Computer underground Digest Wed Apr 21 1993 Volume 5 : Issue 29 ISSN 1004-042X Editors: Ji

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Computer underground Digest Wed Apr 21 1993 Volume 5 : Issue 29 ISSN 1004-042X Editors: Jim Thomas and Gordon Meyer (TK0JUT2@NIU.BITNET) Archivist: Brendan Kehoe Shadow-Archivists: Dan Carosone / Paul Southworth Ralph Sims / Jyrki Kuoppala Ian Dickinson Cyop Editor: Etaoin Shrdlu, Senior CONTENTS, #5.29 (Apr 21 1993) File 1--LTES article and Gender on the Nets (Re: CuD 5.18) File 2--LTES article and Gender on the Nets--Response to Larry File 3--LTES Article -- The author Responds Cu-Digest is a weekly electronic journal/newsletter. Subscriptions are available at no cost electronically from The editors may be contacted by voice (815-753-6430), fax (815-753-6302) or U.S. mail at: Jim Thomas, Department of Sociology, NIU, DeKalb, IL 60115. 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Digest contributors assume all responsibility for ensuring that articles submitted do not violate copyright protections. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Date: Wed, 10 Mar 93 18:46:59 CST From: larry@DUCKTALES.MED.GE.COM(Larry Landwehr) Subject: File 1--LTES article and Gender on the Nets (Re: CuD 5.18) Some comments on the "London Times Educational Supplement" article Written by Larry Landwehr Overall, the "London Times Educational Supplement" article (LTES) had some interesting points to it - a little bit of net history, some examples of the growing importance of the net to the academic community, and some of the problems encountered by newcomers to the net. After you've been on the net for a while, it is easy to lose sight of just how wonderfully amazing the net is. If anything, the article deeply under- stated just how profoundly the net will change the future of humanity. It's like trying to predict back in 1910 the impact of the automobile on society - the highway system, gasoline refineries, motels instead of hotels, new dating patterns, increased social mobility, commuting to work, the impor- tance of the rubber industry, smog, drive-thru restaurants, mechanized war- fare, and on and on. The net will bring more than quantitative changes, it will bring *qualitative* changes. Things that were impossible will now be- come inevitable. The LTES article is to be commended for pointing out some of the new uses for the net, but somehow, just like in a conversation with a religious zealot, the feminist dogma just had to surface and this is where the arti- cle does a disservice to its readers. Instead of sticking to verifiable facts and projecting from that into reasonable speculation, the article wanders into the morass of attempting to apply feminist theory to human in- teraction on the net. This attempt to view and understand the nature of the net through the re- fractive, narrowly focused theology of a fringe group flaws the article very badly and it is done rather poorly as well. Facts that support the author's view point are proudly held on high. Facts that do not fit the author's world view are glossed over or not even mentioned. Even worse, the author descends to the level of denigrating those whose behavior the author does not like. Let's examine the article point by point: The author states that the majority of the people on the net are men, which is almost certainly true at this point in time. There is even an attempt to supply some evidence to support this conclusion although the evidence is somewhat anecdotal and the sampling methodology is rather skewed. Still, an attempt is made: > For these assumptions to be true, you're quite likely either to be a > member of an academic institution in a Western industrialized country, > or very well-to-do in world terms. You're also likely to be male. And > the public area of the news system bears this out. An high proportion > of messages -- over 90% in an unrepresentative sample of discussions > of physics -- comes from the USA. An even higher proportion (of those > with identifiable senders) comes from men. In the next paragraph, the author's feminist leanings start to show: > "Women in science worry that these 'private' network exchanges of > research results serve to reinforce the 'Old Boy Network' in > scientific research circles, especially given the overwhelmingly male > demographics of e-mail and news-group users," says Ruth Ginzberg, > Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Wesleyan University in the US. Apparently "women in science" are worried about being shut out of the main- stream of scientific communication by a cabal of scheming men. What's next - eastern bankers, the tri-lateral commission, the red menace, or the international Jewish conspiracy? Has the author ever thought that maybe some men feel more comfortable talk- ing to other men? Has the author ever thought that many men have esta- blished working relationships with other men that predate women's entry into some scientific