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Barbie book about programming tells girls they need boys to code for them by Aja Romano

dj, 20/11/2014 - 13:13

She's been a swimsuit cover model and a human trafficking victim, but Barbie has never really been touted as a working professional. The latest affront to basic decency in gendered toy marketing comes from a Barbie book that tells girls they can't be game developers or programmers.

The book is bafflingly called Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer. It was written by Susan Marenco and published by Random House. Despite its encouraging title, Marenco's book actually tells preteen girls that Barbie can only contribute to the design of the game she's building.
 

READ MORE:
Geek girls remix that sexist Barbie book


This book, released last June, was paired with another career-minded book called Barbie: I Can Be an Actress. All five reviews for the two-book set on Amazon are from baffled parents wondering why a story called I Can Be a Computer Engineer is sending the opposite message. In fact, according to the site's only three-star review (the others each give one star), it might more accurately be called "I Can Manipulate Boys Into Programming While I Sit Back and Take Credit." Here's how the three-star reviewer, Roxanne M, describes it:

Basically what happens is she designs a game (but can't code it without her guy friends' help), infects her own and her sister's computers with a virus by accident (lolol), has her guy friends help her fix both of them, and then takes all the credit for the game and fixed computers in the end.

Oy. You'd think that, with a plot that hackneyed, Barbie would at least get a better title. After all, "I Can Be a Game Designer" is still a pretty cool title! But alas, as blogger and comedy writer Pamela Ribon quickly discovered when she picked up the book for the first time yesterday, it isn't intended to give girls even that much empowerment.

As Ribon describes in an increasingly cringe-inducing writeup about the book, Barbie is introduced as the designer of stereotypically "girly" games featuring cute little animals. Barbie's work resembles Pet Rescue or similar mobile games—you know, not the ones "real gamers" make.


 

That's OK, though, because Barbie is apparently perfectly happy with her second-class status. “I’m only creating the design ideas,” Barbie tells Skipper. “I’ll need Steven and Brian’s help to turn it into a real game!” She's laughing when she says it, though, so we're assured that she's totally OK with her fate. Barbie appears to embrace her life as a pink-clad artist who gets waylaid by cute robot puppies and never makes a dent in the tech culture gender gap.


 

From there, the book unleashes a litany of sexist stereotypes, already all too familiar in the world of preteen girl marketing. Barbie signals her geek cred by wearing her flash drive in a giant pink heart-shaped necklace. Too bad that flash drive has a virus. 


 

Barbie is also too dumb to notice that the virus exists before it crashes her computer. Maybe she doesn't have malware protection? She also can't restart her computer without her sister's help. 

It just gets better (worse) from there: Barbie does indeed accidentally give Skipper a virus, and Skipper's reaction, as described by Ribon, makes her sound like an alien with no investment in her schoolwork or emotional attachment to her music collection:

“I forgot to back up my homework assignment!” cries Skipper. “And all my music files are lost, too!”

“I’m so sorry, Skipper,” says Barbie. “I have to run off to school now. But I promise to find a way to fix your laptop.”

“You better!” Skipper replies as she playfully hits Barbie with a pillow.

To recap the sophisticated narrative: Skipper has just lost her homework, all her music files, and her laptop, but the only thing she can think about now is a pillow fight.


 

Later, after receiving instructions from her female computer-science teacher, Barbie tries fixing her computer alone. That's when the aforementioned Steven and Brian arrive and tell her that things will "go faster" if she lets them help. Ribon points out that while the book portrays them as perfectly nice dudes, they represent the actual systemic marginalization that she and countless other women have experienced in the tech industry:

Steven and Brian don’t value design as much as code. Steven and Brian represent every time I was talked over and interrupted — every time I didn’t post a code solution in a forum because I didn’t want to spend the next 72 years defending it. Steven and Brian make more money than I do for doing the same thing. And at the same time, Steven and Brian are nice guys.

