, Volume 46, Issue 6, pp 4–10 | Cite as

Round girls in square computers:

Feminist perspectives on the aesthetics of computer hardware
  • Alison A. Carr-Chellman
  • Rose M. Marra
  • Shari L. Roberts


What is the first step beyond this dreaming activity? Understanding where future research in this area could move is an excellent extension of this work. Is the distancing experienced by girls’ interactions with computer software oozing beyond the borders of the screen, beyond what is inside the computer? Might it be that the distancing is also a function of the external manifestation of the computer itself the way it looks on the outside? We don’t know how important the physical structure of the computer is. This is an area worthy of more rigorous research. Our work focuses on the actual, unalterable hardware facets of computers from the late 1990’s the outside 6 and suggests alternative constructions that might make computers more approachable for and appealing to girls. But we don’t know if indeed such computers would be more appealing, nor do we know what the interest or impact of more essentialized recent computers such as the Barbie and Hot Wheels computers are. Rigorous qualitative research into the adoption tendencies and impact on gender relations of the introduction of such essentialized products needs to be accomplished.

The original design of the computer was based not on marketing needs or perceptions, nor on progressive concepts of equity, but rather on functionality for those who created the hardware itself. As a result, it is likely to be quite appealing to the designers, but may be less so to those who were outside this creative process. The importance of resting the design decisions with users has been the subject of several important texts on developing computer systems including Norman’s Design of Everyday Things (1988) and also Schuler & Namioka’s Participatory Design: Principles and Practices (1993).

Some considerations both for function and for appearance have been offered from the perspectives of six women representing various disciplines including art, engineering, cultural studies, media studies, curriculum studies, and instructional technology. We hope that the ideas we offer here will cause readers to take a moment to consider what a computer might look like and how it might work if they had designed it to serve both their functional and aesthetic needs. We believe that this area is worthy of more investigation as, while computers have become more aesthetically varied, the larger issue of equitable aesthetics still has not been considered widely in the research literature. We hope perhaps to have opened the door to further considerations of computer hardware and gender-specific aesthetics.


Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Carpal Tunnel Computer Hardware TechTrends Volume Everyday Thing 
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Copyright information

© Springer 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alison A. Carr-Chellman
    • 2
  • Rose M. Marra
    • 1
  • Shari L. Roberts
    • 3
  1. 1.Learning Technologies University of MissouriColumbia
  2. 2.Instructional SystemsEducation Perm State UniversityUniversity Park
  3. 3.Lawrence, KansasUSA

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