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Angela Kwak

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Reading Reflection #3

Storytelling as a Nexus of Change in the Relationship between Gender and


Technology: A Feminist Approach to Software Design
By: Justin Cassell
I chose this chapter to reflect on because I believe the influence that society and
technology have on a persons identity begins when that person is very young. Children are
easily influenced by their surroundings and their everyday interactions. This should be alarming
when we consider that children are developing their sense of self during this time. Technology is
increasing at a startling rate and it plays a key role in the values that children grow up having,
particularly through their use of video games and computers.
The use of technology for children, however, is not entirely a negative thing. Cassell
states the premise underlying much of the critical analysis and industry work presented in this
volume is that it is a good thing for girls to begin to use computers at a young age (299). This
however, represents one of the key flaws in technology for the youth because this premise does
not seem to hold up in real world application. Boys and girls seem to be raised believing that
computers are good for one gender to use and not the other. With this in mind, and very little
motivation for girls to use computers by society, girls grow up believing that this is a social norm
and begin to think that they really have no place in technology at all. This is a large problem
because software and technology, as well as the other STEM fields, are growing extensively
meaning there are roles left to be filled by many people of any gender. This belief during
childhood that women shouldnt use computers leads to the STEM fields becoming gendered in
the future and incredibly male-dominated. As a society, the lessons that we teach boys and girls

subconsciously produce this patriarchal society we are trying fight. Technology is a reflection of
us, just as we are a reflection of technology.
Many companies that have tried to make up for this technology gap between genders
have only added to the problem. These companies have tried to generalize what girls really
want and who they really are by creating girls games that focus on female gender ideals rather
than letting these young girls decide their identities for themselves. Although many girls
games are narrative, these narratives are not about the childs own self, nor are they exibly
designed to allow a range of gendered constructions (301). These generalizations make young
girls feel limited in the paths they are allowed to take. At the same time, boys too struggle with
gender roles in the world of technology. While girls games promote the female ideal, in
classically boy games the character is little more than a cursor that mediates the players
relationship to the story world (311). This relationship focuses on conquest and heroism,
ignoring the idea of a narrative role entirely. What people fail to realize however is that these
generalizations and their limitations extend beyond the world of technology and video games.
The specification of gender in video games is another way of letting girls exist in technology
only under a mans conditions and also telling boys that they need to maintain a masculine front.
These generalizations have only enhanced the idea of gender roles rather than eradicate them.
The main problem with gender roles when it comes to computers and technology is
figuring out what we can do about them. Rather than follow what the video game companies
define as a solution, this is where the feminist approach and the idea of raising ones voice come
into play. Storytelling is also a way to explore the demands of different roles in the social world.
As Turner (1981, p. 163) suggests, narrative is . . . experiential knowledge. (308). The feminist
approach is important in letting the users both design and express their wants because it allows

them to personalize what they like through a wider range of identities, rather than simply as male
and female. When the storytelling voice is our own, we retain our perceptions of who we are, in
the face of opposition to those perceptions (311). Allowing children to have their own say in the
video games they play, help them realize what their true identities are without being influenced
by exterior opinions and expectations. When society and technology are reflexive of each other,
as I mentioned earlier, it is pertinent that the members of society actually get a say in who they
are and how they identify themselves. The feminist approach and expressing voice dont mean
that boys and girls should have uniform interests but rather the exact opposite. If we eliminate
gender as a category in video games children would be able to discover themselves without any
barriers.
Gender roles dont just pop up out of nowhere, they are developed when we are young
and reinforced through our actions in reaction to them. It is much harder to eliminate gender bias
when it is something that we have grown up believing is right. By attacking the gender issue in
todays youth we get the upper hand and work to fix something before it turns into a major
problem. The growth of technology and the youths involvement in it are not bad things when we
teach both boys and girls the vitality in embracing all forms of identity in the gaming world.