"I preferred to use gadgetry until it gave up the ghost "
February 2, 2015 2:05 PM   Subscribe

​​"The main reason I got so involved with the Internet is because it was safety and sanctuary in a hostile world.​​ I was heavily bullied in school due to racial tension — most of the teachers were hostile instigators or at least uncaring. I didn't really have a lot of space to express myself, because I was constantly told that my existence was wrong. I didn't really learn a lot from the Malaysian education system: most of it was already decades old.​"​

​"​My friends were online. My creative expression was online. My education was online. The computer was a source of life for me, in many ways: even now I feel more spiritually connected to bits and bytes rather than trees and sea.​"​ creatrix tiara's piece at Medium, "do ALL things! arts, tech, and not having to choose just one as a young girl"

​Also mirrored at geekfeminism.org and ​tumblr.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (11 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Isn't this by Metafilter's own divabat?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:17 PM on February 2, 2015 [7 favorites]

I've been a huge fan of her for a long time, thank you for posting!
posted by Juliet Banana at 2:21 PM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

Very cool, and I envy her early access to computers, not to mention what sounds like a pretty awesome virtual life.

As anecdata, years ago I ran into a woman who transitioned from fine arts into computer engineering. She managed to create her own niche by working on studies that involved artistic representations of mathematical concepts. I remember her work on "edge of chaos" designs. I was a languages and fine arts person who also loved computers and she was an inspiration.

The author of this piece sounds like a well-rounded and interesting person.
posted by quiet earth at 3:40 PM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Growing up in Malaysia I remember thinking the same thing - the "smart" students were herded into the "Science" stream, which I loved studying, but in my free time I loved reading and writing and designing (which was "Arts") and I believed my superhero talent was in "Commerce" which is something else entirely. Also anyone else remember the time we had to go online with Jaring, they gave out a list of 20 phone numbers printed on a piece of paper, and you dialed them one by one until you found an open one that would accept your dial up connection, and people "in the know" passed around special phone numbers that were less congested and had higher connection speeds. And I remember the very early days of the internet being very female dominated, actually, and largely about writing and design - there was a Malaysian scene of various hostesses who would buy hosting and host a "stable" of bloggers under her domain, it was very much focused on web design (we had to come up with a new design every month) and basically you started on free hosting, then if you were good enough you got "noticed" and invited to one host or another, and of course if she acquired a stable of awesome hostees it would only enhance her reputation. Oh god it's like an online version of high school. I was in a domain group of about 6 females for a year or two, guys were very far in between.

In my work I've come to realize that this separation of talents is misleading anyway. I do project management type finance work. The Science bit comes in with the deft manipulation of large quantities of data - millions of lines sometimes - familiarity with SQL and databases, Visual Basic language for writing macros in Excel, learning new systems and implementing solutions using multidimensional data storage systems, and also learning ancient green-screen systems from 30 years ago. The Commerce bit comes in with the ability to evaluate the business aspects of the work, interrogating the operations teams on their methods and assumptions by knowing the right questions to ask and having the right mindset, building the business cases and persuading management. The Arts bit comes in when, well, there's beauty in well organized data: beautiful charts, concise, beautifully written summaries and emails, the ability to reframe a point of view in such a way that convinces other people you're right. So I guess if I had a message, is that it's not just doing ALL the things, it's that ALL the things you can do can have value, even if you can't see it while in school.

Education is simultaneously too broad and also too focused. For every complaint that we pigeonhole students into two "streams" there's also the other complaint of kids being made to suffer through classes they will never use in their lifetime. I remember a Perl programming class being given to Commerce students as a unit, they hated it intensely. Or even simple Calculus being beyond the reach of some kids. For every argument that education be made totally a la carte, there's also the argument that kids won't know what they like or are good at until they try it.

"Do all the things" is an amazing concept, and I wish more kids had the chance to understand that and be given the choice to do just that.
posted by xdvesper at 3:43 PM on February 2, 2015 [4 favorites]

OK, you all have convinced me to un-red-button my account. (Granted, I wasn't gone very long, but still)

Yes that's me! The Geek Feminism version is updated and more current - asides from a few edits here and there, I added more examples of the ways both the arts and tech world look at me strangely, as well as a more current photo of the niece that inspired the title. Here's the specific paragraph:
At a meeting hosted by a major Bay Area arts organization, one of the organizers proclaimed that we were "analogue mediums in a digital world!". A few days later, while volunteering at a games conference, a lot of attendees were puzzled at the presence of a performance artist in their midst. I’ve had people respond to my presentation of a social media campaign project at an international hackathon specifically designed to bring media-makers, journalists, and developers together with sarcastic tweets about how “if you’re going to be at a hackathon you should be creating something” (because a stack of blog posts, and animated video, and a hashtag doesn’t count as “creating”, clearly). I’ve also had to stop myself from getting riled up at writers’ events when people respond to my novel-in-progress, about a girl who gets superpowers from a Google-Glass-like device, with a long rant about how Google Glass is always evil and the downfall of society.

Around the time I wrote the first version of this article, I was being interviewed for a possible space at a tech bootcamp known for its supportive community and diversity work: when the interviewer asked why I wanted to learn coding, I told her about wanting to be entrepreneurial by producing creative work and artist tools, and I could hear her interest switch off, simply because I didn’t say "I want to be hired as a software engineer". (I was rejected twice.)
xdvesper: OH MAN, JARING. Good times. {/hamburger} Also I was part of that hostess scene! Except I never really interacted with a lot of other Malaysians, mostly Americans and Brits and people whose location I didn't know. Even had a "girlfriend" for like a day before I freaked out. Dreamhost was everyone's favourite host, "Vector" graphics and colored scrollbars were in, and I remember being dinged from some site review for a design that's now The Standard.
posted by divabat at 4:07 PM on February 2, 2015 [18 favorites]

Excellent article, thanks divabat.
posted by dhruva at 4:26 PM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

Thanks for coming back, divabat!
posted by nangar at 5:44 PM on February 2, 2015 [6 favorites]

I so get this. The human mind is so easily confused. Once you set up a set of definitions for people it's like moving mountains to get them to understand anything else. I will never forget that day in undergrad when I literally had to argue with my professor that the swords on display at the Met were art, even though they were also functional, and it was not a cutesy Socratic Method thing.

In reality there is no difference between art and science when it comes to making tools, which is all we're doing in the tech industry.
posted by bleep at 6:30 PM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Making tools? We also sell ads.
posted by thelonius at 8:22 PM on February 2, 2015

And ironically ads and marketing seem to be the only avenue open for artsy types to enter tech.
posted by divabat at 11:11 PM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

*waves to Miss Do ALL Things's dad who is a Mefi lurker*
posted by divabat at 11:28 PM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

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