Gendered Knowledge Production in Universities in a Web 2.0 World

Gendered Knowledge Production in Universities in a Web 2.0 World

Gill Kirkup (Open University, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-813-5.ch013
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This chapter examines the access women have had historically to engage in knowledge production as university scholars or students. It discusses the changing nature of knowledge production in universities, and the impact of some Web 2.0 tools on this activity. It asks, through a detailed discussion of wikis and blogging if Web 2.0 tools can challenge the traditional gendering of university knowledge production,.
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Universities, traditionally, have been concerned principally with two main functions: research or the production of knowledge, and teaching or its dissemination and acquisition. Universities are, and have been historically, the central knowledge institutions of the modern state, although significantly, they pre-date the development of the nation- state. (Peters, 2007, p 21)

This chapter is concerned with gender and the knowledge production function of universities. Phrases like the ‘knowledge economy’ the ‘knowledge society’ and ‘knowledge workers’ are familiar twenty first century concepts in discussions about the role of education, and higher education in particular. Digital technologies have been important drivers of the knowledge society (Castells, 2000), where the production and exchange of knowledge is a major economic activity and they have been a force for change in universities. Political forces challenge universities to provide wider access to a larger proportion of the population; this is sometimes called ‘massification’. Ideological forces, in particular the commodification of knowledge, put an emphasis on efficiency and quantifiable measures of quality in the production and distribution of knowledge (Lyotard, 1984; Delanty, 1998; Peters, 2007), and have had a dramatic impact on the work of scholars and researchers. Technological forces in the form of digital tools and systems to support learning, scholarship, research and assessment, are drivers for change and support political and ideological forces. Digital technologies have been seen as the tools to enable economies of scale in research and teaching and to measure outputs of various kinds (Kirkup, 2009). There is little gender analysis of these changes and in particular of the impact of what are known as Web 2.0 technologies on the social role of universities as creators, defenders and disseminators of knowledge. This is surprising given the radical critiques of higher education by feminist academics in the later years of the twentieth century.

Feminist scholars have criticized universities as being historically gendered places of knowledge production, and for producing gendered knowledge (May, 2008). In the last fifty years universities have changed the gendered composition of their students and workforce. Academia is now a more welcoming profession for women. The increasing numbers of women working in universities (see HESA, 2008 for UK universities), as well as the fact that in the USA and Europe women make up over 50% of university students, has contributed to the notion of the ‘feminization of education’; a criticism that higher education is now an activity that appeals to women and girls rather than to men and boys1. Is it possible that the increase in numbers of women, plus the opportunities provided by new digital forms of knowledge production, are creating a feminization of knowledge production, or at least a challenge to the hegemonic male activity of university knowledge production?

This chapter looks particularly at Web 2.0 applications that might offer ways to create and share knowledge; ways which support the ideals of critical and feminist pedagogy (see Kirkup et al, 2010), and challenge gendered knowledge production (Harding, 1991, Haraway, 1997) It looks in particular at ‘wikis’ and ‘blogs’, asking: Who is engaged in using these tools and how are they used?


The Struggle For The Power To Know

Universities are places where knowledge is created through research and scholarship, and also through the interaction that students have with subject content, with each other and with subject experts. Knowledge production is not simply the job of salaried scholars and researchers, although it is their role to lead and direct this activity. Students are active creators of knowledge when they interact with, and come to be expert in, a discipline area. Proponents of the social construction of knowledge argue that knowledge production is a group process:

Together, members construct and negotiate a shared meaning, bringing the process of the group along collectively rather than individually. In the process, they become what the literary critic Stanley Fish [1980] calls a “community of interpretation” working towards a shared understanding of the matter under discussion.’(Brown and Duguid, 2000, p 222)

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Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Madeleine Cæsar
Shirley Booth, Sara Goodman, Gill Kirkup
Chapter 1
Inger Boivie
This chapter explores aspects of the gendering of computer science and IT, related to epistemological issues of what computing is and what type of... Sample PDF
Women, Men and Programming : Knowledge, Metaphors and Masculinity
Chapter 2
Ulf Mellström
This chapter investigates how and why computer science in Malaysia is dominated by women. Drawing on recent critical interventions in gender and... Sample PDF
New Gender Relations in the Transforming IT-Industry of Malaysia
Chapter 3
Eva Maria Hoffmann
In Afghanistan, the development of information technology (IT) as an industry and an educational field is still quite young, but this provides the... Sample PDF
Women in Computer Science in Afghanistan
Chapter 4
Johanna Sefyrin
In information technology (IT) design it is essential to develop rich and nuanced understandings of messy design realities. In this chapter Karen... Sample PDF
"For me it doesn't matter where I put my information": Enactments of Agency, Mutual Learning, and Gender in IT Design
Chapter 5
Christina Mörtberg, Pirjo Elovaara
The Swedish public sector is involved in an overwhelming change process aiming towards creating a good-service society based on information... Sample PDF
Attaching People and Technology: Between E and Government
Chapter 6
Marie Griffiths, Helen Richardson
The trend for women to be severely under-represented in the UK ICT (information and communication technology) sector persists. Girls continue, year... Sample PDF
Against All Odds, from All-Girls Schools to All-Boys Workplaces: Women’s Unsuspecting Trajectory Into the UK ICT Sector
Chapter 7
Agneta Gulz, Magnus Haake
This chapter explores motivational and cognitive effects of more neutral or androgynous-looking versus more feminine-looking and masculine-looking... Sample PDF
Challenging Gender Stereotypes Using Virtual Pedagogical Characters
Chapter 8
Martha Blomqvist
This chapter presents a study on the use of research based information on gender and IT education disseminated by Swedish newspapers between 1994... Sample PDF
Absent Women: Research on Gender Relations in IT Education Mediated by Swedish Newspapers
Chapter 9
Els Rommes
The aim of this chapter is to explore to what extent heteronormativity, the norm that man and woman are attracted to each other because of their... Sample PDF
Heteronormativity Revisited: Adolescents’ Educational Choices, Sexuality and Soaps
Chapter 10
Shirley Booth, Eva Wigforss
The chapter tells of two women with low educational qualifications who embark on a journey into higher education by taking a distance course to... Sample PDF
Approaching Higher Education: A Life-World Story of Home-Places, Work-Places and Learn-Places
Chapter 11
Annika Bergviken Rensfeldt, Sandra Riomar
This chapter problematizes how gender is constructed and used in the arguments of flexible distance education. By using a gender and space analysis... Sample PDF
Gendered Distance Education Spaces: “Keeping Women in Place”?
Chapter 12
Minna Salminen-Karlsson
In this study of computer courses in municipal adult education, 173 questionnaires from 10 Swedish adult education centres with students taking a... Sample PDF
Computer Courses in Adult Education in a Gender Perspective
Chapter 13
Gill Kirkup
This chapter examines the access women have had historically to engage in knowledge production as university scholars or students. It discusses the... Sample PDF
Gendered Knowledge Production in Universities in a Web 2.0 World
Chapter 14
Gwyneth Hughes
Collaborative learning online is increasingly popular and the interaction between learners is documented and discussed, but gender is largely absent... Sample PDF
Queen Bees, Workers and Drones : Gender Performance in Virtual Learning Groups
Chapter 15
Gill Kirkup, Sigrid Schmitz, Erna Kotkamp, Els Rommes, Aino-Maija Hiltunen
This chapter argues that the future development of European e-learning needs to be informed by gender theory, and feminist and other critical... Sample PDF
Towards a Feminist Manifesto for e-Learning: Principles to Inform Practices*
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