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Computer dialogs: technology, gender and change
1998 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other scientific)
Abstract [en]

The thesis is a study of meetings between humans andcomputers; i.e. studying computers from a user perspective anda gender perspective within the context of a changing workinglife. The theoretical approach emphasises a parallelunderstanding of gender and technology: both are analysed associal and cultural constructs, and the analysis of therelationship between them must include several levels ofunderstanding, holding that the relationship between the twohas its strength from its many dimensions. On the structurallevel, technologies materialise a division of work into maleand female domains. On the symbol level, technology is anexpression of this division telling people where they belong,and by this sense of belonging technology is integrated ingendered identities. The computer means changing relationshipsto technology on all of these levels compared to previousmechanical machinery. It transgresses borders between differenttypes of work and‘male’and‘femaletasks’, it symbolises mind and brains rather than musclesand strain, and it is not an exclusive domain for thetechnically competent.

People meet the computer with different tools forunderstanding because different professions have differenttraditions of acquiring knowledge. At the same time changingtechnologies open new ways of understanding while closingothers. Abstraction is a catchword by which many peoplecharacterise their experience of computers. There has been ahegemonic way to the understanding of technology which is toknow how each part works and how different parts are connected,often based on concrete, tactile experience. With the computer,this way of understanding loses its hegemony.

Meetings with new technologies are simultaneouslynegotiations of femininity and masculinity. This means thatdifference may be stressed whereas similarities are notrecognised or under-communicated. Only in relation to a‘feminine other’can the mastery of technologyconfirm a masculine identity. They are, however, at the sametime situations for renegotiations. As a border crosser, thecomputer has changed from a calculating machine to a means ofcommunication, thus crossing between two social domains withdifferent gender connotations. The computer, accordingly, is amost versatile object and in that respect different frommechanical machinery which on the structural as well as thesymbol level has connected technology and masculinity.

Keywords: technology, gender, computers, userperspective, skills, abstraction, material culture, images ofeveryday life.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
1998. , 238 p.
Skriftserie, 2/98
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-2666ISBN: 99-2614177-3OAI: diva2:8339
Public defence
NR 20140805Available from: 2000-01-01 Created: 2000-01-01Bibliographically approved

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