Gender and the Internet User

Gender and the Internet User

Cynthia Tysick, Cindy Ehlers
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-945-8.ch003
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Civilization has seen an explosion of information technologies over the last one hundred years. The telephone, radio, television, and Internet have entered the lives of men and women at work and home, becoming the main forms of communication and entertainment. Unfortunately, early adopters and creators of these technologies were men. Women, working primarily in the home, were not exposed to these technological innovations until husbands or fathers brought them into the home. Oftentimes, wives and daughters viewed these “contraptions” as intrusive to the harmony of the home. Therefore, in order to appeal to the widest possible audience these information technologies were adapted, mostly by corporations, to appeal to women through aesthetically pleasing design, creative programming, and product marketing (Shade, 2002). By the end of the 20th century, the television emerged as the electronic hearth. Here the family gathered, shared their day, and engaged in entertainment or debate (Tichi, 1991). Today Americans are spending less time in front of the television and more time in front of the new electronic hearth—the Internet. The average American spends close to three hours on the Internet per day, exceeding the number of hours spent watching television by 1.7 hours (Nie, Simpser, Stepaniknova, & Zheng, 2004). The Internet has followed a diffusion of innovation pattern similar to all its predecessors, beginning as a communication tool for white, male scientists to share ideas, eventually being adopted by young male “inventor-heroes” who manipulated and improved it. These improvements motivated white businessmen to use the Internet to improve profits and productivity, gather information, and entertainment. In the end the computer, and as a result the Internet, left the man’s world of work and entered the woman’s domain of the home. Slowly, over the last ten years it has made a subtle impact on the lives of American women.

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