As if all that weren't enough, at the end of the book Barbie really does take all credit for the work that Steven and Brian do. She decides, without any actual coding experience, that "I guess I can be an engineer!"

Ribon notes that since the other story is juxtaposed and inverted against the engineering story, the book actually has one last passive-aggressive insult for girls reading it: "When you read Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer, it appears that you are so fucking dumb, you’re reading Barbie: I Can Be an Actress upside down."

Sadly, toys for girls are often blatantly offensive in their use of gendered stereotypes, if they aren't ignored altogether in the rush to produce action figures for boys. In that context, this kind of stereotyping is to be expected from a no-name toy product. But Barbie has been running its "I can be..." campaign for several years, explicitly to help empower girls by telling them they can be everything from professional surfers to the President. Sure, it's just class president, but we'll cut her some slack—assuming she didn't bribe boys to vote for her by offering to let them undo her perky pink hair bow.

At some point, maybe Mattel should just quit fronting and abandon the pretense that Barbie—whose body proportions are so unrealistic that a woman reportedly removed two of her ribs just to try to match them—has anything empowering to offer young girls. Mattel has already featured Barbie on a Sports Illustrated cover. After that, no amount of career ambition can mask where her true cultural value lies. Sadly, it's not in her programming skills.

The Forgotten Female Programmers Who Created Modern Tech by Laura Sydell

dg, 19/10/2014 - 14:16

Original post here

 

 

Jean Jennings (left) and Frances Bilas set up the ENIAC in 1946. Bilas is arranging the program settings on the Master Programmer.

Courtesy of University of Pennsylvania

If your image of a computer programmer is a young man, there's a good reason: It's true. Recently, many big tech companies revealed how few of their female employees worked in programming and technical jobs. Google had some of the highest rates: 17 percent of its technical staff is female.

 

It wasn't always this way. Decades ago, it was women who pioneered computer programming — but too often, that's a part of history that even the smartest people don't know.

I took a trip to ground zero for today's computer revolution, Stanford University, and randomly asked over a dozen students if they knew who were the first computer programmers. Almost none knew.

"I'm in computer science," says a slightly embarrassed Stephanie Pham. "This is so sad."

A few students, like Cheng Dao Fan, get close. "It's a woman, probably," she says searching her mind for a name. "It's not necessarily [an] electronic computer. I think it's more like a mechanic computer."

She's thinking of Ada Lovelace, also known as the Countess of Lovelace, born in 1815. Walter Isaacson begins his new book, The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution, with her story.

i

Augusta Ada, Countess of Lovelace, was the daughter of poet Lord Byron. The computer language ADA was named after her in recognition of her pioneering work with Charles Babbage.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

"Ada Lovelace is Lord Byron's child, and her mother, Lady Byron, did not want her to turn out to be like her father, a romantic poet," says Isaacson. So Lady Byron "had her tutored almost exclusively in mathematics as if that were an antidote to being poetic."

Lovelace saw the poetry in math. At 17, she went to a London salon and met Charles Babbage. He showed her plans for a machine that he believed would be able to do complex mathematical calculations. He asked Lovelace to write about his work for a scholarly journal. In her article, Lovelace expresses a vision for his machine that goes beyond calculations.

She envisioned that "a computer can do anything that can be noted logically," explains Isaacson. "Words, pictures and music, not just numbers. She understands how you take an instruction set and load it into the machine, and she even does an example, which is programming Bernoulli numbers, an incredibly complicated sequence of numbers."

Babbage's machine was never built. But his designs and Lovelace's notes were read by people building the first computer a century later.

The women who would program one of the world's earliest electronic computers, however, knew nothing of Lovelace and Babbage.

As part of the oral history project of the Computer History Museum, Jean Jennings Bartik recalled how she got the job working on that computer. She was doing calculations on rocket and canon trajectories by hand in 1945. A job opened to work on a new machine.

"This announcement came around that they were looking for operators of a new machine they were building called the ENIAC," recalls Bartik. "Of course, I had no idea what it was, but I knew it wasn't doing hand calculation."

