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Philosophical and Ethical Concerns of the Culture of Computing


Creating Cybertrust:
Illustrations and Guidelines



Just as many historians now recognize that there was no Renaissance for European women in the fifteenth century, 1 many of us are realizing that without attention to the concerns and activities of women in the current communication renaissance we will have only partial, distorted, and thus seriously flawed intellectual and academic achievements.

      We are more than interested in the grand computing challenges for social science. We have listened with a great deal of attention as users and promoters talk about the personal and academic freedoms possible with the new communication programs and the opportunities for new kinds of research and teaching offered by the new computer technologies. We have participated in university committees designed to enhance the amount of collaborative computer work we can do. We have provided workshops to critique old computer programs and prepare new ones. We continue to be hopeful about the ways computers can be used in our university research and teaching. However, much of what we see happening in computer use seems a replication if not an intensification of the problems many women and people of color experience in face-to-face communication and in social science work. Without more attention to these problems, the new academic work is likely to be critically flawed.

      We write as feminists who try to collaborate with others to transform communication in ways that will overturn the disempowering structure of patriarchy and will imagine and enact new structures. It is not enough, we think, to identify problems and then work merely for a small voice for women and people of color (getting a word in edgewise, adding some Web sites on the Internet). We believe that we need also to articulate new visions to advance the possibility of a more sane and just world. 2 We work for an intellectual and academic renaissance for both women and men.

      Here, after reviewing some of the history of gender and Internet research, online problems, and some of the proposed solutions, we offer guidelines to assist us all in making what happens on our campuses and on the Internet truly innovative and useful and not, in too many ways, the same old stuff.

      We realize that what is included when people talk about computers and the Internet is huge and that not all we write will be directly applicable to all the projects and programs discussed in this volume and elsewhere. We also realize that some of the issues we discuss have legal implications, of particular interest to women, that cannot be dealt with adequately here. 3 We do not profess to know all the relevant global concerns (although, working with many others, we are making a start on them). What we do offer is material we believe important to anyone interested in assessment of technological developments.

      Our experience is that many information technology projects that are assumed to be gender neutral actually have very different impact on women and men. Especially in times of rapid technological changes, gender divisions and hierarchies are accented in ways not necessarily intended by the people supporting, controlling, or evaluating the changes. Many issues demand our attention as we use and try to interpret the new cyberworld. 4 Here we explore some of the problems women have experienced in computer-mediated communication (CMC) as an example of the ways in which gender hierarchies are being perpetuated in new technologies. We then offer some recommendations for change and some tools for individual researchers and institutions to use in designing and evaluating academic projects that involve the new technologies. In a review of many of the specific problems women are having online, we have pointed out that universities and other institutions have taught sex discrimination, if not explicitly and deliberately, at least very well. 5 We are now suggesting that the so-called Information Revolution is a time and a global project that could be recognized by administrators, students, and teachers as a major opportunity to change, in a fundamental way, what is being taught.

Early Online Conversations

Because some commentators on social relationships on the Internet have argued that CMC breaks down traditional gender assumptions—suggesting that once women are present in nearly equal numbers to men any earlier discriminatory practices will end—we think it important to trace some of the history of online gender interaction research and commentary, a history that indicates that the problems are not temporary and trivial but persistent and important. 6 Susan C. Herring, a linguist who has studied online conversations, concludes that "numerical parity is important, but it does not in and of itself create social parity, which can only exist in an environment of tolerance and respect for diversity among users." 7

      Writing in 1991, Angela Gunn argued that women were the Other on most of the computer network systems in the world rather than integral decision makers and participants. 8 She and other critics writing about the interaction on the rapidly expanding number of bulletin boards were aware that in most online messages and conversations, although indicators of race, age, physical disabilities, and appearance may disappear, the sex of the writer is still apparent in the signatures on most networks and that the modes of interaction were predominantly male and hierarchical. In the early 1990s women were the decided minority online.