fields? Has the author ever thought that as the "new kids on the block" that it's up to women to make the first move if they want to get involved? Or does the author assume that women should be wel- comed with open arms just because they have lately decided that they want in? Do "women in science" expect to get everything handed to them on a platter? Next the author goes on to try to explain why there are so many more men than women on the net: > Why should there be this preponderance of men? Sarah Plumeridge is > research assistant on a project to study women's use of computers at > the University of East London. She comments that "A lot of research > suggests that women prefer computing when it's for use, as a tool, > when it's not taught as an abstract science." It's clear from the tone > of messages in the public news-groups that the _boys_ see them as a > playground. Here the feminist bugle really starts to be heard. First of all, someone studying "women's use of computers" is cited as an authority. What!? Does this "expert" (research assistant) only study women's use of computers? Isn't this person (not a personal friend of the author, one hopes) at all interested in how men use computers? Is this myopic, hyper-specialized in- vestigator with a one sided interest to be considered an expert? What is especially revealing in this paragraph is the "expert's" derogatory use of the word "boy" to refer to men. The mere fact that the author uses this offensively toned quote shows how entrenched and pervasive the femin- ist dogma has become in the author's mind. Either the author doesn't care that the quote is offensive or, even worse, it may even be that the author isn't even aware that the quote is offensive. At this point the article starts to lose credibility, but an even more egregious paragraph soon follows: > There are more serious issues too. Cheris Kramerae of the Department > of Speech Communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana is, > working on the issue of sexual harassment on "the net". This happens > in very specific ways - men sending abusive messages to women, often > having obtained their electronic addresses from the electronic > "personals column". There is also the problem of socially retarded > students abusing the system to distribute digitized pornographic > images: the direct equivalent of the calendar on the workshop wall. > Kramerae concludes, however, that "Obviously it is not the technology > but the policies which are presenting particular problems for women." First, why is it that every expert cited is a woman? Is the author engaging in a bit of "Old Girl Networking"? Could it be that the author prefers to converse with women? Could the pot be calling the kettle black? Hmmmm? Now let's deal with the sexual harassment part of this paragraph. Frankly, the author's reason for bringing this up is rather unclear. Does the author contend that sexual harassment is wide spread on the net? Apparently not, because the author states that it only occurs "in very specific ways"; i.e. in response to placing a personals ad. Apparently the author's intent is to warn women that men can harass them on the net. Whether or not women ever harass men on the net is apparently of no interest to the author. The au- thor of what you are reading right now can personally attest that it does happen, but the author of the LTES article seems to only be concerned with problems that *women* face on the net. Next, the author uses the wonderfully worded phrase "socially retarded" to refer to people whose actions the author doesn't like. This is really out- standing journalism - if you don't like what someone does, then call them names. This style of writing may be understandable in a heat-of-the-moment flame, but not in what purports to be an objectively written article in- tended to educate the general public on what the net is like. Such personal bias, such a judgemental attitude is totally uncalled for. The fact is that men (or "boys", the author's preferred term) like to look at women. They always have, and they always will. Apparently this biologi- cal fact of male human nature distresses the author greatly, either for fe- minist theological reasons or because of an inherent dislike of the male sex drive. One can't help but suspect that the author would be greatly in favor of censorship to stop this affront to the author's sensibilities. The author's use of the phrase "abusing the system" and referring to it as a "problem" speaks volumes about the author's unspoken bias. The quote, "Obviously it is not the technology but the policies which are presenting particular problems for women", is plain, flat out wrong. The net has virtually no policies because it is so deeply decentralized. It is not "the policies" which are presenting particular problems for women. It is the net culture. And the net culture presents challenges (not "prob- lems") to *all* newcomers. This quote reminds me of the old Saturday