Shifting Tech Talk Toward the Feminine

(UPDATE Apr. 27: Well, no one was able to raise the question I posed in this article at the Dana Centre event. Oh well. However, the event was recorded. I’m trying to find out whether audio will be posted online or otherwise distributed.)

Oh, I wish I could be in London tomorrow! I just found out about an intriguing event happening Tuesday, Apr. 19 at the Dana Centre: a salon discussion called Venus Rising. This meshes serendipitously with my current exploration of problems and issues associated with the predominance of argument culture in many spheres of life and work, including technology.

Here’s an excerpt from the event’s promo:

“…To engage the general public in discussions with technologists, designers, artists and scientists in a debate about technology posing the question, can we shift the cultural image and language of technology towards the feminine?

“If we assume that women use technology differently from men, then it follows that their approach to design and innovation would differ as well. In a field dominated by males, are we properly recognising the contributions and perspectives from the female innovators?”

Are you attending this event? If so, I’d greatly appreciate it if you would ask this question for me, and tell me about the response/discussion…

Here’s my question:

Like many fields, technology is generally dominated by an “argument culture.” This is an environment in which the dominant participants assume that adversarial, devil’s-advocate-style, hole-poking debate is the best or only way to discuss ideas, opinions, perspectives, and issues.

The argument culture is productive and rewarding for some people, but others (especially many women) experience it as destructive, hostile, or tedious. People who don’t prefer argument culture often get marginalized or decline to participate in these discussions – and these fields.

What might be some practical ways that people (individually or collectively) could promote a “discussion culture” in fields where argument culture currently is the norm? Might that increase women’s interest and involvement in these areas?

I’d love to join in this discussion, but I’m several thousand miles away. I’ve just started a thread on the argument culture topic in the technology section of the Dana Centre’s discussion forum. (If you’d like to participate in that discussion, you’ll first have to register under the my dana menu in the site’s main navigation bar. It’s free, and only a minor hassle.)

I’m hoping this event will be recorded (audio or video). I’ll ask about that and will report back here.

Again, if you’re attending and can ask my question for me, I’d be sincerely grateful.

(Thanks to Misbehaving for bringing this event to my attention.)

4 thoughts on Shifting Tech Talk Toward the Feminine

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  1. I only learned about this event today, too (in my case, via the Misbehaving weblog). Since I’m geographically much more conveniently located, I emailed them for a ticket; full up, including the standby list, sadly. 🙁 Oh well…

  2. Oh well.. I live in London, and I’m already busy tomorrow, I’m almost happy that they are full! ;o)

    As someone who enjoys both a supportive discussion and a creative argument, there are specific benfits to both!
    A friend of mine ran some fairly successful exercises with consulting clients, where following the assertion of the topic being discussed everyone had to start their sentences with

    “yes, and….”

    whereas for an exercise in argumentative culture maybe everyone would start each sentence off with

    “yes, but…”

    Working out the situations when it is best to be “yes, but…” and when it is more advantageous to say “yes, and…” seems to be the trick?!

    There is such a thing as creative conflict afterall.. Good old Hegel!
    Thesis, Antithesis, synthesis.



  3. I have known about this for a while but knew I couldn’t go because I am having a birthday party – stupidly. Don’t know why I am even “celebrating” it. I am gutted. I have been waiting for this kind of event for a long time. There is so much – so many ideas – that I would liek to share and that I would like to hear about from others. But let’s make sure this is not the last.


  4. Yes, and it appears that where I work, women (at least in the higher management) take adversarial positions much the same way as men do.

    Could it be that “Yes, but…” is a learnt behaviour?