Let’s talk apps: meeting with Digital Innovations.

I messaged the Digital Innovations team back in December after thinking of an idea for a children’s app whilst participating on their Tech For Good workshop (The Shed, 6/12/16). We have been going back and forth since then until finally Paul contacted me to apologise as they have been spread so thinly. He then set a meeting up between Laurie Cooper and I where we met to discuss whether my idea had any legs.

I want to create an app which helps children to believe that any future vocation is possible regardless of gender. I came up with the storyboard during the workshop after we discussed the reasons behind women being under-represented in tech. It was suggested that girls need to visibly see role models in the industry before being able to see themselves. As I discussed my aim with Laurie he asked if I wanted to create the app to empower girls, I said it needs to be inclusive for everyone, not just girls.

Admittedly, I had not done any research as yet as i didn’t think the meeting would happen and I was in the midst of my practice deadline. My partner and I searched children’s apps over the weekend to see if there was anything on the market that was doing the same. We found something with a similar idea about showing many job-roles and you built your own character which looked a little androgynous, but it was a little messy compared to what I have in mind. There was also one that links children around the world and gives a day in the life story in different countries. I really like this concept.

As I searched through, I became quite disturbed by how many pregnancy surgery and plastic surgery apps there are. I’m not sure why there is a need for this? Are they trying to appeal to girls to be interested in the science and medical side to giving birth or are they trying to put girls off surgery by showing what can go wrong? There is room for more research here on my part.

 

There are so many apps that are trying to interest girls in science or engineering, but just as I saw in the toy stores, it’s as if everything needs to be pink to get them interested or the intention has to be linked to something associated with femininity; make up, baking, etc. One of the ones that appealed to me was an app called Fix It Girls where a female team fix things in the home. I really don’t remember things being so pink when I was a child, I don’t remember things having to be a certain colour to feel like they appealed to me. I remember not being interested in certain toys or subjects and looking at what my favourite things were then, seeing how they are not typically feminine and how I felt more ‘tomboy-ish’, but I don’t remember the colour being a determiner.

 

There are an excellent group called Tinybop who are developing educational apps in a visually beautiful way that encourages play. They are different to what I have in mind, however, I wish that they were around when I was a child as I would have been a lot more interested. These are going to appeal to the visual and kinaesthetic learners that could otherwise be lost when using text books and text-book diagrams.

At first I was thinking of aiming it at 4-7 year olds but as we were going through the details we found it may be better to aim at the youngest children possible. Laurie drew on how his daughter is obsessed with pink and he and his wife don’t know where this has come from. They guess it could have been nursery as they both went back to work when she was at a young age. We discussed other options, for example, if we aimed at 7-8 year old we could go into more detail regarding the vocations and refer to government legislation on education in schools about job possibilities, but we would be relying on the child having a certain amount of reading capabilities in order to skip the parents. If we aimed at 4 year-olds, the children would have to have a much simpler content, but if we are aiming young and they need help setting up the app at first, why not start even younger and say 1-4/5 years old?

When speaking about his daughter and his experience that pink does appeal to girls and form a part of their identity, Laurie suggested entering the child’s gender. I do not want this. I would rather a child enter their favourite colour so they feel the app is personally tailored to them and rather than expecting a girl to prefer pink, this gives more flexibility. All children can try the app in different colour combinations and choose the one that represents them the most. To invest the child even further they will be asked to draw something for the background and enter their name and age. Ethical implications were debated and we are sure we have the best ways to carry out the task whilst protecting the child.

Details and thoughts are all collated in the notebooks and the summary email. As advised, I have spoken to a friend who is a deputy manager of a nursery and she is interested in being involved in the design print stage. Laurie has given me a quote for the design spring so I now need to research where to apply for funding or sponsorship. The design sprint will run across 4 1/2 days. We would meet with Natalie for a half day workshop were we would discuss the logistics and see if Natalie’s experience highlights anything we have missed. I would then meet with the digital team and work with the artists to get some wire frames made to show how the app would look visually. There will then be a further quote to get the app up and running.