      Some of these women talked and wrote about their online experience. They reported that men monopolized the talk and set the agenda for the kinds of interaction that would take place, just as they customarily did in face-to-face interaction. The supposed egalitarianism of electronic communication was not experienced as the reality of women in many discussions. In their empirical studies, researchers found that in CMC interaction the men were more likely than women to participate a lot, to introduce more successful topics, and to receive more responses. 9

      Women discovered that gaining the floor in an electronic discussion could be as problematic as gaining the floor in an academic meeting. In writing about interaction and gender in general, Susan Gal argues, "Even among status equals and in mixed-sex groups, the interactional constraints of institutional events such as meetings are not gender neutral but weighted in favor of male interactional strategies. Although organization of the meetings masks the fact that speakers are excluded on the basis of gender, it simultaneously accomplishes that very exclusion." 10 In an essay specifically about interaction at computer conferences, Marilyn Cooper and Cynthia L. Selfe came to a similar conclusion. 11

Hostile Environments

The climate of the early public online discussion groups was such that many women felt excluded and silenced. Yet there was little serious recognition or discussion of this as a basic problem for the developing Internet. When explicit sexual harassment occurred or exclusionary language or conversational practices were used, the complaints women made often were dismissed or received in a hostile manner. It was difficult for women individually to have an impact on general online behavior, of course.

      A discussion in the Computer Underground Digest, an electronic journal, provides an example of how the early discussion lists were unwelcoming to women. 12 In response to an article by Mike Holderness in the London Times Educational Supplement that explored issues of gender bias and sexual harassment in the context of evaluating the online discussion lists as an "invisible college," one network participant (Larry Landwehr) advised women, "If you can't stand the heat, ladies, then get out of the kitchen." 13

      Even in the early days of the expansion of FREENET, the community-based system devoted to transcending "racial, sexual, and economic barriers" to electronic communication, there were clear examples of the acceptability of such exclusionary attitudes. In response to a question about a blatantly sexist remark in a discussion of FREENET, Tom Grudner, a key organizer of the organization, said, "This medium holds out perhaps the greatest hope we will see in our lifetime for communication which transcends racial, sexual, and economic barriers—IF WE ALLOW IT. But the key is: *if we allow it.* What we can't allow to happen is for professional victim-mongers to screw it up—people who have built enormous power- and financial-bases off of convincing people they are 'victims' through 'no fault of their own' and the ONLY way out is through them and their (inevitable expensive) programs." 14

      When women at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who were doing investigations of online interactions read Grudner's statement (which suggested that women writing about their perception of sexism online were "professional victim-mongers"), they were dismayed by the lack of support from a person who professed to be interested in creating "free" and welcoming electronic spaces for everyone.

      One factor in the structure of the electronic networks that seemed to contribute to the climate being unwelcoming to women and people of color was the "distance" between participants. 15 In March 1993, the participants of the ARACHNET list carried on an extended conversation about the geography of the Internet that explored issues of distance and proximity in virtual spaces. Greg Madden, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said, "In particular, some of the most cherished fundamental tenets of Geography are obsolete in a virtual world. For instance, the concepts of distance and proximity must be expanded if they are to apply in a virtual world. Probably most important, the 'neighborhood property,' which essentially states that things which are closer to each other are more likely to be similar than things which are farther apart, may not apply at all in a virtual world." 16

Creating Communities

Early in the 1990s, Michael Zackheim wrote, "It strikes me as phenomenal that the world-wide communications network that we so mightily employ erases many of the mysteries of the unknown—yet nurtures such a profound sense of loneliness." 17 Discussions about the geography of the Internet were accompanied by discussions about the concept of online communities. In the early 1990s, many of us argued that creating hospitable communication networks or communities, both virtual and real, was important if women were to establish mature discourse online. This seemed to mean that at least for some time there would be a need for segregated forums on the Internet (such as Systers, the list for women in computer science). The research of the past two decades had made clear that men were more likely to be interested in having mixed-sex conversations than women were. Women in mixed-sex groups were more likely to give men plenty of space and time considerations. Although separatism was not necessarily what women wanted for all online discussions, until gender equity becomes a reality in a wide variety of settings, some women suggested that they needed access to some women-only safe forums for conversations if they were to create electronic communities.

      Judy Smith and Ellen Balka envisioned a feminist computer network that would connect them in just this way:

For those of us who are part of social change movements, who often don't feel a part of much of the culture around us, we need to know there are lots more of us out here. I can live most anywhere, places where feminists are few and far between, and still be part of a feminist reality. Then I don't have to depend on the commercial media which I already know denies me information about feminist projects. Literacy is an empowerment tool for the disenfranchised; that's why so many Third World liberation groups have literacy campaigns. Computer literacy can be the same type of liberating force for women in a technological society. 18

      Of course, in the time since Smith and Balka wrote this, women in many places in the world—those who have Internet access at work or who can afford the computer equipment and the fees of access providers—have created many discussion groups and have established many electronic mail links. In the early 1990s Judith Hudson and Kathleen Turek published "Electronic Access to Research on Women: A Short Guide." 19 Additional information on discussion groups and newsgroups is available in publications such as the Utne Reader. 20

      These communities women created were not all women-only forums. Many individuals and groups tried to foster an environment that was welcoming, in which the ethics of electronic communication and standards for inclusion are openly and thoughtfully discussed. For example, on April 1992, organizers at Lewis and Clark College, Oregon created an Electronic Gender Salon where papers on gender and electronic communication were circulated and discussed by a group of subscribers during a two-week period. Attention was paid to participation by gender, and issues of equity were raised continually. However, even within this carefully crafted environment, the prevailing climate of online discussion was evident, with men dominating the conversation more and more as the conference continued.

