Gender and Technology: The Epistemological Problem

Symposium:


Session Title:

  • Gender and Technology: What Problem?

Presentation Title:

  • Gender and Technology: The Epistemological Problem

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Abstract:

  • Does computer science in its theory, practice, and politics embody discrimination towards women? If so, how does this discrimination work itself out in applications to the arts? These questions are examined through survey questionnaires and interviews administered in 1994-1995 at two United States research institutions. The collected data points to a dominate source of discrimination that affects applications in the arts; the epistemology of computer science inherited from a male-shaped knowledge structure of modern science.

    Intro

    On August 25, 1995, the astute and profound newspaper USA Today in a front page lead story reported the launching of Windows 95 as the “geek event of the century”. USA Today relates early in its commentary on Windows 95 that “it’s a guy thing. Few women were among early buyers”. These comments in the popular American newspaper point us to the topic we are here to seriously consider together: “Gender and Technology: What Problem?”

    My response to this question is: “The Epistemological Problem.” I am questioning the knowledge structure of computer science and its impact on males and females. Let us begin by considering the double pronged question: Does computer science in its theory, practice, and politics embody discrimination towards women, and if so, how does this embedded discrimination  work itself out in applications to the arts? The difficulties for women in computing have been communicated over the last decade through a variety of major research institutions’ reports on women and computing, in numerous computer science publications, through published critical studies on women and computing, and in sundry organizations for women in computing. I will not rehearse the long list of contributors to the discussion.These studies, reports, and organizations confirm what we have come to recognize and experience: There are biases, limitations, and obstacles to women’s participation in computing.

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