I am enthusiastic about this and truly believe it could be successful. It would be a great personal experience to work with others who are passionate about what the app stands for as Laurie does. Sometimes it would be helpful to me to have someone else who is on the same page to bounce ideas off rather than going around the ones in your own mind over and over.

 

 

 

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Lecture on Ethics.

This weeks Thursday lecture was on Ethics held by John Spencer. The talk was really informative and relevant to my work but the slides changed so quick. I may contact John and ask if it is possible to be sent the slides to look back on as there was too much information to retain and not enough time to copy all of the notes I would of liked to.

It is a very complex issue and there is a lot of debate within Arts and Humanities regarding ethics as art is intended to challenge. Where is the line that says something is for the greater good and beyond this is unethical? We were informed that we should complete an ethics form for every project. Everyone involved in the research should be given a consent form and they have to give their permission for their input to be used. I presented the same question to John as I did to Olivier Kruegler regarding my reportage. Where do I stand with ethics if my research depends on conversations and statements that are raw and un-edited? If someone knew I was planning on documenting something they said for my research project their reactions and conversations would be edited, therefore detrimental to my research. I see my research as being for the greater good, so am i harming by releasing my findings or merely offending? It was suggested that I would be working ethically as my reportings are not released in a way that the person is identifiable. Even then if someone admitted that conversation came from them, there is no link in my work to them.

Copyright surrounding images, found imagery and collage is extremely complicated. It was recommended we refer to Fair Dealing- Copyright for more information. For found photographs and imagery, you will be entitled to use these if you can prove you have exercised all avenues in trying to find and contact the original owner. I asked where I stood with using collage. I was under the impression the image could be 70 years old in he public domain and therefore free to use and if you manipulate the image to the point of it not being fully recognisable as the original image. John said there is room to manipulate and room for argument within copyright laws, moreso in the Uk than compared to the USA and perhaps I could look up the USA copyright laws in relation to manipulation. Also, look up the Orphan Image government scheme to see if there has been any new legislation approved.

Michele recalled a time she received a solicitors letter after she held an exhibition of which her work incuded manipulated wallpaper she had found in a skip. The wallpaper was only an element in the pieces of her work and someone mustof come across them and reported her. She destroyed her work but never heard any more from the solicitors.

Network review day.

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I feel very behind in my practice at the moment and after hearing that no trains were running from Liverpool to Manchester due to the landslide at Liverpool Lime Street station, I was tempted to allow myself this excuse to miss the review day. Instead, I composed a 10 slide presentation of ideas and happenings that I would like to take further into practice 2.

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I want to experiment with children’s toys as a way of sketching by probing what makes an object gendered by questioning shapes, colours, textures and even environment and context. If I can change the surrounding  area of a toy, does that change they way we connect it to a specific gender? Also, what makes an object gender neutral?

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After the Memory and Trauma lecture during Contested Territories held by Fiona Barber, I wondered whether it would be effective to question why I am interested in stereotypes. What stands out from my childhood is that the only doll I can really remember being interested in was my Rainbow Brite doll and how I would tell people I was her. Looking at this doll, it is obvious to me that she is more of a character than the usual exaggerated perfection of femininity. My mum’s greatest achievement was how beautiful and slim she was and she would talk about it to me a lot. I felt I could never compare and this contributed to an unhealthy relationship with my body for years. I am more the Rainbow Brite character and my mum was the Barbie. Could I make something that illustrates the pressures girls feel to be beautiful? Could I then flip this to show that this really doesn’t matter?

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The Glam Guide is a book aimed at teenage girls that a friend and I came across while living in Cardiff. It is solely based around how you can look your best, your social media and blogging presence, your diet, finding the perfect angle to take your photograph, etc, etc. We planned to show our distaste for this guide aiming at girls of a vulnerable age and expose it for the nonsense it is by re-writing and illustrating an opposing version.

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This is the area I feel most strongly towards and will be the one I pursue first. As discussed in a previous post, I will dissect stereotypical spreads within the magazines and question everything to gain a deeper understanding the thinking behind the artist and publishing house as well as where they situate within society and who they are truly marketed at. I will question the use of language, colour, shapes and imagery, and subjects within the magazines and play with splicing, scale and context. I wonder whether adults look through the magazines and critique them or do they just buy them without a second thought. I would like to draw attention to what is already there.

