On 13 February 2018, I participated in the Tech Inclusion Melbourne conference. Bill Nicholson, Wurundjeri elder gave the Welcome to Country (below). He talked about using treaty to build economic capacity and sovereignty amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
My overview of the conference starts with the panel discussion that I took part in. I then reflect on the other presentations. (Note: click on images for further detail)
I’m featured in the first episode of Making New Worlds, a podcast inviting experts from different fields to discuss the ethics of colonising other planets.
The issue we discuss is not about scientific space exploration (collecting data about other planets), but whether it is ethical for humans to settle in Mars or other planets. My responses represent sociological considerations about the inequality that is inherent in colonialism. The quotes below are excerpts from me; listen to the entire podcast in the link.
I’m off to beautiful Auckland in Aotearoa (New Zealand) for Kiwi Foo! My second time Fooing. Last time was wonderful. I was very apprehensive before arriving, because while I’ve lectured, done dozens of conferences, and led hundreds of presentations and workshops, Kiwi Foo is an “unconference,” which I’ve never experienced. It is a unstructured event where none of the day talks are pre-organised. Instead, the 150 participants arrive on Friday night, introduce themselves to everyone else one by one and then together negotiate individual talks and panels. The idea is to put your idea for your talk on the wall (newbies first) and then see if others are talking on a similar theme and try to collaborate. A broad aim of the conference is to bring together people from many fields to work together on a better future. Continue reading Off to Kiwi Foo in Beautiful Aotearoa New Zealand
I’m at an Indigitek event at Google. Nancia J. Guivarra and Wayne Denning will be speaking about how to encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Derek Harte from Google begins the event, speaking on importance of diversity on innovation and importance of Indigenous talent to the future of technology.
I’ll be speaking on a panel at the first Tech Inclusion conference in Australia, in Melbourne, on 13 February 2018. Tech Inclusion is aimed at various practitioners from the tech industry to discuss issues of diversity. This includes: executives, hiring managers, human resources, data scientists, educators, entrepreneurs, investors, policymakers and diversity and inclusion advocates.
I’ll be on the panel hosted by Cory-Ann Joseph, UX Lead at ANZ. The panel is called: We’ve got a time machine, now what are we going to do with it?
From the event website:
Growing up in Australia came with a sense that we were lagging behind our bigger, ‘cooler’ brother of the USA – movies, pop music, concert tours all took weeks or months to get to us – if at all. But Silicon Valley doesn’t always lead the way. Mistakes were made in the ‘early’ days of diversity and inclusion: centering men at Women in Tech events, a focus on women first instead of race, and the victim-blamey rhetoric of women needing to change their behaviour. And perhaps the biggest mistake of all is that despite a decade since the first D&I efforts – not much has changed.
How can the tech industry in Australia avoid the same and chart a different course for the future?
For the latest in my BadSciFilm series (a satirical look at movies depicting science), we dive into the ending to The Belko Experiment. This horror film has been inspired by a warped understanding of social science. Spoiler alert, obviously. Continue reading BadSciFilm: The Belko Experiment
My trip to New Zealand Aotearoa was lovely. I was a guest of the Women in Science group, the New Zealand Association of Scientists and various other partner and sponsor agencies. In Wellington, I gave a talk about gender equity and diversity. I discussed how intersectionality can be used in various national models of change, to increase the number of minorities and White women in leadership positions. I also addressed some considerations for creating a more inclusive research culture that draws leadership from Indigenous scientists. I then joined a panel of distinguished academics to further discuss diversity in the local context.
Most of my trip in New Zealand was spent at the University of Auckland. I gave a talk on intersectionality and the March for Science as well as attending various meetings providing advice and listening to progress and thinking on inclusion in science. The campus is stunning. This is the inside of the Clock Tower, an impressive tall, white building with beautiful architecture.
There have been an increased number of public attacks on underrepresented academics for their education and activism on social media. The term “activist academic” describes the longstanding tradition across nations where intellectuals engage in conscious protest in support of social justice and dissent against the status quo. Activism by academics asserts that the university has a social function beyond the provision of education and scholarly critique. Activist academics see that their role serves a social purpose to provide independent social criticism through volunteering, program interventions, public engagement outside academia, protests, and beyond. In some circles, the profile of activist academics has declined, particularly amongst White academics from majority groups. This led to the misperception that recent international protests by scientists were novel. This is misguided, as minority academics are often inextricably activist in their pedagogy, not-for-profit service work, and activities.
Sociology is centrally concerned with activism, especially in applied contexts. Our social justice focus is misconceived as bias or as an attack to those not used to having history, culture and politics viewed through a critical lens. Sociology is centrally concerned with social transformation. We do not merely observe the world; we aim to challenge existing power structures and to reduce inequity. Having said that, women academics in general are penalised for their work, and the outcomes are even worse for minority sociologists as they seek senior roles. The stakes for minority activist academics is therefore higher, as I will show below.
Mervyn Bishop, a Murray man, was the first Aboriginal person to work at a major metro daily newspaper, joining the Sydney Morning Herald in 1962. In 1971 he was named Australian Press Photographer of the Year. He would go on to cover major events, including the anti-war protests of the 1960s, the Bicentennial in 1988, and Aboriginal community life in remote regions of Australia. Continue reading Mervyn Bishop
There is a troubling trend of famous scientists receiving increased attention to speak at academic events and on conservative media. In The Humanist, I recently wrote about the resurgence of political scientist Charles Murray, co-author of The Bell Curve. The book has been universally critiqued as an example of modern-day scientific racism. Yet Murray is being embraced by right wing media personalities, as well as by research institutions. He was the focus of a student and faculty protest after being invited to give a talk.
Published in 1994, The Bell Curve was founded on a flawed premise that inferred a correlation between intelligence, socio-economic achievement, and genetics, without accounting for the effects of discrimination. The research was funded by the eugenics-promoting Pioneer Fund. Time has proven the book to be scientifically “reckless.” It enjoys a resurgence in 2017, the era of Trump, specifically because it is read as proof that White people are superior to racial minorities, especially Black and Latin people.
We can see a similar pattern in the renewed embrace of Dr James Watson. He is famous for being awarded a Nobel Prize for discovering the structure of DNA along with Francis Crick, but they did so by stealing the work of a White woman scientist, Rosalind Franklin. Watson has also promoted scientific racism and sexism throughout his career, arguing that Black people are less intelligent and that women have no value in science careers. He also spread racist pseudoscience, saying there is a link between sunlight and increased libido. His reasoning: “That’s why you have Latin lovers.” He has further argued that thin people are more ambitious, and he subsequently validates that discrimination towards fat people is understandable. All of this, of course, is without any scientific evidence.
What message does his continued elevated status send to underrepresented and marginalised groups in academia?