Women's Internet Portals: Negotiating Online Design Environments within Existing Gender Structures in Order to Engage the Female User

Sadowski, Noemi. 2005. Women's Internet Portals: Negotiating Online Design Environments within Existing Gender Structures in Order to Engage the Female User. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis encapsulates my investigation of women's commercial Internet portals as examples of design practice targeting female users. I present a case study of BEME. com, an Internet portal created as a direct development of the traditional women's magazine publishing industry in response to a boom in dot. corn industries at the end of the 1990s. I explore the design environment responsible for the interpretations of the aims of the publishing house into material outcomes and analyse the ability of design practice to develop strategies to counter gender representations within the women's magazine publishing industry. It is my argument that there is a need for Internet designers to be aware of how gender is represented and furthermore be conscious of their ability and responsibility to apply this awareness to design practice. Most importantly, the notion of 'many truths' rather then one 'design practitioners' truth', introduces the possibility of alternative epistemologies. This is crucial to the question of how design practice as a tool of creative production can embody alternative meanings through recognition of existing gender structures. Furthermore, locating the BEME. com case study within feminist postmodernism incites a new way of understanding the problematic relationship between design practice and theory, the Internet and female users. Therefore, I assert the potential of online portal design to offer alternative ways of communicating to female users in such a way as to resist and combat the gendered status quo. The new knowledge obtained from this research provides important insight into the ways design practice attempts to reconcile a critical agenda with gender structures. It also illuminates female users' tendency to disassociate with identities constructed in gendered niche marketing. It is clear from my research that current commercial imperatives are deeply implicated in gendered structures. Therefore, three key indications for better design for a female niche market emerge from the BEME. com case study. They are (a) centre all aspects of the design process on the actual end-user; (b) consciously recognise the folly of using gender alone as an appropriate description of female audiences; (c) be aware of social, cultural and political factors that exert influence over the design process. Finally the obtained knowledge offers insight into the general lack of interest on the part of designers working within industry that trades heavily in gender stereotypes, to problematise this process and their role within it. Rather, as feminist critiques of design practice reveal, design practitioners maintain gender values by constructing consumer profiles by means of gendered assumptions.

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Thesis (Doctoral)

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16 Jul 2020 11:23

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16 Jul 2020 11:23



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