Monday, 5 March 2012

International Women's Day - and (pink) princesses and princes

"Pink Stinks" its not just a website, its also statement which describes a phenomenon which has been troubling me for many years; International Women's day seems to provide a suitable prompt to make me voice my concerns so that they can be discussed and considered.

Much as I despise the abuse of the English language, so too do I despise the 'pinkification' - or rather colour categorisation of young women.

I am saddened and distressed to see girls dressed in pink, but more so when there are few colours to choose from apart from pink. I am saddened and distressed to see girls choosing to dress in pink (and not being ironic about it), and I  am saddened and distressed  when I hear young girls being referred to as princesses - this linguistic categorisation is as offensive to my ears as the rather more easily recognised (yet still not sufficiently challenged) 'tradition' of female genital mutilation.

I find myself half remembering Orwell's essays on the English Language, and wondering at the paralleled unconsidered acts of disempowerment committed as part of our daily ritual. I cannot celebrate any (unconscious) act of cultural disempowerment.

I believe that each child who is made a princess (or prince) is being denied those fundamental human rights of passage which step by step help us make the change from child to self-sufficient adult.

I believe the prince or princess who is adored, protected and idolised is also systematically being denied the everyday lessons and interactions which enable us to function as compassionate, caring, and sentient human beings.

The systematic (unconscious) categorisation and declaration of young females as 'princesses' is in effect a systematic act of disempowerment. Boys too are made into princes, and those individuals also are systematically disempowered.

I am troubled. We do not enter this world fully formed, we learn bit by bit to interact, to crawl, to walk, to utter, to converse. We learn - if we are lucky, that we are equal, and that every one of us is entitled to equal respect… or am I misguided???

I don't know by what miracle I came to adulthood owning such audacious thoughts. Perhaps it was a lucky accident brought about because my parents were children of a wartime era, which had no option but recognise the equal value of each individual, irrespective of social class or gender. Perhaps is was because I had a mother raised in the school of hard knocks, for whom the idea of daughter as princess was as unlikely as the prospect of wealth and lifelong happiness.

Perhaps it was this foundation combined with an adolescent reading list which was accidentally  literate, intellectual and left wing.

Perhaps it was an inevitable impact of the disadvantage of my mother's upbringing from a perspective of poverty recast into the perspective of the feminists and socialists of the early nineteen seventies. Whatever it was, there is something in my very being which believes that we *are* all equal. And I am troubled. Because when I see little girls being dressed in pink, and little buys being dressed in blue, I cannot think that for one it is no different than having a star tattooed into their flesh. And when the dressing continues into a colour coding through childhood and adolescence, I am still more troubled.

Simone de Beavoir spoke eloquently of the 'other', but her story of the 'other' was one which engendered respect.

I am troubled, when I see reported a family who have 'lost their princess' or see a little girl scooped up and forgiven the ordinary manners and social norms of every day life with an en-compassing 'my princess' I am troubled. I fear for the future of that small girl, I fear for the future of our society. Perhaps I will be dismissed - with another cliché - a middle aged women, a granny, an ageing hippy, what do I know of the modern world, or the ways things are. It was ever thus.  Move over and make way for the next generation.  But I am troubled….

I look at the few young women who come into computer science and I wonder why. I look at the female participation in higher education and I am impressed. I look at female achievement in schools and I see that they out perform young men. And then I look at the average salary after graduation and I see that women earn less. I look at the number of women in technical roles and they are under-represented. I look for women in executive roles and they are under-represented. And I am troubled….

And I want to do more analysis. Perhaps those clever women who go to uni, who come into computer science, who get jobs in business make choices, perhaps  they opt out, perhaps they understand that there is something valuable in the work life balance… but then would you not expect some young men to come to similar conclusions...

I am troubled.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Science Fiction in Computer Science Education - or "Do you know what 42 is?"

another wip page - better to post than just save!

