April 12, 2007

American Airlines Gender-Specific Search

Remember our Week 4 discussion about gender on the Internet? Take a look at this, via The Consumerist:

American Airlines Gender-Specific Searches

When I clicked over to AA’s Women Travelers Connected today, the searches no longer looked like the one pictured on the left. Perhaps enough women wrote in to tell them that um, we kinda like having tools.

February 14, 2007

Other research at the U on gender, identity, and power in digital spaces

Brunner has spent the last decade studying female leaders and power within school administrations. In 2002 she and colleagues from the University's Digital Media Center created Experiential Simulations (ES), an online environment similar to a chat room where people's true identities are masked to others in the group.

Each person is given a "modified persona"--an assigned gender, racial, class and positional identity unlike their own. They are instructed not to reveal personal details to one another. When they log in, each sees his or her own image, while their classmates see images and video that represent the assigned persona. The students are unaware of this, however, and assume that the others are seeing them as they actually are.

In this context, students work together in situations designed to show how their perception of other people shapes their own decisions. Offline, the students answer questions concerning their assumptions about power and stereotypes, their communication and their decision-making practices.

Afterward, they compare their profiles of themselves to cumulative data sets collected since 2002 that expose to them their skills in communication, leadership and collaboration, as well as their biases and how they use power.

Read the rest here.

February 11, 2007

Opposites Attract??

Meet my opposite Juan. The main reason why he is the opposite of me is because he is COLD! I hate being cold and would do ANYTHING to avoid the winters. I enjoy looking at the snow fall from the inside looking out, but I would much rather be on a sunny beach somewhere in paradise. After many hours of frustration and wanting to throw my computer against the wall I was able to save Juan and carry on.

Playing different gender roles on the Internet at times may be thrilling for many. Through the readings and learning about the different personalities that people pursue can be frightening at times. I personally have never entered a chat room or talked with people that I do not know for this reason. It started when I was in middle school when I would talk on-line on AOL and my parents somewhat regulated who I was in contact with and would scare me about horror stories that they “heard?.

When playing a different gender on the internet can be hard and many times impossible. After a certain time, no matter the situation people becomes too comfortable with their “friends? and things start to slip up and their true personality comes out. According to Turkle,? to pass as a woman for any length of time requires understanding how gender inflects speech, manner, and the interpretation of experience.? It would be very hard to be 100% in the other gender role; however I think that it is much easier to do on the internet instead of in person. When looking at the differences between the genders, it is not only their personality but their mannerisms and the way they portray themselves is like black and white. This has just brought to my attention that maybe the people that I have been talking to may not be completely trustworthy in the things they say on-line or I guess now even their gender. I would never think to ask someone what their gender is because I feel as though I just assume based off of their screen name. I myself feel as though I trust people too easily either in person but now as it was brought to my attention through the events that has happened to me this past week that the internet is so much easier to say something on the internet and believing it.

People are so much braver when they do not have to be face to face or hear the tone in the other person’s voice of their emotion. For example for Turkle, Rob, the shy 14 boy uses the internet to almost build up his confidence. He talked about how being on-line he can really just talk, and they could be on line all day long but could never do that in person because of all the pressure he has from society. I feel as though the on-line chatting is almost testing the waters of who you are or where you want to be without the pressures of anyone else for instance making fun of you because of the way that you approached the situation or anything of the sorts.

RL, and the Meez Kayla.

Well this is extremely frusterating.....since I just typed my entire blog....and the wonderful page timed out, so basically I need to retype everything. which I don't particularly have time for .
I guess I could describe Kayla as someone who reflects some qualities of me, who has plenty that are not me, and someone who might have some I am looking for. She's relaxed and doesn't particularly live loud. Definitely could put herself permanently on a beach.

Both of these articles were really good reads. The more I read the more light is shed onto my novice understanding of how much people's real lives are intertwined with virtual reality. As I read through Turkle I tried to pull both the positive and negative feedback as it pertains to me about exploring this seemingly double lifestyle that so many people have engaged themselves in. I believe alot of positive can be pulled from these online lives, but so much of this so called "tinysex " seemed to interfere with more of my moral / emotional side of me. Even in the first example involving the two individuals Corey and Joely (who would pose as joel in MUDs) were able to experience conversations being the women they were in RL, and as males or even unknowns in the virtual world. They would be able to fufill the saying of "well put yourself in my shoes" and the internet can give you endless shoes to fill with maybe even no consequences. I said maybe because there are always going to be some sort of repercussion to an action, and they could be good or bad.
This more pertains to the issue of "tinysex" over the net. As Turkle described this act as many people's centerpiece of their virtual world experience. This concept is not that hard for me to grasp since our society is so inclined to sexual vices to grab people's attention. Why would this concept hold true over the safety wall of the internet where your options are endless as to how you want to experience it. But run into my moral dilemma on this issue because it can hurt a relationship deeply. Turkle gave us some examples of couples who had experienced these internet "affairs" I would not consider either to be healthy. Maybe you are able to explore stuff and gain some knowledge that might help your RL relationship, but is that knowledge worth the risk of hurting or loosing your RL relationship and then you are just left with your virtual one. I t is not worth it to me in the least bit.


The Meez program is really quite entertaining. I was quite impressed regarding how many options one can choose from, it gives the user a sense of being able to customize the Meez to a fair extent. Anyway, this is Giselle; she is 23 and a model. She enjoys the Euro style look, hanging out, having a good time, and making money. It is funny to think that I could make a false myspace page, find an image somewhat similar to Giselle, post my Meez character, and start acting on it.

After reading the Tinysex and Gender Trouble, I realized that having another gender online might have more strings attached than I ever thought possible. I found it quite interesting when Turkle talks about the online affairs people have; whether or not the person is physically a male or female, it does not matter when one can make a cyber MUD the same sex, opposite sex, or of a different species. One of the interviewers said he broke off a relationship because of the gender swapping his girlfriend did online. He said “We are not ready for the psychological confusion this technology can bring.? (Turkle, 225). A lot of the online role playing games really can be more powerful that initially thought. One of my friends decided to start playing World of Warcraft, it came with a 3 month free trail, and now, 7 months later, he is still hooked on it. I believe an online persona can become part of you, for better or for worse, but it can happen.

In many senses it can be good for people to communicate and experiment socially, sexually, etc. But when I read about the shy 14 year old Rob, in Turkle’s article, explaining about how he feels much more comfortable flirting and talking to girls on-line rather than in person, I feel sorry for him and that generation because of the lack of intimacy involved, compared to when speaking to someone face-to-face. Anyway, I realize that this is something that will definitely shape our future generation’s social communication strategy. Peace.