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I am also drawn towards the language, colours, and imagery used for children’s clothing. A lot rings true with comments made in Marianne Grabruker’s 1988 book ‘There’s a Good Girl: Gender Stereotyping in the First Three Years- A Diary.’ Grabruker documents her experiences of her close circle speaking to boys and girls differently, of using different language, of using language to excuse certain behaviour. I have also noticed this happen today in conversations. After reading Veronika Koller’s article ‘Not just a colour’: pink as a gender and sexuality marker in visual communication I would like to focus on the survey of feelings and expectations associated with different hues of pink and how they become garish and immature when it comes to adults. It would be interesting to experiment with what is commonplace in children’s fashion and apply it to adults simply as t-shirt slogans.

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As discussed in a previous post; the email conversation with a man with opposing views to my own on stereotypes and expectations within society.

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It was recommended I take a look at this book as a way of beginning to think of how I want to disrupt people’s complacency. How do I want to do this and where is it best to situate my work to create the desired effect? Do I want to play with scale in a way to create a direct and forceful impact or do I want to quietly draw people in and secure their attention before they realise what is happening and what is being said?

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This could possibly be the bad idea that I need to let go of, however, I have been questioning if this could work in another context rather than anonymously disseminating the recordings. Could this work if they were in abundance suspended in a small space? Where people have to stand within the area and can not be relieved of paying them any attention and to be confronted with the volume? The problem with this idea is the area it would be displayed. If it was in a gallery then it limits the audience to people who are already accustomed to art and the questions art can propose. Is this my target audience? Is this the area that will trigger the change I intend? Or would perhaps a bus shelter or another public place be more effective?

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Here I informed my peers of the Creative Provocation I will be holding in the Righton Building on Wednesday 12th April where I will discuss my research so far, ideas and the questions I have regarding the most effective way I can help implement a change. I am offering a conversation and hope to generate counter ideas, opinions, and experiences to either compliment or challenge my journey so far.

 

For my feedback I received similar dissatisfaction with the way things are, although, especially when it comes to females and how flowery and sweet language, clothing and expectations of how girls and women should behave. The need to find out what sex a baby is before it is born. It was also highlighted and how the child is embellished in pink and blue, therefore how can this colour preference be natural?  There is less of a concern for boys and the acceptance of how, just like the t-shirt says, ‘Boys will be Boys’. But this leaves me dissatisfied. I feel it is still unfair and negligent of boys emotional needs and interests. Current campaigns were discussed and how they are striking and successful, for example, This Girl Can. There is also a newly started This Boy Can campaign which I believe is equally important. It was suggested that the This Girl Can campaign is successful as it is sending out a positive message rather than highlighting victimisation. I agree that this works and would be worth experimenting with. I do wonder whether this would play to my strengths as an artist, I am someone who is motivated by injustice so I may struggle to flip the message to a positive one. My personality is more direct, I am triggered to highlight issues that have happened in society. It was also suggested that I could create my own gender neutral magazine. It is not something that I am considering at the moment but this could be possible when I have tested my dissection as I mentioned earlier.

 

Contested Territories Reflective Essay.

