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This is the author’s version of a work that was submitted/accepted for publication in the following source: Light, Ben (2007) Introducing Masculinity ...

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This is the author’s version of a work that was submitted/accepted for publication in the following source: Light, Ben (2007) Introducing Masculinity Studies to Information Systems research : the case of Gaydar. European Journal of Information Systems, 16(5), pp. 658-665. This file was downloaded from: http://eprints.qut.edu.au/61487/

c Copyright 2007 Palgrave Macmillan Ltd.

This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in European Journal of Information Systems.

The definitive publisher-authenticated version [European

Journal of Information Systems 16, 658–665 (1 October 2007)] is available online at: http://www.palgrave-journals.com/ejis/index.html

Notice: Changes introduced as a result of publishing processes such as copy-editing and formatting may not be reflected in this document. For a definitive version of this work, please refer to the published source: http://doi.org/10.1057/palgrave.ejis.3000709

  This   is   a   post-­‐peer-­‐review,   pre-­‐copyedit   version   of   an   article   published   in   the   European   Journal   of   Information   Systems.   The   definitive   publisher-­‐authenticated   version   Light,   B.   (2007)   Introducing   Masculinity   Studies   to   Information   Systems   Research:   the   Case   of   Gaydar,   European   Journal   of   Information   Systems,   16(5),   658-­‐665.   is   available  online  at:  http://www.palgrave-­‐journals.com/ejis/journal/v16/n5/abs/3000709a.html    


Introducing  Masculinity  Studies  to  Information  Systems  Research:  The  Case  of  Gaydar  


Ben  Light.  






Abstract   Studies   of   men’s   gendered   experiences   of   information   systems   are   needed.       In   order   to   support    this   claim,   I   introduce   the  area   of   Masculinity  Studies  to  Information   Systems  research   and,   using   this,  present   an   exploratory   analysis   of   an   internet   dating   website   for   gay   men   -­‐   Gaydar.       The   information   system   which   forms   part   of   the   Gaydar  community   is   shown   to   shape,  and  by   shaped   by  the   members  as   they  accept   and   challenge  aspects   of   it   as   related   to   their   identities.     In   doing  this,   I   show  how  the   intertwined  processes  of  information  systems  development   and   use   contribute   to   the   creation   of   diverse   interpretations   of   masculinity   within   a   group   of   men.     In   sum,   my   analysis   highlights   different   kinds   of   men   and   different   versions   of   masculinity   that   can   sometimes   be   associated   with  different  experiences  of  information  systems.     The  implications  of  this  work  centre  on  the  need  to  expand  our   knowledge   of   men’s   gendered   experiences   with   information   systems,   to   reflect   upon   processes   of   technology   facilitated   categorisation   and   to   consider   the   influences   that   contribute   to   the   roll   out   of   particular   software   features   along  with   the   underlying  rationales   for   market  segmentation   in   the   software  and  software  based   services   industries.   Introduction   In   this   paper,   I   want   to   demonstrate   that   Information   Systems   research   can   be   enriched   by   paying   attention   to   men’s   gendered   experiences   of   technologies.     Everyday   discussions   of   gender   usually   centre   on   the   biological   differences   between   men   and   women   and   what   this   means   for   their   lives.     This   view   can   be   characterized   as   essentialist  -­‐  where  biology  accounts  for  gender  difference  and   biologically  deterministic  –  that  someone’s  gender   will   predictably   lead   them   to   think   and   act   in   certain   ways   and   that   they   will   have   predetermined   physical   and   psychological   capabilities.       For   example,   a   common   view   might   be   that   men   are   better   placed   to   fix   cars   and   women   to   fix   dinner!     Admittedly,   this   is   a   very   simplistic   example   and   analysis   of   this   view,   but   it   makes  the  point.   Within   Information   Systems   research   there   are   several   studies   that   favour   biologically   based   explanations,   albeit   they  finesse  the  argument  a  little  more.    Such  studies  tend  to  treat  gender  as  a  variable  which  is  used  to  highlight   and   explain   purported   differences   in   men’s   and   women’s   experiences   of   information   systems   development,   adoption   and   working   in   the   IT   industry  (Truman   and   Baroudi,   1994;   Igbaria   and   Chidambaram,   1997;   Venkatesh   and  Morris,  2000;  Natale,  2002).     However,  within  the  social  sciences,  the  division  of  society  into  men  and  women   is  usually  considered   more  of   a  social,  than  biological,  phenomena  (Wharton,  2005).       Some  Information  Systems   researchers   have   set   their   work   within   this   frame   resulting   in   insights   into   such   areas   as   women’s   experiences   in   the  information  technology  profession  (Trauth,  2002;  Adam  et  al.,  2006;  Moore  et  al.,  2006)   and  technology  usage   in   the   home   and   at   work   (Adam   and   Green,   1998;   Wilson,   2002;   Adam,   2005).     Any   theorisation   of   men   and   masculinities  has  yet  to  happen.   Whichever  view  of  gender  is  taken,  what  really  matters  is  that  it  is  used  as  a  fundamental  way  of  organizing  and   classifying   our   lives   (Adam   et   al.,   2004).     Given   gender’s   societal   importance,   and   the   field’s   concern   with   the   sociotechnical,  then  it  seems  fairly  obvious  we  need  to  do  a  bit  more  work  here.     Everyone  has  a  stake  in  gender   even  though  it  is  often  absent  from  mainstream  discussions  about  the  field  of  Information  Systems  being  relevant   (Trauth,   2002;   Adam   et   al.,   2004;   Kvansy   et   al.,   2005).     In   this   paper,   I   want   to   extend   research   in   this   area   by   focussing  upon   the  ‘technologies’  used  in  a  men’s  internet  dating  site  called  Gaydar.       In  particular  I   attend  to  how   such  technologies  shape  and,  are  shaped  by,  gay  men  and  their  diverse  masculinities.  