Bartik was one of six female mathematicians who created programs for one of the world's first fully electronic general-purpose computers. Isaacson says the men didn't think it was an important job.

"Men were interested in building, the hardware," says Isaacson, "doing the circuits, figuring out the machinery. And women were very good mathematicians back then."

Isaacson says in the 1930s female math majors were fairly common — though mostly they went off to teach. But during World War II, these skilled women signed up to help with the war effort.

Bartik told a live audience at the Computer History Museum in 2008 that the job lacked prestige. The ENIAC wasn't working the day before its first demo. Bartik's team worked late into the night and got it working.

"They all went out to dinner at the announcement," she says. "We weren't invited and there we were. People never recognized, they never acted as though we knew what we were doing. I mean, we were in a lot of pictures."

At the time, though, media outlets didn't name the women in the pictures. After the war, Bartik and her team went on to work on the UNIVAC, one of the first major commercial computers.

The women joined up with Grace Hopper, a tenured math professor who joined the Navy Reserve during the war. Walter Isaacson says Hopper had a breakthrough. She found a way to program computers using words rather than numbers — most notably a program language called COBOL.

"You would be using a programming language that would allow you almost to just give it instructions, almost in regular English, and it would compile it for whatever hardware it happened to be," explains Isaacson. "So that made programming more important than the hardware, 'cause you could use it on any piece of hardware."

i

Grace Hopper originated electronic computer automatic programming for the Remington Rand Division of Sperry Rand Corp.

AP

Hopper retired from the Navy Reserve as a rear admiral. An act of Congress allowed her to stay past mandatory retirement age. She did become something of a public figure and even appeared on the David Letterman show in 1986. Letterman asks her, "You're known as the Queen of Software. Is that right?"

"More or less," says the 79-year-old Hopper.

But it was also just about this time that the number of women majoring in computer science began to drop, from close to 40 percent to around 17 percent now. There are a lot of theories about why this is so. It was around this time that Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were appearing in the media; personal computers were taking off.

Computer science degrees got more popular, and boys who had been tinkering with computer hardware at home looked like better candidates to computer science departments than girls who liked math, says Janet Abbate, a professor at Virginia Tech who has studied this topic.

"It's kind of the classic thing," she says. "You pick people who look like what you think a computer person is, which is probably a teenage boy that was in the computer club in high school."

For decades the women who pioneered the computer revolution were often overlooked, but not in Isaacson's book about the history of the digital revolution.

"When they have been written out of the history, you don't have great role models," says Isaacson. "But when you learn about the women who programmed ENIAC or Grace Hopper or Ada Lovelace ... it happened to my daughter. She read about all these people when she was in high school, and she became a math and computer science geek."

Lovelace, the mathematician, died when she was 36. The women who worked on the ENIAC have all passed away, as has Grace Hopper. But every time you write on a computer, play a music file or add up a number with your phone's calculator, you are using tools that might not exist without the work of these women.

Isaacson's book reminds us of that fact. And perhaps knowing that history will show a new generation of women that programming is for girls.

Gender and Technology Pop-up Institute

dj, 02/10/2014 - 22:07

APPLICATIONS ARE NOW OPEN!

Tactical Tech, in collaboration with the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), are organising a 7-day event for up to 50 women and trans people to learn tools and techniques for increasing their understanding and practice in digital security and privacy and to become digital security trainers and privacy advocates.

When?
December 1-8, 2014.

Where?
Berlin, Germany

Who is the event for?
This is for influential and vocal women and trans people, who are women's rights activists and/or net activists, and who would like to be trained as digital security trainers and advocates of privacy in order to strengthen their work and the local networks/organisations they are related to.

