gateway 3 lab syllabus

SyllabusThis is my last term teaching a Gateway lab course for the School of Journalism and Communications. I started iterating a lab syllabus for personal reasons some time ago, but thought that this time around I’d design one that wasn’t some hum-drum text document. Maybe the design could be better, but I wanted to keep it to a single page. This meant that there was a lot of text on the page, but I think I’ve maintained the only things students will remember anyways. Of course, I always go over this at the beginning of the course and remind students to come forward with any special accommodations they may need in completing the course (ADA regulations). This syllabus is also accompanied by a much longer and detailed syllabus students receive for the lecture component for the course, so details on what will be covered week-by-week are missing for that reason.


Never Forget

Geek Feminism Blog: “Let Us Never Forget Their Names” plus 1 more
Let Us Never Forget Their Names
Posted: 06 Dec 2013 03:12 PM PST

Content Note: This post deals with the École Polytechnique massacre and violence against women.

24 years ago today, 14 women were killed in an act of sickening violence at the École Polytechnique in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Targeted for being women and for being engineers, we must never forget their names.

Geneviève Bergeron (born 1968), civil engineering student

Hélène Colgan (born 1966), mechanical engineering student

Nathalie Croteau (born 1966), mechanical engineering student

Barbara Daigneault (born 1967), mechanical engineering student

Anne-Marie Edward (born 1968), chemical engineering student

Maud Haviernick (born 1960), materials engineering student

Maryse Laganière (born 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique’s finance department

Maryse Leclair (born 1966), materials engineering student

Anne-Marie Lemay (born 1967), mechanical engineering student

Sonia Pelletier (born 1961), mechanical engineering student

Michèle Richard (born 1968), materials engineering student

Annie St-Arneault (born 1966), mechanical engineering student

Annie Turcotte (born 1969), materials engineering student

Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (born 1958), nursing student

For those of us who grew up in Canada, the white ribbons of December were a reminder not just of the work left to do in stopping gender violence, but of the links between that violence, deeply held notions of gender roles and “women’s place”, and the importance of pioneering women’s work in science and engineering. While Montreal stands out in our timeline as one of the few acts of outright violence documented there, we must remember that the “tits or GTFO”s of the world exist on a spectrum of micro- and macro-aggressions, oppression, and violence that we must be vigilant for in our communities, online and offline.

Fellow blogger Lukas writes:

This event was a catalyst for action in Canada, spawning a monument for the deceased, a national Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada, and a White Ribbon Campaign (started by and targeted at men in order to address and confront male violence against women). For me, Dec 6th marked the beginning of my independent feminist organizing. It happened when I was just starting high school and shortly afterward a few classmates and I started a feminist club at our school. We attended local vigils for women who died at the hands of their male partners. We educated ourselves about issues facing women beyond just our small city and we organized gatherings to share this information with others. In the years that followed Dec 6th was a touchstone for doing actions that both drew attention to women and domestic violence but in recent years since moving into the tech world it’s developed a whole other layer of relevance to me.

When this date rolls around I am reminded that the outreach I do in the tech community matters, to be proud of being feminist, taking space in engineering, and also being someone who works diligently to make space for more women and underrepresented groups to join me. It may not always be through a directly violent act but there are many ways women and minority groups are being told they do not belong here and there are some of us are proving ‘them’ wrong. We are designers, engineers, problem solvers, big thinkers, dreamers, creators, makers, and people who can help make worlds both big and small better for others. We can be a pipeline for new arrivals, be mentors, be allies. On this day I am grateful for my allies both within the geek feminism community and without who work side by side with me to work on improving equality, seeking justice, and calling for the end of violence and discrimination in the technology space.

Never forget their names.

Source: Fembot Listserv

Essay on Minecraft Accepted!

This last month or so I’ve been sitting on some exciting news: the backbone of my master’s thesis has been accepted into a collection of essays on Minecraft. The chapter I am writing for the book will talk about the conventions of gender in the game as a place to think about the utility of “genderlessness” as a “gameplay mechanic.” 

What’s with the ” ” ? you might be asking yourself—this essay is inspired by Notch’s public reflection on gender, wherein he referred to gender as a “gameplay mechanic.” 

If it wasn’t for the fact that the default Minecraft character is referred to as “Minecraft Guy” and that I once jokingly answered “Steve?” when asked what his* name was, Minecraft would be a game where gender isn’t a gameplay element.

The human model is intended to represent a Human Being. Not a male Human Being or a female Human Being, but simply a Human Being. The blocky shape gives it a bit of a traditional masculine look, but adding a separate female mesh would just make it worse by having one specific model for female Human Beings and male ones. That would force players to make a decisions about gender in a game where gender doesn’t even exist.

All the other mobs in the game are genderless and usually exhibit the most prominent traits of both genders. …

Also, as a fun side fact, it means every character and animal in Minecraft is homosexual because there’s only one gender to choose from. Take THAT, homophobes!

I hope to trouble notions of who determines the gender of players and their avatars, and how the setting in Minecraft is suggestive of an interpretation of Steve’s gender (i.e. why it is, perhaps, no accident that Steve is popularly perceived as a dude). 