In   the   next   section   the   area   Masculinity   Studies   introduced   and   discussed.     Gaydar   is   then   introduced   and   a   thematically   organised   deconstruction   of   this   follows.     The   analysis   shows   that   the   use   of   internet   dating   by   gay   men  involves  navigating,  shaping  and  being  shaped  by  a  set  of  sociotechnical  arrangements  that  are  infused  with   diverse  interpretations  of  what  it  means  to  be  masculine  in  the  gay  community,  on-­‐line  and  off-­‐line.     Through  this   study,  I  aim  to  open  up  the  study  of  gender  and  IS  to  include  attention  to  men  and  masculinities.   Masculinity  Studies   The  Masculinity  Studies  field  is  largely  pro-­‐feminist  and  social  constructivist  in  nature  (Beasley,  2005).    Masculinity   studies   writers,   do   not   take   up   the   cause   of   masculinity,   they   seek   to   understand   and   critique   its   role   in   work   organisations   and   society   (Beasley,   2005;   Connell,   2005).     This   is   not   because   there   is   anything   essentially   wrong   with  masculinity;  problems  arise  because  it  usually  refers  to  a  set  of  characteristics  that  are  favoured  over  others,   potentially   resulting   in   relations   of   inequality   and   oppression.     Definitions   of   masculinity   are   diverse   and   ever   changing,  however  even  with  all  the  usual  problems  of  definitions,  we  need  some  form  of  idea  of  what  I  mean  by   this.       The   closest   helpful   definition   I   have   found   is   one   that   sees   masculinity   as   “behaviours,   languages   and   practices,  existing  in  specific  cultural  and  organizational  locations,  which  are  commonly  associated  with  males  and   thus  culturally  defined  as  not  feminine”  (Whitehead  and  Barrett,  2001:  15-­‐16).     A  key  part  of  this  definition  is  the   idea   of   ‘common   association.’     Although   men   and   masculinity   might   be   commonly   associated,   as   Kerfoot   (2001)   states,  women  can  be  masculine   too.    It  is  important  therefore  that  I  make  it  clear  that  we  should  not  conflate  men   and  masculinity  although  in  this  paper  I  present  a  study  predominantly  concerned  with  men.       Within  Masculinity   Studies,  gender  relations  are  nuanced  as  masculinity  is  thought  of  in  terms  of  how  it  configures  relations  between   men   and   women,   men   and   other   men   and   even   women   and   other   women.     Consequently,   attention   is   paid   to   diversity  in  masculinities  in  relation  to  such  categories  as  colour,  sexuality,  gender,  age  and  social  class.     It  is  such   diversity   in   the   nature   of   men   and   their   masculinities   that   I   think   we   need   to   pay   attention   to   in   Information   Systems  research.   Within  Masculinity  Studies,  there  are  various  ways  of  theorizing  relations  of  masculinity.     I  would  suggest  anyone   who   is   interested   in   pursuing   these   ideas   consider   the   following   texts   which   provide   excellent   introductions   (Carrigan   et   al.,   1985;   Connell,   1987;   Beasley,   2005,   Whitehead   and   Barrett,   2001;   Adams   and   Savran,   2002   and   Connell,  2005).     Yet,  whilst  there  is  diversity  of  thinking  within  Masculinity  Studies,  there  is  a  shared  fundamental   critique   of   biologically   deterministic  explanations,   arguments  for   the  need   to  consider  diversity   in   masculinities   and   agreement   that   masculinities   are   not   fixed,   they   can   shape   and   be   shaped   overtime   in   unpredictable   ways   (Donaldson,   1993;   Hanke,   1998;   Moore   and   Schmidt,   1999;   Demetriou,   2001;   Hearn   et.   al.,   2003;   Miller,   et.   al.,   2003;   Thorsby   and   Gill,   2004).     However,   although   focussing   upon   diversity   in   Masculinity   Studies   has   proved   fruitful,  this  does  bring  certain  issues.     In  particular,  Collinson  and  Hearn  (2001)  for  example  argue:  that  there  is  a   danger    that    the    emphasis    upon    difference    in    masculinity    becomes    a    sophisticated    mechanism    for    forgetting   women;    that    such     a    focus    on    difference    can     also   lead     to    valueless   categorisation     rather    than     a   focus    upon   gendered   living  experiences   and   that   a   focus   upon   masculinity   might   downplay   other   social   divisions,   such   as   class.   Clearly   the   study   of   masculinities  raises   difficulties,  but   I   still   think   there   is   value   is   incorporating   this   literature   into   the  study  of  Information  Systems,  we  need  a  way  to  theorize  men’s  experiences  and  masculinity.   Masculinity  Studies,  Technology  and  Information  Systems   Clearly,  Information  Systems  research  offers  an  array  of  interesting  sites  for  investigation  as  it  is  recognised  to  be   dominated   by   men,   the   oft   so   called   gatekeepers   of   masculinity,   as   a   field   of   academic   study   and   in   work   organisations  and  society  (Panteli  et  al.,  1999;  Panteli  et  al.,  2001;  Robertson  et  al.,  2001).     However,  few  studies   have   focused   on   masculinity   and   technology,   even   when   technology   is   defined   in   the   broadest   of   senses   (Lohan   and   Faulkner,   2004).     Within   Information   Systems   research   Adam   et.   al’s   (2004)   survey   includes   a   good   range   of   papers,   but   none   of   these   theorize   masculinity.     Within   Management   Studies   research   that   consider   information   systems,   Knights   and   Murray   (1994)   and     Eriksson-­‐Zetterquist   and   Knights   (2004)   raise   masculinity   in   their   work,   but  although  recognizing  diversity  in  masculinities,  this  is  not  always  carried  through  in  the  analysis.     For  example,   in   Eriksson-­‐Zetterquist   and   Knights’   (2004)   study   of   men   resisting   an   information   system,   they   assert   that   their   work  questions  the  idea  that  new  technology  reinforces  masculinity  in  organisations.    From  a  masculinities  studies   perspective,  their  finding  is  not  surprising  -­‐  the  men  who  were  resisting  were  older,  the  younger  men  did  not  resist.  









