Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ada Lovelace Day

So, today is celebrating Ada Lovelace through the wonders of blogging check out FindingAda.com for details.

Basically, the point is to talk about a woman in technology. Girls are often shown the same role models over and over, but Ada Lovelace, possibly the world's first computer programmer, is one that many girls don't hear about until they log in to cracked.com or some other random fact humor site as adults. I'll throw my mother into the mix, as many young girls have mothers in technology, and witnessing my own mother's work certainly affected my opinion of women in sciences and technology far more than something I saw on television.

Dr. Elizabeth K. Burns - Urban Geographer

Dr. Burns ran a lab called the Center for Advanced Transportation Systems Research in the 1990s, she used Global Information Systems (GIS) at a time when she often had to explain what that, and what Global Positioning Systems (GPS) were to her colleagues. She had been studying the growth of cities and sociological trends and how they can be modeled using computer systems since the 1970s, and achieved the most national attention for her work on the differences between the transportation usage patterns of men and women, and on improving traffic congestion in cities. That said, she also did work with counties in Arizona trying to figure out where their water systems actually were, and a significant amount of mapping in for the city of Phoenix when they wanted to secure their own systems.

It's always amazed me that things as strait-forward as civic water systems weren't as thoroughly documented as I assumed, growing up in a computerized world. Or, the ramifications of school bus routes on kids bicycling to school. She was working in computing and applying it to Urban Geography.

She is currently retired and working on a mass market novel about her studies and experiences.

I think what my mother has accomplished is amazing, and blew my mind completely for a good 16 years of my life ("my mom is a professor, she runs a lab with a bunch of computers"- says 6-12 year old me). Her accomplishments actually affect the choices that civic planners make, and the development of cities in the future (we can hope).

It is important to remember when searching out women in technology as role models to note that for many girls, the female role model that they see working in technology is not famous, that woman is also coming home every day and tucking them into bed.

I'm definitely going to be looking at the blogs today to see which women in technology other bloggers picked, because, it seems to me it's an early time to be picking out the heroines of the Information Age. It's a huge world out there and literally every field is being impacted by people implimenting and making use of new technology that has ramified into every facet of society.

That said, I'd love to see a movie about Ada Lovelace and Babbage's early computer, and I can't wait to read my mom's book.

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed your post Caitlin! It's so nice that you could post about your mother for Ada Lovelace Day. When I was selecting photos to illustrate my Ada Lovelace Day post about Esther Dyson, I felt it was important to include her mathematician mother.