Voice and Silence in an Email Conversation Group Involving Rural and Urban Women in Australia

June Lennie
Content Type
Working Paper
Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies, City University of New York
Some feminists argue that when women are involved in designing and using technologies in ways that meet their particular needs, new communication technologies such as the Internet and email groups can facilitate empowerment and social change (Collins-Jarvis, 1993; Farwell, Wood, James and Banks, 1999; McCulley and Patterson, 1996). These effects are said to arise because the Internet can make gender, cultural and other differences less relevant, particularly when the identities of list members are unknown. Fredrick (1999) cites researchers who have claimed that computer mediated communication is 'non-hierarchical, more expressive, more democratic, and more inclusive' than traditional forms of communication (p.187). For instance, McCulley and Patterson (1996) found that for feminist students, cyberspace 'provides a place to exchange ideas from many points of view, across boundaries of gender, race and culture' (p.5). Email discussion groups thus potentially offer 'safe spaces' for women to communicate in ways that are consistent with feminist principles and goals. They have been found to facilitate the creation of supportive 'virtual communities' that enable diverse groups of women to give voice to their various issues and concerns, and to share information and network, without the limitations of location, travel costs and time associated with face to face communication (Rural Women and ICTs Team, 1999).
Development, Gender Issues, Human Welfare, Science and Technology
Political Geography