the culture and values of social media

Fall Speaking Events

Posted: September 24th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Conferences, Talks | No Comments »

Here’s where I’m talking this semester:

October 15th, 2014
Wellesley College (my alma mater!), Wellesley, MA
Newhouse Center for the Humanities Faculty Working Group “Investigating the Socio-Technical”

October 21-24, 2014
Association of Internet Researchers annual meeting 15.0, Daegu, Korea
Show Me Your Selfies pre-conference workshop, showing off the work we’ve been doing with the Selfie Research Network.
Panel on 10 Years of Facebook with Brady Robards, Sian Lincoln, Ben Light and Neha Kumar

November 10, 2014
Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan
Talking about Networked Privacy in social media

November 19, 2014
Privacy Research Group, New York University
Talking about popular conceptions of ethics around the celebrity nudes hacking scandal


New Study Released: Legal Implications of Online Harassment

Posted: June 10th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: feminism, Policy, Research | No Comments »

Working with the wonderful people at Fordham Law’s Center on Law and Information Policy, I’m happy to announce we are releasing our newest research report:

Online Harassment, Defamation, and Hateful Speech: A Primer of the Legal Landscape

This interdisciplinary project focused on online speech directed at women and seeks to provide a primer on (i) what legal remedies, if any, are available for victims of sexist, misogynist, or harassing online speech, and (ii) if such legal remedies and procedures exist, whether practical hurdles stand in the way of victims’ abilities to stop harassing or defamatory behavior and to obtain legal relief. The study concluded that while online harassment and hateful speech is a significant problem, there are few legal remedies for victims. This is partly due to issues of jurisdiction and anonymity, partly due to the protection of internet speech under the First Amendment, and partly due to the lack of expertise and resources on online speech at various levels of law enforcement. Given this landscape, the problem of online harassment and hateful speech is unlikely to be solved solely by victims using existing laws; law should be utilized in combination with other practical solutions.

The objective of the project is to provide a resource that may be used by the general public, and in particular, researchers, legal practitioners, Internet community moderators, and victims of harassment and hateful speech online.

Download the paper for free at SSRN.

This report was inspired by the many high-profile incidents of women (esp. women of color and queer women) harassed online in the last few years. Before digging deeper into the sociological implications, I was curious as to whether there was room in the current legal landscape to prosecute such actions, whether civilly or criminally.

Because internet speech is (rightfully) protected under the First Amendment, any laws criminalizing online speech have to be written very carefully. The specifics of the words used (calling someone a “ho” versus a “bitch”), the threats made (“burn at the stake” vs. “publicly execute”), and the venue in which they appear (Facebook vs. email, for instance) are all crucially important. While 37 states have cyberharassment laws, they are often written to circumvent First Amendment protections (and it remains to be seen whether they will be upheld as constitutional). In addition, victims face issues of jurisdiction, anonymity, and getting law enforcement to take the threats seriously.

CLIP was immensely supportive of this effort and funded the work. I am DELIGHTED that this report is finally coming out and I hope those of you doing research on topics like online harassment, online conflict, revenge porn, cyberbullying, and so forth find it useful.

Please comment or email me if you have feedback!


Status Update on CBC: Bonus Contest!

Posted: November 23rd, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: internet culture | Tags: | No Comments »

I appeared on CBC Radio’s wonderful tech show The Spark with Nora Young this week. to talk about the book. This is my second time being interviewed by Nora- she’s a fantastic host and very thoughtful.

Bonus: Win a copy of the book by commenting on the show! Details at the link.


New talk: Big Data, Data-Mining, and the Social Web

Posted: October 30th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: marketing, privacy, Talks | Tags: , | No Comments »

Today I gave a talk at the Power, Privacy & the Internet event hosted by the New York Review of Books. I was on a heavy-hitting panel with the wonderful James Bamford, who has been writing books taking the NSA to task since I was playing with Barbies– and as a result, knows more about where the NSA came from and where it is going than anyone else I’ve ever met. Rounding out the panel was Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, who has been
pressuring the Obama administration to reform the NSA and has met personally with the three out of five members of Obama’s new NSA review board. Phew.

