[iDC] Where have all the women gone?

trebor at thing.net trebor at thing.net
Tue Jul 11 14:56:06 EDT 2006

Joline's comments about narrow focus are intriguing. A friend told me that he
can only be on narrowly focused (expert) lists because he has a child. The time
concern behind his comment is surely justified but there are dangers to that.

The Internet becomes a host for plural monocultures. The danger is that no two
opinions confront each other; in their own inner chamber people can forget
about racial, ethnic or economical differences and just talk about the very
narrow interest set that connects them. Such focus is appealing in the face of
hours of daily web drifting. These super-special interest groups could become
monocultures, conversations take place next to each other, crossovers are
expelled as being "off-topic."

Sociologist Robert Putnam describes in his book “Bowling Alone” how expert
culture’s other voices are automatically assumed to be non-experts who have
nothing to contribute to the debate.

The Institute for Distributed Creativity grew out of the Free Cooperation
conference in 2004 (freecooperation.org). Since then the iDC has facilitated
large-scale events such as Share, Share Widely (newmediaeducation.org) and
gender balance beyond tokenism was positively my intention. Sometimes it
succeeded, at other times it did not. Gender balance is still a huge problem not
only in new media circles-- from the seminar room, to the organization of events
or exhibitions, to mailing list culture.

Artists/organizers/theorists frequently suggest that they look for the most
suitable person to participate in an event, somebody who really deals with the
topics at hand. This supposed search for competence is described as “color and
gender blind.” There are, of course, countless things wrong with this sentence.
Where to start?

To look harder, to acknowledge the issues, and to publicly discuss them is a

This list. Women and men are fairly evenly subscribed here but it is clear that
men post more often than women. How can we entice continued, and more extensive
participation? Does anybody have examples of lists that are populated by both
genders and achieved more balance? How did they do it?

I am reluctant to change the general guidelines for the list of the Institute
for Distributed Creativity, aim for a desirable signal-to-noise ratio, as I
received many comments from people who appreciate them.

All rules for moderation are transparent on the info page:

“No anonymous posts. No attachments. Posts of one or two words as well as
simultaneous multiple posts by one author are discouraged. If you would like to
share URLs with the list, please add a few sentences contextualizing the website
that you recommend.”


Christina McPhee just posted their rules on the [-empyre-] list.

> -empyre- is not a chat space, nor an announcement or self promotion
> list, nor online performance space, and doesn't accept HTML
> formatted email or attachments on the list. The facilitators
> reserve the right to not publish posts that disregard these
> guidelines, or the current month's topics, disrespect the featured
> guests, or monopolize the forum either via individuals or group,
> and may unsubscribe anyone consistently doing so.

What about rotating guest iDC facilitators who lead discussions? Such an
experiment could start after our symposium.


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