Playing seriously

One of the main differences between men and women in their approach to the new information technologies concerns their attitudes to the recreative aspects of the technology. And if professional motivation can reinforce the learning process and make it more systematic and 'serious', it seems clear that the relationship established by a person with the N.I.Ts. is developed and consolidated mainly through games. The theoretical report explains:

Research indicates that familiarity with computer games provides a significant advantage regarding the acquisition of computing skills for other areas of activity, such as work or education (Haddon 1992). This raises two questions. In the first place, we need to consider the role of parents and of family/household dynamics in determining patterns of use (through providing access to machinery and software, by offering support and encouragement, by granting leisure time, and so on) and which seem to be different for boys and girls, and possibly for men and women. The second question refers to the games themselves, in that these, and the computer games market, appear to be markedly gendered.

As a matter of fact, always according to our research:

It is primarily boys and young men who are involved in the computer games culture. Boys and young male adults are the principal purchasers and consumers of such software and consequently the market continues to respond primarily to their needs and tastes. Young girls rarely purchase these goods. If and when they do play, they tend to borrow games from brothers or male friends and so have no consumer feedback impact on what the market supplies. The relative lack of interest of young girls and women in computer games responds to a number of factors, not least the format and the objectives of the games themselves.

Notwithstanding this, there are signs of change: the culture of computer games is reaching young girls too, though slowly. Many manufacturers, for example Brenda Laurel's Purple Moon, have started to plan and develop games with an exclusively female target. But the entertainment aspects of the computer are not restricted to the very young. It can also become important to adults who discover the new information technologies 'later in life'. Here too, the games have an impact on learning.


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