This   is   a   post-­‐peer-­‐review,   pre-­‐copyedit   version   of   an   article   published   in   the   European   Journal   of   Information   Systems.   The   definitive   publisher-­‐authenticated   version   Light,   B.   (2007)   Introducing   Masculinity   Studies   to   Information   Systems   Research:   the   Case   of   Gaydar,   European   Journal   of   Information   Systems,   16(5),   658-­‐665.   is   available  online  at:  http://www.palgrave-­‐journals.com/ejis/journal/v16/n5/abs/3000709a.html   Thus,  the  older  men  can  be  seen  as  a  subordinated  group,  their  age  shaped  their  inability  to  live  up  stereotypical   notions   of   the   relationship   between   technology  and   masculinity.     Narrowing   this   further,   there   are   a   few   studies   that  focus  on  gay  men  and  technology,  but  although  representing  a  further  unpacking  of  masculinity,  they  do  not   draw   upon   the   masculinities   studies   field.     For   example,   in   one   study   gay   men   are   treated   as   a   homogenous   promiscuous   group   who   cannot   live   without   the   supporting   tools   of   the   mobile   phone   and   internet   chat   rooms   (Anderson   et   al.,   2002).     In   another,   more   rigorous   study   of   gay   on-­‐line   communities,   this   stereotypical   view   is   challenged   with   internet   chat   rooms  been   seen  as   a  useful  political  device  (Yang,  2000).     However,  masculinity  is   not   a   direct   consideration   here   either.     This   absence   of   research   matters   because   those   who   study   gender   and   technologies,   particularly   those   doing   feminist   technology   studies   and   research   into   gender   and   information   systems  usually  subscribe   to   Wajcman's  (1991)  technology  as  masculine  culture  thesis  -­‐  the  welding   of  technology,   masculinity  and  competence.   I  thus  aim  to  respond   to  the  call  for  the  further  study  of  the  link  between   masculinity   and   technology   (Lohan   and   Faulkner,   2004).     If   we   are   to   overcome   the   problem   of   gender   being   predominantly   attributed   to   women   (Faulkner,   2002),   then   I   also   think   that   studies   of   gender   and   information   systems   that   explicitly  examine  men’s  experiences  are  required.   A  Deconstruction  of  Gaydar   This   study   has   been   constructed   from  a   Masculinity   Studies   informed   reading  of   Gaydar.     I   have   been   a  member   and  active  participant  in  the  community  since  1999.    Halberstam  (2003)  states  that  researchers  may  coexist  in  the   same   friendship   networks   and   may   function   as   co-­‐conspirators.     Data   collection   and   analysis   involved   participant   observation   of   the   software   in   use   (in   terms   of   profile   configuration,   not   chat   room   usage),   analysis   of   the   functionality   and   content   of   the   site   and   the   site   of   the   Gaydar   developers,   Qsoft.       I   have   also   drawn   on   documentary   evidence   such   as   media   packs   provided   by   Qsoft.     Mindful   of   the   ethical   considerations   for   online   community  based  research,  at  this  stage  I  have  not  studied  individuals  (Brownlow  and  O'Dell,  2002;  Ess  and  AoIR   Ethics   Working   Commitee,   2002;   Carter,   2005).       I   have   treated   Gaydar   as   a   publicly   accessible   site   and   have   decided    not   to   reproduce   quotes   from   private   member   profiles,   or   members   themselves,   to   ensure   that   no   ‘private’  data  is  made  ‘public’.     I  have  made  it  clear  on  my  profile  that  I  am  an  academic  interested   in  Gay  men’s   use   of   technologies,   such   as   Gaydar,   and   have   discussed   my   work   with   those   in   the   community   who   have   asked   about  it.   Gaydar  is  one  of  several  gay  online  communities  that   could   have  been   studied.     However,  the  aim   of   case  studies  is   to  reach  a  fundamental  understanding  of  structure  and  process  (Gummesson,  1991).    Single  cases  have  frequently   led  scholars  to  see  new  theoretical  relationships  and  question  old  ones  in  part  because  focussed  research  permits   the  deep   understanding  of  an  entity  (Dyer  and   Wilkins,  1991).     The  data  from  this  study  contributes  ‘rich   insight’   (Walsham,   1995)   in   respect   of   a   neglected   area   in   Information   Systems   research,   masculinity.     Clearly,   studying   another   community   might   have   well   have   made   this   area   seem   unimportant   but   in   this   instance   it   does.     I   also   recognise   theories   are   ways   of   seeing   and   not   seeing,   thus   a   different   theoretical   lens   might   have   provided   a   different  view  of  Gaydar  (as  might  the  same  lens  on  a  different  internet  dating  site).     Of  course,  this  work  will  not   provide  complete  answers.     As  Knights  (1997)  tells  us,  the  demand  for  exhaustive  and  complete  explanations  is  a   deeply  masculine  construction,  and  one  that  should  be  resisted.   Background  to  Gaydar   Gaydar   is   a   colloquial   concept   that   existed   long   before   the   internet,   as   with   so   much   of   the   language   associated   information   and   communications   technologies.     The   term   Gaydar   is   based   on   the   concept   of   the   radar.     It   is   premised   on   having   the   capability   to   locate   and   work   out   if   a   person   is   gay.       Gaydar,   as   an   idea,   is   necessary   because   gay   people,   despite   popular   conceptions,   do   not   necessarily   have   phenotypical   characteristics.     Thus,   outside  of   spaces  where  you   might  expect   to  find   gay  people,  such  as  gay  bars,  Gaydar  is  used   to  enquire  about,   and  maybe  confirm,  the  sexuality  of  an  individual.    It  is  perhaps  best  described  as  recognition  based  on  verbal  and   non-­‐verbal   behaviour,   a   key   feature   being   various   forms   of   eye   contact,   or   ‘Gaydar   Gaze’   (Nicholas,   2004).   Therefore,  the  use  of  the  term  for  the  Gaydar  group  of  websites,  of  which  one  of  the  aims  is  to  assist  people  to  







