[SIGCIS-Members] The Women of Datamation

Aristotle Tympas tympas at phs.uoa.gr
Wed Sep 2 01:48:06 PDT 2015

Dear Dag,

Best luck with your research. Regarding theoretical perpsectives on the
interpretation of magazine images with women-computer ensembles (more
accurately: men-computer-women ensembles), you may want to check the
relevant references in this: Aristotle Tympas, Hara Konsta, Theodore
Lekkas and Serkan Karas, ‘Constructing Gender and Computing in Advertising
Images: Feminine and Masculine Computer Parts’, in Tom Misa (editor),
Gender Codes: Women and Men in the Computing Professions, IEEE Press,
2010, 187-209.

And feel free to contact Hara Konsta, a recent graduate of our PhD
program, who may have more suggestions to offer (xkonsta at phs.uoa.gr).


> Dear SIGCIS friends,
> I’m beginning research for a long-form essay on how women were used to
> sell computers as protrayed in the industry magazine Datamation.
> I have completed my survey of images and am now seeking some guodance
> abdout possible theoretical perspectives to consider.
> Estelle Freedman at Stanford pointed me to The Feminine Mystique, which I
> am now reading.  Of course, that was written many decades ago.  I don’t
> really track the scholarship in this area so any pointers would be greatly
> appreciated.
> Working observation: In the late 1950s, women were portrayed as
> functional, "sensibly” dressed, clerical workers using the computer in a
> (contrived) but plausibly real-world application.  Beginning in the
> mid-1960s and onwards into the mid 1970s, women were portrayed as highly
> sexualized, alluringly dressed “human parsley,” garnishing a computer
> product -- in one case literally draped over a mainframe CPU cabinet in a
> bikini — with no relevance or appeal to the usual benfits cited for
> computers, viz. efficiency, cost-control, &c.  One of many questions I
> have: Does this long-term movement to sex rather than the prior economic
> or technical arguments reflect a change in the people making computer
> purchasing decisions?  Was it an ephemeral trope in adverstising — “it was
> the 60s, man!” or something else?  Sex sells… but who’s buying?  How does
> the portrayal of women in the leading journal for the ccomputer industry
> over decades reflect buerys and sellers?  Can we draw parallels with how
> other technologies have used women in their advertising?   &c.
> Thanks for any thoughts…
> Dag
> --
> Dag Spicer
> Senior Curator
> Computer History Museum
> Editorial Board, IEEE Annals of the History of Computing
> 1401 North Shoreline Boulevard
> Mountain View, CA 94043-1311
> Tel: +1 650 810 1035
> Fax: +1 650 810 1055
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Αριστοτέλης Τύμπας / Aristotle Tympas
Associate Professor
Department of Philosophy and History of Science
School of Science
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens

tympas at phs.uoa.gr

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