Personal Statement

In order to convey my present interest in the complex relationship between women and technology, it is important for me to begin with a discussion of how my present views toward the subject were shaped. While I currently study at one of the most reputable liberal arts colleges in the United States, I spent my formative years learning in one of the poorest school systems in the state of Ohio. My high school studies were executed in an intellectually- and financially-impoverished environment. Students were faced with the imposition of paying considerably large sums of money to participate in extracurricular activities such as sports and band. A harsh budget reduction resulted in a profound curriculum revision. Many classes which once seemed essential (such as classics and certain foreign languages) were deleted from the meager course catalogue. Needless to say, classes that required the acquisition of expensive, up-dated computers were not an option. Even teachers did not use computers on an everyday basis, much less students. Although certain literature classes required the development of simple word-processing skills, the use of computers was nonexistent in all other courses, including the sciences. The computers that were available in the library were out-dated, and failed to provide access to the internet.

While some students had the opportunity develop an understanding of the ever-evolving world of computer-related technology at home, I grew up in home where it was not uncommon to eagerly await the arrival of Dad's pay check in order to purchase groceries or to pay the bills. My family lacked the financial resources to purchase a computer, although my parents constantly spoke of the importance of owning one. Although my up-bringing was comparatively impoverished in terms of dollars, it was rich in education and encouragement. In the early 1960s, my father made his way through college by working summer jobs in the sweltering steel mills in the outskirts of Chicago. He was the first in my family to complete college, and ended up earning a doctorate degree as well. My mother was not granted the chance to attend college, but became highly educated through key types of experiential learning. The value of education was passed on to me, and I excelled in all of the courses I was presented with in high school.

My college years introduced me to an entirely new learning system, where the importance of computer-related learning tools prevailed. Initially I found the vast new world of resources a bit intimidating, but quickly began to realize how an understanding of "high-tech" equipment could enhance my education and expand my ability to communicate. On the other hand, I also felt skeptical when I noticed the immense amount of time people seemed to spend in front of computers. Back home I knew only one individual who had access to the internet at home. My peers spent little time playing computer games or "chatting" with people on the net. It was disgruntling to meet people who seemed to be obsessed with their computers at school (although in retrospect I realize that my views were somewhat naive and judgmental). Overall, I came to the conclusion that my computer usage would center around educational purposes such as research and communication. I rejected the many ways in which recreation and computer technology are intertwined.

Although my educational interests have focused on the social sciences and humanities, I have become increasingly aware of the profound role technology plays in relation to my present studies as well as my plans for future career endeavors. Just as I have learned about the impact technology has on women through courses in history, psychology, and sociology, my experience as an art major consistently pushes me critique the ways in which technology can either open or shut doors for women. The Guerilla Girls lash out at world-renowned galleries and museums that exclude women from traditionally male-dominated exhibition spaces. What does this have to do with women in technology? Well, take the example of the contemporary sculpture scene. Despite the fact that many female artists have developed strong welding skills to execute large-scale works of complicated art, the vast majority of commissioned metal works displayed in public venues are those by males. Why are the works by female welders less-recognized? This example is one of many which fits into a historical continuum of sexual discrimination that exists in my field.

The impact of technology is particularly relevant to artists who pursue high-paying jobs in graphic design and advertisement. Although I choose to work with more traditional, hands-on media, computer art as well as film and video provide more examples of how technological advances expand the artist's expressive possibilities. It is exciting to consider the potential development of new artistic media in the future as scientists continue to exert their own forms of creativity via technological exploration and discovery.

Finally, I must mention that my post-graduate plans to pursue a Master's Degree in Art Therapy might lead me to discover a rich spectrum of ways in which technology can enhance creative expression. While I personally prefer the fluidity of oil paint on canvas to the manipulation of a mouse, many artists embrace the benefits of melding of art and technology. For example, I recently watched a documentary about an art therapist who worked with laser as an artistic medium. Her patients were paralyzed below the neck, yet could render images in light on a screen set before them by directing the flow of a laser which originated from a special piece of head gear. Although the individuals lacked the ability to create images by using their hands, technology enabled the artists to externalize ideas and emotions visually, just as a painter or sculptor might. The art therapist traced the guided streams of light with a paintbrush, thus preserving the formerly intangible images.

Despite the stereotypical barrier between art and science, I am an artist and a firm believer in a co-dependency among the fields. Technology perpetually expands the art world, just as a high degree of creativity is required to make advances in technology. Although a lack of technological knowledge might characterize my earlier years of education, I anxiously look forward to the wealth of ways in which technology might impact my future work. Furthermore, I am determined to fight the current presence of sex-based inequity in the arts as well as in the sciences.

Erin M. Greeson

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last updated 1/26/99