Attractions of the Internet
Dr. Behar-Molad has been working on a project called Women.Weaving.Webs and discusses some of the intrinsic aspects of the internet which facilitate usage by women, and the issue of what attracts women to the internet. Firstly, she talks about how the internet is naturally like a women's way of forming relationships. She says, "the Web-like" construction and functioning of the internet mirrors the way women form relationship and is ideally suited to how women think.... Women weave webs instinctively. They create structures that are inextricably integrated and connected. This incredible match between the internet and women's way of thinking and organizing has not been discussed before. Women view the internet as one more technological obstacle that has to be overcome. For the first time there is a technology which can work directly with women."
When encouraging women to become engaged in web technology Dr. Behar-Molad reminds them that this technology is not something they have to fight, but rather can work with because it naturally complements the way they tend to think.
But are women looking for on the internet? Aliza Sherman, founder of Cybergrrl, suggests that women want the following when getting online. Firstly, they want something simple to use which does not require technical training. It must also provide a form of communication, support, and way of networking with other people. In this way it is not simply the woman and her machine. The computer becomes a tool to access other people and information. They also want to use the internet as a way to express themselves and their own ideas.
One way a women's tendency to use the computer as a social medium can be evidenced is through their unique styles of writing relative to men's. Chat discussions in which the gender was unknown to the other people involved in the chat discussion, but known to the researcher were analyzed. They found that women tended to make appeals to a larger audience or to the group far more frequently. Also, they were less willing to make definitive statements, use less sarcasm, and generally try to attract less attention to themselves. Women would promote their ideas, then encourage others to respond. They were also are more likely to give a hedging response. Men were much more assertive in the discussion, used attention getting phrases, and rarely made appeals for additional input. (Located at: http://cpsr.org/cpsr/gender/herring.txt (10 pages))
In order to encourage women to use the internet the web must be presented as a medium which can broaden the scope of relationships and interactions, not merely as a new piece of technology. Dr. Behar-Molad is currently working on a book which describes her experiences with Women.Weaving.Webs, and how women can empower themselves to utilize the internet.
Women on the Internet
Girls on the Internet
Women and Computers Today
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