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Women's Studies and Computer Science: Their Intersection

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129947D
Original Publication Date: 1996-Sep-30
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-07
Document File: 7 page(s) / 34K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

THELMA ESTRIN: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

Over 400 departments and centers for women's studies and over 1,000 departments of computer science provide curricula in colleges and universities in the United States. Women's studies and computer science both emerged as academic disciplines in the 1960s, with no interaction between them because they evolved along very different paths one for women and one for men. Computing and biomedical engineering were creating tools for exploration of women's health and reproductive rights, and one might think that science and engineering (S&E) would have been among the first areas developed by women's studies programs. Though biology is a major field of computing applications, women's studies neglected S&E for two and a half decades, focusing instead on the immediate experience of women, including history, anthropology, literature, and psychology. Sociology, philosophy, and political science were added, but math, the natural sciences, and engineering did not become part of the curricula.

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THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1996 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Women's Studies and Computer Science: Their Intersection

THELMA ESTRIN

Women's studies and computer science both evolved as academic disciplines in the 1960s, but they evolved along very different paths. The differences between science, engineering, and the humanities are discussed, followed by a brief review of women's studies. Feminist epistemology and its dedication to concrete learning introduce new ideas for gaining knowledge that will also make computer science more relevant for minority and low-income students. Children's use of computer technology and Logo software is introduced.

Introduction

Over 400 departments and centers for women's studies and over 1,000 departments of computer science provide curricula in colleges and universities in the United States. Women's studies and computer science both emerged as academic disciplines in the 1960s, with no interaction between them because they evolved along very different paths one for women and one for men. Computing and biomedical engineering were creating tools for exploration of women's health and reproductive rights, and one might think that science and engineering (S&E) would have been among the first areas developed by women's studies programs. Though biology is a major field of computing applications, women's studies neglected S&E for two and a half decades, focusing instead on the immediate experience of women, including history, anthropology, literature, and psychology. Sociology, philosophy, and political science were added, but math, the natural sciences, and engineering did not become part of the curricula.

Science and Engineering

An interesting perspective given for the differences that govern the acquisition of knowledge in the humanities and social sciences, as opposed to the natural sciences, is that in science, the acquisition of knowledge is largely sequential, primarily vertical and intensive. The student acquires knowledge in measurable steps that build on each other. Whereas in the humanities, understanding is concentric, primarily horizontal, or extensive. The student acquires information that may be spread over several domains. Engineering requires both sequential and circular understanding. Engineering is the marriage between science and the useful arts.

Technology was the term coined in the mid-1800s to signify that union. Technology was defined as the theory of the practical arts and, unlike science, could be successfully practiced without learned knowledge of the fundamental laws of nature. The emergence of the engineering sciences at the start of this century is at the core of engineering design, and the terms "engineering" and "technology" will be used interchangeably here.

Science adds to our knowledge base while engineering produces goods and services to satisf...