Cybersociology Magazine: Issue Five

Study of Men and Women's Gender Display in Text-based Communication

Presented By: Sema Nicole Seyedi

(Research initiated as a group project which included Dawn Scavo, Mrinal Sinha, Laura Karnesky, and the author of this contribution)


This observational study addresses the issue of gender participation on Computer Mediated Communications (CMC) at California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) on Open Forum (OF). Social Facts, dramaturgical and other paradigms are used to test the hypothesis that there is a difference between the participation of male and female students on CMC at CSUMB. Scientific methodology was used to collect and analyze data. In analysis we utilized percentages to derive information about the dominance of male participation on CMC at CSUMB.



As the age of the Internet explodes in growth, more people are logging on to it every day. With this explosion of new user's, social scientists find a whole New World of exploration. This electronic frontier has recently seen one of the largest sub-populations to "immigrate" to the Internet are women. Traditionally, women have not been well represented in computer disciplines, but on the Internet there appears to have been a terrific growth in the female user population in the past few years. The goal of this research project is to study this phenomenon by examining CMC within a small group of users that the Primary Investigator (PI) has access to: California State University Monterey Bay (CSUBM) students. This project will examine CMC at CSUMB for male dominance.

It is said women do not have the same access to On-Line CMC as men. According to Leslie Shade in her article "Community Networking: The International Free-Net Conference" women are underrepresented on-line and in the computer science field. She suggests this is due to stereotyping that happens in childhood as a result of which toys boys and girls use. Shade suggests typical software and video games are aggressive in their interactive presentation making them more attractive to males then females. When looking at Internet she reports gauging gender use is difficult and that women on-line or only about 10 to 15%. This percentage of woman is significantly low. She attributes this issue to gender and suggests that in the professional academic society woman and men are not equal participants. It has been suggested that these stereotypes may only reflect certain groups of users and that some Internet domains may have greater numbers of female participants. It has all so been suggested that woman do not utilize the Internet due to the lack of education, mentors, economics and access disadvantages (Truong, 1993).

At CSUMB, every student has access to Internet. The vision of CSUMB is to graduate students that are technological competent. Upon admissions to CSUMB, each student receives an Intranet account to the CSUMB's First Class Intranet Client (FCIC). The FCIC allows students to send private electronic mail (email), post on OF and other bulletin boards, and chat with in the CSUMB community. Each student also receive membership to the server space on the campus' Seal sever. This server space is a place were students can store their works in a private folder or World Wide Web folder. It also has folders for sending and receiving files. Access to change files is limited to the student, who uses a password to gain access. With all this te chnological indoctrination, the question is "are woman at CSUMB taking advantage of CMC accesses as envisioned by the graduation requirements of all students?" Associated with this question is a second question, "is there an underlying computer technology phobia towards this electronic media that has gender bias" (Truong et al, 1993) as theory suggests. Truong et al, suggests women are excluded on-line due to economics and social conditioning and this causes political and personal problems. Though there is evidence woman are not embracing CMC I would expect to find that the percentage of CMC use higher amongst women students at CSUMB then in the general population.



Society today is rapidly changing with the use of CMC within the Internet. Social scientists find themselves with a wealth of information at their fingertips and new ways of observing behavioral gender differences. Social scientists for the first time can explore this "New World" at its early stages and use their research to educate people for the good of society as it makes this rapid transition into the "Virtual World". Social scientists can use a traditional framework to further their studies on understanding this new social phenomenon. It is important to establish a theory for your project, because according to Schutt (1997) the implications of the findings are clear when there is a general theoretical tradition to relate to the study. Emile Durkheim's social fact's paradigm offers a great traditional theory that can explain some of the social pheromone that is going on in CMC. According to the book 'Investigating the Social World', theories can help establish a research project by making sense of conditions that are an interrelated phenomenon and help to predict behavior or attitudes. In the case of CMC we can see how the theories that are applied in non-Internet settings can be used to further our understanding of why we might find similar results in the virtual world. The works of Durkheim and Goffman are utilized to explain the different variables of CMC.

Sociology is one of the newest sciences being studied with its academic beginnings coming from its founding father Emile Durkheim (Kuper & Kuper, 1995). Sociology studies human society, emphasizing on generalization about its development and structure (Burke, 1992). We suggest that the Intranet is a microsociety and that our research can be generalized to other universities with similar Intranet systems. 'The Social Science Encyclopedia' refers to sociology as the science that looks at patterns of human interactions, being influenced by modernity. Similar to the era of modernity, we are now looking at a new historical period where the use of CMC is effecting the lives of millions. "Modernity refers to a historical period that began in Western Europe with a series of cultural, social and economic changes occurring in the seventeenth century" (Archetti, 546). It was because of the changing world a need for a new paradigm was evident and thanks to Durkheim there was one. Exploring the works of Emile Durkheim it is easy to see how his social facts paradigm can be used to describe many social and behavioral problems in the present society of virtual reality.

