The Society Pages: All Blogs http://thesocietypages.org/ RSS feed for all blogs on The Society Pages en-us Copyright 2007-2014 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ Search for a New Journal Editor – Journal of Integrated Social Sciences http://thesocietypages.org/thickculture/2014/04/19/search-for-a-new-journal-editor-journal-of-integrated-social-sciences/ http://thesocietypages.org/thickculture/2014/04/19/search-for-a-new-journal-editor-journal-of-integrated-social-sciences/ Sat, 19 Apr 2014 13:48:21 CDT jose at ThickCulture The Journal of Integrated Social Sciences (JISS) is searching for a new Political Science editor. The journal is a web-based, peer-reviewed international journal committed to the scholarly investigation of social phenomena. In particular, JISS aims to predominantly publish work within the following social science disciplines: Psychology, Political Sciences, Sociology, and Gender Studies. A further goal […] The Journal of Integrated Social Sciences (JISS) is searching for a new Political Science editor. The journal is a web-based, peer-reviewed international journal committed to the scholarly investigation of social phenomena.

In particular, JISS aims to predominantly publish work within the following social science disciplines: Psychology, Political Sciences, Sociology, and Gender Studies. A further goal of JISS is to encourage work that unites these disciplines by being either (a) interdisciplinary, (b) holistically oriented, or (c) captive of the transformative (developmental) nature of social phenomena. Aside from the theoretical implications of a particular study, we are also interested in serious reflections upon the specific methodology employed – and its implications on the results. JISS encourages undergraduate and graduate students to submit their best work under the supervision of a faculty sponsor. More details can be found at www.jiss.org.

General responsibilities include:

• The day to day running of the journal political science editorial office, including managing article peer review, liaison with authors, editing of articles, and preparation of editorial copy.
• Contributing to strategic development of the Journal
• Attracting submissions and themed issue proposals to the journal to ensure continued relevance and quality of content
• Promotional activities, including attending conferences

To make an application, you will need to send a statement outlining your reasons for seeking the position, and overall objectives as political science editor of JISS.

To discuss further or submit an application, please contact Dr. Jose Marichal (current Political Science Divisional Editor of JISS) ~ marichal@clunet.edu.

]]>
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
Saturday Stat: The U.S. is a “Low Tax Country” http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/SociologicalImagesSeeingIsBelieving/~3/F9NI6aeJqJY/ http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/SociologicalImagesSeeingIsBelieving/~3/F9NI6aeJqJY/ Sat, 19 Apr 2014 09:00:48 CDT Martin Hart-Landsberg, PhD at Sociological Images This chart comes from Chuck Marr at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.  As Marr explains: The United States is a relatively low-tax country, as the chart [above] shows.  When measured as a share of the economy, total government receipts (a broad measure of revenue) are lower in the United States than in any other member […]

This chart comes from Chuck Marr at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.  As Marr explains:

The United States is a relatively low-tax country, as the chart shows.  When measured as a share of the economy, total government receipts (a broad measure of revenue) are lower in the United States than in any other member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), even after accounting for the modest revenue increases in the 2012 “fiscal cliff” deal and the taxes that fund health reform.

1 (2) - Copy

Martin Hart-Landsberg is a professor of economics at Lewis and Clark College. You can follow him at Reports from the Economic Front.

(View original at http://thesocietypages.org/socimages)

]]>
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
#TtW14 Panel Preview: Gone Viral http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2014/04/19/ttw14-panel-preview-gone-viral/ http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2014/04/19/ttw14-panel-preview-gone-viral/ Sat, 19 Apr 2014 07:00:42 CDT davidbanks at Cyborgology This is one post in a series of Panel Previews for the upcoming Theorizing the Web conference (#TtW14) in NYC. The panel under review is titled Gone Viral: All Watched Over by Memes of Loving Grace.

Panel Preview

Presider: Britney Summit-Gil (@beersandbooks)

Hashmod: Kate Miltner (@katemiltner)

This is one post in a series of Panel Previews for the upcoming Theorizing the Web conference (#TtW14) in NYC. The panel under review is titled Gone Viral: All Watched Over by Memes of Loving Grace.

