In choosing a title for this contribution I have done my best to avoid such terms as ‘inclusion/exclusion’ and ‘gap’ while at the same time allowing the reader to form a rough idea of what the topic of discussion is. This resulted in the choice of the phrase ‘Gender Equality in the Information Society’ which may still need some clarification. The pair ‘gender/technology’, which has been brought to our attention by the increasing spread of computer use over the last twenty years, has long been read as ‘women and technology’ and is considered to be synonymous with social exclusion. I have aimed, instead, throughout the writing of this paper, to prevent any possible ‘normative’ bias. Likewise, I have tried to avoid any leaning towards technological determinism: in no way am I assuming here that technology is ‘necessary’ or relevant to the needs of everyone, but rather considering that as “exclusion implies an act with an agent or agents”, people may choose to exclude themselves in addition to being excluded. Every individual/community/society continuously negotiates what it needs according to their personal characteristics as well as according to the contexts in which they live. Nor am I here viewing technology and society as static entities which have no influence on each other, but rather as dynamic, evolving organisms that are mutually shaped and co-produced. Technology has been and often still is seen as an ‘inevitable’ universalising force cutting across different social, economic, cultural and political settings, but a view of it as a social product shaped by multiple factors can only stress the impossibility of anticipating its developments, linked as they are to the interplay among different social, economic, cultural and political ‘needs’ of local as well as global agents. Unfortunately, even in recent years, attempts at defining the factors involved in technology have mostly been carried out in the form of statistical analysis. This has all too often contributed to re-enforcing the reading of data on technology as patterns of advancement/backwardness which postulate the need for different forms of adaptations on the part of different social groups in order to allow an increase – possibly the total penetration – of technology into society. For example, in particular as regards the latest Information and Communication Technology (ICT), statistically-based analysis has revealed the existence of a ‘digital divide’ between the rich and the poor, the well-educated and the under-educated, the West and the East, the North and the South, the male and the female, the young and the elderly, just to quote a few dichotomous pairs. As I said above, I will limit the scope of the present contribution to ICT and the issue of the ‘gender digital divide’, which is more overtly addressable as well as open to possible analysis/intervention in my present position as an action-researcher in the fields of both secondary and higher education. Furthermore, I would like to make clear that I am not looking here at gender as essentially given, or as an extension of sex, a binary opposition between ‘zeroes and ones’, but as a socially and culturally constructed range of possible ‘preferences’ which have no clear-cut identification with one’s sex, where the boundaries between male and female are in fact blurred and sometimes overlapping. Regarding the framework in which this paper should be set, I will try to contextualise it as much as possible with the specific situation of Italy, although I will have to draw heavily from international experience in this field for reference, since the specific literature in Italian is very limited.

Gender equality in the information society: Implications for Italy-based ELT

DI MARTINO, Emilia
2006

Abstract

In choosing a title for this contribution I have done my best to avoid such terms as ‘inclusion/exclusion’ and ‘gap’ while at the same time allowing the reader to form a rough idea of what the topic of discussion is. This resulted in the choice of the phrase ‘Gender Equality in the Information Society’ which may still need some clarification. The pair ‘gender/technology’, which has been brought to our attention by the increasing spread of computer use over the last twenty years, has long been read as ‘women and technology’ and is considered to be synonymous with social exclusion. I have aimed, instead, throughout the writing of this paper, to prevent any possible ‘normative’ bias. Likewise, I have tried to avoid any leaning towards technological determinism: in no way am I assuming here that technology is ‘necessary’ or relevant to the needs of everyone, but rather considering that as “exclusion implies an act with an agent or agents”, people may choose to exclude themselves in addition to being excluded. Every individual/community/society continuously negotiates what it needs according to their personal characteristics as well as according to the contexts in which they live. Nor am I here viewing technology and society as static entities which have no influence on each other, but rather as dynamic, evolving organisms that are mutually shaped and co-produced. Technology has been and often still is seen as an ‘inevitable’ universalising force cutting across different social, economic, cultural and political settings, but a view of it as a social product shaped by multiple factors can only stress the impossibility of anticipating its developments, linked as they are to the interplay among different social, economic, cultural and political ‘needs’ of local as well as global agents. Unfortunately, even in recent years, attempts at defining the factors involved in technology have mostly been carried out in the form of statistical analysis. This has all too often contributed to re-enforcing the reading of data on technology as patterns of advancement/backwardness which postulate the need for different forms of adaptations on the part of different social groups in order to allow an increase – possibly the total penetration – of technology into society. For example, in particular as regards the latest Information and Communication Technology (ICT), statistically-based analysis has revealed the existence of a ‘digital divide’ between the rich and the poor, the well-educated and the under-educated, the West and the East, the North and the South, the male and the female, the young and the elderly, just to quote a few dichotomous pairs. As I said above, I will limit the scope of the present contribution to ICT and the issue of the ‘gender digital divide’, which is more overtly addressable as well as open to possible analysis/intervention in my present position as an action-researcher in the fields of both secondary and higher education. Furthermore, I would like to make clear that I am not looking here at gender as essentially given, or as an extension of sex, a binary opposition between ‘zeroes and ones’, but as a socially and culturally constructed range of possible ‘preferences’ which have no clear-cut identification with one’s sex, where the boundaries between male and female are in fact blurred and sometimes overlapping. Regarding the framework in which this paper should be set, I will try to contextualise it as much as possible with the specific situation of Italy, although I will have to draw heavily from international experience in this field for reference, since the specific literature in Italian is very limited.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.12570/1124
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