Durkheim's social facts paradigm explores the sociological aspects of individual and group behavior. According to Durkheim's social fact's, behavior manifest its self through the external determents that are coercive to the individual as well as a group (Lukes, 1982). Durkheim suggests that human behavior is determined by the social institutions that all humans belong to. These institutions are the family, educatio n, economy, political and religious. On the Internet social scientists see all aspects of these institutions. Durkheim's social fact's paradigm can be used to examine an array of social problems on the Internet. It explores variables such as age, gender, ethnicity and other social and economic facts. According to Durkheim, to fit into human social interaction, we are subjected to social facts in the physical world (Karady, no date). Then it stands these social facts will follow us into CMC.

Goffman's theory of Dramaturgy is a framework for understanding the social interaction of on-line chat. In Goffman's book 'The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life' he looks at how we are socialized to follow certain scripts. He suggests that these scripts result in a performance and are often a result of our social standing in society. He implies that the performance our parents assign us is a script that is set for us by the age of 3. Goffman implies that the "dramaturgical plays" are handed down to us from myths and nursery rhymes and that they will vary between culture, gender, and other social facts.

The issues of gender and conversation have been an intriguing one that social scientists have been exploring in CMC. It has been said that this new medium gives women an opportunity to communicate their ideas on a playing ground where gender does not come into play. Gender is define d as male and female for the purposes of this study. In fact gender in and of itself is not a polarized concept. In psychometric tests that measure gender, the results of the test often put people in categories such as androgynous. Androgyny is considered a conglomeration of both male and female gender traits and behaviors. When considering the impact of gender in CMC it is important to understand the social implications of education and economics on women.

According to Herring in her studies of CMC, which evaluated female and male interaction, she discovered that a small minority of participants dominated the interaction. Herring suggests that males interact in a way that limits democracy in academic CMC. As a result of this Herring suggests that women are being censored, limiting democratic discourse.

According to Patterson in her article 'CYBERFEMINISM' roles for women in the new frontier are one's being represented as evil and seductive. She suggests that this is not a new phenomenon and that this type of cyberfeminism is highly visible in our society. She implies this negative typecasting is damaging to women as a whole. In addition, Patterson states that social facts play a paramount role in technologies and those who do not participate in electronic technology will be the group left out of social interaction. Patterson is advocating that women should not retreat from electr onic technology. She advises women to understand the impact of CMC on their educational and financial well-being.

In the book 'Jihad vs. McWorld' Barber explains the impact of new technology on the world's social systems. He suggests that the transitional corporations are creating a private sector through telecommunication technology. This private sector will be what he refers to as the "information rich." Barber suggests this group of information rich will move into suburbs that the poor can not afford. He goes on to say the information rich will have private schools, recreation, sanitation services and security the poor can not afford. Barber suggests that this group will have electronic information to help them make decisions on consumer shopping trends. They will also have the best information about what to do with their money. They will be informed about elections and this will help them make decisions that will benefit their group. The information rich will gain extensive access to catalogs of information. This will tell them about the behaviors of consumers and will put them at a great advantage to control and manipulate consumers and the information poor. Barber insinuates as a result of this every "Third World becomes a series of urban ghettos within every First World society as well as a series of poor nation ghettos within international societies" (271). He f urther implies "Even where we set social and class issues aside, the marketing technology can have untold consequences" (271). Barber implies that the market can liberate some, but at the same time repress others.



In CMC democratic discourse is limited for women.



Men will dominate the conversation on CMC at CSUMB.




A day of the week was picked as a result of a random sample technique. Collection started on a Saturday at noon. We collected posts from OF conversations that met a set criterion. Collection excludes textual areas pertaining to advertisements, clubs, or other solicitations of any kind, be they personal or otherwise. The Text Boxes (TB = individual CMC that identify who, what, and when of the interactions) are stored on a Microsoft Word document and also a hard copy was printed. It took a week to collect the TB. The board was cleared by the FirstClass service when the message quantity reached a certain level on OF. Messages were collected once a day for week. The Research Assistants (RA) start at the oldest posts and cont inue to the most recent ones.

The data are coded and saved in Microsoft Excel. We code by name in order to clarify gender. Each TB is given an identification number from 100-199. Each TB is given a gender code, male 0 and female 1. Each TB is given a group identification letter (A, B, C...etc.). Each TB is given an order number (1,2,3, etc.). Each TB is given a response code that tells the direction of the conversation between gender. The TB's have an origin starting with a first person, which we coded as 0. The response was coded according to who responded to what gender. If the 0 response made is male and the respondent is male, it is coded 1. If the 0 response made is male and the respondent is female, it is coded 2. If the 0 response made is female and the respondent is female, it is coded 3. If the 0 response is a female and the respondent is male, it is coded 4.