There’s something categorically different about things that are a hit on the Web. Unlike a blockbuster movie or a critically-acclaimed TV show, a viral meme inculcates everyone in its production, popularity, and eventual descent into hackneyed trope-dom. Sometimes the “patient zero” of the meme is notorious or well-known, but often times there is no clear author. Such is the case in almost all of the case studies in this panel where memes are not so much treated as stories told by authors, but as tools and methods of political dissent, identity construction, and cultural critique. Patrick Sharbaugh’s presentation on civic engagement in Vietnam shows how viral memes afford new kinds of cultural protest that can come from very oblique angles, rather than head-on collisions with hegemony. Joel Penney surveys two seminal texts on virality and concludes that the intervening decades have proven these texts to be the basis of a “persuasion model of political internet use” but we have yet to see a systematic articulation of this persuasion model in action. Rob Horning turns the conversation inward by positing that “To the extent that the self is constituted in social media, it knows itself in terms of statistical measures of circulation and algorithmically generated feedback rather than other forms of content.”

Patrick Sharbaugh (@psharbaugh) Lulz Will Find a Way: How Meme Culture Is Empowering Civic Engagement in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Although social media platforms have garnered much attention in recent years for their putative role in dramatic social and political movements around the world, scholars such as Clay Shirky have suggested that the real potential of such tools for change exists in the way they empower citizens and organizations to privately and publicly articulate and debate a welter of conflicting views throughout society. According to this view, social media matters most not in the streets and squares but in the the social commons that Jurgen Habermas termed the public sphere.

Ethan Zuckerman has observed that by using the seemingly innocuous tools of meme and remix culture, citizens are able to create and participate in an active public sphere of indirect political commentary and debate that comprises an entirely new form of civic engagement, particularly for nations in which traditional civil society is proscribed. Social media platforms and creative practices in Vietnam are emerging as powerful tools in this regard, offering a voice to a citizenry who since 1975 have been unable to express in public their views and opinions on many topics considered ‘sensitive’ by the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) and government officials, who exercise tight control over traditional media channels in the authoritarian nation.

While showing little taste for direct engagement with traditional political activism, Vietnamese netizens are increasingly turning to the digital techniques of remix and mashup culture to indirectly express and debate sentiment on issues of social and political relevance. Using several case studies, I will argue that this widespread practice constitutes a culturally-specific form of civic and political engagement that has a subtle but real influence upon state policy in this rapidly developing Southeast Asian nation, in a manner distinct from but not dissimilar to that seen in the social commons of more open, developed societies.

Joel Penney (@professorpenney) Meme Warriors and Media Viruses: Theorizing the Persuasive Political Power of the Web
Twenty years ago, the journalist and media critic Douglas Rushkoff released the book Media Virus!, which became one of the most influential—and most criticized—early works of web theory. While the book went on to inspire a generation of commercial marketers to craft promotional messages that spread and replicate across digital networks, Rushkoff’s focus was in fact the use of viral dissemination techniques for radical-progressive political activism. Five years later, Kelle Lasn, a founder of Adbusters magazine, advanced a similar model of the new media activism in the book Culture Jam, calling for his followers to kick off an left-progressive revolution by acting as “meme warriors.” Both of these books put forth a postmodernist theorization of political power as the equivalent of networked communicative power in a fully media-saturated world. As Lasn proclaims, “potent memes can change minds, alter behavior, catalyze collective mindshifts and transform cultures. Which is why meme warfare has become the geopolitical battle of the information age. Whoever has the memes has the power,” while Rushkoff proposes that “a tiny virus, launched creatively and distributed widely, can topple systems of thought as established as organized religion and institutions as well rooted as, say, the Republican Party or even the two-party system altogether.”

Flash-forward to 2014, and political groups from across the ideological spectrum are now functioning as what Lasn dubs “meme factories,” churning out short bits of rhetorical media content (or “propaganda,” in his words) and summoning their supporters to spread them across a swath of digital networks. From electoral campaigning to social movement advocacy, political organizations are increasingly utilizing platforms like Facebook and Twitter as venues for persuasion via the peer-to-peer sharing of memes and other digital content. Does this shift towards media-based strategies of change threaten to dilute the force of political action, disconnecting symbolic victories in the ‘datasphere’ from the distribution of resources on the ground? Or were Rushkoff’s and Lasn’s visions of grassroots media power as the new political power truly prescient in the age of the information network?

On the fifteenth and twentieth anniversaries of these seminal works, respectively, this paper re-examines their controversial claims and considers how their theories of media contagion as political power inform contemporary debates about “slacktivism” and the value of symbolic political expression on the web. The paper argues that these popular works of media criticism can be viewed in retrospect as forming the foundation for a persuasion model of political internet use that has since appeared in a handful of scholarly works (such as those of Manuel Castells, Henry Jenkins, and Ethan Zuckerman) but has yet to be formerly and systematically articulated. In contrast to more established models such as digital deliberative democracy and civic cultures, the persuasion model advanced by Rushkoff and Lasn is particularly useful for thinking critically about a variety of recent politically-oriented web phenomena, such as the HRC Red Equal Sign campaign, KONY 2012, and Justice for Trayvon Blackout.

Robert Horning (@marginalutility) Virality, Uncreativity, and the End of Self-Expression
The recent popularity of websites like Upworthy suggest how virality can be engineered as an end in itself in social media, as a formal component of content that trumps the specific nature of the content itself. In this paper, I will argue that something similar happens to the self: To the extent that the self is constituted in social media, it knows itself in terms of statistical measures of circulation and algorithmically generated feedback rather than other forms of content. Virality becomes both a feeling (an aesthetic response that confirms itself in the act of sharing) and a personal goal (aspiring to have a sense of one’s own ubiquity, confirmed by metrics).

Viral content teaches what it takes to engineer the self to go viral, providing a model for self-memeification. As the specific consumerist signifers of “cool” become more unstable under the pressure of their constant circulation, the online “engagement” metrics that track content become the newly reliable and stable measures of self-esteem.

By encoding audience enthusiasm at the level of form, viral content permits vicarious participation not only in the story — whose apparent popularity helps encourage an indulgent suspension of disbelief — but in the social itself. You can vicariously identify with how the story circulates, not just what it describes. Though the life span of any piece of viral content is short, the clear conventions of the viral genre allow readers to quickly identify similar content and access the same vicarious emotions more readily. Reading and sharing viral content make us feel as popular as a meme.

Social media supplies infrastructure for performing consumption as redistribution. Because I know my reaction to something I am reading can be performed on Twitter, I am sure to have a reaction—to method-act my response and see how it goes over. That performance can then circulate and substantiate me, as well as provide the pleasure of vicarious involvement with the story and with the crowd I imagine reading it. Having feelings is already pointless if you can’t be seen having them; soon it may be that having feelings will be pointless if your performance of them won’t go as viral as what prompted them. We will want to feel only what will spread.

Just as genuineness has proved irrelevant to viral content, it is also irrelevant to the viral self, whose “authenticity” is an after-effect of having marshaled an audience. Being true to some unchanging interior spirit, being consistent despite the demands of an audience watching — these are no longer relevant.

Social media sustain a measurement system that makes “more attention” seem always appropriate and anything less insufficient. If your content is not circulating ever more widely, then you are disappearing, in danger of total exclusion. But as long as others re-share what you share, your being is secure. You are rippling throughout the network, and you can hear the reassuring echoes.

]]>
Matt Wray on the ‘Suicide Belt’ http://thesocietypages.org/officehours/2014/04/18/matt-wray-on-the-suicide-belt/ http://thesocietypages.org/officehours/2014/04/18/matt-wray-on-the-suicide-belt/ Fri, 18 Apr 2014 13:38:07 CDT Scott Demuth at Office Hours This week we are joined by Matt Wray, a professor at Temple University, where he teaches sociology of race, culture, and health. Matt has researched suicide rates in Las Vegas, the city with the highest metropolitan suicide rate in the U.S. He is currently at work on a book about the “Suicide Belt” in the […] This week we are joined by Matt Wray, a professor at Temple University, where he teaches sociology of race, culture, and health. Matt has researched suicide rates in Las Vegas, the city with the highest metropolitan suicide rate in the U.S. He is currently at work on a book about the “Suicide Belt” in the American West. In addition to his work on suicide, Matt has written extensively on the topic of whiteness and white identity. We discuss Matt’s current work on the Suicide Belt and explore the contributions Sociologists can make to the study of suicide.

