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Techno-Geek Culture and the Reification of Gender
c ton 17 February 2011
Transcript of Techno-Geek Culture and the Reification of Gender
the Reification of Gender Women as Computers to Women in Computing Community, Anonymity, Identity In her work 'Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet', Sherry Turkle described the internet, particularly MUDs (Multi User Dungeons), as a space where users could use their anonymity to peel away old identities and even to experience a different gender. To Turkle, and to those described in her writing, MUDs served as a means of redesigning self identity. Escaping from the percieved limitations of their genders. What about the construction of gender itself? Does the Internet and the Web enable the deconstruction of gender... ...or merely facillitate the status-quo? Then Now Sources:
http://www.witi.com/center/witimuseum/halloffame/1997/eniac.php During WWII, before the computers of today, computer was the title of the person who calculated ballistics trajectories. All 80 of these computers were women. Six of these women later became the first programmers of the first electronic computer, the ENIAC! These women went from being the computers, to programming the first computers... Despite being a part of history... "[... N]one of the women programmers were invited to the celebratory dinner that followed. Later, they heard they were thought of as models, placed there to show off the machine." - Rediscovering WWII's female 'computers' By Jamie Gumbrecht Despite the first ever programmers being women, tech fields, and programming in particular, are thought of as being inherently male... Source: http://www.ncwit.org/pdf/BytheNumbers09.pdf 56%
17% of AP test participants were female of AP Computer Science participants were female 57% 12% 75% of 2008 undergraduate degree recipients were female of 2008 Computer Science undergraduate degree recipients at major research universities were female decline in number of incoming undergraduate women interested in Computer Science between 2000 and 2008 What's going on here? Could the way gender is being treated by tech communities be responsible? Go Daddy 2009 Commercial ^
( to heterosexual men ) geekgirl_(C)2010 TheGreatGeekManual What can we tell from looking around some tech-centered sites? What kind of visitors are they expecting? The 'tech community' has long been almost interchangeable with the 'geek community'... The popular web-comic xkcd being a great example of this... monova.com From extratorrent.com It's by a group of self-professed gamer girls called Team Unicorn, because like unicorns, girls who play games weren't supposed to exist. Here are some images from the song titled "Geeks and Gamer Girls " Clearly, there is an expectation of people who are interested in technology and other 'geeky' things to be both male and heterosexual, perpetuated both by forces inside and outside the community. Ideas of femininity, and masculinity are constantly being reinforced by these kinds of images and games. "Sexy geekettes", "Geek babes",
and "Geek and Gamer Girls" Source: http://www.break.com/break-originals/other-funny-stuff/geek-and-gamer-girls-anthem Recently there was a pretty popular parody music video of Katy Perry's song 'California Girls' circling the internet. None of the creaters of these games apparently thought these women characters could 'fight in mideval warefare' in anyother more than a bra. Nor, is the main customer base complaining. (rather disturbing ones at that ) Users often play characters of the opposite gender in these games, as Turkle described happening in MUDs... When Turkle describes this experience, and the relationship with the Internet in general as "identity-transforming," she's describing the phenomena on an individual level. When Garret, a male 28 year old computer programmer, played a female chacter to escape the competition he felt in inter-male relationships... They are still picking from a set of pre-defined genders, with set ideas of what it means to belong to either group. Choosing to live online as a different gender was an attempt for them to act outside what was socially acceptable for them in their own gendered bodies. or When Zoe, a 34 year old women, practice of playing men online enabled "her to reach a state of mind where she is better able to speak up for herself..." However, entering cyberspace didn't provide them with virtual ungendered bodies, but freedom to pick which one to inhabit at any given time. This reference to the famous rose petal scene in American Beauty, where an adult male fantasizes about his teenage daughter's friend, emphasizes the idea that the female geek's role to to fufill a fantasy. Rather than being completely separate from the physical world and communities, the internet is merely an extension of them. We create it, and in doing so, its content cannot be 'ungendered' until we are. Although the video was written as an attempt to counter the disdain often shown towards girls active in gaming and tech communities, it plays into the idea that women can only exist in geek communities if it's to act as live fantasies for male geeks.