      The Utne Reader launched a global network of Email Salons patterned after their face-to-face Neighborhood Salons, which were designed to foster "small group dialogue." The electronic promotional announcement (April 1993) for the Email Salons lists the following advantages, included here because the list contains guidelines that may still be appropriate, especially perhaps for online courses.

Participation is purposely kept small (25 people), which encourages all members to get to know one another. This in turn helps minimize the lurking, the flaming, and the posturing that can often plague other forms of online group communication;
Email Salon discussion topics change from time to time, at the discretion of the participants. This creates a more relaxed atmosphere of learning through real dialogue. Virtually all other forms of online group communication are top-based which inevitably leads to discussions in which most "participants" are silent while a few dominate.
We actively seek international participation for the Email Salons. Having one or more members from other cultures in your Email Salon can offer a diversity of perspectives that few face-face salons can match.

In addition to encouraging cultural diversity, the Utne Salons tried for gender balance in the makeup of each group, a policy that created a great deal of heated discussion as some interested men realized that they had to wait for more women to join before other men would be admitted.

      There were numerous examples of electronic communication being used to facilitate social activism and connection in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In Montana, Judy Smith at WORD, Inc. was in daily contact with the women her agency serves and with other activist organizations using the Big Sky Net and Handsnet. 21 SeniorNet was providing round-the-clock connections for older adults across the country. 22 The Indigenous People's Computer Network was established to provide news and information of interest to Native Americans. By envisioning and articulating alternative potential uses of electronic communication, women and minority men were trying to make a difference in the way information technologies were used and developed. For example, Leslie Weisman, author of Discrimination by Design (1992), called upon women to consider how the new information technologies could make the world a safer place for women, a question not addressed in many of the CMC forums at the time (or now). 23

      Many of us were trying to determine how to help ensure access for most people, not just an elite. We imagined computer terminals connected to community systems in laundromats, homeless shelters, daycare centers, and so on, with sufficient support so that most people in the United States would have access to the Internet; at the same time we realize that access to machinery does not automatically mean access to computer interaction. 24

      As in other conversations, some women have learned to be assertive and to ignore or overcome harassment, but many others have found that mixed-sex conversations online can quite suddenly turn frustrating and personally demeaning.

      Wondering whether the methods of harassment in synchronous (real-time) chat discussions might differ significantly from those of asynchronous (e.g., e-mail-based) communication, Susan C. Herring (1999) studied two extended interactions, one on an asynchronous discussion list and the other on an Internet relay chat (IRC) channel. Her analysis discovered similar patterns over time: initial situation, initiation of harassment by men, resistance by women to the harassment, and escalation of harassment by the men, eventually concluding in an accommodation by targeted participants to the dominant group norms or silence from the targeted women. Herring notes that although the episodes she studied might be considered extreme cases of sexual harassment, equally or more extreme cases are being reported in other recent CMC research. 25 Noting that men often dominate face-to-face interactions also, Kimberly Dawn Blum points out that in online environments, male domination can last for days. This problem has particular implications for online learning environments, she suggests. 26 Women who want to be respected as scholars (which means avoiding being known as a troublemaker or as someone who questions the actions of respected men in the field) may be very hesitant about publicly pointing to online sexist behavior. There are still no generally accepted grievance procedures for sexual harassment on the Internet. 27 Of course, we are aware of the discussions about how virtual environments such as IRC can allow all of us to deconstruct and reconstruct gender and break out of the binary gender categories. The lack of physical presence online and the possibility of creating one's body through writing text has received a lot of attention in the popular media. 28 In the past, at least, most of the players in these real-time discussions have been young, heterosexual males, some of whom say they gender-switch to see whether they can get away with their descriptions of female self or who say that they play female to have intimate discussions with women. Although some people find that gender switching gives them a sense of freedom and power and a way of breaking gender molds, others worry about the deception possible in these virtual spaces. 29

      We continue to find evidence that the kinds and extent of problems experienced by many women online vary, depending on how public the forum and how cohesive the community of users, with greater "distance" between participants leading to greater disrespect for the humanness of other participants. This "distance" also makes it more difficult to do anything about these problems because there is no recognizable community that can be approached to invoke community standards. 30 It therefore becomes even more important to instantiate such standards at the points where institutions such as universities interface with the Internet.

