Recording by AlterConf and Post Production by Confreaks
Unconscious attitudes and behaviors operate as barriers to properly recruiting, hiring, and retaining more black talent in the tech and gaming industries. I will present and discuss scenarios that block diversity through the complementary lenses of racism and classism, especially as it relates to the lack of diverse participation of "lower class" African Americans. I'll lay out a few scenarios and talk a bit about how racism and classism contribute.
Unwelcoming, unaccommodating, or ostensibly overly homogenous work or event environments that are difficult to enter or endure by some black people; some women's rights goals are being met, but huge inequities still exist in comparison to black women; the need to recognize and stop assuming that white women's victories are victories for all women. Appropriating, incorporating, signifying and re-contextualizing African American imagery - how symbols, gestures and cultural tropes are used by middle and upper class white culture identified outsiders; a lack of cultural or class sensitivity combined with a general insistence on practicing political correctness can be perceived as a weapon used against black people of a different social class; and more.
Less than 2 years ago a16z invested $15M into RapGenius and I thought, "I would have never thought of creating a website to translate rap lyrics." It was a service I largely didn’t need. I’m not a Hip-Hop expert but most rap lyrics reference elements of the black community, culture and livelihood, a scene I’m tremendously familiar with. It made absolute sense that it’d never appear to me as a problem that needed to be solved, which led me to wonder, What problems are there in the world that the African-American and Latino experience and perspective privy us to? How can our unique experiences and background shape our understanding of technological innovation? Similarly, Tristan Walker made a big splash into the tech startup scene last year with his newest product, Bevel. His earliest critics couldn’t find value in something as simple as a razor but through Tristan’s perspective, there was nothing on the market that targeted and solved the haircare problems of men of color, men who typically have curly and kinky hair. Like the founders of RapGenius, Walker and minorities like him bring a unique perspective, also one that presents a huge business opportunity. With the African-American buying power already at $1 trillion and the population of people of color in the United States steadily growing, the simple diversification of Silicon Valley would be a game changer.
The brand "Always" ran a campaign where they asked people to act out charades with the phrase "like a girl" tacked onto the end. Participants were asked to do things like run "like a girl", hit a baseball bat "like a girl", fight "like a girl". All the participating adults in the study took the phrase "like a girl" to mean "ineffectually" and "wimpily" and "badly", and acted out their charades accordingly. When asking young girls to run "like a girl" they took "like a girl" to mean "as hard as possible", and acted out the phrases accordingly. Heartbreakingly, at a certain age, we come to think of the phrase "like a girl" to be synonymous with incompetence. Society holds women to a standard of femininity, while devaluing and dismissing people who perform femininity. This presentation is intended to bring to attention the biases we have against people who present as feminine, especially in tech. I will use my personal experiences of being a feminine-presenting person in the male-dominated field of technology, which include being told I won't be taken seriously if keep pushing my hair behind my ear during academic presentations, my outfits being a daily topic of discussion over lunch in a research group where i was the only woman in the group, and repeatedly being assumed to be non-technical because I'm wearing a flowery dress. Let's talk about how we can work towards making tech a place where people feel comfortable presenting as any gender.
I'm a black person who has been successful in tech by anyone's standards. I felt fortunate, and I've rarely felt any overt obstacles to my progress. But there was a point when I realized that there was a reason behind this. I've made sacrifices to be accepted into an industry where people who look like me are woefully under represented. I've become distant from my culture, my heritage and my own personal history, in order to be more palatable to a white standard. This leaves me feeling stuck between 2 worlds. Obviously not able to pass for white (and not wanting to), but also not "black enough" for those who look like me. I want to try to convey this sacrifice and it's consequences in hopes that others in my position feel some solidarity.
Statistically, 1 in 5 of us suffers from mental illness. Unfortunately, the stigma that follows sickness of the mind keeps discussions surrounding mental wellness to a minimum in the workplace. I’d like to tell you about my experience as a female engineer who openly shared details of my personal struggle with depression and anxiety with a founder of the company I work for. This spurred a company-wide presentation on ways that emotional and mental hurdles can affect work, different treatment options, and best practices for supporting coworkers. I want to talk about what Olark did to make me feel comfortable taking the leap of faith, what you can look for (and push for) at your workplace, and offer an example of success for those who struggle with mental obstacles.