Night Live skit where this guy comes on and says, "And I suppose you're all wondering how this is going to affect Al Franken." The author's viewpoint seems to be, "Now how is this going to affect women?", which is extremely self-centered. Finally, let's briefly examine the following paragraph: > Kahn's list is, then, exactly an invisible college. Given the vast > space occupied by anti-feminist men in the open news-groups which are > supposed to discuss feminism, it can only operate if it remains > private and by invitation. The most notable thing about this paragraph is the author's unspoken as- sumption that feminist groups can only operate if the only posts allowed are those in favor of feminism (i.e. the only good post is a favorable post). Such an attitude might be said to display a rather closed mind and a propensity toward censorship. Summary: The LTES article is anti-male. If the overwhelming majority of CUD's readers are male, then why does CUD publish articles that attack men? The LTES article is one of those pieces that will be seized upon by those who want to establish censorship on the net. Sexual harassment (why don't they call it "gender harassment"?) must be stopped! Men must be prevented from looking at pictures of nude women! Let's clean up the net and make it safe for women! Take back the net! It's coming folks. Censorship and governmental restrictions are right around the corner if articles such as the LTES one are propagated. The next steps will be letter writing campaigns to system administrators, law suits against companies, and new governmental laws - how about two years in prison for an improper post? It's coming. Here's a word of advice for the women on the net: If you can't stand the heat, ladies, then get out of the kitchen! Stop whining about how unfair the world is. Stop hiding behind paternalis- tic (maternalistic?) governmental laws. Stand on your own two feet and *earn* some respect! Sexual harassment on the net, with no possibility of physical contact, is nothing but another type of flame. Learn to handle it. Learn to give as good as you get. Use a little common sense and realize that much of what you think of as sexual harassment is simply unclear communication. Why do you think that "similies" have become universally adopted on the net as a means of minimizing misinterpretation? The feminist lemma that "men suppress women" should be known as "The Great Excuse". Forget the fact that men enjoy technology because they like gadgets and na- turally gravitate to the net. Forget the fact that women are late comers to this and many other fields. Forget the fact that men are naturally adven- turous and are usually in the forefront of exploration. Forget all these logical reasons. Let's just say that men are oppressive. Let's not talk about paying your dues and taking your knocks until you manage to ensconce yourself on the net. Let's not talk about getting a thick skin so you don't get blown away by the first flame that's directed at you. Let's blame those rotten, bad, insensitive men, instead. The net is a beautiful anarchy, just about the only one left on the face of the earth. Don't kill it with censorship, laws, and lawsuits. Women of the net, conduct yourselves professionally, and, over time, you will get the respect you want and will then deserve. Don't subscribe to the false religion that simple human nature can reasonably be ascribed to the pervasive misogyny of men. Don't expect immediate gratification as the feminist movement so glaringly expects (the name "NOW" is no coin- cidence). If CUD truly believes in "electronic freedom", then it should stop publish- ing articles that lay the groundwork for censorship and governmental res- trictions. Instead, it should use its editorial discretion to promote posi- tively written articles that will benefit the net and lead to its further expansion into the mainstream of human culture. ------------------------------ Date: Wed, Apr 12 93 19:59:35 PST From: Jim Thomas Subject: File 2--LTES article and Gender on the Nets--Response to Larry When CuD ran a special issue on gender and cyberspace in 1991 (#3.00), it generated the most feedback of any issue to date (see #3.01). The responses were passionate, sometimes well-reasoned but more often highly emotional, and few were middle-ground. Supporters of the issue commented on CuD's "irresponsibility" in not addressing gender issues more often and more strongly, expressed frustration at the unwillingness of (especially males) to not take gender issues more seriously, and wanted more posts on the politics of on-line gender issues. Critics accused us of being taken over by lesbian "femi-nazis" and "selling out" to the PC ("politically correct") crowd. Some even cancelled their subscriptions with comments like "CuD has outlived its usefulness," or "this type of discussion has no place in CuD!" The CuD editors strongly believe that such issues are directly relevant to cyberspace. Men and women