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Configuring the User as Everybody: Gender and Design Cultures in Information and Communication Technologies

Nelly Oudshoorn, Els Rommes and Marcelle Stienstra
Science, Technology, & Human Values
Vol. 29, No. 1 (Winter, 2004), pp. 30-63
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1558005
Page Count: 34
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Configuring the User as Everybody: Gender and Design Cultures in Information and Communication Technologies
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Abstract

Based on two case studies of the design of electronic communication networks developed in the public and private sector, this article explores the barriers within current design cultures to account for the needs and diversity of users. Whereas the constraints on user-centered design are usually described in macrosociological terms, in which the user-technology relation is merely understood as a process of the inclusion or exclusion of users in design, the authors suggest that it is important to adopt a semiotic approach. Moreover, they argue that we need to take into account the gender identity of designers to understand how design practices in ICT prioritize male users. The article shows how configuring the user as "everybody" and the use of the "I-methodology" are important constraints in the development of technologies that aim to reach users in all their diversity.

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