February 8, 2007

Meet Skinny Pipes

Continue reading "Meet Skinny Pipes" »

I wear my sunglasses at night

so I can, so I can...Hi there. Apologies for the slightly late submission (once again) and I'd like to say, first of all, thanks Comcast for giving me faulty internet access. (Takin' it to the man!)
Swiftly moving on, this Meez thing was quite fun. Though I do believe it would take a power-user to get through all the options. It is sure, however, that much consideration went into the creation of these online-identity-builders. Obviously Meez is aiming for the generations that are growing up when online identity can be just as important as reality. Similar to the cell phone industry. These days, if you don't have a cell phone, you almost, just almost, don't exist in theminds of the mobile-subscribing population. It's a matter of presence in the mediums through which people commonly communicate, and Meez (or others, like DookyWeb) allows users to mold this presence very thoroughly. This promise of close-to-infinite customization makes the number of options less surprising, but still it is reduced to generalities and stereotypes. I find the "sort by theme" options interesting. Things like "Hipster" and "Mom" bold judgments to make about one's self, but we have to do it in every interaction we have, and this holds almost more true in online communication where our self-projection is the basis (and monopolizing force) behind other's understanding of our character.
My internet usage is characteristically confined to communication with people that I know from outside of the web. In this way, I am able to place a lot more trust in people's self-projected identity though it is still very malleable. For this reason, I found the Turkle article interesting, but much harder to relate to. Her interviewees, while discussing the nature of their MUD experiences, were confronting issues I haven't come into contact with. Of course, when chat rooms were still very new it was almost unavoidable to see the e-sex happening seemingly everywhere. And of course when someone signs in with the screen name "HotLesbianGirl" you've gotta think it's a thirteen-year-old boy looking for kicks. But some of the stories, like Ribbit, the helpful frog, were oh so lucid. A nice cut-away of a social-experiment of sorts, but with benefits. The ability of Ribbit's human player to work through social issues by role-playing. I couldn't help think of Borat during this reading. Though Sasha Baron Cohen's alter ego was a permutation of ethnicity, the results were the same. People treat you like what they think you are.
And how fitting that the Gurak text quotes Turkle in the epigraph to chapter four. Her explanation of the male-dominated birth of the internet gave a nice dimension to the gender-bending MUD experiences. She really takes it to Mattel too, but I couldn't help but think "Aren't people still buying this stuff?" Truly, if the products didn't sell, I doubt Mattel would bother. But, this article (hyperlink) makes some good points about the inevitable limit to the power of pink and flowers over adolescent females. Bad news for Mattel I guess.
The parts in Gurak's text about message-board behavior were interesting too, though as with MUD's I'm not a regular (or even initiated) user, so I haven't the experience to bounce her words against. Her analysis of trends like emoticons and flaming as generally prevalent gender roles--or more accurately--habits, are not surprising most of the time. Would a teen boy building his meez choose the "Hood Candy" animation so his avatar could sit alluringly on top of a hotrod? Maybe "HotLesbianGirl" would, but he's the real deal...right?

February 7, 2007

It's a Meez, Mario

Okay, so the name's not Mario, it's Mailliw02, which is William and 20 backwards. My Meez is a girl, cares about her hair, dresses up, and likes to show herself off. She is also in front of an anarchy symbol which I thought was perfect being that I am in Washington, D.C.

I think it is amazing that so much study goes into all of this. Before I knew the Cyberliteracy book and Turkle's chapters existed, I could not have even thought about so much brainpower going into the equivalent of "women's rights on the Internet". Now that I have found it, I'm kind of intrigued. Because most everything is laid out in text, or at least the Internet started that way, it seems it is easier to put different spins on things, and take things out of context. At the same time I now realize there are some real gender issues on the web that I have not thought about. I just think that sometimes people take it to the extreme.
One thing that I thought was amazing to study was Gurak's analysis of gender swapping near the end of the chapter. I didn't realize we could breakdown what a person was so easily by gender. While I'm sure there are exceptions, it seems we can learn a lot by the way people type, like in "Joan's" case, where a man was trying to be a women, but was much more aggressive than most women. "Men, even when disguised as women still exhibit classic male traits." (Gurak, 80) While this is of course true, I think she takes it to the extreme when she says, "Cyberspace is not cut off from the everyday sexism of the regular world" (Gurak, 81). I would argue that it is. If a man goes into a chatroom and starts sexually harassing a woman, it may have nothing to do with him being sexist in "real life". Just as women can step out of character to be men, men can step out of character to be women, I think both can step out of character to be sexist. How do we know that "Joan" wasn't a very shy male in real life, who would have a heard time approaching a woman? At the same time "Joan" wanted to really be a powerful overbearing male, so he went online to try and engage women in sex by being smooth and coercive. Women could do the same thing, be very powerful in "real life", and like to be submissive. While Gurak tries to tell us to stop the stereotypes on the net, I think she herself is creating her own while trying to fight for women's rights. While I think there should be equality on the web and would agree that "fake-lesbian syndrome" (from Turkle) probably occurs, the authors do not do a very good job of stepping out of their issues at hand (women's rights) and looking at what women want men to be, which I think has a lot of influence about how men act. I don't have any studies at hand to back me up besides my own observations, but I would argue that women like men who are confident. One way of doing this is to be cocky, while there are other ways that do not get the point across as easily (like being modest AND confident at the same time), so it is easier for men to be dominant and cocky and respected by women in my opinion. Because I don't want to further open up that can of worms, I will stop there, but I just want to make sure that we understand that these two readings are both written by women, which is fine, but they aren't doing a very good job of gender swapping.

“My Meez character is definetly having a personality crisis?

My Meez character is so far from who I am, it just makes me laugh! I chose a male who was into gaming and being in his room late at night on the computer. He is into punk rock and likes to talk with words like “raddddd, man? and “totally sweet game…? I am a very social person who enjoys sports and being active, and I rarely spend time alone unless I am working out or reading a book. While I like being online, I find that being on the computer too long makes me feel disconnected with the world. The last time I can actually remember thinking about being a male was when I was little. I always thought that I could be better at sports if I was just a guy! The character I created would rather make eye contact with the screen and is shy around anyone with who he does not know. I, on the other hand, love being with people I know and do not know. I think it is so much fun to hear about other people and their lives.
From Cyberliteracy, I enjoyed reading about the little things men and women do to make online communication more comfortable for their gender. For example, women use emoticons to make light of topics, or to set a tone (Cyberliterecy 72). I think this is so true, because if I am unsure of the tone someone might think I have, I know I can always add a “?? and get away with it! I also
The quote from Turkle I would like to discuss is “. . . chivalries communicate belief in female incompetence? (Turkle 211). I really think that it is amazing how chivalry still presents itself today; both in the social world and the online world. We, as women, are to believe that there is gender equality, but I still think it exists. Many assumptions about women’s responsibilities on earth are due to our anatomical differences. But, when it comes to the workplace, our brain power should never be thought of as lower. I also think Gurak’s discussion of online gender bias’ being that of the real world, is true to many degrees, but is harder to always see. Online, the reality of no face to face contact means that we are not always aware of the bias’ going on. If you pretend to be male and are female online, you will have less prejudice and probably more acceptance. But, once a person finds out you have been lying, I think they questions come flooding in.
As far as Turkle’s experience being a male, I think I would have felt the same way. I would be unsure of myself, because there are so many different aspects of a male that are just unfamiliar and foreign to me. It even boils down to how manly you should act in any given situation. All in all though, it is a good exercise of “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes? and understanding the struggles of the other gender. It would probably be a good exercise for companies to engage in; perhaps in an interview setting. If you could allow a male to see how a woman gets treated (just because she is a woman!) I think this could help resolve and enhance a male’s insight into our world. The opposite is just as true for a female seeing what it is like to be in a male’s shoes. During an interview, there are probably assumptions about a male’s capabilities and knowledge that make the interview tough for the male as well. Overall, I believe that this week’s readings and use of the Meez site have really gotten me thinking about gender and gender differences in an entirely different way.