The woman’s body is a contested territory. It is personal yet open to scrutiny, debate, and
to govern. Editorial illustration is my area of interest as well as reportage and activism. I chose to compose my work around the reportings of the media rather than solely academic reading. I am interested in what is being reported, looking at how and where my target audience is getting it’s information from, and how people are engaging with what is happening in the world right now. My BA and MA practice work focuses on sexism, gender, and stereotypes, naturally I found myself engaging with the reports of people fighting for women’s reproductive rights.
Judith Butler (2012) describes how the mass of bodies together creates a presence and
how the collective takes up space in an area that is public although this space is nuanced. Butler also discusses the impact of technology on protests.Smartphone recordings on social media can quickly disseminate the action to places that would otherwise be unaware or disconnected. Using technology and the internet has been imperative to how I have mapped the protests across Poland, Republic and Northern Ireland, and America.
Since Roe v Wade in America in 1973, there seems to be a determination to peddle backwards rather than forwards. Carole Joffe (2003) refers to the effect on reproductive rights once a Republican is elected into office and it is happening again. De-funding Planned Parenthood seems to be a priority yet this is contrary to preventing terminations when birth control is a service they provide. Donald Trump wrote an executive order to reinstate the Global Gag Rule within days of taking office which will restrict access to contraception worldwide. For Trump to appoint a pro-life judge to the Supreme Court could overturn Roe v Wade which means women could no longer have access to a safe termination. Reports have been released of lawmakers expressing their views on how women are ‘hosts’ when they are pregnant1, and another of how it would be detrimental
to the family if women were granted equal pay2. Already astounded that a man who has
been recorded clearly stating he would grab women’s bodies without consent3, has been elected into power and is now working on eliminating a woman’s right to reproductive choice and health care for her own body. I fear this election has given a voice to misogyny and believe this is the true undertone rather than moral and religious beliefs.
Throughout the reports on the debates and protests in Northern and Republic of Ireland,
and Poland, the Catholic Church is prominent. Protesters suggest the Church has too much of an influence over society, politics, and education in all countries. Siobhán Mullally (2005) recalls numerous referenda on abortion in Ireland and progress has yet to be made. In 2013 Sarah Ewart had to travel to England to terminate a planned pregnancy after being informed the baby could not survive outside the womb. Ewart has continued to campaign for the law to be changed. In 2014 a refugee was raped in her own country and on discovering she was pregnant in Ireland, she was denied an abortion. Mullally (2005) already references how forcing a woman to carry to term after rape is a breach of human rights. When the threat to her life was acknowledged after turning suicidal, a court order was obtained to carry out a caesarean at twenty-five weeks. A woman who was diagnosed brain dead by her doctors was kept alive in 2014 as she was 18 weeks pregnant forcing
her family to go to court to allow her to die. Across Ireland it is only legal to have an abortion if the woman’s physical or mental health is at risk. Towards the end of last year there were calls for politicians from the rest of the UK to offer help to Northern Irish women who were having to travel to terminate. The country has not yet come forth
with another referendum on the issue and there are plans for a protest on the 8th March 2017. In Poland, a citizens initiative legislation was proposed to make abortion legal only if the mother’s mental and physical health is affected. It proposed abortion for rape and incest to be illegal. Women across the country conducted a protest named Black Monday. The government agreed they would not implement the bill and the protests had given them “food for thought”.

Upon reflection of the lecture on memory and trauma1, I wanted to juxtapose objects along
with collage and create a zine2. After visiting Tracey Emin’s bed at Tate Liverpool, I contemplated how the emotion was embedded within the materials rather than from a narrative3. I changed my initial idea for the type after my practice tutorial4 and drew on a Suddedeutsche Zeitung magazine edition shown in an artist talk I attended held by David Britain5. I wanted to represent the amount of simultaneous editorial documentation being released and communicate how the sheer volume of words, although necessary, can almost suppress emotion towards a situation6. As Susan Sontag suggested regarding journalistic photography, the exposure can anaesthetise (1997:20). My intent was to map and illustrate the rise of people protesting and moving forward together but leave space around the images for thought. The idea of a zine comes not only from a history of zines in feminist discourse but also from another tutorial where we discussed what people perceive
as authoritative7. This influenced my decision making on the choice of paper weight and
gloss, and getting it printed professionally, also choosing to print type I could reference from reliable sources rather than my own opinion.

My exhibition piece was originally 8”. I decided to reconfigure her so she could command
attention in the space. I want people to stand with her or view her as an authoritative, intimidating presence to stand against. I spoke with the curator about my intent and how I wanted people to be taken aback when walking into the exhibition and the space I was given delivered this perfectly8. It has been an interesting experience to work together as a collective to bring the exhibition, called apart, together, to life. The curators were invaluable, grouping us together in a way that flowed, and how they envisaged the space for so many people despite the interpretations being unique to each artist. I appreciated how this felt wholly collaborative rather than orchestrated by the curators. The practical knowledge of how to hang my work and how to promote the event will stand me in good stead for the future. I have come to realise that it is important I work on my time management. It took around four times the amount of time I set aside to complete my zine as I was using programmes I had not used before and learning to compose my work for print. In reality, I have dedicated near equal time to the project and my practice work. I found the lectures encouraged ideas to test within my practice also.

