NOV. 3 Pricis: "The Digital Divide: The Special Case of Gender," by J. Cooper; Princeton University.



In this article, titled The Digital Divide: The Special Case of Gender, by J. Cooper of Princeton University, Cooper purports that the nature of computer and gaming technologies often exclude female users and audiences. The roots of this social strain are linked to developmental differences between boys and girls and gender-related stereotypes (Wilson et al. 2003). Using these technologies in the classroom can cause anxiety and impede regular learning for girls who did not grow up in the video game arcade culture that is directed towards young boys. Because girls are less accustomed to using computers and gaming strategies, they tend to like learning through these mediums less than boys do and exhibit less confidence in their computer abilities (Colley and Comber. 2003).

Cooper suggests that most games, including those intended to teach a certain subject, are directed towards the interests of boys. Examples include math games that are set within the realm of sports, space battles and war (Cooper et al. 1990). Studies suggest that girls are completely capable of learning in information technology environments but that they are less inclined to progress if they are learning and playing on “boy toys.” (Cooper. 2006. p324). Studies also show that girls perform higher on games, no matter what the format, when they engage in the game privately. Within a coeducational social environment, social pressures, competition, and expectations greatly affect female performance (Cooper. 2006. p324).

This article also exposes realities of the assumptions made by game designers, whether male or female, concerning their expected audience. Video games have historically been designed for boys and are therefore designed within a language that speaks to or caters to the male psyche more so than the female psyche. Another study showed that educators, when asked to design educational games for both genders designed games that were almost identical to games designed by teachers asked to create games for boys. These two games were very different, however, by games designed by educators intended for girls. Therefore, “androgynous” educational video games are, in fact, created with visual and conceptual tendency towards boys (Cooper and Huff. 1987). Gender inequalities in the digital realm start in childhood but persist into adulthood, putting women at a competitive disadvantage in college and the workplace.

Cooper suggests through this article that information and media technologies should be and will be integrated into learning environments, but educators and designers must reanalyze the gender-related stereotypes affiliated with video games and address them with innovative and truly bi-gender educational games.