Tag Archives: women &technology

Tech Armor, A Girl’s Security

Techny Armor 2

In many ways, the radio is old timey technology.  A throw back of simpler times, when air waves weren’t modulated and a slight hum was tolerable, as was fumbling with the dial to bring the station in clear.  Nowadays, I only listen when I’m alone driving in my car.

In that closed interior, with the world just beyond my windshield, I’m comforted to hear a voice other than the one in my head.  I tire of reminders,  conflict in my schedule, errands that I need to run and I things left undone, like the shirt that requires my attention and the button I keep forgetting to sew back on.  The radio’s DJ is friendly, almost bubbly with idle chatter, pertinent today, and boring enough so I don’t have to focus all of my attention, half-listening and half being indifferent and non-opinionated.

This is pure technology, copper wire and vacuum tubes, transistor radios, soldered circuitry that’s also portable.  Radio reaches people in a way that television never will, because there’s no visual accompaniment to distort one’s own self-image.   Without product placement, without luxury and without perfect abs.  Instead we’re captivated by a voice, the radio personality’s enthusiasm and a distinct annunciation of words.  In between commercials, there’s a nice mix of music.  I like singing along, belting out a Frank Sinatra song or absent mindedly humming along to Billie Holiday’s August in New York.

Ironically, I always have perfect pitch when no one else is the car, my inner ear comes out.   And then, the very best part of radio, is during the “goldie oldie” moment, when that one long forgotten song comes on and miraculously, I know the lyrics!  And soon the warm feelings return, the powdery fluff of nostalgia.  It makes me smile to myself, as I drive along the road.  And I’m reminded again that simple technology, like the radio has a powerful control over me.

Yesterday, a DJ invited listeners to call in with their stories.  One woman called in excitedly, she had recently lost 150 pounds.  Her happiness oozed from the radio’s airwaves.  This stranger made me smile.   Like her, as a kid I too had been teased, she plagued by obesity and me with my big nose.

Now, here she was on the radio sharing the fact that she carried an old photograph and called it a “Fattie-Selfie”,  a reminder of her former self.  And that was it, the radio personality acknowledged her achievement, told her that she was beautiful!  And then thanked her for calling in, made an off-handed comment about the telephone lines being lit up and took the next call.

I blinked, the era of stringed pearls and frilly aprons forever gone.  I glanced at my reflection in the rearview mirror.  Like the radio caller, I too was now comfortable with my looks, I seem to have grown into my big nose.  Or I wasn’t as self-conscious, perhaps a result of being too busy to take notice.  Still, I recall what it felt like, to not resemble the models in any of the fashion magazines.  When I was a young girl, fairytales always made me think being powerless was okay, by taking away the option of having power, as if by design.

As I pulled into an empty parking space, I saw a group of little girls eating ice-cream laughing, and enjoying their silliness.  They were at that perfect age, when looks don’t matter and eating has nothing to do with disorders.   That being self-sufficient means she can tie a good knot in her shoelaces, as a preamble to running wild and free.

The radio DJ introduced a new song, it was upbeat and a perfect segue from the girls back to my reality.  I reached over to cut the car engine off and thought those little girls will make their own shiny suits of armor; I hope it fits them well.

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Filed under Gender, Gender Equality, Girls, technology

How Technology Stacks Up

1 tech typewriter

Lately, technology has been a stark reminder of time.

I’ve come to realize it’s not that life whizzes by too quickly or that time ticks too slowly.  The truth is, time just passes without any change in pace whatsoever.  How we manage it determines how we view it, like looking through a glass of water.

Yesterday, I climbed the attic steps and discovered my old smelly typewriter, I smiled. How long had it been since I’d replaced it with the newer technology, an odorless plastic keyboard that didn’t need ribbon.  I miss that, as I miss my daughter’s hair ribbons now.

