Top 25 Model View Culture Posts of 2015
A quick tour of our top articles, features and interviews from the year!
As we start the new year by opening up our 2016 subscription season, we wanted to share some of our favorite posts from the past year in Model View Culture!
In 2015, we published over 100 authors, 16 free online issues and four complete Quarterly editions, for a total of over 150 new articles on the most important topics in tech, culture and diversity today. We also raised the amount we pay authors by 50%, and highlighted dozens of new and emerging projects, initiatives and companies by and for marginalized people in tech. Check out some of the year’s highlights, and support another year of Model View Culture by subscribing to our Quarterly editions in print or digital today.
Institutional Barriers for Women of Color at Code Schools by Anonymous Author
Amid the rise of technical code schools and boot camps, the author looks at how these programs still discriminate against women of color at all stages – from interview panels where “seldom will you see a person of color” to classrooms that “fail to take into account the integration of students from different socioeconomic and racial backgrounds,” and where micro and macroaggressions from students and faculty are abundant. The article also discusses solutions, including the importance of representation of women of color “at every level… from boardrooms to HR.”
Country Clubs on the Web: Exclusivity and the Myth of Early Adoption by nina de jesus
One of the most pervasive myths in Silicon Valley is that white males are the primary drivers of “early adoption” on social platforms. This article explores how the demographics of sites like Pinterest and Tumblr “challenge the notion of ‘classic’ early adopters, the sway that white men have on the success of a site.” Noting that the participation of marginalized people “is key to high engagement and, thus, growth,” the author calls for more social sites founded by and for marginalized people, and a radical shift in how we think about technology adoption.
C is Manly, Python is for “n00bs”: How False Stereotypes Turn Into Technical “Truths” by Jean Yang and Ari Rabkin
This piece confronts the tech industry’s pervasive “language-based snobbery,” and discusses how our beliefs and biases about programming languages are “much more social constructs than technical ones…” and often wrong. It also addresses how popular social beliefs around programming languages are gendered and contribute to a hostile open source culture, as well as how we can start fixing these anti-patterns.
Despite increasing awareness around diversity statistics in tech, patterns of marginalization — like cultural appropriation — remain massively under-discussed as major factors in tech culture. In this post, the author enumerates examples of appropriation in tech – “‘Zen master’ aphorisms, ninja job listings, and the subversion of Eastern religious ideas toward corporate gain” – and explores how “cultural appropriations perpetuate stereotypes, disrespect and exploit Asian culture, and reflect an industry-wide disdain for Asian people and culture.” It also takes on the model minority myth, and how these mechanisms are tied to the ways “Asians are consistently paid less than their white peers, as well as passed up for promotions.”
Trauma and Spectacle: Antiblack Violence and Media by YM Carrington
This must-read explores the “consumption of Black suffering” and its pervasiveness on social and media platforms: presenting its emotional toll on Black people, the role of antiblack violence as spectacle in white supremacy, and how that spectacle “generates massive amounts of capital for the white-dominated multinational corporations who own these media outlets, giving producers, editors, and general managers a major incentive to sell antiblack violence as a product.” Another great read by the same author: Getting Our Forty Acres: Crowdfunding, Reparations, and Black Economic Justice.
A short but essential read on how the tech feminist movement excludes and marginalizes sex workers, this article looks at the politics of sexuality at work events, and calls for an end to whorephobia in tech: “when you tell women, specifically sex workers, that they do not belong at your work events, you are perpetuating whorephobia (and by extension, misogyny) against them. When you tell women that they do not belong at your events because of their proximity to sex work, you are perpetuating whorephobia.” A related must-read: Feminists in Tech: Please Stop Treating Sex Work as a Contagion by Eva Gantz.
I Can Text You A Pile of Poo, But I Can’t Write My Name by Aditya Mukerjee
Offering a technical and cultural critique of Unicode, this was one of most widely-shared pieces of 2015. It includes a look at the makeup of the Unicode Consortium — “comprised largely of white men (and a few white women) whose first language was either English or another European language” — and how despite advancing racial inclusivity with the Emoji standard, Unicode continues to relegate many languages to second-class citizens. An important read on how cultural, economic and geographical factors influence the global tech platforms we all use.
