Re: Women in computing

Rohit Khare (
Mon, 8 Apr 96 02:16:39 -0400 (Eve Schooler) wrote on 21:14:05 Sun, 7 Apr 96:

> my suspicion is that computing
> is still seen as a strangely "geekish" universe, and this is amplified by the
> popular press....

Well, there seem to be some fine minds contemplating that angle:

Virtue and Virtuality: Gender, Law, and Cyberspace

This conference (free and open to the public) is aimed at the legal and
cyberspace communities. All conference sessions will be held in the Bartos
Theatre of the MIT Media Lab Building at 20 Ames Street. Follow this link for
a _schedule of speakers_. Here is a list of confirmed speakers to-date:

_Anne Branscomb __(Harvard)_

Branscomb is a legal scholar in the Harvard University Program on Information
Resources Policy analyzing the impact of information technology on
developments in the law. A specialist in computer and communications law, she
is the author of Who Owns Information?, editor of Toward a Law of Global
Communications Networks and numerous articles in both popular and professional
journals regarding broadcasting, cable television, telecommunications policy,
and online communications.

___Amy Bruckman_ _(Media Lab, MIT)_
"Democracy" in Cyberspace: Lessons From a Failed Political Experiment

which was founded by Amy Bruckman experimented with "democratic" government. A
body of councilors was elected. Their responsibilities and the extent of
their authority were not clearly defined, but were left to them for
discussion. The result was a year of increasingly bitter arguments with no
real benefit to the community, and the experiment was eventually dismantled.

The issues at hand were ultimately trivial, so the question arises: why were
the arguments so impassioned and bitter? A number of lessons with broader
applicability can be drawn. The experiment was a learning experience for
everyone involved, forcing us to confront the naivet of our own political
ideas. In this talk Bruckman will examine some of the popular rhetoric about
democracy online, drawing lessons from MediaMOO's failed political experiment.

Amy Bruckman is a doctoral candidate at the Media Lab at MIT, where she does
research on virtual communities. She is the founder of MediaMOO (a MUD
designed to be a professional community for media researchers), and _MOOSE
Crossing_ (A MUD designed to be a constructionist learning environment for
kids.) MOOSE Crossing includes a new programming language, MOOSE, designed to
make it easier for kids to learn to program. Amy received her master's degree
from the Media Lab's Interactive Cinema Group in 1991, and her bachelors in
physics from Harvard University in 1987.

___L. Jean Camp_ _(Carnegie Mellon)_
Bedrooms, Bar Rooms, and Boardrooms in Cyberspace

Much of the debate on the content on the Internet has focused on the
classification of various services into traditional media types. There has
been particular focus on bulletin boards, I.e. BBS and UUCP services. There is
no consensus on the appropriate media classification because there is none.
The technology of electronic communications has confused legal theorists into
attempting to inappropriately apply those rules set for machine-assisted

In fact, the appropriate analog is not different mediums but rather different
spaces. One reason Net denizens call it cyberspace is that the various
attributes applicable to defining different spaces. She will include examples
using UUCP and HTTP to illustrate this point. She proposes a new theory for
Internet content control which included the recognition that both public,
political debates and private, protected spaces exist on the Internet using
the same services.

She briefly discusses the implications for women and feminists. Since
feminists have had particular interests in creating both safe spaces for women
and open forums for taboo topics, the uniform application of inappropriate
media types creates a particular threat. She illustrates this point with
recent national cases.

Finally, using events at Carnegie Mellon University, she will show in more
detail how the attempts to fit media types to Internet services has created an
incentive for actions which harm speech rights, particularly those of women.
Specifically, she will show how the University has chosen both to censor
speech with sexual and political content, and simultaneously refused to create
of allow safe spaces for women and gay students on the basis of media

Jean Camp is finishing her dissertation in Engineering & Public Policy at
Carnegie Mellon. In her work she seeks to provide technical solutions to
social conflicts, particularly the fundamental conflict between privacy and
auditing in information systems. Her work is motivated by an interest in
electronic civil liberties.

