August 18, 2020
Stamps professor Ron Eglash was quoted in the Boston Globe recently, commenting on Pearson publishing’s removal of the words “master and slave” to describe control between two electrical components from its technology and engineering text books. The commitment to remove these words came after a push from Santiago Gomez, a graduate student at Boston University.
Wired magazine also quoted Eglash, referencing his 2007 essay Broken Metaphor: The Master-Slave Analogy in Technical Literature in an article examining the use of “master and slave” language in the tech landscape, broadly.
Eglash worries that jettisoning the terms master and slave are easy fixes and will allow the tech community to claim victory without addressing deeper-rooted inequities, such as why computer science and engineering departments in universities are focused on finding solutions that benefit corporations instead of small businesses and everyday people.
“We think we’re getting dramatic change,” Eglash said. “But it’s cosmetic, tidying-up activities.”