My talk, in contrast, was about the corporate collecting of personal data. I had just seen a fantastic presentation at AOIR by Dave Parry on the Obama campaign’s use of data-mining techniques, and was well-prepared as a result (thanks Dave!).

Here’s the first paragraph of the talk:

While recent revelations regarding the NSA’s role in the collection and mining of the personal information and digital activities of millions of people across the world have garnered immense media attention and public outcry, there are equally troubling and equally opaque systems run by advertising, marketing and data-mining firms which have not attracted as much attention. Using techniques ranging from supermarket loyalty cards to targeted Facebook advertising, private companies systematically collect very personal information, from who you are, to what you do, to what you buy. Data about your online and offline behavior is combined, analyzed, and sold to marketers, corporations, governments, and even criminals. The scope of this collection, aggregation, and brokering of information is similar to, if not larger than, that of the NSA, yet it is almost entirely unregulated and many of the activities of data-mining and digital marketing firms creep under the radar.

You can download a PDF of the entire talk here. Thanks much to #aoircamp for the time and space in which to write it up.


Status Update is out! Upcoming events!

Posted: October 26th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: internet culture | No Comments »

So Status Update is shipping! Peep this photo from my brother:

status_update_dave

This month I’m giving a series of talks, strangely few of which have anything to do with the book. Here’s the full list:

October 30, New York, NY
Power, Privacy and the Internet, sponsored by the New York Review of Books
I’m speaking on the first panel, discussing how personal information is collected by marketers and corporations, and how voluntary data collection like that of the Quantified Self movement (which I discuss in my Lifestreaming chapter of Status Update) fits into all of it.

November 1-2nd, New York, NY
Celebrities and Publics in the Internet Era, sponsored by Public Culture
I’m presenting a new paper called “Instafame: Luxury Selfies in the Attention Economy” on Instagram fame, natch. The fabulous Laura Portwood-Stacer is my respondent.

November 11, Los Angeles, CA
Annenberg Research Seminar, USC
Networked Privacy and Social Surveillance
This talk examines the contradictions between traditional, individualistic models of privacy and the affordances of social technologies, which enable people to widely share information about others without consent. The shift to networked privacy is analyzed by examining both how populations manage privacy in networked publics and how networked data challenges how privacy operates.

November 20, Kingston, Ottawa, Canada
Surveillance Studies Center Seminar Series
Networked Privacy and Social Surveillance
Traditional models of privacy are individualistic, but networked data challenges how privacy operates. Social technologies enable people to widely share information about others without consent, and investigate what others are doing. This talk examines the relationship between social media, the shift to networked privacy, and the prevalence of social surveillance.

And yes, then I’m going to collapse :)

Right now I’m at the wonderful Association of Internet Researchers Annual Meeting (#ir14) where I mentored at the amazing Doctoral Colloquium, gave a paper called “There’s no justice like angry mob justice: Regulating Hateful Speech through Internet Vigilantism”, and am on a fishbowl about internet identity, a roundtable about haters (with Kate Miltner), and a roundtable celebrating the new book Twitter and Society, where I have a chapter on Qualitative Research on Twitter.

If you’d like me to give a talk about my actual book, please email me!


“They’re Really Profound Women, They’re Entrepreneurs”: Conceptions of Authenticity in Fashion Blogging

Posted: July 11th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: internet culture | Tags: , , | No Comments »

I presented this paper at ICWSM this week. It got a great response– I enjoyed the feedback from computer scientists on my qualitative, critical paper about fashion, of all things!

I had chosen to exclude it from the conference proceedings because it’s been sent to a journal [computer scientists publish through conferences, social scientists through journal articles], but I’ve gotten many requests and decided to put it online:

“They’re Really Profound Women, They’re Entrepreneurs”: Conceptions of Authenticity in Fashion Blogging. [PDF]

Citation:

Marwick, A. (2013). ““They’re Really Profound Women, They’re Entrepreneurs”: Conceptions of Authenticity in Fashion Blogging.” Presented at the 7th International AIII Conference on Weblogs and Social Media (ICWSM), July 8, Cambridge, MA.

