July 1996

Root Page of Article: Gender and Computer Networking, by Gérard Martin

Questions About the Internet Program

  • What is the Internet, Usenet and World Wide Web?
  • What role does the [female] student assume while using the Internet?
  • What restrictions must the [female] student respect?

While this may have seemed like just another technology appropriate use issue, this essay will attempt to explore the prevailing issue of gender as circumstantial to conditions and considerations inherent to gender-specific technology education and training in an all-girl institution. What, if any, educational and technological considerations were given precedence in the use and implementation of computer-based technology? What considerations specific to the instructional domain of computer-mediated communication and networking are important in respect to young women? In lectures and writings, Martin Heidegger reminds us that technology is both a means to an end and, as well, as human activity. In this way, technology is not simply technological; nor entirely neutral (Heidegger, 1969).

During the orientation seminars, the students, preparatory 7th through 12th, were first asked the describe their impressions of the Internet. Some had previously enjoyed hands-on exposure to online technology through bulletin board system accounts like America Online. Most knew of the Internet, the World Wide Web or electronic mail through news media sources. Without exception, the same answers were heard session after session after session.

  • The Internet as transport--acquisition and expedition of resources
  • The Internet as communication networking--information exchange
  • The Internet as library archive--contribution and storage of data

In sessions to follow, the first impression of Internet as transport, came to characterize a "gimme the goods" attitude of information find, retrieve and display. Likewise, the emerging marketplace cum commercial web, evidenced by the growing numbers of corporate logo and publicity banners achieving inline imbeddedness, adds to a growing number of Internet-based commercial resource deliveries. In these purposes, the World Wide Web is by far the most popular forum at this time.

The second impression, the Internet as a computer-mediated communication and networking medium, offered the trend away from commodification, the sales transaction, the transport of goods and their consumption. Instead, information exchange and self-disclosure fosters relationship and community building.

The third impression of the Internet as a place where stuff is stored carries the greatest commercial potential in the à la video-on-demand commercial model. However, long before this point, the hope is offered that such a library could be more entirely the two-way street that characterized the Internet; a place where individuals can build communities from the ground upward. --

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