a feminist technology blog

Month: February 2011

2011 Spring/Summer Conference Schedule

Believe it or not, I do stuff besides talk to the press. This year I think I’m attending a record number of conferences! Some I’m presenting dissertation work, and some on my new fashion blogger project. I hope to see lots of new friends and colleagues this spring and summer.

February 16-20: Privacy and Security in Victoria, BC, moderating the social media panel.

March 3-5: Digital Media and Learning in Long Beach, CA. I’m on a panel about activism and agency, where I’ll be talking about my fashion blogger project, and another one on networked public life where I’m presenting some dissertation/book work.

March 9-10: TechFest, Redmond, WA: Internet Famous: Status and Attention in Web 2.0
This is a Microsoft-only event, but if you are an MS FTE, I’d love to see you here! It’s at 3:30 at the Conference Center.

In the mid-2000s, journalists and businesspeople heralded “Web 2.0” technologies such as YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook as signs of a new participatory era that would democratize journalism, entertainment, and politics. By the decade’s end, this idealism had been replaced by a gold-rush mentality focusing on status and promotion. While the rhetoric of Web 2.0 as democratic and revolutionary persists, I will contend that a primary use of social media is to boost user status and popularity, maintaining hierarchy rather than diminishing it. This talk focuses on three status-seeking techniques that emerged with social media: micro-celebrity, self-branding, and life-streaming. I look at two communities of practice—fashion bloggers and San Francisco Web 2.0 workers—and how they mark status and visibility using technology. I examine interactions between social media and social life to show that Web 2.0 has become a key aspect of social hierarchy in technologically mediated communities.

March 11-15, South by Southwest Interactive, Austin, TX
Unfortunately, my panel on academic research was canceled, so I’m now appearing with Anastasia Goodstein on a panel called Can the Internet Make Us Happy?. Spoiler: I’m voting YES.

April 20-24: Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association (PCA/ACA) Conference. I’m presenting a neat paper called “The Drama! Teens, Gossip, and Celebrity” which is brand-new work. Here’s the abstract:

“His girlfriend, Brittany, cheated on him and she went and partied really hard and got drunk and cheated. And then it was all over Formspring. A lot of people are like, “You can do better than that slut” and stuff. And people would write on hers, “You’re such a cheating whore” and blah, blah, blah. And so, that was like drama and stuff. And like, I know Brittany Martinez. If I saw her, I’d be like, “Hey, what’s up?” But I don’t know her personally. And so, I wouldn’t go talk to her about it. But I read that and I could know about it. So it was kind of just like drama I could [see] and stuff.”
– Victoria, 15, Nashville

While teenage gossip is nothing new, for many American teens today, gossip plays out through social media like Formspring, Twitter and Facebook. The resulting arguments and conflicts, and their digital traces, are colloquially known as “drama.” In this paper, we trace the similarities between today’s teen “drama” and discourses of celebrity, particularly in relation to reality television and soap operas. Shows like The Hills are predicated on relatively mundane interpersonal conflict; for teens, sites like Facebook allow for similar performances of gossip in front of engaged audiences. We frame drama as a form of publicity. While many teens profess to hate drama, others enjoy or even encourage it. We use recent ethnographic fieldwork to examine what drama means to teenagers and its relationship to visibility and privacy.

May 12-15: Cyber-surveillance in Everyday Life workshop in Toronto. The full paper is due in April, and I have a LOT to do to get it ready for workshopping! It’s called “The Public Domain: Lifestreaming and Social Digitization as a Way of Life” and will be based on my life-streaming dissertation chapter.

May 26-30, International Communications Association Conference, Boston, MA: “Information-Sharing, Communication, and Interaction on Social Media: Emergent Practices and Evolving Theory” with the fabulous Nicole Ellison, Cliff Lampe, Bernie Hogan, Jessica Vitak, danah (of course) and Nancy Baym.

Twitter & Privacy: Kids Learning How to Manage Life in Public

Danah and I have an editorial in the Guardian today titled “Tweeting teens can handle public life”. Here’s an exerpt:

…Not all teens use Twitter, and those who do don’t all use it in the same way. The sense of what’s appropriate on Twitter varies wildly by social group and locale – is it OK to break up with someone on Twitter? To tweet a hundred times a day? Similarly, young people use Twitter in different ways. Some primarily follow celebrities, enjoying the glimpses into their lives, sending @replies to their favourites in the hope of a response and chatting with other fans. Others like getting coupons and freebies from Twitter-savvy brands. Still other teens use Twitter to play hashtag games, like #lessambitiousmovies (think “The Devil Wears Payless” and “The Above Average Four”), where their bon mots can be retweeted or commented on by thousands they may not know. There are also countless teens who use Twitter primarily to engage with people they know from school, summer camp or after-school activities. Who teens imagine reading their tweets very much shapes their style of participation.

We turned this piece around in a weekend, and I think it’s a breezy, yet nuanced, view of the topic.

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