_Julian Dibbell __(Village Voice)_

_Jeffrey Fisher __(Ohio Wesleyan University)_
Feminist Cybermaterialism: Gender and the Body in Cyberspace

This paper will examine an apparent pattern of feminist concern--both in
fiction and in theory--not only for gender in cyberspace, but for the virtual
body itself. Feminists generally emphasize the continuity of sensuality, the
body, and gender in the cyborg, which they contrast to the masculine view of
cyberspaces as disembodied, transcendent, immaterial, "pure." A notable
exception to this pattern is Donna Haraway, whose "Cyborg Manifesto" opens up
the problematic of this essay: is it possible to transcend gender in
cyberspace? Various theories of "cyberdemocracy" presume so, but their "level
playing field" threatens to simply replicate "meat-based" gender bias. The
difficulty is trying to conceive a gender-free social space from within a
gendered space. The response is generally the deployment of utopian, even
quasi-religious, discourse. This paper critiques these approaches and
endeavors to suggest possible avenues for further exploration.

Jeffrey Fisher teaches in the Humanities Department at Ohio Wesleyan
University. Formally trained at Yale University as a medievalist, Fisher also
writes and teaches on science fiction and information age culture. He is
currently investigating the religious character of the discourse of

___Ethan Katsh_ _(UMass Amherst)_
Ethan Katsh ( is Professor of Legal Studies at the
University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He is a graduate of the Yale Law
School. His main area of expertise is law and computer technology and he is
the author of two books on the subject, Law in a Digital World (Oxford
University Press, 1995) and The Electronic Media and the Transformation of Law
(Oxford University Press, 1989). Professor Katsh was co-founder of the
University of Massachusetts Mediation Project and moderates the Internet
Dispute-res listserv, a forum of over five hundred persons with interests in
alternative dispute resolution. He serves as one of the initial group of
virtual magistrates of the Cyberspace Law Institute's Virtual Magistrate
Project and is founder and director of the soon to be in operation Online
Ombuds Office. He developed the UMass Internet Law Hypercourse and serves on
the Board of Editors of the electronic law journal Journal of Online Law. In
October 1995, Professor Katsh moderated CourtTV's online Cyberschool course
for non-lawyers.

_Evelyn Fox Keller __(Science, Technology, & Society, MIT)_
Evelyn Fox Keller received her Ph. D. in theoretical physics at Harvard
University, worked for a number of years at the interface of physics and
biology, and is now Professor of History and Philosophy of Science in the
Program in Science, Technology and Society at MIT. She is the author of A
Feeling for the Organism: The Life and Work of Barbara McClintock; Reflections
on Gender and Science; Secrets of Life, Secrets of Death: Essays on Language,
Gender and Science; and, most recently, Refiguring Life: Metaphors of
Twentieth Century Biology (Coumbia Univ. Press, 1995). Her current research is
on the history of developmental biology.

___Larry Lessig_ _(University of Chicago Law School)_
Zoning Porn and People in Cyberspace

Cyberspace as it is essentially unzoned--borders are not boundaries; the
architecture is designed to facility crossing the full range of the net. Most
recent regulation of the net aims at changing that--it aims at increasing
effective zoning on the net. That, for example, is the aim of the Computer
Decency Act of 1996, as well as other legislative initiatives. This paper
first considers whether these efforts at zoning will be considered
constitutional; it then examines just how zoning will change the possibilities
for individual and social plasticity on the net.

Larry Lessig is Professor of Law at the University of Chicago. He received
his J.D. from Yale in 1989, and held clerkships with Judge Richard Posner of
the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and Justice Antonin Scalia of the Supreme
Court. His scholarship focuses on constitutional law as well as the law of
cyberspace, and he has taught courses in the law of cyberspace at both Yale
Law School and the University of Chicago Law School. Check out his seminar,
_Cyberspace Law for Nonlawyers._

_Jennifer Mnookin __(Science, Technology, & Society, MIT)_
Jennifer Mnookin is a Ph.D. candidate in the Program in Science, Technology
and Society at MIT. Her dissertation focuses on technological and visual
evidence in the American courtroom in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
She received her bachelor's degree from Harvard in 1988 and her J.D. from Yale
Law School in 1995.

___Eben Moglen_ _(Columbia University)_
Beyond the Bounds of Decency: Children, Sex, Violence, and the Law

Generational, familial, and other psychosocial boundaries are in the process
of dissolution, as the network fundamentally alters social relations more
rapidly than at any time in Western experience. I will attempt to describe in
my remarks a series of interconnected contemporary attempts to use legal means
to reassert those boundaries, including attempts to punish intergenerational
power transfer, and to reestablish the increasingly perilous borders
separating fantasy from social experience. All is not quiet on the western
front, and a mixture of technological and legal considerations suggests to me
that it never will be quiet there again. Though no one over the age of 11 is
likely to be entirely pleased--unless Bill Gates contemplates a merger with Al
Goldstein and Oliver Stone--we'd better give up on regulating the future, and
I shall attempt to explain why.

Eben Moglen is Professor of Law and Legal History at Columbia Law School. He
received both his J.D. and his Ph.D. in History from Yale. He clerked for
Judge Edward Weinfield of the Southern District of New York and for Justice
Thurgood Marshall of the Supreme Court. He has written and spoken on topics
ranging from colonial legal history to the effects of the new information
technologies on scholarship.

_Howard Schweber __(Cornell)_
And Then the Railroad Came: Law, Pornography, and the Regulation in Cyberspace

The 1996 Telecommunications Act (or whatever version of it remains by the
time this conference goes forward!) is based on the analytical frameworks
established in two key cases: Miller and Pacifica. Some of the difficulties
inherent in the application of these standards to "cyberspace" are
demonstrated in the 6th Circuit's treatment of the judicial and community
standards issues in the Amateur Action case, as well as in the preliminary
ruling of the federal judge reviewing the constitutionality of the Act (the
paper will, of course, include treatments of legal developments between now
and April on this score). In response, he will suggest two things: first that
"cyberspace" needs to be treated as three distinct spheres of
telecommunications for these purposes (e-mail, subscription communications
such as bulletin boards, and the Web); second, that where direct analogical
extrapolations of existing First Amendment principles are inadequate, a
version of voluntary content ratings is the "best" approach, both in terms of
the likely alternatives and in terms of affirmative arguments of social policy
and technological feasibility. Finally, he will point out the peculiar
reconfiguration that occurs when critical race and gender perspectives on free
speech issues involved in the promulgation of pornography are brought to bear
on the question of regulating cyberspace.

Howard Schweber studied philosophy and history at the University of
Pennsylvania and received his J.D. from the University of Washington in 1989.
He practiced law for five years, both as a commercial litigator and a
prosecutor. He has an M.A. in History from the University of Chicago and is
presently a graduate student in Cornell University's Department of Government,
where his research focuses on the development of American private law. At
Cornell, he has taught courses on constitutional issues of free speech.

___Leslie Shade_ _(McGill)_
The Digital Woman

Addresses how -- and whether -- national public policy statements on access
to the information infrastructure have addressed questions concerning gender
equity. The paper will particularly emphasize the Canadian situation, although
the United States will be discussed as well. Recommendations for further
study to ensure a more equitable stake for women will also be addressed.

Leslie Regan Shade is a doctoral candidate at Mcgill University's graduate
program in communications where she is completing a dissertation entitled
Gender and Community in the Social Constitution of Computer Networks. She has
written and spoken widely on the social and policy issues surrounding new
communication technologies and works as a consultant in the research and
design of networked information.

___Ellen Spertus_ _University of Washington/__(MIT AI Lab_)
Social and Technical Means for Fighting Online Harassment

Reports of harassment of women have caused concern to many and has led some
to advocate government control over the Internet. This paper describes social
and technical--rather than legal--defenses already used by women online or
that will soon be available. These include blacklists, explicit reputations,
secure authentication, private or moderated mailing lists, programs for
filtering messages based on their contents or sender, and public replies to

Ellen Spertus is a doctoral candidate in computer science at MIT and a
visiting scholar at University of Washington, specializing in information
retrieval. She is also webmaster for an anti-rape organization that is
challenging the Communications Decency Act, which threatens its website.

___Sherry Turkle_ _(Science, Technology, & Society, MIT)_
Born in New York City, Sherry Turkle did her undergraduate work at Radcliffe
college, studied with the Committee on Social Thought at the University of
Chicago, and received a joint doctorate in Sociology and Personality
Psychology from Harvard University in 1976. She is a graduate and affilitate
member of the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and a licensed clinical
psychologist. She is the author of Psychoanalytic Politics; Jacques Lacan and
Freud's French Revolution and The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit.
Her most recent research is on the psychology of computer-mediated
communication, including role playing on MUDs. This work is reported in Life
on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet.

Keep checking here for more information! This conference is cosponsored by
the MIT Program in Women's Studies, and the offices of the Deans of Humanities
and Social Science and Engineering.

Please send your questions or comments to _womens-studies-www@mit.edu_.