Swedish Non-Violence Sculpture by Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd
As a social scientist and theorist of technology, I follow some general rules in my thoughts and writings. One such rule is that I make no claims about the nature of people or the nature of things. Below, I do both. I then put these rule-breaking claims to use in beginning to make sense of the Washington school shooting, in which a reportedly “popular” and “normal” 15 year old boy shot 5 classmates before killing himself.
I begin with two claims about human nature: (more…)
Facebook and Apple are offering women employees the opportunity to “lean in,” which is great…right?
Humans both make and use technologies. Because of this, technologies themselves are imbued with politics, and the way people employ technologies have political implications. Untangling what those politics are, is sometimes a tricky process, as technological potentialities in both design and use are multiple and sometimes contradictory. Such is the case with egg-freezing technologies and the offer from Apple and Facebook to cover this procedure for women employees.
Since their announcement—a clear response to criticisms over Silicon Valley’s disproportionately dude populated work force—commentators have tried to discern the political implications. While the move certainly offers an opportunity for women who want to delay childbirth, it also presents a pressure to do so. (more…)
The contemporary information economy is made up of prosumers—those who simultaneously produce and consume. This is exciting, as we lay-folk become micro-journalists, creating content and spreading what others create. However, such a system poses serious questions about the ethics of sharing practices.
In what follows, I offer a skeleton guideline for the ethics of sharing. It is purposely broad so as to remain flexible. I offer three key guiding principles: Who always matters; Intention always matters; and The law is a really good suggestion. (more…)
Pic via: The Accessible Icon Project
Let me start by saying, accessibility is a human rights issue, not an afterthought. Frankly, it’s an insult to people with disabilities that access is even a subject of debate. And yet…
The Technology, Equality, and Accessibility in College and Higher Education Act (i.e., the TEACH Act) is currently under debate in congress. The legislation requires that technologies used in college classrooms be accessible to all students, including students with disabilities. It is entirely possible that you have not heard of the TEACH Act, but for those who it most affects—students with bodies that deviate from the norm—the stakes are quite high. The bill has some strong support, but also strong opposition, from surprising sources. (more…)
Blacked out Twitter image from my post last week
Netiquette. I seriously hate that word. BUT an issue of internet-based-etiquette (blogger etiquette, specifically) recently came to my attention, and I’m interested in others’ practices and thoughts.
As a blogger, I often analyze content from Facebook and Twitter. In doing so, I usually post images of actual tweets, comments, and status updates. These are forms of data, and are useful in delineating the public tenor with regard to a particular issue, the arguments on opposing sides of a debate, and the ‘voice’ with which people articulate their relevant thoughts and sentiments.
As a common practice, I black out all identifying information when reposting this content. Last week, I posted some tweets with the names and images redacted. A reader commented on my post to ask why I did so, given that the tweets were public. We had a quick discussion, but, as I mentioned in that discussion, this issue deserves independent treatment. (more…)
Can a gift be a data breach? Lots of Apple product users think so, as evidenced by the strong reaction against the company for their unsolicited syncing of U2’s latest album songs of innocence to 500 million iCloud accounts. Although part of the negative reaction stems from differences of musical taste, what Apple shared with customers seems less important than the fact that they put content on user accounts at all.
With a proverbial expectant smile, Apple gifted the album’s 11 songs to unsuspecting users. A promotional move, this was timed with the launch of the iPhone6 and Apple iWatch. And much like teenagers who find that their parents spent the day reorganizing their bedrooms, some customers found the move invasive rather than generous.
Sarah Wanenchack has done some great work on this blog with regards to device ownership—or more precisely, our increasing lack of ownership over the devices that we buy. That Apple can, without user permission, add content to our devices, highlights this lack of ownership. Music is personal. Devices are personal. And they should be. We bought them with our own money. And yet, these devices remain accessible to the company from which they came; they remain alterable; they remain—despite a monetary transaction that generally implies buyer ownership—nonetheless shared. And this, for some people, is offensive. (more…)
The sociologist Kai T. Erikson says that boundaries are made and reinforced on the public scaffold. In the Ray and Janay rice case, Twitter is that public scaffold.
To briefly recap, Ray Rice is a (now former) NFL football player for the Baltimore Ravens. He was originally suspended for two games after part of a video surfaced of his abusive behavior towards his then fiancé, Janay. His suspension from the NFL was made indefinite following TMZ’s release of the entire video[i] in which he punches Janay, and then drags her unconscious body out of a hotel elevator. Though Ray was punished by the NFL, Janay maintained their relationship, marrying him and then releasing a statement in Ray’s defense.
While the public outrage over Ray Rice makes him an object of boundary reinforcement—“violence against women is wrong”—Janay Rice is the object of a boundary war. (more…)
Latest in the arsenal of moral-panic studies of digital technologies is a recent article published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, written by psychologists and education scholars from UCLA. The piece, entitled: “Five Days at Education Camp without Screens Improves Preteen Skills with Nonverbal Emotion Cues,” announces the study’s ultimate thesis: engagement with digital technologies diminishes face-to-face social skills. Unsurprisingly, the article and its’ findings have been making the rounds on mainstream media outlets over the past week. Here is the abstract: (more…)
“You are talking to me like I don’t understand what you are saying. I understand what you are saying, I don’t accept what you are saying,” shouted the bespectacled woman who would soon have tears running down her indignant face. “I’m not from this country. I don’t have a phone. I have kids with me. What am I supposed to do!?” The customer service representative at the airline desk spoke slowly and explained again, as if to a spoiled child, that all of the hotels were full and customers were now responsible for finding and booking their own, but not to worry, customers would be reimbursed after going online and submitting the necessary information with a paid receipt. The woman stared blankly at him, and stepped aside to wait for a supervisor. Now she would cry.
Last week I wrote about the curious case of traditional love narratives in the face of online dating. In short, the profiled format, pay structure, and overall bureaucracy of online dating throws into stark relief the constructed belief in a fateful meeting of souls. And yet, the narrative persists. Here’s a brief snippet:
…[T]he landscape has drastically changed but the narrative, not so much. The maintenance of romantic love as a cultural construct, personal striving, and affective embodied response to courtship rituals speaks to the resiliency of normative culture and its instantiation through human action. Even as we transact and negotiate romantic relationships; even as we agree upon terms; even as we screen partners and subject ourselves to screening; we nonetheless speak of butterflies and hope for magic.
In the case of love and online dating, the narrative is both highlighted and strengthened through its empirical contradiction.
This idea sparked an interesting conversation among the Cyborgology team about how this principle—constitution through contradiction—is theoretically useful in understanding the relationship between technologies and culture. Technologies reflect cultural realities, but can also expose the constructed nature of these realities, threatening their taken-for-granted logic and concomitant guidance over behavior and interaction. In the face of such a threat, however, the logics remain, and even strengthen. (more…)