exist. They exist in a state of inequality. Discussing whether, and how much, the gender issues that exist in the physical world are imported into cyperspace falls explicitly under the CuD mission of presenting a *diversity* of views surrounding computer culture. So, we welcome Larry Lanwehr's post (above) for the opportunity to again raise a few questions. Although we are in substantial disagreement with Larry, we appreciate his willingness to articulate a position probably shared by most Cud readers. We also recognize that his concerns are not intended as inflammatory, but are sincere fears about the possibility of over-control of the nets resulting from self-imposed or institutionally-imposed constraints. In his post, Larry comments on an article originally published in the London Times Educational Supplement (See CuD #5.18, file 4). The author of that piece, Mike Holderness, presented a summary of the Internet as a backdrop to suggesting that the net typifies an "invisible college" (as developed by Diana Crane). The LTES article, as I read it, makes several interesting points. Three of these are relevant for cybernauts. First, electronic networking poses the potential for circumventing the conventional publishing mechanisms in the scientific community, creating an INVISIBLE UNIVERSITY (or in U.S. terms, an "invisible college"). Second, the "old boy" networks that create barriers in conventional science and technology may also create similar barriers in the technoculture. Third, there may be gender differences that make the nets a more valuable resource and a more comfortable community for men than for women. The value of Larry's post is that, while displaying considerable suspicion for these conclusions, his comments suggest (and his private mail affirms) that he is in essence saying, "Perhaps, but show me the data." He has a point: Little hard research exists to substantiate the claims, and that which does exist is heavily anecdotal and inferential. Nonetheless, even though we lack hard data, we can begin looking at some of these issues in a way that suggests some fuzzy potential hypotheses. Perhaps they will provide insight for groups such as PROJECT-H (a Bitnet research group examining on-line interaction), and researchers of computer-mediated-communication (CMC) or cyber-culture in examining the issues. Let's take a few of the LTES's points. 1. DOES THE NET POTENTIALLY CIRCUMVENT CONVENTIONAL PUBLISHING TO THE DETRIMENT OF WOMEN? This question is probably of least relevance to most CuD readers. It does, however, bear on the growing importance of electronic communication for scholars. The list of electronic journals is rapidly expanding, and most disciplines are represented in the collection. There is even a Bitnet group for discussion of electronic publishing (ARACHNET). It's not clear that this expansion, of itself, operates to the detriment of women. There is abundant research indicating that although women are under-represented in academically-oriented journals, this under-representation appears to be the result of factors in academia rather than the consequence of significant gender bias in editorial gate-keeping procedures. Further, most college and university peer review committees and procedures do not recognize electronic publishing as particularly valuable for men or women. Although this will undoubtedly change in time as peer review procedures become established, as professional associations sponsor electronic periodicals, and as a new generation of cyber-committed scholars come on-line, there is currently little reward for electronic publication. At best, it is likely to supplement, not replace, conventional hard-print journals. Therefore, the current impact of any circumvention, if it exists, would seem to have little discriminatory impact on women. 2. Does the Net simply recreate an "old boys' network" in cyberspace? Perhaps. But I've seen no significant evidence of it. If anything, electronic communication seems to have the opposite effect. The democratization of the Net, albeit imperfect, helps reduce many of the gender-based characteristics of face-to-face communication that put women at a disadvantage in communication. The "old boys" no longer control the terrain. There are a number of groups and topics, especially on Bitnet, in which women rather than men set the topics, mood, style, and discussion flow. In the aggregate, men still dominate, but electronic communication dramatically challenges the power of the "old boys." Women who were formally isolated can more easily network with others with similar interests, share experiences and ideas, and support each other while more easily (but by no means without some difficulties) interacting with and challenging men. Those investigating these issues ultimately must carve out the issues with considerable clarity. For example, if the nets circumvent conventional publishing, how should we measure the gender impact? What counts as an "old boys'" network on the nets? We're not talking here simply about male dominance, but about a form of bonding that enhances the careers of some while putting others at a disadvantage. My guess is that even when clarified, the evidence won't support the claims. This stills ignores the central question, which is the third point that Larry raises. 