L567: Gender and Computerization




Spring 2007


Dr. Susan Herring


F 1-3:45 p.m.


LI 037


LI 031


856-4919 (voice mail)

Office hours:

T and F 4-5 p.m. and by appointment


herring @ indiana.edu


Class majordomo list: gencomp-l @ indiana.edu

Required reading:

Articles to be made available electronically on ereserves (http://ereserves.indiana.edu/) or on print reserve in the library (articles in Cherny & Weise, Harcourt, and Kramarae books) if not linked directly from this syllabus.


Recommended texts:

Cherny, L. & E. Weise, eds. (1996). wired_women. Seattle: Seal Press.

Harcourt, W., ed. (1999). women@internet: Creating New Cultures in Cyberspace. London: Zed Books.

Kramarae, C., ed. (1988). Technology and Women's Voices: Keeping in Touch. New York: Routledge.


1.    Background

Technology, with its associations with engineering, has traditionally been a mostly male preserve. Information technology (IT) continues this tradition. More men than women study computer science; design, implement, and administer computer networks; and--until quite recently--use the Internet. Moreover, girls and women still express less interest than boys and men in learning to program computers and in entering IT careers.


The IT "gender gap" takes on increasing social, political and economic importance as computerization spreads globally, pervading every aspect of human existence from medicine to education to grocery shopping. Democratic societies have an interest in ensuring equitable access to all of their members to the benefits of computing, out of fairness and in order to maximize the productive potential of the population as a whole. Practically speaking, female users may have different experiences, needs, and perspectives from male users, such that when it comes to IT design and use, "one size" may not necessarily "fit all." Finally, the Internet and the World Wide Web are attracting increasing numbers of female users, challenging the historically male culture of computing in interactive, online domains. More than ever before, IT professionals, educators, gender scholars, and critics of science and technology are called upon to understand and act on these social contexts and dynamic trends.


2.    Course description

This course explores the history and mechanisms of—and alternatives to—traditional male control of computer technology, with special focus on information and communication technologies such as the Internet and the World Wide Web. Questions to be addressed include:


•   How do computers come to be associated with masculine interests and aptitudes?

•   What are the consequences of this association for females' and males' educational, work and leisure experiences?

•   How is the association of computing with masculinity challenged now that computers have become widely accessible and easy to use? (cf. recent statistics that show that equal numbers of women and men in North America now use the Internet)

•   What might computers and computer networks look like if they were designed by women?

•   What factors prevent girls and women from acquiring technical skills and entering computing-related professions in numbers equal to men, and how might those factors be changed?


The course is based on readings and critical discussion, and is conducted in a part-lecture, part-discussion format in which opportunities to speak are available to all students in each class session. Students have the option of taking a final exam or writing a term paper as the primary basis for evaluating their performance in the course.


3.    Course objectives

The aim of this course is to explore in a critical, balanced, and nuanced manner issues related to gender and computers, with special focus on the "IT gender gap" and its current status in the Internet Age. As a result of completing this course, you should gain:

•   an understanding of the role of gender as a social and historical force in shaping computer technology

•   practical awareness of gender and computing issues in educational, workplace, recreational, and global contexts

•   a critical perspective on gender and computer system design

•   knowledge of possible interventions at the level of home environment, education, system design, and administrative policy

•   enhanced skills in summarizing and synthesizing concepts from published scholarship.


4.    Student requirements

Readings and reading notes.  You are expected to read the assigned readings and write notes responding to each reading in the online space designated for this purpose (probably OnCourse, LiveJournal, or both). An ideal entry is 1-2 paragraphs identifying the article's main claim(s), and commenting on or questioning some aspect of the article that is of interest to you. Your entries should be posted by 9 p.m. each Tuesday. In addition, you are expected to comment on at least three of your classmates' entries by Wednesday or Thursday each week. The online notes will extend the course conversation beyond the classroom, and let us move beyond discussing the readings during class time.


Observation reports. There will be three observation reports during the semester for which you will collect and present data related to gender and computerization based on first-hand observation. The reports should be 2-3 typed pages long, and may include appendices listing the instances observed.


Exam. There will be a comprehensive final take-home exam. The essay-type exam questions will be of a synthetic nature, requiring you to draw together, relate and apply key concepts from the readings and class discussions. A review sheet of key concepts will be distributed before the exam. You will have four days in which to write the final exam.


