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March 1996


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Steve Cavrak <[log in to unmask]>
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Wed, 27 Mar 1996 17:10:07 -0500
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At one of the first dinner conversations I had about personal
computing, back in 1981 as I recall, a man I had just met told
me he kept his Trash 80 in his bedroom, and he had taken to
leaving the CPU on at night. He was a touch typist, and he had
found he could go to the keyboard and type the content of a
dream, fall back asleep, and wake to turn on the monitor and
find ghostly messages from his unconscious. I found the idea
quite exciting.

Welcome to Dr. Doug's weekly column on "Gendered Personal
Computing." Or is it "Erotic Personal Systems"? "From Plastic
Pocket Liners to Powerbooks: The Influence of Information
Technology on Identity"? Yes, something like that. I think we're
looking at a technology-mediated reworking of our society that
will prove at least as significant as that effected by the
internal combustion engine--but in a fraction of the time and
with at least the possibility that we may be able to study and
understand (if not influence) this process as it happens. I've
been interested for a decade in the way personal computers evoke
contradictory emotions in their users and in those who compete
with the PCs for quality time with their owners. Computing has
been from mainframe, card-reader, days a highly gendered
business--that is, males do and like it more than females (even
if they do it no better). Furthermore, doing it--rather than
feeling the computer is doing it to you--calls up values having
to do with masculinity/femininity, and even with sexuality. I
want to write about the gendered, and also the erotic, sexy side
of computing, in a way that engages the issues and points to the
interesting example, but reads PG-13.