Who's who in whoville

I found myself getting way too engaged with Meez. Not only did I make a character opposite from myself I also made a character that is very similar to myself. For the character opposite myself I tried to model him after an active strong older male. I toyed with his looks and setting many times, he was a sports fan, a hippy, but I ultimately decided to have him be a snowboarder. I did this because I’m not a fan of either winter or winter sports, the though of snowboarding makes me cringe. As I played around with this guy’s looks I found myself creating a story for him. Who is he? What kind of job does he have? What are his likes and dislikes? I think that he is a macho guy, so I think he would prone to “flaming? in online conversations. In Cyberliteracy, Gurak says that “flaming is often a male style of communication? (p. 72). A classic flame would be “assertive, sarcastic, and rood to boot? (Gurak, p. 73). After reading Gurak I found it very interesting to read the following quote in Turkle: “In other words, for Case, if you are assertive as a man, it is coded as ‘being a bastard.’ If you are assertive as a woman, it is coded as ‘modern and together.’? It really made me think, if I as a woman make sarcastic strong remarks, but if a guy does it he’s a “bastard!? I’m really enjoying contemplating gender roles online.

Continue reading "Who's who in whoville" »

Are you (wo)man enough for Chi-chi?

Opposite MeOpposite Me2

Meet Chi-chi, the cigar-chomping, in-your-face, rough 'n tough but not afraid to dress girly girl. Like me, she has some features that are usually associated with the opposite gender (I've been told I have many feminine features). Take the cigar or the big, angry eyes--or the metal--all are often associated with male aggression. I'm usually not at all like that. ^__^ Then, of course, there's the bright hair and pinkness...

From playing online games, I have seen quite a bit of gender-swapping. Usually, I have only seen or noticed males playing as females, because it really is obvious much of the time. It was also my experience that, when playing as a female character, male characters would follow or talk to me much more often. I played most of my time, however, as a male with a female name (that I chose under the impression that it was a male name--kind of like Shannon).

Hola Lola

I've always enjoyed the story of Alice in Wonderland. The complexity of the story lends itself to analysis beyond the layer of fun on the surface reveals imagery of a completely unexpected nature. Something so fanciful and far from reality seemed like a good antithesis to myself. Not going to lie, this picture is pretty ridiculous however it is a perfect example of how one can represent themselves as such a farce on the internet.

The idea of gender identity on the internet is largely driven by stereotypes as opposed to what people chose to represent themselves as. I like Gurak's example that starts at the bottom of page 72 showing how people reinforce these opinions. It is always easy to find posts supporting stereotypes and even easier to look over the posts that discount them. It seems to me that services such as Meez seek to perpetuate these stereotypes with the default appearances they give when a gender is chosen.

While these stereotypes are an ingrained part of the internet, general users can often benefit from them by finding easy ways to disguise themselves as a member of the opposite gender or of any social group for that matter. The stereotypes provide a barrier in terms of a wall and a blind. One to shut out, the other to hide behind. They have both draw-backs and uses to those who act on or exploit them.


Here is the avatar I created. He represents a male punk, who likes to be portrayed as bad and get in lots and lots of trouble. Likes to get in a lot of fights with men or women—doesn’t matter to him, as long as there is some type of controversy present, he is happy! Well in reality, this is the complete opposite of who I am. I am a female and am the type of person that stays clear of trouble and likes to portray a pretty good/innocent image. The one thing I hate is any type of controversy, I try and avoid it at all measures. This was my first time creating an avatar, and I must say I had a wonderful time doing so. It wasn’t the easiest thing to pick and choose from the hundreds of choices from hair color, skin color, personality type, to what kind of clothing. I’m a very indecisive person to begin with, so you can only imagine it took me a while to pick and choose every quality of my avatar.

This was my first time, creating an avatar and creating an identity of an opposite gender of what I really am. I don’t know how well I’d actually do going further into trying to portray myself as a male via the Internet, while communicating with others. I think Gurak brings up a good point when she talked about that there are different gender behaviors that help differentiate the communication style differences between male and females. Gurak states, “ …when women contributed, their language was attenuated and meek, while men’s language was assertive and imperative. Men made more statements while women asked more questions. Men were more sarcastic and self-promoting , while women often asked supportive questions and made apologies for themselves and their thoughts.? (72) I found this to be extremely interesting and I could definitely relate a lot to the women’s generalizations found in this study. I feel that men are more direct and to the point with particular answers to questions, while women have a tendency to elaborate on the answers, but this is just my personal opinion.

I guess I don’t really know how I feel about being able to play with identity so easily via the Internet. I personally haven’t seen any perks in my own experience, that would lead me to inform people I was a male verses a female. However according to Gurak, “It is true that switching gender via the Internet can be an enlightening experience, and many online participants have reported new insights when they logged in as the opposite sex.? (79). This brings up the credibility of people online as well. To what point to you trust the person you are communicating with, that they are feeding you truthful information? If people are willing to lie about their gender, what other measures about themselves are they willing to lie about?

(He's secretly wearing lingerie under there.)

Here is my alter-ego: a skinny, dark-skinned, male sports fan. I think the clothes are supposed to be football, but the background seems more like basketball. As you might imagine, I don't know or care much about organized sports, and would probably not be able to carry this identity off very successfully. Like some other folks here, I noticed that on Meez, at least, we are given a rather false sense of variety... too bad for you if you want to be someone that isn't on the menu.

For the most part, I agree with Gurak's position that "Cyberspace is not cut off from the everyday sexism of the world" (Cyberliteracy, p.81), and that part of being a cyberliterate person is to recognize the similar social problems that affect us on-and-offline. Cyberspace replicates society at large, and can more easily accomodate the long tail (making it easier for users with obscure interests or concerns to find eachother) but as long as sexism ( racism, homophobia, classism, ageism, look-ism...) as long as these attitudes persist in the 'real world', they'll be replicated online. The Internet allows for safe spaces to exist in new ways, but I don't believe these spaces exist only because identities are disguised--there are real life spaces where men can safely behave or dress in "unmanly" ways, and where women can assert themselves without being labeled a bitch. Gurak reminds us that these spaces are increasingly mirrored on the 'Net: "We can construct sites that defy this trend, reject Barbie computers, create new role models for girls and women, and recognize that there is no utopia, even in cyberspace." (p.81)

in "Tinysex Gender Trouble", Turkel writes, " We are tempted to believe with the utopians that the Internet is a field for the flowering of participatory democracy and a medium for the transformation of education." (p. 12) I think it's interesting that both of these writers feel the need to remind us that the Internet is not a utopian paradise, and in such similar language. There are certain aspects of my life that are more convienient thanks to the web, but a new piece of communication technology does not an egalitarian wonderland make. I'm curious whether there are actually people who believe it does. I don't spend very much time socializing on the computer, but I have noticed some of the things both of these writers talk about: differing language styles and goals, men (or users I believe to be men) tending to dominate the conversation, and users in general being interested in knowing the gender of others, whether or not it's relevant to the discussion.

Hey Boys...Wanna see whats under the hood?

First things first, I’d like you all to meet my Meez. Her real name is Bianca, but some other meez already had that, so she is going under the pseudonym “szes0002?. I can honestly say that this is the first time I’ve altered my gender on the internet, except for a few practical jokes; but that’s neither here nor there. I tried to make my Meez as different from myself as possible. However, with this assignment, I found it very interesting how I wanted to make my Meez be what I would consider attractive. Yes, I know she’s a little underdressed…but I was just having fun. In the same respect, I could have had just as much fun making her ugly and repulsive, but that’s not what my first instinct was to do.