Non-Coding Contributors in Open Source by Stacy Mullins and Jesse Cooke
Written by two members of the Rubinius core team, this post explores how open source communities “have devalued or ignored people with diverse skill sets and backgrounds, while championing those that code or ‘own the code,’” and how this phenomenon contributes to attrition from open source and the failure of its projects. The article also includes practical advice on managing more inclusive open source communities.
Let’s Talk About Pay by Lauren Voswinkel
On May 1st, 2015, Lauren Voswinkel kicked off the #talkpay hashtag with this article. #talkpay trended on Twitter for days and sparked dozens of articles worldwide. The movement encourages tech workers and beyond to discuss their job titles, experience and salary as a social justice strategy: “for inequality to truly be addressed, discussions of pay need to become commonplace… not only within individual companies to discourage pay inequality at that level, but across the discipline so incoming people, particularly minorities, have realistic expectations of what their skills can earn.”
Authored by members of the Ola Initiative (wocintech.org), this post was a call to action for a tech community that has continued to fail women of color, despite many promises to increase diversity: “We are deeply dismayed by the recent reports describing the static percentages of Black, Native, and Latina women employed at major tech companies… Latina, Indigenous and Black women are essential and innovative users of tech platforms, and need to be included and centered in their creation.” The article presents a series of demands, solutions and recommendations for tech companies related to recruiting, hiring and retaining women of color in the industry.
This article beautifully explores experiences of mental illness and paranoia in an age of omnipresent surveillance: “To be watched is to be seen even when we are not seen. It is to be left wondering, doubting, and second-guessing. Thus, is it even possible to separate delusion from wild fact? By its own design, in obscuring and hoarding reality, surveillance undermines our logics and re-brands them as patho-logics. And once pathologized, we are delegitimized.” One of our most popular creative essays of 2015.
In this post, the author coins “misogynoiristic expectancy”, exploring the impact and mechanisms of misogynoir, entitlement, hypervisibility, abuse and harassment leveled at Black femmes online: “the punishment for stepping out of line can be anywhere from regular harassment to doxxing, and as Black femmes are hypervisible but ultimately powerless, they are regularly crushed in such attacks.” Another essential read by the author: Your Half-Assed Diversity Initiatives Aren’t Going to Cut It In 2016.
Give Your Money To Women: The End Game of Capitalism Interview with Lauren Chief Elk-Young Bear, Yeoshin Lourdes and Bardot Smith
In this far-ranging article about the #GiveYourMoneyToWomen movement, we explore how the hashtag started, discuss how women’s emotional, sexual and corporate labor is exploited, and argue that direct transfer of wealth to women is a cornerstone of ending that exploitation. #GiveYourMoneyToWomen aims to create significant changes: “allowing women to see that they have power, and that they can wield it for themselves;” proposing “a drastic cultural shift, to where… all of women’s contributions command direct access to resources and without question;” as well as “a whole new theory of economics.” And, for another read on an impactful feminist hashtag, check out Beauty as Safety: Why #FeministsAreUgly is More Than Meets the Eye by Lily Bolourian.
Technology Colonialism by Anjuan Simmons
This article fearlessly confronts how “the pattern, ideology, mentality and operating practices of colonialism” play out in the technology industry: from the consolidation of global data, wealth and power in the hands of white men; to how tech companies increasingly act as sovereign entities, establish cultural domination across global user bases, and continuously skirt the law under the guise of innovation. The article concludes with a call for more rigorous investigative technology journalism as one necessary step in challenging tech colonialism.
Netflix, Uncovering Cycles of Abuse and Chill: Jessica Jones and Domestic Violence by Shaadi Devereaux
One of our most popular pieces of pop culture analysis this year, this article takes on the complex themes of violence, abuse dynamics, and racism in one of 2015’s most explosive TV shows. It looks at the interpersonal dynamics of abuse — Kilgrave has a “superpower, but one that almost all abusers possess” — as well as how abuse functions with police, peer and societal collusion. This post was also featured as one of Autostraddle’s “Best Longreads of 2015” list.