Becky Bates, Judy Goldsmith, Valerie Summit, Nanette Veilleux

interesting discussion on how SCiFi can contribute to CS Edu

Valerie Summit Emory University

- first year seminar class


Robots and Robotic - what can robots and robotics do?

Moxon's Master by Ambrose Bierce (1909) - in Can Such Things be - available for free download via amazon for Kindle, also available on Project Guttenberg

A logic named joe Leinster (1946)


Nanette Veilleux - Simmons College in Boston

We were out of our minds with joy David Marusek (1995)

read short stories/novel/articles and discuss

Super Sad True Love Story - Gary Shteyngart screenshot





















'not your father's science fiction'

journal article - talks about social capital (relevant to ash)

ambient stereotype threat


Judy Goldsmith University of Kentucky

ai - read research papers do survey, implement, read scifi book or game review

can write short stories

minority report - emerging sci...

reviewing the reality of the technology

list of options given to student - about half the list is female authors


Rosalyn Berne University of Virginia

nano talk - conversation with scientists and engineers about ethics, meaning and belief in the development of nanotechnology

Humanities/ethics specialist working in university of virginia, engineering and applied science

example of minority report as an ethical novel - in a computer context


Diamond Age


Becky Bates - Minnesota State

quwetions which you can ask which arise from science fiction

what is sentience

are the repilcants sentient

do the human charachters


the computer wore tennis shoes - 1969  cf space odessy

who owns my info?

william gibson pattern recognition, war games neal stephenson, snow crash, super sad love story

intellectual property

ironman 2, counting heads

did hal commit murder? daniel dennet

identify types of agents and explain your decisions THX1138 - film show after star wars


if you want to encode emotions what would you do - star trek - data

Tron, MCP just a greedy growing algorithm

- opportunity for creativity in computer science - opening the mind for learning will have a lot of this information

questions and comments

this was a popular and engaged session which gendered debate, questions and suggestions



observation seems as if it could be a really good agent for crowd sourcing

OU got a scifi author to write censored - cory doctorow -

read the machine stops - E M Forster T100 my digital life <follow up>

Moon - as alternative to 2001

short stories out of I Robot


robopocolypse - what happens if every car in NYC becomes controlled by evil robot?

bicentennial man - disney version of IRobot

what do you think would happen if robots took over the world, no jobs etc etc

see conflict - the last story in IRobot

Iain M Banks books

Monkey Huts Kurt Vennegurt -

SIGCSE 2012 - another outing for the Web Science Curriculum

Web Science (and me) are going to SIGCSE 2012

There is quite a bit of Web Science in the conference this year - although it is hardly taking centre stage.

This blog will be refined over the next couple of days but here we are for starters...

ACM SIGCSE is the Special Interest Croup for Computer Sciecne Education - so as someone who is working in computer science, teaching and researching in computer science and web science, and particularly interested in computer science education and the web science curriculum, you can understand that I would be pitching up to take the pulse of the community.

On top of that, I am able to present the paper which I co-wrote with Michalis Vafopoulos - now of the university of central greece, titled

Web Science: expanding the notion of Computer Science - the paper is in ECS eprints and will also be in the ACM conference proceedings.

This paper develops further some of the ideas expressed in our highly commended paper presented at the 2011 Web Science Conference in Koblenz last year  Negotiating the Web Science Curriculum through Shared Educational Artefacts which is also available from ECS  sprints , direct from the Web Science Trust, or via the ACM digital library.

Web Science Perspectives


Open Meeting of the Special Interest Group on Computers and Society (SIGCAS)

This session is hosted by the current char and the immediate past chair of the ACM Computers and Society Special Interest Group. With the interdisciplinary nature of web science it is always interesting to see how different people are talking about changes. I am hoping to have some time catching up with these folks

SIGCAS is the ACM Special Interest Group that addresses the social and ethical consequences of widespread computer usage. SIGCAS' main goals are to raise awareness about the impact that technology has on society, and to support and advance the efforts of those who are involved in this important work.