After reading the material given to us in class, I was very surprised, and yet curious regarding a point Turkle made. She explained how a variety of people created a different gender than their own online. She then went on to explain that a majority of these people did so because they wanted to understand and feel how the opposite sex was treated, how they thought, and what situations they were put in. Using a specific example, in “Tinysex and Gender Trouble,? Turkle talks about a 28-year-old male named Garrett who has taken on an online female gender. She quotes him, “I wanted to know more about women’s experiences, and not just from reading about them… I wanted to see what the difference felt like. I wanted to experiment with the other side…I wanted to be collaborative and helpful, and I thought it would be easier as a female...? However, I fail to see how playing a different gender MUD allows you to REALLY experience all those things. Yes, I believe that certain things are definitely different, such as women probably get hit on a lot more than men in the online world. But in regards to Garrett’s case, I feel that in the online world, men and women are on an equal playing field when it comes to helping another person out.

After being exposed to Second Life last week, I became interested in doing a project for another one of my classes on it. In order to acquire the necessary data, I had to create an account, and actually try it out. After learning to walk and fly, I learned how to interact with people. In answering the question, “How does this ability influence our actions in digital spaces?? I would like to use SL as an example. When online, it depends on the medium you are using to connect with people. If you were chatting with someone on a dating website, you would want to be careful, and make sure that the person you are talking with is actually the gender that you are being led to believe. AKA, in this situation I believe your actions should be shielded with precaution. However, after trying to interview people on Second Life, I found that they did not like to even acknowledge their first or real life. So in that respect, when within the realm of SL, I don’t think people even consider being cautious in regards to gender.

Personally, I am not really involved in an online community, so I don’t have much experience with the matter. Also, because I don’t count on the online world to build relationships, I don’t have any concerns about the possibility of people using a pseudo-gender. However, if I did, I would much rather prefer that everyone was truthful in telling their gender online, so I could know who I am really dealing with, as opposed to a person that is completely fake.

My Meez

I created this Meez because he is physically different than my real life identity. To begin with he is male, I am female.
I wanted to give him crazy blue hair, but every time I tried to save the hair, it disappeared. In contrast, I have black hair that rarely gets colored or altered. I dressed him in punk attire to make him appear young. While I think skull shirts rock, I don't think it is appropriate for a pregant 30 year old (me) to wear them. And finally, my Meez is Caucasion and I am Korean. Because I was adopted, I mostly identify with Caucasion culture (namely Scandinavian), but my features are quite different than this Meez that I created.

In my opening statement, I mentioned that my Meez was physically different than me. However, I believe we have a simliar personality. I have masculine personality traits, therefore creating his "persona" was easy. In my writing and acting classes I usually take on the male perspective. I feel more comfortable speaking in first person as a male.
Perhaps that is why I found Gurak's statement "And no wonder women are still having difficulties gaining access to cyberspace" (Gurak, Cyberliteracy, p. 71) surprising. I have never encountered 'sexism' on the internet. Nor did I ever think it was gender biased.

Further I realized that my type of communication on the internet is like a males, " assertive, sarcastic and rude to boot" (Gurak, Cyberliteracy, p. 71). I used to work in an HR position at a company where 95% of the employees were females. I was often confronted on my 'short, emotionless emails'. As a result, I began using smiley emoticons to soften my communication approach. " This use of such emoticons as smileys is often a feature of women's discourse, used to deflect the tension of a situation and provide a bit of comfort for the reader." (Gurak, Cyberliteracy, p. 73).

Last week I was neutral on the subject of falsifying one's identity online. But now, after this activity, I see how fascinating it can be to create an avator, adopt a new personality, and explore a different side of yourself. I would be interested in trying out my male persona to see how men react to it. I believe it would be similar to Shakespeare's As You LIke It, when "Rosalind and Orlando meet 'man to man', as Ganymeade and Orlando, they are able to speak freely" (Turkle, Life On the Screen, p. 216). It would be entertaining to see how long it takes until the man figures out that I am actually a woman. Now if only I could trick one of the sexist Rensselaer alums...


The Meez character that I chose to create reflects a different kind of personality from mine. The character that I created has a bad boy attitude and it is reflected not only from his body language, but also by his unique hairstyle, the eyebrow piercing, as well as the punk-like clothing. I am far from being this kind of character. I for one, do not have half-shaven hair and I only have ear piercings. The character that I created is far more aggressive and also forward than I am. You could tell from "his" looks and attitude that he doesn't really care about what other people think and is not shy to express his personality. I think that this character represents some of the things that I wish I had. For instance, I wish that I could have as bold of a personality and attitude as well as the inner freedom to express personality and not care about what other people think. I am one of those people who tries to please everyone and tries to avoid fights and confrontations. This character represents someone who is not afraid to speak his mind and stands up for his views. The dark alley in the background is supposed to suggest that he's not afraid of any other person and could defend himself in any fight.

In relation to Cyberliteracy, I think that my Meez character represents a classic male who can flame another person without a second thought in his mind. As Susan Herring has found, "flaming is often a male style of communication" because "men [make] more sarcastic and self-promoting" remarks (Cyberliteracy, 72). Women, on the other hand, such as me, tend to use language that is "attenuated and meek" (Cyberliteracy, 72). Women are also more likely to use emoticons such as smiley faces which are "used to deflect the tension of a situation and provide a bit of comfort for the reader" (Cyberliteracy, 73). The underlying reason for that difference in communication styles is due the social "norms" and expectations. For hundreds of thousands or millions of years, women have been inferior and subordinate to men's power and statis in societies across the world. This sort of view, which has been changing over the years, had leaked into the cyberworld from the beginning of the computer age. "Gender bias, just as in real life, are evident online" (Cyberliteracy, 66). Gender biases have been carried into the cyberworld because from the very beginning, they have reflected the views of men who were seeing women as sex objects and not as people who were on the same plain field. I think that with more time, the gap between the two gender roles are going to become more diminished. I think that through the means of gender swapping, people are going to become more aware of what it is like to be in the shoes of someone of the opposite gender.

"Gender-swapping is an opportunity to explore conflicts raised by one's biological gender...the practice encourages reflection on the way ideas about gender shape our expectations" (Turkle, 213).
The "exercise" of switching genders on online communication programs has allowed many people to experiment and better understand the other gender. By pretending to be of someone of the opposite sex, they get to experience the ways in which they get approached by other people. For instance, Turkle has stated that when she pretended to be a man on MUDs, she felt that it "was a strange exercise, especially because a significant portion of the female-presenting characters were RL men, and a good number of the male-presenting characters were RL women" (Turkle, 211). This kind of gender play is a much safer way of experimenting than in real life. For instance, Turkle gave the possible scenario of a man trying to pretend to be a woman and the various things that he would need to do in order to play it off well. For one thing, he would need to change his voice, mannerisms, wear makeup, dress up in a woman's attire, and risk being harrassed or arrested if he wasn't successful. (Turkle, 212). There is just a lot more work involved into pulling off a stunt like that in real life than on the computer where everyone hides behind a screen. I think that if people were to experiment with gender swapping, it is better to do it online because many people probably are aware of the possibility that the person that they are communicating with are not who they say they are. I know that the article "Tinysex and Gender Trouble" has talked about the issue of deception. "Although some peopel think that representing oneself as other than one is is always a deception, many people turn to online life with the intention of playing it in precisely this way" (Turkle, 228). I personally think that deception is not a good thing, and I really don't know if it is right to pose as someone else online, but I think that it's better when you don't know the person that you're communicating with. Let me explain by saying that, everyone who goes online and chats with people all over the country and world, needs to be aware of the possibility that they are being deceived by the other person's description of themselves. Many times, people pose to be someone who they are not whether it is personality wise, or gender wise. In either case, I think that if people are aware of that, and they are okay with it, then it's not probably not that big of a deal. But to think of a fourteen year old girl having online sex with a fourty year old man is kinda creepy. I know that from my own experience, I tend to not fully believe the other person who I am speaking to unless they consistently prove to me that they are who they saw they are. The way that I can tell is if the things that they say and the way that they write have consistent patterns and fit together like the pieces of a puzzle. Overall, I think that the gender playing is more like a game of getting to know what it is like to be someone of the opposite gender and is much safer and easier to do than in RL. Other than that, things like the ethics of online sex still require more time for people to figure out. I think that it has a lot to do with personal morals and preferrances. It's still a hazy issue.

