Computers and information and communications technologies (ICT’s) have always been associated with a masculine culture. There has always been that stereotypical image of ‘the toys for the boys’ and this technology culture has always has always been one the more dominant cultures among men. This report aims to research into this issue and address the reasons as to why this is. I will also be addressing how this culture will be and has been affected by the development of information and communication technologies in our society. The association of technology with masculine culture
Ever since the so called ‘muscle jobs’ started to dwindle from our society around 30-40 years ago, men started to loose their traditional role and identity in society and as this transition occurred, another change was also taking place. Women, who were once seen in a very sexist light and thought only good for looking after the home and children, started to move out into the working world and were seeking careers of their own. This movement started during the Industrial Revolution when additional labour was needed. Such change over the years has caused a turnaround in the employment market.
For the first time ever women now statistically fill more employment positions in the UK than men. The men in society over time had slowly lost their place, their niche in the working world. As each generation passed, the jobs that one’s father once did were mostly no longer available, so young men were going out and finding different types of work that were changing generation after generation. This slow transition left the employment market filled with jobs that were more suited to women and left men with no area that they could go into, which would be accepted as a normal route for them into employment.
However, an employment sector that was more appropriate to their nature proved to be not too far away. This change left men with no real working speciality of their own and then came along their salvation: Information Technology. Throughout history men have usually been the one’s who have come up with new inventions and technologies. Those interested on a scientific level in technology enjoy tinkering around with electronic equipment and gadgets to try and make their ideas for new technology work.
In the modern day all this research and development is done in laboratories and research departments of big technology companies, but in the past such developments have taken place in people garages – like the first Apple Macintosh was created by Steve Jobs, in a garage. Men in general are naturally curious about things and always want to know how things work how it can be improved and how it came to be. However, only a select few take this to extremes and start inventing new things in their garage.
But ever since Bill Gate and Steve Jobs created a sort of ‘nerd’ culture in the mid 70’s, there have always budding inventors trying to make their name. So when computers, communications and information technology came into the popular domain, men had once again found their place. A new market and a new industry had arisen that for the majority, suited a great deal of men. Men flocked to these technology related employment positions and were happy in the knowledge that the job that they had found, was ‘right up their street’ so to put it.
They revelled and still do in jobs that are relevant to their nature. Not all such jobs however, are very scientific and technical in nature; there are a wide range of jobs that involve ICT’s that are more at the user end of technology, which I will discuss next. We now find ourselves in the modern day where information technology is widespread. It has its finger in every pie and is the heartbeat of modern society. Almost every job that involves an office will no doubt include the use of ICT’s on one level or another.
There is no escaping ICT’s as they are vital to any successful business operation. Even though men may inhabit most of the jobs at the scientific and inventive side of technology, there is a more even level of men and women in jobs that are more at the user end of technology. I see there being three levels to this, the third being the scientific and invention part of technology, the first being the user end and the one in the middle, the second level, which is usually found in companies in the IT sector that involves the selling, implementation, support and consultation of ICT’s.
As you move up the levels from three to one, the greater involvement of women is generally found, as the usage of technology is more at the user end. For example, there are jobs where the usage of computers, networks, the Internet and other technologies are a part of every working day, which aid the user to attain other working goals. Then there are jobs that are a little more technically orientated often at technical companies, which involve the consultation or support of ICT’s for companies who are more at the user end.
As mentioned, when we reach the user end of technology, the role of women becomes more prominent in the employment market as they have no problems at all with using information technology in their everyday working environment. The balance of men and women in such positions is around 50/50 leaning slightly over towards women, because at the user end women are arguably just as good if not better than men at using information technology to help them do their job.
However when it comes to technology outside the working environment it tends to only be men that fit into this technology culture because in general and I stress ‘in general’, women tend not to be interested. Men on the other hand ‘in general’ are more interested in this than anything. They love to play computer games, surf the Internet, play with gadgets and love their electronic hardware. Magazines such as ‘Stuff’, ‘T3 – Tomorrow’s Technology Today’ and ‘What HI-FI’ feed this masculine technology culture. They portray all this new technology and parade it like new fashion accessories for men.
Men play with all this technology and hardware as a form of entertainment; they enjoy it and have great fun playing games and watching DVD’s and so forth on their big screen televisions and loud sound systems. Such enjoyment from these activities can also turn into ‘macho’ competitions among friends and work colleagues to see who has the fastest and best car, who can beat who in lunch-time sessions of office network Quake or who has the biggest TV, best HI-FI system or fastest computer and this is a culture and environment that you generally tend to associate with men in the 15-40 age range.
On the other hand not all men are involved in such a culture and even those who are, often enjoy participating in other activities. The culture is however is very widespread in the age group in which it draws most its members – 15-40, but there will always be people outside this age group who are involved in the culture and vice versa.
Now such technology started off in the work place and crept its way out into the public world when it was more widely available, it first really started back in the late 80’s to early 90’s when the first mobile phones came on the market and created a ‘Yuppie’ culture among young successful business men. Such a culture however, has always been present but not as prominent. Men have always been eager to try out new things and new technologies such as the first computers, calculators and hand held electronic devices due to it being in their nature.