Download Office Hours #89

]]>
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
Why Bother with Equal Pay Day? http://thesocietypages.org/girlwpen/2014/04/18/why-bother-with-equal-pay-day/ http://thesocietypages.org/girlwpen/2014/04/18/why-bother-with-equal-pay-day/ Fri, 18 Apr 2014 09:09:03 CDT Susan Bailey at Girl w/ Pen   Last week while discussing Equal Pay Day with a friend, she commented, “Why all these special designations? Black History Month, then Women’s History Month, now a day for Equal Pay. I don’t see the point.  Do you?”  Many share her perspective, but I am not among them. This year Equal Pay Day fell on […]  

Last week while discussing Equal Pay Day with a friend, she commented, “Why all these special designations? Black History Month, then Women’s History Month, now a day for Equal Pay. I don’t see the point.  Do you?”  Many share her perspective, but I am not among them.

This year Equal Pay Day fell on April 8th.  All month the airwaves, print media  and blogosphere have been filled with commentary of one sort or another: Data documenting the continuing wage gap for female and minority workers; analyses disputing the size of the gaps, conservatives insisting they support equal pay but not government regulations; advice for women on speaking up on our own behalf, often as if women’s lack of negotiating skills were the root of the gender wage gap.  For me, this heightened coverage is exactly the point.

Special months, weeks or days provide “news hooks”, important opportunities to recall forgotten history and celebrate hard won gains.  They are also reminders of how much work remains undone in the struggle for equity and justice.  Forty years ago as one of the thousands who wore little green ‘59 cents’ buttons, I understood it would take years before equal pay for equal work was a reality.  I recall telling friends we needed to be realistic. After all, we’d need good childcare, shared household responsibilities and more career options for women in addition to fair pay laws. It might take thirty years to do away with unfair wage disparities.

How foolishly optimistic of me!

The White House cites U.S. Census Bureau figures on full time workers revealing that on average women are paid 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. In the Wall Street Journal economists Mark Perry and Andrew Biggs argued that this gender wage gap is a myth when variables such as career choice, marital status and education are factored in. Disagreements over the size of female/male earnings differentials can obscure the debate but they cannot deny reality. No amount of disaggregation of the data by region, race, education or occupation changes the basic picture. The wage gap differs depending on the variables used in each analysis, but economists at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research report that women in almost every line of work are paid less than their male colleagues.

Those who insist the wage gap is tiny and that a few cents on the dollar is of no major importance live in a protected world of savings accounts and salaries that leave extra dollars at the end of each pay period.  It is a world unknown to most of those in households struggling to shelter, clothe, feed and educate families with earnings at or below the median annual income of  $50,000; And it is a world unimaginable to the more than one quarter of U.S. households with annual incomes below $25,000.

But what about governmental regulation so feared by those opposing the Paycheck Fairness Act?  The Act, first introduced in  2009, would require employers to show that wage differences are based on factors other than sex and contains a provision prohibiting retaliation against employees who discuss their salaries with co-workers.  But how can anyone determine whether she or he is being paid equitably without knowing the compensation others in similar positions receive?  Shouldn’t each of us be able to speak freely about our own salaries without fear of retribution?  Isn’t that called freedom of speech?

We’ve made progress.  Pay gaps have narrowed. But we’re already a decade beyond my 1970s estimate of the years it might take to achieve full pay equity.   We need effective legal redress for employees whose paychecks are unfairly shortchanged. But as Frank Bruni wrote in the New York Times this past Sunday, and many feminists have argued for decades, legislation on equal pay is necessary but not sufficient.  Gendered expectations influence women and men, employers and employees. A broader and more widespread understanding of the ways gender roles and status differentials are maintained and reproduced is essential if women from all socio economic levels are to move forward.  (See for example the analysis in  C.J. Pascoe and Tristan Bridges recent Girl w/Pen post.)

