Cayla Marie Peterson
The three-day inaugural Alliance of Women in Media Arts and Technology Conference began on Thursday, Feb. 8 in UCSB’s Music Building. The conference was created specifically with the intent of celebrating a generation of women artists in a world where women are the minority in the fields of science and technology.
Political and social conversations took place through dialogue centered around topics like virtual reality, music composition, and climate change. Both women and men listened to a compilation of female speakers share their knowledge of new advances and their own creations in the realm of technology and media.
On opening day, guest speaker Amy Alexander, a UC San Diego artist and researcher, shared the foundation of the history of women through tech and art. As more guests trickled in, UCSB professor JoAnn Kuchera-Morin followed with her presentation of the creative process of music composition.
“The Future is Female!” blared the simple message on a PowerPoint presentation, bringing smiles to the room as speaker Jacki Morie finished her presentation, “The Her-story of VR.” Morie, hailed by Vice as a “virtual reality pioneer,” has been working with NASA for years to lessen the burdens of space travel through virtual reality.
People reacted favorably as she displayed images of the first virtual reality systems to be created by women. Char Davies, Josephine Anstey, and Tamiko Thiel are just some of the women Morie brought attention to as she admired their attention to detail and ability to open doors for a plethora of women to enter the field of virtual reality.
“It’s sad because we never get to hear about the amazing work that has come from females in the technology world, but this makes me excited to see be apart of what is to come for women,” said Rosali Moreali, a second year who said she attended the conference just to hear Morie’s presentation.
Other students expressed feelings of empowerment. Amanda Hackelton, a third year communication major, said she has never felt intimidated in her predominantly male classes but whenever she is around women in her field, it always gives her an energy boost.
The conference began to reach its end on Sunday when Laurel Beckman, a UCSB professor, made the room laugh with her presentation, “The Art of Being a Fan.” “I am a fan of science, I am not cynical but I am critical,” she stated while discussing her love for experiments.
Her presentation used digital media to visually bring inanimate objects to life. The room watched as fruit began to sing on the screen and frogs danced and performed for the scientists in the simulated lab.
Kathleen Ruiz, a media artist and professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, summed up the purpose of the conference succinctly as she ended her presentation on experimental transmission through art: “There are no boundaries!” The conference was intended to inspire women to explore endless possibilities and to leave their mark on the world.
The committee hopes that these women will inspire a new generation of women to pursue their passion in the technology and the field of media. Speakers such as Ruiz want women to work with the mindset that there should be no limitations on what women choose to pursue in life.