Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Women, and other oddities of the tech world

I've had an extremely interesting day of thinking today, all thanks to blogs. Today at work we spent some time discussing where we think technology is going. What does the future look like and what should we as an educational institution do to prepare? As an all-women's college, I think the technology issue is a more pressing one for us. I personally think it's important to embed technology in the education in a way that its use is required, ubiquitious and intuitive. I think the students should feel as at home with web research as with library research, that they should feel as comfortable using their cell phones and laptops and video cameras as pens, paper and staples to create thoughtful content. Very little was discussed about gender in particular, but it's on all of our minds a lot. We talk about it informally all the time.

In our discussions about social software, I was happy to see everyone pretty much on board with the idea of the way it creates community and how can be used to share resources and ideas. But we also discussed it's drawbacks, the way the community sometimes links to the same stuff, the circular way this linking works. And that made me think of women and blogging, the topic that returns to the blogosphere more regularly than the sparrows of Capistrano. And then I ran into some posts about the BlogHer conference, most of which discuss this problem of inlinking. My response to the problem of inlinking of resources on the web was that we have to teach students how to look deeper, to do more complex searches, to be suspicious when the same url comes up over and over again and not assume that because it does, it must be the authority. The web is a big place; the world is a big place. And it occurred to me that calls for more complex algorithms to find communities online is kind of the same thing. We're asking a computer program to look more deeply, more complexly. And like research, a more complex search creates a better landscape, a better outcome for everyone.

Adding women to that landscape is better for everyone. It's what I'm constantly trying to do. I want those diverse voices that I don't hear in my day-to-day experiences. Not, what kind of technology do women want, but what kind of technology will they create or help create? How will women change the technology landscape? And how have they already?