If you are interested in joining this event, at least four of the following criteria should describe you:

  • You take an active lead in your communities and networks, know your way around the internet, and also know that security and privacy problems can threaten your advocacy and activism and needs to be addressed.
  • You are comfortable with public speaking or training groups, and would like to expand your knowledge and skills, to be able to advise your communities and networks on issues around privacy and data protection.
  • You have strong online and offline networks and support other organisations and individuals who could benefit from digital security and privacy advice.
  • You are the kind of person who understands the tech, or are a techie/hacker, but don't necessarily know how to explain digital security and privacy issues so that others can understand and practice it.
  • You understand and practise digital security and privacy but want to update and further strengthen your tech and training skills.
  • You are a workshop facilitator or are training on closely related topics and consider yourself tech-savvy, and want to add digital security and privacy from a gender perspective to your skill-set.

What will happen there?
The main aim of the Pop-up Institute is to build a community of digital security trainers and privacy advocates, taking into account the gendered dimensions of privacy and security.

The Institute will provide you with tools, resources and techniques that you can use in your own workshops or trainings, and it will enable you to understand the issues and communicate more effectively.  

The Institute will run for one week, with three days dedicated to digital security-technology  training (catering to both new and more practised users of digital security), and three days dedicated to training of trainers (ToT) and advocacy tools and techniques.

In the latter half you will be able to develop your skills and knowledge so that you can conduct your own digital security training or  convene formal and informal conversations about privacy, risks and vulnerabilities online and offline, and how to mitigate these.  The group will split at times to accommodate different skill sets and learning outcomes.

Everyone will work together during this event to participate in co-designing curricula and resource materials with Tactical Tech and APC for use with other women and trans people, and movements around gender justice and freedom of information and expression.

What will happen after the event is over?
Participants attending the Institute are expected to take what they have learned and apply it to their work within their own communities or networks.

Depending on your focus during the event, this would include activities like 'flash trainings', advising on privacy issues, running your own digital security trainings, raising awareness through writing, online or offline campaigns and so on.

Participants are also expected to participate in the community of digital security trainers and privacy advocates that will emerge from this Institute by providing feedback and support to its members.  This community will document its activities and share its processes to enable other women and trans people to engage with digital security and privacy issues and practices.  

How will the participants for the Institute be selected?
All the applications will be reviewed by an advisory group comprised of APC, Tactical Tech and a few experts working in overlapping sectors of gender, technology and advocacy. They will select people based on the criteria listed above, their skill level and experience, the networks and communities they are professionally connected to, and will ensure group diversity.

How much will this cost me?
Tactical Tech and APC will support 45 people from emerging networks in Africa, post-Soviet states, the Arabic-speaking region, South & South-East Asia, Latin America and the Carribean to attend this event. We will cover travel and accommodation costs, and support you in obtaining a visa, if required. We are also inviting an additional 5-10 self- or organisation-funded individuals (from any region) to join us.

Will there be interpreters?
English will be the working language of the event and no interpreters/translators will be available. Therefore, before applying you should carefully consider whether you feel at ease listening to and speaking English in large group environments. The Gender and Technology Pop-up Institute will enable the development of new trainings on digital security and privacy in 2015 in specific regional locations depending on the demand. Watch this space! For updates, sign up to Tactical Tech's monthly magazine, In the Loop (sent by email and also available online).

Where can I sign up?
If you are interested in attending this week-long institute, please fill in the APPLICATION FORM

Any further questions
If you have any further questions, please contact us at: gpscamp@tacticaltech.org

Lelacoders presenta en Ministry of Hacking / Graz

dv, 26/09/2014 - 09:33

LelaCoders / HerStory

An animation about the HerStory of computer sciences

Spideralex

MINISTRY OF HACKING

Eröffnung: 

Samstag, 27. September 2014 - 14:30

Laufzeit: 

27/09/2014 bis 28/11/2014

Eintritt: 

frei

For decades, research on gender and technology has highlighted the under-representation of women in technology. Although sub-research on the field studying women contributing to free software and hackers cultures is very limited, it also points to women’s low participation rates. However, behind these figures and the discourses that accompany them, other, hidden situations may appear: on the one hand, the existence of some women who do participate and might have been invisible before, on the other the widespread assumption that women are not interested or have an innate inability to engage with technology on a deeper level.

