Gender and Home-Computing

Seiter, Ellen. 1999. Television and the Internet. In Seiter, E. 1999. Television and New Media Audiences. Oxford University Press.

(Reprint found in Turow, J. and Kavanaugh, A. 2003. The Wired Homestead: An MIT Sourcebook on the Internet and Family. MIT Press.)

Using a lens of critical sociology, Seiter compares TV to the Internet. She does this in the home to examine how the Internet may be continuing to marginalize women.

The original book was published in 1999. The chapter appears to have been written just before then (the latest citation is in 1997). I raise this point first because I think that Seiter’s characterization of “the Internet” exists now as a snapshot in history. For example, Seiter argues that people are first introduced to computers from their exposure to them at the workplace. Therefore, any aversion to technology that is patterned by workplace discrimination will carry over to the home. I do not question the presence of this discrimination. Instead, I think that individuals are no longer introduced to computing at the workplace. One case: children now encounter computing at school — and no longer simply in a hobbyist context; mobile phones, Myspace, and instant messaging are now the social norm for flirting, socializing, and networking. There are other changes in the social-technical landscape (the rise of blogs, end-user generated content, wikipedia, casual gaming, adoption of online shopping and the media center).

These differences require me to make some choices about what I draw from Seiter’s article. Here is what I would like to mull over:

  1. There are “gains and losses at stake in promoting different representations of the audiences and computer users”. Agreed. A misunderstanding of how women see computing technology will affect the design of computing-technology in the home.
  2. “Women are less like than men to spend time doing ‘fun computing'” Is this still true? It may be, I would be curious about the recent research. Seiter’s argument hinges on framing computing as a hobbyist activity, but I think that computing today has expanded to include other kinds of activity (e.g. socialization, casual gaming, youtubing, news junkies, hardcore gaming, etc…).
  3. Television has an advantage over computers: “accessibility by more than one person at a time”. Still the case today? I guess…

Ok that’s all I got for now.

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Filed under cscw, Digital Divide, Home

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