      We have mentioned some of the problems. What can we do to make a difference in the way women experience electronic communication in the future?

      We can work to create real communities that focus on the electronic world. Although it has become difficult to know where the center is, those of us who feel marginalized in the university community or who find ourselves both insiders and outsiders in the academic world not only need to create spaces that promote our own competence in these areas but must also use our vision from that intermediate space to affect the way systems are created to include other marginalized people. Recognizing the importance of addressing the issues raised by the new information technologies as they are affecting universities, we (with Dale Spender) founded a working group of women on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which we believe can serve as an example of the type of organizing and planning that can benefit women on other campuses. After four years of monthly face-to-face meetings, Women, Information Technology, and Scholarship (WITS) has become primarily an online support and information-sharing link for women. Through the years our experiences in working together have changed many of our lives in beneficial ways and have affected some campus policies.

WITS: Women, Information Technology, and Scholarship

The WITS group began meeting in September 1991. From its beginning WITS was an interdisciplinary venture. 31 The experience of women and other minorities with electronic communication is not the same everywhere on campus, of course. The distribution of hardware, know-how, and technical support is uneven, with some women in the sciences living centrally in a culture of computing and others in some areas of the humanities with comparatively little equipment and support. The WITS group was composed of about forty women faculty, academic staff, and graduate students from a wide range of disciplines, and in the course of its first years it provided stimulation, practical knowledge, and a sense of involvement in creating the electronic world for its members. Its members also felt a deep connection with one another and a sense of support from the group. 32

      Some of our overarching interests included information policies and systems for future generations of university students and faculty; freedom of information for all citizens of all nations; easing rather than exacerbating the difficulties all women and people of color face on campuses; availability of resources especially designed to benefit those who have found universities a hostile environment; and respect for diversity in policymaking that involves information technologies. We explored technical issues, devoting time to workshops and other skill-building activities. In addition to the regular colloquium sessions, subgroups of women met in focused reading groups on a variety of topics including virtual reality, women and space (both virtual and real), and feminist speculative fiction. The group saw itself building upon its strength and sense of solidarity to become an activist organization, increasing involvement of the group in issues at the campus, local, state, national, and global levels. 33

      Some of our work dealt with the limitations of online exchanges and the resulting problems. Because tone of voice, facial expressions, body posture, pauses, and so on are missing on the online discussions, use of contextualization cues such as emotive symbols may temper some of the extremes of verbal emotion that end up being vented on the discussions and may give readers some way to frame what they read in the absence of the paralinguistic cues that normally inform understanding of interpersonal interactions. But emoticons are very limited and static. The small computer video cameras now available are producing rather limited and static visual cues.

      In addition to gathering examples of the problems with online hostile situations, we also wrote recommendations for dealing with serious violations of collaborative communication norms. We suggested that sometimes just calling attention to the problem is enough. For example, when complaints about sexist or racist comments are made to listserv moderators, they can return the comment in quotes followed by something like the following message: "Someone using your logon has posted remarks found offensive to others. We ask your cooperation in solving this problem. Thank you."

Institutional Participation in the Development of the Internet

It is important that universities and other institutions that interface with the Internet take seriously their role in this development of the Internet. Because electronic communication networks are so large and decentralized and seemingly lawless and because increasingly they are dominated by businesses, it is easy to understand why universities and other institutions may not have recognized the role they can play at their institutional interface. Universities have the opportunity to change the structure of interaction on campuses and to influence the way networks will develop at the national and international level. 34

      Universities need to facilitate discussions about electronic networks both as they are being used today and as they will be used in the future, and they need to recognize the responsibility they have for influencing this development. In addition, they must help develop campus policy to address the problems we have outlined here. 35 As a start, we suggest the following:

Development and protection of women-only online forums

Training for moderators about issues of equity and access and about ways of dealing with people who express disrespect for others online

A grievance procedure (which allows class action) for complaints of sexual harassment online and open meetings of standing committees on ethics and operations

Periodic reports, to a central body, on number and types of complaints and action taken

Clarification of what will be considered offensive messages and discussion of etiquette for online communication

      We are not suggesting here some tight control, some infringement of the rights of Internet users (quite the opposite, in fact, we are advocating the rights of a substantial portion of potential Internet users). 36 We are arguing that the electronic discussion groups have become an important arena for developing and distributing knowledge and that as such they are an extension of the physical university. Universities cannot afford to ignore what is going on in these virtual spaces; the same standards of nondiscrimination, equal treatment, and elimination of sexual harassment must be applied in these arenas.