Lelacoders is an activist and cyberfeminist research piloted by Donestech (CAT) questioning why women are underrepresented in computer sciences, studying which practices and initiatives have been successful in overcoming barriers, and also which analyzes the experiences and subjectivities of women programmers who have chosen to use free software for their techno-political practices.

Besides, the HerStory animation aims to actively oppose the prejudice that there are no significant women behind the development of sciences and technologies. This is the result of a systematic negation and invisibility of women in those specific histories. This drives to a lack of role models which perpetuate the women off-the-loop relation with ICT. Finding and making visible those stories is an important element to re-appropriate historical and collective memory and enable the emergence of new imaginaries which we hoped to be very much radical and feminists!

AutorIn: 

LelaCoders/Donestech

Link: 

http://vimeo.com/user8966514

https://n-1.cc/g/donestech+lelacoders

http://vimeo.com/73930200

https://n-1.cc/pages/view/1782589/herstory-text-on-air-work-in-progress-v-10

http://www.donestech.net

Kooperationen/Team: 

donestech.net
acracia
videohackers

Primer texto sobre Cyberfeminismo?

dm, 16/09/2014 - 16:30

Se ha abierto un hilo de conversacion en la lista femtechnet acerca de cuando aparecio por primera vez la palabra Cyberfeminismo. Por ahora parece ser que seria en este texto escrito en los 80's (cuando exactamente?) por Nancy Paterson.  Os lo copiamos .. que lo disfruten.

CYBERFEMINISM

In her latest incarnation she is exceedingly voluptuous. The scalpel blades beneath her nails are discreetly retractable. The arm twisted up behind her back is, at first glance, barely noticeable. Meet Molly in William Gibson's novel Neuromancer, or Melanie Griffith in the film Cherry 2000 - sexy, tough, aloof, and ultimately a fantasy. (1)

The power which these women wield is evil, technological and, of course, seductive. Any influence or control which they exert is clearly misguided or accidental. The powerful woman, bitch/goddess, ice queen, android, is represented in popular culture as a 21st century Pandora. And the box which she hold this time is electronic and very definitely plugged in. Linking the erotic representation of women with the often terrible cultural impact of new electronic technologies is not a new concept.

Cinema addressed the desire to anthropomorphize machines and vilify women in the process as early as 1927 in Fritz Lang's cult classic Metropolis. Sex, danger, women and machines: the plot of virtually every futuristic, sci-fi movie in which women play any role at all. Cyberfemmes are everywhere, but cyberfeminists are few and far between. Ubiquitous and omniscient, the significance of new electronic technologies, their development, design, implementation and dissemination, cannot be ignored and must not be underestimated. Whether directly or indirectly, issues of economics, class, race, nationality, personality and gender, are driven and defined by new electronic technologies. Immersed as we are in the popular applications of these new technologies and media, their long-term and more profound impact become invisible.

In The Media Lab: Inventing the Future at MIT, Nicholas Negroponte is quoted as saying: 'Once a new technology rolls over you, if you're not part of the steamroller, you're part of the road.' (2) Without celebrating the military-industrial complex responsible for the origin and development of these new technologies, what alternatives are left for women who are not satisfied with the roles which patriarchal culture has designated? Certainly not the association of the feminine with 'nature' advocated by eco-feminists and theorists such as Camille Paglia. It is no longer possible or desirable for women to capitulate and retreat to this position. The progress of new electronic technologies will leave them in the dust. Women are not alone in the need to understand how, why and by whom our criteria and confidence for understanding ourselves, each other and our relation to the world, has been stripped away. The dissolution of conventional concepts of time and space through new electronic media has contributed to the acceptance and success of PoMo punk nihilism, pluralism, diversity and the disappearance of dominant history. Simultaneously, we are witnessing a crisis of both individual and cultural identity as we are faced the interminable task of incorporating new electronic media into our lives without handing over control.

