Category Archives: Feminism

[DE] Stellungnahme zur UG-Novelle

Hier geht’s zu einem PDF meiner Stellungnahme, und auf der Website des Parlaments findest du den Entwurf selbst und alle dazu veröffentlichten Stellungnahmen.

S T E L L U N G N A H M E zum Ministerialentwurf betreffend Bundesgesetz, mit dem das Universitätsgesetz 2002, das Hochschul-Qualitätssicherungsgesetz und das Hochschulgesetz 2005 geändert werden (GZ: 2020-0.723.953)

Sehr geehrter Herr Bundesminister Faßmann, sehr geehrte Damen und Herren!

Als Master-Studentin der Informatik und Hauptmitglied des Arbeitskreises für Gleichbehandlungsfragen an der TU Wien, ehemalige Studierendenvertreterin an der HTU Wien und der Bundesvertretung, sowie Jungwissenschaftlerin/Angestellter an der TU Wien möchte ich Stellung zum vorliegenden Entwurf nehmen.

Der vorliegende Entwurf möchte einige tatsächliche Probleme im Hochschulbetrieb angehen, scheitert daran aber in großen Zügen. Unter die problematischen Neuerungen fallen sozial selektive Maßnahmen wie die Einschränkung der Zulassungsfristen, die Einführung einer Mindeststudienleistung und Änderungen an der Universitätsleitung zu Ungunsten einer demokratischen, partizipativen Herangehensweise sowie einige Neuregelungen im Bereich des AKG. Hier meine Kritik im Detail:

Zu §22. (1) Z12 und Z12a.
Die geplanten neuen Rechte des Rektorates erlauben umfassende Eingriffe in Curricula. Diese Kompetenz sollte beim universitären Senat und seinen Arbeitsgruppen, insbesondere den Studienkommissionen, verbleiben. Den Bedarf nach Eingriffen durch in der Regel fachfremde Personen kann ich nicht nachvollziehen.

>> Diese Punkte sollten ersatzlos verworfen werden.

Zu §23b. (1)
Die Kontrolle der:des Rektor:in durch den Senat ist gut und wichtig. Eine zweite Amtszeit ausschließlich vom Universitätsrat abhängig zu machen, stellt eine Entmachtung des Senats dar. Da der Universitätsrat zur Hälfte von der Regierung besetzt wird, ist ein (politischer) Eingriff in die Freiheit der Lehre und Forschung eine denkbare, und bedenkliche, Folge.

Sollte der Senat im Rahmen der Anhörung feststellen, dass eine Wiederbestellung abzulehnen ist, und der Universitätsrat dennoch an einer Wiederbestellung festhalten, so wäre dies dem inneruniversitären Klima für die kommenden vier Jahre nicht dienlich.

Außerdem besteht zu diesem Thema die grundsätzliche Frage der rechtlichen Zulässigkeit, welche von Jurist:innen zunehmend angezweifelt wird (z.B. Anna Gamper, Peter Bußjäger: Universität Innsbruck).

>> Diese Änderungen sollten ersatzlos verworfen werden.

Zu § 42 Abs. 2
Der AKG ist primär ein Aufsichts- oder Kontrollorgan und kein Vertretungsorgan wie etwa der Senat oder der Betriebsrat. Seine Aufgabe ist, sicherzustellen, dass Angehörige marginalisierter Gruppen an den Hochschulen möglichst ungestört forschen, studieren, arbeiten und sich entwickeln können. Ein Gremium, das sich mit Minderheitenrechten befasst, durch allgemeine Wahlen zu beschicken, ist ein Paradoxon.

Ebenfalls nicht hilfreich für die Arbeit im AKG wäre es, Paritäten fix festzulegen. Es ist ohnehin schon oft schwierig genug, neue Mitglieder zu finden, ohne dass diese noch weitere Merkmale mitbringen müssen (beispielsweise Professor:innen).

>> Diese Punkte sollten ersatzlos verworfen werden.

Zu §58 (12)
Es ist definitiv begrüßenswert, dass knapp 20 Jahre nach Einführung des European Credit Transfer Systems endlich die entsprechenden Credits auch erstmals evaluiert – und an die realen Arbeitsanfordernisse angepasst – werden sollen. Leider fehlt jedoch weiterhin eine Definition, wie dieser Arbeitsaufwand zu beschreiben ist.

Des Weiteren sind regelmäßige Evaluierung, transparente Maßstäbe, sowie Konsequenzen bei Nicht-Einhaltung notwendig.

>> Der Absatz sollte präzisiert und erweitert werden, z.B. “Dies ist jährlich zu evaluieren. Die Evaluationsergebnisse sind in ihrer Gesamtheit allen Mitgliedern des universitären Senats und seinen Arbeitsgruppen, insbesondere den Studienkommissionen, zur Verfügung zu stellen.”

