Glitch and Gaming Masculinity: Video games as a reflection on culture

February 23, 2010 at 7:38 am 10 comments

A couple of really interesting pieces on the Glitch Project appeared yesterday, based on a conference paper that Betsy DiSalvo was lead author on.  Glitch, as you may recall, is about getting African-American teen men interested in computing, by teaching them to be and hiring them as game testers.  Betsy raises some challenging ideas in her paper, such that the geek image of masculinity is at odds with the African-American image of masculinity.

One of the blog posts is at Black Digerati, and the second (cited below) is at Racialicious.  The second one is intriguing for its comments. In particular, the claim that white geeks are actually the product of class privilege.  Those class distinctions relate to recent discussions here about Blacks, Latinos, and Women in Silicon Valley and the non-open culture of open source software development.

Unfortunately, computer geeks are generally really oblivious to their class privilege, mistaking their class privilege for how much geekier they are than other people. For example, there is a common sentiment among programmers who hire other programmers that it is bad to hire programmers who only started programming at the beginning of college. Their logic is that if you only started programming in college, instead of when you were a child, then it means that you are not really interested in programming, and you only went into CS to make money/get a job. There is zero recognition of class privilege and class differences.

via Gaming Masculinity: Video games as a reflection on masculinity in Computer Science and African American culture [Conference Notes] | Racialicious – the intersection of race and pop culture.

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10 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Greg Wilson  |  February 23, 2010 at 10:32 am

    Is the DiSalvo paper available online?

    • 2. Mark Guzdial  |  February 23, 2010 at 11:56 am

      DiSalvo, B., Atwaters, S., Dimond, J, and Bruckman, A, 2009. Gaming Masculinity: Video games as a reflection on masculinity in Computer Science and African American culture, presented at the Texas A&M University Race & Ethnic Studies Institute’s (RESI) Race, Ethnicity, and (New) Media Symposium, College Station, TX.

      Click to access GamingMasculinity9_betsy.pdf

  • 3. Lecia Barker  |  February 24, 2010 at 9:59 am

    I think most people are oblivious to unearned privilege, which is one reason it’s hard to make people aware of it. The difference it brings in terms of how people treat you can always be said to be based in individual difference and not implicit cultural norms.

  • 4. Alfred Thompson  |  February 24, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    There has long been a difference of opinion on the value of formal CS education and informal CS education among geeks. I once almost didn’t get an interview (35 years ago!) because my computer education all came from university courses. That was seen as a negative. On there other hand there are companies where a formal education (the more degrees the better) is absolutely a requirement. So the CS career space is (I believe) deeply divided.

    I wonder (and this is a true question based on ignorance) if the bias towards people who learned on their own and before college/university is stronger in the FOSS area (broadly speaking) than the proprietary development environment. In the latter case I see industry making strong efforts at diversity and in those cases the formal education is a huge draw. In FOSS where prestige is based so much on what one has done rather than potential hinted at by a formal education this starting young may be more important? Flames to \dev\nul please. 🙂

  • 5. Tom Hoffman  |  February 25, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    The idea that anyone would be prevented or discouraged from participating in an open source project based on their degrees or years of experience is absurd. I’ve never heard of an open source project caring about qualifications other than the quality of your patches. Period.

    That’s one of the beauties of open source development practices — you don’t have to rely on proxies to make a decision about whether someone will be productive in the future. The entry ticket is a good patch.

    Of course, projects might not be able or willing to support people getting to that point, and in a perfect world, they would. But in real life, it is all about “show me the code.”

    • 6. Alfred Thompson  |  February 25, 2010 at 1:07 pm

      Nice to hear that FOSS teams are not concerned about where people get their skills. As I said I don’t know.

  • 7. Tom Hoffman  |  February 25, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    Referring back to the earlier conversation about usability and open source, Mark should find this interesting:

    But also read his more recent posts.

  • […] met yesterday with Betsy DiSalvo who created the Glitch Project. She has been explicitly teaching AP CS content in Glitch lately, and encouraging her game-testers […]

  • […] paper to appear in the August CACM (linked below).  The paper is on the Glitch project that I’ve talked about here.  Betsy and Amy are addressing a problem that many working in Broadening Participation in […]

  • […] I wrote about Elizabeth’s paper when it was originally published at ICER at this blog post. Elizabeth wrote a guest blog post here on these topics (see here). These are important issues — Wired has just published an article talking about the Geek Gene with a great discussion of Betsy DiSalvo’s work (see post here about some of Betsy’s work). […]


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