Gender and Technology

The topic of gender and technology is personal for me. The readings for class this week provoked a lot of reflection on my earlier years and examination of the choices I made. In the late 1970s, when I was beginning to examine various careers, my parents divorced, leaving my mother with few skills to support a teenager and three toddlers. Although I was interested in technology, specifically electronic engineering and computer science, my mother encouraged me to enter the secretarial classes offered in my high school, rather than the college prep classes or the technical classes offered. She thought that it guaranteed the means for me to earn a living, but didn’t really realize the discrepancy in pay (that still exists today) between clerical and technical positions. In addition, during the 1970s, fewer than 10% of women attending college enrolled in engineering (US Dept. of Education, 2004). Thus, instead of chemistry, trigonometry, or drafting, I enrolled in typing, shorthand, and accounting. I did manage to take an introduction to data processing class and really enjoyed it. Computer languages fascinated me. Nevertheless, like so many other females, I succumbed to the pressure from those around me to take a more traditional path.

Due to financial constraints and lack of guidance, after high school I enrolled in a two-year college program to pursue a degree in secretarial practice. Not surprisingly, I flunked out after the first year. My job search led me to a temporary position at IBM, doing data entry of the downtime of microchip testing machines. The computer network system often went down, which resulted in extra time on the job with nothing to do. I began to hang around the technicians who fixed the test equipment and became fascinated with the schematics and troubleshooting process of the test machines. Attending technical school seemed like a great option. For me, exposure to some of the options of education open to me contributed to consideration of new directions.

Not long after my temporary position ended, a friend came back to town on recruiting duty for the Army. Although I had not previously considered the military as a means of attaining my education, he soon informed me that the Army would guarantee me both my training school and where I would serve my time. Within a year, I had enlisted in the Army as a 36H (Dial/Manual Central Office Repairer). My ten-month technical school included basic electronics, pc board troubleshooting, electro-mechanical switch repair, and telephony basics. Here is a link to the equipment I learned to repair: Strowger switch. Interestingly, today’s computer networks are still based on many of these principles! It has been fascinating to watch the changes from dial-pulse landline telephones to cellular technology.

During my time in the military (in the early 1980s), women were noticeably absent in my field. My technical school had about 300 students attending at any given time, of which only 25-30 were women. At least 5 of those did not complete the program. At my duty stations, although women worked other non-technical positions, repair and maintenance jobs were primarily held by men. I was the only female technician at the base telephone central offices in Germany and one of two women in my electronic maintenance shop in Georgia. Base telephone had 10 soldiers and my shop in Georgia had 25 soldiers, resulting in an 8-10% ratio of women in each place.

The gender and technology issue was apparent at each of my duty stations. Although most of the time I had friends that looked after me as a little sister, sexual harassment was very real. Innuendos, off-color jokes, and other verbal banter was commonplace. You either laughed along, ignored it, or were shunned and badmouthed. This was before many of the protective measures and laws for women in the military were put in place. During my school training, we were in class with other Army soldiers, Marines, and Navy seamen. We also had military personnel from other countries attend the school. The two Nigerians I was in class with stand out in my mind. They didn’t really speak much English, but stared at me constantly. I assumed that a woman in the military, especially in technology, was not a norm for them. It was quite uncomfortable to be around them.

autovon-equipment       Autovon equipment

At my first duty station, it was almost three months before most of the men I worked with acknowledged that I could do the job. I had to work harder than other new soldiers coming to the telephone central office in order to prove my capabilities. After a year, I was selected for a special team – we were assigned to document and prepare the phone system for the entire 5th Signal Command in Baden-Württemberg, West Germany for digital telephone conversion. We used to joke about being an “equal opportunity team.” Our Hispanic team leader (E-6 staff sergeant), two African-Americans (E-5 sergeant, E-4 specialist), and myself (E-4 specialist), a white female, worked for a white male (E-8 master sergeant). However, that was the best duty assignment I had during my four years. We all accepted each other and worked well together. When I left there to return to the United States, I became part of an electronic maintenance shop. At first, they tried to put me on paperwork exclusively. After I spoke up, we all took turns occasionally. They also assumed that I could make coffee….but they only asked me once. That was never a strength of mine. When we would go out to the field to practice maneuvers with the communication vans and equipment, many of the guys would not let me carry the heavier equipment (even though I was quite capable). They would also ask the other maintenance person to repair equipment, rather than me, even if I was available. It was a difficult duty station. Walking across the motor pool to get to my shop, catcalls were common. The culture was not conducive to women and I was glad to leave. It also influenced my decision not to re-enlist.

