In tomorrow’s NY Times, the Digital Domain article talks about the dearth of women in the computer science profession. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/16/business/16digi.html. I have been thinking and writing about this topic for years, first in an OJR post and then more recently in an declined Knight Grant application, as well as just talking about it to anyone that will listen. To me, the reasons women aren’t interested in computer science is that the way it is traditionally taught is irrelevant to them. However, when technology is made meaningful and increasingly social, women flock to it. I think that technology should be taught in disciplines in which it can be applied, like Communications. And, I’m not just talking about design. There are many opportunities for developers to tell stories via data-driven interactives. But, our field seems to be looking toward the computer science departments for these future storytellers. That’s a huge mistake. I think we need to bring technology to “where the girls are.” Basically, we need to integrate meaningful technology like Web application frameworks into communication and liberal arts curricula, disciplines in which women are already highly represented. I have taught Web design and development for many years, and I have seen firsthand the way that young women respond to technology, when it is taught to them in a meaningful and relevant manner. Many of my students have gone on to careers that have stretched their technology skills, and many of these careers have been in communication fields that rely on technology and social media more and more.
So, we need to get with it in the Communication discipline and take technology seriously, make it a central part of our curriculum, not a sideline or nice extra. Technology is communication and communication is technology. We need to accept that and make it happen.