      In the early 1990s many people writing about the Internet used the North American frontier as an analogy to evoke the excitement and lawlessness of cyberspace and the potential for taking and conquering new lands. Given the vast damages, to Native Americans and the rest of the land, caused by the policies of the "frontier movement," we found the analogy very troubling. We noted the often controlling language so many people use in discussing the adventures in subduing and conquering land and other space. Many ecological issues are left unexplored. For starters, the hundreds of millions of computers worldwide use great amounts of electricity (with accompanying dangerous emissions), and the number of sheets of paper used (many of them bleached white in a process that creates dioxin, a highly toxic chemical) increases daily. 37 Computer manufacturing creates dangerous pollutants, especially for the women assembling the chips. Computers often are thrown into junk piles before they wear out, as manufacturers sell faster and smaller computers with more promised devices and functions.

      Meetings in cyberspace can save some transportation costs, 38 but many other ecology issues are left by the wayside. Those of us who have computers can turn them off when they are not in use, and when buying new equipment we can choose energy-efficient hardware. But as we organize these amazing electronic networks, we need also to consider how they alter our relationship with the rest of the earth. When we talk about what we want our world to be, we need to consider what our world is.

      In this chapter we offer guideline questions that may help all of us consider some of the hidden implications of our new programs and involve women and their interests in all phases of our projects. We have worked on a modification of a list of questions Maureen Ebben developed for discussion at a WITS meeting. We do not suggest that each of these questions will be equally relevant to all research projects. We also realize, in ways that research programs seldom take into account, that women's lives and concerns are not a unified mass. We need to consider class, race, age, and occupational differences, for example. We would ask whether a project seemingly equally desirable for women and men students might bring new administrative problems to high school or university secretaries or whether the question format used in an interactive CD-ROM skills test adequately represents the conversation conventions of the Latina and African-American communities. 39

      We suggest that if every academic project were to include a WITS-type component based on consideration of these and related questions and resolutions, we could much more readily talk about new, more beneficial social contact and education. The WITS group has developed a statement that expresses concern with the development of the new technologies as they affect girls and women around the word and makes policy recommendations.

A Global Alert from WITS to Potential Strategic PartnersGender Equity in Global Communication Networks


     Information technology is transforming societies. Increasingly, access to information and vehicles for utilizing that information—the bases for generating wealth and power in the next decades—will accrue to those who can best utilize the global communication network. Thus, it is essential that all people have equitable and affordable access to this electronic network.

Who We Are

     Women, Information Technology, and Scholarship (WITS) is an interdisciplinary group of women scholars and academic professionals at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign that was formed specifically to explore and address gender equity issues in information technology. The women of WITS believe that women and girls—half the world's population—should have integral roles in the conception, design, content, use, implementation, economics, and legal policies of electronic communication networks on a local, national and international level. However, the current user mix, along with a social environment which discourages female usage of electronic networks, continues to exacerbate the gender gap and has put females at a stunning disadvantage globally. Women are vastly underrepresented as designers, users, and contributors on the electronic networks. Our goal is an hospitable communication environment for ALL users.


     WITS has developed several policy recommendations to share with individuals and other groups helping to shape the emerging global network. We recommend:

That publicly funded and supported information infrastructure projects ...
a.     be subject to systematic mandated assessment of the degree to which gender equity is reached.
b.     be conducted by gender-balanced committees of people involved in research, education, and library         communities; consumer and public interest groups; and technology and information industries.
That new standards based in equity be developed and applied to ensure the creation, access to, and preservation of networked digital resources for, about, and by women.
That network environments be accessible and hospitable to women and girls regardless of race, ethnic background, religion, cultural background, economic status, and sexual orientation.
That affirmative action principles be incorporated and upheld by ...
a.     designing training and support programs for women and girls.
b.     applying and (where necessary, reformulating) current laws to guarantee women's rights in the         networked environment.
c.      fostering civic networks that offer affordable and equitable access.
d.     encouraging continued research on the gendered use of electronic networks.

