About Nur Al-huda Hamdan

A PhD candidate and research assistant at RWTH Aachen University, Germany. She has a background in computer science and engineering. She does HCI research on wearables and interactive textiles.

CHI 2016: Global, Diverse, Good

What can a 1000 scientists achieve when they invest one hour doing voluntary work?

At the heart of Silicon Valley, the CHI 2016 conference broke through new ceilings. CHI (pronounced kai) is the most prestigious international conference in the field of human-computer interaction (HCI). It attracts researchers, designers, engineers, and artists who want to (re)shape technology and media to enhance people’s quality of life. This year, the conference took place in San Jose, USA. Over 3,800 participants from 52 countries presented their work in various media formats, including keynote presentations, media installations, interactive demos, and posters.

In the opening keynote, Dayo Olopade, a Nigerian-American journalist and author, portrayed the challenges she faced moving from the USA to Nairobi, and how the demographics and culture of different countries are unique and should be taken into account in the design of new digital tools. Dayo took the audience on a voyage to Africa where she slowly dissolved the western lense allowing them to see the chaotic, desperate Africa reveal its unconventional systems as an efficient act of “kanju”, a term which refers to the creativity that comes out of African difficulties. Continue reading

Why “Celebrate Women in Computing”?

The ACM-W society is one of the biggest advocates of women in computing. They dedicate several events and awards to celebrate prominent women in computer science and related fields. In September this year, the ACM-W Europe chapter held the second womEncourage event in Uppsala University, Sweden. WomEncourage creates an environment for women with similar scientific backgrounds to interact, network, and explore career opportunities. In this event, two hundred people are participating from twenty-eight countries including the Middle East, India, China and the U.S.A.

But why is there a need for events dedicated to women in computer science?

Gender stereotypes threaten women in male-dominated work environments with discrimination from three sources: men, other women, and self discrimination. Commonly, the ratio of women to men decreases rapidly in more advanced academic or professional positions. In her keynote, Prof. Åsa Cajander mentioned as a consequence of this phenomenon women are perceived less competent within a group and are assigned to the group’s social tasks. This leaves a woman feeling isolated in her team, and could eventually affect her performance.

A higher risk women face comes from within. Prof. Cajander called this risk the imposter syndrome, where a woman feels that she does not deserve her success and assigns it to chance or to other people. Some women also believe that similar success could have been achieved by a male-counterpart with less time and effort. Positive discrimination, such as scholarships offered for women or women quota systems, also threaten women. In many situations, this type of discrimination leads women to be more criticized for their actions compared to males, especially by other women. Continue reading