3. DO THE NETS RECREATE MALE DOMINANCE IN ELECTRONIC FORM? The fact that we might answer the first two questions negatively does not mean that male dominance does not exist on the Nets. Nor does the absence of significant impact in some areas mean that there is no significant impact in others that ultimately makes the Net less hospitable for women than men. The Bay Area Women In Telecommunications (BAWIT) group produced an interesting paper called "Gender Issues in Online Communications" (Available on the CuD ftp site in pub/cud/papers/gender-issues). It's available in the CuD ftp sites or can be obtained by dropping the moderators a line. The authors write: The experiences of women online are both personal and political. To a certain extent, their causes are rooted in the physical world --economics and social conditioning contribute to the limited numbers of women online. Additionally, online environments are largely determined by the viewpoints of their users and programmers, still predominately white men (p. 1). While recognizing the on-line influences that may mitigate against women's full participation in cyberspace, the BAWIT collective relocates the focus of the problem to off-line factors. A few examples drawn from their paper and elsewhere illustrate how gender influences might operate. a. Access to the Nets In principle, electronic media are available to everybody. In practice, however, the reality may subvert open access. The BAWIT collective argues that, because women are generally lower paid than men, economics may restrict access. Women may simply be less able to afford access than men. Economics may be a special factor for single or uncoupled women without a university or occupational net-link. Women are also underrepresented in the technical and related fields in which electronic communication is valued. The social division of labor may also be a restriction: Women who assume primary responsibilities for domestic responsibilities have less leisure time than those who do not for participating in on-line interaction. And, as Arlie Hochschild argues in "Inside the Clockwork of a Male Career" (which is actually about women's careers), women's career paths tend to be delayed, which contributes to deferring participation in activities, such as learning computer skills, that would facilitate net access. None of this would necessarily prevent women's access to on-line communication, nor is anybody (to my knowledge) claiming it does. The value of the BAWIT paper is that it reminds us that access cannot be automatically assumed to be equal for everybody, and that the barriers to access may be subtle and complex. b. Access to discussions Once on-line, are women as able to break into a thread and contribute as men? Are women taken as seriously by men as other men? Are there differences in male responses to posters with a female logon or handle that are uncommon when addressing posts with a male handle? It depends to some extent on the forum. There are considerable differences in gender-based interaction between Usenet, The Well, Bitnet, or Compuserve. And, not all differences are necessarily bad. The question, an empirical one, is simply this: Do men communicate on-line in a way that puts women at a disadvantage in gaining access to a topic? Many women have anecdotal experiences that would suggest the answer is "yes." But, the power advantage normally associated with a "male style" of communication may be mediated by a "democratization" effect. For example, Marsha Woodbury (U. of Illinois/Urbana-Champaign) conducted a small study on African-American educators for use in training adults to communicate over networks. Contrary to her initial expectations, she found that women may feel more "equal" in communicating electronically. She concluded: .....Clearly, for many women, face-to-face communication could find them at a disadvantage, if they feel less powerful or verbally skilled or even feel physically weaker and smaller. In fact, they may embrace e-mail even more enthusiastically than the men, because it is such an "equalizer." Clearly, there are no simple answers to questions of gender differences in net communication. The PROJECT-H group will be examining these and related questions. The results of their study will be a helpful contribution to the answer. c. Gender games and harassment When I first began using an electronic network about 1981, I had a gender-neutral logon ID. Before I learned how to set "no-break," I was habitually plagued late at night by young testosterone-laden males who broke in wanting to know if I were an "M or F?" When I flashed "M," the sender departed, only