I stopped writing when she was born, because I imagined time wouldn’t wait up, or slow down for me to fully experience motherhood. I decided it would be well worth it, to feel my kids sneaking up on me.  They’d struggle to contain happy giggles, as they slipped and slid across our wooden floors in stocking feet, determined to catch me off guard in a loving surprise.  All of the carefree giddiness of childhood, set free from curled lips before the age of teen modesty!

I relished the thought that they would reach from behind and cover my eyes with their little round hands.  And more than anything, I wanted my response to be simply happy.  Expressed by my feigned surprise and their squeals of delight at having surprised me.  Of course they hadn’t, but what did that matter?

Later, in their rooms by the night light, I’d read someone else’s words to them and miss my own.  And I never thought to shut the book too soon, or to shut them out.  It was important for them know I would be there when they woke up, available to them.  Unabashed and unafraid because they understood my love and the difference between their “mommy” and its homonym, the word “mummy”.

Now, the house is quiet.  And as I look around the attic, I’m noticing how much of my life has become obsolete, like the outdated technology that’s stacked high.  And not in any particular order, not like our chronological lives.

I’m reminded of the passage of time, I see it in my typewriter to my computer to my laptop to tablet…

Well, at least I’m writing again.   There’s no need to worry that I’ll be interrupted by the sound of little feet scurrying across the floor, or round hands cupped over my eyes.   There’ll be no crying, no “boo-boos” and no childish quarrels or metaphorical fences for me to mend.

It’s time to plant new seeds and to insert dangling modifiers; to write down adjectives that will never completely describe the taste of water, or how technology faded away and re-invented itself.   Me too.

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Filed under Creativity, technology

Technology Sees Political Disruption

Eyeglasses

Political disruption!   This election season seems quite different from previous Presidential campaigns and it’s not just because its a Leap Year.

Similar to the phenomenon of “Innovative Disruption”, a term coined by Clayton M. Christensen 1995; it’s a changing of the guard.  An abrupt move away from long standing established markets by new ways of marketing and new network markets.

But it’s also about voters in a digital world, their data collected and stored is failing to tell their story.  When did Americans begin to feel left out, pulled in and tossed about, every which way but loose?

I’m not sure, but I think I became a little less passionate about politics in 2008, during that historical election when a woman and an African-American ran for the most powerful office in the world.  Back then, news outlets hand pumped information via their own agendas and grew with advertising dollars.

It was then that I noticed my rose colored glasses weren’t tinted, they were tainted.   And in true visionary fashion, I’ve been squinting in the dark ever since.

So, as this political season started out in mass confusion, that is too many candidates, I shrugged and thought, who cares?   Hell, we’ve been buying technology in beta format for years.  Troubleshooting, hacking and fervently downloading bug fixes and we’ve become accustomed to incomplete software and swiped malware into our homes.

It stands within reason, that we’d accept candidates who are trending on social media platforms, as if “Likes” and “Follows” gauged the qualification of a U.S. Presidential candidate.  As if streaming live video and on-demand news would expose a candidates’ flaws like pixels in the image.   And without our having noticed, the political arena became ripe for disruption, like a cracked system failing its citizenry.

But, what would happen if we sat this election out?   If being weary kept us off the battle field?  What would happen to the gains we’ve made?  Even now, as we revisit Roe versus Wade for the umpteenth time and protestors scream at Planned Parenthood sites… under scrutiny still, after so many years… really?

How slow do we go before we realize we’re going backwards?

Voting, it seems is becoming another chore, and a rather huge inconvenience.  Cynicism has weighed heavily, like an anchor and keeping dreams afloat a little longer by faith isn’t sustainable. Truth is, technology doesn’t even care.   Like everything else, politics is ripe for change.

Off in the distant horizon of what was once a prairie, the American flag is waving…  hello or good-bye?  The digital world doesn’t need daydreamers, it demands visionaries.  Be that!

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Filed under Gender Equality, Google Glass, Politics

Tech Enlightened

$ Lightbulb

Progress! By definition, smart technology implies intelligence and enlightenment.  Used responsibly, it improves life on a global scale and it begs the question, what happens when a lightbulb is unscrewed?