Zu §59a
Die Idee einer Mindeststudienleistung, deren Nicht-Erreichen eine Exmatrikulation sowie automatische Sperre von 10 Jahren bedeutet, ist völlig inakzeptabel. Hier wird auf dem Rücken ohnedies schon benachteiligter Studierender, unter Berufung auf das Bild von “Party-Studis” bildungsfeindliche Politik gemacht.

Die Regelung trifft insbesondere jene, die nicht 100% ihrer Zeit dem Studium widmen können – sei es aus finanziellen (>60% der Studierenden sind laut Studierendensozialerhebung neben dem Studium berufstätig), familiären, oder gesundheitlichen Gründen. Die in §59a (5) formulierte Ausnahme für behinderte Studierende verwendet eine viel zu enge Defintion und schließt damit viele Studierende mit psychischen und chronischen Erkrankungen aus.

>> Diese Punkte sollten ersatzlos verworfen werden.

Zu §59b. (4)
Learning Agreements, die als privatrechtliche Verträge in öffentliches Recht eingegliedert werden sollen, vermischen zwei rechtliche Bereiche, die aus gutem Grund getrennt sind. Diese Verträge erhöhen den psychischen Druck auf Studierende und diskriminieren jene, die solche Verträge nicht abschließen wollen. Außerdem können jederzeit unvorhergesehene Ereignisse eintreten, die zu ungerechtfertigten Sanktionen für diese Studierenden führen können.

>> Ich empfehle, diese Änderung ersatzlos zu streichen.

Zu §59 (5)
Die Einschränkung der für Gremienarbeit in Frage kommenden Studierenden wird Probleme für die Kontinuität in den Gremien bedeuten, da Studierende später in diese Arbeit einsteigen und kürzer bleiben können; die auflaufende Arbeit muss auf weniger Studierende verteilt werden; und es wird schwieriger, die Bedürfnisse und Perspektiven der niedrigsemestrigen Studierenden in die Gremien einzubringen.

Durch die Änderung ist eine Entdemokratisierung der Gremien und ein Verlust an Arbeitsqualität ebendort zu befürchten.

>> Ich empfehle, diese Änderung ersatzlos zu streichen.

Zu § 61/62
Es gibt keinen guten Grund für eine Streichung der Nachfrist und eine Deregulierung der Fortmeldezeiträume.

Die Streichung verhindert einen nahtlosen Wechsel aus der Schule bzw. dem Präsenzdienst in die Hochschule genauso wie den Übergang vom Bachelor- in das Masterstudium. Studierende, die in der alten Nachfrist ihr Studium abschließen würden, hätten ein Semester länger Studienbeiträge zu bezahlen, und die Studienzeit würde künstlich verlängert. Beides würde zu unnötigem finanziellen und psychischen Druck führen.

Zusätzlich müssen durch das Verkürzen der Semester in §61 (2) bisher gern genutzte Prüfungszeiträume verlegt werden. Dies bedeutet weniger Zeit am Ende des Semesters für Prüfungen sowie enger zusammen liegende Termine.

>> Ich empfehle, diese Punkte ersatzlos zu streichen.

Zu § 66 (4)
Die Studieneingangs- und Orientierungsphase der Informatik an der TU Wien ist bereits jetzt nachweislich eine der restriktivsten in ganz Österreich. Duch das Wegfallen der Möglichkeit, die StEOP erneut anzugehen, führt bei Studierenden zu mehr Stress und Angst, was wiederum zu einem schlechteren Abschneiden bei Prüfungen und damit zu mehr Abbrüchen führen und die Informatikstudien in Österreich noch unattraktiver machen wird.

>> Ich empfehle, diese Änderung ersatzlos zu streichen und die StEOP abzuschaffen.

Zu § 67
Dass eine Beurlaubung innerhalb des ersten Semesters nur noch aus einer handvoll Gründen möglich sein soll, die z.B. einen plötzlichen Trauerfall nicht beinhalten, ist nicht nachvollziehbar. Ein entsprechender Fall würde zu einer Studienzeitverzögerung führen sowie das Risiko bedeuten, die erforderlichen ECTS für die Mindeststudienleistung (und damit Fortsetzung des Studiums) zu erreichen.

>> Ich empfehle, diese Änderung ersatzlos zu streichen.

