About a month ago I was going through stacks of 1981/82 issues of Creative Computing on hand at the SBU Higinbotham Game Studies Collection. In the back of some issues I began to see ads for books, and thought these would be useful objects to add to my research collection. My most recent (and truly baffling!) addition is “Be A Computer Literate” by Marion J. Ball and Sylvia Charp, with illustrations by Jonathan Byrd.
This 61-page, 8.5x11-sized, staple-bound book was published by Creative Computing Press in 1977, and was in its 3rd printing by 1981. On cover price is listed as $3.95. It's intended as an introductory text —its “Chapter” headings are:
The illustrations themselves leave me completely baffled, insofar as they are unlike anything I've yet encountered in a computer-related publication. Representations of women using computers or being used to explain the function of a computer are well over half the human representations in this book, and there's an consistent use of women of color—specifically, black/African-American women with distinctive afros (I'm also pretty sure there's one female figure wearing a stylized Puerto Rican flag on her shirt). The males all have long hair, and figures are often so androgynous that it's difficult to distinguish a conventionally understood male or female sex (the only clearly “male figures” are the occasional police officers and a principal). Every person photographed using a computer is female, with the sole exception of an faceless floating male arm using a light pen on a CRT—like some all-too-cognizant inversion of Laura Mulvey's thesis that cuts up men into anonymous body parts. It's like a drugged-out vision of the racially-diverse, queer comp-utopia I wish we'd always already lived in.
The history of the authors is as fascinating as the book itself. Marion J. Ball (married name; born Marion Jokl) was born in South Africa in 1940, where her parents fled from Nazi Germany. Her parents were both German Olympiads, and her father an expert in sports medicine. In '51, the family returned to Germany when South Africa announced its apartheid policy, but in '52 came to the US. Marion received a bachelors in math and education in 1960, and an MA in math in 1965, and later a doctorate in education. She worked as a programmer and instructor at the University of Kentucky, then went to Temple University. She held various directorships in medical computing. She's published slews of books on computer system selection and medical informatics (and an 1972 children's book “What is a Computer?”). There's a host of other accomplishments Ball earned, but briefly she became a leading force in the establishment of medical and nursing informatics—indeed the website where I plied most of this info from referred to her as the “mother of medical informatics” (people love to make “mothers” of ladies in the history of technology).
Sylvia Charp has an International Society of Technology in Education Award named after her (she passed away in a car accident in 2003). She was the founding editor of T.H.E. [Technological Horizons in Education] Journal, an educator at elementary, secondary and university levels, a technology consultant to businesses such as IBM, Bell,& Hewlett Packard, an international consultant to UNESCO, a president of the International Society of Technology in Education, etc. Accounts say that she lived most her life around Philly, which is likely when/how she came into contact with Marion J. Ball. I've had a harder time finding biographical information on Charp, but she was certainly a big deal within the technology and education community. For those, like me, fascinated by weird valences between dining rooms, tables, women and computers, read this commentary by one of Sylvia's friends.
Jonathan Byrd, unfortunately, I have no leads on. His name is far too common to get any clear hits, even tossing in some Booleans for “illustrator” and “illustration.”
Regardless, this is a helluva little book. I look forward to continue digging up information on it. Also note—the Amazon listing doesn't note either Ball or Charp as author. It lists David Ahl, author of many other Creative Computing publications, but not this one. Be warned, my internet nancy drews.
Call for Submissions: Internet Memes and Visual Culture
A themed Special Issue of Journal of Visual Culture
Issue Guest Editors: Laine Nooney (Stony Brook University) and
Laura Portwood-Stacer (New York University)
The Editors are currently seeking proposed contributions for a Special Issue of the Journal of Visual Culture on Internet Memes and Visual Culture, to be published December 2014. The term meme, a portmanteau of mimesis and gene, was minted in 1976 by British ethologist and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. Dawkins proposed the meme as a “unit of cultural transmission,” a self-perpetuating cultural phenomenon analogous to the gene as a replicator of biological data. Almost 40 years later, the term “meme” has become the coin of the realm within Internet subcultures, particularly on microblogging and social network platforms. In these contexts the designation “meme” identifies digital objects that riff on a given visual, textual or auditory form. For a digital object to become a meme, it must be appropriated, re-coded, and slotted back into the Internet infrastructures it came from—memes require continued user adaptation. Thus, memes are co-constitutive with the user practices of creative (re)production that are default modes of communicative interaction on major social media platforms such as Facebook, Tumblr, Reddit, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube. Memes are frequent objects of analysis among scholars of contemporary digital culture, socio-linguistics, fan culture, and social networking, wherein they are assessed as forms of generative vernacular communication and art-making that defy traditional models of top-down capitalist consumer control of mass media forms. Yet the speed, volume and insularity of meme-making often frustrates aesthetic, formal and techno-infrastructural scholarship on memes and meme distribution.
This special issue of the Journal of Visual Culture will organize a conversation among cultural scholars, artists, activists, journalists and Internet content producers regarding the social, historical, and aesthetic significance of Internet memes. Our move to “take memes seriously” as communicative and aesthetic objects is especially timely, as memes' linguistic tropes, visual styles and means of transmission gain increasing visibility beyond their origins in online subcultural spaces such as 4chan or 9gag. One of the ways this special issue will take on these questions is by itself expanding on traditional modes of academic writing. Potential contributors are thus encouraged to incorporate visual and conceptual experiments intended to elucidate the meme form, performatively and materially replicating the phenomenon under study.
The Editors are open to engagements with “Visual Culture” broadly writ. Contributions may consider the following topics or expand on other ideas, keeping a particular emphasis on relating memes to the visual:
For a proposed academic paper, please email a single-spaced, extended abstract of 1000-1200 words that details a projected argument and possible example cases to be examined. Please also include a brief list of scholarly sources that will inform your paper (not included in the word count). For a proposed contribution in another formats (short essay, graphic essay, conceptual piece, etc.), please email a single-spaced description or artist statement that details the format and projected content of the submission. The deadline for submission of proposals/abstracts is 15 January 2013. The Editors expect to make final decisions about accepted contributions by mid-March 2013. Accepted contributors will be asked to submit their full contributions by January 2014. The Editors are aware of and open to shifts in content that may occur as the full submission develops, should the proposed contribution be accepted for inclusion in the issue.
Inquiries and submission proposals should be directed to both Laine Nooney (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Laura Portwood-Stacer (email@example.com). Emails should include the subject heading: Internet Memes special issue, JVC.