Gefen and Ridings, both local Philadelphia scholars, begin by recapping women's and men's sociolinguistic patterns of discourse as prior discussed in the literature. They hypothesize that women, more than men, will wish to both receive support from and give support to a virtual community in which they are participating. In addition, they hypothesize that such support will influence women's assessment of the quality of that virtual community, and that women will more constantly than men rate their virtual community as having higher quality. They surveyed 39 discussion boards, which they divided into men's, women's, and mixed boards. As to be expected, women more than men were found to go to discussion boards for support. One of the interesting results they found is that the men surveyed also sought rapport and support, but did so more often in men's-only communities, presumably where an expectation of common language would be held, and did not rate them lower in quality, even though rapport-seeking can be considered as indicating inferior social status among men according to past sociolinguistic studies. When the men did seek rapport in mixed-gender groups, it did not affect their assessment of the board's quality because there was an expectation of rapport-seeking inherent in the mixed-gender environment, since women were present and rapport-seeking is a characteristic of women's speech. The authors admit that even as they tried to control for gender-bias in the chosen bulletin boards, that some of the communities were specifically support/rapport based (eg. cancer support) and that may have skewed the data towards women's speech and away from men's speech.
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Winter and Huff's study focuses on a 1996 survey of a women's only online bulletin board for computer scientists called SYSTERS. Although the study is 9 years old, it still brings voice to women who were previously marginalized as gender minorities in their field of work/study. The authors discuss the issue of same-gender boards being both "havens" and "ghettos" for women online, and also provide some support for Cass Sunstein's theory that the internet allows for the consolidation of like opinions - both positive and negative, as in the case of women's forums and online sexual harassment, respectively. Based upon their work, the authors felt that the differences between the genders in online communication was equal or magnified to that present in speech.
Shade's research, although not linguistic in nature, is useful to provide a background into women's roles in constructing the Internet. She begins by reviewing research on gendered uses of various communications technologies, including the telephone, radio, and television. She discusses cyberactivism and feminism, as well as public policy determining women's access to the internet. She cites a case study of women in China and internet access implementation and concludes with a discussion of whether women are merely consumers targeted by merchants or active citizens in an online sisterhood (discussions that we have held in class as well).