[iDC] Reading Women/Writing Women/Being Women

Michele White mwhite at michelewhite.org
Thu Jul 13 11:09:30 EDT 2006


I am more than a little uncomfortable with describing
the particular aspects of any group without noting how
these behaviors are institutionally or culturally
produced. It may be a small thing, however, I would
also advocate removing the following "guideline" from
the iDC information page, which I believe is also sent
to new users: "After a couple of weeks of observing
the debate it would be good to hear from you on the
list. Perhaps start with a bit of information about
yourself followed by comments on the ongoing

I understand all the reasons for this indication.
However, it also articulates a culture where there are
established and respected individuals and individuals
who need to be inculcated into the culture and should
be "silent" until they are able to correctly follow
the rules. "Insider" knowledge and appropriate topics
and theories are enforced and users are trained
because "ignorant" guests, newbies, and n00bs
(dismissive terms that we should avoid because these
positions are rarely believed to bring fresh
conceptual ideas or alternative functions) are often
"kicked out" if they fail to read the FAQ or other
instructions in many Internet settings. Varied
netiquette guidelines encourage this dynamic. There
are few instances in which settings welcome new users
without trying to train them in the expected behaviors
of the site. The iDC quote is our instance of doing
this and it may prevent newer members from introducing
their own topics and theories since they are advised
to participate in the ongoing "discussion." They are
also instructed to lurk and are thus encouraged to
determine if they can or do mirror the ideas of the
setting and its participants rather than if they have
goals or interests that the list might support. When
and how do site expectations change? In many Internet
settings, one of the goals of this inculcation is the
standardization of reading, writing, and representing
methods. For instance, FAQs and netiquette guidelines
discourage "off-topic" messages, which also prevent
discussions that have not been previously validated.
This disciplining of relevant topics, ideas, and
authorship also occurs in the Internet and new media
studies literature where there are expectations that
certain authors will be cited. Thus, to use Mira
Schor's term, the patrilineage of the sites and its
participants continues since the texts already
mentioned are often those produced by white men. It
could be because I have done some research on this,
but I was really taken aback when seeing this
"guideline" and the kinds of participation that it
structured and validated.

All my best,

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