Term paper (OPTIONAL). Instead of taking the final exam, you may choose to write a 5,000-7,000 word term paper (excluding references and appendices) reporting on the results of original research on some aspect of gender and computerization. The topic need not be a phenomenon we have discussed in the course, but the analysis should be theoretically grounded in concepts from the course. Students wishing to write a term paper instead of taking the final exam should submit a one-page proposal by week 10 identifying the topic, research question, methods, data and preliminary observations on which the paper will be based. The final paper should follow the formal conventions for a publishable-quality research article, including footnotes and citations of scholarly work in APA (American Psychological Association) style.


There is an electronic discussion list for this course. You are expected to check your email at least twice between class meetings, including the evening before class for last-minute announcements and reminders. Interactive participation on the class list is encouraged, although it is not a requirement of the course.


5.    Student evaluation


The final grade for students enrolled in the course will be calculated as follows:


Online reading notes and class participation


Observation reports (3 x 10%)


Final exam or term paper




Grading policies:


•     Late reading notes will be counted once during the semester, no questions asked, provided they are posted by 5 p.m. Saturday before the next class meeting.

•     Reading notes and class participation will be graded with a check mark for each class meeting, to indicate that the requirement was met. Class participation means being willing and prepared to speak intelligently in class about the topics under discussion. (Note: this does NOT necessarily mean speaking a lot—you may be penalized if you habitually dominate class discussions.) Participation cannot be made up if you miss a class.

•     Observation reports and the exam or term paper will be assigned letter grades (A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, etc.). Generally speaking, an A denotes 'outstanding' work, a B is 'good', and a C is 'average' (but below the level expected for graduate-level work).

•     Observation reports will be graded on the method of sampling, which should be clearly explained, and the quality and number of observations. High quality observations are systematic, insightful, and relate (as appropriate) to themes presented in the readings and class discussions.

•     The final exam will be graded on quality (depth and accuracy) of understanding of key concepts; ability to extend, apply, and relate concepts beyond what was discussed in class; appropriate citation of sources; and clarity and organization of written presentation.

•     The term paper (if you choose this option) will be graded on content—originality of the research question, appropriateness of the data and methods used to investigate the question, plausibility of your interpretations; and form—organization, clarity, and quality of written expression, and appropriate use of scholarly conventions such as citations and footnotes.


Statement on academic integrity:


Learning is a collaborative enterprise. However, plagiarism, copyright infringement, and other types of academic dishonesty will NOT be tolerated. To help you recognize plagiarism, the IU Writing Center has prepared a short guide: Plagiarism: What It is and How to Recognize and Avoid It. Please read this guide and refer to it when you produce your written assignments for this course.


6.    Tentative Course Schedule

(Note: All readings notes should be posted by 9 p.m. on the Sunday before class for that week's readings.)



Week 1 (1/12/07):

Introduction to course. Stereotypes about gender and computers: (Soft) nature vs. (hard) technology. The "gender computing gap."


Read article by Bentson, "Why women hate IT", in e-reserves.


Week 2 (1/19/07):

Historical contributions of women to technology. Women as users, women as inventors.



Past notable women of computing. http://www.cs.yale.edu/homes/tap/past-women-cs.html




1. Davies, M. (1988). "Women clerical workers and the typewriter: The writing machine." In C. Kramarae (Ed.), Technology and Women's Voices: Keeping in Touch (pp.29-40). New York: Routledge.

2. Rakow, L. (1988). "Women and the telephone: The gendering of a communication technology." In C. Kramarae (Ed.), Technology and Women's Voices: Keeping in Touch (pp.207-228). New York: Routledge.

3. Gürer, D. (1995). "Pioneering women in computer science." Communications of the ACM 38 (1), 45-54.

4. Camp, T. (1997). "The incredible shrinking pipeline." Communications of the ACM 40 (10), 103-110. http://www.mines.edu/fs_home/ tcamp/cacm/paper.html



Week 3 (1/26/07):

Are females less interested than males in computers? Attitudes towards computers.




1. Turkle, S. (1988). "Computational reticence: Why women fear the intimate machine."  In C. Kramarae (Ed.), Technology and Women's Voices, 41-61. (Oncourse)

2. Edwards, P. (1990). "The army and the microworld: Computers and the politics of gender identity."  (pp.102-127).  (ereserves)
Colley, A., & Comber C. (2003). Age and gender differences in computer use and attitudes among secondary school students: What has changed? Educational Research, 45, 155–165.  (Oncourse)

4. Ogan, C., Herring, S.,  Ahuja, M., & Robinson, J. (2006, May). The more things change, the more they remain the same: Gender differences in attitudes and experiences related to computing. Paper presented at the International Communication Association conference, New York.  http://ella.slis.indiana.edu/~herring/ica.pdf


Ward, M. (2001). "Sexiest geek declared." http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/1400333.stm. More information about Ellen Spertus and the "sexiest geek" contest: http://people.mills.edu/spertus/Geek/



Week 4 (2/2/07): 

The cultural construction of computing as gendered: Representations of computer users in the print mass media.


