Hedy Lamar 1942
You could be forgiven for believing that as a woman you have to choose one of two paths: pretty little fool (keep your head down, pretty up and bag yourself a husband) or throw away the make up and artifice and get on your inner geek.
Programs like the Big Bang Theory are great fun, and I’m a massive fan, but there is little on television to balance out that women don’t need to be like Amy Farrah Fowler to be mega clever geeks. This is a hard piece to write because, of course, there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with being like Amy. The trouble is that not all clever girl geeks are like Amy, any more than you have to look like fellow character Penny to be a waitress/actress. The show cleverly plays on stereotypes for its humour, but where are the real ‘Amy’s in our media representations?
Things ARE getting better. Maggie Philbin and Carol Vorderman have been admirable poster children for female scientists/mathematicians, yet pop culture continues only nominally to portray women as successful leaders, let alone as leading in technology and science. As technology and science are getting more airtime as they become more ‘consumery’, surely the time has come for this to change?
So for this year’s Ada Lovelace Day, I’m choosing Hedy Lamar as my unsung hero. Unsung? Many have written before about her achievements, but people write about her achievements as an actress – a very beautiful one at that – or as a technologist: Hedy’s thoughts underpinned secure communications (and weapons) technology for the military and now ubiquitous mobile communications . In 1942, during the War, along with composer George Antheil, she patented the “Secret Communication System” – changing radio frequencies simultaneously to prevent the enemy detecting messages. The idea was ahead of its time – the technology wasn’t yet ready,but once transistors arrived, and were small enough, it underinned ‘mobile’ as we know it.
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When Mike Butcher of TechCrunch fame posted the following, my interest was inevitably piqued:
Two visions of the future continue to play out. Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’ featured a society under a ‘telescreen’ dictatorship, where ‘Victory Coffee’ was served in cafés to people who yearned for free expression outside of the watchful eye of the state.
It’s a world in which the more extreme elements of the NSA and GCHQ might feel at home. In Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ the drug Soma is served to pacify the population, reminiscent of the ‘dopamine effect’ many privately-owned social networks have on us today. In both cases the new industrial revolution of technology is often empowering the previously powerless, but also aiding and abetting the powers that be.
But what future do we choose? Where should we take our society? Orwell, Marx, Trotsky, Huxley, even Thatcher — all had visions of the future. But where do WE choose to take our technological and scientific revolution? Let’s discuss these and other questions in this new Salon which will range far wider than the ’tech startups’ discussion many of us are used to.
View over the BBC news factory, taken by Mike Butcher
Against the exciting, buzzy backdrop of the BBC (curse the camera on my iphone for being broken – Daleks in Twitter’s offices last week, daleks at the Beeb yesterday – a theme is emerging – Doctor Who fever is upon us!), a fairly random group of people met to see where this discussion took us.
There are challenges to putting a group of strong minded, independent people in a room together, and Bill Thompson did a great job of marshalling us (Mike was detained writing up an important, of sadly familiar, story: European Investor Admits He Pestered Female Entrepreneur For Sex In “Deal” Email. Well done to him for giving it some priority!)
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It seems that due to couple of heavy files sent from my email address, my hosting limit was reached at just the same time as I was moving office, resulting in bounced emails. (The office move went smoothly, apart from the Internet connection, which is a week away still!)
A massive thank you to those who made the effort to let me know, and sincere apologies for the inconvenience to everyone else.
While I’m here, a few ‘signposts to some articles etc that I’ve placed up over the past few weeks.
I’m back off hiatus at State of Digital and posted last month about basic blogger outreach – it was written for an agency audience, so it comes with a jargon alert: please forgive me talking about ‘content placement': The Content Placement Pitch.
I also blogged at the end of last month for Global Integration about the cross cultural events that will be affecting work in May – some are passed, but there’s still time for the post to resonate: http://www.global-integration.com/blog/may-2014/
The Waves PR Christmas tree
Thanks to a glitch in Outlook, my website has been disappearing regularly. I am working with United Hosting to try and resolve the issue, and please accept my apologies if you’ve been affected.
A quick round up of some things that should have made blogposts over the period:
- Women’s canoe will be in the Olympics! The work that Samantha Rippington and her colleagues have been doing have mean that both women AND men will be able to compete in future – I hope to catch up with Sam for another blog on the subject in the new year.
- Early next year, Global Integration will be running a campaign to stamp out dreadful meetings. I shall enjoy blogging a little more about that one when the time comes.
- I’ve been doing some work with Topspin Digital. They do great digital work and have a great work ethic – do look them up!
I wish you a really happy 2014, when hopefully I shall be back with a complete new look – on the blog at very least!