Carrie Chapman Catt, an important strategist in the movement for suffrage and women’s rights once noted,  “No written law has ever been more binding than unwritten custom supported by public opinion.”  Public opinion polls show significant changes in the views of both men and women on a wide range of gender roles, including the importance of pay equity. But for the moment, ‘unwritten custom’ holds sway much of the time.

Equal Pay Day is not simply a single day.  Attention to the wage gap continues throughout the month, spreads across a wide range of media outlets and seeds conversations around the country. Widening the audience, increasing public awareness and broadening debate on issues of equity and justice help to shift, shape and strengthen public opinion.  Equal Pay Day is well worth the bother.

 

]]>
The Commodification of Easter Festivities http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/SociologicalImagesSeeingIsBelieving/~3/dsfY9Sb-tQk/ http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/SociologicalImagesSeeingIsBelieving/~3/dsfY9Sb-tQk/ Fri, 18 Apr 2014 09:00:13 CDT Lisa Wade, PhD at Sociological Images Flashback Friday. The word commodification refers to the process by which something that is not bought and sold becomes something that is.  As capitalism has progressed, more and more parts of our lives have become commodified.  Restaurants are the commodification of preparing and cleaning up meals; day care and nannying is the commodification of child […]

Flashback Friday.

The word commodification refers to the process by which something that is not bought and sold becomes something that is.  As capitalism has progressed, more and more parts of our lives have become commodified.  Restaurants are the commodification of preparing and cleaning up meals; day care and nannying is the commodification of child raising; nursing homes is the commodification of caring for elders.

We sometimes post instances of commodification that tickle us.  Previously I posted about a company that will now put together and deliver a care package to your child at camp.  A parent just goes to the site, chooses the items they want included, and charge their credit card.  As I wrote in that post: “The ‘care’ in ‘care package’ has been, well, outsourced.”

I was equally tickled by a photograph, taken by sociologist Tristan Bridges, of pre-dyed Easter eggs:

This is a delicious example of commodification.  If you don’t have the time or inclination to dye eggs as part of your Easter celebration, the market will do it for you.  No matter that this is one of those things (e.g., a supposedly enjoyable holiday activity that promotes family togetherness) that is supposed to be immune to capitalist imperatives.

While we might raise our eyebrows at this example, newly commodified goods and services often elicit this reaction.  We usually get used to the idea and, later, have a hard time imagining life any other way.

For more on commodification, peruse our tag by that name. This post originally appeared in 2012.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

(View original at http://thesocietypages.org/socimages)

]]>
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
#TtW14 Panel Preview: Wa$ted http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2014/04/18/ttw14-panel-preview-wated/ http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2014/04/18/ttw14-panel-preview-wated/ Fri, 18 Apr 2014 07:00:21 CDT davidbanks at Cyborgology This is one post in a series of Panel Previews for the upcoming Theorizing the Web conference (#TtW14) in NYC. The panel under review is titled Consensual Hallucination: Wa$ted: The Making and Unmaking of Commodities

Panel Preview

Presider: David Paul Strohecker (@dpsFTW)

Hashmod: R. Stuart Geiger (@staeiou)

This is one post in a series of Panel Previews for the upcoming Theorizing the Web conference (#TtW14) in NYC. The panel under review is titled Consensual Hallucination: Wa$ted: The Making and Unmaking of Commodities

From the clean lines of an Apple product to the intangibility of the Internet, we are encouraged to think of the Web as something that doesn’t take up much room, let alone produce waste. At the heart of digital dualism is the false assumption that what happens on the internet, stays on the internet. The panelists in Wa$ted thoroughly debunk that notion by showing just how tangible the Web really is. Even if the work that happens online is largely intangible, it often organizes bodies and physical means of production. Wesley Shumar, Nora Madison, and Tyson Mitman’s work on craft beer communities demonstrate how networked individuals are enrolled in the production of goods that is both a part of and in contention with the neoliberal regime that created it. Heather Rosenfeld demonstrates a similar point by showing how energy smart devices and utility grids both feed into the neoliberal conception of the citizen-consumer but also point toward liberatory potentialities and environmental justice. Silicon Valley isn’t usually lumped together with energy and car companies as major polluters but, as Andrea Zeffiro and Mél Hogan’s work on techno-trash and Brian Thill’s work on digital wastelands show, the Internet makes a lot of trash. From spam folders to mercury-laden landfills, our status updates have deleterious effects on ourselves, others, and the environment. While Zeffiro and Hogan’s work underscores truly global nature of ewaste streams, Thill shows how deeply the problem of waste is misunderstood by those that create the most of it.