1st Observation Report:


Photocopy 10-15 advertisements from current magazines showing computers and humans, and describe how females and males are portrayed.  OR: Do the same for 10-15 current cartoons showing computers and humans.




1. Michaleson, G. (1994). "Women and men in computer cartoons 1946-1982."  In A. Adam et al. (Eds.), Women, Work and Computerization. (ereserves)

2. Milburn, S. S, Carney, D. R., & Martinez, A. M. (2001). "Even in modern media, the picture is still the same: A content analysis of clipart images." Sex Roles, 44(5/6), 277-294. http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2294/is_2001_March/ai_78361728/pg_1
3. Johnson, N. F., Rowan, L., & Lynch, J. (2006). "Constructions of gender in computer magazine advertisements: Confronting the literature." Studies in Media & Information Literacy Education, 6(1), Article number: 74. http://www.utpjournals.com/simile/issue21/johnson1.html


Week 5 (2/9/07):

Computing culture: Hackers, geeks, and nerds.



Definition of a hacker. http://www.iwriteiam.nl/HackerDef.html

The code of the geeks v.3.12. http://www.geekcode.com/geek.html - type



1. Hacker, S. (1990). "The culture of engineering." In S. Hacker, D. Smith, & S. Turner (Eds.), Doing it the Hard Way: Investigating Gender and Technology (pp. 111-112). London: Unwin Hyman.  (ereserves)

2. Turkle, S. (1984). "Hackers: Loving the machine for itself." In The Second Self.  New York: Simon and Schuster.  (ereserves)

3. Kendall, L. (1999). " 'The nerd within': Mass media and the negotiation of identity among computer-using males." The Journal of Men's Studies 7(3), 353-369.  (ereserves)

4. Gilboa, N. (1996). "Elites, lamers, narcs and whores: Exploring the computer underground." In In L. Cherny & E. Weise (Eds.), wired_women (pp. 98-113). Seattle: Seal Press.
5. Adam, A. E. (2003). "Hacking into hacking: Gender and the hacker phenomenon." SIGCAS Computers and Society, 33 (4) (December).



Week 6 (2/16/07):

Environmental and educational factors. Experiences of girls and boys with computing. Experiences of female and male students in computer science programs.



1. Anderson, G. T., Hilton, S. C., & Wouden-Miller, M. (2003). A gender comparison of the cooperation of 4-year-old children in classroom activity centers. Early Education & Development, 14(4)
2. Evard, Michele (1996). "So please stop, thank you:" Girls online. In L. Cherny & E. Weise (Eds.), wired_women (pp.188-204).
Shashaani, L. (1994). Socioeconomic status, parents' sex role stereotypes, and the gender gap in computing. Journal of Research on Computing in Education, 26(4), 433-451.

4. Gunn, C., McSporran, M., Macleod, H., & French, S. (2003). Dominant or different? Gender issues in computer supported learning. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 7(1). http://genderls.pbwiki.com/f/v7n1_gunn.pdf

5. Miliszewska, I., Barker, G., Henderson, F., & Sztendur, E. (2006). The issue of gender equity in computer science--What students say. Journal of Information Technology Education, 5(5), 107-120. http://jite.org/documents/Vol5/v5p107-120Miliszewska136.pdf


Week 7 (2/23/07): 

Computer games as socialization into computer use. Gender stereotypes and stereotype breakers.


2nd Observation Report:


Go to a store where computer-related toys and games are sold and describe all of the products targeted at children. OR: Go to a video arcade and describe the themes and graphics of each game.




1. Subramanyam, K. & P. Greenfield (1998). "Computer games for girls: What makes them play?" In J. Cassell & H. Jenkins (Eds.),  From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games (pp. 46-71). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

2. Jenkins, H. (1998). "'Complete freedom of movement': Video games as gendered play spaces." From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games. Cambridge: MIT Press. http://web.mit.edu/cms/People/henry3/complete.html

3. Jansz, J., & Martens, L. (2005). "Gaming at a LAN event: the social context of playing video games." New Media & Society, 7(3):333-355. Preprint:  http://www.nwo.nl/nwohome.nsf/pages/NWOP_5X8MF6/$file/MES_JJ_LANparties.pdf

4. Taylor, T. L. (2005). "Multiple pleasures: Women and online gaming." Convergence, 9(1), 21-46.


Week 8 (3/2/07):           

Computer-mediated communication on the Internet (Part I). Potential and struggle.