In the U.S. these recommendations can be considered supported by "The National Information Infrastructure: Agenda for Action" (September 15, 1993), which states that "the NII can transform the lives of the American people—ameliorating the constraints of geography, disability, and economic status—giving all Americans a fair opportunity to go as far as their talents and ambitions will take them." The Agenda principles include the following: "Extend 'universal service' concept to ensure that information resources are available to all at affordable prices. Because information means empowerment, the government has a duty to ensure that all Americans have access to the resources of the Information Age."

      We urge that organizations (i.e., strategic partners or individuals at grassroot levels who are like-minded) take every opportunity to convey these recommendations to those who are involved in making network design decisions and user policies.

      In view of these concerns and our recommendations, we suggest the following guideline questions as a lens that scholars in the humanities and social sciences might use for looking at their own projects as they develop, whether they are focused on research or teaching. 40 Scholars are encouraged to get input at the planning stages from women and from men of color on their own campuses and within their disciplines as they proceed with their work.


Guidelines for Development and Use of Computer and Internet Projects
To what extent are women included in all stages of project planning? Does the process allow the articulation of women's need for programs that will enhance the quality of their lives?
Who is interested in promoting this technology or program? Whose economic interests are at stake? With what impact on women's economic interests?

To what extent is the information technology developed in the interests of women?

To what extent is the project based on sane operating principles: in politics, an aim for justice; in nature, an aim for harmony; in education, an aim for discovery; in use, an aim for openness; in human relations, an aim for equality?

To what extent will the project contribute to nonoppressive development?

To what extent will the project be inexpensive and equally available to women and men students of all ages?

To what extent will the program be readily accessible to unemployed women, disabled women, older women, and women from all racial and ethnic groups?

To what extent will the project foster participation to the satisfaction of all users?

To what extent will the project include a safe atmosphere for women to work?

To what extent does the project foster the self-reliance and independence of the women users (e.g., information easily accessed without need of an intermediary, who may be unavailable, expensive, or oppressive)?

To what extent does the project enhance women's status (e.g., social, economic, health)?

To what extent does the project solve or create problems for women (e.g., does it increase women's mobility, does it decrease the possibilities for online harassment)?

To what extent does the project foster a new vocabulary that releases the discourse of expertise from the hands of the professions into the vernacular?

To what extent does the project provide service to the individual woman versus service to the status quo system?
To what extent does the project limit women's options as much as it opens options?

To what extent does the project include a continuing built-in process for women's shaping the program after it has been put into use?
Societal Relations

To what extent does the project broaden women's traditional options?

To what extent does the project foster fair distribution of information resources?

To what extent does the project distribute and decentralize communication?

To what extent does the project encourage symmetrical gender relations, participatory politics, and democratic culture?



In this chapter we highlight a few of the issues of Internet sexism: the replication of conversational inequities, the Internet as a site of sexual harassment and displays of power, and the ways in which distance can alienate women and strip communities of intimacy and accountability. We also suggest some practices that could lessen these problems. And finally, we offer a set of guideline questions that can be used to think about the implications of all new programs and to make clearer the place of women in the process of developing policies and practices. We suggest that everyone using state or federal funds for computer work, everyone setting business policies that affect Internet users nationally and internationally, and all who are interested in creating a more just society use these or other guidelines to keep in view concerns that are too often invisible to planners and promoters.

      Re-envisioning cyberspace and making room for all will not be a simple matter. It will require the minds and voices of a wide range of people, speaking from the margins, the center, and intermediate positions. In general we ask for an examination and rejection of all the forms of domination that are being created in what is called, euphemistically, an Internet and a World Wide Web. Women must work together with men who have related concerns to form a critical mass of people who are committed to raising these issues and supporting each other in critiquing the present and planning a more equitable future rather than a technical enhancement of the past.


      1. Joan Wallace Scott writes that "an impressive mass of evidence has been compiled to show that the Renaissance was not a renaissance for women, that technology did not lead to women's liberation either in the workplace or at home" (Gender and the Politics of History [New York: Columbia University Press, 1988], 19). Joan Kelly's research points out that women as a group were adversely affected by the developments of the Renaissance (Women, History, and Theory: The Essays of Joan Kelly [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984]).

      2. Feminism is a particularly useful approach to understanding technology because, as Susan Leigh Star writes, "It's not so much that women have been left out, but that we are both in and out at the same time" ("Power, Technologies and Phenomenology of Standards: On Being Allergic to Onions," in A Sociology of Monsters?: Power, Technology, and the Modern World, ed. John Law [Oxford, England: Basil Blackwell, 1991], 50).