Andrea Zeffiro (Co-authored by Mél Hogan) (@AndreaZeffiro) Out of Site & Out of Mind: A (Speculative) Historiography of Techno-trash
In Digital Rubbish: A Natural History of Electronics (2011), Jennifer Gabrys nuances the incarnation of digital information with a focus on the devices on and through which information travels. Counter to the hype of new media, she brings attention to the cultural processes that make media fail, and in turn the politics and ramifications of (often planned) technological obsolescence. Similarly, in Greening the Media (2012), authors Richard Maxwell and Toby Miller diagnose an increasingly wasteful culture, enhanced and encouraged by devices that are quickly replaced and put out of use. Most recently, a study completed by the Solving E-Waste Problem (StEP) initiative estimates that the amount of global electronic waste will increase by 33 percent, from the 49 million tons tracked in 2012 to over 65 million tons by 2017 (StEP 2013). Given the magnitude of waste, what if we were required to physically store and care for our personal computing devices, such as cell phones, laptops and iPads, long after these machines served their intended function? In such an imaginary, unusable technologies remain within our sights, and in our sites. We use this paper as an occasion to think through this query by digging into the numerous layers in which our personal technologies and media practices contribute to a mode of ‘technological trauma’ and ‘drama’ that is best described as the trauma and drama of disembodied techno-trash (McLuhan 1962, 1964; Pfaffenberger 1992). For McLuhan, it was electric speed that inundated even the most remote areas in the world with Western technology. Today, the West continues to deluge the Global South with its devices and gadgets, but more often than not, these technologies quickly become obsolete and inoperative, or simply, trash. Electronic waste is increasingly unloaded in countries like China, Ghana, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Vietnam, where facilities or regulations governing recycling initiatives are lax. We employ our personal histories of technological ownership and put forth a speculative historiography of the life cycles of our devices and gadgets. In doing so, we illustrate not only the environmental burden of individual consumption practices, but also the scale of environmental trauma and drama that is symptomatic of contemporary global capitalism.

Brian Thill (@brian_thill) Tab-Flab, Dry Docs, Fave-Holes: On Digital Wastelands

One of the chief byproducts of modern life online is the endless proliferation of digital waste products: cluttered inboxes, unkempt feeds, open tabs, dead links, neglected faves, to-read piles, half-written blog posts. Historically, our relationship to the discarded bits of our everyday material lives has been one of abjection and removal. Traditionally, trash, as soon as it is classified as such, is wiped from sight, and often from memory. Our collective mountains of rubbish are submerged within great distant mountains of refuse, left to their entombment unloved and largely unconsidered.

Our relationship to digital detritus, however, opens up new possibilities for thinking about the dematerialized (or differently materialized) nature of virtual waste. These digital midden-heaps can serve an array of emergent functions: as aids to memory, as new forms of journal-keeping and self-discovery, as deep archives of collective energies bound to specific cultural moments, and more. Of course, digital waste is not “freed” from the realities of material existence; it consumes energy, resources, time, and space just as the proliferating garbage of the pre-digital ages did (and continues to do), and as such, it is inextricably bound to political, economic, and social crises just as material waste has been. But the current tendency for digital detritus to be more expansive and more distributed also means that it can serve as a mechanism for rethinking our relationships to waste, place, time, memory, and the self.

