Porn star to attend computing conference

December 16, 2014 - Geekiness / Women in Computing

In 2015, an IEEE sponsored conference is going to have an ex-playboy centrefold as their guest star. Yes, you read that right. The committee of ICIP – coincidentally, almost entirely made up of guys – think it’s a good idea to have Lena do the prizegiving.

Who’s Lena? In a nutshell:

  • Back in 1973, some people wanted a test image
  • One of them had bought some porn to work (wat?)
  • So they said (hur hur) let’s scan that (wat?)
  • And then released it to the “vision community” who’ve been using it ever since…

(If you want to find out more about the background to Lena, I wrote a longer article a few months back about how a photo from playboy became a part of scientific culture.)

Now I realise that the past is another country and that things were very different in the 1970s, hell I even remember a little bit of the 1970s (it was all brown, the electricity kept going off, and I ate my first curry on election night). But surely, now, we as a research community have grown up a bit and realise that using images from porn might be offputting to some people? Leaving aside the fact that acquisition technologies have progressed a bit since 1973, and that there are now billions of images to choose from, surely we should have moved on from this? But no. This year, I saw Lena in four presentations, two posters, and (shock, horror) 3 of my own students’ face recognition assignments (they’d just copied a sample image from the web, and the obvious sample image for face detection? Lena).

It’s not that I’m anti porn. It’s that I’m anti porn in the workplace. Nobody should have to look at someone else’s choice of erotica whilst working. The absurdity of the situation becomes clearer when you think about its converse: you can be fairly certain that if people started to use shots of semi-naked men in our papers, the papers would be rejected. We certainly wouldn’t see our porn stars on the podium (although… James Deen to present the Marr Prize, yeah!).

And yet, in 2015, the organisers say:

Submit a paper and you might be one of the lucky few to receive a best paper award from her hands! Mark your calendar and do not miss this unique opportunity!

› tags: computing / conferences / pornography / research / vision / women /

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