Zu § 76 (3)
Der Vorschlag, nur noch jedenfalls 2 statt wie bisher jedenfalls 3 Prüfungstermine pro Semester anzusetzen, steht im direkten Widerspruch zu dem Ziel, effizientes und (prüfungs-)aktives Studieren zu fördern. Diese Änderung geht zu Lasten von Studierenden, die ihr Studium flexibel betreiben möchten oder müssen (siehe Punkte zu §59a). Prüfungen werden auf wenige Termine zusammengelegt, wodurch ein größerer Druck besteht, einen Prüfungsplatz zu ergattern. Ein Anstieg psychischer Belastung ist dabei nicht zu vermeiden.

>> Ich empfehle, diese Änderung ersatzlos zu streichen.

Zu §89 und §116a (6)
Eine Verjährung erschlichener Leistungen wäre gerade angesichts aktueller Fälle mit einem beträchtlichen Imageschaden für die Republik Österreich verbunden. Außerdem sehe ich es extrem problematisch an, einerseits Ghostwriting unter Strafe zu stellen, gleichzeitig jedoch die Konsequenzen für Plagiate zu lockern und diese sogar verjähren zu lassen.

>> Ich empfehle, diese Änderung ersatzlos zu streichen.

 

Zu §109

Die im Entwurf geplante Beschränkung der Dauer befristeter Arbeitsverhältnisse muss mit wirksamen Maßnahmen zur Entfristung der Arbeitsverhältnisse an den Universitäten gekoppelt sein. Ansonsten gefährdet diese Änderung nicht nur das Auskommen der betroffenen Arbeitnehmer:innen, sondern auch die Qualität und Aufrechterhaltung des Lehrbetriebs an den Hochschulen. Auch die Gefahr eines Brain Drain weg von österreichischen Institutionen kann nicht unterschätzt werden.

 

Abschließend:

Während, wie gesagt, einige tatsächlich bestehende Probleme mit dieser Novelle aufgegriffen werden, und die Ziele nachvollziehbar und sinnvoll sind, sind die präsentierten Lösungsansätze im Großen und Ganzen misslungen und ignorieren die tatsächlichen Lebensrealitäten vieler Universitätsangehöriger.

Ich hätte mir erwartet, dass eine so umfangreiche Novelle nicht über die Weihnachtsferien während einer Pandemie zur Begutachtung vorgelegt wird. Dies umso mehr, als z.B. die Novellierung des Studienförderungsgesetztes (Anhebung der Zuverdienstgrenze) seit dem Herbst auf Beschluss wartet. Die UG-Novelle sollte bis zur endgültigen Dämpfung der Pandemie und ihrer Folgen auf Eis gelegt und dann nocheinmal vom Start weg angegangen werden.

Mit freundlichen Grüßen

Sabrina Burtscher

[DE/EN] Nov 2019 : Workshop @ Universität Wien

(zur deutschen Version springen)

In July 2019, I was contact by a member of the department for Gender Equality and Diversity at University of Vienna. They were planning a half-day workshop on the topic of digital discrimination for their team – and wanted me to hold that workshop. They had asked a colleague/friend of mine for recommendations, and said c/f recommended me!

I soon sent out some suggestions on how to structure the time available, as well as some ideas about the contents. I also met up with the person in charge of the workshop on their end, and we discussed some more things (as e.g. the location, equipment available, etc.) and got to know each other a bit.

A couple of days before the workshop, I created some posters for the various session elements I had planned, as well as a schedule for the day. In the end, the carefully laid-out structure of the workshop did not hold up, but only because everyone was very interested, asking a lot of questions, and absorbed in discussions.

Even if the schedule for the day did not quite work out, we covered all the topics we had wanted to: digitalisation and the workplace; digitalisation and discrimination; and how the combination could be important to the participants’ work.

I had a lot of fun, and learned a lot while preparing and holding the workshop – not least, that my poster sketching skills are not as bad as I feared them to be. Judge for yourself, I added photos of the posters at the end of this post 🙂

If you would like me to hold a workshop about this, or another of my topics, for you and your organisation, let me know.


– Deutsche Version –

Im Juli 2019 hat sich eine Mitarbeiterin der Abteilung für Gleichstellung und Diversität der Uni Wien bei mir gemeldet. Die Abteilung plante gerade einen Halbtages-Workshop zum Thema Digitale Diskriminierung für ihr Team – und sie wollten dass ich den Workshop abhalte. Sie hatten eine Kollegin/Freundin von mir nach Empfehlungen gefragt – und besagte Kollegin/Freundin hat ihnen mich empfohlen!

Auf die Anfrage hin habe ich ihnen bald einige Vorschlge geschickt, wie der Halbtag aufgebaut sein könnte, und ein paar inhaltliche Ideen. Die Verantwortliche und ich haben uns auch einmal persönlich getroffen, und ein paar Dinge besprochen (z.B. den Raum, vorhandene Ausstattung, etc.) und uns ein bisschen kennen gelernt.

