[Air-L] Free Culture <FAIL > Research Workshop 2009

Giorgos Cheliotis gcheliotis.lists at gmail.com
Fri Jul 17 12:54:38 PDT 2009

I am one of the organizers of the workshop and in fact started it all  
last year in Sapporo, so I am also largely responsible for the  
composition of the committee although the opinions of many more people  
factored in as well. I find that the gender issue is interesting and  
is perhaps symptomatic of certain fields of academic endeavor and also  
present in some practices of what we may broadly call 'free culture'.  
I know more male DJ's and remixers than female, and there is more  
evidence of that nature that is mostly anecdotal, so I cannot make any  
definitive statements here. I'd like to write a paper about it though,  
so I'm slowly collecting relevant data. I think there are some salient  
issues with respect to the participation of women in what we call  
'free culture'. If anyone has relevant data points, especially  
published work, please do share.

But now going from these general thoughts to insinuations of  
discriminatory behavior on our part is taking it too far. I am  
surprised I have to say by the approach of Mary Bryson who may have  
good intentions at heart but who chooses to publicly criticize our  
efforts and even publicly label them as FreeCultureFail (sic), instead  
of communicating her discontent directly to the organizers first and  
trying to understand who we are and how we do what we do. Indeed Mary,  
"maybe there is a story here, or not", but I think it would have been  
better if you had done some more research on this matter before  
hinting at any possible discrimination on our part. Even your hasty  
and incorrect calculation of 4 in 40 shows that your email to the list  
was probably written without much forethought. I would have been happy  
to discuss any issues with you personally, but you never sought any  
such discussion.

 From my part I can just say that we tried to include the people who  
seemed the most relevant and had to also contend with the fact that  
some replied to our invitations to join the program committee and some  
did not. Gender was never a factor in the composition of the  
committee. It was purely on academic merit, having shown strong  
interest in participation in the past, having a relevant and recent  
track record of published work, and, to a much smaller extent, a  
matter of serendipity and familiarity with the persons involved. I do  
not keep a catalogue of everyone in the world doing relevant research  
and it may be that I know more male researchers in the field than  
female. To that end what Gabriella and Elizabeth are doing will be a  
constructive contribution that I applaud. Personally I will still use  
academic merit and motivation/commitment as my main factors whenever  
anyone asks me about who should be on a program committee, but I can  
at least check the names on my mind against such a list to try and  
control for any bias that I may have and be unaware of. For what it's  
worth, we had actually one woman declining our invitation due to other  
commitments, while another one was invited and didn't reply.


On Jul 17, 2009, at 2:29 PM, Gabriella Coleman wrote:

> Mary,
> Thanks for pointing this out! A number of us, including the "X  
> woman" (Elizabeth Stark of the Yale ISP) on the committee, have been  
> debating and discussing this problem as it concerns this conference  
> but more important, how it also pertains to the wider field of  
> digital media, especially when it comes to tech and law.
> For instance, here are some other examples of similarly problematic  
> conferences when it comes to gender balance:
> http://www4.gsb.columbia.edu/citi/ugc3
> http://www.hiit.fi/nccc/speakers.html
> And there are unfortunately many many more examples.
> Elizabeth and I have recently started to compile a list of women  
> leaders in law, technology, and internet research to highlight their  
> presence. We will soon circulate the list to get more names and  
> eventually publish on website as a resource for conference  
> organizers or those working on edited collections. Hopefully  
> Elizabeth will also jump in as she has also thought quite a bit  
> about this issue.
> I have found this problem to be pretty pervasive and have been  
> personally frustrated as well as academically intrigued. Any  
> thoughts about the skewed conference representation?
> Gabriella
>>     > Date: Thu, 16 Jul 2009 16:17:29 -1000
>>     > From: mary.bryson at ubc.ca <mailto:mary.bryson at ubc.ca>
>>     > To: air-l at listserv.aoir.org <mailto:air-l at listserv.aoir.org>
>>     > Subject: [Air-L] Free Culture <FAIL > Research Workshop 2009
>>     >
>>     > Take a look at the lack of inclusion of women (FreeCultureFail)
>>    on the
>>     > Organizing and Academic Program Committees for this event.
>>     >
>>     > http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/node/5486
>>     >
>>     > There are 12 people on the former and 28 people on the latter.
>>    According to
>>     > the person from the Free Culture Research Workshop group that I
>>    contacted:
>>     >
>>     > "Based on my count, there are 4 women in all on both  
>> Committees, with
>>     > <Person X> serving on both the organizing and academic  
>> committees.
>>     >
>>     > The other 3 women serve in the academic committee..."
>>     >
>>     >
>>     > 4 women out of 40 people. One woman on the Organizing  
>> Committee.
>>    That's some
>>     > kind of "free culture". Free Culture Fail, as far as I can  
>> tell.
>>    Maybe there
>>     > is a story here. Or not.
>>     >
>>     > Mary
>>     > --
>>     > Dr. Mary K. Bryson, Professor and Director, Network of  
>> Centers and
>>     > Institutes in Education (NCIE) & Center for Cross-Faculty  
>> Inquiry
>>    (CCFI),
>>     > Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia
>>     > CCFI: Innovation Works Here
>>     > http://ccfi.educ.ubc.ca/
>>     > -----Original Message-----
>>     >
> ****************************************************
> Gabriella Coleman, Assistant Professor
> Department of Media, Culture, & Communication
> New York University
> 239 Greene St, 7th floor
> NY NY 10003
> 212-992-7696
> http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/faculty_bios/view/Gabriella_Coleman
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