My session on graduate students in digital humanities was Occupied!
Because it became clear to many at the conference that although 40% of the attendees at THATCamp Switzerland were female, only one of the proposals was by a woman. So, two of the women here at Camp staged a pirate attack on my session and “occupied” it to hold a session instead on women in social media.
One of the central topics discussed was how social media respond to (or don’t) women’s career trajectory in digital humanities? Another was how women (and men) manage their identities online. So, for instance, are men more likely to use social media in a non-professional way, i.e., tweet about what they are doing today, while women in the academic life are perhaps more likely to confine themselves to more professional uses. So much of the discussion revolved around questions of power–to what degree is the power in academia tilted toward men or not, and whether digital media might be flattening the hierarchical relationships because all have equal access.
One of the points I thought was especially interesting was whether men in digital humanities (who seemed a bit older to the commentor–I hope she didn’t mean me!) were “digital immigrants” while the women seemed younger and so were more l likely to be “digital natives.” That comment certainly bears on the experience in the U.S., in that women are taking over graduate education in general, with certain fields excepted (finance, engineering).
A good bit of the discussion centered on the editing of Wikipedia and what that could tell us about gender? Wikipedia’s own survey — 58,000 self-selected respondents out of 15.6 million account holders — says that 87% are male. So, even if we assume that men are more likely to respond to such a survey than women (which I don’t know if it’s true or not) we still have to say that writing/editing for Wikipedia is an overwhelmingly masculine activity. Why that is the case, it seems to me, is a question well worth pursuing.
According to the Pew Internet Project, in the U.S., women are somewhat more likely (69% vs 60%) to use social media than men. I’d have to examine the underlying data to see if this difference is wider in younger age cohorts, but if that’s true, then it could validate the comment about digital immigrants/digital natives.
All in all, a very lively discussion that needs to be had over and over and over.