Cyberfeminism as a philosophy has the potential to create a poetic, passionate, political identity and unity without relying on a logic and language of exclusion or appropriation. It offers a route for reconstructing feminist politics through theory and practice with a focus on the implications feminist politics through theory and practice with a focus on the implications of new technology rather than on factors which are divisive. It rejects the trend toward carefully crafted descriptions of people which rely on more than a few adjectives. At issue is not whether a woman can be accurately described as a lesbian-separatist, pacifist, woman of colour, but rather, whether we can recognize and address the personal and political impact which new electronic technologies and media have on daily life. New electronic technologies are currently utilized to manipulate and define our experiences.

Cyberfeminism does not accept as inevitable current applications of new technologies which impose and maintain specific cultural, political and sexual stereotypes. Empowerment of women in the field of new electronic media can only result from the demystification of technology, and the appropriation of access to these tools. Cyberfeminism is essentially subversive. Vancouver-based author William Gibson is credited with having introduced the word 'cyberspace' into popular culture, in his novel Neuromancer, defining it as a 'consensual hallucination.' (3) In fact, this word may be used to describe electronic space in all of its manifestations, ranging from virtual reality to the telecommunications infrastructure or internet. As illustrated by the recent U.S. Clinton/Gore initiative to regulate the internet or Information Superhighway, governments are beginning to recognize in public policy the commercial potential of media which have been under development for several decades.

Predictably, the involvement of feminists and other marginalized groups in this process of development and design has not been solicited or encouraged, either in public or in private initiatives. In the very near future, lines of cultural influence will be drawn based on computer access and literacy. It is becoming the new political divide - those who have access to computers or are computer literate vs. those who are not. The North American Free Trade Agreement, workplace automation, and legislation regarding the 'Information Superhighway,' are generally supported by those individuals, organizations and corporations which have and promote access.

Those who have access and/or are computer literate but do not share enthusiasm for these types of policies and initiatives, are severely isolated as they have no one to unite with in their quest for well thought out socio-economic reforms. Those who do not have access, are not computer literate, and in fact, are often technophobic, are critical, but not necessarily constructive in their analysis of new electronic technologies. New electronic technologies represent a magic circle from which women have been traditionally excluded. It is true that there are definite barriers to our participation in the discourse shaping the tools and the applications of new electronic media.

Women are largely absent from the institutions, networks and structures which determine where and when new technological applications will be developed, and how the potential of these new media will be described. However, lack of initiative, aggression, or determination should no longer be utilized to justify our continued exclusion. One factor contributing to the discouragement of women in this field may be traced to the historical foundations of these media. The internet, a worldwide computer network, was originally a small military network of four computers known as ARPANET. This computer network was designed to research the feasibility of creating a decentralized system of communication which could survive a nuclear war. Similarly, VR (virtual reality) also had militaristic origins, having been initially envisioned as a tool for battlefield simulations. These origins are clearly acknowledged in every book and article describing current and potential applications of these systems.

However, this candor is deceptive, as no links are made between the origins of these media and the future towards which they are being driven. It is obvious that underlying assumptions are manifest in current popular applications of these media. The evidence is in the arcades, where video games such as the Sega Genesis 'Night Trap' challenges players to save scantily clad sorority sisters from a gang of hooded killers. Margaret Benston, a Canadian activist with a background in engineering and an interest in the social and political dimensions of science and technology, in a chapter of Chris Kramarae's book Technology & Women's Voices titled 'Women's Voices/Men's Voices: Technology as Language,' describes technology as a language for action and self expression. (4) Access to machinery and technology has been culturally sex-typed as masculine. In maintaining control over new technologies and by promoting and adhering to a technological world view, men have attempted to silence us.

