This year, the number of women choosing to study Computer Science education at the University of Copenhagen has risen to completely new heights. From 7% to 18% in only two years. This fills us with joy because it is aligned with our efforts in FemTech.dk. But… Why is this an important piece of news? Nowadays, and more than ever, digital technologies play an important role in society. Statistics show that digital technologies are used by many but are developed by a few. This becomes especially relevant when looking at the number of women who participate in developing digital technologies.
What are the issues related to this lack of diversity? A crucial issue is that it can limit what it is taken into consideration and what it is left out, therefore potentially constraining people rather than enabling them. Companies are increasingly eager to bring in people with different backgrounds, experiences, and knowledge in developing digital technologies – this entails that there is indeed a diverse pool of people with the required skills and knowledge (which opens up the discussion of what are these “required” skills, we will leave this for another post). Engaging in activities that display different representations of computing, potentially increasing the interest of women (and not only) in computer science is one step towards broadening participation in technology development, and FemTech.dk and DIKU are taking this step forward.
You can read more about it on DIKU’s website (in Danish)
FemTech.dk researchers Naja L. Holten Møller and Pernille Bjørn study the role which new types of sensor data produce in the workplace to find ways to strengthen the agenda on diversity in use – Assistant professor Naja Holten Møller speaks about this in a new article in Interaction Design.
The workplace has seen the dramatic growth of sensor technology to produce large datasets in and through peoples work. In tracking the movement of personnel within hospitals, it is the clerical work that (again) goes unnoticed in the overall picture. Clerical work is ubiquitous. It is carried out in practically any place where things need to be filed and processed. And, due to its routine and repetitive nature, clerical work is often undervalued and thus underrepresented.
While data tracking in the workplace has received increased attention in research as well as industry interested in smart technologies, it is still an open question how exactly we adjust our research methods accordingly to understand the broader implications of sensor-based data production as a larger phenomenon affecting us all. Taking into account the lived experience of clerical workers and ethnographic inquiry combined with data mining formed the cornerstones of the triangulation tool applied in this work. As new hospitals are designed, it is critical that key parts of the workflow are not neglected due to the bias in whose work counts as valuable in data-driven healthcare. Read more about this fascinating and timely piece of work in the July edition of ACM’s IX Interactions magazine.
As part of FemTech.dk in-reach activities, on June 26th we organised a meeting with several computer science (DIKU) students at the UCPH Makerspace. In-reach activities are internal activities where mainly DIKU students and staff members are invited to participate, such as DIKU’s teaching day. The makerspace has been instrumental in creating a sociotechnical infrastructure for these internal activities. These activities seek to make DIKU more inclusive from within by, for example, supporting collaborations and activities related to computing that might be difficult to carry out as part of the traditional curriculum. In concrete, two project proposals came out of the meeting: an art-installation focusing on collaborative motion interaction across spaces and a learning tool that demonstrates the insights of a CPU with LEDs, displays and microcontrollers. These projects exemplify opportunities for broadening narratives of computer science by supporting collaboration, emphasising materiality and storytelling.
On May, 19th, Pernille Bjørn – FemTech.dk principal investigator – gave a presentation at the Wonder Tech Submit on how she became a computer scientist. She also talked about one of the projects at the Computer Science department of the University of Copenhagen, which is using virtual reality to help build super hospitals. This project, currently taking place in one of the hospitals in Copenhagen, is yet another example of how computer science intertwines with many other different disciplines such as healthcare and architecture. Wonder Tech Submit was the first event in Denmark of its kind, bringing together leaders, engineers and entrepreneurs to celebrate the achievement of women in technology.
This week, FemTech.dk organised a two-day workshop with 26 students from eight different high schools in Copenhagen. During the workshop, each of the students created a “Cryptosphere”, which is an interactive device designed to make digital interaction effortful. The purpose is to make and preserve the importance of personal interaction in a time where it has never been easier to interact digitally. While creating their Cryptosphere, the students worked with microcontrollers, LED strips and motion sensors and reflected on the design of interactive devices. And all of them brought their Cryptospheres, microcontrollers, and sensors home!
Media representations of computer science – what do what computer scientists do? how do they look like? – are an important aspect of broadening participation in computing. In this new article, you can read some extracts of an interview to Prof. Pernille Bjørn on representations of computer science and gender based on her research in FemTech.dk:
We are thrilled to announce that on March 14th and 15th we will hold that the second edition of our FemTech.dk workshop with high school students! We have invited 26 STX/HTX/IB high school students in the Copenhagen area. Students will create an interactive product using microcontrollers, LEDs, sensors and social media. Stay tuned for more details! In the meantime, you can check some pictures of the work in process (and of the temporary DIKU Makerspace at KUA3 where we have been working :)):
We have made a video based on our GRACE demo at ACM GROUP’18– exploring experiences, challenges, and opportunities for participation in Computer Science. Enjoy!
We are just back from presenting GRACE at GROUP 2018 in Sanibel Island (Florida)! GROUP is a premier venue for research on work in social science, computer science, engineering, and design. This year GRACE was accepted as an interactive installation at the conference. The accompanying paper is included in the conference proceedings, check our paper at the ACM Digital Library. At the conference, the participants created origami bugs where they wrote their opinions on opportunities and challenges for facilitating inclusion in computer science. Then, they interacted with GRACE using their mobile phones and discussing with other participants. Stay tuned for an upcoming video showing participants’ opinions!
In December, we have been in Trento (Italy) to present some of the activities and events organised as part of FemTech.dk at the 2nd Winter School on Education as a Common Good. This winter school was co-organised by the universities of Trento, Bolzano and Innsbruck brought architecture, design and HCI students together. For three days, the students worked on projects seeking to design educational commons. The activities and insights that we are developing as part of FemTech.dk served as a source of inspiration to the students.