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Issue No.01 - Jan.-March (2013 vol.35)
pp: 88
M. Hicks , Illinois Inst. of Technol., Chicago, IL, USA
In April 2012, the term brogrammer became part of the national consciousness thanks to a frenzy of media scrutiny kicked off by a Mother Jones article. The piece was meant to sound an alarm about the state of the American high tech culture. In this and other such instances, however, the coverage resulted in an unexpected, violent backlash from the male-dominated gaming and IT communities. The author argues that rather than disregarding these occurrences as fringe incidents, such episodes can show us something about mainstream computing culture. Specifically, refocusing attention on the differences among the less powerful, even the relatively anonymous, can help historians of computing add to the texture and variety of the past. Critically, it will also help avoid assumptions about gender in different national and sociotechnical contexts.
History, Computer industry, Programming, queer theory, history of computing, brogrammers, brogramming, women in computing, gender studies
M. Hicks, "De-Brogramming the History of Computing [Think Piece]", IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol.35, no. 1, pp. 88, Jan.-March 2013, doi:10.1109/MAHC.2013.3
1. T. Raja, "'Gangbang Interviews' and 'Bikini Shots': Silicon Valley's Brogrammer Problem," Mother Jones, 26 Apr. 2012; culture-sexist-sxsw .
2. For recap of coverage, see M. Hicks, "From Antisocial to Alphasocial: Exclusionary Nerd Cultures and the Rise of the Brogrammer," SIGCIS blog, 1 May 2012,
3. D. Streitfeld, "Lawsuit Shakes Foundation of a Man's World of Tech," New York Times, 2 June 2012, shaking-silicon-valley.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 . The article starts out with the untrue assertion that women did not exist in the history of Internet development, proving its own point about the self-perpetuating nature of stereotypes.
4. Most notably, Brit Ruby 2013 was cancelled after Josh Susser, a US conference organizer, critiqued their all-white, all-men program on Twitter. In response to harassment at DefCon, the Ada Initiative began an initiative to establish conference codes of conduct: .
5. H. Lewis, "Dear The Internet, This Is Why You Can't Have Anything Nice," New Statesman, 12 June 2012, 06dear-internet-why-you-cant- have-anything-nice .
6. A. Sarkeesian, "TEDxWomen Talk about Online Harassment and Cyber Mobs," video, 5 Dec. 2012; .
7. J. Abbate, Recoding Gender, MIT Press, 2012; N. Ensmenger, The Computer Boys Take Over, MIT Press, 2010; J. Light, "When Computers Were Women," Technology and Culture, vol. 40, no. 3, 1999, pp. 455–483; and M. Hicks, "Only the Clothes ChangeD: Women Operators in British Computing and Advertising, 1950–1970," IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 32, no. 4, 2010, pp. 5–17.
8. Organizations such as the Anita Borg Institute, the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT), Girl Develop IT, Black Girls Code, and StartOut continue to focus on these problems.
9. Of course many, if not most, men sided with neither the brogrammers nor the bullies.
10. L. Nooney, "How We Compute History: Women, Computers and Gaming in the 1980s Household," lecture, Stony Brook Univ., 14 Nov. 2012, .
11. K. Hindmarch-Watson, "Male Prostitution and the London GPO: Telegraph Boys' 'Immorality' from Nationalization to the Cleveland Street Scandal," J. British Studies, vol. 51, no. 3, 2012, pp. 594–617.
12. B. Beaton, "Reducing the Cost of Conversion: Christian Experiments with Telephones and Telephone Answering Machines in the 1960s and 1970s," paper given at the Society for the History of Technology Conference in Copenhagen on 6 October 2012.
13. For instance, as of the 2010 census, the majority of workers in Silicon Valley were Asian- American. D. Nakaso, "Asian Workers Now Dominate Silicon Valley Tech Jobs," Silicon Valley Mercury News,30 Nov. 2012;
14. In 2012, the centennial of Alan Turing's birth, a theme across many conferences and exhibits was that Turing's genius was deeply intertwined with his gay identity. The untimely death of his first love and the fear that he would never find similar in the deeply homophobic culture of mid-20th-century Britain led directly to Turing's interest in AI and the concept of storing minds in machines.
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