It was brought to our attention that the event venue had contacted the curators stating that due to the political nature of some of the work, they would like it to be invitation only. I have been promoting my work and the exhibition details via social media platforms as discussed with the group during our meetings. I had included the venue on the posts and I can only guess they encountered my interpretation. Similar situations have occurred in the past where people do not want to be seen endorsing the work or a disclaimer has been suggested. My work and the research can leave me conscious of segregation. I am involved in a debate with a man who was extremely vocal on his views on hiring women of childbearing age and how the law is now unfairly bias towards women and the conversations I have encountered during my working day with women can leave me depressed and dumbfounded. Women appear to be reduced down to the fact they can give
birth, no matter the context. For a woman to ask whether I am ready for the wrath I will face upon showing my work is frustrating. I am not promoting the procedure, I am promoting body autonomy, affordable birth control, and safe health care. Abortion will happen regardless, but it will not be safe. I have been involved in exchanges where a man believes child support is proof that men are not legally allowed to avoid their responsibilities. I would argue that paying money does not equate to the responsibility of women carrying a child, giving birth, and being the primary or sole carer of a child forced by law. People have a lot to say in other contexts but not when I present my work and
invite a conversation.

I believe the exhibition was a success for everyone involved. My work was not discussed
with many people who were not artist themselves and I noticed that not many picked up the zine until I opened it. Upon reflection, I think the zine may of been more successful in a different environment and this gives me something to think about and take forward. The piece was enough on it’s own for the event. I could possibly situate the zine somewhere where people have to sit and spend some time. I predict there will be the opportunity to work on this as this exchange of views is far from over.

1 Trauma, Effect and Empathy lecture held by Fiona Barber for Contested Territories option 19/1/17.
2 See images 1 and 2. The front cover of my zine and an inside spread.
3 See image 3. Photograph of Emin’s Bed taken at Tate Liverpool. October 2016.
4 Clinton Cahill suggested I play with the typography. I was so attached to the idea of evoking anonymity with the style of a ransom note, I could not see for looking. This hindered the work. Although I prefer now what I have done with the text, I do believe I could have explored this much further.
5 David Britain shown an image of the political magazine Suddedeutsche Zeitung. This specific edition was released without any words. It highlighted the political despair at the time of print. I wanted to use this effect to allow room for a visual impact after the volume of typed reports. Unfortunately, after contacting Brittain, he can not pinpoint the exact edition that was referenced.
6 See image 4. Inside spread of zine.
7 Recalling another tutorial with Clinton Cahill, this influenced my decision making in regard to paper choice, choosing to print in colour, and getting the final printed professionally. I also decided to only use text I could reference from reliable sources rather than including my own opinion or reflection.
8 See images 5a ,5b & 5c. Photograph I took during a group visit to the exhibition space and of the exhibition, apart, together, with permission of owner and curator, Chris Bailkosky. Taken at the event on 23/03/17.

 

A conversation.

Matt and I headed to the lovely local pub for a couple of drinks on Friday evening at the beginning of February. We were lucky to find a small table, but unlucky to be positioned next to an extremely loud conversation regarding hiring women of childbearing age. It was a conversation between three male friends and one guy was very vocal with his views in the matter much to one of his friends bemusement. He loudly stated that as an owner of a company you would have to be insane to hire a woman of childbearing age; the woman would have to be amazing at her job or infertile; if a woman come for an interview and had given birth to three children in a row, there is no way you would hire her; feminism is women wanting to beat men around the head; the law has gone mad and is unfairly on the side of women now; fathers for justice are just fighting to see their kids; and the stats say now that men are hiring more women than men just so they look like they are an equal opportunities employer. Stats were mentioned a lot. I found the conversation offensive but unfortunately could not move to somewhere else and within the small room, would still be able to hear anyway.

