Creatable / Code Like a Girl: Losing Lena

There’s a secret hidden in almost every website and every digital image you’ve ever seen. That secret is Lena, a Playboy centrefold. She is “a face more studied than the Mona Lisa’s” and has been called Tech’s Original Sin.

But how did a centrefold from the 70’s become the most used test image in the world? And what impact has it had on women studying or entering tech industries?

Lena’s story began in 1972, when the Swedish model posed as the Miss November centrefold. The next year, her centrefold was chosen by some men at the University of Southern California (USC) as an ideal test image for the algorithms they were working on to turn physical photos into digital bits. This research laid the groundwork for what would later become the jpeg, an image standard that revolutionised our digital world.

Incredibly, 46 years on, Lena is still the most infamous test image in the world. She is symbolic of how women were left out, and pushed out, of the industry.

Losing Lena is a compelling documentary that questions the very tenets of the tech industry and leaves us pondering: Why wasn’t Lena retired years ago? It explores a thread that binds together so many similar challenges and biases women in tech have experienced around the world.

In a first for the Australian film industry and Facebook Watch, Losing Lena will be available to view at a series of events hosted by Code Like a Girl or exclusively on the Facebook Watch platform from November 26 onwards.

Video of Losing Lena

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