The Argument for Free-Form Input by Emily Horsman
This article critiques widespread norms for online forms, and their impact on marginalized people whose “identities are commonly regarded as edge cases, pathological behaviours, or merely ‘preferred.’” The post takes on how we continue to “arbitrarily trust the judgements of white, able-bodied, neurotypical cis dudes to define personhood,” and lays out a clear and actionable argument for why, though “programmers tend to recoil in horror at the idea,” free-form input offers a more just, accessible and accurate portrait of identity on the web.
Making Queer by Neal Ulrich
The author relates their experiences being “one of the only openly gay men” as a furniture designer in maker spaces, and how his design practice is informed by queerness: “developing a distinctly queer style for the modern queer home, reworking traditional forms, using materials in new contexts, and juxtaposing ‘masculine’ design elements with theatricality and glamor.” When “for so long, the home has been a site of anxiety, secrecy, and contention for queer people,” the article asserts the importance of queer representation in maker spaces, and also features beautiful images of the author’s original work.
Assistive Technology By People with Disabilities by Alice Wong
In this two-part series, multiple-time MVC contributor Alice Wong follows the progress of Team Free to Pee, leading a project to “assist women in wheelchairs to pee without assistance.” Following their progress over the course of a multi-day makeathon, the series not only highlights the team’s work and achievements, but power dynamics, ableism, accessibility, culture and collaboration in maker spaces.
Cultural Ramifications of Technical Interviews by Heidy Khlaaf
A must-read critique on the negative impact that current approaches to technical interviews have on tech workplaces, diversity and culture. The article shows how “punishing and irrelevant interview processes seek to produce disciplined high-tech employees, jumping through arbitrary hoops at the whims of employers,” ultimately perpetuating the underrepresentation of minorities in tech. The article advocates for more effective and inclusive approaches, with specific suggestions on interview and hiring reform.
Word Warriors: Fight For Your Rights by Megan Red Shirt Shaw
From #NotYourMascot to #DearNativeYouth to #NotYourHollywoodIndian, this article highlights the importance and achievements of social media activism in the Native American community. The author explores both the negative backlash as well as the positive changes this activism has created for communities and individuals: “the best part of these movements has been watching young people get involved and take a stand for their people… as a Lakota person who loves and wants to honor my people, I have to try to push the envelope to not only better myself as a writer and as a communicator, but as an activist fighting for my rights.”
And, here are five of our favorite new tech projects, initiatives and organizations by and for marginalized people, highlighted in MVC in 2015:
We sat down with Morgen Bromell, founder of Thurst, to discuss the app, the exciting crowdfunding campaign for it, and the state of hookup apps in general.
Aniyia Williams is the founder and CEO of Tinsel — a new wearable technology company focused on women. Tinsel’s first product, The Dipper, integrates headphones with luxurious, modern jewelry for a better listening and fashion experience. We spoke to Aniyia about the wearable tech market, raising seed funding, building your founding team and where Tinsel is going.
We caught up with the founders of Two Black Nerds, a podcast from Notre Dame graduates and engineers Iheanyi Ekechukwu and Romeo Kwihangana. We discuss their work, black men in tech, how to make your own podcast, and where the future of tech is going!
In 2015, we partnered with Alterconf to launch Fund Club, specifically designed to get more money to projects by and for marginalized people in tech. In 2015 alone, Fund Club members raised over $50,000 for groups including People of Color in Tech, Hands Up United, The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, Revision Path, Prompt, TransTech Social Enterprises and #WoCinTech Chat. In this post, we collaborated with AlterConf to talk about the goals of Fund Club and how it was built.
We hope you enjoyed this taste of Model View Culture in 2015! Please support another year of MVC by purchasing a subscription today. Each print or digital issue contains brand-new critique, intersectional analysis, feature articles and in-depth interviews. Proceeds from subscriptions go directly to support our authors and operations.