Advertisement

The American Sociologist

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 30–54 | Cite as

Adapting the internet: Comments from a women-only electronic forum

  • Debra Winter
  • Chuck HuffEmail author
Symposium On Electronic Communication And Sociology

Abstract

This study examines the culture of electronic communication from the standpoint of a women-only electronic forum of computer scientists called Systers. Surveys completed electronically by 491 members of the forum are analyzed, and extensive quotes from their responses are presented. The respondents’ reactions to the culture of the Internet, and their comments on the segregated forum they have created in response, provide a detailed description of the complexities of EC and the social worlds it allows us to create. Their comments suggest that electronic communication can give undue influence to extreme opinions and can make it easier for sexual harassment to occur. It can also make it easy for women who are unwilling to involve themselves in mixed-sex forums to interact with each other in a climate they find more congenial. Thus, the technology may increase the reach both of those who make the Internet a difficult place and of those who wish to make it a safer place. One conclusion we draw is that basic patterns of gender based communication are at least replicated, if not magnified, in electronic communication.

Keywords

Sexual Harassment Electronic Communication Interaction Style Office Assistant Discussion List 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Allen, J. 1994. “Groupware and Social Reality.” InSocial Issues in Computing: Putting Technology in its Place, C. Huff and T. Finholt, eds. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, Inc., pp. 38–45.Google Scholar
  2. Anderson, R., Lundmark, V., Harris, L., and Magnan, S. 1994. “Equity in Computing.” InSocial Issues in Computing: Putting Technology in its Place, C. Huff and T. Finholt, eds. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, Inc., pp. 352–385.Google Scholar
  3. Bell, R. A., and Daly, J. A. 1984. “The Affinity-Seeking Function of Communication.”Communication Monographs, 51: 91–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Borg, A. 1993. “The Rationale for a Closed Electronic Forum.” Paper presented at The Third Conference on Computers, Freedom, and Privacy in the Forum Gender issues in computing and telecommunications. Burlingame, CA.Google Scholar
  5. Ebben, M., and Kramarae, C. 1992. “Women and Information Technologies: Creating a Cyberspace of Our Own.” InWomen, Information Technology, and Scholarship, H.J. Taylor and C. Kramarae, eds. Center for Advanced Study, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, pp. 15–26.Google Scholar
  6. Edupage 1995.Sex and Violence in Cyberspace. Edupage 2.12.95, available via gopher at educom.edu.Google Scholar
  7. Fenigstein, A. Scheier, M. F., and Buss, A. H. 1975. “Public and Private Self-Consciousness: Assessment and Theory.”Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 43: 522–527.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Finholt, T. and Sproull, L. 1990. “Electronic Groups at Work.”Organization Science, 1: 41–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Frenkel, K. 1990. “Women and Computing.”Communications of the ACM, 33: 34–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Giuliano, V. E. 1982/1991. “The Mechanization of Office Work.” InComputerization and Controversy: Value Conflicts and Social Choices, C. Dunlop and R. Kling, eds. New York: Academic Press, pp. 200–212.Google Scholar
  11. Hall, J. A. 1984.Nonverbal Sex Differences: Communication Accuracy and Expressive Style. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Hall, R. and Sandler, B. 1982. “The Classroom Climate: A Chilly One for Women.”Project on the Status and Education of Women. Washington, D.C.: Association of American Colleges.Google Scholar
  13. Herring, S. 1993. “Gender and Democracy in Computer-Mediated Communication.”Electronic Journal of Communication, 3(2) available from comserve@rpitsvm.bitnet.Google Scholar
  14. Huff, C. W. 1994. “Our Ignorance of the Demographics of the Internet is Astounding.” American Association for the Advancement of Science Panel on the Social and Ethical Challenges of the Internet. Wye Woods, MD.Google Scholar
  15. Huff, C., and Cooper, J. 1987. “Sex Bias in Educational Software: The Effect of Designers’ Stereotypes on the Software They Design.”Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 17:519–532.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Huff, C., and Rosenberg, J. 1989. “The On-Line Voyeur: Promises and Pitfalls of Observing Electronic Interaction.”Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, and Computers, 21:166–172.Google Scholar
  17. Huff, C., Sproull, L. and Kiesler, S. 1989. “Computer Communication and Organizational Commitment: Tracing the Relationship in a City Government.”Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 19: 1371–1391.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kramarae, C., and Taylor, H.J. 1992. “Women and Men on ElectronicNetworks: A Conversation or a Monologue?” InWomen, Information Technology, and Scholarship, H.J. Taylor, C. Kramarae, and M. Ebben, eds. Center for Advanced Study, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, pp. 15–26.Google Scholar
  19. Kraut, R. 1987. “Predicting the Use of Technology: The Case of Telework.” InTechnology and the Transformation of White Collar Work, R. Kraut, ed. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, pp. 113–133.Google Scholar
  20. Levinson, S.C. 1983.Pragmatics. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Maccoby, E. 1990. “Gender and Relationships: A Developmental Account.”American Psychologist, 45: 513–520.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Matheson, K., and Zanna, M. 1990. “Computer-Mediated Communications: The Focus is on Me.”Social Science Computer Review, 8(1): 1–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Rheingold, H. 1993.The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  24. Richmond, V. P., Gorham, J. S., and Furio, B. J. 1987. “Affinity-Seeking Communication in Collegiate Female-Male Relationships.”Communication Quarterly, 35: 334–348.Google Scholar
  25. Smith, J., and Balka, E. 1988. “Chatting on a A Feminist Network.” InTechnology and Women’s Voices: Keeping in Touch, C. Kramarae, ed. New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, pp. 82–97.Google Scholar
  26. Spertus, E. 1991.Why Are There So Few Female Computer Scientists? (Report No. 1315). Cambridge, MA: MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.Google Scholar
  27. Sproull, L., and Kiesler, S. 1991a.Connections: New Ways of Working in the Networked Organization. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  28. Sproull, L., and Kiesler, S. 1991b. “Computers, Networks, and Work.”Scientific American, 265(3): 116–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Sproull, L., Kiesler, S., and Zubrow, D. 1987. “Encountering An Alien Culture.” inComputing and Change on Campus, S. Kiesler and L. Sproull, eds. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, pp. 173–194.Google Scholar
  30. Tannen, D. 1990.You Just Don’t Understand. New York, NY: Ballantine.Google Scholar
  31. Tolhuizen, J. H. 1989. “Affinity Seeking in Developing Relationships.”Communication Reports, 2: 83–91.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.the Department of Speech CommunicationUniversity of IllinoisUrbana-Champaign
  2. 2.Psychology Dept.St. Olaf CollegeNorthfield

Personalised recommendations