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Transparent and opaque boxes: do women and men have different computer programming psychologies and styles?

McKenna, Peter (2000) Transparent and opaque boxes: do women and men have different computer programming psychologies and styles? Computers & Education, 35 (1). pp. 37-49. ISSN 0360-1315

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Abstract

An orthodox ‘hard mastery’ programming style is a cornerstone of Sherry Turkle’s influential psychoanalysis of different approaches to learning and practice in computer programming. Hard mastery consists of planning and design, documentation, structure, functional and data abstraction, and debugging, in the development of programs. Turkle is concerned that teachers of programming are trained to recognise hard mastery as the only real way to program, whereas it is only ‘male mastery’. To bring women into computing, teachers are told to teach or facilitate the development of soft, hacking styles. This paper argues that this was a misconceived and impossible aspiration whose widespread influence has led, instead, to a deepening of perceptions of programming and computing as a masculine culture, and to the implicit and absurd identification of women as innately unsuited to the skills required for large programming projects in real organisations.

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