[SIGCIS-Members] History of gendered terms, e.g., "motherboard"

Jordi Fornes jfornes at ac.upc.edu
Wed May 24 10:13:00 PDT 2017


Great debate!

In Spanish these threads could be much more interestings :-) You need 
definite articles by gender.
We say "la placa base" for motherboard, but we say "el conector macho" 
and "el conector hembra". Note that "placa"
comes with "la" (female) and "conector" with "el" (male).

However I think it is much more interesting that some tasks in the early 
informatics profession were named with female or male concordance. In 
the 1970's, they always said "los programadores" (male article for 
programmers) and "las perforistas" (female article for the key-punchers).

And last but not least, we should try to avoid presentism, this debate 
will be  softer although more  tangled with other disciplines.

Best,

--
Dr. Jordi Fornés
Computer Architecture Department
Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya - BarcelonaTech



El 24/05/2017 a las 18:17, Sarah T. Roberts escribió:
> Miriam,
>
> Thank you for this succinct and well stated analysis. The irony 
> certainly was not lost on me as I read both threads over the past day. 
> You have provided a sorely needed intervention. Thank you.
>
> By the way, before my academic turn, these kinds of terms that were in 
> constant and common usage within the IT field certainly did not go 
> unnoticed by me as I worked in that field and contented with them 
> every day, uncomfortably.
>
> --Sarah
> ---
>
> 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 <http://illusionofvolition.com/>
>
> On May 24, 2017, at 08:58, Sweeney, Miriam <mesweeney1 at ua.edu 
> <mailto:mesweeney1 at ua.edu>> wrote:
>
>> Hi Folks,
>>
>> Two thoughts here:
>>
>> Firstly, mammals don’t have gender (a socially constructed concept 
>> reflecting ideas about masculinity and femininity). There is nothing 
>> obvious or literal about the metaphor of “female” and “male” 
>> connectors- they are indeed ideological referents.
>>
>> Secondly, I can’t help but read this thread in direct contrast to the 
>> thread criticizing Rankin’s talk.  I note that on the latter thread a 
>> woman scholar is being taken to task for presenting informed research 
>> on gender in computing, while on this thread we have male scholars 
>> hazarding uninformed guesses about gender and computing metaphors 
>> with no pushback whatsoever.
>>
>> Reading these threads side by side has definitely given me pause on 
>> the state of the field and the challenges we continue to have for 
>> fully integrating cultural studies, gender, and race perspectives 
>> into information and computing studies.
>>
>>
>> Miriam E. Sweeney
>>
>> Assistant Professor , School of Library and Information Studies
>>
>> The University of Alabama <https://www.ua.edu>
>> 527 Gorgas
>> Box 870252
>> Tuscaloosa , AL
>> office 205-348-1522 <tel:205-348-1522>
>> mesweeney1 at ua.edu <mailto:mesweeney1 at ua.edu> | https://slis.ua.edu/
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>> On May 24, 2017, at 9:51 AM, Paul N. Edwards <pne at umich.edu 
>>> <mailto:pne at umich.edu>> wrote:
>>>
>>> Interesting discussion. OED does not speculate on this connection; 
>>> first use of “motherboard” it lists is 1965.
>>>
>>> It’s worth noting that some of the gendered terms in engineering are 
>>> very clear and literal metaphors, not specifically human though 
>>> definitely mammalian.
>>>
>>> “Mother ship,” like “motherboard,” refers to a larger thing from 
>>> which smaller, but similar dependent units (smaller ships, 
>>> subsidiary circuit boards) are launched, to which they are attached, 
>>> and from which they draw sustenance (fuel, electricity).
>>>
>>> “Female” and “male” connectors refer to sockets and plugs 
>>> respectively, also quite literal, also not particularly human but 
>>> mammalian.
>>>
>>> This is not to say that such metaphors aren’t sometimes deployed in 
>>> objectionable, human-oriented ways, but it would be silly to ignore 
>>> their value as readily understood descriptors of physical structure 
>>> and/or relationships.
>>>
>>> Best,
>>>
>>> Paul
>>>
>>>
>>>> On May 24, 2017, at 9:43 , mike willegal <mike at willegal.net 
>>>> <mailto:mike at willegal.net>> wrote:
>>>>
>>>> My guess is that the term, Motherboard, was derived from the term 
>>>> Mothership, which is still in common usage by the general 
>>>> population, and according to several online dictionaries originated 
>>>> in the 19th century.  Note that when techs and engineers refer to 
>>>> Motherboards, they normally use the gender neutral pronoun, "it".
>>>>
>>>> cheers,
>>>> Mike Willegal
>>>>
>>>>> On May 23, 2017, at 1:51 PM, Mark Priestley <m.priestley at gmail.com 
>>>>> <mailto:m.priestley at gmail.com>> wrote:
>>>>>
>>>>> Hi Caitlin,
>>>>>
>>>>> I'm not sure if this is the sort of thing you're looking for, but 
>>>>> some CS pioneers were rather keen to use the master-slave metaphor 
>>>>> to talk about human-computer relations. Eg:
>>>>>
>>>>> Jack Good reported that: "Turing used to refer jocularly to people 
>>>>> who are forced to do
>>>>> mechanical operations as slaves."
>>>>>
>>>>> Bardini quotes Engelbart: "Think ahead to the day when computer 
