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NSF CAREER Award: Towards HCl Theory for Technical and Gender Identity

CCI Project Lead: Jennifer Rode (Principal Investigator)

Supported by: National Science Foundation, Division of Information & Intelligent Systems

About the Project

This project aims to close the gap in women’s participation in STEM fields, particularly computing (Camp, 1997), by conducting a multi-year ethnographic study of their attitudes towards technology. Feminist scholars argue the lack of women in computing further discourages women from pursuing programming-related careers, and women are further excluded because technologies created by men better address male needs (Turkle, 1998; Wajcman, 1992, NEW REFERENCE). It is imperative that this cycle be broken. This application of feminist theory to the participation gap is transformative in that it suggests the problem lies not only with who is participating, but that the design processes inherently disadvantages women. This project aims to understand girl’s identity and how that ultimately contributes to their choice as to whether to participate in design of new computing technologies and whether they pursue computing majors in college. The proposed research aims to address this by bridging previously uncombined aspects of the Learning Sciences, Human-Computer Interactions and Science and Technology Studies (STS) of Gender literatures. Prior findings and theory combined with the ethnographic results will result in an understanding of how girls co-construct their gender and technical identities, how technologies come to be associated with one gender or the other, and how this affects girls’ career choices. This will be used as the basis for participatory design with the girls to create technologies in keeping with their gender identities. In doing so we will learn about girls’ needs, enabling us to create best practices for gender-sensitive design in several formats including new design methods and heuristics to be integrated into college curriculums to allow for equitable technology design.

Read Complete Project Abstract