As he and his friends were leaving, I gave him my card and told him I would like to speak to him when he was sober. He told me he would speak to me now but I suggested that would not be a good idea. To be fair with him, he emailed the next day and we have exchanged in conversation. I asked him about his views as even if I do not agree with them, it is interesting to find out why he believes what he does and where he gets his background information from. I challenged him on what exactly is childbearing age. He mentioned again how if you were a small business owner and you interviewed a woman and a man who both expressed an interest in having a family, it would make sense to hire the man. He drew on his own family experience where an immediate family member is taking their second period of maternity leave in a short space of time and proposed that I would find that a lot of men would actually like to have the time to take off with the baby. I suggested that maybe the problem lay with the employment law rather than with the woman having the baby. Would it not be more beneficial to argue that the law be changed for men to be entitled to take half of the maternity leave or have it flexible between both parents rather than the year to be given just to the mother? This could lessen the expectation that women are a weak link when hiring. This also highlights how people expect women to want children and for all families to be made up of heterosexual parents. I argued that ‘childbearing age’ is so vast and therefore is an unfair bias. I have friends who had children at 17/18 and are now settled in careers, not wanting any more children. Because they are in their 30’s, are they still viewed as a liability by employers? One of those friends is self-employed and could only afford to take 10 days off before and after she give birth. I also have relatives who are having their first child at 40. What is childbearing age within employment exactly? Or are women just being viewed differently purely because of their ability to give birth?

It was put to me that although his friends claim joint responsibility of their families, the biological reality is that women are statistically better at nurturing children and I should read “The blank slate: the modern denial of human nature” by  Harvard professor, Steven Pinker. I am very suspicious of this opinion, the statistics, and the book, for many reasons. Why is child rearing the one prominent thing that men will hold their hands up and say they are not as good at. Is it because the responsibility holds you back? I know when Matt and I have spoken about having children he was worried how it will affect me and my career. Why just mine when the both of us would be having a baby? I know of women who should never have been mothers and I know men who have the manner, patience, empathy, and capacity to adapt to parenthood more easily than their partners. I find it quite patronising to men and fathers. I will, however, look into this book as I am interested in the point of view. At this point though, I do believe if you can get out of looking after the children for most of the time you will, just as if you can get away with taking the bins out, you will.

I asked about stereotypes with children and what we can do to move the responsibility of family life from the girl and make it an equal endeavour. The response was that let children be, allow them to play with whatever they want. Which is great, but I feel this equality is contradictory to the later expectation of women in the workplace and the family role. This is also not the reality I have encountered on many occasions when talking to mums about their sons wanting to play with dolls, prams or kitchens and the anger from the father and the compromises of allowing toys in the house but not outside where the some could be seen with them. If boys are forcibly disassociated from toys associated with the family or the household, why are they going to believe it is a completely equal responsibility later in life? Especially when even if they would like it to be, the law gives full maternity leave to the mother and only 2 weeks to them.

 

The link to this video was attached for me to watch and I have mixed views about it. I agree that in order to see a more complete story we need to seek a third variable, but I don’t believe it stops there. Just as some of the research spoken about in Cordelia Fine’s The Delusions of Gender, it is not enough for neuroscientists to look at the brain and hormones effect on the brain without taking into account societal environment, family life, social class. All this will help to mold a person, their interests, job aspirations. Is it really enough to say that women are not taking more tech jobs than men because it is simply not an area of interest to them. Would it not be beneficial to question why? Drawing on a previous post I wrote, during the Tech For Good workshop I took part in, the majority of the conversation surrounding the wicked problem of why there are hardly women in tech was embed in gender stereotypes and societies expectations. I would agree with the unfairness of suspending people unfairly in schools just because of the need to level out the suspension rates to 50/50, but why do boys suffer with more behaviour and anger issues? I will suggest to watch the documentary The Mask You live In for an interesting insight.

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I do believe it is not always realistic to expect a 50/50 ratio to apply to everything, however, I do not believe this video proves much to alter my views despite it illustrating some interesting points.