As many women do, I married and had children. This resulted in putting my own career on hold – I became primarily a stay-at-home mother and my skills were not put to use. I chose to stay home because I had not established a career and doing so would have taken more commitment than I was willing to give at that time. Much of the technical work I did required on-call time, which would have been difficult as the primary caregiver. In addition, as I did not have the formal technical education at that point (degree), I could not make enough money to justify paying for day care. Although my secretarial background provided part-time jobs over the years while I raised my children, I have maintained my interest in technology. As my children got older, I began to consider a return to my initial interests. I started college when my youngest child did and we graduated together from Maryville College, where I also worked full-time as an administrative assistant (so those skills have come in handy). Since I lack the solid math background, it would be difficult for me to pursue an engineering degree now. However, I am really excited that information science has become so technical. I am able to combine my love of libraries together with my technical skills.

Due to many of my experiences, I believe it is important to guide young students (before middle school) toward their interests, especially female ones. It is vital to identify lower income students and educate them about available career choices. I know in my case, if I had been fortunate enough to find a mentor in my early years, I would have chosen a different path. Although I value my experiences as they are, my earning power over the years would have been drastically higher.

All of the articles we read this week were great. I am fascinated by the impact of technology for women, especially in developing countries. However, I find it interesting that much documentation supports the fact that women are not as prevalent in technological job positions, yet the library profession remains populated primarily by females. Statistics from 2006 and 2007 gathered by Melissa Lamont (2009) showed women librarians published as often in men in most library journals except for JASIS&T, where only 30% of the authors were women. Thus, despite the growing technical expertise required of librarians, women are participating and excelling. Although higher administration in libraries still consists primarily of men, the next generation of information specialists may be able to generate change, since so many information specialists are female. Once women are able to access higher administration, perhaps the changes will trickle downward and we will see more women involved in information and communication technology.

 

Lamont, M. (2009, September). Gender, technology, and libraries. Information Technology and Libraries, 28(3), 137-142.

US Department of Education, completion survey. (2009) National Science Foundation.

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Music media, music sales, and the effects of social media on music consumption

The innovations related to music production and sales have changed the music business for a majority of musicians and their fans. Traditionally, music users discovered songs or albums through radio play and word-of-mouth (Dewan & Ramaprasad, 2014). However, as Mangold and Faulds (2009) point out, social media has become an extension of those traditional means. Social media reaches hundreds or thousands of people instead of a handful of friends, thereby drastically increasing the visibility of an artist. Not only is social media used for sharing information about music songs and albums, but the music itself is shared through social media, often for a very low cost (Dewan & Ramaprasad, 2014).

It is difficult to compare sales and marketing of record production companies and mainstream music to the surge of independent artists now recording and producing their own music, then marketing it on social media. Dewan and Ramaprasad (2014) conducted a study based on the context of traditional music industry. They note that music has two characteristics that contributed to the disruption of the industry – music is both an information good and an experience good. Thus, music is shareable and can be broken away from the album format. This allows music to be shared and sampled through social media and other new technologies. Noting a decline in music industry sales, the study measured blog buzz, or blog posts related to an album or song. Although a narrower measure than social media such as Facebook, the results did correlate with online music activity such as Amazon music sales ranks, showing the blog buzz to be a reliable overall measure of social media music interaction. Their findings propose that the relationship between social media and sales of the single song sales is negative. I do not fully agree with their findings, as they primarily examined music through a traditional lens focused on album or song sales, rather than exposure.

Granted, the numbers for industry sales may reflect negative progress, but the independent artists now on the charts of various social media webpages demonstrate a market that did not previously exist. Musicians can now record their own mp3s, upload them to a social media site, and market their own music. Bands now enjoy a more regional popularity, which is reflected on several sites such as Bandcamp. In his blog, The Music Entrepreneur, David Weibe (2015) lists 10 important social media sites for musicians. Of the 10, which included business networking sites such as LinkedIn and Google+, four stand out to me as a means for marketing mp3 music – Facebook, Bandcamp, SoundCloud, and ReverbNation.

top-10-social-media2

Facebook, in addition to personal social pages, offers Musician/Band pages, which has pages such as “About” the band, and pages for sound links (Bandpage), events, photos, and videos. Music can be streamed or shared, but not downloaded. Bandcamp (https://bandcamp.com/) caters to three user communities – fans, artists, and labels. Music can be streamed free, purchased for download, uploaded for sales, or promoted to labels participating on the site. With plentiful filters for searching, Bandcamp even lists the top artists for a particular region. SoundCloud (https://soundcloud.com/) also has a premium subscription account, but the free account allows streaming music. Their collection consists of many music genres, including classical and art music. This makes is a good choice for composers of contemporary western art music, in addition to popular genres. ReverbNation (https://www.reverbnation.com/), which primarily offers popular genres of music, such as rock, hip hop or country, features promotional tools for artists. It heavily promotes local music, shows, and artists. ReverbNation has free levels of membership, but also has premium subscription account.

In the midst of rapidly expanding innovations for music, social media, and technology, the former model of sales, marketing, and music by record companies and studios should no longer be solely considered as an accurate measure. Many musicians that I have read about or talked to now say that concert/show sales, rather than music songs/albums/mp3s are responsible for generating income. Thus, an examination of bands that perform in various venues and the attendance may demonstrate the shift, along with an evaluation of how social media impacts the promotion of concerts and events. Also to be considered are counts of streaming music, which demonstrate the appeal to listeners.