Ein paar Tage vor dem Workshop habe ich Flipchart-Poster für die verschiedenen Teile der Fortbildung gemalt, u.a. einen recht hübschen Tagesplan. Schlussendlich hat der Zeitplan nicht gehalten – das lag aber nur daran, dass alle so interessiert waren, immer wieder Fragen gestellt, und lebhaft diskutiert haben.

Und auch wenn wir vom Zeitplan ordentlich abgewichen sind, haben wir es doch geschafft, alle geplanten Inhalte abzudecken: Digitalisierung und Arbeitswelt; Digitalisierung und Diskriminierung; und wie die Kombination die Arbeit der Abteilung betrifft.

Den Workshop vorzubereiten und abzuhalten hat mir viel Spaß gemacht, und ich habe viel gelernt – nicht zuletzt, dass meine Flipchart-Zeichen-Fähigkeiten weit nicht so schlecht sind, wie gedacht. Beurteilt das aber am besten selbst, am Ende des Posts gibt es Fotos von ein paar der Poster 🙂

Falls du für dich/deine Organisation einen ähnlichen Workshop organisierst, und eine Vortragende zu genau diesem oder einem ähnlichen Thema suchst, kontaktiere mich doch!

 

The still-empty glossary poster was filled in the course of the workshop.
I had a detailed schedule, with cute icons and all, and we covered everything I had planned, but not quite in that order or with those break times.
Robots, computers, and confused people – the perfect imagery to start this workshop, don’t you think?

[DE] Vortragende bei der ditact 2020!

(This is an announcement for a German-only event, so I decided not to provide an English version. However, I plan to write an English recap after the event.)

Im Februar habe ich mehrere Vorschläge für Vorträge und Workshops bei der ditact 2020 (eine Sommer-Uni für Frauen in der IT) eingereicht – von denen einer auch angenommen worden ist!

Ich werde also Anfang September erste Erfahrung als Universitäts-Lektorin sammeln – und dabei auch Ergebnisse aus meiner noch laufenden Masterarbeit präsentieren.

Im Rahmen eines halbtägigen Workshops werde ich mit den Teilnehmer:innen erarbeiten, wie (IT-)Projekte inklusiver gestaltet werden können. Wie ich mir das grob vorgestellt habe, findet ihr in der Kursbeschreibung und in diesem Beitrag (Video & schriftliche Beschreibung) bei Ö1.

Wegen der COVID-19 Pandemie hat die Leitung der ditact beschlossen, dass die Kurse soweit möglich online abgehalten werden sollen. Entsprechend wird auch mein Workshop online passieren, die entsprechenden Informationen bekommen die Teilnehmer:innen nach der Anmeldung. Hier zum kompletten Kursprogramm der ditact – die Anmeldung läuft bis zum 12. Juli 2020.

I did an arts!

picture of the notes takenFor a course on Critical and Speculative Design, our first assignment was to create an a/b manifesto, following the work of Dunne and Raby.

The teachers told us to chose an area we are familiar with, passionate about, have expertise or a strong interest in.

All of these apply to University, so I decided to make the status quo my “a”, and an accessible, open University my “b” column. The content came together during a jitsi-meet with a friend who is a PhD-candidate at the HCI institute. You can see the notes in the picture – here goes the better-readable version:

 

ab
total objectivitysituatedness
“alt-ehrwürdig”accessibility
goal-orientedexplorative
built upon the work of othered peopleacknowledging the work of othered people
centralizedopen source
all sunshine since 1365/1815reflective, self-critical
constructivistdeconstructivist
autonomy (leading to [internal] conflictsolidarity
industrysociety
localde-centralized
right or wrongcontext dependent
errors mean failingerrors mean learning
neutralpolitical
westernglobal
absolutesrelative
classistopen for all
bureaucracy / red tapeaction
enlightenmentCritical Theory
abstractconcrete
cis-malegender inclusive

The fascinating thing about this is that the layout of the manifesto creates a dichotomy, although some of the terms and concepts are not mutually exclusive towards each other. Some could as well be two points along a path (A and B).

Also, this was a great experience regarding syntax and semantics: some of the terms I put with each other may seem as weird choices, no matter if they are seen as exclusive, or as points along a path. For example, the reason why “centralized” is opposed with “open source”, and “de-centralized” with “local”, is that I understand them here not in their primary, or most obvious meaning, but in one more nuanced, maybe harder to grasp.

Workshop Paper: Implementing Diversity in HCI education

This is the paper I submitted to a workshop at C&T conference 2019. As I will be attending the whole conference as a student volunteer, this will be the first CS conference I attend. Pretty exciting!

