Gendering Technological Expertise in the Music Technology Classroom

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Feminist sociology of science and technology studies has highlighted the important role technology and technological skill plays in constructing male identity. Similarly, composition also requires knowledge and control of technology and technique whereby composition becomes a ‘metaphorical display of the mind’ (Green, 1997:84); a masculine mind that contributes to gendered ideologies within Western art music. Both technology and music composition have been historically and socially constructed along similar lines with the focus on technical knowledge, expertise, rationality and mental logic, attributes which supposedly characterize men and masculinity. I aim to demonstrate how the culture of the music technology classroom reproduces an ideology of male expertise where girls (and some non-technological boys) may find themselves marginalized. Drawing on data from an empirical study of adolescents' digitally mediated compositional processes, this paper critically examines the gendered discourses and practices around the notion of 'technological expertise', and its relationship to the construction of gendered identities. I examine how notions of male expertise are co-produced by teachers and students, and how this contributes to who is able to participate in the production of discourses of 'expertise'. Within these classroom cultures, despite demonstrating technological skill, girls and female teachers often find themselves positioned by the male ‘experts’ as less competent and skilled users. I then demonstrate how gendered discourses around expertise are implicit in the values attached to music software programs. The symbolic connections between masculinity and the notions of control, power and skill are played out in the way music software packages become associated with masculinity and femininity. The more ‘expertise’ required to manipulate it, and the greater the perception of the software as complex and difficult, the more status is conferred upon those who use it, and the more likely it is to be viewed as a ‘masculine’ technology.


Keywords: Music Education, Music Technology, Composition, Technological Expertise, Gender
Stream: Technology in Education
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Dr. Victoria Armstrong

Lecturer in Education, Education and Employment, St. Mary's University College
London, UK

I have worked as a music educator for over ten years in a range of sectors from secondary education to Higher Education. I am currently a Lecturer in Education at St. Mary's University College, London. The focus of my research centres on the musical arena reflecting my earlier career as a practising musician having trained as a classical singer initially at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London and then at the Banff Centre for the Arts, Canada. My research is in the area of the sociology of technology and the sociology of music, with a particular interest in gender within both formal and informal music-making settings. In addition to my publications in this field, I also have an on-going interest in developing collaborative research methodologies between researchers and participants using digital technologies such as digital video and 'audiophotography'.

Ref: T08P0166