Magic Logic: The Band Hen Ogledd's Technosocial Commentary

A special ICE Lab Halloween post! The new album Mogic by the band Hen Ogledd, along with their new video Tiny Witch Hunter, provides splendid technosocial commentary.

Cloaked in a name conjuring the myths and legends of the Old North – the region stretching from the south of Scotland to the North of England – the band Hen Ogledd have become ghost android bards on their album Mogic. Approaching technology with creativity, vitality, and a haunted feeling in equal measures, Hen Ogledd have constructed a realm in which digitized voices sing in choruses with fey spirits, Northumbrian warriors, and Cumbrian saints to steady industrial beats or dub riddims. Hen Ogledd was founded by the avant-sublime singer-songwriter Richard Dawson and the infamous improvising harpist Rhodri Davies. Dawn Bothwell later brought Hen Ogledd enchanting electronic and vocal loops with a prophetic sensibility, followed by the addition of Sally Pilkington, whose singing ranges from pop-ethereal to melodically channeling a medieval ancestor of Prince’s alter-ego Camille.


Tales of sexism, sexual harassment, and sexual assault are bubbling angrily through the wires. In late 2017, the media attention to this perpetual ill and the harrowing #metoo stories sparked us to share our own computational tale of fiction that we humbly hope can participate in this dialogue. The computer as a medium offers a unique expressive palette for storytellers. With it, we can build models of crucial and moving issues in our world.

As a step toward this aim as it relates to sexism, we are announcing the launch of our interactive narrative called Grayscale. The experience is intended to provoke players to reflect critically on sexism in the workplace, both overt & hostile and more subtle.

In Grayscale players take on the role of a recently hired Human Resources manager and must navigate ethical tensions around sexism. Players are granted agency through a streamlined, aestheticized interface made to resemble a corporate e-mail client. Over the course of an in-game week, players will read and respond to e-mails from co-workers with varying outlooks in a toxic, melancholy workplace. Emphatically: our aim is neither to simulate the experience of a woman in the workplace nor to create a training tool. Instead, we aim to help users reflect upon a model of "ambivalent sexism" through storytelling.

Associated Project: 

MazeStar Computing Workshops

Our aim: 

We offer workshops that provide opportunities to middle and high school students to:

·              learn computer science in fun, exciting, relevant ways and

·              develop self-images as computer scientists.

​We approach STEM education and access to high quality, relevant learning opportunities as a social justice issue of our time, this includes taking an anti-deficit ideological stance on students and their achievement. We start with student identified relevant themes, questions, challenges, and goals and see who students are and what they bring to the table as assets, important and rich resources to draw on. We utilize aspects of the nationally recognized Exploring Computer Science (ECS) curriculum to spark student excitement about computing and focus on bringing the culture into the fabric of computing practice. We utilize a custom-made digital platform called MazeStar that allows students to explore their ideas while learning about human-computer interaction, web design, privacy, coding, debugging, and more. A component of MazeStar is a game-like programming environment called Mazzy in which students learn the building blocks of coding.


Empowering Research Objectives

Associated Project: 
Advanced Identity Representation (AIR) Project

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D. Fox Harrell
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Invited talk, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT Communications Forum, Cambridge, MA. December 4.


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