SWF that likes Clint Eastwood movies?? rrrrrrrrright.

Reading Gurak's ideas on gender were interesting. She described the roots of the internet and how gender roles present themselves even though some claimed that on the internet "There is no race", and "There is no gender" (Gurak 66). Having worked in an engineering department that's 99% male, I can readily imagine that male engineers and programmers were responsible for the design of the Internet. The internet may very well have been designed based on a masculine style of communication.

I was concerned with a few of Gurak's assertions. She implied that commands like "abort" have some sort of feminine connotation (Gurak 71). I think that her reasoning was really strained on that one. After that claim she states " wonder women are still having trouble gaining access to cyberspace" (Gurak 71). Even if the term was taken from the concept of a woman having an abortion, I don't see how that could prevent a woman from accessing cyberspace.

Gurak then goes on to discuss the concept of "flaming", which basically is challenging or assaulting someone online (Gurak 73). Her description of the conversation on page 72 seems a little biased. Yes the "flamer" was assertive and rude, but I think that the wording of the woman's statement seemed a bit combative as well. This seems to be a good example of how people need to be careful how they phrase there communications in email and messenger style chat sessions.

I also took exception to Gurak's implication on page 75 that the flame stickers on the "Hot Wheels" style of children's computer had any relation to the concept of flaming in an email message. That flame logo happens to have been on Hot Wheel cars for well over 25 years. I don't see how she could justify that assertion.

I don’t think that Gurak was taking care to be objective when she wrote this chapter. Her claims that the roots of the virtual world are male biased seems a little strange. From her perspective, there can never be any balance because the core of the programming and the equipment has a male slant. I don't see how software, which at its core is a collection of ones and zeros, can have a male bias. She implies on page 72 that the hardware of the computers have a male bias. That is absolutely ridiculous. This makes it sound as if the issue can never be resolved because the equipment and the programming's roots are tainted.

What we really need to consider is the different communications styles that masculine and feminine genders utilize. In that sense, the virtual world was most likely designed from the standpoint of a masculine communicator. This is where Deborah Tannen's Genderlects theory comes into play. Tannen states that male and female conversation is cross-cultural communication (A First Look at Communication, Em Griffin). This vantage seems fairer and doesn't assign blame as Gurak's ideas seem to. If we consider Tannen's point of view, the whole thing isn't tainted, maybe we just need to work on creating sites that suit both gender's communication style.

I found Turkle's ideas to be a bit more interesting and well thought out. It's interesting that people have frequently portrayed themselves as the opposite sex. The internet seems to be a safe place for a person to create a whole new persona or walk in another person's shoes.

It's an amusing coincidence that people (of either sex) who portrayed themselves as the opposite sex had similar experiences. Both Zoe on page 221 and Case on page 220 shared that they felt as if they could be more assertive when they were claiming to be the opposite sex. Both felt this way because they didn't have to worry about the negative stereotypes that either sex suffered in regards to being assertive in conversation.

I've never tried it but think that this could be valuable if used in other realms. People could take a sort of virtual trip to see what it's like to be a different race or religion. This could really help people better understand one another. It sounds like people find it rewarding when they portray other people.

I guess as long as you accept the possibility that the person you are talking to might be the opposite of who they claim to be, you can walk away from it with something positive. I usually only discuss technical issues with other people online. I don't really care who they are as long as their nice to me. Then again, I might get faster replies from people at the Jeep Forum if I say I'm a 25 year old super model. There are just a few female Jeep owners that frequent the site.

I definitely think that kids need to be careful when they venture online. The thought of online predators makes my skin crawl. On the other hand, the virtual world sounds like it could help kids that, like me, were really shy. It's a new way for them to be able to talk with other people. Escape and communication can be a good thing when you are a teenager.

Meez is funny. I can see it really taking off. It's another way for people to portray themselves in a different way. I set one up for myself. I don't know if I'll use it much. In the past, I've used a favorite landscape photo or a picture of my cat sitting next to a little statue of Buddha. I like doing that better than using Meez. It feels like I'm expressing myself when I use a pic that I shot myself.

Les Meezerables

This is my avatar on the cheap. We are different in the following ways: he is well-dressed, deep-complextioned, square-jawed, has an apparently good cash flow, blond spiked frizzy hair; I am a female, pale, cash-strapped, formerly blonde. This was fun, though as another student noted, there seemed to be a dearth of age/shape diversity in Meez. Ahem.

I have to say I really enjoyed the Turkle chapter of Life on the Screen, "Tinysex and Gender Trouble." It would have never occurred to me that men would pose as women to try to suss out their own feelings about gender and roles. As Turkle points out, "Biological men have to construct male gender just as women have to construct female gender." (p. 215 Turkle) It was fascinating to me that Turkle's study subjects, Case and Garrett, came at the same problem with opposite conclusions. Case thought, erroneously in my opinion, that it was much easier to be an assertive woman than an assertive male online. Garrett, tired of male competition wanted to find ways to communicate cooperation and non-competitiveness, without being interpreted as manipulative. In the end, I think a lot of assumptions about gender come from the user. Garrett valued his mother's influence on his childhood, and wanted to strengthen the skills she fostered in him. Case seemed to think that his assertiveness taxed the patience of the women around him. I thnk the person who summed up the problem of posing and being seen as someone of the opposite gender was Ellen, who posed as a non-threatening male "looking for his socks" --"People are nice if they don't view you as a threat." Does that mean that assumptions about gender are really assumptions about power? I think so!

In my own on-line life I have seen hints of the male "helpfulness' to me and other 'women' when first on a messageboard. The material, as another student noticed last week was published in 1995--have attitudes changed? I read in Newsweek the week that this generation of children notice race far less than previous generations. Perhaps that will be true of gender and the Internet. That we are aware that the party to whom we are 'speaking' is very likely not who we think they are, or what they would like us to believe, COULD create eventually, a culture of care and neutrality.

In my experience, flaming is not gender specific, although I do agree with Gurak (p. 72) that the "operating standard" of attitudes and rhetorical style (read informed bluster) may have been the genesis of the flame. I see that even now with the e-mails my husband receives from his gaming buddies--there is a kind of jovial rudeness that can escalate when the subject allows. I sometimes peek at messageboards for television shows I like, and feel like the flaming is distributed evenly between men and women.

I liked what Gurak had to say about computer and software design for girls and boys. This is a prickly subject for parents of small children that I know. Many will tell you that their little girl will run to the princess outfit with no previous exposure or encouragement, they will embrace the pink or purple computer monitor. On the other hand, it was interesting to notice that the ad for the Purple Moon software Gurak believes was superior to the Mattell software of the same era, offered a free 'lipsmacker.' Isn't that kind of the same thing as a pink computer? Or is there a fine line where we are saying--it's OK to be a girl--here's a lipsmacker--let's talk about where our differences make us special. And here is a game where you don't have to kill a bunch of things to win. Where does the sale stop and the lesson begin?

