The Schmooze

Tiffany Shlain on the Web, Women and Unplugging for Shabbat

Tiffany Shlain has a lot of ideas.

But until fairly recently, the 43-year-old founder of the Webby Awards was reluctant to own them on film. No longer — in her new web-series, “The Future Starts Here,” which premiered October 11 on AOL, Shlain is loud, proud and vocal about thoughts ranging from 21st century motherhood, to acceptable online etiquette (hint: Emails masquerading as the great American novel are a no-no.)

She also has a thing or two to say about the tribe she’s such a proud member of.

As a self-described “filmmaker, woman and Jewess (‘I love that word, we need to bring that word back.’)” Shlain’s work has explored the various connections that exist between community and technology and the role both play in shaping the future. Her 2005 short film “The Tribe,” traced the history of the Jewish people through the lens of the Barbie doll, created by Ruth Handler in 1959. In “Connected: An Autobiography About Love, Death & Technology,” Shlain brought things even closer to home, exploring technology and science through personal experiences like her father’s fight with brain cancer and her own high-risk pregnancy.

Next on the list? “The Science of Character,” a film shot using Shlain’s “Cloud Film” method, gathering footage through submissions from people all over the world — the idea train rides on.

In honor of Ada Lovelace Day, which celebrates women in technology, the Forward’s Anne Cohen chatted with Shlain about unplugging for Shabbat, finding her voice, and her advice for women seeking jobs in male dominated fields.

Anne Cohen: You chose to open “The Future Starts Here” with an episode about “Technology Shabbat.” What is that?

Tiffany Shlain: Technology Shabbat is [something] my family and I have been doing for 3 and half years. I’ve been with my husband for 17 years. He’s Jewish [and] actually did Shabbat growing up which I thought was really beautiful. I did not — I’m much more of a cultural Jew. I’m part of Reboot [an organization that encourages Jewish innovators and thought-leaders to engage and impact the Jewish world in creative ways] and they were doing a national day of unplugging. I had just lost my father (American surgeon and author Leonard Shlain), and I was thinking a lot about how little time we have on this earth, so I [asked my husband] ‘Can we really take this seriously?’ We did it, and it was such an amazing experience. We’ve done it every week since and it’s changed our lives.

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Tiffany Shlain on the Web, Women and Unplugging for Shabbat

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