Extending the notion of code

Yuwei Lin – Manchester University: ‘Embodying Hacker Culture in Women-friendly Free Software Groups’

Yuwei Lin discusses the rise of women friendly hacking networks in a male dominated free software culture. Download Yuwei Lin’s presentation slides

Female software networks

Notes written by students of Theo Vurdubakis -Department of Organisation, Work and Technology, Lancaster University:
Yuwei’s presentation focused on the contextualisation and embodiment of the hacker culture. The aim was to address why certain groups, namely women, are excluded from this type of technological development and to discuss and examine free software as an available source code to all for modification. Free software then is never perfect and should be seen as transparent and open which the reporting of bugs, viruses etc identifies. In contrast, however, notions of hacking and coding are not seen as open and transparent as they tend to originate from engineering cultures and are defined therefore, in the mainstream, by men. It is these cultural beliefs attached to coding and hacking which lead to a lack of visibility of women in free software.

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‘Countryside Code’

Martin Dodge – University of Manchester

Thewells Countryside code cartoons

The original country code was published in the 1950’s and illustrated by Norman Thelwell. Download more cartoons here>

The VMS DeLaval robotic milking machine promotional video. This robot now enables the farmer to use a touchscreen and robotic arms instead of actually physically milking the cow in the cowshed. In automatic milking systems, there is massive investment in changing the nature of working with animals. No one touches the cow. It becomes a machine-readable entity. Is farming a code/space? Is a cow only a cow through code?

Download Martin Dodge’s presentation slides>

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Discussion

Is there a fundamental dilemma in coding about the thing itself? Is this a particularly masculinist dilemma? And the farm space, does it not already harbour something monstrous about it?

What about the potentially ‘feminine’ aspects of free software development? What about resistance to the coding of farming?

There is a fundamental dilemma in both these papers that concerns mass production and individuation. Code in the form of software cannot carry gender? A mass produced cow cannot be purely natural in an authentic sense.

Countryside code is very much linked to State and regulation. Pigs in Ireland often moved across borders to accrue EU subsidies.

Robots/careworkers?

Telecare session

‘Mediating care: reading, interpreting and diagnosing code, the ‘new’ skills of ‘caring’?’ Norman Crump – LUMS, Lancaster University

Download Norman Crumps Telecare presentation here>

Elderly panic button

2nd generation telecare system

Notes written by students of Theo Vurdubakis -Department of Organisation, Work and Technology, Lancaster University:

Norman’s presentation focussed on the introduction, development and proliferation of telecare systems in the services of care. Historically, the systems evolved from social alarms to passive and non-invasive home monitoring and, finally, to preventative technological sensors of well-being. In particular, the first generation of telecare included alarms, pendants and wrist-bands, the second incorporated sensors that were built into the fabric of the ‘home’ to monitor activity and the third generation extended to the collection, monitor and storage of data from the sensors, in order to generate screens and diagrams for the carers, indicating how people’s behaviour is changing.

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‘Monitoring vital signs or mediating loving care and connection: the social codes of new care technologies’

Ingunn Moser and Jeanette Pols – University of Oslo/University of Amsterdam:

Download power point presentation> Telecare_IMJP

Icat interacting with user or master
The Icat by Philips

Notes written by students of Theo Vurdubakis -Department of Organisation, Work and Technology, Lancaster University:
Ingunn’s presentation focused upon the growing recognition of the need for a deeper understanding of care technologies and the complexities of material, social, cultural, emotional and aesthetic relations involved in these. The aim of the presentation was to examine and discuss how certain and specific new technologies of care were constructed/designed and how this affected and is affecting relations of care and what it means to be cared for in contemporary times.

The first example of a ‘care technology’ that was introduced was the ‘HealthBuddy.’ Designed by IDEO in 1999. This was outlined as a ‘typical’ technological care system to which those being cared for can be seen to become socially and emotionally attached. This system is designed to monitor and educate those being cared for by asking them a series of questions each day relating to their symptoms, behaviour and knowledge. For example, ‘Did you weigh yourself today?’

health buddy

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Discussion

Why did Aibo go out of production? We don’t know.

Do carers really care? The Eros-Thanatos relation is more complicated. Hate is also mediated through these technologies. There are times in care when this happens.

To what extent does the telecare offer surveillance of care-work? What kinds of pre-emptive effects arise? Do they displace protection or prevention? Reading of screens or codes works both for and against surveillance. Often local knowledge allows selection between different readings of the screens. The managers and commissioners of services can trace the work of carers.

Do patient hate their carers? Yes, even in these systems. They like people some people and not others.

Where does the image of the butler come in? The good butler renders their care invisible. How could a cat been seen as a butler?

How do the people who commission these systems think they work? The abstraction of work does not seem plausible. Somehow it is meant to address specificity. The technology is meant to make people think they are not being treated like a statistic? The push is towards individualization, in many ways. Finer grades of abstraction are ok, but not video cameras.

Why does the conversation about code and care come together? What does code do here? It disables care, it disconnects. It also leads to connections or attachments. The relation between the ill person and the illness seems to drop out here. Illness does not work out source or script or data. Prevention never works but neither does preemption. One could be seduced by a box for a while, but an illness might come and could not be coded.

The box assumes that an illness can be coded and controlled.

Protection has been cached out here in particular ways here – as a trajectory of vulnerability. The trajectory looks very different from different PoV. The agency might have a different view than the client, who feels the here and now. For the latter, the moving in and out of resources feels very different.