ImageTo anyone who may not know me personally, I am very excited about writing this essay—I openly adore the game. The first aca-paper I wanted to write for publication was conceptualized 2 years ago when the game was in one of the earlier beta versions. At the time I considered the playscape as an existential plane—perhaps if I was more into philosophy I would have gotten around to actually writing about it. Alas… 

As an aside, it’s equally exciting for me to now know who is also doing research on the game—sometimes the videogame research world seems like a small place. At Oregon, doubly so. I look forward to sharing more about the collection + who is in it as we get closer to publication deadlines. 

Disposable Mentality Needs Re-Design

Michael Ciaglo and Dave Philipps recently published an amazing story, Disposable: Surge in discharges includes wounded soldiersfor the Colorado Springs Gazette. Amazing multimedia integration, heart-wrenching story, thorough documentation—just fantastic.

Reading the story got be thinking about videogame design—what would a FPS look like that begins with the IED blast, then tries to reintegrate a soldier (un/successfully) into society? Real people are being forced through this experience by the thousands; maybe a game could provide for a more comprehensive facilitation in terms of both societal reintegration (for military) and cultural reconstitution (for non-military).

It could be a FPS and RTS integrated system in which a player has the opportunity to analyze and affect the social and legal systems in place that create barriers to re-entry. The player should also have the ability to manipulate time—move forward and backwards—in order to experiment with different solutions and mechanisms.



Remembering David

In his passing I have been asked by people who didn’t know David to explain who he was, but I don’t know how to talk about someone whose impact on my life was multiplicitous. Our relationship wasn’t of one variety or another; the experience was more like a jam session. We shared a wavelength. Simply put, David was someone who’s principals and guidance affected what I think about, and how I think and move about the world.

I’ve been writing a lot since I found out. For someone who doesn’t write often, the process has been very therapeutic. Maybe it’s ironic that I’m sharing some of my grief, but I think you should know why I am so sad, and why I will be grieving this loss for a very long time—for no other reason than to iterate the impact of a single person’s life. I think there are take-aways from that.

Continue reading “Remembering David”

Dishwashers – A Textual Analysis

Someone who has never used a dishwasher before would not immediately recognize the importance of the machine’s placement in a kitchen—near the sink, but not immediately perpendicular to an oven. It is a closed box commonly found to be approximately three feet tall and two feet deep, and requires access to plumbing and running water. It’s only “door” is one side of the box that detaches at the clasp of a latch. The door falls 90 degrees toward the ground on a hinge that positions the door perpendicular to its housing. Inside, two wire-frame racks sit with their wheels trapped on a track so that they can be pushed and pulled, horizontally, in and outside the dishwasher. The racks are wire-framed to ensure water and suds flow freely around objects during a “cycle” of sanitation and have been augmented with many small, stiff, upright wire prongs to guide the placement and distribution of dishes. When the racks are extended it is easier to see that in the bottom of the machine sits a large, heavy, plastic fan that whirls during a cycle to push water up and around dishes. Before “starting” a cycle, some variant of detergent must be manually added to a dispensary located inside the machine. The machine sanitizes dishes by heating water that is fed into the box via the plumbing, mixing the water with the detergent, and pushing the suds around the inside of the closed box with enough force to simultaneously strip food particles off of the dishes without breaking the dishes themselves.

The dishwasher in my house is black; it’s color and texture of the plastics and aluminum front coordinate with the refrigerator and oven. The inside is white, slightly discolored from years of use that expose the plastic to heat, chemicals, and—naturally—food particles. In the bottom-most rack sits a caddy for silverware. Many of the wire prongs are inexplicably bent in odd directions. Fixed to the door is a small housing the size of a credit card; it has a simple clasp that releases during a wash to deposit soap into the wash water—provide that you remember to fill it before starting the cycle. When the machine is running, its noises reverberate throughout the house. The sloshing of water running through it dominates the soundscape within a ten-foot radius. The machine is commanded by a modest panel on the outside of it, along the door’s front siding. After a load has been sanitized, a green light glows brightly on the panel to confirm its done duty.

In any other household, perhaps, the dishwasher is a sanitization tool. It performs human labor; it is a mindless automaton that augments everyday life in an effort to preserve water and time. The privilege of ownership comes at a price between $200 and $3,800, dish-loader not included. In my home the dishwasher is the most political object in the house. In the early days of our living agreement each house member vocalized the high value they place on a clean kitchen (dishes included). The house culture, consequently, reflects this in the rotation of biweekly chores that mediate communal spaces. My roommates and I share dish ware, and 3/4 of our collection dirties in day-to-day consumption. To ensure that dishes are always clean, two of the four chores in rotation deal with the dishwasher on a daily basis, either in the form of loading or unloading. A member’s diligence to these duties is tied to their relationships with other housemates—neglecting one’s duty to clean or unload dishes harbors a significant social penalty. The machine polices the individual’s duty to cleanup after oneself; it mediates the level of acceptable sanitation within the kitchen. When a house member neglects to move their dirty dishes into the machine, their action is perceived by others as rebellious to accepted norms and practices adopted by the community.

The dishwasher is by no means the only household tool used to mediate or control human behavior; it is but one that normalizes and standardizes notions of upper-middle class sanitation. The absence of a dishwasher within an American home reflects on the socio-economic class of the home’s inhabitants; the cheaper one’s dwellings, the less likely a dishwasher is part of the kitchen floor plan.

My partner and I are in the market for a new place to live in the coming year. We are making a point to eliminate from our pool of potential homes places that do not have a dishwasher. Perhaps this says more about our perception of an acceptable living standard than it does the real utility of an autonomous dish sanitizer.