locate  each  other  through  a  technologically  mediated  ‘gaze’,  seems  appropriate.     Gaydar  operates  in  around  159   countries  but  in  this  paper,  the  focus  is  on  Gaydar.co.uk,  the  United  Kingdom  member’s  site.   The  company  that  developed  and  operates  Gaydar  is  called  QSoft.    It  was  started  in  November  1999  by  a  gay  male   couple  and  QSoft  now  provides  information  systems  development  and  consulting  services,  specifically  targeted  at   accessing  the  ‘gay  market’  in  much  the  same  way  as  PlanetOut  (see  Campbell's  (2005)  study  for  an  interesting   analysis  of  the  commercial  interests  in  gay  internet  usage).    Although  Gaydar  is  largely  unknown  outside  the  gay   community  it  has  over  3  million  members  worldwide  with  around  1.2  million  of  those  being  based  in  the  UK.   According  to  Hitwise,  in  2007  the  community  was  the  UK’s  largest  gay  dating  website  with  a  market  share  of  over   76  per  cent.   It  was  also  purported  to  be  the  4th  largest  lifestyle  website  in  the  UK,  receiving  more  hits  that   companies  such  as  Marks  &  Spencer,  Ryanair.com  and  Ticketmaster  UK.    The  majority  of  members  are  gay  and   bisexual  men.   There  are  some  gay  women,  bisexual  women,  transsexual,  transgender  and  transvestite  members,   but  these  are  in  the  minority.    Access  to  the  site  is  via  registration  and  whilst  this  is  free  to  guest  members,  extra   services  can  be  obtained  by  upgrading  to  member  status  for  £60  per  year.   Gaydar  Profiles  and  the  Shaping  of  Masculinities   To   be   part  of   the  Gaydar  community   it  is   necessary   to   construct  a  personal   profile   which   I   argue  contributes   to   the   shaping   of   a   range   of   masculinities.     The   software   used   to   create   member   profiles   is   configured   by   the   member   based  on   drop  down  menus,   tick   boxes   and  some  free   text.     The   profile   created  can  be   very   detailed  and  results  in   the   intended   and   unintended   categorisation   of   the   members  into  groups   with   identities   that   are   well   known   within   the  gay   community.     Indeed,  in   a  gay   lifestyle  magazine,  AXM,   writer,   Paul  Hartnett   has   said   “you   only   have  to   surf   Gaydar   for   a   few   minutes   to  gauge   what   makes   so   many   gay   men   tick”   (Hartnett,   2005:   40-­‐41).     Configuring   the   profile  requires  the  creation  of  a  member  name,  input  of  member  status,  what  the  member  is  on  Gaydar  looking   for   and   a   geographic   location   (see   Table   1).     Permutations   might   be   a   single   gay   man,   looking   for   a   relationship   based  in  Manchester,  UK   or  a   bisexual  couple  looking  to  meet   friends,  in  Leeds,   UK.     The   kind   of   optional  data  that   can  be  input  is  extensive  and  ranges  from  physical  attributes  such  as  hair  colour  through  to  sexual  and  non-­‐sexual   activity  preferences.     There  are  also  free  text  spaces  for  members  to  write  about  themselves  and  what  they   like  to   see  in  others.   Table  1.  Mandatory  Profile  Categories  



Member  Status  Choices    (Only  one  to  be  selected)    

