Who takes part in the online debate?

The gender balance in the blogosphere is something that has to be taken into account.

It is one of the more useful services – some might argue, the single valuable service of the political blogosphere – to afford interested women a similar glimpse of what respectable middle-aged men do when they think themselves unobserved. Catherine Bennett, 2 June 2006

This thought was triggered by comments by the Guardian’s CommentIsFree editor where the agressive nature of the discourse around blogged articles was bemoaned:

I wonder whether Guardian values – free comment, but fair comment too – are in danger of being drowned out in an anarchic, unmoderated medium populated, it seems, by weird men.

The OSS angle? The comments on the nature of the discourse are kind of related to research done by the EU-funded FLOSSPOLS project into why there are even fewer women involved in Open Source projects than in general IT. Noirin at Nerdchic.Net gives a pretty fair overview of the FLOSSPOLS findings, and the experience of being a woman in the IT world. To quote:

Good work doesn’t win you influence – good work that’s pushed in others’ faces, or at the very least, good work of which others are regularly reminded – wins you influence. And that’s where women fall down.

Turns out the aggressive way that (younger?) men communicate and prove their worth over mailing lists puts women off – generally, it’s not deliberate sexism. I can see that there could also be a similar process (and similar – though older – people) in political blog forums.

I wonder if there is a way of limiting the inherent bias of the medium?


About Peter Cruickshank

Lecturer in the School of Computing and a member of the Centre for Social Informatics at Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland. Interested in information systems, learning, politics, society, security and where they intersect. My attempts at rounding out my character include food, cinema, running, history and, together with my lovely wife, bringing up a cat and a couple of kids.
This entry was posted in e-democracy, e-participation, opensource, thoughts. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Who takes part in the online debate?

  1. Pingback: Spartakan » The alienating blogosphere

  2. Pingback: Spartakan » Correcting the gender imbalance in open source development

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