIGCIS Command Line panel session presentation on PLATO

Ian S. King isking at uw.edu
Mon May 22 22:07:39 PDT 2017


Colleagues,

I read Brian's article and it seems to be a well-considered and respectful
critique of another scholar's work.  He did not just dash off a dismissal
but addressed in detail what he sees as its shortcomings, with citations
and quotations.  I agree with Brian and everyone else on this thread that
gender studies are valuable and necessary as we seek to understand the
sociotechnical systems of innovations that led us to where we are today.
But we must do this with solid scholarship, and in my reading of Brian's
analysis and its extensive reference to objective data I cannot feel
confident that Rankin's scholarship is robust in this regard.

I do not believe this discussion is correctly about whether issues are
being ignored or repressed, but whether those issues are being discussed
with solid scholarship.  I've never seen SIGCIS shy away from a contentious
discussion, but I feel like Brian's concerns are being criticized in a
similar 'ignored or repressed' fashion being implicitly asserted against
Brian in this thread.

Let Rankin respond, hopefully with the thoroughness of Dear's critique.  To
those who attack Brian's work as 'screed', I invite you to likewise respond
with rigor. -- Ian

On Mon, May 22, 2017 at 8:01 PM, M. Hicks <mhicks1 at iit.edu> wrote:

> 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.
>
> In solidarity,
>
> Marie Hicks
> 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 <http://www.mariehicks.net/> |
> @histoftech <http://twitter.com/histoftech>
> *Programmed Inequality: How Britain Discarded Women Technologists and Lost
> Its Edge in Computing* (MIT Press, 2017)
> www.programmedinequality.com
>
>
> 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.
>
> Assistant Professor
> University of California, Los Angeles
> Department of Information Studies
> Graduate School of Education & Information Studies
> https://is.gseis.ucla.edu/
>
> Blogging periodically at
> http://illusionofvolition.com
>
> 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.
>>
>>      https://medium.com/@brianstorms/performing-history-on-
>> plato-4c501b8f2068
>>
>> 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
>
> _______________________________________________
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>
> _______________________________________________
> 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/
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>
> _______________________________________________
> 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/
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>



-- 
Ian S. King, MSIS, MSCS, Ph.D. Candidate
The Information School <http://ischool.uw.edu>
Dissertation: "Why the Conversation Mattered: Constructing a Sociotechnical
Narrative Through a Design Lens

Archivist, Voices From the Rwanda Tribunal <http://tribunalvoices.org>
Value Sensitive Design Research Lab <http://vsdesign.org>

University of Washington

There is an old Vulcan saying: "Only Nixon could go to China."
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