Hi, I'm Mat... Laaauraa

Although it seems like it shouldn’t matter on the internet, priority number one was to make an attractive looking character. I tried choosing a stereotype, because that way I was able to guess what people would think when they look at my character, and it won’t be something that reflects my true personality.

“To pass as a woman for any length of time requires understanding how gender inflects speech, manner, the interpretation of experience.? (Turkle, 212).

This quote, in my experience, is very true. The problem is, I’ll never know how true, because I can only spot the people that do make mistakes. I’ll never know how many people there are that are males, yet manage to successfully pull of being a female. I had an experience in a gaming community where a man managed to successfully dupe about thirty of us into thinking that he was a 22 year old woman for six months. Once you find out that you are wrong about a person’s gender, you feel used. Now it is common in gaming communities (elsewhere as well?) for members to be required to spend some time on a Voice over Internet Protocol program such as Ventrilo: or Teamspeak: This makes gender much more difficult to fake, as opposed to photoshopped pictures posted on a forum.

I generally am truthful about myself, and unless someone is telling me an absurd story, I try to believe what I am told. This isn’t to say that I’m likely to be duped into a warehouse with a 45 year old man I thought was a 20 year old woman. I just like to think that people are generally as truthful as I am, and I think that for the most part it is the case. The problem with being able to play with identity so easily, to be whoever you want to be while in the internet, is that it is going to make future generations much better liars.

Please select your gender

NOOOOOO my whole message was typed and a wrong manipulation erased everything... Let's start again.

I just spent at least one hour on Meez, trying many combination to find my perfect opposite. I have been a gothic girl having fun in a cemetery, a princess visiting a saloon, and I'm finally a woman in bikini taking care of her pig, in a US military camp... It's away enough from me to be my icon.

For me, the first step we have to go through creating our meez icon is a perfect "résumé" of this week's readings : "Please select a gender". When I first discovered Internet, I did not even think of the possibility of presenting myself as a female user.. and I did not imagine people doing that. I don't remember very well but I may have been in the same situation as Tucke "naming and describing a character, but forgetting to give it a gender" (210).
However, after a few months of using Internet, and geting used to it, I finally tried to connect as a female user, by curiosity. Contrary to the examples given in readings, I never tried to build a personality or some relationships as female, but I was just going to some chatrooms sometimes, to see how it felt to be a female online user... HORRIBLE.
I agree with Gurak when she writes : "switching gender via the Internet can be an enlightening experience". (79). I had no idea how male users could be agressive and insulting for girls. Generally, the main chatroom remained "clean" before some administrators moderated it but the private messages I was receiving were insane.. After 2 minutes into the room, I had dozens of messages asking me if I was interested in having sex etc... My answer "No" was generally followed by "you have been ignored by this user" or "So why d'you come here?".
Internet is definitely a mysogin place.

About the trust I give to other users, it depends on the kind of website I'm on. The chatrooms I used to visit were I believe full of people like me, switching genders.
However, I know visit some message boards which are completely different. I am a regular user on one of them for 5 years now, and it deals with music. People don't come on it to make some new friends but to talk about music, and I met in real life almost all the users... The purpose is not the same and I would say that I trust these people.

I'm so pretty!

Hi my name is Michelle. I am a shy person who prefers being alone than in the presence of others. I like the 80's because of all the movies about teen angst. I prefer staying in than going out for an activity like bowling, movies, or social gathering. My whole life is planned out for me as soon as I finish school I want a family with 3 kids and 4 cats in the country.

It was fun while making my Meez, to think from an opposite gender perspective. I understand the fascination with the opposite sex and the questions we have about them. I actually liked dressing my girl in a bunch of different fashions. I don't have that option as a guy. Turkel discusses the reality that many men and women portray members of the opposite sex for benefits in communication given to that sex. (p. 211) What interests me about this is the higher percentage of men portraying women than women portraying men. You would think in a Real Life society where men still dominate the world that women would want to be more like men. Men are given the opportunity to communicate more freely by the social norms our society has constructed.

So why are men wanting to be women? Women in online communities are hounded by men while men are able to sit back and choose who they want to talk to. However, women in the online communities have all the power. Turkel hits the main reason for this in her discusion of virtual sex. (p. 223) One man is married to a woman who allows him to have virtual sex as a need for expression. The other man is now seperated from his wife because she doesn't think he should be having an online relationship. The greatest power in this world, as many psychiologists have stated, is sex. Men are so fascinated by that power that they won't admit it in the Real World because it would ruin all power we have created for ourselves socially. However, we show it in the online community by showering women with all the attention.

I think I took this blog in different direction, but the thoughts really connected as I read this article on the extreme significance in gender both in reality and the virtual world.

Virtual Cross Dressing Debate

Who is responsible for creating this cross dressing norm going on in todays MUDS? Men and women are both responsible and have admitted to this form of cross dressing for reasonings ranging from equaling gender ratios in the chat to self exploration. The most interesting topic in the Turkle writing surrounded around the topic that gender switching online is not easy. Consider the following:
"To pass as a woman for any length of time requires understanding how gender inflects speech, manner, the interpretation of experience. Women attempting to be men face the same kind of challenge." (Turkle, p213)
This point does represent how I feel about "cross dressing" online. I do not feel that I have understanding of how to communicate like a man, nor do I find an interest or desire to do so. I think the objectivity of sex in normal communication minimizes this desire, in this manner I do not have the desire to talk with women other than a woman-to-woman. Rather if I found myself intimately interested in communication with women, maybe I could forsee the challenge of becoming a virtual man.

I also respect the statement that the character Corey stated in the Turkle reading, "I also think the neutral characters are good." (Turkle, p212) Being a young female entering the business world my communication via the internet or live is slanted to being gender neutral on the basis of fairness and respect. I want to be treated with respect online whether I am female or male. I want to be treated like a human being, not a sex object. I want to be treated like a business professional and not a cyber buddy.

Responding to the question How does this ability influence our actions in digital space?
I personally believe that individuals should act ethically and respectfully about their online identities. In this manner I believe it is ethical to reveal your true gender. If I truly believed people followed a sort of online code of ethics I would be more trusting of MUDS and other cyber communities. Because I do not feel safe about the true nature of online identies I feel less willing to participate in online relationships.

Global Network


Meet Danola. My Meez buddy! He is krumping and showing the world his style. Say hello and welcome Danola to the club. AR

Continue reading "MEEZ" »

Gender Bender

This is the MEEZ I create for myself. This is obviously the complete opposite of what I am, which is that I am a male not a female. I played around with the different aspects of MEEZ and I feel that I have created something that is the polar opposite of what I am. I felt that picking a woman, spiky blue hair, blue jeans which I hardly ever wear, and Anarchy in the background pretty much went with creating and a character that is not like me and in fact the opposite. I had fun creating this character and I really hadn't known anything about MEEZ characters.

As for the readings and the questions, the articles really do mirror some of my own experiences online. I noticed when I created a male character in Second Life I really didn't get as much attention as all of the female characters did online. Turkle had a good point in the article about this, "not only was I approched less frequently, talking about having a male character, but I found it easier to respond to an unwanted overture..." (Turkle, 211).

To me, playing with identity so easily means that you can be whoever you want to be online. It's really easy to even switch genders if you wanted to. All you really need to do is just change your name to a female or male name. Turkle says, "we can easily move through multiple identities, and we can embrace-or be trapped by-cyberspace as a way of life," (Turkle, 231). I agree with this statement because moving through different identities is easy just by making up a fake bio of yourself and also chatting and talking online differently than you normaly would. I also think that people can get trapped in this virtual cyberspace because some people just get hooked and then cyberspace becomes their norm. "Another effect of simulation...makes the fake seem more compelling than the real," (Turkle, 237). I think this sums up how people interact with the fake online people and get involved in it and then believe that it's real.