As time has progressed this masculine technological culture has become more and more prominent in society due to the increasing speed of the development of technologies. 40 years ago new technologies were around but were not as abundant as they are today. The world in which we live today is abounds with all sorts of new wonderful technologies and equipment that not only feeds this culture on a social and entertainment basis, but also helps us get along better with life and operate more efficiently in business and as a society etc. ecause the technology that we use is shaped by ourselves. For I believe it is us that shapes technology and not the technology that shapes us, because history will tell us that a new technology or piece of equipment that does not sell well will become obsolete. If we are introduced to a piece of technology that we think will not be useful then we won’t buy it and it will not be popular, therefore it is our own needs that direct the route in which new and future technologies take.
However, this is not to say that new technologies do not affect us. They have a massive influence in the way we live our lives and we can do things that people would not dream possible 50 years ago. The technologies that allow us to do these things come from us, come from our needs. It is us who are in control of our technological fate. People once said that the television would never take off as it involves sitting in one place looking at a box. Obviously they were wrong. This does not mean they were not in charge of their technological fate.
It only means that what new technologies we may become fixated with in the future are just the next steps on our technological needs ladder and what comes next comes because we feel there is a useful place for it in our society. How is this masculine technology culture affected by the development of information and communication technologies? The masculine culture that surrounds technology has always been present in the technological age and the development of ICT’s would on the surface only serve to feed this culture.
However, I believe this not to be the only affect on the culture the development of ICT’s could have. I feel that such developments have had and will have several ramifications on the masculine technology culture. Over the past 20 years new technologies have gone from being something that only ‘nerds’ for want of a better word would play with, but over recent years new technologies have become popular amongst a wide range of people much quicker due to them being much more user friendly yet more advanced than devices from the past.
An example of this is none more evident than in the software market, were Microsoft’s operating systems have gone from the tedious MS-DOS to very usable Windows XP. This has meant that more people have been interested in new ICT’s because such new technologies have enjoyed a much more popular culture and more popular image in the public eye. The technologies used in this culture have become more accessible to everyone else.
This does not mean nevertheless that the simplification of new ICT’s will be the death of the masculine technology culture. It means that the ICT’s used as a part of this culture will be more popular than ever before. The technologies will just be used differently. While the people in the masculine culture will continue to use them as they did before, there will be a wide range of other people who will use such ICT’s in other ways that are not conducive to the masculine technology culture.
For example, when giant ‘hang on the wall’ plasma televisions become more accessible in terms of price to the wider public, those in the masculine culture will revel in being able to play their new computer games on a bigger more advanced screen, while those not in such a culture may revel in the fact that they can use the screen as an artificial window that shows beautiful lakes and mountains as they have breakfast in Manchester on a dark winter morning. The simplification of ICT’s and new technologies in general that are used in the masculine culture may have crept out into a more popular culture and made the ICT’s used less exclusive.
But over the past 15 years the development of ICT’s has also had another effect on not just the masculine technology culture but also everyone in the modern world. 100 years ago people only became friends with the people in their local vicinity because they were the only people who they could communicate with due to the limitations of geography. These limitations have been reduced as the new technologies have come along, the first big impacts being the telephone and transportation.
Because of this, people could go and visit people face to face who live a long way away and speak to people on the phone who live at the other end of the country. But even with such ICT’s there were still great geographical limitations. Now we have no geographical limitations and people’s personal catchment area is very wide. We have the Internet, e-mail, video conferencing capabilities, land and mobile telephone systems and the majority of the world is fully connected to the electronic network.
These changes have over the years had a great effect on who may or may not be our friends; we now choose our friends and what we do by areas of interest and not by the limitations of geography. There is no longer just one big masculine culture, there are many sub-cultures where people participate in the activities they want with the people they want because the choice is virtually limitless. The development of ICT’s has brought everyone much closer together in the virtual world, but in doing so has contributed to the deterioration of the real world.
The masculine culture is still there but is much more organised and divided. There is not just one big group of people all with the same general area of interest. There are now many branches stemming from the very large technological tree. However, when people are thrown together in the real world like in the work place, men of similar generations who may have many different interests in the masculine technology culture will mostly get on well with each other as they all have the same general interest.
The other main ramification I could see the development of ICT’s having on the masculine technology culture is the most obvious one: it will feed it. Over recent years we may have seen technologies become simpler and more accessible to everyone and not just those in the masculine technology culture, but there is a new wave of technologies that are currently available or on the brink of being fully available to the public. The technologies of today that most people find so simple had to start somewhere and over the years they have been made more user friendly and brought more into the public eye.
However new present technologies such as recordable DVD’s, DVD Audio, hard disk television recording, interactive TV, Broadband, MP3 and Bluetooth are not understood by most people outside the masculine technology culture. It will take time for those not as interested in such things to become accustomed to them, let alone new technologies not yet available such as Third Generation Mobile Phones and all-in-one home entertainment and communication systems that incorporate the Internet, TV, interactive TV, video phone, DVD and music collections.
There is a technology overlap where it takes time for people not that interested in technology to become accustomed to new things and just as they start to become accustomed, more new things come out and they have to start all over again, whereas people in the masculine technology culture are early adopters of technology and keep up-to-date all the time.
With this overlap, I see there always being room for such a culture. There will always be people who grasp new technology first and use it within their social group and as a part of their culture. The development of new technologies will initially feed the masculine technology culture but they will then gradually make their way into a more popular culture like DVD machines are doing at the moment. Conclusion
For as far as one can imagine, there will always be new up and coming technologies and as long as this is the case, there will always be particular groups of people who will be both aware and interested in new and developing ICT’s. Such interest will always create a place for a masculine technology culture because for the foreseeable future, it will always be those in this culture who are the early adopters of technology, who will then use it as they wish in a similar way that we see today.