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”

Movies and Scientific Accuracy (Microbiology Today)

Originally published: November 2017maxresdefault.jpg

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)

Originally posted: September 2017British-Science-Festival-2017-1i1mqxl.png

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)”

SF Suggestions (2016 edition)

Originally posted: May 2016Orphan-Black-Cosima-1434649070.gif

When I started as a postdoc on the Unsettling Scientific Stories project in 2016 I was asked to produce a ‘top ten’ list of SF texts that were favourites, inspiration, and the types of works that I hoped to look at as part of the project.

This is mine: Continue reading “SF Suggestions (2016 edition)”

The Skriker: Global Warming, Eco-fairytales, and Science on the Stage

Originally posted: July 2015

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‘It’s a clarion call …Maybe it will make people look at what we’re doing on a global scale and how wrong it is.’  Maxine Peake

Caryl Churchill’s postmodern play The Skriker is just about to begin its final week of a sold-out run at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre and its environmentalist message is as worryingly relevant today as when it premièred at the National Theatre twenty-one years ago. This has been a summer of headlines about record-breaking temperatures; according to scientists the Earth as a whole has experienced its hottest June and the hottest first half of the year since records began. The current climate crisis is entwined with a lengthy history of industrialisation, reckless ecological practices, and the environmental movement has been blighted by financial crisis, austerity, and a political and corporate denial of this global catastrophe. Global warming and climate change are unavoidable issues that permeate news media and increasingly fictional media. Continue reading “The Skriker: Global Warming, Eco-fairytales, and Science on the Stage”

What Entertainment Can do for Science, and Vice Versa

Originally posted: August 2015

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One of the plausible zombies from The Last of Us (2013) – in the game the zombie infection is a fungus that kills and transforms its hosts

We are experiencing a golden age for the fusion of science and entertainment. Oscar-winning films such as Gravity and The Theory of Everything, television ratings titans like The Big Bang Theory, video games including The Last of Us (2013), and high-traffic web-comics like XKCD have shown that science-based entertainment products can be both critically and financially successful. Continue reading “What Entertainment Can do for Science, and Vice Versa”

Stories about Science: Communicating Science Through Entertainment Media

Originally posted: June 2015 – co-written with Ray MacauleyScreen Shot 2018-05-29 at 23.32.08.png

We are now in a golden age of science-based entertainment media.

Every science-based entertainment product is a unique and complex cultural artefact created for a specific audience, format, and purpose. It would be difficult to come up with a template or set of generic rules that could be applied by practitioners in all science communication projects or encompass all forms of entertainment media. Continue reading “Stories about Science: Communicating Science Through Entertainment Media”

If She Can See It, She Can Be It: Women of STEM on Television

Originally posted: July 2015

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She is science (Cosima/Maslany)

I am a self-proclaimed Orphan Black geek monkey and I am obsessed with Clone Club (and their marvelous dance parties). When I first started to explore the representation of women in science in entertainment media I wrote a blog post on the subject to help organize my thoughts on how and where women working in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) were represented. I got a great response from people who read the article and received lots of tweets about the mysterious Cosima Niehaus. After a quick google I binge-watched the first two seasons of Orphan Black (an almost entirely female-led science-based series) and excitedly watching seasons three on four on TV. Continue reading “If She Can See It, She Can Be It: Women of STEM on Television”