Once upon a time, people worried that electricity would leak from an empty socket.   And we can understand how they might’ve reached that conclusion, it seems reasonable.

Most great technology that improves life also has the potential to be harmful. There’s a dark side that if left unmonitored could present a real danger. From x-rays to Big Data, we’ve become increasingly powerful and vulnerable all at once.

Technology has become incredibly small, invisible to most microscopes and yet, quantifiably humongous. Usurping our lives but also improving it, making everything we do in real-time tangible and with results that can be analyzed, understood and used for good.

And all the while, our footprints can be tracked, stacked and gathered.  How we do what we do, when we do it, where we’re doing it, analyzed and visualized.  The right questions asked, the algorithm applied and the data collected.

Smart cities that measure pot holes and compute their own capacity-duress until repair, can schedule that pavement crew and reroute traffic, anticipate patterns and give curbside bus arrival updates, all in real-time.   Smart cars can intuitively not start when their drivers are inebriated, and likewise won’t start when they’re not road worthy, offering alternate modes of transportation, in some Uber- Lyft social good package, for free!

Smart  smart technology won’t lie, won’t hide, but what if it could be programmed to monitor the good it does?   Like fear is good.

Being cautious doesn’t mean we won’t proceed, just that we’re mindful in its use, the way we might lean over a window sill; seeing so much and yet careful not to fall out.  we can have the great technology and maintain a survival technique, the flight and fight adrenaline that propels us into action, not darkness.

In a digital world that’s spinning incredibly fast, having a sense of fear might preserve a culture.   Might remind us that we’re a learned society, one that has long been enlightened and free of walls.

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Filed under Big Data, innovation, tech, technology

Women & Technology Again

$ 0 Talk radio

It’s no longer the Golden Age of radio in America and finally girls will have more than a cracked fairy tale to be her moral guide.

All around her are images of womanhood, independent and clear.   Live-streaming, in movies and in newspapers, women are being positively depicted, and a young girl sees herself, without feeling uncomfortable in her skin.  Successful women like Hillary Clinton, Mae C. Jemison, Sara Blakely and Oprah Winfrey smile from the covers of glossy magazines.

The narrative has changed, she can do both- be a mother and have a career.  There’s no sky and no limit to her dreams; from pink sneakers to blue high heels, she can perform!   Hopefully she’ll think outside the gender box, because there’s no social corset and hairpins to keep her tied down, unless she wants to wear them.   Now, metaphorically and literally, she can breathe.

Technology has made life better for all, by freeing her from domestic drudgery to a life of luxury– washing machines and egg beaters gave the gift of time, to read books and to learn.  Because we always knew she could code, given the opportunity to learn code.

The apron has been spun around and the letter “S” reveals two things, one it always was a cape and two, it’s washable.   She has choices!  And while there’s much to get excited about, there’s still a wall to overcome.  Gender orientation is such a huge part of society’s psyche, that it’s not easily cast aside.  And maybe that’s why it continues to be practiced in maternity wards across the country, where the gender color-code begins, when our babies are separated by little blue bands for boys and a little pink bands for girls.   Shouldn’t we start out with the same, equally?

Instead, adults complete the gender code cycle, by unwittingly buying into the color system, toys that should be tools of development create subtle pigeon-holes.  We as a society still respond when we see a little boy playing with Barbie dolls, because we ourselves have been raised to adhere to the gender color code.   And so the stage is set and the cycle continues, gender orientation is passed awkwardly along from one generation to the next.

But things are changing, I did see a little boy playing with a pink truck.  And on Dacia Street a little girl was busy fixing the wheel of her baby carriage, her hands were dirty with axle grease.  I smiled, this is the stuff of her fairy tales.

And hopefully, babies will eventually all be allowed to grow up according to what’s in their heads, and not by what’s inside their diapers.

