GENDER AND COMPUTING IN CYBERSPACE
In Chapter 9, Abbe E. Forman, Paul Baker, Jessica Pater, and Kel Smith examine the portrayal of disability, gender, and identity in virtual communities where representation is a matter of convenience, style, or whim. Based on survey of groups that identified themselves as disabled or having a disability, with a focus on gender, four distinctive categories were analyzed in this study: groups associated with disabilities or being disabled, race/ethnicity, gender, aging, and sexual orientation. The findings from this research are that in virtual reality environments (like Second Life) where the visual cues are removed; users with disabilities are still associating with others who identify themselves as having disabilities. Furthermore, gender appears to play a role in the group (i. e. “communities”) in Second Life. The authors point out that the differences between the groups that are externally classified as having some degree of disability and those who choose to self identify or affiliate with disability related groups have rich import for the sociology of online communities, as well as, for the design and characteristics of games.
In Chapter 10, Natalie Sappleton suggests that virtual networking via web pages, email, chat rooms and networking sites can provide a solution for women in male dominated contexts stuck in a ‘segrega
tion/stereotyping bind’. Social computing allows individuals to cross barriers of space, time, and social category and to share expertise, opinions and ideas with each other. As a result, virtual communities of female business owners in non-traditional areas can provide access to a large number of diverse others and opportunities for network maintenance that may not be available to females in these situations.
In Chapter 11, Antoinette Pole examines the role of women political bloggers and how they use their blogs for purposes related to politics, public policy, and current events. Based on a combined purposive snowball sample, in-depth interviews were conducted with 20 women political bloggers. The findings show that respondents blog about a range of topics, not necessarily unique to women, use their blogs to inform their readers, check the media, engage in advocacy efforts, and solicit charitable contributions from their readers. The data also show that women deal with a range of challenges blogging the political, including discrimination. Though a majority of women political bloggers report that they do not face discrimination, interviewees qualified their responses saying they witnessed discrimination and discriminatory attitudes, suggesting the political blogosphere is somewhat inhospitable to women.
In Chapter 12, Tim Hill, Leslie Albert, and Shai Venkatsubramanyan explore the impacts of perceiver gender, target gender, and social networking presence on subjects’ perceptions of potential teammates otherwise unknown to them and revealed to them by ratings based only on search engine results. The results of the study on which the chapter is based reveal differences in how male and female perceivers view others’ social networking activity in general and suggest that how the perceiver gender matches, or differs, from the gender of the target affects how social networking presence plays into impression formation. The findings hold implications for professionals, academics and individuals concerned with the role that Web-based information plays in impression formation and how inherent gender-based biases may affect power and politics in the workplace and beyond.