Gadgets are from Mars, connections are from Venus?

Amy Tiemann wishes that tech reporting would include as much information on the implications of technology and society as it does on gadgets.

Our (parent . thesis) blog is two months old now, and writing it has given me a renewed feeling that a woman's angle on technology is distinct from the male point of view.

I sometimes feel like I am living in a high-tech version of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, which I think of as Gadgets are from Mars, Connections are from Venus.

Gadgets are cool, fun and occasionally transformative, but what really interests me are the implications of how technology affects our relationships, family life and society.

Yet as I look for "parenting and technology" stories to write about, I have come to realize just how gadget-centric most technology reporting is. You expect to find in-depth coverage of gadgets on CNET, which has built its reputation in part on product reviews. But I am surprised by The New York Times' technology news section.

When you visit the section's main page, you are greeted with a header containing 11 subcategories, all of which are gadget-related. Do we really need categories separating out camcorders, handhelds, home video, and peripherals, rather than technology and society, or education? This is supposed to be news, not just product reviews, after all.

The BITS section does give space to "Business, Innovation, Technology and Society," and I will give the Times props for David Pogue's columns and videos, one of my "can't miss" destinations for blog inspirations and pure entertainment. With his background in music and theater as well as technical writing, Pogue has crafted mulitmedia mini extravaganzas such as iPhone, the Musical.

Where else can I look for tech reporting that goes beyond the very male point of view of gadgets and pop culture? I subscribe to Wired, but it has never made me feel included in its audience. Maybe I feel that way in part because I am not young enough as well as not male enough, but even when it first came out, I read it as a tourist rather than a native, even though I was living in Silicon Valley at the time.

This year, the women on the cover of Wired have been an undressable Jenna Fischer (illustrating "radical transparency," uh, yeah....) and Martha Stewart frosting a cake shaped like a Wii console. I am not sure who that last one was aimed at, but the cover was lame enough to make me skip the whole issue thus far.

Widening the conversation about technology matters. The XO computer is a cool gadget. The safety concerns of introducing computers into a society form the basis of an entirely different conversation.

Writing about these issues from a parent's point of view has made me realize how radical it can be to bring up social concerns in a tech community that often operates from a libertarian point of view. I haven't always agreed with or appreciated the comments that I have received, but I have come to recognize the value of raising my voice in a community that does not typically look at issues through a mother's eyes.

Just as Barack Obama is not hoping to be known as the first black president, and Hillary Clinton is not running to be the first woman president, I am not just wishing for more "women in technology" reporting. My hope is that our conversations about technology will evolve in a direction that includes a woman's point of view in its very definition.

 

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