SCS Distinguished Lecture

  • Gates Hillman Centers
  • Rashid Auditorium 4401
  • Professor of Computer Science and Technology Evangelist
  • Durham University, England
  • and Author, "Saving Bletchley Park
SCS Distinguished Lectures

Did Twitter Save Bletchley Park?

Bletchley Park is the historic site of secret British codebreaking activities during World War II and birthplace of the modern computer. The work carried out there by codebreakers, including Alan Turing as highlighted in the Oscar winning film “The Imitation Game”, is said to have shortened WWII by two years, potentially saving 22 million lives.

After a visit by Sue Black to Bletchley Park in July 2008 she was so appalled at the state of decay of this important site that she started a campaign to get the true historic value of the site recognised and to save it from being lost to the nation. She sent a letter to the UK broadsheet newspaper The Times signed by 97 eminent UK computer scientists, it was published and highlighted in BBC television and radio news broadcasts. Following traditional media coverage, a blog was established, and then social media, (particularly Twitter), used to great effect to raise awareness and support for the campaign. Campaign efforts received national and international coverage on television, on radio, and in the press and contributed to the Park receiving £4.6 million funding from the UK Heritage Lottery Fund in 2011.

Dr Sue Black describes the highly successful campaign to save Bletchley Park exploring the effectiveness of traditional vs social media, highlighting how the use of social media contributed greatly to campaign success. 

Sue's book "Saving Bletchley Park” about the campaign has been an Amazon UK bestseller.

 Dr. Sue Black is a computer scientist and self-professed evangelist for computing. She is the recipient of numerous awards including being appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her services to technology in 2016, and from the USA she received the Anita Borg Social Impact Abie Award for making a positive impact on women, technology, and society. In 2011, Black won the PepsiCo Women's Inspiration Award. In 2009, Black was presented the first John Ivinson Award  from the British Computer Society at the Royal Society in London.

Dr. Black is a leader for gender parity in computing in the United Kingdom. Among her many efforts she started #techmums, a program that offers mothers free training workshops in digital security, social media, and programming with the aim of building confidence and expanding opportunities for women with litle exposure to computing. She is also founder of the British Computer Society’s Specialist Group BCSWomen.

Dr. Black is perhaps most well-known for initiating -- and succeeding -- in Saving Bletchley Park, the site of world war 11 codebreaking. Her book, and her work at Bletchlely Park included the oral history project conducted to capture the memories of the women who worked there. She is the subject of numerous radio and television shows, press articles, and YouTube videos. Dr. Black tempers her optimism for the future of women in computing but notes “if we don’t have women involved, if we don’t have diversity at the heart of what we’re doing, I think we’re creating a world which is not a world that I want to see.”

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