This is the PDF, for which I used the ACM SIG CHI extended abstracts format. I titled this paper “Implementing Diversity in HCI Education: Things I’ve Seen”. As you will see, “Implementing Diversity in HCI Education: I have Questions.” would be a very fitting title, too.

Introduction

Our professors and the dean(s) at the faculty of informatics like to say that the main difference between a University of Applied Science (FH) and a “real” University is that at FHs people learn the “Know-How”, and we at TU Wien learn the “Know Why”. In my experience, the little “why” we are taught usually refers to the more technical aspects, but rarely to the social context and impact of technologies1.

I draw from my own experience as a student in the Medical Informatics bachelor’s program at TU Wien. As I began my studies, I did not value the promotion of women as much (which is the prime concern of many diversity issues), but with my work as a student representative, this changed radically. Additionally, I spent some semesters working as a teaching assistant (TA) in an introductory course on society and informatics. Thus, I can see and discuss diversity from my own experience in HCI education, and include various students’ points of view, including those who do not understand why diversity is even a part of their courses and who sometimes openly oppose attempts of promoting diversity aspects in STEM fields2.

Course Contents

As stated above, the promotion of diversity should be part of the essentials in HCI. It is, after all, one of the main issues in HCI to make technological artifacts more usable for “everyone”. However, diversity is not at all covered with some by-lines about how “all women” and “all men” use computers differently.

In the following, I discuss some ways of implementing diversity in topics and contents, exercises, and literature of HCI courses. Reflecting on the course itself together with your students is an important point as well.

Topics and Concepts

Thinking about what topics and concepts you cover in your class is a great place to start. This probably will be a point of implementation where you receive little backlash from your students.

For example, in a class on the history of HCI: Talk about how the field developed from looking at how work places should be designed to accommodate, to looking at how smartphone apps exclude users. Who are we thinking about when we are talking about users? What are the (social) norms we learn growing up in “western” societies?3

Exercises

For an exercise on designing artifacts, explicitly ask your students to interview people who are not like them. Do not ask them to work with their mother(s), or grandparents – this shortcut shows sexist and ageist stereotypes. Rather, ask the students to find people who do not work in IT/design.

Some students will learn that it is hard to find people who are “different”, especially in a setting so homogeneous as TU4. This might spark some dissent, as finding a person to interview might be more difficult than the task itself, and they might not understand why they should do it this way. Thus, do not forget to explain why you ask them to do this!

Data Sets, Literature, …

Ask yourself: Whose voices are heard in the course? Who wrote the articles, books, reports that students get to read? Who can be seen in videos, heard on recordings? Who is in the pictures used to illustrate contents? Do we only use “real academic” literature, or do we talk about other sources, too? Do we just read, and repeat, or is there discussion, an attempt at connecting the dots over diverse fields? How much scrutiny do we apply to different sources?5

Reflection

Ask students, discuss with them: How have the exercises been completed? How did the course staff expect them to be handled? Which biases could be present in our work? How could an exercise be revised in order to talk about a different topic? How could exercises be improved upon?

Course Organization

Apart from the “What” of a class, attempting to implement diversity also has an impact on the “How” and “Where”.

Teaching Concepts

Does your course consist of classroom lectures, discussions, group exercises? Can any of these be accessed remotely, or do people have to attend each and every session?6

Group exercises and discussions can grant your students insights they could not draw from lectures alone. However, there are a lot of reasons for not wanting/being able to participate in such exercises.

My point is not to make a decision to exclusively use either lectures or group assignments – rather, course organizers should plan ahead, and let their students know that the course is planned a certain way, but that there are options to deal with contingencies. Be specific about the accommodation you have already organized, and let students know you are open to work on those. This will make the course better accessible e.g. for students with care responsibilities (parents, care takers, …) or working students.

Speakers / Teachers

Again, ask yourself: Who gets to speak their truth in your course? Which area(s) of expertise do they come from? What is their background?

Inviting people from different areas of research, or from another University (Applied or not), can break the stereotypes people might hold about them. Of course, this implies that you yourself have successfully invited them.

Technologies

Ask yourself, and your students: Which technologies and platforms do we use? Why? Where do the technologies we use come from? How can we expand and improve them? Which alternatives are there?7

Reflection

Again, ask yourself and discuss with your students: How have things been done before, and why this way? Based on which criteria did we chose the lecturers for this course? How did they come to where they are now? Which biases could be present here?

Course Surroundings

Nothing can really be discussed without looking at its surroundings. For example, a course on Critical Theory might sound great – but it has to be available and accessible to the students in every aspect. How else are they going to complete the course?

So, ask yourself, when looking at your HCI course: How does this fit into the bigger picture? Is it the only HCI course in the whole curriculum? Does it represent current research?

