Blast from the past: 1995 interview about technology and gender

I was recently looking around for some info on my old computers, trying to remember the sequence of machines, and found this interview done by Liz Belile for some publication or another* (probably a ‘zine of some sort? Remember those?)

What’s new? This was almost 20 years ago, right about when we had our first web browsers.



Interview about Technology:

Your name, gender, job title or brief self-description.

Jonathan Segel, male, puppet figurehead of MAGNETIC (a company that makes music CDs, among other things. Music is part of a larger context of “metatool” manufacturing, tools that allow the user to make or use other tools. Language is the best example…) Otherwise, a musician, writer, erstwhile San Francisco bartender and general nuisance.


What kinds of technology do YOU use 1) for work 2) for pure fun?

I use and have used many forms of “technology” for purposes that cross both categories. The computer that I am typing this into, a Macintosh Quadra 636, is used to make music (sequencing, lyric typing, score writing), pictures and words for business and fun (web and advertising, desktop publishing) and to track sales (if such happen).

Being a producer of CDs, I use various sound manipulation devices mostly common to recording studios, both large and small, including computers, tape decks, mixing boards, microphones, sound processors of all sorts—digital and analog, and both electrical and acoustic musical instruments.

I have to assume that by “technology” you mean electrical tech, otherwise to my list of entertainment tech that I use regularly (television, radio, telephone and answering machine, fax machine) I would add books and magazines, which are indeed manufactured by machines. I still view the printing press as technology.

In addition to this list I would like to add the internal combustion engine, an invention I greatly admire and use in many forms for fun, travel and hauling physical objects, including the aforementioned.


How has new technology affected your life directly? Indirectly?

I have tried to keep in touch with a semblance of world-wide pop culture for the past ten years, and to keep a hand in it. the technology of recording studios and (previously vinyl, now CD) record manufacturing has enabled me to put out a product into the ever-expanding spiral of human art, hopefully to be heard by and perhaps to inspire a greater number of people than I could have, say, in 1950. As time goes on and the technology to do such things becomes more and more prevalent and available to the public at large, more and more people will be (and are) able to do the same. This affects me directly, in that, as more people are able to put their own art into the market of the world, mine as an individual becomes less unique in its availability and more common in a larger context, thus less able to support me financially as an artist. Is this bad? I don’t really know. Obviously it means I have to support myself otherwise (preying on humanity’s addiction to alcohol as a bartender, currently) but I have to believe that more art from humanity in general is a good thing, ultimately everybody expressing their own creativity rather than relying on specified “artists” strikes me as a good idea. I suppose there will always be prodigies in art, sports, etc., but recapturing the element of actual “doing” rather than being spectators bodes well for humankind.


What would you like your computer to do for you?

I was 6 when we put men on the moon (…if you believe that they did…) Growing up, I was convinced that technology would progress at an astounding rate and have been seriously let down that it didn’t keep up with my futuristic expectations. I want not only my computer but even my toaster to be semi-intelligent. I would prefer all my machines to act according to my command and to understand what I am telling them to do, e.g. “please make me some toast”. I used to carry around a stainless steel zippo lighter to remind me of what I wanted my computer to be: small enough to fit into my hand and artificially intelligent, so I could tell it what to keep in its memory and it could project holographically any visual artwork I needed to work on.


Have you ever experienced CyberSex? What happened?

Unless you mean talking to a known and real sex partner on the telephone, no.


Do you read technical journals or online tech talk?

Yes, I read (sometimes) magazines on sound production and mixing, computers and motorcycles. I rarely use online tech talk, but I do sometimes call my brother on the telephone when I have computer problems.


How are you treated when you go into a consumer electronics store or a guitar store?

I generally prepare myself to enter such a store armed with information enough to disarm the salesmen, usually only entering when I actually intend to buy something and I know what it is. Of course, with musical instruments the interesting stores sell used equipment, so technological knowledge is less important. Here I have experienced both ends of the spectrum: in big cities where I am not a known quantity, I am treated as an amateur by the generally snobbish (because of the elite nature of musical knowledge) clerks, however in, say, Santa Cruz, where I used to live, the smaller stores recognize me as a professional musician and treat me with a respect that allows me inside the elite circle and I get to try the latest guitars into the shop and hear their histories. I think this kind of in-on-it or out-of-it treatment happens with most tech or guitar shops, it’s a part of the supply and demand style of capitalism: people who make records (say, rock stars) are given music by others who would be glad to have them hear it (they are, after all, experts in the field, proven simply by the fact that they make records), while those who don’t have to buy it.


The Gender Thing

Do males and females interact differently with computers? Please cite an example of this if you think so. What does this say about us?

Ok, I have to say that my experience will probably be the opposite of the general consensus in that I have read that the computer industry considers the Mac/IBM dichotomy to be some kind of analog to the right/left brain dichotomy and as such the right brain, picture oriented users are more often female while the left brain, code users are more often male. I would point out that in exact opposition to that, most female computer users I know use IBMs and can do and understand, for example, database work better than I can, better in fact than most of the male computer users I know, who use Macs and do picture stuff.

Regardless of that, I do not believe that males and females interact differently with computers, it’s an individual thing. Both go both ways.


How does “interactive” technology affect our consciousness toward the future? What is the role of technology in the future, specifically for women? And for men?

…Tough question. It seems to me that “interactive” technology is based on entertaining, even in its mode of information retrieval. I don’t see it as helping people to do things in the real physical world, even in terms of hand-eye coordination (frisbee would be as good as star wars in training jet fighters) and I worry about people abusing the time lag between input and response preventing them be fully and truly “there” at any given moment, which is something that I think is important for conscious human beings.

I grew up in a female-dominated (read: single mom) household during the 60s and 70s and never really distinguished differences in the roles of males and females in society, so I don’t see technology’s role as being different for one or the other gender…?


How has technology affected the way men and women interact with each other? Can technology improve interactions with men and women?

I have only heard of, never experienced online dating, (or, in fact unknown-quantity dating in the real world, always seen friends!) Although I gather that these are common things in the world-out-there. I don’t know about how it affects interactions.

Where I live, for the most part people are beyond assuming that one or the other gender knows more or less about technology being discussed. Can it improve interactions? I doubt it. Telephones will still relay more emotional information than email.


Can we have better sex through technology?

Don’t know yet. Have they built the Orgasmatron?


The Purely Philosophical Thing:

Is technology inherently evil?

No. People are the only thing that could ever be inherently evil.


Who gets access to technology?

Presently, those with the resources. Of course, our governments have the resources, enough to allow every person access, but it isn’t done yet. I think computers could be useful educational tools in literacy programs worldwide, even for uninterested children. Maybe the web will be used as informational rather than strictly entertaining. I haven’t been able to get my computer to teach me Japanese yet, but I have learned an awful lot about goats.





* apparently it was called “GoDigital!” says Liz.


musician. real person. that's my real name, go ahead, look me up.

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Technology
2 comments on “Blast from the past: 1995 interview about technology and gender
  1. Steve Cammack says:

    You know my grandson at 1 1/2 knew how to turn a tablet on – search the icons for the game he desired and knew the functionality of the game – such as pulling the bird back to sling it out. Didn’t know the intent of the game or any strategy. A 2 1/2 how was just starting to get that ( a little) and could verbalize what he was doing – fucking amazing Date: Thu, 31 Jul 2014 19:51:29 +0000 To:

  2. Dead Ring says:

    Really thankfull for sharing your amazingly thoughts with us Cymbal mutes .

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

photo by Ian Weintraub

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

%d bloggers like this: