Archive for April 22nd, 2009

Men are overlooked online? What?!

Last week, a market research firm released a report that “examines what men do online”. Part of the description for this report states:

The Men Online report analyzes the demographics and behavior of this large, but often overlooked, segment of Internet users.

Often overlooked??? Are they serious?

This semester, we have read papers that look at the differences between how men and women blog, play video games, and comment on You Tube, to name just a few. How could those papers have been written if men were being overlooked? Those papers (and many more that exist currently) looked specifically at what men did in those various domains as well as what women did. The men were definitely being looked at, not overlooked.

Additionally, when you look at the history of the ‘net, you see that men were the creators and early users of the ‘net and that women were slower in adopting it. Therefore, all of the studies that were done on the early stages of the ‘net were based almost entirely on the actions of men.

It’s laughable that this marketing firm is trying to put a spin on data that clearly show women on the short end of the digital divide by calling men “overlooked”. But, it worries me, too, but only slightly.

My last blog post discussed the digital divide and how we can no longer measure it simply by the “haves” and “have nots” when it comes to the ‘net. Instead, we need to look at how the “haves” are or are not benefiting from that having. But, this report seems to still be looking only at the number of people who have access and makes the assumption that since more women are using the ‘net than men now, that the digital divide has reversed and men are on the short end now.

It makes me think of white people who get offended at the idea of a “Black History Month” and say that there should be a “White History Month” too. What they fail to acknowledge, though, is that the contributions of whites are already acknowledged by society. Black History Month is meant to remedy that inequity of representation. Saying men are “overlooked” internet users is just as illogical as calling for a white history month, because the contributions of men online are already well known.

I said the premise of this report bothers me, but only slightly. That’s because the group that put this report out is a market research firm, so it is not academic research. It was created and conducted with a specific end result in mind so that it could market to a specific audience. The almost-$700 price tag to even be able to view the full report pretty much knocks any credibility it has. I don’t think any academic research will take these results seriously.