In the early 2000s, the Internet was still thought of as a "space of possibility" in which we move anonymously, without gender, without body, without skin colour, and enter into discourse with one another on an equal footing. Relatively quickly it became clear that this is not the case.
"Technology is never free of valuation, power and domination. On the Internet, not everyone is equal," says Katharina Mosene, political scientist and research coordinator at the HBI. On the contrary, the Internet is a technology that in some cases increases inequality and discrimination or even creates them in the first place.
Feminist communication scientists regard the Internet as a contested public space, as the blueprint of our society, and therefore also as a reflection of social inequalities.
"On the one hand, we see that the Internet supports very classical feminist activism, such as making problems visible. One thinks of #metoo," says Katharina Mosene. "On the other hand we see digital violence, like hate speech, targeting marginalized groups."
It begins with the fact that not all people have equal access to the technology Internet. While for some people constant surfing and the constant availability of information is a matter of course, in other social classes or on other continents this is still a luxury. This results in a fragmentation of society. Inequalities are reinforced.
Inequality and discrimination are also being "inscribed" into the Internet through algorithms that control search engines, for example. Algorithms are burdened by the same prejudices as the people who program them. For example, if you search for the term "hand" in Google's image search, the results will predominantly show white hands, and the term "family" will predominantly yield images of white, father-mother-child families.
In order to understand the Internet and its social implications, it is therefore important to be aware that technology does not affect people in the same way: "It always affects people differently in their differences."
For those interested in current research results on the topic of technology, media and gender, we also recommend the thematic issue of our journal "Medien & Kommunikationswissenschaft", which will appear in mid-August and will be edited by Corinna Peil, Kathrin Müller, (already mentioned by Katharina) Ricarda Drüeke, Stephan Niemand and Raik Roth. "Technik – Medien – Geschlecht revisited. Gender im Kontext von Datafizierung, Algorithmen und digitalen Medientechnologien [Technology - Media - Gender Revisited. Gender in the Context of Datafication, Algorithms and Digital Media Technologies]" is the title, and we will also add the link to the issue as soon as possible.
You can also find an article by Katharina Mosene on the topic of the Internet as a technology of discrimination (in German) on our Media Research Blog.
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