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

Giorgos Cheliotis gcheliotis.lists at gmail.com
Fri Jul 17 13:57:40 PDT 2009

Thank you for the useful pointers Gabriella, we need more informed and  
cool-headed perspectives like that. Something I forgot to mention  
previously is that for this workshop one of the objectives we tried to  
aim for when composing the PC was interdisciplinarity. This led us to  
include less legal scholars than we would like to because we wanted to  
make space for others and send a clear signal that this workshop is  
not just about law. As soon as one tries to include scholars from the  
sciences/engineering/business, the chances of those being female  
decrease. I am actually happy to be housed now at a department where  
the overwhelming majority of faculty and students are female, but I  
have also worked in IT/engineering and business before and there is a  
clear difference there, even among academics.

As I said, I also personally really value when someone shows strong  
motivation to participate/co-organize an event. Then I feel more  
comfortable that the person will actually make a contribution instead  
of wishing to be listed as PC member for the sake of it. I will often  
factor that in, along with the person's track record. I have a  
suspicion that men may be more aggressive in that manner, proactively  
seeking opportunities to get involved and making their case for why  
they would be a valuable partner, perhaps thus getting more on  
people's radars. This may also explain some of the imbalance, although  
this is again speculative on my part and based on circumstantial  
evidence only.

On Jul 17, 2009, at 4:42 PM, Gabriella Coleman wrote:

> Giorgos Cheliotis wrote:
>> 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.
> Indeed, in terms of DJ's and coders there is a much larger pool of  
> males than females, overwhelmingly so. As such, at non-academic  
> events, like FLOSS developer conferences, I am left unsurprised when  
> the program is 75% male presenters or higher.
> But in the academic field, the playing field is far more equal.  
> There is an impressive crop of female lawyers, legal scholars, and  
> academics of all ranks who work on these issues and yet, it seems to  
> be that they are at times under represented. And as you note (and I  
> could not agree with you more) we need some research needs to help  
> us pin point the various sources or possible patterns.
> 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.
> Elizabeth and I are planning on collecting data from conferences to  
> track or identify any patterns. For instance, we will be looking at  
> things like 1) the gender of the organizers and what influence or  
> role that may play 2) differences depending on academic fields  
> (humanities vs social science vs law schools) 3) nature of the  
> conference (academic, non-academic, and hybrid) and location (Europe  
> vs North America)
> It would also be interesting to collect data on "rejections" by  
> female participants notably reasons for doing so. I suspect this  
> does not exist right now but I see no reason why it can't be  
> collected if someone set up a protocol for how conference organizer  
> can "dump" the data once their conference is all (thankfully) done  
> with.
>  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.
> I took a fascinating training class last fall, the OpEd project,  
> which I can't recommend enough to all the female scholars and  
> advocates on this list: (http://www.theopedproject.org/cms). It is a  
> project that seeks to enlarge female experts and writers for OpEds,  
> which are overwhelmingly male. Given the power of OpEds to influence  
> public opinion and policy, this imbalance is serious business.
> One unconfirmed factoid I learned during the course (and if anyone  
> can point to something that confirms this, please do and this might  
> help you as well Giorgos) was that when it comes to upper  
> management, Google tries to keep the percentage of women at around  
> 40% for it it dips lower, they need to actively recruit female  
> employees. If it hovers around 40%, then female employees tend to  
> refer other women.
> This example, if true, points to the existence of unintentional  
> patterns  that can lead to biases and exclusions, which in this case  
> emerge out of ones' personal networks and not overt discrimination.  
> This dynamic is one that I am sure can't explain for everything and  
> yet I suspect it may also play a role at times. But a first step is  
> initiating a conversation and building various resources that can  
> help alleviate a problem that I think or at least hope can be solved  
> or attenuated.
> All best,
> Gabriella
> ****************************************************
> 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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