Writing/Blogs

There’s a reason Siri, Alexa and AI are imagined as female: sexism

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Virtual assistants are increasingly popular and present in our everyday lives: literally with Alexa, Cortana, Holly, and Siri, and fictionally in films Samantha (Her), Joi (Blade Runner 2049) and Marvel’s AIs, FRIDAY (Avengers: Infinity War), and Karen (Spider-Man: Homecoming). These names demonstrate the assumption that virtual assistants, from SatNav to Siri, will be voiced by a woman. This reinforces gender stereotypes, expectations, and assumptions about the future of artificial intelligence. Continue reading “There’s a reason Siri, Alexa and AI are imagined as female: sexism”

Travel Back In Time and Into Film: Women scientists in Hidden Figures and Timeless

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Last week I participated in an Into Film (North) organised screening of Hidden Figures with a women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) post-screening panel discussion at the historic and beautiful Manchester Central Library. I chaired a post-screening discussion of the movie with two phenomenal women engineers – electrical engineer Dr Ozak Esu and software engineer Jessica Wong – and a room full of teenagers. It was great to see the positivity, enthusiasm, and honesty of the speakers responding to questions about workplace inequality, institutionalised discrimination, and pathways for young women into STEM.
Continue reading “Travel Back In Time and Into Film: Women scientists in Hidden Figures and Timeless”

Hidden Figures: Screening Hidden Histories

Originally posted: June 2017TIN-490 Hidden Figures_large_all_0

This year [2017] the British Society for the History of Science (BSHS) ran screenings across the country to celebrate and highlight the history of science film Hidden Figures. I worked with Jessica van Horssen (Leeds Beckett University) to bring together interested people to view the film and discuss how the history of science, race, and gender are presented on screen. I helped to organise #HiddenFiguresParty events in the North East and gave talks and facilitated post-screening discussions in Newcastle, and in Leeds alongside Jessica – fulfilling a teenage dream of working at the glorious Hyde Park Picture House. Continue reading “Hidden Figures: Screening Hidden Histories”

REVIEW: War of the Planet of the Apes (Reeves, 2017)

war-for-the-planet-of-the-apes1War of the Planet of the Apes is the final instalment of the reboot of 50-year-old Planet of the Apes franchise, empathetically imagining the fall of humanity from the apes’ perspective. It concludes the three-film journey of Caesar (in a mesmerising performance from Andy Serkis) who moves from science experiment to resistance leader to sacrificial saviour.  Continue reading “REVIEW: War of the Planet of the Apes (Reeves, 2017)”

REVIEW: Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve, 2017)

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Blade Runner is a formative SF film for many fans and scholars, inviting endless revisitation – a multi-layered, visually excessive storyworld that prioritises aesthetics over narrative. Its long-awaited sequel, 2049, is equally beautiful and complex, although more narratively accessible than its predecessor. Similarly, 2049 also asks questions about the essence of humanity while lacking depth in its cultural representation.  Continue reading “REVIEW: Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve, 2017)”

Women scientists are more than capable of leading blockbuster storylines

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There was a time when the only scientists you would see in feature films were men, and white men at that. But women scientists are finally getting the storylines they deserve. Yes we’ve had female scientists in past movies but their opportunities were limited, so it’s exciting to see this generation being given the centre stage. Continue reading “Women scientists are more than capable of leading blockbuster storylines”

Oscars 2018: why Andy Serkis has yet again been denied the recognition he deserves

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Tiffany Haddish (star of Girls’ Trip) and Andy Serkis (War of the Planet of the Apes) co-hosted the 2018 Oscar nominations broadcast in anticipation of the 90th Academy Awards in March. Haddish is the breakout star of one of the summer’s biggest blockbusters, tipped for success this award’s season. Serkis, meanwhile, is a phenomenally successful actor, but one whose face is not always seen on screen – despite a lengthy list of acting credits. Continue reading “Oscars 2018: why Andy Serkis has yet again been denied the recognition he deserves”

Movies and Scientific Accuracy (Microbiology Today)

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This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a virus.

In Planet of the Apes (1968) Charlton Heston faced a future of intelligent apes in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust but in the 2011 re-launch of the franchise – Rise of the Planet of the Apes – the fall of humanity follows a global pandemic that kills 1 in 10 humans whilst heightening ape intelligence. Although Rise of the Planet of the Apes falters in accurately representing the processes of science it does have a striking visualisation of the spread of the ‘Simian Flu’ – an unintended side effect of an attempt to cure Alzheimer’s disease. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is an example of recent film and TV that shows that lab-engineered outbreaks have replaced the nuclear holocaust on screens as the imagined and expected end of humanity. Science and scientists are central to causing and perhaps saving humanity from extinction. Continue reading “Movies and Scientific Accuracy (Microbiology Today)”

The Anthill Podcast: Science by the seaside (British Science Festival 2017)

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At the end of summer 2017 I was in Brighton for the annual British Science Festival having organised an event for the History of Science Section of the British Science Festival. I sang at the science festival, because of course I did, and The Conversation featured us on their podcast. They described our contribution like this: Continue reading “The Anthill Podcast: Science by the seaside (British Science Festival 2017)”

Sisters in Science: Ghostbusters Answers the Call

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We need women of science on screen – in major summer blockbusters working together to discover, empower, and save the world. As Ghostbusters’ male ‘evil scientist’ exclaims “do it in the right place, with enough power, and there goes the barrier!” – he’s talking about releasing supernatural creatures on New York but it works for Ghostbusters too as it pushes at the gender barrier. It puts at least a small crack in the glass ceiling by showing that these “sisters in science” are what scientists can and do look like. By normalising women of science on screen and by having them as lead characters rather than sci-candy sidekicks the film industry can show that being a scientist is an entirely achievable goal for the young woman looking to her future career. Continue reading “Sisters in Science: Ghostbusters Answers the Call”