Software Industry badly needs an injection of Diversity!

This is somewhat off-topic, but I wanted to share with you nonetheless :-)

Last week I was fortunate enough to be asked to speak at the launch of the National Universities of Ireland Digital Arts and Humanities structured PhD programme. It is the world’s largest-ever program to train a new generation of research students in the application of new media and computer technologies in the arts and humanities, see Press Release.

Having come into the software industry through a somewhat circuitous route (I am a physicist by trade) I have a particular affinity for diversity of academic backgrounds. When I graduated in the early ’90s I don’t believe there was any computer science degree course in Ireland and as a result the industry was made up of a smörgåsbord of backgrounds. We had physicists, mathematicians, philosophers, architects, geologists, linguists, etc. and in my opinion this made for an interesting mix of perspectives. Therefore, I was particularly happy to be invited to this launch event as it represents a new generation of diversity for our industry, something which I believe we badly need.

With the advent of social media and mobile devices, software is becoming an integral part of the fabric of society and will thus shape and be shaped by that society. No-one is better positioned to help the software industry make this transition than the next generation of digital arts and humanities researchers.

When people think about the Arts & Humanities, they don’t immediately think “software innovation”, but the fact of the matter is that some of the earliest computer science research was inspired by digital humanists. Father Busa, who is credited with being the father of Digital Humanities, had a relationship with IBM founder Thomas Watson spanning 30 years. So the notion of humanists contributing to software innovation is not new. It’s just that with the growth of computer science as its own discipline we’ve forgotten the value of interdisciplinary research – at least when it involves folks outside the scientific arena.

If I have any hope for the future, its that we start to support more of these programs which bring a fresh injection of different perspectives into our industry. And I would hope that these students can think big and look to how their work can not only benefit the Arts & Humanities but how it can potentially influence the shape of software innovation into the future.

4 Responses to “Software Industry badly needs an injection of Diversity!”

  1. I think it is so important to insert “humanity” into any conversation, progression, or implementation of technology. Great insight and very telling about how accustomed we’ve become to being disconnected from the situation we are trying to remedy, and how neglectful technology has become of the critical non-technology inputs (art, philosophy, math, linguistics, semantics, etc). Somehow they seem to have gotten lost in translation amidst the enthusiasm of developing quick technological solutions. Kind of reminds me of the ongoing health and wellness battle between popping a pill vs. truly focusing on changing habits and behaviors which are the root cause of many chronic illnesses.

    As always Marie, good stuff!


  2. Yep! We definitely all need an injection of “humanity” as you put it. We scientists (and as a physicist and one of the biggest technology nerds out there, I am the first to admit fault) can get so excited about a new idea that we rarely ask ourselves if we should do something. As long as it can be done we do it.



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