Several independent analyses are done. The percentages of subjects are 30 male and 21 female. There were 66 male TB and 34 female TB. Male subjects were the give off 22 times and woman 6. A chi-square was utilized to observe if there was any difference between the flow of the conversation once the conversation started. There was no significance to the flow of the conversation between men and women. The direction of the conversation starting from the male was 67 and female 33.






Text Boxes=100












Initiated Conversatoin=28






Flow of Conversation




Male to Male=30%


Male to Female=15%


Female to Female=10%


Female to Male=17%

The individual T B are measured for how many characters it includes. Male mean score is 92 words and woman's mean score is 64.



When starting this research project it was very hard to tell exactly where it was going to go. The Internet as a research field and tool is new to most social and behavioral scientist so there is not a lot of study's to replicate. We wanted to include more social facts into our study, but we soon found that access to student socioeconomic information was off limits to us. Student socioeconomic information will be obtained in a survey of women's attitudes in future research to create a dialogue using Trounge's theories of whether education, mentioning, economics and access hinder women in using CMC. Other research is left open for exploration. We found that Herring had some great ideas that can be used to continue our research. The actual TB can be examined for the content of the conversations. There may maybe dominance of male subjects through word usage. We would like to use Herrings theories of what man and woman will give off. She suggests:

Women will give off attenuated assertions, apologies, explicit justifications, questions, personal orientation, supports others. Men give off strong assertions, self promotions, presuppositions, rhetorical question, authoritative orientation, challenging others and humor and sarcasm. (Herring, 1993 ).

To complete this analyses a random sample be taken from this purposeful sample. This sample will be statistical analyzed for these variables by three independent RA.

We would also like to do a content analysis using a survey to do a quasi experiment to see if male participants can identify the gender of the TB more than female participants. A random sample was already made and a survey prepared to presented to a group of college students who will be asked to identify the gender of the writer.



Archetti E. P. (1996). "Modernity." 'The Social Science Encyclopedia,' 2nd ed. London and New York: Routledge.

Barber, B. R. (1996). 'Jihad vs. McWorld.' USA: Random House, Inc.

Berne, E. (1964). 'Games People Play: the Psychology of Human Relationships.' New York, NY: Grove Press.

Goffman, E. (1959). 'The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life.' New York, NY: Doubleday.

Herring, S. C. (1993). "Gender and Democracy in Computer Mediated Communication" [On-line]. Available: (1998, Oct 5).

Karady, V. (no date). "Durkheim, Emile (1858-1917)." 'The Social Science ' Encyclopedia second ed,. London and New York: Routledge.

Kuper, A. and J. Kuper (1996). 'The Social Science Encyclopedia,' 2nd ed. London and New York: Routledge

Lukes, S. (1982). 'The rules of the Sociological Method.' New York, NY: Free Press.

Paterson, N. (No date). "CYBERFEMINISM" [On-line]. Available: 'http://echonyc.come:70/0/cullcCyber/paterson' (1998, October 5).

Shade, Leslie R. (1993). "Community Networking: The International Free-Net Conference" [On-line]. Available: (1998, October 5).

Schutt, R. K. (1996). 'Investigating the Social World: The Process and Practice of Research. CA: Pine Forge Press.

Spertus, E. (1996). "Social and Technical Means for Fighting On-line Harassment" [On-line]. Available: (1998, September 17).

Truong, H., Williams, G., Clark, J. and Covey, A. (1993). "Gender Issues in On-line Communications" [On-line]. Available: (1998, October 5).





CSUMB Student Population is almost the opposite of the percentage of posts population.



In the sample there were many subjects who posted more than once. This graph shows the gender ratio of all subjects.



Of the 100 TB collected there were more post from male subjects then female.



This Chart Shows that male subjects are more likely to be the starting point of a conversation on the CMC at CSUMB.



This Chart shows how the conversation flowed after it had been initiated. There was no significant difference in the flow of the conversation once it was started.



This Chart shows that men Initiated the conversation. They gave off more often then woman.




This project started out as a group project. There were three RA and a Primary Investigator (PI). The three RA primary responsibility was to collect data. Sema is senior PI and group leader. As Senior PI this project gave me an opportunity to use the skills that I have acquired in the last three semesters at CSUMB. This project will be expanded to include analysis on private emails to a professor to examine how students are using CMC to interact with a professor. There will also be a section on gender identification of students to target the whole female population at CSUMB in order to conduct an opinion survey of women attitudes towards computer technology.


Team Members and Their Roles

Sema Nicole Seyedi

Dawn Scavo

Mrinal Sinha

Data Collection

Laura Karnesky

Sema Nicole Seyedi ([email protected]) is an undergraduate student in the De partment of Sociology at the University of California at Monterey Bay.

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