Abstract:

Fashion blogging is an international subculture comprised primarily of young women who post photographs of themselves and their possessions, comment on clothes and fashion, and use self-branding techniques to promote themselves and their blogs. Drawing from ethnographic interviews with 30 participants, I examine how fashion bloggers use “authenticity” as an organizing principle to differentiate “good” fashion blogs from “bad” fashion blogs. “Authenticity” is positioned as an invaluable, yet ineffable quality which differentiates fashion blogging from its mainstream media counterparts, like fashion magazines and runway shows, in two ways. First, authenticity describes a set of affective relations between bloggers and their readers. Second, despite previous studies which have positioned “authenticity” as antithetical to branding and commodification, fashion bloggers see authenticity and commercial interests as potentially, but not necessarily, consistent. This study adds to the growing literature on online self-presentation techniques which finds that the entrepreneurial self-concept encouraged in professional blogging communities is intimately linked to a larger shift in cultural labor to capitalist business practice.

Enjoy! Please email me with questions or comments. Or comment here!


Social Media Syllabus

Posted: August 22nd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: academia, social media | Tags: , | No Comments »

I’m teaching a new class at Fordham called “Social Media.” I spent a ton of time trying to figure out what was most important to cover, and ultimately I could probably teach a 2-year class on the subject. Here’s what I came up with (with class policies, grading rubics, etc. snipped):

Social Media | COMM 3307

Class blog: http://socialmedia3307.tumblr.com/

Course Description

This class examines the relationship between society and the current crop of computer-mediated communication technologies known as “social media,” including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and more. These technologies are often regarded with fear or awe; the purpose of this class is to break down the mythologies of social media and develop methods of analysis and critical understanding. To do this, we will draw from a broad range of social theory including science and technology studies (STS), communication theory, linguistics, cultural studies, and media anthropology to critically evaluate the impact of social media on relationships, activism, branding, politics, news media, and identity. We will focus on the “sociotechnical,” or the relationship between the technical affordances of a website/technology and the social norms of a user community, and how to use this to understand emerging technologies (and social media that doesn’t exist yet!). Students will also gain basic practical social media skills: understanding the landscape, learning “best practices,” and using different social media technologies throughout the class to create and propagate content.

SCHEDULE OF CLASSES, READINGS, AND ASSIGNMENTS
Classes are subject to change based on the interests of class and direction in which class proceeds. Please make yourself aware of all changes to the schedule. If you miss a class, it is your responsibility to learn of any changes.
Readings and other assignments are due on the date listed.

Date Topic (reading due by class date)

Friday 8/31 Introductions & Course Overview
Syllabus
Class objectives
What is social media?

Tuesday 9/4 Key Concepts
Nancy Baym “New Forms of Personal Connection” Chapter 1
Terms: interactivity, temporal structure, social cues, storage, replicability, reach, mobility

Blog Assignment: Set up Tumblr account. Post an example for one of the key terms. Include a photo, video or audio file, and a link.

Friday 9/7 Social Media in Context
Tom Standage, “Codes, Hackers and Cheats” and “Love over the Wires” (from The Victorian Internet)
Hafner & Lyon, “Email” (from When Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet)
What’s similar about these previous forms of media? What’s different?

Blog Assignment: Pick a pre-web technology and compare it to one of your favorite websites, apps, or games (e.g. record player vs. Spotify). Hint: What’s the difference between the internet and the web?

Tuesday 9/11 History of Social Media
Baron, “Language Online: The Basics” (from Always On)
Boyd & Ellison, “Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship”
Terms: Asynchronous, synchronous, one-to-one, one-to-many, bi-directional, uni-directional. Take note of the different technologies mentioned in these chapters; you will be seeing them again.