I am headed over to ReverbNation now, to explore the bands of the Knoxville music scene…maybe I will catch a show this weekend.

References

Dewan, S., & Ramaprasad, J. (2014 March). Social media, traditional media, and music sales. MIS Quarterly 38(1), 101-121.

Mangold, W. G., & Faulds, D. J. (2009). Social media: The new hybrid element of the promotion mix. Business Horizons 52, 357-365.

Wiebe, D. (2015, May 15). Top 10 social media sites for musicians to focus on [infographic]. The Music Entrepreneur (blog). http://dawcast.com/top-10-social-media-sites-for-musicians-to-focus-on-infographic/.

Social Media and Music Education

As I sat in the music library at UT last week, another student mentioned that a music theory professor had discussed social media and blogging within the context of his music theory classes. A few days later, I passed that professor in the hallway and stopped to chat with him for a few minutes. The conversation turned to how social media is used within music education. After we talked, he emailed me several articles and links about the topic. Not only does this demonstrate how innovation plays a role in the use of social media, but also how technologies can influence social activities in diverse contexts. The role of social media is shaping communication patterns in education.

As Cole stated, users are defined by social, cultural, and technological facets (2006). The particular set of users I refer to in this post are students and teachers. So likewise, their cultural focus is academics and the technological aspect focuses on social media. The new generation of students is part of the “Net Generation,” having spent most of their lives connected to the internet. They stay connected through social media and are comfortable sharing personal information in the internet. These students prefer quick access to information, often from multiple multimedia sources, with pictures, sounds, and video, rather than text (Chong, 2008). So it makes sense that music education should follow the same way and look to innovative new tools to assist with learning and teaching.

The discussion I had with the music theory professor was primarily about Noteflight, a music notation software program, his use of it in the classroom, and how it encouraged interaction between students, teachers, and their compositions (www.noteflight.com).  Since it is available as a free program, it works well for education. In addition, Noteflight offers social media functions and communities. For instance, speech bubble tabs are located across the top of the scores, allowing students and teachers a way to comment on the music score. Other options available include a “favorite” button (McConville, 2012). Although these are the only functions so far, it seems likely that additional integration into social media applications such as Facebook or Twitter will be added soon. These innovations turn music theory education into an interactive learning experience, rather than a one-sided listening and evaluation.

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Other applications of technologies contribute to music instruction, and social media researchers agree that online communities form conceptual frameworks to exchange experiences and reflections, and in turn, enhance learning (Albert, 2015). McConville (2012) discusses other Web 2.0 environments that enhance pedagogical instruction. Some YouTube videos display musical scores as they play, allowing analysis or play-along. According to Giebelhausen (2015), even music teacher workshops are available on YouTube, often through subscriptions to channels, such as Dalcroze Society of America: https://www.youtube.com/dalcrozeusa/ or NAfME (National Association for Music Education): https://www.youtube.com/NAfMEmusic. The music education community also has communities using Twitter hashtags, such as #musiced. Several Twitter hashtags connect to time-specific, focused discussion groups. For instance, #musedchat (music education), is online Mondays at 5pm, giving teachers the opportunity to network and learn about current or new innovations. Additionally, conducting students can watch videos of different versions of repertoire, thus are able to learn different styles, expressions, and conducting gestures from a number of more experienced maestros (Giebelhausen, 2015). The available online tools contribute to a broader music education, through the sensory experience.

In my graduate level class on musical styles, every week each student researched a composer and musical work in an assigned time period, and then contributed to an online Wikia community: http://musc520-musical-styles-s14.wikia.com/wiki/MUSC520_Musical_Styles_S14_Wiki. We posted the history and background of the composer, an mp3 sample of their work, and a score. The interactive style of learning greatly enhanced the class. Thus, innovation on the web has begun to impact the community of music educators of all levels, from grade schools to universities.

 

References

Albert, D. J. (2015). Social media in music education: Extending learning to where students “live.” Music Educators Journal, 102(2), 31-38. doi:10.1177/0027432115606976.

Chong, E. K. M. (2015). Teaching music theory using blogging: Embracing the world of web 2.0. Proceedings of the 17th International Seminar of the Commission for the Education of the Professional Musician (CEPROM), International Society for Music Education (ISME) July 2008. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/233753349_Teaching_Music_Theory_Using_Blogging_Embracing_the_World_of_Web_20.

Cole, F. (2006). Appreciating context in social informatics: From the outside in, and the inside out. Proceedings of ASIS&T Annual Meeting, Austin, TX, Social Informatics Workshop, November 3-8, 2006.

Giebelhausen, R. (2015). What the tech is going on? Social media and your music classroom. General Music Today, 28(2), 39-46.

McConville, B. (2012). Noteflight as a Web 2.0 tool for music theory pedagogy. Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy, 26.