Reason  for  Profile   (Several  selections  possible)    

Geographical  Location  

Single  Gay  Man  Single   Gay  Woman  Single  Bi-­‐ sexaul  Man  Single  Bi-­‐ sexual  Woman  Gay   Male  Couple   Gay  Female  Couple   Bi-­‐sexual  couple   Group  (Gay  Men)   Group  (Gay  Women)    Group  (Mixed)    

Relationship   Friendship   1-­‐on-­‐1  Sex   Group  Sex   Email/Chat   Other  Activities  

City  is  a  free  text  field  



Region  and  country  are   configured  by  drop  down   menus  


  This  process  of  profile  configuration  in  itself  contributes  to  the  construction  and  shaping  of  multiple  masculinities   within   the  space.     Standardised   versions  of  many  of  these  masculinities  are  perhaps  the  most   obvious  where  the   software’s  214  ‘Keyword’  categories  and  sub-­‐categories  are  implemented.     Within  these  sub  categories,  the  ‘types   I  like  section’  is  the  most  explicit  in  terms  of  the  kinds  of  masculinities  that  gay  men  might  express  an  interest  in   being,   and   being  associated   with   (see   Table   2).     These  are   based   on   more   general   social  categories   of   race,   class   and  age   in  addition  to   a   set  of  socially   stratified  masculinities   well   known  within  the   gay   community.     For   example  







This   is   a   post-­‐peer-­‐review,   pre-­‐copyedit   version   of   an   article   published   in   the   European   Journal   of   Information   Systems.   The   definitive   publisher-­‐authenticated   version   Light,   B.   (2007)   Introducing   Masculinity   Studies   to   Information   Systems   Research:   the   Case   of   Gaydar,   European   Journal   of   Information   Systems,   16(5),   658-­‐665.   is   available  online  at:  http://www.palgrave-­‐journals.com/ejis/journal/v16/n5/abs/3000709a.html   the   well   known   gay   identity   of   a   ‘Cub’   is   known   to   be   subservient   to   a   ‘Bear’.   Bears   are   men   that   generally   are   larger   in  body  size  and  who   have   beards,   Cubs   are  younger  ‘Bear   wannabes’   and  may  have   a  smaller  body   size   and   less   body/facial   hair.       Some   of   these   categories   are   very   specific   to   the   gay   community,   like   Bears,   but   overall   many,   such   as   Builders   and   Footballers,   can   be   linked   to   mainstream   notions   of   what   it   means   to   be   masculine,   particularly   throughout   the   UK,   and   the   western   world   in   general.     They   can   be   an   integral   part   of   member’s   requirements  when  it  comes  to  finding  friends  or  sexual  partners.     For  example,  it  is  common  for  those  members   who  are  interested  in  Bears,  to  demand  of  other  members  big  stomachs  and  beards.     Bears  are  expected  conform   to   such   a   heavily   masculinised   version   of   a   gay   man   -­‐   big   and   with   a   beard.     Bears   are   often   seen   as   the   epitome   of   a   particular   masculinity   within   the   gay   community,   physically   at   least.     The   contradiction   is   that   some   can   be   effeminate.   Table  2.  'Types  I  Like'  Keywords  


  Bears   Bikers   Builders   Chubbies   Clubbers   Farmers   Firemen   Footballers   Geeks  

Labourers   Leather  Men   Married  Men  Medical   (Uniforms)   Military  (Uniforms)   Muscle  Men   Older   Guys   Policemen   Preppies  

Punks   Rugby  Players   Short  Guys   Skins   Tall  Guys   Transvestite   Transsexual   Truck  Drivers   Twinks  





The   role   of   masculinity   is   further   in   evidence   in   the   website’s   ‘Sex   Factor’   competition   categories.     Sex   Factor,   a   play   on   the   popular   X-­‐Factor   television   programme   which   runs   in   several   countries,   operates   by   members   configuring   the   software   to   allow   other   members   to   nominate   them   to   win   by   clicking   an   icon   on   their   profile.   Winning  occurs  by  receiving  the  most  clicks  for  that  month  and  ‘the  prize’  is  that  the  winners’  pictures  in  each  of   the   categories   are   used   to   highlight   the   same   ones   for   the   next   month’s   competition.       To   participate   members   have   to   categorise   themselves   into   one   of   various   groups   of   masculinities.         These   categories   include:   Leather,   Rubber,   Skins   and   Punks,   Muscle   (18-­‐30),   Muscle   (31+)   Cubs,   Bears,   Young   Guys   (18-­‐21),   Young   Guys   (22+)   Guy   Next   Door   (18-­‐30),   Guy   Next   Door   (31+),   Older   Guys,   Alternative,   Sports   Gear,   Hip   and   Uniforms.       Without   explaining   the   ‘gay   specific’   categories,   it   can   be   seen   that   differences   are   carved   out   based   on   age,   body   type,   clothing,   lifestyle   and   sexual   activity   preferences.       Yet,   although   members   can   define   their   preferences   it   is   important   to   read   what   is   not   available   in   Gaydar.     The   most   obvious   excluded   groups   are   camp   and   effeminate   men,   they   are   not   offered   as   ‘Types   I   like’.     As   with   Eriksson-­‐Zetterquist   and   Knights’   (2004)   study   where   the   technology   constructed   employees   as   more   suitable   for   positions   in   the   company,   based   on   their   age   and   acceptance   of   technology,   Gaydar   has   a   similar   effect   within   the   gay   community.     The   technology’s   functionality   and   the   data   it   requires,   constructs   certain   members   as   ‘more   masculine’,   and   thus   more   suitable,   through   reference  to  ‘off-­‐line’  mainstream  notions  of  masculinity.   Through  this  analysis  it  is  possible  to  see  favoured  masculinities  which  can  directly  and  indirectly  subordinate  and   marginalise   within   the   community.     Being   camp   or   effeminate   is   thus   not   only   constructed   as   less   preferable   in   relation  to  a  given  masculinity  in  society.     Such  labels  are  relational  to  the  idealised  notions  of  masculinity,  within   the   gay   community,   and   Gaydar   as   constitutive   of   this.       Thus,   Gaydar   can   facilitate   the   management   of   the   potential   conflict   between   the   effeminate   labels   given   to   gay   men   based   on   their   sexuality,   and   their   gendered   identities  as  men.     As  with  men  who  work  in  female  dominated  occupations,  strategies  are  employed  by  some  to   reassert   their   masculinity   (Simpson,   2004).       This   is   done   through   the   configuration   of   the   software,   which   is  