to be replaced by another flasher with the same question. Only once was the sender a female, as she later revealed in person. On those occasions when I was feeling malicious, I would send back an "F." I was amazed at the simplicity and coarseness of the pickup lines. In discussing this with female students, I learned that such interruptions were common for them, and "no-break" was the second on-line command they learned ("logoff intact" was the first). Is sexual harassment common on the nets? It seems probably less common than in the face-to-face world, and certainly there are more built-in safety features in net harassment. In the face of unwanted behavior, one can more easily send "leave me alone" cues or log-off. Further ASCII leaves a paper trail that facilitates remedial action if harassment persists. Nonetheless, harassment can be a problem for women. Some women report using gender-neutral or male-oriented logons, and some of my female colleagues report hesitance to engage in online public discussions out of concern for their privacy and peace of mind. Perhaps their fears are justified, perhaps not. But, these women remind us that--whether their concerns are legitimate or not--the concerns are something that men rarely, if ever, need give a second thought. The gender games and fears of harassment seem of sufficient concern that some universities cover it in their computer and other policies (see for example the voluminous discussions over the past year on academic-freedom-talk and the variety of papers and other documents, such as the UBC report available through: anonymous ftp from in /pub/info/ubc/report). Women can confirm or reject the pervasiveness of harassment and gender games, but the point is that there is strong anecdotal evidence suggesting a barrier to women's on-line communications. d. Participation in discussions If, as Carol Gilligan argues, women speak in a "different voice," and if, as Pamela Fishman claims, women do most of the "work" in mixed-sex interaction, then we would expect some evidence of different on-line communication styles. From my own experience, women seem less likely to engage in mortal argumentative combat, less prone to slip into white-hot flame mode, and more likely to attempt to negotiate and compromise in on-line debates than males. Perhaps my experiences are a-typical. The fact remains that gender differences in communication seem likely to place women at a disadvantage in discussions dominated by men sufficiently often to raise questions about the nature and impact of these differences. What are some of these differences? As preliminary rough hypotheses, we could suggest that men tend to be more confrontational and more inclined to focus on the ostensible issues at hand rather than on issues they see as tangential. Men tend to argue more "logically"--which is not to say that they in fact *are* more logical, but rather that they employ a style of talk that appears logical. There are compelling arguments from a range of feminist-oriented writers (such as Julia Kristeva, Sandra Harding, or Dorothy Smith) whose critiques of the relationship between gender power and knowledge--both in the "talk" and in the topics of talk--illustrate the silencing power of symbols. Such works, despite an occasional extreme position, *DO NOT* mean that men are the enemy, that men should be silenced, or that men's "voice" is not legitimate. They simply remind us that there are differences in how we communicate, and that by recognizing and appreciating these differences, we can communicate and interpret more effectively. CONCLUSION This brings is back to Larry's comments. He suggests that over-reaction to gender differences risks the imposition of policies or self-censorship that have the ironic outcome of suppressing that which they are intended to protect. This is a legitimate concern. Few of us want to have others impose on us "Politically Correct" ways of thinking or speaking. Imposition and silencing are neither desirable nor required. But, the evidence on the extent of gender variables in suppressing communication remains scanty, the consequences unclear, and there is evidence that if electronic communications recreate some forms of gender power, they also subvert others. If there are in fact gender barriers that work to the detriment of women, the first step is to recognize that they exist and then to identify the ways in which they operate. This is nothing that should threaten males. Hard evidence one way or the other would define the nature and extent of the problem. If, as many of us believe, there is a problem, what then should we do? The next step is simply recognizing that differences in style of talking are often reinforced by differences in styles of interpreting. We speak as if "talk" were simply the speech we use. But, talk implies an audience, and an audience implies some interpretative framework that makes sense. When different styles of speaking and hearing collide, as