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Top Five Women Who Impacted Technology in 2009


womanlightbulbThere is a revolution. It’s a human and technological revolution. It’s motion and emotion. It’s information. It’s visual. It’s musical. It’s sensorial. It’s conceptual. It’s universal. It’s beyond words and numbers. It’s happening. The natural progression of science and art finding each other to better touch and define the human experience. There is a revolution in the way that we think, in the way that we share, and the way that we express our stories, our evolution. This is a time of communication, connection, and creative collaboration.
– Natasha Tsakos, Director/Actor

This year, we chose five women who embody this “revolution”; women who re-engineer the human experience by melding art, science and technology to create boundary breaking projects with enduring socio-cultural impact.

We begin with a transformational performance artist who redefines the “pop-star” and uses evolution to convey her inner experience; add an entertainment executive who wants to inject the female perspective in gaming; mix in a Belgian trained computer scientist who explores the human-computer interaction and ways to augment human intelligence; blend in a composer who breathes life into complex data sets; top it off with a lawyer who studies virtual worlds and strives to bring openness and transparency to government.

Each woman has altered our experience of music, play, search, data and government. They create “The Project”; a manifestation of their passions, that harnesses “The convergence” of art, science, engineering, new media  and technology; the use principles from the open source movement, collaborative design, democratization, that result in “The Impact”; the shift in society from fixed to dynamic, closed to open, uni-sensory to multi-sensory, from citizens as passive recipients of information to activists engaged in social change. The-Monster-Ball-Promo-Photos-lady-gaga-8872207-800-668

Lady Gaga – Performance Artist, Entertainer

Lady Gaga embodies a pulsating soul that entices the audience into her mental imagery through innovative use of music, art and design.

The Project: Monster Ball “pop-electro opera” and the theme of Evolution –
“…we started talking about evolution and the evolution of humanity and how we begin as one thing, and we become another.”
Lady Gaga’s transformation washes over the audience in an explosion of color, sound, texture and tech to unleash an unforgettable sensory experience.

The Convergence: Employs a multi-disciplinary Haus of Gaga design team; who crafts everything from a stage that upends traditional viewing to iPod glasses; Lady Gaga engages in visceral social networking “I WANT TO INVITE YOU ALL TO THE PARTY. I WANT PEOPLE TO FEEL A PART OF THIS LIFESTYLE.”. She wields art, science and technology like a sorceress; her Heartbeats headphones reflect the fusion of fashion, gadgetry and seduction; the product description entices you “Because when your music sounds amazing, you stop hearing it, and start feeling it.”

Impact: Lady Gaga has re-engineered the female pop-star and become a cultural phenom. “NOW, I’M JUST TRYING TO CHANGE THE WORLD ONE SEQUIN AT A TIME.” she has already met the Queen; won countless awards, is featured on multiple high profile shows,  top 10 lists; the New York Times describes the Lady G’s “persona” as “… an amalgam of surfaces, faceted though not truly 3-D, addictive in the way video games are”. The world is entranced.


Torrie Dorrell — Game/Entertainment industry executive, Sony Online

“…I am challenging everyone to take action to help level the playing field for women pursuing a career in video games.”
According to the Entertainment Software Association 2009
43% online game players are female; women over 18 are one of the industry’s fastest growing demographics. Adult women outnumber game-playing boys < =17 game-playing population (34 % vs. 18%) (3) but only about 10% women in the industry

The Project: (Games in Real Life) G.I.R.L program & scholarship: the initiative is designed “.to positively impact the way females are depicted in video games and create and influence content to be appealing to women “ . The GIRL scholarship encourages diversity on game dev teams and helps recruit more women in game production and design.

The Convergence: Ms. Dorrell embraces the emerging social nature of gaming and leverages both group collaboration and social media techniques to maximize momentum for her cause: “..even though many companies have their own programs to help bring more women into the field, why not combine forces to create something that is truly kick-ass?”; she has forged several successful partnerships with associations such as the International Game Developers association (IGDA) and design institutes.

The Impact: Ms. Dorrel wants to expand the definition of “gamer”; she is the 21st century emissary of the female perspective in gaming;
There are several award winning women working on the upcoming Sony massive multimedia online games, The Agency…and the current tween hit Free Realms.


