Facets: Issue 43

September 24, 2017

Equality for All Women or Just White Women?

Vivianne Castillo
"The tech community is not immune from the infection of ignorance and acts of hatred that ooze from the rhetoric and policies of this Administration."

Castillo wraps up a four-part series (part III was in Issue 40) by condemning the constant omission of women of colour from “equality” efforts, resulting in little more than contrived performance. Deep-rooted in history, this omission has resulted in systemic and institutionalized racism and oppression of women of colour, not just in tech but in society’s foundations. Be brave(r), white people.

We Were Always Here: Absences at the Intersection of Identity and Data Collection

Valerie Collins and Nicole Contaxis
"one can begin to see how tensions between the data collector and the subjects of data collection affect the way we understand our world."

We can now collect and leverage data on a massive scale. That data— how it’s collected, by whom, which questions are asked in which contexts, and so on — and its usage has profound implications on our understanding of the world, and of each other. This is a fascinating deep dive, filled with examples, into what a registration form really is, what it asks of us (both implicitly and explicitly), and what it really means for a form to be well-designed.

Tea and Tech Culture

Alice Goldfuss
"if someone was a smart, kind, and considerate coworker, who enjoyed mentoring and gave great code reviews, would it really matter if they’ve never seen Star Wars?"

Whether or not a potential hire partakes in [insert trendy/nerdy hobby here] shouldn’t affect their prospects; but it does. Using tea as a narrative entry point, Goldfuss illustrates how our interpretation of "culture" is backwards, and hiring people who enjoy craft beer (or bacon, or Star Wars) rather than communicating empathically and thoughtfully.

Tech “Leaders” Are Letting Meanness Win

Nilofer Merchant
"tech monetizes the vast majority of us, while protecting the interests of 31% of us."

When faced with abuse on their platforms, typically-bullish tech leaders are wilfully naive in the face of a problem, confused as to how their tech can enable hatred despite their “be kind to each other” value statements. It’s simple: they allow it because it pays, Merchant says. Inaction and ignorance (bolstered by profits) begets acceptance. Furthermore, espousing how “the industry needs to change” is laughable; those companies are the industry.

Building Inclusive Communities

Karolina Szczur
"The interests of so-called tech leaders are often far different from what we need as a community."

This Nordic.js talk transcript from Szczur builds on the themes of Merchant’s piece. Tech leaders’ focus is solely commercial, resulting in platforms whose attached communities are fractured— the very opposite of the web’s foundational ethos. In this talk, Szczur outlines the importance of eliminating exclusion from these communities, no matter how difficult. It’s worth it.

And a PSA thread from Tracy Chou, because sadly, this still bears repeating:

And couple of interesting resources this week:

Limbo, an anonymous job platform

Tech’s current hiring process is broken in myriads of ways. Limbo allows job seekers to create an anonymous profile to target the role they want, and can choose whether or not to reveal their identity to hiring managers. Sure, it relies on hiring managers picking it up, but the initiative is an admirable one.

Check your Tech: The “Snopes for Responsible Tech"

Increasingly, we’re asking ethical questions of our technology and those who build it; Check your Tech is a tool which aims to provide an "an evidence-based trustmark" for digital products, and assist people in making more ethical choices about the tech they use. In its prototype stage, Check your Tech accepts that there is no “good” or “bad”; instead, its users can contrast different products and better understand their ethical trade-offs. Try the prototype and read more about it, or learn more about responsible technology.

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