inscribed   with   highly   exaggerated   masculinities   such   as   Bears   or   footballers,   and   the   use   of   free   text   space   to   assert  they  are  ‘straight  acting’  and  like  ‘men  to  be  men’.    Gaydar  allows  members  to  use  filters  to  scrutinize  each   other   for   signs   of   undesirable   attributes.       This   is   similar   to   the   point   Kimmel   (1994)   makes   about   straight   men   looking   for   signs   of   femininity   and   homosexuality   in   other   men,   and   responding   accordingly,   often   with   anxiety   because  of  the  stigma  surrounding  being  gay.     Furthermore,  the  processes  of  the  mutual  shaping  of  the  software   and   the   members   on   Gaydar   ultimately   have   the   potential   to   perpetuate   these   masculinities   and   their   interpretation     within,     and     outside     of     the     community.         Thus,     participating     in     Gaydar     means     entering     into     a   relational  network  of  masculinities  and  femininities,  where  as  with  other  parts  of  society,  members  may  be  under   pressure  to  conform  to  certain  standards.   Resistance  in  Gaydar  and  Beyond   Despite   the   potential   for   software-­‐facilitated   pressure   to   conform   to   any   dominant   masculinity   within   the   gay   community,   there   is   resistance.     As   in   Eriksson-­‐Zetterquist  and   Knights’   (2004)   and  Lohan's   (2001)   studies,   men  can   be  seen  to  resist  the  implications  of  information  systems  use.     Moreover,  those  resisting  are  diverse  in  character,   methods  employed,  and  the  content  of  what  they   are   resisting.     Yet,  unlike  Eriksson-­‐Zetterquist  and  Knights’   study   where  only  older  men  were  reported  to  resist,  within  Gaydar  younger  men  do  so  too.     For  example,  the  member   profile   ‘asks’   for   data  regarding   age  to  be  entered   into   the  system.   First,   in   terms   of   the  age  of   the  member   and   second  as  related   to  the  age   range  of  people  they  would  like   to  meet.    Members  of  a  wide  variety  of  ages   resist  the   first  type   of   categorisation   by   entering  their   age  as   99.     They   might   also   resist   the  second  form  by   entering   the  age   range   of   people   they   are   looking   for   as   18-­‐99   instead   of   narrowing   this   down.     This   acts   as   a   counter   to   others   categorising   them   and   searching   for   them   on   the   basis   of   age.     Free   text   is   also   used   to   resist   the   standard   technology   and   to   allow   members   a   voice   where   the   standardized   scripts   of   the   software   fail   them.       Member   profiles   often  contain  statements  about  being  proud  to  be  camp,  and  not  wanting  to  be  ‘straight  acting’  because   they  seen   being  gay  as  a  positive  part  of  their  identity.    The   members  make   the  technology  work  for   them  and  they   innovate   at  the  local   level.     Drawing  from   Masculinity   Studies  we   begin  to  see   that  men   might  resist  technology  for   a  whole  host  of  reasons  because  men  are  not  theorised  as  a  homogeneous  group.     Many  also  resist  the  tendency   of  some  members  not  to  post  a  picture  of  themselves  on  their  profile.     Some  members  post  text  on  their  profiles   which   states  that   they  refuse  to  respond   to  messages  from  people  who  do  not   have  a  picture  of  their  face.     This   form   of   resistance   is  further  evident   in   the  sites  chat   rooms,   many   people   refuse   to   interact   with   others  who   do   not  have  ‘face  pics’.    Members  who  do  not  have  these  are  often  not  openly  gay  (or  out)  and  do  not  post  a  picture   for  fear  of  being  identified.    Therefore,  they  are  still  marginalised  to  an  extent,  even  within  what  might  be  seen  as  a   safe    and     inclusive    environment     and     which     other     studies    have    indicated     such     groups     favour    over    traditional   meeting  places  such  as  bars  (Bolding  et  al.,  2004).   Gaydar  also  offers  insights  that  challenge  conceptions  of  gay  men  as  lacking  masculinity.     First,  given  that  what  is   technical   is   often   deemed   to   be   masculine,   there   is   then   the  contradiction  of   over   4.2   million   gay  male   members   of   Gaydar   worldwide   and   over   1.2   million   in   the   UK,   using   a   technology   and   manipulating   it.     Gaydar   is   thus   a   discursive   context.     As   with   Napster,   where   the   consumers   were   branded   participatory   subversives   (Spitz   and   Hunter,   2005)   and,   on   the   French   Minitel   network,   where   user   pseudo   creation   subverts   the   official   terms   and   conditions   of   use   (Livia,   2002),   Gaydar   member’s   consumption   practices   are   implicitly,   and   explicitly,   a   form   of   resistance.     This  resistance  can  be  seen  as  the  rejection  of  an  unwavering  alliance  with  mainstream  notions  of  an   ideal  type  man,  or  Gay  man  for  that  matter.  This  resistance  enables  greater  inclusion  within  the  site,  and  wider  in   society.    This   is  because  expressing  the  idea  of   wanting  to  be  accepted   as  camp,   and   not  wanting  to  live   up   to  ideas   of   acting   straight   have   the   potential   to   continue   to   shape   the   gay   community   and   ultimately   this   shaping   may   transfer  to  society  more  generally.   Control  and  Gaydar   The   analysis   so   far   points   to   issues   surrounding   the   control   of   the   technology.     Yet   because   technology   is   often   seen  as  the  realm  of  that  deemed   masculine,  there   are  contradictions.     Gay   men  on  Gaydar  have  a   good  degree  of   control   over   the   technology.       This   control   is   extensive   as   a   ‘Guest   Member’   and   further   extended   as   a   ‘Full   Member’.     Gaydar   becomes   a   digital   dashboard   under   the   member’s   control.     They   can   perform   sophisticated   searches,   rate   profiles,   block   members,   allow   members   to   see   they   have   looked   at   their   profile   (and   hide   this   activity)  and  adjust  their  settings  to  notify  them  when  ‘friends  and  favourites’  come  online.         However,  the  site  is  








