The teenage memories of the American Claire L. Evans, journalist and singer of the band YACHT, permeate the “digital wagon” that served as a window for “discoveries and transgressions”. like good millennial, Claire grew up on the Internet, as the Internet itself became more and more powerful. He devotes the introduction to his book to his old computer, a beige Dell with a tube monitor. The unknown story of the women who created the Internet (Ed. Bestseller), recently published in Brazil. Through well-researched biographical essays – and fluently narrated – Claire sheds light on the female figures who were key to the world wide web, but who, for unfortunately obvious reasons, have been forgotten, while their male counterparts have entered the pantheon of great mathematicians. , engineers and developers.
The work highlights a pioneer in the art of programming and shows how it was almost always women who made sure that the machine served people, not the other way around. Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper, Elizabeth J. Feinler and Stacy Horn are some of the names from different periods of this chronology that Claire finds. In an interview with LOOK, the author said she wanted to write the book because, while the Internet is a cultural object prone to erasure and rewriting, the paper record is more permanent and widely disseminates endangered memories. “I wanted to remember before we forget,” he says.
Claire, however, is not limited to the distant past, but visits a history that is still ongoing through interviews with women who, not so long ago, shone with innovative ideas – such as cyberfeminists of the nineties, to which he devotes an interesting epilogue. Above all, she tries to highlight the human side of the characters she presents, avoiding simplified images. “We all deserve complex characters, not just comic book heroes. I don’t find it inspiring to read about someone who is completely perfect,” the author believes. Watch the interview:
The book emphasizes the role of women in the democratization of the Internet. Why do you think they care so much about making this environment more welcoming and accessible? We all suffer when technology is created by a monoculture – that is, people who don’t directly experience the consequences of bad design choices and who don’t have to think about, for example, being harassed or discriminated against because of their identity. Technology can make social problems worse – and indeed it does all the time – but it cannot solve them. Women and minorities have an interest in ensuring that the technology environment is welcoming, accessible and, above all, safe.
Alan Turing is celebrated as the “father of computing”. Who would be his female equivalent in the story? Ada Lovelace occupies a similar position. Her contribution was not taken seriously almost a century after her death, because women were not scientists. She was Lord Byron’s daughter and as brilliant a mathematician as he was a poet. Ada wrote a set of mathematical instructions for the so-called Analytical Engine, which, although never completed, represents the first computer program in history. She was a complex person, addicted to opiates, but she had an uneasy instinct about how computers would be used by generations to come.
When the so-called “computer” meant only a function performed by humans, women dominated the field. When and why did they lose that advantage over men? Women began to disappear from computing in the 1970s, when they were in low-status positions—instead of being the main innovators in space, as they were during World War II and for some time afterward. This is partly a consequence of the commercialization of computers, which signaled to the rural population that “programming” was a new form of engineering, a status role. The professionalization of the field has led to its implicit masculinization, which has only intensified over the years thanks to marketing, advertisements and films. Today we think that men are somehow natural for computing, but they are not. It’s an anachronism.
Who are the women who stand out in the field of technology today – and by whom should history be remembered? Two women I really admire in tech right now are Tracy Chou, the developer and founder of Block Party, an app that does the work of filtering abuse, harassment and spam that has been ignored by social media, and Meredith Whittaker, a former Google employee who orchestrated company-wide shutdowns 2019 and who now leads the AI Now Institute, a research institute that studies the social implications of artificial intelligence.
What can be done to encourage more women to pursue careers in this still oppressive field? It is a complex question, but also very simple: hire women, listen to women and pay them well.
In a world immersed in fake news and engagement-driven storytelling wars, are you optimistic that the online space can improve? There is nothing fundamentally wrong with him. It’s just that a healthy online space is diametrically opposed to the goals of corporate platforms that exist only to get rich. We are at an inflection point in the history of the Internet, but as much as things could be worse, they could be better.