Our members are computer professionals from both industry and academia, as well as ethicists, psychologists, sociologists and others. We welcome students from a variety of disciplines. Our areas of involvement include computer ethics, universal access to computer technology, security, privacy, and reliability. We collaborate with other ACM bodies that are engaged in related work, such as USACM, SIGITE and SIGCSE.

Ben Schneiderman provides a testimonial for the group on its web site which is also testament in a way that Web Science definitely belongs in the SIGCAS community, since probably the first time that the ACM community go a formal heads up on the emerging importance of web science and its implications for the broader computer science community was in the paper in CACM which Ben published in 2007 titled Web Science: A Provocative Invitation to Computer Science.

Main Program(me) - a timeline view



Plenary Session
Keynote Speaker: Frederick P. Brooks, Jr.
I have a doctoral student (Jian Shi)  looking at students learning programming - so this is really relevant to his area of study

this presentation took the perspective of designing learning rather than delivering teaching, and there was a lot of emphasis on reframing the learning experience - for example flipping the classroom, and critique approaches.

some time was spent talking about team software engineering projects, and various items of advice on how to run sessions - allocating peer marks from a budget, advertising to get external clients - keeping team sizes at 3,4 and 5 with  preference for 4 team memnberts

recommended book to emerge Peopleware by Decosta - have put it on my Kindle Wishlist! should also put time to read on my wish list ;-)


Computer Science Curriculum 2013 – Reviewing the Strawman Report from the ACM/IEEE-CS Task Force

This is really relevant to the pitch we are making in our paper, so should be interesting.

presenters of a very useful (and well attended) session were Mehran Sahami (stanford) Steve Roach (U Texas at El Paso, Ernesto Cuadros-Vargas, San Pablo Catholic University, David Reed Creigton University

The Strawman report -

There was an introduction from Sahami, followed by a presentation of the Body of Knowledge by David Reed

The body of knowledge is chapter 5 in the Strawman report

The consultation on this has been widely representative of different sizes and types of institution, but entirely US centric.

this may not be true as far as the external reviewers were concerned.

main points which came up - revision of BOK, there is a move away from programming to principles to software development fundamentals which is independent of paradigm

seeks to broaden thinking away from equating programming fundamental with introductory programming courses

information assurance and security

parallel and districted computing

networking and comms - replaces net-centric

platform based development (elective only)

curriculum organisation

there tiered classification of BOK units

Screen Shot 2012 03 01 at 11 17 36






for each of the content areas, the topics are listed  and there is an expectation of certain learning outcomes classed under three broad categories

Screen Shot 2012 03 01 at 11 23 09





special note of interest - software developed by  Ernesto Cuadros-Vargas at San Pablo Catholic University for evaluating existing curricula against the recommended curricula






General Perspectives

Other stuff of interest

Teaching Ethics in Computer Science: Active Learning - workshop



Kent state uni are running a digital sciences interdisciplinary bachelors which may be of interest


Shneiderman, B. 2007. Web Science: A Provocative Invitation to Computer Science. Communications of the ACM, 50 (6), 25-27.

Vafopoulos, M. Web Science Subject Categorization (WSSC) Web Science Trust

Vafopoulos, M. May 16-18 2011. The Web Science Subject Categorization (WSSC). In Proceedings of the ACM WebSci '11, (Koblenz, Germany).

White, S., Croitoru, M., Bazan, S., Cerri, S., Davis, H. C., Jonquet, C., Prini, G., Scharffe, F., Staab, S., Tiropanis, T. and Vafopoulos, M. May 16-18 2011. Negotiating the Web Science Curriculum Development through Shared Educational Artefacts. In Proceedings of the ACM WebSci '11, (Koblenz, Germany).

White, S. and Vafopoulos, M.N. 2012. Web Science: expanding the notion of Computer Science. 43rd ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education, 28th February-3rd March 2012 (Rayleigh, NC, 2012).