Saturday, December 02, 2006

It’s day eight, half way through, and I thought it might be a good moment to think about two things I read in response to this campaign early on, both to do with the presentation of the campaign: two to do with the name, and the other to do with the main logo. Someone took issue with the re-appropriation of the ‘take back the night’ original initiative from which this campaign is borrowing, and someone else questioned whether we’d ever actually had the 'tech' to take back! Both struck me as good points, as was the blogger’s point (I can’t remember who, sorry) about the suggested violence in the logo, which looks like a girl using a computer cord as a whip. It is a strange call to make for a campaign against violence, unless it’s deliberately showing how unfamiliar it looks to have a woman perpetrating a possible act of violence.

Personally, I think the idea behind the logo is that the girl is ripping the cord from the wall and taking technology into her own anarchistic hands, but I can see how, if you reverse the action, she could be whipping the cord. Since usually a lot of thought goes into the designing of these images, I can only imagine that the designers were aware of both interpretations, and I agree that handing the violent act to the woman, however subversive and deliberately controversial, is a little risky and a strange call in a campaign against any kind of violence. (After all, I’d hope that it went without saying that berating violence against women is by no means advocating violence against men!).

Taking back the night or taking back the tech as a title is perhaps even more layered. The night, however restrictive, reactive and negative the connotations, has long had a kind of mythical/romantic affinity with ‘woman’: certainly in the arts, if not in life itself (eg. witchcraft, for example…). I haven’t had time to research it, so I am making a somewhat educated (I hope!) guess, but I’m assuming that the original campaigns to ‘take back the night’ were drawing on this imposed affinity to say, to some extent, “the night was ours – you, your culture, your society, for better or worse, gave it to us, so it's ours – then you took it away, and as it was one of the few things we had, we want it back”!

As for the requisition of the name for take back the tech, I’m not sure I can take issue with it, since it assumes a certain level of success for the original campaign in order for this new version to feel that there will be something in that title that is recognisable to people in general, along with the hope for a similar success rate. There are plenty of things women need to take back for themselves – the tech, the night, the workplace, the government – so why not let these projects lean upon each other, and share what has worked in the past with the campaigns of today?

So is the tech, like the night, something women ever had in the first place, in order to claim it back? (Does it even matter?) Well, I thought this was a good point, considering the metaphorical history of taking back the night, but then a website (thanks to CNET’s top ten geek girls…,39029477,49285435,00.htm which I was going to talk about at some stage anyway…) reminded me of something I actually did know; I’d just forgotten: that the very first computer programmer was a woman! In 1980 the US Defence Department named the manual for their new computer programming language ADA, after Ada Byron (Lovelace), the woman who wrote the programme for Charles’s Baggage’s first theoretical computer in 1842. All of which just goes to demonstrate the ways that society ‘conveniently’ forgets these important founders in favour of their more socially palatable male contemporaries, and how these (deliberate?) oversights help create unfounded and inaccurate assumptions and stereotypes, such as ‘women and technology don’t mix’, that ensure men acquire and hold onto all the tools of information and power... Even I had forgotten…

technorati tags: takebackthetech

No comments: