Naomi Wu is a Chinese DIY maker and internet personality. As an advocate of women in STEM, transhumanism, open source hardware, and body modifications, she challenges gender and tech stereotypes with a flamboyant public persona, using objectification of her appearance to inspire women. She has one of the largest, if not the largest, English language presences of any southern PRC citizen (she lives and works in Shenzhen) on YouTube and Twitter.
Wu's maker projects often center on wearable technology, including cyberpunk clothes and accessories, along with other projects. One of her early designs (2015) was 3D-printed "Wu Ying" (Chinese for "shadowless") platform heels, with a compartment that hides hacker tools including a keystroke recorder, a wireless router, and lock-picking tools. She explained to an interviewer that women's clothing often lacks pockets, but "chunky platform style shoes that many women in China wear to appear taller—have a lot of unused space."
In addition to her public work as a maker, Wu says she also works as a professional coder in Ruby on Rails, using a masculine pseudonym to protect her identity and preclude gender discrimination; she also reviews electronics. Wu maintains active Reddit and Twitter accounts under the noms de plume of /u/SexyCyborg and @RealSexyCyborg, respectively.
On International Women's Day 2017 she was listed as one of the 43 most influential women in 3D printing, a male-dominated field, by 3D Printer & 3D Printing News. She regards the usage of 3D printing in the Chinese classroom (where rote memorization is standard) to teach design principles and creativity as the most exciting development of the technology, and more generally regards 3D printing as being the next desktop publishing revolution. She regards "Chinese gadgets" as good as or better than foreign.
In 2013 the Post-Polio Health International (PHI) organizations estimated that there were only six to eight iron lung users in the United States; as of 2017 its executive director knew of none. Press reports then emerged, however, of at least three (perhaps the last three) users of such devices, sparking interest among those in the makerspace community such as Wu (who had never heard of iron lungs before) in the remanufacture of the obsolete components, particularly the gaskets, and prompting discussion of the regulatory and legal issues involved.
On November 5, 2017 Dale Dougherty, the CEO of Maker Media, publisher of Make: magazine, doubted Wu's authenticity in a since deleted tweet —"I am questioning who she really is. Naomi is a persona, not a real person. She is several or many people." On November 6, 2017, Dougherty publicly apologized to Wu for "my recent tweets questioning your identity," saying they represented a failure to live up to the inclusivity Make magazine should value. Wu herself considers the matter settled.
Wu appeared on the February/March 2018 cover of Make, which also included an article about her experiences with open source hardware in China. Wu was the first Chinese person ever to appear on the cover of Make.
In 2018, a reporter from Vice spent three days with Wu in Shenzhen, exploring the city, meeting Wu's friends, photographing Wu's home, and describing in depth the local creative history and Wu's recent creation, the Sino:Bit, a single-board microcontroller for computer education in China, and the first Chinese open-source hardware product to be certified by the Open Source Hardware Association.
The article drew criticism from Wu and from others when it was revealed that according to her agreement with Vice, details of her personal life should have been left out of the article, out of fear of retaliation by the Chinese government; Vice refused to comply and published the details regardless.
- Ong, Alexis (2015-09-14). "SexyCyborg is Dismantling Cliches About Women in Tech, One Boob Shot at a Time". Vice.
- Gaudette, Emily (2017-11-07). "How a gorgeous Chinese engineer pissed off Silicon Valley". Newsweek. Retrieved 2017-11-08.
What Dougherty and the other sexist Americans writing about Wu don't understand is that Wu's home of Shenzhen, China, has allowed femininity to exist at the intersection of technology and art.
- Alfonso III, Fernando (2016-06-30). "For This Chinese Reddit Bombshell, Tech Is Sexy". Forbes. Retrieved 2017-06-25.
- Hollingsworth, Julia (2017-12-15). "How Naomi Wu Wants to Change the Tech Scene's Sexist Wiring: Online firestorm against prominent maker highlights wider gender issues in male-dominated tech world". The Sixth Tone. Retrieved 2017-12-24.
- Suleik, Danielle (2018-02-27). "'Sexy Cyborg' Naomi Wu Turns Objectification Into Technological Inspiration". April Magazine. Retrieved 2018-03-01.
- China, Radii (2017-11-25). "Photo of the Day: Cyberpunk LED Skirt by Naomi Wu". Radii. Retrieved 2017-11-26.