Whether or not we agree whether this world view is appropriate, it is clear that women's' absence from this forum is a problem. Despite these obstacles, women are increasingly successful in breaking through and stepping inside the circle. Particularly in philosophy and cultural theory, an uneasy realization is dawning that mans' haphazard mastery of nature has not provided an adequate foundation for a vision worthy of leading us into the next century. Across this bleak and plundered landscape cyberfeminist theorists are emerging, speaking and gathering. A new chain of beings and being in the world is constructed; they reshape each other, they redefine themselves, and they reclaim new electronic technologies for women. Virtual reality and cyberspace - the technologies for living vicariously. Virtual reality describes a wide range of experiences, including the transformation of two-dimensional objects and spaces through media such as holography; installations which use multiple video monitors or projections to surround the viewer; and the 'Hollywood' definition with which we are becoming increasingly familiar - head mounted display, touch sensitive gloves and/or full body suit. Telepresencing and cyberspace, where telecommunications networks enable instantaneous interaction from remote locations, have also been commonly described as virtual spaces.

The proof of the impact of such technologies (which have stretched and twisted our understanding of time and space as well as the limitations of our vulnerable, physical, human bodies) may be measured by the paranoia which they have inspired. Cyberspace has become a fertile breeding ground for multiple personalities, flaming, electronic stalking and gender-bending at the very least. The body, in virtual space, is no mere user-interface; VR offers the chance to trade-in, remodel, or even leave behind the physical nature with which we are, in reality, burdened. Outside forces which act upon us, impose restrictions, are gone. Gravity, and the laws of physics, gone. Entropy and the passage of time become meaningless concepts. Women have always, by virtue or necessity, been adept at free fall, grounding themselves in personal physical experience.

This skill will serve well as we venture into other dimensions and back home again. However skilled we become at navigating these spaces and temporarily leaving our bodies behind, it is doubtful that we will ever achieve immortality. Virtuality is patriarchy's blind spot. Paris Is Burning, Jennie Livingstone's film about gender, identity and style, documents what was surely (before the introduction of technology-based VR into pop culture), the ultimate virtual experience - walk down a runway, through Harlem, or down Wall Street for that matter, in drag. Transsexual and cross-dressing 'walkers,' competing in the categories of 'executive,' 'college boy,' and 'fashion model,' recognize that the successful embodiment or representation of stereotypes is measured by both appearance and attitude. 'Realness' has always been the unspoken criteria for 'passing,' and women (those who have avoided being institutionalized for not 'fitting in') have become experts at that. Through Virtual Reality, deconstruction of gender is entering the realm of pop culture, and this link with new electronic technology has implications for the philosophy of cyberfeminism. Technological convergence describes the unification of computers, television and communications technologies. However, convergence describes much more than the evolution towards an environment in which electronic technologies are pervasive. Convergence is happening on more than a technological level - it is happening on a metaphysical level as well. Cultural convergence may be described as the meeting or merging of art and technology.

Cyberfeminism is entering an arena in which much more than gender is up for grabs. Multimedia, interactive video, virtual reality; for women these new technologies present opportunities to break out of prescribed roles and away from scripted dialogues. A rabbit hole through which we may tumble. Our real experiences, when not denied, have been acknowledged only in their immediacy. Our individual histories and the attempt to isolate or remove ourselves from a patriarchal context, have always been undervalued and undermined. We have learned to live from hand to mouth. Transgressing order and linear organization of information, cyberfeminists recognize the opportunity to redefine 'reality,' on our terms and in our interest and realize that the electronic communications infrastructure or 'matrix' may be the ideal instrument for a new breed of feminists to pick up and play.

Notes

(1) Gibson, William. (1984). Neuromancer. New York, NY: Ace Books. p. 25

(2) Brand, Stewart (Ed.) (1987). The Media Lab: Inventing the Future at MIT. New York, NY: Viking. p. 9

(3) Gibson, William. (1984). Neuromancer. New York, NY: Ace Books. p. 51

(4) Kramarae, C. (Ed.). Technology & Women's Voices. London, UK: Routledge. p. 15