>>>>> technology might provide for your very own use the full-time 
>>>>> services of a completely attentive, very patient, very fast 
>>>>> symbol-manipulating slave who has an IQ adequate for 95% of your 
>>>>> today's mental tasks."
>>>>>
>>>>> And there's this <http://markpriestley.net/pdfs/Huskey.pdf> 
>>>>> unfortunate Newsweek caption about Harry Huskey.
>>>>>
>>>>> I think probably links back to earlier tropes about robots: eg in 
>>>>> Capek's RUR, the rebellious robots are precisely slaves. I've got 
>>>>> an unpublished conference paper I wrote a few years back about 
>>>>> this which I could dig out if you're interested.
>>>>>
>>>>> Cheers,
>>>>> Mark
>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>> On 23 May 2017 at 18:29, McMillan, William W 
>>>>> <william.mcmillan at cuaa.edu <mailto:william.mcmillan at cuaa.edu>> wrote:
>>>>>
>>>>>     Caitlin, this is an interesting study!
>>>>>
>>>>>     I'm not sure, though, if "today's engineers" would very
>>>>>     readily coin gender-specific terms for parts of computers. 
>>>>>     These terms go back a long way.
>>>>>
>>>>>     The "master-slave" terminology has going for it that the
>>>>>     relationship between, say, a bus arbiter and connected devices
>>>>>     is, in truth, a master-slave relationship.  The other
>>>>>     connotations make it hard for me to use the terms in class,
>>>>>     but it's difficult to find synonyms. Controller-controlled?
>>>>>     Decider-doer?  Kind of awkward.  (Suggestions welcome!)
>>>>>
>>>>>     In contrast to the gendered terms, in describing the tree data
>>>>>     structure, the relationship between nodes has always been
>>>>>     parent-child, back at least to Knuth's volumes, not
>>>>>     father-son, mother-son, or the like.  Same with object/class
>>>>>     hierarchies.
>>>>>
>>>>>     - Bill
>>>>>
>>>>>     ________________________________
>>>>>     From: Members [members-bounces at lists.sigcis.org
>>>>>     <mailto:members-bounces at lists.sigcis.org>] on behalf of Wylie,
>>>>>     Caitlin Donahue (cdw9y) [cdw9y at eservices.virginia.edu
>>>>>     <mailto:cdw9y at eservices.virginia.edu>]
>>>>>     Sent: Monday, May 22, 2017 8:11 PM
>>>>>     To: members at SIGCIS.org <mailto:members at SIGCIS.org>
>>>>>     Subject: [SIGCIS-Members] History of gendered terms, e.g.,
>>>>>     "motherboard"
>>>>>
>>>>>     Dear all,
>>>>>     Do you know of any studies of gendered language in computing?
>>>>>     I’m intrigued by the way today’s engineers throw around words
>>>>>     like “motherboard” and “daughterboard”, and also “master” and
>>>>>     “slave”, without being aware of how those words sound to
>>>>>     non-engineers (like me). I’d be interested in learning about
>>>>>     historical or sociological studies.
>>>>>
>>>>>     Thank you!
>>>>>
>>>>>     All the best,
>>>>>     Caitlin Wylie
>>>>>     _______________________
>>>>>     Caitlin D. Wylie, Ph.D.
>>>>>     Assistant Professor
>>>>>     Program in Science, Technology and Society
>>>>>     University of Virginia
>>>>>     wylie at virginia.edu
>>>>>     <mailto:wylie at virginia.edu><mailto:wylie at virginia.edu
>>>>>     <mailto:wylie at virginia.edu>>
>>>>>     http://www.eands.virginia.edu/faculty-staff/wylie/
>>>>>     <http://www.eands.virginia.edu/faculty-staff/wylie/>
>>>>>
>>>>>     _______________________________________________
>>>>>     This email is relayed from members at sigcis.org
>>>>>     <http://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/
>>>>>     <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
>>>>>     <http://lists.sigcis.org/listinfo.cgi/members-sigcis.org>
>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>> This email is relayed from members at sigcis.org 
>>>>> <http://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 
>>>> <http://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
>>>
>>> —————————————————
>>> Paul N. Edwards
>>> Professor of Information <http://www.si.umich.edu/> and History 
>>> <http://www.lsa.umich.edu/history/>
>>> Distinguished Faculty in Sustainability, Graham Sustainability 
>>> Institute <http://graham.umich.edu/>
>>> Senior Fellow, Michigan Society of Fellows 
>>> <http://societyoffellows.umich.edu/>
>>>
>>> _Starting July 1, 2017:_
>>> _
>>> _
>>> William J. Perry Fellow in International Security
>>> Center for International Security and Cooperation
>>> Stanford University
>>> pedwards at stanford.edu <mailto:pedwards at stanford.edu>
>>>
>>> Terse replies are deliberate <http://five.sentenc.es/>. Here's why! 
>>> <http://emailcharter.org/>
>>>
>>> University of Michigan School of Information <http://www.si.umich.edu/>
>>> 4437 North Quad
>>> 105 S. State Street
>>> Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1285
>>> (734) 764-2617 (office)
>>> (206) 337-1523  (fax)
>>> pne.people.si.umich.edu <http://pne.people.si.umich.edu/>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> This email is relayed from members at sigcis.org 
>>> <http://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 <http://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

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.sigcis.org/pipermail/members-sigcis.org/attachments/20170524/d2cea450/attachment-0001.htm>


More information about the Members mailing list