they may if they are gender-shaped, then communication problems can occur. As often as not, the dominant style "wins" and the subordinate style loses--not on the bases of content of ideas, but by the overpowering style of one way of talking that silences the other. So, to Larry I would say: I accept your fears, but I'm not convinced that denying the problem is the best solution. Let's take a step back and ask women how *they* feel in engaging in online interaction. Perhaps we can learn from each other. I don't think that appreciation of difference is a bad thing. ------------------------------ Date: 16 Apr 93 14:16:40 BST (Fri) From: Subject: File 3--LTES Article -- The author Responds BACKGROUND: An article of mine was published in the Times Higher Education Supplement, a London-based weekly newspaper largely for people working in UK universities, earlier this year. It was made possible partly by the generosity of net-people with their comments and feedback; in return I mailed the text which I had submitted to people who had requested it. A copy was incorporated in the CuD digest without my knowledge. I make this clear purely as a legal caveat, because I am now in the embarrassing position of having inadvertently breached my own copyright. Indeed, next week (Apr 22) I shall be sending the THES a piece on the implications of electronic publishing for copyright and the ownership of intellectual property. Brief (1k?) comments on this would be extremely welcome. Please indicate whether they may be published with attribution, without, or not at all, and in the first case give your full name, post and institution/location. I am told that there were a large number of responses to my piece, and that many took exception to my humorous quotation of the lite Xmas _Economist_ piece, which described the Internet as a "conspiracy" alongside the Masons, Opus Dei and such. The only responses which I have actually seen were those from Larry Landwehr and the response to this from Jim Thomas, who invited me to respond. The article itself: ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I began drafting a net-style response to Larry, with quotes: > ... just like in a conversation with a religious zealot, the > feminist dogma just had to surface ... -Oh dear, I thought, reading this. The "men-are-persecuted- by-feminists" dogma, so tediously common on the Net, just had to surface. This exercise in turn became tedious. I am a freelance writer on science and technology, with a special interest in the social and political implications of the new communications technologies. So please bear in mind that my writing is quite different to academic writing or to net articles. I was asked to write specifically on the "invisible college" issue, and originally to do exactly 1500 words; I got this extended to some 2300. It is extremely interesting as a writer to compare the responses to the printed article and to the electronic version: indeed, I destined to appear on paper, to keep the temperature down. _If_ the net is an invisible college, who may it exclude? Last year, for a quite different article in _New Scientist_, I counted the apparent geographical location and apparent gender of some 300 news-group articles (most in sci.*). Some 97% had US addresses and over 90% of those with identifiable given-names were male. Many fewer than 97% of all scientists work in the US and fewer than 90% are male; empirically, there's an issue to investigate here. I made it clear that this was not a scientific survey. Last week, before being asked for these comments, I was working up a proposal for just such a survey: run the "From:" line of every news-group posting for six months or a year past the ISO 3166 country codes and past _Naming Baby_, and see what falls out. Would people on the net object to this? Please take it for granted that I understand the statistical limits on interpretation of the results. Please tell me if someone else is already doing this. It is extremely interesting that Larry complains: "why is it that every expert cited is a woman?" I count seven women quoted, seven men, and two anonymous (one of whom I know to be male, and one of whom is an _Economist_ journalist...). In a 2300-word article, 500 words discussed possible reasons for the under-representation of women on the net. All the people I quoted on this specific issue were women. I did what I usually do to find commentators: call busy people whose work I respect, selected regardless of anything except their work, to suggest other researchers who will have time to comment. All those I came across working on the issue were, for some reason, women. I always welcome further contacts. I suggest that Larry's complaint points to a "threshhold" phenomenon -- the subject of an extensive sociological literature. For example, when a neighbourhood is changing racial composition, up to about 5 black kids in a grade-school class of 30 are fine; over 10 in 30, and the class is perceived