Friday 9/14 Introducing Theory
Gillespie, “The Stories Digital Tools Tell”
Baym Chapter 2, “Making New Media Make Sense”
Terms: Technological Determinism, social construction of technology, social Shaping, utopian, dystopian, interface

How are new technologies represented in the media?
Blog assignment: Pick a news story about social media and post it. Analyze whether you think the claims and evidence presented in the story are correct.
Examples: NYT, Washington Post

Tuesday 9/18 Computer-Mediated Communication
Baym, Chapter 3, “Communication in Digital Spaces”
Baron, Chapter 4, “Are Instant Messages Speech?”
Terms: reduced social cues, social presence theory, media richness theory, flaming, immediacy cues, mixed modality, intonation unit, conversational scaffolding, utterance break

Blog Assignment: Pick a politician’s Twitter account. Analyze his or her speech. What features of CMC does he/she show, or not? Compare this with the account of a musician or celebrity like @kimkardashian or @rihanna.

Tip: Find your hometown Senator or Representative: http://www.contactingthecongress.org/

Friday 9/21 Affordances
Norman “The Psychopathy of Everyday Things”
Latour, “Where are the Missing Masses? The Sociology of a Few Mundane Artifacts”
Terms: Affordance, delegation, anthropomorphism, re-inscription

What is an affordance?
How does this play into social construction or technological determinism?

Blog post: Go back to your politician’s Twitter account. What affordances does Twitter have? How does the politician use them (or not)?

Note: In order to vote in the Presidential election in NYC, you must be registered 25 days before the election. This weekend is a great time to sign up! Register in NY (if you choose to vote in your home state, check http://www.longdistancevoter.org to find out how to cast an absentee ballot, and http://www.countmore.org to decide whether to vote there or in NYC. Many states have registration deadlines for the beginning of October).

Tuesday 9/25 Online Communities
Baym, Chapter 4, “Communities and Networks”
Ellison, N. Steinfield, C. & Lampe, C. (2007). The benefits of Facebook ‘friends’: Exploring the relationship between college students’ use of online social networks and social capital.
Terms: community, speech community, norms, social capital, bonding capital, bridging capital, maintained capital, network support, emotional support, esteem support, informational support, networked individualism

Blog Assignment: Pick an online site that you participate in (something smaller than “Facebook” or “Twitter,” e.g. a particular Facebook community, or a fan forum for a sports team). Do you consider it a “community”? Why or why not?

Friday 9/28 Norms
Garfinkel, “Studies of the Routine Grounds of Everyday Activities” (warning: This is a difficult piece. Concentrate on the experiments and how Garfinkel’s students responded to them.)
Marwick & Ellison, “There Isn’t Wifi in Heaven!” Negotiating Visibility on Facebook Memorial Pages
Sandvig, “Social Media Breaching Experiments”
Terms: social norms, context collapse, impression management, persistence, scalability, searchability

Blog Assignment: Return to the online site you participate in. What are its norms? Talk about one or two in a short post.

Tuesday 10/2 Online Identity
Baym Chapter 5, “New Relationships, New Selves”
Mendelson and Papacharissi, “Look at Us: Collective Narcissism in College Student Facebook Photo Galleries”
Terms: Disembodied identities, identity cues, self-presentation

Assignment #1 due: Social Media Breaching Experiments

Friday 10/5 Aspects of Identity
Marwick, “Gender, Sexuality and Social Media”
Nakamura, “Race In/For Cyberspace: Identity Tourism and Racial Passing on the Internet”

Optional:
Manjoo, “How Black People Use Twitter”
Carter, “A Response to Farheed Manjoo’s “How Black People Use Twitter”
Nakamura, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game: The Racialization of Labor in World of Warcraft”

Terms: disembodiment hypothesis, cyborg feminism, oversharing, otherness, identity tourism, passing

Last day for designating a course Pass/Fail

Blog Assignment: Find a news article on a popular site like CNN.com or HuffingtonPost.com that deals with gender, race, sexuality, class, nationality, religion, or another aspect of identity. Read and analyze the comments—what views are expressed? How do commenters respond to each other? Do you think this is different from face-to-face conversations? Why?