I believe that this ability to change identities and even genders influence us to act differently and also respond differently in digital spaces because it's so easy to do. If you are talking with someone online who says they are 5'6" blonde hair blue eyes, 100lbs, at first you think, wow that's perfect. Then after you talk to them for a while and they send you a picture of themselves and they are male, 56, 6'3",. 340lbs, you feel let down. It's just easy to make up your own identity and go with it.

I generally don't go on to chat rooms at all or have time to be apart of any virtual worlds where you make your own avatars and such, but I really don't believe about 80-90% of the people online. There's just too many people out there trying to be someone there not.

Gender Bias In Action


The avatar that I created using DookyWeb Facemaker was the first online avatar that I had ever created to represent a person, similar to my own appearance or not. I chose to make a non-white woman, which is superficially the most different character that I could make that fit into the realm of reality (ie, no blue skin). The personality that I was trying to reflect is also very different from my own: to me the avatar appears outgoing (pursed lips), fashionable (earrings and other accessories), and perhaps even attractive or seductive (if such a drawing can even be described thus), adjectives that I wouldn't apply to myself.

I was again struck by the sense that some people have that the internet is not "real". One interviewee, Rudy, complained that it was "too easy [for his ex-girlfriend] to avoid the social consequences of her actions" when she engaged in "TinySex". This highlighted to me the different ways people experience the internet: to me, the internet is as "real" as the "real" world, where to Rudy, the internet is somehow fake, and without consequences. Certainly one can (generally) commit online transgressions without real-world repercussions, just as one can (again, generally) commit real-world transgressions without online repercussions. However, one can almost never commit transgressions in one of these worlds without results in that world.

The various different reasons that people gave for assuming a different gender caused me to examine my own experiences on the internet, and how gender has played a role. At one of the forums that I frequent, an article was posted on a very technical subject. The author of the article had made some broad claims that many on the board disagreed with. Additionally, the author's name was one traditionally deemed to be female. I noticed that the replies to the article seemed much harsher than they might have been had the author's name been more "female". Oftentimes the replies were simple claims that the author "doesn't know what she is talking about". The interesting thing about the situation was that the author was indeed a man, just one with an unorthodox name. When this was revealed, replies rolled in, not just apologies about the gender confusion, but also restatements of the attacks in gentler terms. To me this indicated that the "technical" forum viewers believed that a woman was not as proficient in the field as a man, which reflects traditional biases in technical professions.

Finally, as a brief aside: I noticed earlier that Turkle's text seemed outdated, and found that it had been written in 1997 (likely the research was done before then, as well). MUD's these days are far less common; they are a dying breed, there are only a handful of commercial MUD's left. Certainly some of the work refers to chat rooms, though my own experience at least suggests that these are far less popular as well. I wonder how applicable this research in to newer or more common forms of online interaction, such as instant messaging or graphical MMOs?

It's me!(ez)

This is the meez I made. When I think about what is the opposite of me I think of someone outspoken and not afraid to say what's on their mind, with a louder personality. The avatar originally had spiked hair until I found it it cost me some coinz (?), so I switched. I thought the outspoken part fit with the placard, and since it says "Save the Princess" it just kind of makes sense that she would be in a dugeon. They're waving to me!

Much like the issue of identity, the related issue of gener online is an interesting one. Now that people can engage in relationships with others without having to show or even disclose their gender, people are more easily able to experiment with their gender, enabling them to see how things feel for the opposite sex. But is this insight into the perspective of others, or is it just a way to mislead others? I think it's clear to say that people all have masculine and feminine sides to themselves, and it's interesting that now people have a way to act out those sides of their personality so fully, free from any conceptions people may have about a person. I think this could be a useful tool, as in the case of Zoe (Turkle, 221), who used MUD's and gender swapping to help her express herself more readily. That's something I could use more assistance on in my own personality, so I can see how it would be of great help.

However, the ability to misrepresent oneself in such an area has more far reaching implications depending on what others perceieve about the sexes. In the case of Alex/Joan (Turkle, 230) for instance, Alex used the notions notions people have about women to lead them to his real life self, and take advantage of them. This to me is an obvious abuse of the system, and potentially very detremental to the psyche of those involved.

Hockey Anyone?

I created this image because I am an avid hockey fan. I not only enjoy watching it but playing it also. From looking at Meeze, I was surprised to see how close one can get to an actual image of yourself. However, I was even more surprised when reading the Turkle readings and realizing that many people in MUDs choose not to represent themselves and instead choose to make themselves a different gender or species.

I am amazed by people and their connection to their avatar. Some people are even more connected to their MUD world than the real world. An example of this is Case, "He's happily married to a co-worker and is currently MUDing as a female character. In response to my question, 'Has MUDing ever caused you emotional pain?' he says, 'Yes, but also the kind of learning tha tcomes form the hard times" (Turkle, 221). It seems to me that he has more emotional connection to his MUD world than to his wife and real world and the relationship that is more important in the long run. While relationships online are nice, they do not give you the warmth and affection that real relationships give. I cannot belive ignoring my girlfriend so I can experiment being another gender and fooling around and "cheating".

While I belive I made my avatar look like me, there are many peoplel that try and look like someone else so they can prey on people. Turkle gives many examples of people that do not care that their partners are cheating on them, however, there has to be mroe that have been hurt and possibly ended relationships because when people play online more than in a committed relationship, it leads to pain in the other person because they feel unloved and useless.

Also, people can prey on children and parents need to be careful. Turkle asks a 12-year old girl, " if she thinks that online sexual activity has changed things for her. She says that she has learned more from "older kids" whom she normally wouldn't be allowed to hang out with" (Turkle, 227). As I sat there reading this, I thought to myself, "There is a reason why you are not allowed to hang out with these older kids". Parents are keeping them away because no one really knows how old they are and could be sexual preditors. OR even if they are a 20 year old, it is still wrong. This leads me to believe that while MUDing can be fun and adventurous, we need to be careful what kids are being subjected to and should ask which is more important, protection of kids or freedom of speech? Soon, one will be chalenged and we will have to take a side.

Me, the party girl???

Well here's mine. Most obviously, she's female and I'm not, but beyond that, I went out of my way to give her a definite party persona. First off is the American flag painted face, which was originally paired with some crazy, spiky, punk style hair before the site informed me I needed to pay for that. I also gave her the midriff-baring alien shirt, the grass skirt, and platform shoes. Overall, she looks like a nonconformist kind of person who enjoys going out to wild parties. I was going to make that even more obvious by having her crowd surfing, but that too wasn't available unless I paid for it. The hip hop background by itself should reflect some of that though. I, meanwhile, am a fairly conservative dresser who tends to dislike loud, wild parties and is defintely not hip hop in any way. Seriously, if I tried to pass myself off like that, I'd probably get beat up.

I really don't think gender is as big a deal on the internet as it once was, at least not depending on where you look. Maybe specific things are still more male-oriented, particularly some of the more technological aspects, but it seems like the internet has gotten to the point where it's for everyone now, not just some small clique of mostly male engineers. Pretty much all students here, male and female, need to be at least somewhat proficient online to do everything for school, and plenty of women make use of instant messaging and social networks like Myspace and Facebook every day. Even on the message boards I frequent where there's some degree of anonymity, women make many contributions and good points to discussions (unless some of them really are men masquerading as women, in which case they're doing a very good job and have many other people in on the charade).