      3. Some of these issues are discussed in Cheris Kramarae and Jana Kramer, "Net Gains, Net Losses," Women's Review of Books 12: 5 (February 1995): 31-33.

      4. See Wendy Harcourt, ed., Women @ Internet: Creating New Cultures in Cyberspace (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999), and Susan Hawthorne and Renate Klein, CyberFeminism: Connectivity, Critique, and Creativity (North Melbourne: Spinifex, 1999).

      5. Cheris Kramarae and H. Jeanie Taylor, "Women and Men on Electronic Networks: A Conversation or a Monologue?" in Women, Information Technology, and Scholarship, ed. H. Jeanie Taylor, Cheris Kramarae, and Maureen Ebben (Urbana, Ill.: Center for Advanced Study, 1993), 59.

      6. For example, John Perry Barlow, "A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace," <http://www/eff/org/pub/Censorship/Internet_censorship_bills/barlow_0296.declaration>.

      7. Susan Herring, "The Rhetorical Dynamics of Gender Harassment On-line," Information Society 15 (1999): 16(This was a special issue on the rhetorics of gender in computer-mediated communication, edited by Laura J. Gurak.)

      8. Angela Gunn, "Computer Bulletin Boards Not Just Boy Toy," New Directions for Women 7 (November/December 1991).

      9. Maureen Ebben, "Women on the Net: An Exploratory Study of Gender Dynamics on the Soc.women Computer Network" (Ph.D. diss., Department of Speech Communication, University of Illinois, 1994); Susan Herring, "Gender and Participation in Computer-Mediated Linguistic Discourse," doc. ED345552 (Washington, D.C.: ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics, 1992); Cynthia L. Selfe and Paul R. Meyer, "Testing Claims for On-line Conferences," Written Communication 8: 2 (1991): 163-92; and Laurel Sutton, "Using Usenet: Gender, Power, and Silence in Electronic Discourse," in Proceedings of the 20th Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society (Berkeley: Berkeley Linguistics Society, 1994), 506-20.

      10. Susan Gal, "Between Speech and Silence: Problematics of Research on Language and Gender," in Gender at the Crossroads of Knowledge: Feminist Anthropology in the Postmodern Era, ed. Micaela di Leonardo (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), 186.

      11. Marilyn M. Cooper and Cynthia L. Selfe, "Computer Conferences and Learning: Authority, Resistance, and Internally Persuasive Discourse," College English 52: 8 (December 1990): 847-69.

      12. Computer Underground Digest 5: 29 (April 21, 1993).

      13. Describing the Internet as "a beautiful anarchy, just about the only one left on the face of the earth" and insisting that there was no verifiable evidence that women were excluded from the conversations there or harassed in the course of them, this participant blamed women for their critiques of the interaction on the Internet.

      14. March 29, 1993, Communet: Community and Civic Network Discussion List, COMMUNET@UVMVM.bitnet.

      15. Michael Heim wrote, "A loss of innocence therefore accompanies an expanding network. As on-line culture grows geographically, the sense of community diminishes" ("The Erotic Ontology of Cyberspace," in Cyberspace: First Steps, ed. Michael Benedikt [Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1991], 77).

      16. Tuesday, March 9, 1993. greg-madden@unc.edu, posted to ARACHNET, ARACHNET@uottawa.bitnet.

      17. Michelle Zackheim, "The Café Series," Frontiers: A Journal of Women's Studies 8: 1 (1992): editorial page.

      18. Judy Smith and Ellen Balka, "Chatting on a Feminist Computer Network," in Technology and Women's Voices, ed. Cheris Kramarae (New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul/Methuen, 1988), 88.

      19. Judith Hudson and Kathleen Turek, "Electronic Access to Research on Women: A Short Guide" (Albany, N.Y.: Institute for Research on Women, 1992, 1995).

      20. Utne Reader Internet Email Salons, utnereader@mr.net.

      21. Evan Brown, "On Line in the Big Sky," Missoula Independent, November 14, 1991, 10.

      22. Richard Adler, Seniornet: Toward a National Community of Computer-Using Seniors, Forum Report #5, Aspen Institute Project on Enhancing the Social Benefits of New Electronic Technologies (New York: Aspen Institute, 1988).

      23. Leslie Kanes Weisman, Discrimination by Design: A Feminist Critique of the Man-made Environment (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992).

      24. See Ronnie Rosenberg's critique of many computer literacy education programs and suggestions for improvement, "Debunking Computer Literacy," Technology Review 94: 1 (1991): 58-65.