This   is   a   post-­‐peer-­‐review,   pre-­‐copyedit   version   of   an   article   published   in   the   European   Journal   of   Information   Systems.   The   definitive   publisher-­‐authenticated   version   Light,   B.   (2007)   Introducing   Masculinity   Studies   to   Information   Systems   Research:   the   Case   of   Gaydar,   European   Journal   of   Information   Systems,   16(5),   658-­‐665.   is   available  online  at:  http://www.palgrave-­‐journals.com/ejis/journal/v16/n5/abs/3000709a.html   operating  within   wider  society  and   is  subject   to  implicit   and   explicit   regulation   by  proxy.     Qsoft   seemingly  approach   the   management  of  the   site   with  a   light  touch  whether   through   allowing   the   members   to   configure   the   technology   how   they   wish,   and   hack   it   or   through   fairly   loose   terms   and   conditions   for   the   use   of   the   site.     However,   the   potential   of   the   site   to   influence   the   perceptions   of   masculinity   intended   or   otherwise,   is   hard,   although   not   impossible   to   resist.       Aside   from   the   configuration   of   profiles,   the   organisation   of   the   site   is   under   the   direct   control  of  the  development  team  with  little  opportunity  given  on  the  site  for  feedback.     For  example,  chat  rooms   are  restricted  to  certain  geographic  areas  or  interest  in  a  variety  of  activities,  usually  sexually  based.    This  controls   the   landscape   of   the   community.   Whether   a   member   is   a   gay   person   who   has   determined   their   sexuality,   or   is   someone   using   the   space   as   a   safe   place   to   explore   this,   then   their   environment   is   structured   in   particular   ways.   Although   as   I   said  in  the   last   section,   there   is   room   for   manoeuvre   and  resistance   within   the   site.     Moreover,   those   members     who     are     not     gay     men     are     marginalized     within     the     site.           For     example,     profile     configuration     is   predominantly  oriented  to  gay   men’s  preferences.     The  software  allows  men  to   let  other  members   know  details   of   their  genitalia,  but   not   women   or  those   who  would   identify   as  Trans  (assuming  they  would   want   to  of   course).     The   community’s   name   ‘Gaydar’   indicates   the   inclusion   of   gay   women   too   –   this   is   not   the   case.   As   Adam   (2005:   7)   states,  “we  talk  of  football  and  women’s  football,  not  men’s  football  and  women’s  football”.    Arguably  gender  still   works   favourably   for   gay   men.         There   are   gendered   versions   of   Gaydar   www.gaydar.co.uk   and   www.gaydargirls.com.    As  has  been  noted  elsewhere  Gaydar  is  very  much  a  ‘boy’s  toy’  (O'Riordan,  2005).   Conclusions  and  Future  Research   Within   Information   Systems   research   to   date,   women   have   been   the   central   unit   of   analysis   whilst   the   gendered   experiences  of  men  have  been  of  less  concern.    Masculinity  has  yet  to  receive  serious  theorization  and  sexuality  is   largely  ignored,   treated  only  in  passing.     With  this   in  mind,  I   have   drawn  upon  Masculinity  Studies  to   a  study  a  site   that   is   dominated   by   men   who   are   marginalized   by   their   sexuality.     However,  Masculinity   Studies   tend   to   black   box   masculinities   –  black  versus   white,   fertile   versus   infertile,   gay  versus  straight  for   example.     Moreover,  technology  in   the   broadest   sense   has   lacked   serious   consideration   in   the   process   of   the   construction   of   masculinities   and   the   information  and  communications  technologies  studied  within  Information  Systems  and  Management  Studies  have   been  even  further  neglected.     With  this  in  mind,  my  case  study  sheds  light  on  the  processes  of   the  mutual  shaping   of   masculinities   and   technologies.       I   demonstrate   that   although   gay   men   are   diverse   Gaydar   is   implicated   shoehorning   members   into   very   specific   masculinities.       That   is,   Gaydar   has   a   role   in   marginalising   its   members   based  upon  their  association  with  certain  versions  of  what  it  means  to  be  masculine.     This  is  further  tied  to  what   this   means   for,   amongst   other   things,   their   sexuality.       However,   the   use   of   Gaydar   is   not   characterised   by   technological   and   social   determinism.     I   also   illustrate  that   Gaydar  is   an  unpredictable   space   despite  what   might  be   pre-­‐planned  for  it.     The   members  of  Gaydar   do   not  always  accept  the   technology  as   it  stands   or  how  others  use  it.   They   will  accept   and   challenge  it   making  it   work  for  them  in   situ.    Thus,  rather   than   an   achievement,  Gaydar  can   be   conceptualised  as  an  ever-­‐changing  network  of  gender  relations.   Gaydar’s   meshing   with  and  reference   to   society   more   generally   is  a   necessary   extension  of  this   work.     Like   Napster   (Spitz   and   Hunter,   2005),   Gaydar   is   shaped   within   cultures   already  meshed   with   certain   practices   and   values.     As   Gaydar   becomes   known   more   within   society   then   there   may   be   a   more   direct   effect   upon   perceptions   of   gay   masculinities.       Clearly,   it   will   be   flexibly   interpreted   as   a   social   site,   and   possibly   one   that   is   immoral   and   pornographic.       A   gay   personals   section   of   the   French   Minitel   system   for   example,   was   labelled   an   ‘electronic   brothel’  and  condemned  by  several  public  figures  as  a  venue  for  the  seduction  of  boys  (Livia,  2002).       Yet,  despite   the   obvious   role   this   and   other   studies   set   out   for   information   and   communications   technologies,   in   Connell's   (2005)   introduction   to   the   2nd     edition   of   Masculinities,   it   is   argued   that   trans-­‐national   and   multinational   corporations,   the   international   state,   international   news   media   and   global   markets   are   the   areas   which   seem   to   the   be   most   important   in   the   creation   of   new   arenas   of   gender   relations.     What   seems   to   be   missing   is   the   important     role     of     information     and     communications    technologies     such     as     the    internet.         Information     systems   research  therefore  has  a  key  contribution  to  make  here.  





