Happy New Year to my Jewish readers, and Happy Sept. 10 to everyone. I'll be off through Monday night, but rest assured the rest of the Axios tech team will make sure you don't miss a beat.
We're excited to announce the addition of two newsletters to the Axios family:
Photo: Courtesy of the DO-IT Center at the University of Washington
Despite all the efforts to make computer science more attractive to underrepresented groups, the field still contains a lot of barriers for those with disabilities. A group is looking to change that.
Driving the news: Last week, the CSforAll initiative introduced an accessibility pledge designed to encourage companies and schools to remove some of those obstacles. So far, 49 organizations have made the pledge, including school districts, corporations, content creators, universities and nonprofits.
The details: Making computer science (or any field) truly accessible means addressing a wide range of technical accommodations, from having screenreader-friendly content, to captioned videos, to high-contrast options for the partially sighted, to uncluttered web pages for those with Asperger's.
It's also important to specifically address accessibility in recruitment materials, teacher preparation and structural issues like class scheduling.
What they're saying...
Meredith Boyce, who went blind at 14 due to a brain aneurysm and a stroke, says learning computer science required navigating an obstacle course.
"We in the tech community already talk about learning to code as a pathway to greater financial parity for people who are underserved populations. But I think that my situation helped me to conceptualize technology as a way for myself and other disabled people to achieve equality in communication," Boyce said.
Emma Koslow, a 17-year old high school student, is another adviser to the CSforAll accessibility effort. Koslow, who has vocal and motor tics and misophonia (a rare neurological disorder), founded Programming Pals, an online computer science tutoring service for students with disabilities.
"Unfortunately, there are little to no organizations that support students with disabilities in computer science," Koslow said. "The minority typically goes unnoticed."
Yes, but: Tech can also remove barriers for people with disabilities both by helping those with a disability and by avoiding prejudice from those without one."Nobody knows you're disabled if you're just another person on Twitter," Boyce said. "We can finally scream for our rights and be given a seat at the table."
The bottom line: As former U.S. chief technology officer Megan Smith is fond of saying, it's important to field the whole team, and the U.S. hasn't been doing that.
Reproduced from "Social media, social life," Rideout, V., and Robb, M. B. (2018); Chart: Axios Visuals
Today's teens prefer texting over in-person communication, use social media multiple times a day, and admit that digital distractions interfere with homework, personal relationships and sleep, according to a new survey of 13- to 17-year-olds, Axios' Kim Hart reports.
Why it matters: Concerns over the negative impact of social media use have increased recently with reports of teen depression, suicide and cyberbullying on the rise. The study by Common Sense Media, a non-profit group focused on tech and media's impact on kids, shows teens have a complicated relationship with technology.
The social life conundrum: 54% of teens agree that using social media often distracts them when they are with people, and 44% say they get frustrated when their friends are using their phones while hanging out. Yet 55% say they hardly ever or never put their devices away when hanging out with friends.
The impact: Interestingly, despite the increased use of social media, teens are more likely to say that social media has a positive effect on them. For instance, 25% say using social media makes them feel less lonely, compared to 3% who say it makes them feel more lonely.
Go deeper: Read Kim's full story.
Nicole He's enhance.computer invites users to bark commands at their screens to solve a mystery. Screenshot: enhance.computer
A new generation of artist-programmers, weaned on code and disdainful of discipline boundaries, is starting to offer pointed and frequently hilarious critiques of artificial intelligence and social media — using tech itself as the medium.
A dozen of them introduced their work this weekend at the XOXO Festival in Portland, and Axios' Scott Rosenberg has a report.
Why it matters: Many of tech's biggest problems today developed because the industry tends to apply a pure-engineering mindset to stubbornly organic realms of human behavior — and while these projects don't solve problems themselves, they spark the kind of creative thinking we'll need to do.
Most of these artists are women. Their status as outsiders in a field that remains male-dominated gives them unorthodox perspectives and a willingness to ignore conventions and break rules.
One sign that this field is maturing: Not all of the work is self-referentially about technology.
Go deeper: Read Scott's full story.
Jack Ma, co-founder and executive chairman of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, said he will retire on Alibaba's 20th anniversary, which is Sept. 10, 2019. He'll be succeeded as chairman by company CEO Daniel Zhang.