The gender-less web (Clara Mancini)

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Information about The gender-less web (Clara Mancini)

Published on November 21, 2008

Author: Womentech



Women&Technologies: Research and Innovation. Nell'ambito del prestigioso WCC, (World Computer Congress), una conferenza nella conferenza dedicata alle donne e alle tecnologie, con un particolare focus su ricerca e innovazione. Presentazione per l'intervento a distanza di Clara Mancini (Department of Computing, The Open University, UK), intitolato "The gender-less web".

Interaction and Dialogues in Communities on the Future Web The Gender-less Web Clara Mancini Department of Computing The Open University United Kingdom

who am I in a nutshell? • born and grown-up in Pisa • degree in Letters of Arts - University of Pisa • master in Management of Audiovisual and Multimedia Enterprises - ANICA • doctorate in Knowledge Media - The Open University • academic teacher - University Suor Orsola Benincasa of Napoli • hypertext designer - University of Pisa and Consorzio Pisa Ricerche • academic researcher in Knowledge Media/Computing - The Open University

who am I in a nutshell? I am mainly interested in: analysis and design of web-based and mobile-computing hypermedia to support: discourse construction, information presentation, sense-making and collaboration.

why have I never felt gender inequality? • I received a ‘gender-boundary free’ education? (surely) • I worked in ‘open-minded’ environments? (definitely) • I am ‘naïve’? (probably) • I am ‘gender-blind’? (possibly) whatever the reason, I never even contemplated the possibility that I might be treated unequally… … could that have anything to do with the fact that I never was? (I wonder…) is it because…

but gender inequality exists…

… so, what do we do about it? MY QUESTIONS: • By claiming a privileged position, aren’t we running the risk of • perpetuating inequality rather than establishing equality? • Do we need to make such a claim to support and encourage women • to get into ICT? • Is the future web really gender orientated? ELICITING QUESTION: Disciplines such as Philosophy, Linguistics, Law are very popular among women. Practices such as conversation, argumentation, group management are women’s specialties. Is it not the case that, contrary to the common preconception, women may be today privileged in the developments and use of the next generation ICT?

what are the features of the web as a medium? it’s a virtual world: • bypasses physical and geographical limitations • offers flexibility of access • brings local realities to the global stage in principle, everyone can contribute: • bypasses institutional hierarchical boundaries • blurs boundaries between users and producers • supports many-to-many communication the web is arguably the most democratic and meritocratic, the most gender-less medium we have ever had! (…provided that the infrastructure is there and access to it is granted, of course…)

what about the developing web? • social networking (e.g., Facebook, Myspace) the new generation web (2.0) is set to become ever more democratic, meritocratic and gender-less: • artefact sharing (e.g., Flickr, Youtube) • bottom-up information annotation (e.g., folksonomies vs • ontologies) • publishing and debating (e.g., blogging) • accessing information (e.g., Google, Wikipedia) • web experience personalisation (e.g., webfeeds, mashups) • free applications use/adaptation (e.g., free open source • software)

how much are women involved? apparently… • women are catching up with men in Internet use • ( • more women than man on Facebook • ( • nearly as many women as men write on Wikipedia • ( • more women than man blogging • ( survey-more-women-blogging-than-men-as-blogs-hit-mainstream/) A LOT use production content technology A LOT A LOT Mar ía Amelia López: at 96, she has an award winning blog, with over a million visitors from all over the world! (

the case of FLOSS (Free/Libre/Open Software) development… “ Although FLOSS has dramatically changed the way software is produced, distributed, supported, and used, and has a visible social impact enabling a richer digital inclusion, most of the gender problems existing in the software industry have been duplicated in the FLOSS field .” (Yuwei Lin, 2005) ( LESS • Only 1.1% of FLOSS developers are women (Yuwei Lin, 2005) ( • Only 1.5% of FLOSS community is made by women (FLOSSPOLS project) ( how much are women involved? use production content technology A LOT A LOT A LOT

why so few women in FLOSS development? FLOSSPOLS findings: ( • women are unconsciously actively excluded rather than disinterested • hacker ethics puts itself outside mainstream society where it puts women • producing i. design and documentation seen as less prestigious than code • production requires long history with computers, less common in women • aggressive posturing within the community, off-putting for women • reliance on long hours of intensive computing, that women don’t have

how can women be encouraged into FLOSS? FLOSSPOLS recommendations: ( • provide resources to help women devote time to FLOSS activities • foster participation of girls in FLOSS activities at an early stage • support current efforts to increase female participation in FLOSS activities • EU governments to encourage a greater variety of production methods • European Commission to encourage those who include/support women • sponsor exchange programs to where coding is not seen as ‘male’ activity • research and dissemination of projects where diversity has brought success • encourage leadership to recognise exclusion and its long-term costs • foster role of FLOSS in innovation policy and technology transfer activities

in other words… “ Through educational means, such as encourage women to pursue higher education in scientific and technological areas or join the job market in these areas, and/or governmental policies to support and promote women in ICT, it has been proved that there are no significant difference between men and women’s abilities and qualities of work ” (UK Equal Opportunities Commission, 2004)

in conclusion… BACK TO MY QUESTIONS: Do we need to claim a privileged position in the development of new generation ICT? Is the future web gender orientated? MY ANSWERS: We don’t need to claim a privileged position for women, we need to remove existing pragmatic and cultural obstacles. Diversities are in biology and inequalities are in societies, not in media or technologies. With adequate policies and support women can inhabit the same worlds inhabited by men… if they so wish.

Thank you also to my colleagues: Sandra Williams (Natural Language Generation Group) Enrico Motta (Knowledge Media Institute) Alistair Willis (Department of Computing) for brainstorming with me on this subject Thank you

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