July 1996

Root Page of Article: The Wired World According to Women, by Leslie Regan Shade

Collaboration and Community Building

The use of the Net for collaborative purposes (both workaday and cementing communities-of-interest) is another topic explored in many of the essays. Judy Malloy and Cathy Marshall provide one such exploration with "Closure Was Never a Goal in this Piece," in which they describe their collaborative hypertext project Forward Anywhere instituted as part of Xerox Parc's PAIR (PARC Artists in Residence) Program. By virtualizing their relationship, Malloy and Marshall found they they could more easily "look for the links in our artist/researcher existences basements, brothers or sons studying history, the assuming of personas, the playing of multiple roles" (p. 59).

The idea of women-only lists and conferences has been suggested as a way to counteract harassment and monopolization of postings by men. Of course, given the relative insecurity of electronic identity, and the fact that electronic personas can be easily spoofed, such segregation is difficult to control. Several women-only conferences exist, such as WOW (Women on the Well) private women-only conferences on Echo; and Systers, a private, unmoderated, mailing list for female computer professionals in the commercial, academic, and government world. In "We Are Geeks, and We Are Not Guys: The Systers Mailing List," L. Jean Camp describes her port in the storm, Systers (consisting of over 1500 members in 17 countries), and the emotional and professional support she received when she was faced with taking her then- breastfeeding baby to a major conference. Anita Borg the founder and moderator of Systers, has often been asked to justify the exclusion of men from her list, particularly given that the list is not limited solely to discussions of women's issues, but deals in professional and technical concerns.

The intricate social organization of media fandom circles--hotel conferences, letter- writing, and phone communication--and the various genres such fandom assumes (fanzines, stories, novels, video, crafts, costume, drama, ephemera-collecting) has been greatly accelerated by electronic venues such as newsgroups, mailing lists, and Web sites. The once secret nature of the fan community, manifested in stories penned anonymously or pseudonymously, which are then covertly disseminated through an underground network, actually cements a communal culture which is now made more public by its digital manifestations.

In "Estrogen Brigades and 'Big Tits' Threads: Media Fandom Online and Off," Susan Clerc writes how women have permeated digital fan culture and the gendered threads online fan culture can assume; hence, the "Big Tits Threads" in her title, referring to male's lustful thoughts on the anatomical features of the actors. The other half of her title, "Estrogen Brigades," refers to "small private mailing lists where women gather to discuss a favorite actor and other topics....acting as a defiant commentary on the 'nice girls don't act that way' double standard" (p. 87). Although women fans participate more actively offline than online (reflecting their access to the Internet), Clerc believes that "women fans have dealt with the disadvantages creatively and ingeniously, adapting the new medium to their own needs as well as adapting off-line fannish customs to the net" (p. 96). --

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