There is a clean narrative that the games industry is trying to push when it comes to diversity looks like for the medium. The same kinds of games with different people in them. Young girls learning how to code to one day join the ranks of developers on big-budget productions. More people buying products. The kinds of diversity this celebrates is just further proof of an unwillingness to change: games still need to look a certain kind of polished, people still have to make a certain amount of money, and both need to fit into a certain kind of culture. Diversity isn't just about different bodies working at corporations and starring leading roles in shooting terrorists. With her experience at being a 'bad minority' in games, Mattie Brice will describe the implications of diversity not for the games industry, but for the art-form of play itself. People outside of the system do things differently, and the way they act, create, and simply exist upsets how things are to be done. Mattie uses her experience in the games industry to explain how she and others like her act as an intervention to make way for meaningful change, often to the discomfort of the games industry.
In his essay “The Infinite Hows (or, The Dangers of the Five Whys),” John Allspaw offers an alternative to the standard process for examining and learning from catastrophe in software systems: using the first-person accounts of operators and responders to construct a collective narrative of failure events and their many causes. Outside of engineering, similar techniques have been applied in the Epic Theatre, Ethnic Studies, and countless areas of social justice work. However, when results from these fields are presented to technical workers, they are frequently rejected for “lack of rigor.” Ignoring methodologies that prioritize first-person accounts can represent a significant blind spot for the software industry. We can see the effects of this ignorance in the design, development, and operation of software products, social media harassment and abuse, and the skewed employee demographics we see in the industry. This talk will examine how using these methods can support the human systems that create, maintain, and make use of software, and how ignoring them will fail to produce the social benefit Silicon Valley luminaries so often pitch to the public.
An exploration of the way disability is viewed, represented, and accommodated (or not) with in games and games culture. This talk outlines how creators can make more inclusive and accessible games, presents examples of disability representation within games, and draws from personal experience for ideas to help create more diverse disabled characters and experiences for disabled players. We will touch on a spectrum of disabilities pertaining to both physical and mental health.
My talk is inspired by Merritt Kopas's and Naomi Clark's talk on "Queerness and Beyond: Rethinking Human-Game Relations" at QGCon 2014, specifically on their section on Queer Mechanics. Queer mechanics exist in competitive games as dramatic outliers of the current metagame and exist as either direct functions, or rules, play styles, or mindsets within the realm of that specific game. My talk will begin with a short autobiography on my expertise in the field (Competitive gamer since age 12. Interaction Designer, and queer), and then move onto a focused analysis of a few competitive games that have Queer Mechanics in them. The games I will analyze will be the Smash Bros Series, League of Legends, and a game called Dawngate. I will talk about specific mechanics of the games, how they are queer, and how particular iterations had more or less of these mechanics and how it affects diversity of strategy selection. The end of the talk will highlight why queer mechanics are important, how they create game diversity and interest and allow anyone to find their own play style that they identify within the realm of the game.
“The walls between art and engineering exist only in our minds.” –Theo Jansen What is tech? What is social work? Why is there a difference? The primary reason “tech” doesn’t see a wider array of people involved is because there is a clear dividing line between social work and tech- between people who care about the community and want to do good, and people who just want to cash out and buy a loft in SOMA. Or at least that’s what we think. In this talk I explore and debunk the myths perpetuate this belief and discuss why it is not only advantageous, but IMPERATIVE that we smash this idea of separation. In this talk I explain why there is no such thing as tech. The talk focuses on 5 beliefs that I’ve observed in a multi-decade career that has vacillated between social service and tech startup. 1. Doing genuine social good is at complete odds with earning revenue. 2. Social work is the only way to do something good. 3. Tech people are full of shit, only concerned with marketing snake oil to raise V. C. funds. 4. Tech is a wealthy white boy’s club that can’t actually help marginalized communities. 5. A career in tech requires that I know a lot about computers/know how to code. I use examples from tech and social work to invalidate each one, propose a new sector landscape in which these “two” sectors are seen as natural extensions of each other, and make a case for why this is not only the key to diversity in tech, but the key to uncovering our best and most effective social innovation.
Porpentine dissects her body of work in front of a horrified audience. Experimental game design for the razors edge of the cyber generation. Randomly generated interactive poems. How to sell art online and briefly delay your inevitable demise at the hands of capitalism. The unique challenges faced by trans feminine artists. Being literally made out of slime and trash squished together. And MORE.
Social media proficiency is considered highly important for any business. But when you're in the sex industry, whether it be as a porn performer, an escort, an adult studio or a sex toy company, it can be incredibly difficult to maneuver constantly changing rules. Real name policies, payment processors, and shifting, vague content restrictions can cost a sex worker all of their fans and marketing work, as well as their safety. Kitty Stryker discusses the tension between sex work as a tech-using business, and sex work's social stigma.
Trans_ is the first anthology to collect the voices and experiences of trans people speaking ot how the Internet has impacted our lives and how we have impacted the Internet.