Backlash

In “Denkweisen der Informatik”, the course I worked with as a TA, reflection is part of every exercise. To complete any challenge, a student has to answer some questions about the previous tasks and their work. What did they learn? What did they like? What did they not like, and why? What was easy, what was hard? How does the topic connect with their other work?

There is always a small number of students who react negatively to these questions and the content concerning diversity. Basically, they only want to learn how to code, and give the impression not to be interested in how things evolved or could be improved upon, on the non-technical side8. Many answer the questions only halfheartedly, but some go rather deep and even enjoy taking the time to sit back and reflect.

I think that is the main point: some people will get annoyed with all the “leftist politics” in the course. Others will enjoy having time to reflect and discuss. There will be valuable feedback. Some will be happy that they finally saw people like themselves in your course, succeeding at what they are interested in. And many will be grateful for your consideration and accommodation of their needs.

You will have made your course (more) usable for many.


  1. For example, even if there is a part of a class on logic about the “founding fathers” of logic, there is no discussion at all about “founding mothers”.
  2. This is why the paper’s title references the Spooks’ song “Things I’ve seen”.
  3. Ableism, various kinds of sexism, racism, imbue our life from day 0, and we are so used to these -isms that they seem to be normal. However, shouldn’t it be normal to acknowledge people and their experiences, instead of ignore and hurt them?
  4. According to publicly available statistics of TU Wien, 83% of roughly 5700 students enrolled in informatics in the current semester are male, no matter their country of origin. 66% are Austrian and male. (https://tiss.tuwien.ac.at/statistik/lehre/studien)
  5. The answers to these questions paint a picture of who the people we trust are, and how they are similar (and different) to us. This is a great point to reflect upon your own biases, and act accordingly.
  6. Even though university buildings in Austria have to comply with certain accessibility standards, not all lecture rooms at TU Wien can be self-determinedly used if one is a wheelchair user. To reach some rooms, there are no elevators, in others the doors can be difficult to open, or there is no accessible toilet in the vicinity.
  7. In a course I completed in my 2nd semester, one exercise was to create an article in the German Wikipedia. This sounds like an easy task. However, the German Wikipedia community is rather famous for its discussions whether topics are “relevant” enough to warrant their own page. An exercise in the course where I worked as a TA asked the students to create videos and upload them to YouTube. This, as well as the Wikipedia exercise, raises the question if students want their university-related content connected to the other data already connected with their account. And if they do not want this, can they even create another account?
  8. This is probably due to the fact that at TU Wien, informatics students are a rather homogeneous group, and there are massive stereotypes influencing the students’ decisions for this field of studies.

Podcast Episode Logbuch: Netzpolitik

This entry has been published on October 29, 2018. Please bear in mind I have changed my views on some things since then. -- Dieser Eintrag wurde am October 29, 2018 veröffentlicht. Bitte denk beim Lesen daran, dass ich meine Ansichten zu einigen Dingen seither geändert habe.

Ich arbeite gerade an einer Liste von Radiosendungen, an denen ich mitgewirkt habe – aber das hier verdient definitv einen eigenen Post!

Nach meinen Vortrag über Bias in Algorithmen (“Wenn Algorithmen irren lernen”, [PDF]), wurde ich zum Thema AMS-Algorithmus auch noch in die Live-Aufnahme von Logbuch: Netzpolitik eingeladen.

Die Episode ist jetzt online; ich hoffe, ihr habt Spaß damit: [LNP273 Die Verfassungskatze].

Seminararbeit: Repräsentation von Gender in Science Fiction

This entry has been published on September 6, 2017. Please bear in mind I have changed my views on some things since then. -- Dieser Eintrag wurde am September 6, 2017 veröffentlicht. Bitte denk beim Lesen daran, dass ich meine Ansichten zu einigen Dingen seither geändert habe.

The following text is a term paper I wrote in the spring term of 2015. The class I wrote it for is called “Rätsel, Erkenntnis, Wissen: Kulturelle Macht der Wissenschaften” (roughly translated: “Puzzle, Insight, Knowledge: Cultural Power of Sciences”). It is taught by Amelie Cserer every spring term at TU Wien as a soft skills/transferrable skills course. The description sounded very interesting to me, and the first session just made me more intrigued. You may notice that the teacher used the plural form of Wissenschaft (science) – she told us in the first session that this was kind of a statement to show that there is no such thing as “die Wissenschaft” (“the (one and only) science”), although people tend to use the word that way.
Continue reading Seminararbeit: Repräsentation von Gender in Science Fiction

Role Model Sunday: Elena Cornaro Piscopia

This entry has been published on February 28, 2016. Please bear in mind I have changed my views on some things since then. -- Dieser Eintrag wurde am February 28, 2016 veröffentlicht. Bitte denk beim Lesen daran, dass ich meine Ansichten zu einigen Dingen seither geändert habe.