1. Light, J. (1995). "The digital landscape: New space for women?" Gender, Play and Culture 2(2), 133-146.

2. Herring, S. (1993). "Gender and democracy in computer-mediated communication." Electronic Journal of Communication 3(2). http://ella.slis.indiana.edu/~herring/ejc.txt

3. Camp, L. Jean (with Anita Borg) (1996). "We are geeks, and we are not guys: The systers mailing list." In L. Cherny and E. R. Weise (Eds.), Wired_Women: Gender and New Realities in Cyberspace (pp.114-125). Seattle: Seal Press.

4. Dibell, J. (1998). "A rape in cyberspace. (Or TINYSOCIETY, and how to make one)." Chapter One of My Tiny Life. http://loki.stockton.edu/~kinsellt/stuff/dibbelrapeincyberspace.html

5. Spertus, E. (1996). "Social and technical means for fighting on-line harassment." http://people.mills.edu/spertus/Gender/glc/glc.html


Week 9 (3/9/07):

Computer-mediated communication on the Internet (Part II). Gender, identity, and sexuality.




1. Bruckman, A. (1993). "Gender swapping on the Internet."

http://www.cc.gatech.edu/elc/papers/bruckman/gender-swapping- bruckman.pdf

2. McRae, S. (1996). "Coming apart at the seams: Sex, text and the virtual body." In L. Cherny and E. Weise (Eds.), Wired_Women (pp. 242-263). Seattle: Seal Press.

3. Subrahmanyam, K., Greenfield, P. M., and Tynes, B. (2004). "Constructing sexuality and identity in an online teen chat room." Applied Developmental Psychology 25, 651-666. http://www.cdmc.ucla.edu/downloads/Constructing%20sexuality.pdf

4. Egan, J. (2000). "Lonely gay teen seeking same." The New York Times Magazine, Dec. 10. http://www.nytimes.com/library/magazine/home/20001210mag- online.html

5. Huffaker, D. A., & Calvert, S. L. (2005). Gender, identity, and language use in teenage blogs. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 10(2), article 1. http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol10/issue2/huffaker.html




Week 10 (3/23/07):        

Gender on the World Wide Web. Uses of the Web. Visual representations of females and males. Women's portals. Weblogs.


3rd Observation Report:


Find 10-15 websites of the same genre which display images of humans (photographs and/or graphics), and describe how females and males are portrayed.  OR: Go to a graphical chat environment and describe the avatars in use.




1. Rickert, A., & Sacharow, A. (2000). "It's a woman's World Wide Web." Media Metrix and Jupiter Communications report. http://www.rcss.ed.ac.uk/sigis/public/backgrounddocs/womenontheweb2000.pdf

2. Brown, J. (2000). "What happened to the Women's Web?" Salon, August 25. http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/2000/08/25/womens_web/

3. Miller, H., & Arnold, J. (2001). "Self in Web home pages: Gender, identity and power in cyberspace." In: G. Riva & C. Galimberti (Eds.), Towards CyberPsychology: Mind, Cognitions and Society in the Internet Age.
Amsterdam: IOS Press.

4. Herring, S. C., Kouper, I., Scheidt, L. A., & Wright, E. (2004). "Women and children last: The discursive construction of weblogs." In: L. Gurak, S. Antonijevic, L. Johnson, C. Ratliff, and J. Reyman (Eds.), Into the Blogosphere: Rhetoric, Community, and Culture of Weblogs. University of Minnesota. http://blog.lib.umn.edu/blogosphere/women_and_children.html


Week 11 (3/30/07):         

Human-computer interaction and system design. Can machines be gendered?




1. Huff, C. (2002). "Gender, software design, and occupational equity." SIGCSE Bulletin, 34(2), 112-115. http://drzaius.ics.uci.edu/meta/classes/informatics161_fall06/papers/10-huff.pdf

2. Honey et al. (1991). "Girls and design." Transformations 2(2), 77-.
McDonough, J. P. (1999). "Designer selves: Construction of technologically mediated identity within graphical, multiuser virtual environments." Journal of the American Society for Information Science 50 (10), 855-869. 
4. Zanbaka, C., Goolkasian, P., Hodges, L. F. (2006). "Can a virtual cat persuade you? The role of gender and realism in speaker persuasiveness." Proceedings of CHI 2006, 1153-1162.

