Discrimination by Design: Tech Business, Bias, and the Trolls

“The world of coding appreciates your vagina.”

My coworkers and I looked at it and other comments piling up under a video of iJustine, a perky, blonde haired, doe-eyed YouTube presenter, explaining how she coded her own bracelet which was 3D printed by our company.

It was 2014 and the 3D printing startup we worked for had teamed up with Google to work on their Made with Code initiative, which aimed to get young girls involved in technology and understand the basics of programming. Under the tagline “the things you love are made with code,” featured coding projects that included fashion designs, emojis, video games, and our 3D printed friendship bracelets were all packaged up in a pastel-hued, rah-rah girlpower website.


The comments kept coming, “Proof that being a hot girl can make you rich, and allow you to talk about shit you have no clue about. Yet there’s this big push for feminism, claiming gender inequality in the West is a thing. LOL.”

“You don’t need ‘empowering’ at a young age, Let them be free and dont expose kids to externals ideas or some kind of gender agenda [sic].”

“I sure as shit hope this gets more girls into coding. So i can laugh at their extreme disappointment when they realize it’s nothing like they thought it would be thanks to retards like ijustine.”

Based on their screen names and avatars, all were written by adult men. L., our design education lead shook her head, “This video is for children. We’re going to delete these, right?”

No, our white male CEO insisted, we needed to leave the comments open to encourage dialogue and resist the urge to shut down free expression. Instead of deleting the offensive comments, or closing comments on the video all together, L. was instructed to politely respond to each one. We had just spent significant time and company resources to support a project that encourages girls to code and we were more concerned with protecting the “free speech” of YouTube trolls then ensuring the intended audience for the project, pre-teen and teenaged girls, felt safe watching it.

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Interview with Impractical Labor in the Service of the Speculative Arts on NYFA Current!

The ILSSA Reference Reports, a component of the ILSSA Quarterly, are an ever-growing and collaboratively generated annotated list of resources relevant to ILSSA members. The group's founders call the Reports “our analogue Internet.”

Impractical who? Speculative what? What is she on about? If you love bookbinding, zines, letterpress printing, type writers, old Polaroid cameras, and any and all things that have to do with obsolete technology, you will love this project. Impractical Labor in the Service of the Speculative Arts was started by Bridget Elmer and Emily Larned, two artists who are letterpress printers and bookmakers that I greatly admire. It was Emily who suggested I intern at Booklyn, a Brooklyn-based book artists alliance, my first internship in New York. I also worked in Emily’s studio all through college, binding books, scoring and folding CD covers, and sorting type, in exchange for the use of her beautiful Vandercook press and lovingly homemade lunches. It was this kind of impractical labor, and Emily’s inspiring example of how to do it, that made me think very carefully and clearly about what it meant to be an artist and how one builds an artist’s life and balances their life and work.

Set letterpress type for the ILSSA leaflet, What is craft and why does it matter?, included as part of an ILSSA Research Quarterly.

Bridget and Emily’s project/organization is a membership organization that borrows from ideas of a labor union and a research institute and a performance project all rolled into one. I was very flattered to interview them for NYFA Current and I hope you will read the full interview here about their activities.