Portrait of Elena Piscopia. Source: Wikipedia Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia, (5 June 1646 – 26 July 1684) was an Italian philosopher of noble descent, who was the first woman to receive an academic degree from a university. I discovered this excellent woman’s story while researching Laura Bassi.

Elena was considered to be an expert musician. In addition to mastering the sciblis of her time-which means she mastered almost the entire body of knowledge-Elena mastered the harpsichord, the clavichord, the harp, and the violin. Her skills were shown by the music that she composed in her lifetime.

She was a member of various academies and was esteemed throughout Europe for her attainments and virtues. According to Margaret Alic, she became a mathematics lecturer at the University of Padua in 1678. The last years of her life were devoted to study and charity. She died at Padua in 1684 of tuberculosis, was buried in the church of Santa Giustina at Padua, and her statue was placed in the university.

By the advice of a friend of the family’s, she began the study of Latin and Greek and became proficient in these languages at the age of seven. She also mastered Hebrew, Spanish, French and Arabic, earning the title of “Oraculum Septilingue”. Her later studies included mathematics, philosophy, and theology. She was invited to be a part of many scholarly societies when her fame spread and in 1670 became president of the Venetian society Accademia dei Pacifici.

When the bishop of Padua learned that she was pursing a degree in theology, he refused on the grounds that she was a woman. However, he did allow for her to get a degree in philosophy. The degree was conferred on 25 June 1678, in Padua Cathedral in the presence of the University authorities, the professors of all the faculties, the students, and most of the Venetian Senators, together with many invited guests from the Universities of Bologna, Perugia, Rome, and Naples. The Lady Elena spoke for an hour in classical Latin, explaining difficult passages selected at random from the works of Aristotle. She was listened to with great attention, and when she had finished, she received plaudits as Professor Rinaldini proceeded to award her the insignia of the laurea, the book of philosophy, placing the wreath of laurel on her head, the ring on her finger, and over her shoulders the ermine mozetta. This scene is illustrated in the Cornaro Window in the West Wing of the Thompson Memorial Library at Vassar College.

Her death was marked by memorial services in Venice, Padua, Siena, and Rome. Her writings, published at Parma in 1688, include academic discourses, translations, and devotional treatises. In 1685 the University of Padua caused a medal to be struck in her honour. In 1895 Abbess Mathilda Pynsent of the English Benedictine Nuns in Rome had Elena’s tomb opened, the remains placed in a new casket, and a suitable tablet inscribed to her memory.

Role Model Sunday: Margaret Hamilton

This entry has been published on February 14, 2016. Please bear in mind I have changed my views on some things since then. -- Dieser Eintrag wurde am February 14, 2016 veröffentlicht. Bitte denk beim Lesen daran, dass ich meine Ansichten zu einigen Dingen seither geändert habe.

Portrait of Margaret Hamilton, 1995This woman’s story could be found in my (and probably your) facebook stream for a couple of months, on and off. The picture I’m posting here is way more recent than the famous one used in all the postings telling us about her greatest achievement, so you probably didn’t recognize here. The famous picture is that of a young woman, wearing big glasses and a striped dress, proudly smiling into the camera, standing next to a huge pile of documents.

Meet Margaret Hamilton, the woman who sent the Apollo mission to the moon (and back again).

Margaret Hamilton had a B.A. in mathematics from Earlham College, and after teaching highschool mathematics for some time, she and her husband moved to Boston. The plan was for him to finish his graduate studies, while Margaret would be working to sustain them both, in order to finish a graduate programme in mathematics when he was done with his.

Hamilton popularized the term “software engineering” (coinedby Anthony Oettinger), and was one of those who developed important software concepts. Some of these are priority scheduling, end-to-end testing, and human-in-the-loop decision capability, such as priority displays.

As a working mother in the 1960s, Hamilton was unusual. She would bring her daughter Lauren to the lab on weekends and evenings. While the 4-year-old slept on the floor of the office, her mother programmed away. She loved the novelty of her job (“like the Wild West” is a term she used in an interview), and also liked the camaraderie. There were after-work drinks at the MIT faculty club, geek jokes and the like. At the lab, she said, she was “one of the guys.”

