Men Hanging Out in the Virtual Pub

16 Dec

In order to understand what is going on (in terms of gender) on the Band of Buds website, I have been searching for scholarly articles and books on the topic of gender construction on the web. From what I found, one book (recommended by Professor Ley) stands out as the best resource: Hanging Out in the Virtual Pub. This is an ethnography of the online forum BlueSky, of which the author is using the pub metaphor as a lens to help interpret

BlueSky’s social world. Additionally, Kendall says that “the bar or pub metaphor also conveys something of the character of the social space on BlueSky, the participants’ relationships, and their use of the social space that BlueSky provides.” The clientele of the Falcon, a specific room in the Bluesky world, is mostly male, and so it provides a space in which people enact and negotiate masculine identities within a particular class and race context. I found this to be immensely relevant to what I have been seeing at the Band of Buds website.

BlueSky is a type of interactive, text-only online forum known as a multi-user domain, or mud. Muds are often considered a text-based “virtual reality” which makes participants feel they are present together in a social space. Although Bluesky is an older form of an internet social space, I am arguing that the Band of Buds contest page is a contemporary comparison. Instead of being text-based, the Band of Buds site combines video, photo and text descriptions to create ‘characters’ on each team. Although it is not explicitly stated, this character construction has a lot to do with gender construction. Like in muds, text-based forums require some acknowledgement of gender. On the Band of Buds site each member has a name and a photograph associated with that name. The individual’s gender (or at least their presented gender) is evident from their photo and name. As part of the contest, teams made videos about themselves, which made their gender even more clear.

Kendall says that the “masculinity of BlueSky’s environment relates in particular to computer use.” This is relevant to the Band of Buds site since it is a digital technology-based platform—the website is accessed through computers and smartphones, both of which are categories that men feel they have power over. In her book, Kendall quotes Segal on masculinity in our society, of which he states that, “ ‘masculinity’ is a quality of being which is always incomplete, and which is equally based on a social as on a psychic reality. It exists in the various forms of power men ideally possess: the power to assert control over women, over other men, over their own bodies, over machines and technology.” The fact that men dominate this discussion-board is not surprising at all. By being the majority of participants, they are showing that they are successful at controlling technology, women and themselves as men. Furthermore, the content of their comments show that they are successful at controlling themselves while under the influence of alcohol, in their work lives, in sports, in this contest.

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