5. Bell, G., Blythe, M., &  Sengers, P. (2005). “Making by making strange: Defamiliarization and the design of domestic technology.” ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction, Special issue on Social Issues and HCI, 12 (2), 149-173.


Week 12 (4/6/07):

Gender and globalization: Is there a "digital divide"?




1. Galpin, V. (2002). “Women in computing around the world.” inroads—SIGCSE Bulletin, 34(2): Special Issue on Women and Computing, 94-100.

2. Inayatullah, S. & I. Milojevic (1999). "Exclusion and communication in the information era: From silences to global conversation."  In women@internet, ed. by W. Harcourt.

3. Lennie, J. et al. (1999). "Empowering on-line conversations: A pioneering Australian project to link rural and urban women." In women@internet, ed. by W. Harcourt.

4. Wheeler, D. (2001). "Women, Islam, and the Internet: Findings in Kuwait." In Culture, Technology, Communication: Towards an Intercultural Global Village, C. Ess (ed.), pp.158-182.

5. Lagesen, V. A. (2005). "A cyber-feminist utopia? Perceptions of gender and computer science among Malaysian women computer science students." In Extreme Makeover: The Making of Gender and Computer Science. Trondheim. http://ella.slis.indiana.edu/~herring/lagesen.pdf


Hafkin, N. (2003). "Some thoughts on gender and telecommunications/ICT statistics and indicators." (Especially the big table.) International Telecommunication Union. http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/ict/wict02/doc/pdf/Doc46_Erev1.pdf


Week 13 (4/13/07):

Gendered impacts of computers on office work, telework, and IT-intensive professions.




1. Brynin, M. (2006). "Gender equality through computerisation." European Sociological Review, 22(2), 111-123.

2. Harris, R. (2000). "Squeezing librarians out of the middle: Gender and technology in a threatened profession." Women, Work and Computerization: Charting a Course to the Future. Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Women, Work and Computerization. Vancouver, British Columbia: June 2000, ed. by E. Balka & R. Smith (pp. 250-259). Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishing.
3. Lie, M. (1995). "Technology and masculinity: The case of the computer." The European Journal of Women's Studies, 2, 379-394.
4. Harris, R., & Wilkinson, M. (2004). "Situating gender: Students' perceptions of information work." Information Technology and People, 17(1), 71-86.
5. Calabrese, A. (1994). "Home-based telework and the politics of private woman and public man: A critical appraisal." In U. Gattiker (Ed.), Women and Technology
(pp. 161-199). New York: Walter de Gruyter.


Optional reading (long but interesting):

Wright, R., & Jacobs, J. J. (1994). "Male flight from computer work: A new look at occupational resegregation and ghettoization." American Sociological Review, 59 (4), 511-536. http://ella.slis.indiana.edu/~herring/wright.pdf



Week 14 (4/20/07):

What can be done? Postmodern imaginings; practical interventions.




1. Haraway, D. (1991). "A cyborg manifesto: Science, technology, and socialist feminism in the late twentieth century." In Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (pp.149-181). New York: Routledge.

2. Braidotti, R. (1996). "Cyberfeminism with a difference." New Formations, 29 (Autumn), 9-25. http://www.let.uu.nl/womens_studies/rosi/cyberfem.htm

3. Wilding, F. (2003). "Where is feminism in cyberfeminism?" http://www.andrew.cmu.edu/user/fwild/faithwilding/wherefem.pdf

4. Herring, S. C., & Marken, J. (2007). "Implications of gender consciousness for students in information technology." Under review.  http://ella.slis.indiana.edu/~herring/herring.marken.pdf

5. Blum, L. (2001). "Transforming the culture of computing at Carnegie Mellon." http://www-2.cs.cmu.edu/~lblum/PAPERS/ TransformingTheCulture.pdf and Frieze, C. & L. Blum (2001). "Building an effective computer science student organization: The Carnegie Mellon women@scs action plan." http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~cfrieze/paper.html


Lynch, D. (2000). "High tech gender bending: Computer scientist Lynn Conway debunks gender gap myths." http://votum.nl/leestafel/detailpages/ALL/233.html



 Week 15 (4/27/07):               Oral presentations of research papers. Review.


Week 16 (5/02/07):

Take-home final exam (or research paper) due by 5 p.m. THURSDAY



Last updated: April 12, 2007