The Online Professional: Gender and Digital Culture

Friday 8 November 2013, 2.00PM to 5.00pm

Press coverage of a series of incidents - from Caroline Criado-Perez’s campaign to ensure female representation on English banknotes to Classics Professor Mary Beard’s appearance on the BBC television programme Question Time – has drawn attention to pervasive, gender-specific, and abusive forms of engagement with digital media in recent months. Online modes of communication are increasingly prevalent not only in our personal lives, but also in our careers – and employers (in the academic sphere and beyond) now often actively encourage, if not require, their staff to connect with new and diverse audiences through such technologies.  

However, especially when engaging professionally with Twitter, Facebook, blogs, YouTube, and other online outlets (even email itself), it seems not uncommon for individuals to be subject to significant and persistent harassment (e.g, see Audra Mitchell’s reflections on female public intellectuals). The risks of such interactions are not trivial, yet the tools and directives available to mitigate them seem few and far between. Moreover, the extent to which such harassment is truly gender-specific or profession-specific, its manifestations in academia versus other working environments, its relationship to career stage, and the means by which individuals have productively and assertively responded to and pushed back against it, are unclear. This is the remit of Gender and Digital Culture (a joint University of York-University of Southampton project): to better understand how digital media are impacting upon our working lives; and to begin to define meaningful mechanisms and standards for ensuring safe and constructive engagements in the digital realm.

The project has multiple components, including an online questionnaire (designed to examine individual experiences of gender specific behaviour in digital contexts: http://bit.ly/14FJ70a), a blog (http://genderanddigitalculture.wordpress.com), a Twitter stream (http://twitter.com/genderdc) and in-person events. York’s Centre for Modern Studies is sponsoring the first of these events—an afternoon workshop—on Friday, 8 November 2013, live-linked between two sites – the University of York and the University of Southampton – and live-streamed. The intent of the workshop is to bring together an interdisciplinary, multi-sited community of professionals who are interested in the intersections between professional life, digital media and gender, with a particular emphasis on experiences of online communications. Our objectives for the day are clear:

  1. To collect and share data and experiences around professional engagements with digital media, with the aim of teasing out how these differ (or not) by gender, discipline and workplace, and how they impact upon one’s professional identity and practice.
  2. To begin to create a resource base (shared openly on the web) on good practice in negotiating online professional interactions.
  3. To establish a supportive, international, interdisciplinary community dedicated to providing guidance and forward-thinking solutions for online professional engagements, as well as seeking institutional action around managing such engagements.

We welcome participants from any field of practice at any stage of their career. The event will be held from 2.00pm-5.00pm at the University of York in Heslington Hall H/G21.

More detail regarding online links to the live-stream is forthcoming. In the meantime, feel free to contact the project lead, Dr Sara Perry (sara.perry@york.ac.uk), for more information.

Location: Heslington Hall H/G/21