Elayne Riggs' Journal (for Leah)

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Estrogen Month - Day 2

Sorry I dropped the ball yesterday, but my physical spill took a lot out of me. And the month was starting out to be so promising! Anyway, I couldn't resist passing along a link (via Regina Lynn at the Wired "Sex Drive Daily" blog) to Annalee Newitz' AlterNet article Men Are Not Men, about a study by Nick Yee on the behavior of avatars in the popular virtual world Second Life, which I tried to join until it told me my PC didn't have the processing capacity so I'm afraid I'll never experience it (who has time anyway?). Yee believes his data strongly suggests that, even with the freedom to act any way one wants in a virtual world, "male avatars, regardless of whether they are being controlled by male or female users, follow the social norms of men" and the same for female avatars. Newitz isn't buying it:
Yee admits in his scientific paper that he and his researchers basically had to guess at the genders of the avatars they met, since it's hard to tell with many avatars. Are you getting the picture here? It's a classic example of researchers imposing their preconceptions onto a culture that doesn't conform to their norms.

Upon encountering a society of many genders, where nongendering is part of the norm, Yee and his crew still attempted to figure out a way to find "real world" gendered behavior. It's like Margaret Mead's work, only worse because we should know better.
Pretty good analysis, which led me to add Newitz to my Where the Women Bloggers Are section for your consideration.