      25. Herring, "Rhetorical Dynamics," 156.

      26. Kimberly Dawn Blum, "Gender Differences in CMC-Based Distance Education," <http://www.feminista.com/v2n5/blum2.html>.

      27. We are encouraged by the universities, individual newsgroups, and other institutional interfaces that are finally including discussion of online sexual harassment in their institutional sexual harassment policies or codes. However, we are saddened by the often horrific experiences of many women experiencing harassment who have been unsuccessful in convincing list owners and institutional authorities that there are real problems of import to the entire electronic community.

      28. See Parks and Roberts's study, which indicates that although many people have taken advantage of the Internet online communities such as multiuser object-oriented systems (MOOS) to try some gender switching, most people participating in the MOOS hadn't tried it and those who had didn't do it for long. Lynne D. Roberts and Malcolm R. Parks, "The Social Geography of Gender-Switching in Virtual Environments on the Internet," Information, Communication, and Society 2: 4 (Winter 1999): 521-40.

      29. Shannon McRae, "Coming Apart at the Seams: Sex, Text, and the Virtual Body," in Wired Women: Gender and New Realities in Cyberspace, ed. Lynne Cherry and Elizabeth Reba Weise (Seattle: Seal Press, 1996), 242-63.

      30. We can learn a lot about these problems by considering the responses when electronic sexual harassment and rape are reported to electronic communities. For one early account that did receive attention in print media as well as electronic media, see Julian Dibbel, "A Rape in Cyberspace; or, How an Evil Clown, a Haitian Trickster Spirit, Two Wizards, and a Cast of Dozens Turned a Database into a Society," Village Voice 38: 51 (December 21, 1993): 36-42.

      31. Putting together this group, particularly finding women in the sciences and engineering who were interested in and able to participate, was a challenge. In the course of our search for members we discovered barriers to communication as we discussed the problems and their significance for women from different disciplines. We appreciate the efforts of neuropsychologist Marie Banich, who served as a bridge for us, pointing out to all "sides" the misunderstandings that were occurring in our first conversations.

      32. In an electronic discussion about the WITS group, one WITS member said, "Something I love about WITS ... is the sense of acceptance and safety in the group, at the same time we're intellectually challenging and informing each other. In other words—the feminists/womanist qualities of the group!"

      33. See Taylor et al., Women, Information Technology, and Scholarship.

      34. The various ethics committees that have formed to deal with some of the problems of interaction on the Internet need to rethink the basic divisions used in discussing "ethics," which, in the past, has meant primarily considering the good and evil categories of patriarchy. See definitions in Cheris Kramarae and Paula A. Treichler, with Ann Russo, Amazons, Bluestockings, and Crones: A Feminist Dictionary (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1992).

      35. At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the College of Engineering adopted the following sexual harassment statement for posting in its public computer laboratories: "Sexual harassment is any statement that a reasonable person would find offensive, humiliating, or an interference with his or her required tasks or career opportunities at the University. When sexual harassment is found to have occurred, the University will vigorously pursue disciplinary action." Users of these terminals should be aware of the public nature of shared facilities and take care not to display images or play sounds that could create an atmosphere of harassment for others. Similar considerations apply to electronic mail exchanges. "Anyone who finds a particular sexually-oriented image or sound to be interfering with his or her required tasks can notify the site operator (who will remind the person displaying the material of the sexual harassment policy). If the person persists, contact the Assistant Dean for Sexual Harassment."

      36. Here we use mainstream terminology. Actually, the language of individual "control" and "rights" should alert us to the problems we will have in conceptualizing and using communal networks. For discussion of the limitations of control, see Irene Diamond, Fertile Ground: Women, the Earth, and the Limits of Control (Boston: Beacon Press, 1994).

      37. Globally, the number of Internet users is projected to reach 502 million by 2003. See "Internet Users Now Exceed 100 Million," report of article in the New York Times, November 12, 1999, in Edupage, November 12, 1999, at EDUCAUSE@EDUCAUSE.EDU.

      38. Earthtrust, an organization concerned with international wildlife protection and environmental problems, has made extensive use of electronic mail to connect volunteers and organization offices.

      39. For information on what is increasingly called the digital divide, see the bibliographies and reports in "Current Native American Technology and Telecommunications Projects" (1994 to present), <http://www.benton.org/Library/Native>, and National Telecommunications and Information Association (1999), "Americans in the Information Age Falling through the Net," <http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/digitaldivide/index.html>. Gender issues are seldom included in these reports and surveys, so we focus on them here.

      40. These guidelines are an expansion of those developed by Maureen Ebben for a WITS colloquium session.





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