World-building the real world part 2: Setting the context.

Before I get into how I want to build this real world that already exists, I need to set context. You know when you start something new, like an install or when you order something, you can pick the options or just go with the default? I need to set the default settings here. We’re going to talk about the default person (this post, part 2a), the default country/way of civilisation (part 2b), and the default view of getting around (part 2c).

2.a) Changing the default human.

Who gets to decide the default? Who gets to say who “the community” really is? Who gets to say how we do things? Generally it’s just, “how it is”, or, how “things have always been”. I’m not talking about specific propaganda or shitty behaviour. I’m talking about well-meaning people trying to be inclusive but being ignorant of their own ideologies. So consider this, when you enter a room, do you behave differently when you see it is a, uhm, let’s say a male changing room after football practice, or, say, an afternoon at your gran’s house? Yes? Yes. Of course you do. So who gets to decide what milieu we have when we’re online?

Being online, this is me:

Thinking people’s faces on the internet.

(This screenshot is from a skit by Tracey Ullman, and you can watch it online.)

In my world – engineering, environment, a bit of code, the FOSS world – there are soooo many times that I am the only woman in the room. Occasionally the conversation would turn to, how do we get more women here? And then I choke a little. You want to bring more women here? To this? This is a dumpster fire. This is a boys’ locker room. There’s piss, everywhere. I cannot in good conscience ask any women to join me here: it’s a shitshow. No. Nope. No way.

There’s a newsletter called Invisible Women, written by Caroline Criado Perez. It highlights all the thousands of little ways women are side-lined and its consequences. It shows how the default human is male. Wrongly, obviously, but still, the default. Healthcare is a big one. It’s mind-blowing. Urban design. Car safety belts. Drugs reducing cognitive decline in Alzheimers. Just, so much of eye-rolling. I would ask men to do better but the track record on that has been shit.

I don’t want men to be better, or to let us in, or whatever. I’m done with all that. The only civilised thing to do is leave the fucking locker room and go try talk again somewhere else.

I want the next version of the web to have women as the default. No, no no no wait, I want the default to be a kick-ass gran, in a happy house where, through whatever magic grandmas have, no-one even thinks to talk shit. Joke around, yes, but it’s always with your inside voice and with all your manners on full active duty. The other cool thing about grandmas is that people are less bothered about their gender. Seeing that older women get to be invisible this is a nifty way to sidestep gender binaries altogether.

Women should build the next version of the web.

I don’t know what this will look like, but for now I am building and highlighting initiatives with the very scientific method of “because I like it”.

I am done with being balanced or fair or reasonable or realistic or what-the-fuck-ever. I’m tired. Now, I do and like and amplify stuff simply because I like it. Because I want it this way. Hopefully, over time, it will move to an empirical metric of, because people (of any gender) whom I like, like it too. And hopefully they’d be more capable of saying why.

Update: this interesting post written by Glenn Fleishman about how Mastodon works goes a way to describe why it’s still so civil. More of this please:

  • You never see posts from people you don’t follow pushed into your timeline by an algorithm or because someone paid for you to see it.
  • Moderators have a lot of power over their instances and federation with other instances. It’s plausible that people who post merely to be a pain in the ass or spread harassment will get kicked off well-run instances and move to anything-goes instances, which in turn get defederated by well-run instances. 
  • There’s more talking with than talking at by far, and while it’s not always civil—that’s probably neither possible nor fully desirable—there’s a calmness and sense of control not present elsewhere. With nobody stuffing material down your timeline’s throat or constantly urging you to “engage” more, you set the pace for your own experience and curate it more closely to what you want.

Other things, for example, games I showcase won’t have the need to shoot things. I’m all for violence in games, I get it, blow off steam or whatever, but when I don’t want to do that, suddenly there’s not a helluva lot of options left. I do suspect boobs and nudity will be showcased, because who doesn’t like boobies? I love boobs. Nudity as in all shapes and sizes obvs – think, less porn and more naked gardening. Anyway. Also, I don’t like blocks. I like curves, and beautiful design. I understand that Minecraft did a lot of good for the world, but I just don’t like the blockiness.

Boobies aside, there are some more serious reasons why I think the next iteration of the web needs to be built by women:

Women are spending more time in the protometaverse than men are and, according to McKinsey data, are more likely to spearhead and implement metaverse initiatives.

As a group, I think women are more likely to have more foresight when developing technology, and so less propensity to create problematic consequences while designing solutions to non-problems. I’m sure there’s good scientific research reports on this, but everything I find so far is depressing articles whining to get more women in STEM and I already said I’m not inviting people into the shitshow. So I’m going to have to come back to this paragraph with some good facts later.

In short, women get to connect and remember aaaalllll the things. We’re the wives, the PAs, we run the show from the back. You need that in a systems thinker. You need that sort of vibe when you talk about the interconnectedness of things.

The next part is another why in this series, which is changing the default country to … the emerging world, who, thanks to the internet, do not have to be shoved in a dark closet just because of the bad luck of where or what colour they were born. If our democracies suck, can we go live in the internet? There’s no link because I haven’t written it yet.

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