Pattie Maes:  Associate Professor of Media, Arts and Sciences, MIT; Founder Fluid Interfaces Research Group
An expert in “human-computer interaction, intelligent interfaces and ubiquitous computing.”
Her mission “…to radically rethink the human-machine interactive experience. By designing interfaces that are more immersive, more intelligent, and more interactive. We are changing the human-machine relationship and creating systems that are more responsive to people’s needs and actions, and that become true “accessories” for expanding our minds.”

The Project: The SixthSense prototype: Patti’s “Sixth” sense is the ability to unlock our data from devices and to interact with this information in the physical world. The SixthSense is a $350 pocket projector, mirror and camera. This “wearable gestural interface” bathes our environment in digital information, responds and adapts to our natural gestures, allowing us to play with information and ultimately harness it for our specific needs

The Convergence:
Her faculty appointment at MIT “Media, Arts and Science” says it all. Her research exemplifies the inevitable merging of human and computers “to form collective intelligence. This collaboration can be harnessed by humans as the so called, “sixth sense”.
Pattie’s Fluid Interface Group team is on its way to fulfilling another Ray Kuzweil (the Futurist) prophecy “[computing] is …going to be embedded in the environment, in our clothing… “

The Impact: Professor Maes wants to “untether” us from the tyranny of the computing “box” : SixthSense’ frees information from its confines by seamlessly integrating it with reality, and thus making the entire world your computer”

JoAnnKuchera-Morin_2009-interviewJo-Anne Kuchera-Morin — Professor of Composition, Director of the Center for Research in Electronic Art Technology (CREATE) at the University of California, Santa Barbara ; Director, AlloSphere Research Facility

“There are scientists who have lost the ability to perceive their data. Now they [may] perceive this data again through portals that let them see and hear their data, not just see a string of numbers.”
Professor Kuchera-Mornin’s training as composer has undoubtedly ignited this vision of enlisting multiple senses in the analysis of complex data sets for both research and entertainment.

The Project: The “Allosphere”: Those lucky enough to visit the “multi-user interactive space”…[..] a 30-foot diameter sphere built inside a 3-story near-to-anechoic cube”, experience complete immersion in a tantalizing array of visual and aural representations of data with both research and entertainment applications. The concept conjures up a Laurie Anderson concert melded with a multiplayer online game.

The Convergence: The pluripotent nature of the “Allosphere” concept  as both research tool and performance piece. It “brings together art, science, engineering and the cognitive sciences..”

The Impact: Professor Kuchera-Morin wants to change the way we think, feel and interpret data; her hope is that enriched platforms such as Allosphere will help us uncover novel patterns in data that may solve vexing problems in engineering, biology, physics and beyond:
“we are also quantifying things that are almost spiritual. We’re advancing the nature of who and what we are and the nature of the universe.”
Additionally, Allosphere can be used as an “ instrument for the creation and performance of avant-garde new works and the development of entirely new modes and genres of expression and forms of immersion-based entertainment, fusing future art, architecture, music, media, games, cinema, and more.”


Beth Simone Noveck —Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Open Government, Professor law , Director Institute for Information Law and Policy , New York Law School and Founder Do Tank and State of Play

Professor Noveck explores “how technology changes the way communities cohere and how new technologies might help us to transform from private actors into public citizens.” Her research includes virtual worlds, electronic democracy and open government.

The Projects(s): Do Tank & State of Play/ Open Government Initiative –The Do Tank(2) is a “first-of-its kind legal R&D lab where lawyers innovate, harnessing the new tools of information and communications to the goals of social justice.” This ‘Democracy Design Workshop’ develops graphical and visual prototypes that empower people to create collaborative networks for social and political change. The Do Tank website is like a progressive ‘app store’, replete with legal and software code designed for social activists. This goal is “to foster open, transparent and collaborative ways of learning, working and governing.” She has taken this thinking to the Obama administration as Director of White House Open Government Initiative

Her other projects, State of Play conference is a global, multidisciplinary ‘virtual worlds’ research conference created to evaluate the current and future impact of virtual environments on “education, law, politics and society.”The offshoot, State of Play ‘Academy ‘is an “experimental space for studying the impact of virtual worlds on learning and teaching.”

The Convergence: Open source movement principles and collaboration themes pervade her work; there is fusion of digital democratic principles, crowd-sourcing , and the application of virtual world research to social & political change

The Impact: Miss Noveck wants to crack open government to the rest of us through “transparency, participation, collaboration,” To appreciate the full impact of her ideas, we should probably grab her book  “Wiki Government: How Technology Can Make Government Better, Democracy Stronger, and Citizens More Powerful “