Tuesday 10/9 Relationships
Baym, Chapter 6, “Digital Media in Relational Development and Maintenance”
Gershon, “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover” (from Breakup 2.0)
Terms: early idealization, relational development, relational maintenance, “friending,” idioms of practice, media ideologies, second-order information

Find/form midterm study groups (no blog assignment)

Friday 10/12 Midterm

Tuesday 10/16 Creativity and Culture
Shirky, “Gin, Television, and Cognitive Surplus” (from Cognitive Surplus)
Davidson, “The Language of Internet Memes”
Schifman, “Anatomy of a YouTube Meme”

Blog assignment: Peruse knowyourmeme.com’s Meme Database for a half hour or so. Pick a meme (either one you found there or one you were previously familiar with) and write a quick analysis of what the meme involves.

Friday 10/19 NO CLASS – ALICE AT CONFERENCE
Watch We Live in Public (Ondi Timoner, 2009) 90 mins. This movie is available on Netflix (DVD only, not Instant), Hulu Plus, Amazon Video On-Demand ($3.99) and on reserve at Walsh library. I highly encourage using the blog to coordinate viewing parties. (Fun!!!) Note that having technical difficulties is NOT an excuse for not seeing it, so don’t wait until Sunday night to try accessing the movie.

Blog assignment: Movie review (feel free to give a grade or a star rating). (due Monday 10/22 at 5pm)

Activism, Politics & News

Tuesday 10/23 What was the role of Twitter in the Arab Spring?

Grossman, “Iran Protests: Twitter, the Medium of the Movement”
Morozov, “The Google Doctrine” (from The Net Delusion)
Doctorow, “We Need a Serious Critique of Net Activism”
Stepanova, “The Role of Information Communication Technologies in the Arab Spring”

Blog Assignment: What’s your perspective? How do the theories of technology we discussed earlier in the semester (technological determinism, social shaping of technology, utopian/dystopian, etc.) play into these accounts?

Friday 10/26 How has social media changed online news?

Rosen, J. “The People Formerly Known as the Audience”
Starr, “Goodbye to the Age of Newspapers (Hello to a New Era of Corruption)”
Braun & Gillespie, “Hosting the public discourse, hosting the public: When online news and social media converge.”

Guest Speaker: Joe Weisenthal, Editor, BusinessInsider.com
Peruse BusinessInsider.com and write a list of questions for Joe. Bring them to class. More about Mr. Weisenthal: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/13/magazine/joe-weisenthal-vs-the-24-hour-news-cycle.html?pagewanted=all

Tuesday 10/30 What impact has social media had on civic engagement?

Knight Foundation, “What are the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy?”
Johnson et. al, “United We Stand? Online Social Network Sites & Civic Engagement”
Claire Cain Miller, “How Obama’s Internet Campaign Changed Politics”

Friday 11/2 Branding
Clemons, “The complex problem of monetizing virtual electronic social networks.”
Ivey, “Domino’s Pizza Case Study.”
Dash, “How to Fix Popchips’ Racist Ad Campaign”

How can companies engage well on social media?
Blog assignment: Post an example of a company you think is doing it “right” or “wrong.” Why or why not?

Tuesday 11/6 ELECTION DAY – NO CLASS. GO VOTE!!!
Assignment #2 DUE by 5pm 11/5 over email or Blackboard. How has (candidate of your choice) used social media in this election?

Friday 11/9 Legal Aspects of Social Media
Lessig, “Property” (from Free Culture)
Zittrain, “Tethered Appliances, Software as Service, and Perfect Enforcement” (from The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It)

Talk about final paper assignment

Tuesday 11/13 Privacy
Cashmore, Facebook Founder on Privacy: Public Is the New “Social Norm” (watch video too)
Kirkpatrick, “Why Facebook is Wrong About Privacy”
Boyd & Hargittai, Facebook Privacy Settings: Who Cares?

Blog Assignment: Given what we learned about norms and affordances earlier in the semester, do you agree with Zuckerberg, Kirkpatrick, or neither?

Optional: How are your Facebook privacy settings set? Why? Log out and try to view your profile. Were you correct about how you had set your settings?

Friday 11/16 Alice out of town – class cancelled
Thesis statement & outline of paper due over email at 5pm!