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Filed under Coding, Gender, Gender Equality, Girls

Yesterday’s Tech Now

#Tech Study

Nostalgia.  That word aims to impress, as if every bit of our past is glorious.  Funny, one person’s account of the way it was, seems fairly different from another person’s account.   And those days, really were College Daze.

Technology is changing our perception, what was won’t be and what is, isn’t ours to reminisce over.   Without such strong convictions, our traditions will seem less important.  The past will be less impressive and old authority less oppressive.

The games we play are changing us, free of religion and politics, we ‘re allowed the joy of winning a trillion jewels as we embark onto the next level.  There seems an infinite amount of possibilities and we’re neither bored nor frustrated by this; which is strange.   Stranger still, is the fact that we practice at these games without being made to or told that we must.

We become deeply engaged in an activity that requires time, concentration and we pay to play.  Sure the payment isn’t monetary, so we’re less worried.  But to think, so many finger swipes and so much data, from IP addresses to our likes and dislikes.  Data gathered stored and analyzed, while we play Jewel Hunt!

That’s powerful stuff.

And one day, that stuff will tell our story.  The games we played, what we liked and disliked and who were our friends.  All of this information will be preserved and live-streamed to us,  on a platform called “Our Memories”.    Telling us what we struggled to forget, our stories manipulated into ready fill order:  “iNostalgic”.

We are a changing society, today’s mores and values have replaced our ancestor’s principled beliefs.   So curated arts, culture, and education that was once spoon fed will be outdated.  It’ll be replaced by new inventions, new research and opened to new interpretation.  Long ago vetted information will now be less useful, but technology can’t protect us from ourselves.

Ironically, to enjoy the good, like the orange glow of an Autumn afternoon, we might have to admit the human mind’s ability to filter our memories is positive.  There’s pleasantry associated with remembering the regal day, without the total recall of the argument that preceded the moment, that left him alone, seated in a picture window depicted in a print by Norman Rockwell.   Mercifully, emotions like pain aren’t remembered verbatim.

The Digital Age will have no boundaries, and our memories will be streamed to us intact.  Yours will look eerily similar to mine and mine to his.   Hopefully it’ll be worthwhile, like watching a replay of your favorite sport.  By watching it, perhaps we’ll discern what we did right, what we did wrong and what we could do better.   And then like the games we play, we can practice to get rewards and maybe even reach the next level.

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Filed under Baby boomers, Gender Equality, tech, technology

Ideas: Selling More Than Technology

# vacuum hoover tech

What if the vacuum cleaner salesmen did more than just suction up pet hairs?

What if there was a subliminal conversation?  Words of encouragement and a smile that hinted, “your time is more valuable, than you think”.

If a sales pitch is the purest form of Persuasive Speech, then it also has to be flattering.  As she watched him unload and pack up his machine, her mind would have wandered.   Demonstrations have that before-after effect.

Think, Prometheus returning with fire…

It’s likely that the first reaction to a flame was to reach out and touch it, but as any moth has discovered, a touch can be fatal.   So, the second more thought out reaction  to fire would’ve been to apply a “Best Use Practice” and not get burnt.

The vacuum cleaner was thought to be, just another fad; more for those with health issues, like breathing problems than the general population.  But then the vacuum cleaner did the one thing that all great technology does, it stayed.

Whisk!  The broom industry went into lower sales and poof, the carpet beater was gone!

Once the vacuum cleaner became affordable, the salesman became a welcome guest at every door.   He was a hero, with a simple gesture and a smile, no need of a sales pitch.   Technology had ignited a flame.

An added bonus was watching the salesman bend down to plug the vacuum cleaner in, to stand and turn it on.  Oh, what a treat that must’ve been, as he guided the vacuum cleaner across the dirty floor.   Surely, she must’ve smirked just a little, as a man did the proverbial “women’s work”.

Stuck in the carpet, were bits of dirt and shards of glass, just like her dreams.  Scattered long ago and deeply embedded in the carpet’s fiber.  So much so, that she had forgotten about them, until she saw the carpet become clean, its color returned.   She might’ve gasped a little to think of new uses of her free time, more vivid.

