Monday, 21 May 2012

Gender issues in information and communication technologies (ICTs)

an article by Wieslaw Oleksy, Edyta Just and Kaja Zapedowska-Kling (University of Lodz, Poland) published in Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society Volume 10 Issue 2 (2012)


The purpose of this paper is to present some of the findings (which were reported on more extensively in earlier work) regarding the visibility of gender issues in the literature on selected information and communication technologies (ICTs) with a view to make predictions about potential ethical issues that the application of these ICTs may bring about in the future. This paper is part of the larger research project called ETICA (Ethical Issues of Emerging Information and Communication Technologies), a collaborative project funded by the 7th Framework Programme of the European Union.
On the basis of the analysis of around 100 published sources, which dealt with various aspects of selected ICTs, conclusions have been drawn regarding gender issues and concerns that the applications of these ICTs may cause. The authors' analysis is theoretically informed by critical discourse analysis (CDA) which assumes that texts, both written and spoken, as well as other forms of symbolic representations, are indicative of social practices. Of particular methodological relevance was the survey of methods of text and discourse analysis presented in Titscher et al. and especially the application of keyword search as a way to measure the prominence of each investigated method. This approach to literature surveying proved very useful in selecting analytic material: only those published sources on the selected four ICTs have been included in the survey, for which the analysis of keywords, abstracts and indexes of terms indicated authors' interest in gender issues.
First, ICTs such as affective computing, ambient intelligence, and artificial intelligence, have been found to have the potential of positively affecting gender power relations and thus positively affecting gender balance in the areas of labour market related to ICT across EU countries and worldwide. Second, more research on the relationship between gender and ICT design, application and representation is needed, so as to enhance a better understanding of ethical issues resulting from unequal participation of women and men in all aspects of ICT production and implementation, which in itself is an ethical dilemma with which both the ICT business and legislators have to grapple.
The paper offers insight into the relationship between the level of attention devoted to particular ICTs by ICT researchers, as evidenced in the reviewed literature, and the likelihood of the application of a particular ICT in the future, which is looked at and assessed from a gender perspective.

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