The dynamics of gender perception and status in email-mediated group interaction V1.0

Alexanne Don


This paper takes the position that identity is not located in the individual but in the community in which each individual is recognised as a legitimate participant. Markers of identity such as gender, race, and socio-economic class are not visible in written interaction, but socialisation produces expectations regarding the positions, status and behaviour of dual gender roles, and such expectations can colour the ways in which participants in a mailing list respond to each other. Despite the fact that technological mediation appears to render social markers invisible, social categories such as gender can become even more relevant for interactants in these contexts. The study of interactional patterns on the mailing list Cybermind uses a scheme to classify posts in order to highlight participants’ responses to their projected addressees according to perceived gender. The findings indicate that style of response both to and by each ‘identified’ gender can be differentiated, and suggests that interactive behaviour contributes to the legitimation of local status of participants, but that this is not just a function of gender alone.

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