Tuesday 11/20 Transgression and Deception
Coleman, “Freaks, Hackers and Trolls: The Politics of Transgression and Spectacle”
Donath, “Identity and Deception in the Virtual Community”

Blog assignment TBD

Alice returns thesis/outlines with comments

Friday 11/23 THANKSGIVING – SCHOOL CLOSED

Tuesday 11/27 Limiting Internet Speech?
Benkler, “A Free Irresponsible Press: Wikileaks and the Battle over the Soul of the Networked Fourth Estate” (LONG article)
Bosker, “Randi Zuckerberg: Anonymity online has to go away”
boyd, “Real Name Policies are an Abuse of Power”

Blog Assignment: What has the US government’s response been to Wikileaks? Do you think it’s reasonable or not? Should there be limits on internet free speech?

Friday 11/30 Opting Out & Non-Participation
Portwood-Stacer, “Media refusal and conspicuous non-consumption: The performative and political dimensions of Facebook abstention.”
Marwick, “If You Don’t Like It, Don’t Use It. It’s That Simple. ORLY?”

Alice out of town – Dr. Laura Portwood-Stacer (NYU) substitute professor
Very rough draft (not graded) due at 5pm

Tuesday 12/4 Who Benefits from Social Media?
Hargittai, Digital Na(t)ives? Variation in Internet Skills and Uses among Members of the “Net Generation”
Gray, “Online Profiles: Remediating the Coming Out Story.” (from Out in the Country)
Marwick, “Status, Social Media, and the Tech Scene” (from Status Update)

Blog Assignment: Choose a social media technology we’ve never discussed in class. Post a brief analysis of its affordances and norms, and how it may impact social or political issues. (The point of this assignment is to show that you can use the tools developed in this class to discuss technologies that we can’t even imagine yet!)

Friday 12/7 Last Day of Class: Wrap-Up
Baym, Conclusion
Class objectives: achieved?
Paper Q&A

Blog assignment: What worked in this class? What didn’t work? What would you alter and change if YOU were teaching the class?

Alice returns rough drafts w/ comments
Sign up for one on one paper review slot
Student Evaluations

PAPERS DUE 12/20 AT 5PM EST OVER EMAIL OR BLACKBOARD
NO EXCEPTIONS!


On online misogyny and sexism

Posted: August 8th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: feminism, Press | No Comments »

I was on Al-Jazeera English’s social media show, the Stream, yesterday talking about online sexism and backlash against women.

This was my television debut and I was very nervous. TV isn’t like any other form of commentary. You can’t edit what you say, you have to be able to think on your feet and have your talking points down cold. I think I did a good job, but there are a few places where I’d have loved to just be able to write out a big ol’ blog essay instead. The folks at Al-Jazeera were really welcoming and nice and I had a great time. It was also fantastic getting to have a real discussion rather than just a few 10-second soundbites.

Notably, the comments on YouTube are mostly about how there’s no such thing as sexism and feminism is a plot against men. Perfectly proving our point!


CSST 2012

Posted: August 8th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Conferences | No Comments »

I just got back from a fantastic four days spent in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at the Consortium for Socio-Technical Systems summer institute (CSST). Along with 10 mentors and 30 other grad students and junior faculty, we did yoga, went hiking, and spent many hours hashing out the particulars of our socio-technical projects.

Picture of Mountain, Sky and Clouds on the Road to Santa Fe

I highly support the concept of academic retreats. Not only did none of us get cell phone reception (one lousy bar, and usually just on the Edge network), the wireless at Bishop’s Lodge was deplorable. So we were basically off the grid for half a week, which for obsessive academics who study technology was challenging. Well, I was challenged. Everyone else seemed fine.

My favorite part of the institute was a mini-workshop on ethnography which I ran (pats self on back). We went around the table and talked about challenges we were having with our ethnographic work. I was amazed and totally stoked that people were doing such fascinating and diverse projects using ethnographic methods, from studying emergency room trauma teams to looking at solar energy projects in Morocco to examining large-scale infrastructure from the ground up in rural India. My co-participants were a truly impressive group and we had a great time hashing out solutions to our varied problems. I was one of the few doing internet ethnography, and I realized how much I have to learn from STS and HCI people studying other forms of technology using similar methods.

