Find two or three sites on the web that overtly deal with identity or gender (e.g., sites that advertise themselves primarily to one gender). You should make sure you achieve a balance between men's and women's sites. For example, if you pick the home page for a women's organization as one of your web sites, you should also pick a men's organization for one of your other sites. Then write a rhetorical analysis in which you explore how the web sites construct identity and gender. How does each web site persuade you to have a certain concept of identity and gender? Be sure to examine the content, structure, and language of the site for your evidence.
Go on the Internet and explore some of the chat rooms. Participate in conversations, both as yourself and as a person of the opposite gender. Note how both "males" and "females" react to you, paying special attention to the different interactions that occur when you use your own identity versus when you use that of the opposite gender. Write down what you notice and then use those observations as evidence for one of the following writing topics.
a.) Compare and contrast your observations to those of one or more of the articles in this chapter. How was your online experience similar to the experience described in the readings, and how was it different? The articles in this chapter make various claims about gender and identity in cyberspace. How do your observations compare with those of the articles?
b.) Write a persuasive paper that attempts to convince the reader either that our normal notions of identity and gender must change in cyberspace or that they will only be reaffirmed by the online environment. You may use evidence from the chapter sources as well as others, including your own experience.
To complete this project you will need to work with a partner of the opposite gender. Together, you should decide on a list of web sites, listservs, and chat rooms that you and your partner will explore. Pick some web sites, listservs, and chat rooms that are specifically geared toward men or women (with the number of resources equally divided), and pick some that are aimed at both genders. When participating in these forums, make sure to record any particularly interesting statements, particularly those involving relations between the genders and then reflect how other users respond to your own gender. You may also want to pay attention to the construction of each electronic space. Does the space seem designed primarily for one gender?
After discussing your observations, you and your partner should integrate your information so you can answer the following question: "How do the online experiences of men and women compare?" You should then decide on a thesis that answers this question in some way, supporting your case with your team's observations and the observations of the writers in this chapter.