Barbara Pini, Kerry Brown and Josephine Previte
In a front-page story entitled 'Confessions of an IT junkie' published in an edition of The Buzz, a quarterly magazine of the farm women's group Australian Women in Agriculture (AWiA), rural woman Judy Brewer (2001:1) says that 'going online has changed my life'. She writes that technology is essential to her business work and an increasingly important element of her social life, particularly given that, as well as having two young children, she lives 60 kilometres from the nearest shop and 200 kilometres from a town-centre.
In this chapter we explore Brewer's (2001) reflections about the impact of new communication technologies on rural women's lives, and particularly the extent to which these technologies have facilitated the political agendas of women in rural Australia. The focus for this analysis is the discussion list of AWiA, which was established in 1998 to support the political and social activities of network members. Using interviews with twenty members of the discussion list, we argue that AWiA women have engaged the technology to constitute new identities for themselves, far removed from the traditional construction of women on farms as 'farmers' wives' or 'farm wives'. These are the identities of 'political activist', 'business manager' and 'community leader'. In tracing this evolutionary process we further highlight the way in which the women's use of technology has reshaped and shifted notions of 'public' and 'private'. To begin, we turn to the literature from rural sociology which provides a context for understanding the way in which technology has been taken up by AWiA.