For days and weeks after the salesman had gone, she’d think back on the possibilities; of what she could achieve with the gift of time.  She shared her ideas with other women , at the window, shopping and back fence.  And if women can think alike, then they can raise their daughters with more education, so she’ll become a doctor, engineer and coder.  Maybe those vacuum cleaner salesmen hadn’t intended to, but they ended up selling more than a product, they sold her an idea.

Isn’t technology clever?  It completely changed the labor pool in a task driven society!

No gimmicks.  And eventually she’ll be paid equally.

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Filed under Coding, Consumers, Gender Equality, innovation, Vacuum cleaners, Women

Unplugged: The Power of a Washing Machine

# Tenement Laundry
What would be the fate of tens of thousands of women, if their washing machines were left unplugged? Or what if the washing machine hadn’t been invented?

Having power doesn’t make us powerful. And it seems, if we’re talking about electricity, using it may in fact, lead to us being powerless or nearly so.

Welcome to the digital world, where recharging cellphones and smart devices is as common as opening up a window to let fresh air in. No one looks sideways. In fact, it’s so common and relatable, that our apathy when someone mentions a dead cell battery is genuine.

From mega-watts to the kilo-watts. From our smart-cities to smart-homes. From our smart-devices to our cellphones. We are all bound to electricity. Our factories and businesses are increasing usage, from the “internet of things” to artificial intelligence (AI) to Clouds and virtual servers, all of these use and require, power. And we need more.

And that’s the other side, the flip side, where one is forced to think about life without power. We’d have to rethink our priorities, from lighting to cooling to where we lived. What need would the upper floors of a skyscraper have, if you had to always climb it’s stairs? And what about our washing machines?

Now that would tell quite a compelling story. The gift of time, both given and taken away. Women would return to the status of a laundress, those 19th century women who spent a day washing laundry, their own or someone else’s. Paid or unpaid, the work would be structured around childcare, because it took so long to complete.

Last month I had a little sampler, when my top load washing machine broke in mid-cycle. By mid, I mean once the washing machine filled with water, it broke. Getting the sopping wet sheets and clothes out of the machine was one part of the equation. It became an equation as I realized just how much of a task I had in front of me, when the bucket didn’t work. I transferred the load to a kid’s wagon, and made multiple trips to the upstairs bathroom. Once there, I sat on the edge of the tub wringing water out for what seemed to be days! My fingernails softened and broke, my hands ached and I lost my mind!

Which brings me back to our problem, that is we have power, but we’re not powerful. And it seems we’re getting weaker.

Technology has spoiled us with gadgets and machines that have improved our lives, but they’ve also lulled us into a false sense of security. With a soft hum of joules per second, the amperage of electricity has carried our load for us, but that’s not always going to be an option to keep our gadgets running and our smart devices powered up.

We’re going to have to look at new ways of doing the old things and let’s be clear, unplugging my washing machine is not an option.

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Filed under cellphone, gadget, solarpower, technology, Wearables, Wi-Fi, Women

Mixing Technologies with Metaphors

$ eggbeater right

As revolutionary as the eggbeater was, it was innovation that freed her from the kitchen!

Technology has a certain knack for curbing and flexing time, so that even if we can’t create it, regenerate or domesticate it, we can work to get around it. By getting a task done in less time or arriving at our destination faster and faster.   We’re constantly working in a timeframe, trying not to lament or anguish over the loss of it, but to enjoy life.  After all, there are no life instructions, but if there were one would read:  “Absolutely No Do Overs”.

So gadgets, like the eggbeater, invented with good intentions and far-reaching implications have always been welcomed.  Not only did it efficiently mix ingredients, but it helped to make baking easier, cutting the cooking time to bake a cake in half!

Additional improvements were made to foods, which helped in preparation, including storage and processing.  Key products like sugar, that had proved difficult to use, sold in blocks or sugar cones that had to be cut and then broken into useable pieces were now being purchased in granulated sweetness!  Flour was now being sold pre-sifted, and the ice box, long vulnerable to melting in the summertime, was being replaced with an electric refrigerator.  Fresh eggs stored indoors!