I highly recommend that grad students (& asst profs!) apply for next year! It’s all NSF funded and a great group of people.


Magic Mike and the Myth of Entrepreneurialism

Posted: July 18th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: internet culture | 1 Comment »

Last night my friend Grace and I went to see Magic Mike. It’s been hovering in the high 90s this week in NYC and the air conditioning sounded fantastic, I’m a big early Soderbergh fan, and, fine, I wanted to see Channing Tatum and Joe Mangionello (Alcide!) prancing around shirtless.

I have no problem with strippers. I do think the dynamics of male strippers vs. female strippers are revealing. About a decade ago I went to Vegas for a wedding. A big mixed-gender group of us went to a strip club that had female strippers on the first floor and male strippers on the second. The female strippers performed on small, round tables with about six guys drinking and staring intently at them, a stack of dollar bills by each one’s side. Lap dances took place in shady corners and the entire atmosphere was surprisingly intense. Upstairs, the packed audience was hooting and hollering as the gigantically buff male strippers dragged bachelorettes and 21st-birthday girls up on stage where they proceeded to humiliate them (blindfolds, spanking, etc. – all very campy) for the amusement of their drunk friends. Yes, male strippers are objectified, but the group dynamic and the embarrassment of the voyeur aspect are almost entirely absent from female strip clubs.

Magic Mike didn’t say anything about this. Like most of Soderberg’s movies, it’s not a feel-good flick; it’s a slow depressing meditation on relationships. Mike (Channing Tatum) is in his 30s, a very successful stripper with a nice apartment, a giant truck (which he keeps in pristine condition for future reselling) and $13K in cash savings in a safe. He also runs three businesses and is always on the hustle; one business is a non-union roofing crew, another a mobile auto detailing business, and of course, stripping. Roofing and stripping are both corporeal professions in which the young guys have the advantage and any injury can end your career forever; all three businesses deal exclusively in cash; and of course, none of them offer health benefits, 401Ks or training. Mike doesn’t have much education (he asks his grad student fuckbuddy if she’s studying “social studies”) and no interest in working a 9-5. He claims that his dream job is making ugly custom furniture, but we never see him doing it. Instead, he continuously falls back on his charm and looks to get what he wants.

Magic Mike says a lot about the state of the “American Dream” and the current wisdom about achieving it. Mike is relentlessly optimistic and refers to himself as an entrepreneur. One of his stripper colleagues earnestly advocates the financial self-help book Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Dallas, the skeevy club owner, dangles equity in a Miami club as long-term financial stability for the team. These are fantasies of success and wealth that do not rely on the drudgery of minimum-wage McJobs or under-the-table construction work. People like Tim Ferris and Gary Vaynerchuk advocate living your passion, but none of the passions of the strippers have any possibility of creating financial stability, and Mike’s furniture business seems an unrealistic pipe dream. He has a passion because he’s supposed to have one, because a thousand magazine articles and movies have shown us the person who gets rich quick from their cupcake shop or dog-walking business, but when he tries to get a small-business loan he’s jettisoned by his lousy credit score. The only person with a 9-5 job is the (very boring and miscast) love interest, who processes Medicare claims at a doctor’s office. She lives in a drab apartment and seems resigned to her lower-middle-class lifestyle.

The characters in Magic Mike aspire to wealth, but lack the education or stable jobs that would allow them to build up savings or retire comfortably. They’re falling through the cracks, and buy self-help propaganda in lieu of union jobs, training, or structural safety nets. Notably, the film is set in Florida, which has been hit hard by the financial crisis and sub-prime mortgage meltdown. Entrepreneurialism is a fantasy which they want to buy into but which has little potential to benefit them.

The success of tech entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg and the constant stream of self-help books promoting self-promotion has created a climate in which the path to wealth is the hustle. But that’s simply not true. The tech millionaires who get funded are part of a closely-knit network of founders and venture capitalists. The capital needed to launch successful companies is simply not available. And the failure rates for small business are astronomical. Magic Mike shows the other side of the myth of the American entrepreneur, and how it fails the people with the most to lose in our current era of neoliberal capitalism.