Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Gender, blogs and discussion lists

Last week I taught a session on language, gender and technology. As part of their activities, the students read and discussed Susan Herring's (2003) work on gender and CMC, then went away and looked through a range of discussion forums and blogs to see how far they could find evidence that supported or challenged her claims. Most of the students looked at discussion lists, I think because they are more familiar with these than with blogs) but some looked at blogs too. What was most interesting was that one of Herring's claims was that men contributed more frequently to academic discussion lists than women did. So the students looked at the length of postings and number of contributions. While they did find that men dominated the discussion lists in most cases, when it came to personal blogs, women wrote more than the men did. One student then asked why it was that we attribute dominance to men's interventions in discussion lists and not to greater length of entries written by women in their blogs. My response was that this was more to do with the value judgements we make about (a) genres and (b) gender and (c) types of interaction. Is it the case that personal blogging is feminized, and so having a greater presence in cyberspace in this mode doesn't count for so much?


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