Women in Technology

Barcelona, Spain 2001

“Back to Barcelona,” we said. After the second Sedona Conversation held in Barcelona, we now have participants asking, “When can we go back?” Well, perhaps in two years. But we will likely be working Sedona's in Sedona, Dublin, and Prague before Barcelona again. But a third Barcelona does appeal to many of us.

The second Barcelona Conference tackled the topic, “Women in Technology.” Paul Elsner led off with a quick video retrospective of the historical presence of women in technology. “Women have always been there,” Elsner emphasized – “they just have not been recognized for their contributions.” He cited Ada Lovelace (1843), an earlier compiler who probably assisted Babbage in the mechanics of the first computer. Captain Grace Hopper, one of Maricopa's early honors speakers, might well have been our inspiration for technological energies at Maricopa. Hopper could be credited for the precursor code structure of Cobalt language. Indeed, women have been there.

Fritz Lang's techno-feminine icon, Maria, is portrayed as a poster icon for his 1927 silent film, Metropolis. I have seen this poster in the MOMA in New York, but its imagery casts future feminine prototypes in such kick-ass heroines as Sigourney Weaver's Ripley in the Alien film series, probably culminating in Laura Croft in Tomb Raider. Elsner also cited Mary Shelly's Frankenstein and the contributions of such artists as Laurie Anderson's (sound-visual innovator) performance artistry and Bjork, a robotic rock ballad singer, and Kyoto Date, a Japanese avatar, as other techno-feminist cyber versions. Such presence in technology is now taken for granted.

Technology can also be seen as an equalizer in this imagery of women heroes. Sigourney Weaver's character, Ripley, substitutes lesser muscle leverage by donning a robot like forklift suit to dispose of the menacing “alien”. We also see extensions of power equalizers in laser weapons (Laura Croft packs two) and morphing capacity to vanquish enemies (Matrix).

Elsner was quickly followed by Piedad Robertson, the CEO of Santa Monica City College. Santa Monica City College rests near the epicenter of the Westwood, Wilshire and Beverly Hills ambiance of the Hollywood film industry. Piedad and her able assistant Katherine Muller described the Santa Monica City College's formation of an “ Entertainment Center,” with the help of Fox Animation. The campus–like facility was set up to train the region's graphic designers, animators, software technicians, model builders, and script writers. Placement for students has been a hundred percent, many hired away to fill industry vacancies before completing graduation.

Doreen Dailey capstoned the “Breaking the Glass Ceiling” segment by describing her Sedona Center for Arts and Technology, an outgrowth of the vision of several of the Conference speakers over the last three years. Doreen has located a striking 100,000 square foot facility on the dominant site of the Sedona Cultural Park. Her center includes a film school, a digital media institute, classes in the film and video production trades, and elaborately equipped labs with infrastructure ready for digital production and design. The Center also houses the Zaki Gordon Institute for Independent Filmmaking and the Digital Media Center that supports numerous courses in editing, production and design.

As women technology leaders, Piedad Robertson and Doreen Dailey best represent the model we would all emulate growing out of the convergence theories that The Sedona Conversations try to project. As women CEOs, they have forged a major redirection of their college’s technology agenda.

We were especially honored to have two participant commentaries from Dame Patricia Webb, President and Principal of the recently reorganized New College of Nottingham and from Coen Free, President of King William I College.

Dame Patricia Webb was honored by Prince Charles for her innovative transformation of Nottingham's former lace factory district by renovating a center piece property and converting a 19th century factory into a technologically current state-of-the-art central teaching and learning facility. This facility is the hallmark of her politically challenging goal of consolidating a system from several formerly separate colleges that serve now as a model multiple college system in the UK and in Europe.

In addition, Dame Webb is credited for being a renewal catalyst for the surrounding area. Many small businesses, arts and civic organizations, incubators, boutique shops and high-end commercial presence have resulted from her vision for her college. Prior to the presence of the New College of Nottingham, most surrounding buildings were unoccupied.

Coen Free left a meeting in Amsterdam on change and creativity to be with us for a short while before returning to the Netherlands. Coen discussed his change processes at King William College. He has developed a wide sweeping strategy to promote faculty innovation. He built a cube-like structure inspired by Bauhaus and Escher design motifs in the middle of a traditional, brick and cobble, former military garrison. He called this prepossessing "cube", The College of the Future. Coen is a formidable thinker and planner. His most important message to the women in technology was that change never stops. "You must often change the changes", said Coen. Three of Coen Free's top women technology leaders were at Barcelona--they nodded in agreement.

As an added feature, we asked Linda Erickson dragonfly3377@cs.com to report on developments since the Beijing Women's Conference. Linda traced some of the work of the active sub-commissions on women's issues. Readers are encouraged to write to her e-mail address for a summary of her report, which assesses women in technology, women in careers, women affected by assault in war-torn zones, and women confronting violence. Linda had accompanied Carolyn Desjardins at the Beijing Women's Conference. Many other dimensions of gender implications grew out of the Beijeng Conference that make up the current international platform for women's issues.

Irina Bloomquist, an internet policy analyst from Finland reviewed some of her research about women and the web. She sketched the research on what women wanted from the internet. Women wanted information on babies (infant care), medical options for themselves, financial advice and other personal and domestic subjects. Finland ranks just below the U.S. as the highest percentage of women web readers. It was reasoned that such high participation was owing to the comparatively high standard of living in Finland (more computers in service) and the larger rural and remote regions that desire to take advantage of the internet.

Kieran O'Hea, a policy consultant on digital media from Dublin, Ireland, showed the participants the dynamics about Ireland 's growing world dominance of software production. He cited the central challenge of his work as fostering and sustaining creativity while increasing business productivity.

He discussed the interest in Ireland 's national policy community, such as the Irish Trade Ministry in creating wide interest in the development of a Digital Media District (DMD), in which incubator, digitally- driven businesses would be supported to locate in an impoverished area in Dublin.

Kieran also reviewed another project named RADICAL, which stands for “Research Agendas Developed in Creative Arts Labs.” Kieran has been responsible for tracking and supporting working digital media projects for the European Commission. He has also done work with the Irish Film industry.

Paul Elsner returned to the podium to present a digitally enhanced production that attempts to show that our media produced imagery often foretells the future, especially about technology. He gave illustrations from film clips from Ridley Scott'sBlade Runner, Fritz Lang's Metropolis, Terry Gilliam's Brazil, and Norman Belle Geddes' impresario led choreography of the 1939 New York World's Fair. He also cited writers like William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, and Mary Shelly as framers of future technology dilemmas society must face, such as nano-speed of technology, cloning, and robotization.

Megan McShane, a doctoral candidate at Emory University gave a presentation preceding the tours of Barcelona. She described Gaudi's remarkable contributions and Barcelona's 1920's–1930's grand epoch of the arts and urban renewal. This gave attendees a deeper understanding of Barcelona.

Phil Anderson, Vice Chancellor of the Higher Technical Colleges of the United Arab Emirates, discussed the Sheik Nayahan Nabarak Al Nayahan's promotion of a huge conference titled “E-ducation Without Borders.” This conference attracted 240 students from 53 countries and allowed students to design and construct a conference on their own. The conference centered on the question of what the world will be like with full evolution of an E-world. How do students think about this question?


Phil Anderson, Vice Chancellor of the Higher Technical Colleges of the United Arab Emirates, discussed the Sheik Nayahan Nabarak Al Nayahan's promotion of a huge conference titled “E-ducation Without Borders.” This conference attracted 240 students from 53 countries and allowed students to design and construct a conference on their own. The conference centered on the question of what the world will be like with full evolution of an E-world. How do students think about this question?

 


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