Another  strand  of  work  that  is  implicit  within  this  paper  are  the  processes  of  categorisation  that  are  taking  place.   The   problem   with   classification   systems   is   that   they   are   never   perfect,   as   Bowker   and   Star   (1999)   state   they   can   valorise  one  point   of  view   whilst   silencing  others.    They  are  contentious  and   thus  of   political  and   ethical   interest,  as   in   the   case   of   Gaydar’s   profiling   functionality.       Extensions   in   this   area   would   add   to   the   ongoing   project   of   categorisation   studies   and   would   compliment   the   work   on   cyber-­‐categorisation   as   related   to   race   (Kolko,   2000;   Nakamura,   2002).   For  example,   Nakamura   (2002)  emphasises   the  limitations  of  sites   that  require   people   to  racially   identify  in  a  very  restrictive  fashion  in  order  to  become  members  of  online  communities.     Further  implications  of   this  work   centre  on   the  need   to  focus  upon   men’s   gendered   experiences  with   information   systems,  to  compliment,   that   regarding   women’s   experiences.     Additionally,   for   studies   of   gender,   sexuality   and   information   systems,   this   work   implies   intellectual   and   social   value   in   a   move   away   from   heterosexually   based   assumptions   about   work   organizations   and   society.     Moreover,  it   is  important   not   to  forget   Gaydar  is  an   episode  of   systems  development   and  thus  further  work  could  focus  upon  the  group  of  users  known  as  the  official  developers.     The  way  that  Gaydar   is   constructed   points   to   the   need   to   ask   questions   about   who   chooses   the   functionality   that   is   built   into   the   system,  when  is  it  rolled  out,  and  to  whom?     At  present,  for  example,  it  seems  that  Gaydar  members  get  a  better   deal   than   Gaydargirls   members.       Is   this   a   question   then,   of   practicalities?       Gaydar   has   over   3   million   members   whilst   Gaydargirls   only   has   115,000.     Does   the   difference   in   product   sophistication   merely   reflect   more   general   features  of  the   software   industry   where  large  user  bases  lead   to   greater   income  and  thus  there  is   a  need  to  satisfy   the   majority?     Yet,   the  reuse   of   technologies   is   known   to   be   fairly   inexpensive.     Consider   the   packaged   software   industry  where  profit  is  made  by  selling  the  same  service  to  a  large  user  base.     Therefore,  it  might  seem  a  better   idea   to   roll   out   the   extra   functionality   to   give   a   better   service   to   get   more   users   onboard.     Or   is   it   that,   as   with   some   parts   of   the   industry,   certain   groups   have   a   differential   say   because   of   their   position   in   relation   to   the   vendor? 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