Cooking ovens became more efficient, with a knob that controlled the temperature of the heat.  Gone were the days of baking disasters– open fires and damp fire wood, that flameless smoky soot.  Now the modern woman had the convenience of coal, gas and electricity with which to run her kitchen.  This ease of cooking led to clichés and it changed pop culture, “If I’d knew you were coming I’d a baked a cake,” was not only a song, it was her carefree attitude.

Women were no longer slaves in America’s kitchens chained to temperamental cast iron stoves.  With her new freedom came time to think and she began to join clubs.  Book clubs, garden clubs, philosophical and reading clubs, these seemed to form and sprout up everywhere.  She had time to think, to discuss her thoughts with other women and to reconsider the world, and her place in it, she became politically aware.

That’s innovation!

From electricity, the eggbeater was redesigned with two separate mixing arms and an ejector button that popped them off for easy cleaning.  Women found an additional use, she could quickly release the mixers and use them to pacify a baby.  Many a toddler was plopped in the middle of a kitchen floor and allowed to lick the cake batter from the mixers.

Technology has always valued time, with a monetary value established for a “by the hour” workforce.  Among men there has long been an equal day’s pay for equal work.  Unions made certain that compensation was fair.  But for some odd reason, that hasn’t had cross over appeal, call it gender inequity.

Hmmmm, maybe we’re mixing technology with our metaphors…

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Filed under gadget, Gender, Gender Equality, innovation, technology

Cellophane: An Unsung Technology

$ marceau and Printed_Circuit_Board_Wallpaper_bgv2

“Wow!”

And just like that, the art of pantomime gets us.

Our attention is snatched away and whatever we were purportedly doing– strolling along, roller blading or running, we stop to do an about face to our own reality, to watch his painted face.

Desperate outstretched fingers seem amphibian and web-like; pressed against a sheet of glass that isn’t there, tells a compelling story of anguish.   We empathize with his herculean effort to get from underneath the crushing weight.  And even though we know it’s simply air that holds him back, we cheer for his freedom!

The street artist treks up Mount Ceenomore, to hear nothing and say nothing in a magical show of humanity.  The myth of Sisyphus intrigues us, the daily grind is mesmerizing and so is the mime’s control over his agile limbs, taunt muscles and loose facial skin.  And his thorough command of silence that calls out to us, not to help but to simply share the experience.

Like a glass ceiling or an invisible box that only he can feel, processing…

The mime’s performance reminds me of how modular obstacles in life can actually be; easily moved and erected.  Constructed of short-comings, self-imposed lamentations and even by the most loving, a grandmother or doting father.

Harmless, ambiguous words that provide their own walls, that are systemic to a nation or a culture, that reiterates a woman’s role as a mother.  And leaves her to languish in a kitchen.

Small girls are given baby dolls and miniature tea sets, dressed up to mimic their mothers in some infused setting, a long ago time and place.  Where etiquette modified behavior and nods of approval were given each time she remembered to cross her legs at the ankle.

Stay clean and to be sweet…

Women do it to other women.  Discussed and served on a platter and covered with cellophane, used to preserve the female.  How her life should be, what she should do and old innuendos.  It may be too late for my generation to dismantle the invisible walls that shuttered off technical spaces, but I imagine a different existence for my daughters.

A digital world where we’re mindful of our words, that we don’t recreate a mime’s struggle of walls and elevator rides that don’t go up.  Where she’s paid more than chump change, pennies tossed into a basket for a million dollar act.

Someone asked me about my bucket list, I don’t have one.   If I did it wouldn’t be a list of things I wish to achieve in my lifetime, but rather a list of dreams I was told couldn’t come true, without ever having dreamt of them.

Like a mime on a street, as we stop and watch him, as he does nothing.

 

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Filed under Coding, Girls, Women