Sunday, April 07, 2002


I swear, I am having more problems with my blog than I should. I mean, I do a little html coding and while I am no expert, I should be able to alter my template. For some reason, though, the file won't update! Arrgh!

OK, enough ranting for today, I, as usual, am sneaking in a post when I should be doing something else (like sleeping, at the moment). But I am going to try and post, although it looked like blogspot was down a little bit ago.

I am still puzzling out how women fit in to distance education settings: it seems that women occupy a strangely ambivalent space when it comes to technology, especially computer technology. According to the study cited on the CPSR Gender Pages index, women now use the internet in numbers proportional to population (in the US), but tend to use the Internet differently. Women are also still less represented in computer science and engineering majors, and there was a decline between 1986 and 1996 in the numbers of women receiving degrees in these areas. Not that those numbers indicate a lot, in truth, because they do not consider the number of women who are practicing (professional or amateur) in IT fields who may be self-taught, or who may have majored in another field. Nevertheless, there does still seem to be a gender gap in the use of technology. I would like to think this is generational, and maybe Internet usage will be, but the number of women earning degrees in tech fields is still problematic.

This is related to distance education and educational technologies in an important way: women are not as involved in the creation of educational technologies. They can't be, if they are not receiving the degrees or otherwise achieving the credentials or skills necessary to secure employment in the IT field. Which means that educational technologies are not being created with the woman user in mind, and this woman user tends to use Internet technologies differently than men. Additionally, Cheris Kramerae notes in her 2001 study, The Third Shift:Women Learning Online, that women make up the majority of distance education students (read the Wired article on this report). Does anyone else see a problem developing here? I do . . . .

And now for a rant: I recently read a critique of feminist perspectives on computer technology. This respondant thought that ffeminists are being impractical because they want to change the way IT is done, the way CS is taught, etc. To this person, and to peple who hold similar views, I say, "absolutely!" If pedagogical, disciplinary, and workplace strategies are ineffective or somehow limiting for 50% of the population, then there must be a better way to approach the problems. If I made the same charge of, say, History, or of English, people would agree wholeheartedly. But when a woman charges that a male-dominated field needs to do something more than simply open the doors wide and "invite" women in, then women/feminists are being silly, impractical, etc. The pejoratives abound. I know this is probably not the most supportive venue for unveiling a gender-based critique of technology, but at least it's a venue where my voice may be heard, where the argument may at least get some consideration.

And now, before I get any more riled up, I'm going to post, publish, and hit the hay. Long day today, and a long day ahead of me!

- posted by laurie @ 4/07/2002 10:40:00 PM
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