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Title: Electronic Textiles and Ambient Belonging
Authors: Davis, Richard
Blikstein, Paulo
Keywords: Learning and Identity
Issue Date: Jun-2020
Publisher: International Society of the Learning Sciences (ISLS)
Citation: Davis, R. & Blikstein, P. (2020). Electronic Textiles and Ambient Belonging. In Gresalfi, M. and Horn, I. S. (Eds.), The Interdisciplinarity of the Learning Sciences, 14th International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS) 2020, Volume 2 (pp. 669-672). Nashville, Tennessee: International Society of the Learning Sciences.
Abstract: There is a growing body of evidence showing that electronic textiles provide a promising way of closing gender gaps in computing and electrical engineering. The prevailing explanation for this is framed in terms of attractive forces—women are drawn to e-textiles because of their alignment with “historically feminine practices” (Buchholz et al., 2014). However, these gender differences may also be due to repulsive forces. Traditional tools and materials may broadcast ambient identity cues that indicate women do not belong. This hypothesis leads to two predictions: (1) Women and girls are less likely to be interested in workshops that involve tools like wires and soldering irons because they associate those tools with feelings of exclusion and alienation, and (2) e-textiles may be more appealing to women and girls because these tools do not broadcast messages of exclusion. We tested these predictions in an online study with 42 university students (22 male, 20 female). We found that “standard” items like soldering irons and wires broadcast ambient identity cues that lowered women’s sense of belonging while having no effect on men. Additionally, we found that e-textiles did not have a similar discriminatory effect. Thus, “standard” items are not neutral, but charged with meaning, and these items broadcast messages to women that they do not belong.
Appears in Collections:ICLS 2020

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