Pick, Rachel (September 9, 2015). "A Q&A with the Woman Who Designed Her Own 'Hacker Heels': SexyCyborg's Wu Ying shoes combine femme fashion with some clever tech". Vice. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
Built by Reddit user SexyCyborg, the Wu Ying shoes ("shadowless" in Chinese) contain a USB keystroke recorder, a wireless router, a retractable Ethernet cable, a shim for opening padlocks, and a set of lockpicks.
- QUYMBEE, CHEN (2017-12-07). "#CodingIcon Naomi Wu - Dismantling Stereotypes!". JewelBots. Retrieved 2017-12-09.
- "The Girl With the Augmented Body and a DIY Manufacturing Habit". Exlolymph. 2016-06-15.
- Nylander, Johan (2017-06-24). "Meet China's SexyCyborg, the goddess of geeks Naomi Wu is a self-taught and self-motivated maker who wants more women in tech". Asia Times.
- (Author last name not given), Tess (2017-03-08). "International Women's Day 2017: 43 Most influential women in 3D printing". 3D Printer & 3D Printing News.
We at 3Ders want to highlight and celebrate some of the women who have made an impact within the 3D printing industry (a still male-dominated field), and who have not only contributed to the advancement of the technology, but who have helped to challenge gender barriers in the tech field.
- Andre, Helene (2017-11-29). "Naomi Wu – "My visibility allows me to direct more attention to important issues and other deserving women"". Women in 3D Printing. Retrieved 2017-12-03.
- "Hong Kong's allure fading in mainland China". Daily Mail. 2017-06-28. Retrieved 2017-06-29.
- Brown, Jennings (2017-11-20). "The Last of the Iron Lungs". Gizmodo. Retrieved 2017-11-25.
- Lewin, Day (November 25, 2017). "A Callout: Parts for an Iron Lung". Hackaday. Retrieved 2017-11-25.
- Deng, Boer (December 2, 2017). "Woman in failing iron lung turns to internet for help". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 2017-12-03.
- Naomi Wu [@realsexycyborg] (November 23, 2017). "Via @NireBryce- we've got a nice old lady running out of collars for her iron lung. Lot of 💩 going on in the world we can't do anything about- but this seems 100% doable. @hackaday, @make, textile tech folks- any ideas? From gizmodo.com/the-last-of-the-iron-lungs-1819079169 …" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- "A Callout: Parts for an Iron Lung". Hacker News. November 25, 2017. Retrieved 2017-11-25.
- Dougherty, Dale (November 6, 2017). "An Open Note to Naomi Wu (and Makers Everywhere)". Make. Retrieved 2017-11-10.
Naomi, I apologize for my recent tweets questioning your identity. I was wrong, and I’m sorry.
- Meyers, Jessica (December 9, 2017). "China's 'sexy cyborg' took on Silicon Valley bro culture — and won". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2017-12-09.
- n/a, Tess (2019-02-28). "Maker Profile: Naomi 'SexyCyborg' Wu on being a woman in tech, 3D printed wearables, more". 3Ders.org. Retrieved 2018-03-01.
- n/a, n/a (2018-01-09). "Make magazine, vol. 61". Adafruit. Retrieved 2018-01-09.
- Wu, Naomi (2018-01-09). "Cyborg and the Sino-bit:Shenzhen's prolific maker details her journey, her inspirations, and putting together China's first certified Open Source Hardware project" (PDF). Makezine. Retrieved 2018-04-03.
I created 3D printed heels with pentesting (hacking) tools built in, arm-mounted micro drones, a skirt made of infinity mirrors, a burlesque-inspired top made of LCD shutters (I had something underneath for modesty, of course), a makeup palette with a Raspberry Pi built in for more network pentesting, a device for a small drone to deposit a Wi-Fi-hacking payload and fly away, and more.
- Emerson, Sarah (2018-03-25). "Shenzhen's Homegrown Cyborg: Three days with Naomi Wu, the face of China's cyberpunk city". Vice (magazine).
In the past few years, she’s been forced to fend off vile and unfounded conspiracy theories on Reddit and 4chan that suggest a white man has masterminded her career. I’ve seen Wu’s speech and technical skills dissected at length in online electronics forums. Some have accused Wu of faking English proficiency, despite her being open about the fact that she receives help and proofreading with her written communication.
- Sino:Bit Hardware on Github
- "Shenzhen Tech Girl Naomi Wu: My experience with Sarah Jeong, Jason Koebler, and Vice Magazine". medium.com.
- "Why Vice's Reporting on Naomi Wu Could Get Her Arrested in China". nextshark.com.
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