[SIGCIS-Members] The Women of Datamation
mounier at msh-paris.fr
Fri Sep 4 03:13:58 PDT 2015
For my current work on women’s careers in computing in France (1950s-1980s), I made a survey of advertising themes. It may come as an alternative to the evolution you observe in Datamation , or as a topic for a discussion, as French (or European?) iconography presents rather a permanent theme within this time span: Typically the male operator is standing by the computer and handles magnetic tapes or peeks at a printer, while the female operator, seated at the console/control panel, seems to be in command of the « electronic brain ». This stereotype was repeated over and over in ads from most computer makers since the mid-1950s until the 1980s. It is not exactly neutral regarding gender, as the male operator performs mostly manual tasks, while the female operator controls the machine. No hierarchy is suggested between them, but a visible division of labour.
It broke with the older stereotype, typical of ads for office machines since the 1920s, which showed the Efficient Executive giving directions to his female subordinate busy typ ing data into "her" accounting machine.
The main message conveyed is that the computer with its professional-looking operators provides a quiet, efficient service. What it did not convey was that such operators, threatened by the reorganization of large IT facilities from the mid-1970s, would eventually be at the forefront of the massive strikes in French banks...
I am sure most of you have seen such ads. I can provide a sample, if it is allowed by the SIGCIS list etiquette.
Le 3 sept. 2015 à 00:11, Laine Nooney <laine.nooney at gmail.com> a écrit :
A rich and complicated topic to say the least! It would be great to have more articles on the subject. Here's a few general thoughts/references, and I'm sure many more of us on the list can be of help here.
To frame your question in the larger history of the representation of women and technology w/i consumer culture, I'd check out Julie Wosk's Women and the Machine . It's a good general overview of the topic.
As for theoretical frames on this topic--within cultural studies, t he question of the representation of women in advertising is often framed through one of "the gaze", which derives in part from a long tradition in film theory (especially through psychoanalytic models). Laura Mulvey, "On Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" would be your starting point there, but she's likely too theoretical/psychoanalytic for what you're aiming at (although I'd pay my weight in gold for a computer history paper referencing Laura Mulvey!). For something more general, more focused on sociology and political economy, try Anthony Cortese, Provocateur: Images of Women and Minorities in Advertising .
John Berger's Ways of Seeing is considered a foundational text in visual culture, and his chapters on the history of the representation of the female body are both accessible and illuminating.
In addition to the article Aristotle mentions, I'd direct you toward Marie Hicks' essay on the subject of women in British computer advertising:
Hicks, Marie. "Only the Clothes Changed: Women Operators in British Computing and Advertising, 1950-1970." IEEE Annals of the History of Computing 32.4 (2010): 5-17.
Looking forward to other's suggestions!
DM @ LMC @ GT
On Wed, Sep 2, 2015 at 4:48 AM Aristotle Tympas < tympas at phs.uoa.gr > wrote:
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,
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
> 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 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
Department of Philosophy and History of Science
School of Science
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
tympas at phs.uoa.gr
This email is relayed from members at sigcis.org , the email discussion list of SHOT SIGCIS. Opinions expressed here are those of the member posting and are not reviewed, edited, or endorsed by SIGCIS. The list archives are at http://lists.sigcis.org/pipermail/members-sigcis.org/ and you can change your subscription options at http://lists.sigcis.org/listinfo.cgi/members-sigcis.org
DM @ LMC @ GT
This email is relayed from members at sigcis.org, the email discussion list of SHOT SIGCIS. Opinions expressed here are those of the member posting and are not reviewed, edited, or endorsed by SIGCIS. The list archives are at http://lists.sigcis.org/pipermail/members-sigcis.org/ and you can change your subscription options at http://lists.sigcis.org/listinfo.cgi/members-sigcis.org
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