as being "majority minority". It is plain daft that Larry calls on CuD not to publish pieces such as mine. I am not, for the record, in favour of censorship. I did not call on anyone not to publish anything; and I've so far resisted the temptation to publish on paper the proportion of net resources devoted to distributing flesh-GIFs. I did consider Cheris Kramerae's concerns about harassment worthy of quotation as one view among several. My personal view is that "the calendar on the workshop wall" is a form of harassment, the effect of which is to contribute to the exclusion of women from mechanical engineering and so forth. I admit I should have made it clear that the "direct equivalent" I was writing about was leaving flesh-GIFs on women colleagues' screens -- but I was already over-length and past deadline when I realised I needed quotes to substantiate that it does happen. And had I obtained those quotes, the tabloids might have run off with the story... and then... So, in Larry's view, for me to quote women suggesting that the under-representation of women on the net might possibly have something to do with puerile activities here is to invite censorship; therefore he demands that my piece not be published. Shurely shome mishtake? (Sorry, Americans, that's a Brit journos' catch-phrase.) I appreciated Jim Thomas' thoughtful and tolerant reply to Larry. Jim clearly has more patience than I can muster these days. I regret that he and I have had to put effort into explaining that it is appropriate for articles to appear on the net which are critical of some features of its current, and I hope temporarily aberrant, state. I find it deeply ironic that we have had to do so in response to an article which so vehemently invokes the First Amendment. If the net is, as Larry hopes, and as I hope, to expand "into the mainstream of human culture", it will be forced to recognise that there are many cultures out there which are quite different to the various cultures now reflected in here. I'd like to conclude by provoking a new argument. One issue which CuD readers in particular will have to face up to is this: the First Amendment concept of an _absolute_ right to freedom of expression is, in my experience as a citizen of the rest of the world, grasped by very few people out here. Only in the USA, that is, is there a widely-held belief that it's worth a person's effort to struggle for anyone's right to forms of expression which that person finds repugnant. I have been flamed before for asking "why is stupid speech protected?": this frivolous question was a serious attempt to raise the issue of protecting the _content_ of speech. I repeat: I am not in favour of censorship. I have no personal oracle to inform me what content is worthy of protection: the point is that the question _makes_sense_ in many non-US cultures, where relativism is less rampant, where there is a residual sense of community and of values (some of which I do find repugnant). I have heard reports that the US tobacco industry donates large amounts of money to the ACLU to promote the "pure" First Amendment position. I have no reason to believe these reports, but their _existence_ and the fact that some clearly give them credence intrigues me. I live in a country where the Prime Minister is suing two magazines for libel because they reported and thoughtfully analysed the existence of rumours that he had had an extra-marital relationship -- rumours which had been alluded to repeatedly in the daily press, so discreetly that many uninformed readers will have believed that there were two, separate, mini-scandals. If the Prime Minister succeeds in his suit (and thereby closes the irritating magazines), the ACLU will be in a position to sue me in the UK for libel over the first sentence of this paragraph. It is issues such as this -- the suppression of political comment -- which the drafters of the Amendment clearly had in mind and which exercises people out here. Few here really bother about the free expression aspect of the Mappelthorpe (sp?) exhibition in DC or the current attempt to suppress "adult" (i.e. puerile) movies beamed into the UK by satellite. To be honest, no-one's getting very publicly worked up about the Prime Minister either. And, to start another row: (C) M Holderness 1993. By which I mean: I've spent four hours writing this; writing is how I pay my rent. I reserve all rights to sell any of these words for reproduction on paper or in any other form; it may and will be freely distributed as an Internet article. My feminazi witch friends are cooking up a special hell for anyone selling my efforts for personal gain: in the alpha- test Hades you spend all eternity in an IRC session with Dan Quayle or Fidel Castro, whichever you detest the more. M Holderness;; I speak only for myself. ------------------------------ End of Computer Underground Digest #5.29 ************************************


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