a feminist technology blog

Category: publications

Recent publications

This blog has been sadly neglected!

Here are some new publications you may be interested in:

Gilman, M., Madden, M., Levy, K & Marwick, A. (forthcoming). “Privacy, Poverty and Big Data: A Matrix of Vulnerabilities for Poor Americans.” Washington University Law Review. https://ssrn.com/abstract=2930247

Poor people are burdened many times over by data collection and privacy intrusion. Not only are the poor subject to more surveillance than other subpopulations, and at higher stakes—but in addition, their patterns of privacy-relevant behaviors and device use open poor Americans’ data to greater vulnerability. We demonstrate these behavioral patterns using original empirical data from a nationally representative survey, and suggest that differences like these must be considered in privacy-protective policymaking and design decisions.

I had never worked on a law review article before. The lack of word limits was very liberating, as was working with such stellar co-authors. Michele Gilman is a pioneer in understanding socio-economic status and privacy, and it was a real privilege to have that opportunity.

This piece is lengthy. In it, we lay out how Big Data (much of which is taken from social media data) may have disparate impacts on poor people, who are often the least likely to be able to combat the effects of privacy violations (such as identity theft). Using survey data (ably collected and analyzed by Mary Madden), we show that lower-income people are more likely to use mobile devices and are less likely to think they can configure their privacy settings accurately. Drawing from three case studies — college admissions, employment, and criminal justice– we tie these characteristics back into the increased use of Big Data in these realms.

Marwick, A. (2017). “Entrepreneurial Subjects: Venturing from Alley to Valley.” International Journal of Communication 17. http://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/view/4553

A short commentary piece tying together Gina Neff’s work on dot.com workers and my dissertation/first book on Web 2.0 workers.

Hargittai, E. and Marwick, A. (2016). “‘What Can I Really Do?’ Explaining the Privacy Paradox with Online Apathy.” International Journal of Communication 16. http://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/view/4655

Based on focus group interviews, we considered how young adults’ attitudes about privacy can be reconciled with their online behavior. The “privacy paradox” suggests that young people claim to care about privacy while simultaneously providing a great deal of personal information through social media. Our interviews revealed that young adults do understand and care about the potential risks associated with disclosing information online and engage in at least some privacy-protective behaviors on social media. However, they feel that once information is shared, it is ultimately out of their control. They attribute this to the opaque practices of institutions, the technological affordances of social media, and the concept of networked privacy, which acknowledges that individuals exist in social contexts where others can and do violate their privacy

Very happy with this piece; it’s a direct refutation to the privacy paradox, something that I’ve been trying to work against in my ongoing research on networked privacy. Based on focus group data that Eszter collected, we explain why young adults may seem apathetic towards privacy. Rather than apathy, we couch it as frustration, cynicism, and a belief that privacy violations are inevitable– which is consistent with earlier research.

Social Surveillance in Every Day Life

I’m lucky to be in Toronto this weekend, interacting with amazing colleagues like Chris Soghoian, Priscilla Regan, Leslie Regan Shade, Lee Tien, Finn Brunton, David Phillips, David Lyon, and too many others to mention. We’re all here for the Cyber-Surveillance in Everyday life workshop, sponsored by the Surveillance Studies Centre at the University of Toronto.

Today I presented a new paper draft, The Public Domain: Social Surveillance In Everyday Life. In this paper, I lay out a theoretical framework for looking at social surveillance, and present some places where it’s useful for analysis (namely, Facebook stalking, context collapse, and lifestreaming).

Marwick, Alice. (2011). “The Public Domain: Social Surveillance In Everyday Life”. Cyber-surveillance in Everyday Life, Toronto, May 12-15. [PDF]

Abstract: A profile on a social network site or a Twitter account is created and constructed against the background of an audience—as something to be looked at. This paper argues that the dual gaze of social surveillance—surveying content created by others and looking at one’s own content through other people’s eyes—is a normative part of constant ongoing social media use. Social surveillance is distinguished from “surveillance” along four axes: power, hierarchy, symmetry, and individuality. Based on ethnographic work in the San Francisco technology scene from 2008-2009 and amongst teenagers in the Southeastern United States in 2010, I look at this surveillance, how it is practiced, and its impact on people who engage in it. I use Foucault’s concept of capillaries of power to demonstrate that social surveillance assumes the power differentials evident in everyday interactions rather than the hierarchical power relationships assumed in much of the surveillance literature. Social media involves a collapse of social contexts and social roles, complicating boundary work but facilitating social surveillance. Individuals strategically reveal, disclose and conceal personal information to create connections with others and protect social boundaries. These processes are normal parts of day-to-day life in communities that are highly connected through social media.

We had a lively debate in the presentation about whether or not this model of “social surveillance” renders the term so widely as to be useless (which I obviously disagree with). In my dissertation, I began theorizing how widespread lifestreaming affects self-presentation and subjectivity, with regard to the internalization of the expectation that people are watching. I think the surveillance literature is a very useful place to continue this theory; I’d be interested to hear what others think.

This is a draft; I’ll be revising and submitting to Surveillance & Society post-haste.

Preview: To See and Be Seen: Celebrity Practice on Twitter

I’ve added a draft version of “To See and Be Seen: Celebrity Practice on Twitter,” a paper I wrote with danah boyd last summer which will be published in Convergence sometime next year.

Download draft [pdf file]


Social media technologies let people connect by creating and sharing content. We examine the use of Twitter by famous people to conceptualize celebrity as a practice. On Twitter, celebrity is practiced through the appearance and performance of ‘backstage’ access. Celebrity practitioners reveal what appears to be personal information to create a sense of intimacy between participant and follower, publically acknowledge fans, and use language and cultural references to create affiliations with followers. Interactions with other celebrity practitioners and personalities give the impression of candid, uncensored looks at the people behind the personas. But the indeterminate ‘authenticity’ of these performances appeals to some audiences, who enjoy the game playing intrinsic to gossip consumption. While celebrity practice is theoretically open to all, it is not an equalizer or democratizing discourse. Indeed, in order to successfully practice celebrity, fans must recognize the power differentials intrinsic to the relationship.

Please note that this is not the final version. But it is very close to it– we didn’t have too many edits with our peer reviewers– and hopefully it will be useful for those of you studying celebrity and/or Twitter.

This paper was a lot of fun to work on, and it inspired a great deal of the work on micro-celebrity that appeared in my dissertation. My case studies are Miley Cyrus, Mariah Carey, and Perez Hilton. Miley was an especially hilarious person to study as she often dragged her various Disney starlet friends and family members into her Twitter arguments. I was quite sad when she retired from Twitter via YouTube video.


Marwick, A. and boyd, danah (Forthcoming, in final review). “To See and Be Seen: Celebrity Practice on Twitter.” Convergence.

I Tweet Honestly, I Tweet Passionately: Twitter Users, Context Collapse, and the Imagined Audience

The first paper that danah boyd and I wrote together based on our research at MSR last summer has been published!

Social media technologies collapse multiple audiences into single contexts, making it difficult for people to use the same techniques online that they do to handle multiplicity in face-to-face conversation. This article investigates how content producers navigate ‘imagined audiences’ on Twitter. We talked with participants who have different types of followings to understand their techniques, including targeting different audiences, concealing subjects, and maintaining authenticity. Some techniques of audience management resemble the practices of ‘micro-celebrity’ and personal branding, both strategic self-commodification. Our model of the networked audience assumes a many-to-many communication through which individuals conceptualize an imagined audience evoked through their tweets.

If you have access to a university journal subscription, you can access it here. If not, you can download it here [PDF].

I am very proud of this paper and would love to hear feedback on it.

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