a feminist technology blog

Tag: Press

Status Update on CBC: Bonus Contest!

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.

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.

CNN: Online Sharing, the rock n’ roll of the digital generation

I was apparently CNN’s go-to privacy researcher last week as I’m heavily quoted in this (pretty good) piece on young people and sharing:

Alice Marwick, a social-media researcher for Microsoft Research, predicts that the stereotype of young people oversharing online may be starting to fade.

“I think that, a few years ago when this concern was really at a peak, the people who were judging young people for their online information practices weren’t really using social media themselves,” she said. “As we see more people in their 40s and 50s and 60s get involved … I think we’re going to see much less of this generational schism than we do today.”

Marwick is quick to point out, though, that age might not be the best way to judge attitudes, and aptitude, regarding digital privacy.

“Someone’s level of education, their access to technology in the home — those types of things are going to have more of an effect on their comfort level than their age,” she said.

This is part of my campaign to eradicate “generations” rhetoric, which I truly dislike. It encourages moral panics about what the “kids” are doing, it paints extremely diverse populations with a single brush, and it often takes educated, middle-class experience and universalizes it. You tell me all young people are super tech-savvy and I’ll show you a class of NYU students where 50% didn’t know you could edit Wikipedia, and one asked me what a browser was; and you tell me all young people are lazy, video-game addicted social deviants and I’ll show you a kid from a working-class family who’s addicted to 4Chan, very active in his church, and aspiring to be a US Marine. We do young people a disservice when we make broad claims about them and then attempt to regulate their behavior based on this. Tip of the hat to article author Doug Gross for acknowledging this diversity.

The Kindle

A short piece I wrote for the Chronicle of Higher Education on the Kindle.

When you pay for a Kindle book, you’re purchasing a license to read content on a single Kindle for as long as Amazon or the publisher allows. Some authors make their books available through free licenses on Creative Commons, but they are a small minority. Sure, you can find books to download in the public domain, but thanks to the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, those are restricted to books published by authors who died more than 70 years ago. Anything more recent, you pay for. You can’t transfer a purchase, copy it, print it out, or do anything else without violating at least the Kindle terms of service and at worst the copyright act. Naturally, there is a thriving trade in pirated e-books, as well as in software that converts files so that they can be read on the Kindle. That is all highly illegal.

Right after this was published, I left my Kindle in the seat pocket of an airplane and it was promptly stolen. Thanks, Delta.

I’ve gotten some push-back from my assertions that you can’t annotate documents on the Kindle. You can. Here’s how. I personally would not do this, because it’s not the way I read or annotate articles. I do them with pen and highlighter. But I do recognize that this works for other people, which is great for them. I still maintain that the Kindle is not designed to be a note-taking device, but an e-reader, and I think there are significant issues with how it handles the ownership of books.

Still, the editors deleted much of my positive commentary on the Kindle, which I absolutely loved. I miss mine and look forward to buying a new one once I have a real job.

Work-in-progress on fashion blogging

I have been doing a lot of press lately after I was quoted in the NYT about haul videos (my first post-dissertation project is going to be about fashion bloggers, and it’s hard not to start working on it as a procrastination device.. but I’m really trying not to!). This week, in her review of Sidney Lo’s Taking Pictures of People Who Take Pictures of Themselves” Beth Hughes quotes me:

“The No. 1 use of digital photography is self-portraits,” says Alice Marwick, a doctoral candidate in media, culture and communication at NYU. The portraits posted online reveal “the unarticulated frustration of people who feel their needs are not met by mainstream fashion magazines.” The portraits, with the ensuing comments – nasty and nice – create “a community of fun and creativity in fashion.”

While the majority of the online fashion interaction is among women, often from underserved populations such as those who are plus-size or minorities, Marwick pointed out that the men participating in Superfuture also “are a good example of an underserved population.”

The “#1 use of digital photography” stat, which is overstated, came from two great pieces: Nancy Van House on Flickr, and José van Dijck on digital photography [PDF].

In terms of my unborn work on fashion blogging, I’m interested in several different things: the aesthetics of digital photography and the relationship to traditional fashion photography; conspicuous consumption and what it looks like in the digital age; and how women of color, women of size, feminists, members of religious communities, eco-activists, men, etc. take up fashion blogging as a way to create new discursive formations around fashion, or to serve a need that goes unfulfilled in mainstream fashion magazines. I am starting this research by reading a lot of fashion blogs. My favorite is Threadbared, a blog by two academic women who write about the culture, aesthetics, and discourse of fashion brilliantly. I also like fashion for writers, fashion for nerds, the glamorous grad student and academichic (notice a theme?).

In other news, the dissertation is going well. I’m working on my chapter on self-branding, for which I have been reading a lot on neoliberalism (my favorite book: Aihwa Ong’s Neoliberalism as Exception), the relationship between work and identity, and of course, critical studies of self-branding. There’s a disconnect between what I want to say and what I’m currently saying, which is to say that I have a pretty good descriptive chapter but the argument isn’t really coming together. It’s hard to resist the temptation to put every smart thought I’ve ever had in the dissertation, but it’s bloated enough already.



Ong, Aihwa. 2006. Neoliberalism as exception. Duke University Press.

Van Dijck, J. 2008. Digital photography: communication, identity, memory. Visual Communication 7, no. 1: 57.

Van House, N. A. 2007. Flickr and public image-sharing: distant closeness and photo exhibition. In CHI’07 extended abstracts on Human factors in computing systems, 2722.

American Prospect article on the death of Geocities

Phoebe Connolly quotes me in an excellent American Prospect article about the death of Geocities:

Other online platforms began to spring up, and soon GeoCities became a fond memory for most users. Blogger was introduced in 1999 (and purchased by Google in 2003), making it easy for anyone to start a blog. MetaFilter, a community blog, was launched in 1999. The social networking site My-Space was founded in 2003. These services also marked the entrance of a very public form of socializing–where, unlike email or listservs, the conversation, and content, was accessible to those not part of the conversation. In offering a platform for creating online identities, GeoCities started a trend that has been replicated by companies ever since.

But once those online identities are created, are they the property of the users or the corporations that host them? David Bollier, author of Viral Spiral: How the Commoners Built a Digital Republic of Their Own, calls corporate-controlled spaces like GeoCities and Facebook, “faux commons.” For him, true online community spaces are defined by users having control over the terms of their interaction and owning the software or infrastructure. Corporate spaces come with “terms of service” agreements that lay out the rules users must abide by and what control they agree to surrender in exchange for using the product. “Oftentimes corporate-controlled communities are benign, functional, and perfectly OK,” Bollier says. “It’s just that the terms of services those companies have or the competitive pressures of business may compel them to take steps that are not in the interest of the community.”

I really enjoy internet history and although Geocities was something we all made fun of at its peak, it was a useful free hosting solution, and it certainly has a place that should be remembered. It’s sad to think of all those Backstreet Boys fan pages and web diaries disappearing for good.

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