But even so, "cyberspace... is certainly not a utopia when it comes to gender." (Gurak, Cyberliteracy, 81). Even behind the anonymity of the internet, human gender stereotypes come into play. Really, the only difference is the ability to live out a fantasy and design an identity for yourself that doesn't reflect your true gender. Even then, the way you choose to play out that fantasy is indicative of your own gender biases. I found it particularly interesting how those differences come out in the way people type. Most emoticon users being women (Gurak, Cyberliteracy, 73) is actually something I've noticed as kind of a gender bias on my part, whether I realized it or not at first. It's something I might throw around more often if I was trying to pass myself off as a woman online. Not that I don't use them ever, but as Gurak says, as a male I tend to get to the point and be a little more assertive with my posts, although I certainly try not to be overaggressive to the point of flaming.

February 6, 2007

Hi! I am Arnold—a professional break dancer. : )

“If you don’t like being female, just change your screen name to a male one.? (Gurak, Laura. Cyberliteracy, pg 65) – although this is not the case for me, identity is something easily fooled online, just as I have done playing around with Meez and DookyWeb Facemaker. I have created an identity as a professional break dancer who can do… an excellent worm : ) But in reality, I can’t! Of course, I don’t look anything like Arnold nor do I carry the characteristics and talents of him. Meez allows you to play around and choose all types of identity. From the athlete, to hip hop and many more.

“What! I am NOT flaming!?
There are different characteristics of men and women online. Men tend to make more statements, be more sarcastic and ‘flame’ more often. Women tend to ask questions and made apologies. This is a subject I never really thought about before when using the internet—gender. It is evident online that it is a very gender biased, just as we can see in everyday real life. For example, women are viewed as sex objects rather than their brains and skills which may be reasons why they feel as if they have to disguise their gender online. I have never felt threatened as a woman and never felt like I had to disguise it although “it is true that switching gender via the Internet can be an enlightening experience and many online participants have reported new insights when they logged in as the opposite sex.? (Gurak, Laura. Cyberliteracy, pg 79). Women were harassed more often, getting asked out on dates and such. It does not seem to surprise me though because just like everyday real life situations, this can also be seen.

As Laura Gurak mentions, the internet was “created by men. Even today, science and engineering fields are dominated by men and many scholars have examined this.? (Gurak, Laura. Cyberliteracy, pg 67) Perhaps that would explain why the internet can be seen as “gender biased? today, because of the history and the way it was created.

There is no race. There is no gender. There are only minds on the internet? (Gurak, Laura. Cyberliteracy, pg. 65)

My opposite

First things first:

To explain this you wouldn't have to think very hard. In the first place I'm not a woman and so she is one. Secondly her hair is long and mine isn't. She is in pink clothing and is quite girly of which I obviously am not. Also note the pregnancy, this is a symbol of my not wanting to settle down and life, sort of a symbol of my early post youth stage of life. You could say I'm at the point where I want to discover new things, travel, ect. and not settle down, get married, have kids, and purchase a house. The kitchen is also a part of that settling down factor. You may also notice the car as well, and this comes from the fact that I could care less about cars (they really only get you from point a to point b) which is somewhat different than a decent amount of males out there.

As a comment to what relevance these websites have, I will continue what I had stated in my previous post. I had mentioned that the website from the previous assignment (second life) was somewhat of a form of escapism or even a curiousity. It seems to me that Meez also has this factor in it as well. You have the option of creating a character that is totally different than you (or maybe you would like it to be like you?) and putting on a different image that you would like to portray. This also directly ties into a topic I had thought about before in which a member of one sex does it to more accurately understand the opposite sex. "By enabling people to experience what it 'feels' like to be the opposite gender or to have no gender at all, the practice encourages reflection on the way ideas about gender shape our expectations" (Turkle 213). There also is the thought that people could change their gender in this way to cut down on social norms that they would have faced being of their biological gender. In Turkle's paper there is a genteleman who has a female frog character in which enables him to "feel freer to express the helpful side of his nature than he ever did as a man" (Turkle 216).

Besides all of this discussion of gender and people using it for their best interests I also wanted to mention a couple small notes on how males and females vary in their ways of communication on the internet. The book mentions that females tend to use such things as emoticons or colorful text because of the stigma that woman are more of an emotional gender. Men are more likely to write bland but often bold in content posts, pages, emails, ect. The authors explanation of this is that "life on the Internet is like real life" (Gurak 74). Whether or not you agree with that or not Gurak's statement definitely tends to cut down on the effects of people's use of hiding behind their character's gender.

etisoppo yllaer t'nsi sihT

This isn’t really opposite.

How can I get any more opposite? The fact that I have an avatar is contrary to my current lifestyle. I am an over 50 male who has been in advertising for the past 30 years. My Meez profile lists me as a 21-year-old female and my avatar fits that description. She is young and is ready to party at the penthouse pool. I would imagine my avatar would fit many similar male choices. Young and wild, ready to party. I didn’t see many older, overweight boring choices on the Meez site. It seemed like they were all clones of each other. Did I miss the option on the Meez site for a grandma?

Guark had a few observations from Janet Gardner (p71). Gardner’s discussion focused on the problems women had accessing the online community and the reasons for the difficulty. The temporal issue focused on the time available to learn the technology necessary to interact online. Linguistics created a roadblock because of the special language needed to communicate on the internet. Topical issues deal with the real life biases that bleed over into the internet. Are women perceived the same way online as they are in real life? The last issue Gardner mentioned was psychological. Do women feel comfortable and can they identify with the goals, values and styles on the internet?

I think all of these issues can be transferred to other demographics. It seems these questions and observations posed by Gardner can be observed in many other people besides women. Depending on their ages, think about your parents and older relatives. Many people 65+ shun the internet and don’t want to take the time to learn a new system of communication. There is a fear of “going online? because it is unknown and they are out of their comfort zone. This lack of access can be viewed just as important as the slow growth of women on the internet.

Along with the age issue, we can also add income to the barriers of the online society. You can’t surf if you don’t have a computer or access to the internet.

February 5, 2007

Gender On The Web

Continue reading "Gender On The Web" »

Hi Baby

The Meez I created as my avatar is a flirtatious young thing. Until our online assignments I have not done anything on the Internet other than conduct business. In those business situations, the role of gender has not been a factor. However, if I did become a member of a MUD or visit chat rooms I’d probably misrepresent myself as this MEEZ.

I do not trust people online to be who or what they say they are. I wouldn’t expect that anyone would trust my identity or gender. Before I would share any information with anyone I would first have had to verify the actual identity of the individual. I think the Internet too easily lends itself to deception and the adage of buyer beware still applies. “Life on the screen makes it easy to present oneself as other than one is in real life? (Sherry Turkle, Life on the Screen, Identity in the Age of the Internet, p. 228).

The claims in these articles do mirror my own experiences online, not only in regard to gender but rather in regard to false identity and phishing. Once while selling an item on EBay I was harassed by someone with a false identity phishing for information. On another phishing trip, I received a fraudulent e-mail supposedly from EBay, including the EBay logo, asking me to verify my credit card information.

I chat with men and women software engineering colleagues daily at work on a secure chat application called Pod. I have witnessed gender based flaming where “men made more statements while women asked more questions? (Laura J. Gurak, Ciberliteracy, p. 72) and I a have also found “that most people using emoticons were women.? (Gurak, p. 73)

I think the ability to play with identity so easily means that our actions in digital spaces requires of us the utmost in vigilance.