In 1965, Hamilton became responsible for the onboard flight software on the Apollo computers. Sometimes the pressure kept Hamilton up at night. Once, after a party, she rushed back to the lab to correct some code she’d suddenly realized was flawed. “I was always imagining headlines in the newspapers, and they would point back to how it happened, and it would point back to me.” (WIRED)

One day, when Hamilton’s daughter Lauren was playing with the MIT command module simulator’s display-and-keyboard unit. As she toyed with the keyboard, an error message popped up. Lauren had crashed the Apollo simulator by somehow launching a prelaunch program called P01 while the simulator was in midflight. There was no reason an astronaut would ever do this, but nonetheless, Hamilton wanted to add code to prevent the crash. That idea was overruled by NASA.  They told Hamilton and her team over and over that astronauts were trained to be perfect, so they would never make that mistake. She wanted to add error-checking code to the Apollo system that would prevent this from messing up the systems. But that seemed excessive to her higher-ups. “Everyone said, ‘That would never happen,’” Hamilton remembers.

But it did happen. Five days into the historic Apollo 8 flight which brought astronauts to the moon for the first-ever manned orbit, the astronaut Jim Lovell inadvertently selected P01 during flight. This wiped out all the navigation data Lovell had been collecting. Without that data, the computer wouldn’t be able to calculate and execute the route back. But Hamilton and her team developed a plan based on her program note regarding the problem, and thanks to that —and Lauren—the Apollo astronauts came home.

Sources for this article:

Role Model Sunday: Laura Bassi

This entry has been published on January 10, 2016. Please bear in mind I have changed my views on some things since then. -- Dieser Eintrag wurde am January 10, 2016 veröffentlicht. Bitte denk beim Lesen daran, dass ich meine Ansichten zu einigen Dingen seither geändert habe.

I heard about Laura Bassi first at University – there is a “Laura Bassi Competence Centre of Expertise” for Visual Analytics Science and Technology at the Faculty for Informatics. Then, some weeks ago, Laura Bassi popped up in my Facebook timeline as part of the minister for education and women’s (weird combo, I know!) ongoing series on women in history, #365Frauen (#365women).

So. Laura BasPortrait of Italian mathematician and physicist Laura Bassi (1711-1778) by Carlo Vandi (18th century); source: wikipediasi, born on 31 October 1711 to a wealthy family, she was tutored for 7 years as a teenager. She came to the attention of the future Pope Benedict XIV, who encouraged her scientific work.

At the age of 21, she was appointed professor of anatomy at University of Bologna, and one year later given the chair of philosophy, too. After Elena Cornaro Piscopia, 45 years before, Bassi was the 2nd woman in Europe to receive a degree from a university.

The defence of her degree, awarding ceremony, and first lecture in 1732 took place in the Palazzo Pubblico, one of the most important government buildings in Bologna. They were attended by “not only the university faculty and students, but also by principal political and religious figures of the city – the Papal Legate and Vice-Legate, the Archbishop of Bologna, the Gonfaloniere, the Elders, senators and magistrates. Additionally, ‘all the ladies of Bologna and all the nobility’.” (wikpedia)

In 1738, she married Giuseppe Veratti, whom she chose because he, “like myself, is advancing on the path of science andof whom, through long experience, I could be sure that he would not dissuade me from this.” (brochure of Laura Bassi Centres)

In the beginning of her professorship, she was restricted to teach only in occasional lectures. As of 1738, she was allowed to lecture from home on a regular basis and successfully petitioned the University for more responsibility and a higher salary to allow her to purchase her own equipment.

Bassi was mainly interested in Newtonian physics, teaching courses, carrying out experiments and writing papers on the subject for 28 years. In order to teach Newtonian physics and Franklinian electricity (both not included in the Bologna curriculum), Bassi gave private lessons. She wrote 28 papers, the majority on physics and hydraulics, but did not write any books. Although only a small number of her scientific works were left behind (she published only 4 of her papers), much of her impact is documented through her many correspondents in all of Europe – these included e.g. Voltaire and Alessandro Volta. Voltaire once wrote to her saying “There is no Bassi in London, and I would be much happier to be added to your Academy of Bologna than that of the English, even though it has produced a Newton”.

In 1745, Pope Benedict XIV established an elite group of 25 scholars known as the Benedettini (“Benedictines”, named after himself.) Bassi pressed hard to be appointed to this group, but there was a mixed reaction from the other academics. Ultimately, Benedict did appoint her, the only woman in the group.

In 1776, at the age of 65, she was appointed to the chair in experimental physics by the Bologna Institute of Sciences, with her husband as a teaching assistant.

Two years later, she died, having made physics into a lifelong career and broken a huge amount of ground for women in academic circles.

My sources for this text were wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laura_Bassi) and the website (or rather, one of its brochures) of the Laura Bassi Centres of Expertise. These research centres, introduced by the Ministry of Economy, Research and Sciences in Austria, are headed by excellent women, creating an interface between science and economy. The seven Laura Bassi Centres conduct research in the areas of medicine, life sciences and IT.