October 5, 2008

The OpEd Project, take 2

Category: Politics,Wholesome — Biella @ 2:48 pm

I just got back from the OpEd project/workshop. In short, it was worth every penny and if you are interested in writing an OpEp and riding the public debate bandwagon, this is the perfect place to start. Why? Well, first because the world of punditry and debate needs more diversity and women and this project is fundamentally geared toward getting more women into the system and in a no nonsense, accessible, inspiring, and yet utterly pragmatic fashion.

First, if you don’t know the stats concerning women, they are depressingly dismal. For example, 9 out of 10 submissions are from male writers and 88% of published pieces are from male authors (and this is matched by all sorts of other disturbing figures about the lack of women non-fiction writers, TV producers etc). In the OpEd field, the main problem, in short, is that women are not even trying.

Today’s full-day workshop was enlivening and engaging. Catherine Orenstein, the founder and dynamic leader of the project, dusts away a lot of the mystery of this writing genre and equips participants with some basic skills and tactics to get you started (then, in my opinion, it takes a fair bit of work and persistence to master, just like any type of writing but it is not rocket science either).

What I like most about the project is its utter pragmatism. Cathy knows that once there are enough women in the system, the project can close shop, for it will be other women who will take over the reigns and inspire other women to write them (and informally mentor them as well). It is well known, for example, that once there is a critical mass of women, let’s say in the work place, then these women are the point people for recruitment so that the company does not need to actively recruit women.

I have heard this argument before and have had a number of personal experiences that confirmed this fact. Last year, for example, a student from my department was organizing a conference and he could not, for the life of him, find any female speakers or discussants, despite asking a number of them who declined because of other commitments. He had ran out of options, that is, until he talked to me. In less than a minute, I rattled off like 5-7 other possible choices and within a day, we had 2 on board. It is clear that women know other women (and many are friends) so the best person to go to to tap into are other women.

In terms of the actual writing of an OpEd, I am not sure I will be writing one anytime soon in so far as I need to really pump out a few more academic articles as the future of my jobs depends on them. But I may write a draft version of one that I will hammer into finer shape if a timely news event arises. Otherwise, I look forward to spending more time on this genre, especially once my book is done and know that if I am going to stay in academia, I will for sure make space for this type of thinking and writing.

Finally if you are interested in attending one of the public, women-only seminars and you know me, let them know you learned about the project through me, and you will get discount.

Slowly Blogging Away

Category: Academic,Books/Articles,IP Law,Politics,Teaching — Biella @ 3:25 am

The students in my Hacker Culture and Politics have now been at the question of politics and ethics in the world of hacking for over a month. I think a pretty solid foundation has been built and now we are getting into much nittier grittier issues, like intellectual property law. The latest entry is on IP and provides an excellent sense of what we talked about and what we covered in class and in the readings.

I am excited to see the class blog develop, if nothing else, because it gives a pretty good sense of the topics we cover and what conversations we have. I used to find it frustrating to have classes literally vanish away after they were done and yet so much labor and time had been put in them! This type of blogging is important as it can provide a tangible and somewhat fixed medium for capturing and preserving what happened (and then free you from having to save boxes of notes that you can collect during college).

I know there were a number of times I really really wanted to recall something from one of my undergraduate classes, but since I had finally thrown away the big old boxes of notes and readings from those days, there was no place to look. It was just not practical to lug my boxes of notes from place to place, move to move especially when I only wanted to take a look every few years for maybe one thing. With this type of blog, there is a record of what happened for everyone to share.

That said, I am faced with a problem when I teach this class again. Since we provide what I think is a pretty decent account of what we are doing, I will most probably have to put down the blog for a period of time when I am teaching it again though of course the syllabus and readings will also change to some degree.

October 4, 2008

If you complain…

Category: Academic,Politics — Biella @ 4:12 pm

One thing I am known to do is complain how the public/academic discourse surrounding/around technology/computers is overwhelmingly male (Lessig, Benkler, Zittrain, Shirky and I can go on and on). But one day I realized that if I am bothered by it, I should do more than talk the (often) empty talk of complaint. So I decided to enroll in a day long training for writing OpEds, which kicks off tomorrow.

I am not sure if engaging in public debate is what I want to do, mostly because of piling more work and time commitments on a very full plate but I am starting to explore what it means and what it may take to leave the Ivory Tower. Here is a little more info about the OpEd Project:

The OpEd Project – featured by The New York Times, Feministing.com and Katie Couric on CBS News – is an initiative to expand public debate, with an immediate focus on targeting and training women experts across the nation to project their voices on the op-ed pages of major newspapers, online sites and other key forums of public discourse. The lack of diversity on the op-ed pages – which are a source for all other media – deprives the public of robust, democratic debate, especially important in this space which is intended to showcase divergent opinions. It also means we are only hearing from a tiny sliver of the nation’s best thinkers. Imagine a baseball team of only pitchers – how well would it do?