ada lovelace day: malala yousafzai

This is my fourth post for Ada Lovelace Day, when we pause to honor the women who most inspire us in the fields of technology, science, engineering, and math.

I haven’t missed the day since it was launched in 2009. That year, I celebrated Johanna Drucker and Bess Sadler. Johanna, who taught me letterpress printing, helped me deepen my practical and embodied engagement with technologies of text. From Bess I came to understand the global, ethical dimensions of open source software development and why it is so important for me to advocate for it and support it every day in the Scholars’ Lab. The next year, I honored Leah Buechley of MIT, whose Lilypad Arduino and other “high-tech, high-touch” wearable, embedded, and frankly beautiful soft circuits–part of her tireless and smart promotion of technology education for girls–were my entree into physical computing. And last year, I wrote about humanities computing pioneer Susan Hockey, so far the only female winner of our highest digital humanities award, the Busa Prize–and I discovered a fantastic old photograph of her, to boot.

Reuters thumbnail image, Malala YousafzaiThis year, it’s Malala. By now, everyone has heard the story of Malala Yousafzai, the fifteen-year-old Pakistani girl who was shot in the head and neck by the Taliban aboard a school bus, for daring to say that children should have the opportunity of an education regardless of their gender. The news this morning, one week after the attack, makes her survival seem more possible–but we have yet to learn at what cost to her sharp mind and brave heart.

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ada lovelace day: susan hockey

On the first Ada Lovelace Day, I celebrated the women who taught me hands-on letterpress printing and how to think about open source. Last year, I honored a woman whose work inspired me to explore the craftsy side of physical computing — wearable, personal, interactive, high-touch high-tech.

This year, let’s start with a lecture delivered by R.F. Churchhouse at University College, Cardiff in 1972, on the subject of “Computer Applications in the Arts and Sciences.”

Before I left the Atlas Laboratory I was fortunate enough to recruit as a programmer a young woman with a 1st class honours degree at Oxford in Akkadian. The Laboratory had recently acquired a device called an SC4020 which allowed us to produce cine-films, microfilms and hard copy of any graphs or pictures that we could draw. The way in which we can use the computer to produce pictures etc., is that the computer produces a set of instructions indicating that certain points on a kind of television screen are to be joined together by lines. By joining a sufficient number of selected points together, highly complex pictures can be drawn and filmed. In particular one can generate the letters of any alphabet one wishes.

Susan Hockey Font Defining on the VT15 31.10.72
Susan Hockey Font Defining on the VT15 31.10.72. Rutherford Appleton Laboratory & the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)

The young woman (Susan Hockey) quickly mastered programming and has gone on to become expert in providing this form of output, thus making it possible for linguists to receive their output in its correct alphabetic form, complete with all diacriticials…By combining her output procedures with a concordance program the way is open for literary output of the very highest quality. For the Arts people present I point out that Mrs. Hockey had no scientific training beyond O-level thus providing a counter-example to the idea that computers are only for scientists.

Susan M. Hockey went on to set much more than a curious counter-example. She spent a full career serving for many of us as one of the most positive role models imaginable, of a woman in important technical, teaching, and leadership positions in the growing field of literary, linguistic, and humanities computing — a community of practice we now call the digital humanities. Continue reading “ada lovelace day: susan hockey”

a tribute to Leah Buechley

Last year on Ada Lovelace Day, when we celebrate women in technology, I wrote about two inspiring friends: Johanna Drucker, who taught me letterpress printing (foundational to my thinking about design and the digital humanities in the context of evolving technologies of the book) and Bess Sadler, then of Scholars’ Lab R&D and now at Stanford, who had just released Blacklight into the world as a step toward making library research more joyful. This year, I got Ada’d my own self (thanks, Julie!), with a picture from a recent workshop that confirmed my desire to write about the amazing Leah Buechley.

Leah Buechley’s work speaks to everything I hold dear about the digital humanities: that it interprets, operates within, and both impacts and reflects the experienced world — of messy, embodied, personal, subjective, aesthetic, poetic, cyborgic, enveloping life. In other words, Buechley does high-touch as well as high-tech. Continue reading “a tribute to Leah Buechley”