Efforts at reducing digital clutter, like “inbox zero,” misunderstand how the practice of everyday digital life is, by its very nature, even more “wasteful” than the disposable consumer culture that digital natives were born into, and attempts to think about digital garbage in the ways that seem most comprehensible to the lifestyle politics and environmental ethos of an earlier era. There are many productive things that ascetic philosophy or eco-awareness can do to shape how we think about digital waste, but we need to make sure we are not ignoring or downplaying the fact that notions of waste and value have been as radically reshaped by the digital age as communications, social relations, commerce, and labor have been.

Wesley Shumar (Co-authored by Nora Madison & Tyson Mitman) Mediated Worlds: Navigating the Hybrid Spaces of Craft Beer

Our ethnographic project examines how the Philadelphia craft beer movement- as a specific example of the larger craft movement in the U.S.- is exemplary of many of the features of the 21st century marketplace. One emphasis of our analysis is a focus on the use of social media in producing social spaces of affinity where people who share an interest in the aesthetics of microbrew consumption as well as the production of craft beer can gather. A second emphasis of our analysis looks at how the traditional separation of producer and consumer is giving way to a blended identity. Like the traditional separation of blue collar and white collar are being blurred in some new industries (Neff 2012; Ross 2003), we see these binaries between producer and consumer (and white collar and blue collar) being blurred in the craft beer world, too. Most critically, we will discuss craft beer in context to shifting economic movements and how worker and owner – producer and consumer – depend upon a social space that is broadened, enriched, and codependent on internet technologies.

In Gershon’s (2011) article, “Neoliberal Agency,” she argues we are all being hailed to become businesses, and that as businesses, we perceive ourselves and our world in particular kinds of ways. These ways are defined by a capitalist marketplace, where market exchange is supreme and other forms of the social are erased. On the one hand, it would be easy, and partly correct, to see the craft beer movement as part of this neoliberal ideology. On the other hand, craft beer, as a social movement, is motivated by a number of competing beliefs valuing community, quality, and creativity where these values are more important than profit. Our contention is that craft beer producers are creating a shift in capitalist commodity production that is resistant to the traditional profit-above-all model and moving towards a form of commodity production that privileges quality and community over profit accumulation. Ultimately, we see “craft” as an interesting and contradictory movement beholden to the logic of neoliberalism while at the same time having the potential to promote forms of resistance to consumer capitalism. We present the argument that the alternative economy space that craft beer inhabits is not possible (nor easy) without the web. Further, we argue that the internet has made the craft beer industry a notably different entity due to how its prosumers inhabit a space that is mediated.

Drawing on contemporary thinking about the ways the online and offline, mediated and physical spaces are articulated, the paper suggests that media is central to fostering the bonds of affinity (Gee 2005) that one finds in the craft beer community. Using Tom Boellstorff’s (2008) notion of the gap between the virtual and the actual and James Gee’s (2005) notion of affinity, this paper looks at how producers and consumers are sutured into spaces of affinity where new social as well as economic forms are possible, and quality of experience and commerce can mix in creative new ways.

Heather Rosenfeld (@brainvom) Plug Into Choice? The Neoliberal Environmental Justice of Smart Electricity Technologies

While not about the web per se, this paper investigates the integration of a particular set of digital technologies into daily life: smart electricity technologies. At the surface, ‘smart’, or digitally enhanced, electric grids offer myriad environmental and social benefits relative to the industrial electric grids of the last century. Through adding information and communication technologies to electric grids, they provide data on electricity consumption and flows at households and at key points in the circuit. This in turn can empower consumers, prevent energy from being wasted, and facilitate the integration of renewable energy into grids otherwise powered by fossil fuels. At present, however, smart electric grids are currently being installed, contested, and modified, to the point that they are better understood as a gesture away from a past of a non-smart grid and towards future possibilities yet to be determined and realized.

In this paper, I explore what these technologies, in their installation, contestation, and modification, mean for environmental justice. Environmental justice is commonly defined by activists and scholars as considering the distribution of pollutants, the recognition of different perspectives, an inclusive process in environmental decision-making, and community capacity-building. Through their reliance on the self-empowering, rational-choosing “consumer-citizen”, smart grids can be understood as being (a certain kind of) ‘neoliberal’, and neoliberalism is most often associated with environmental injustice, rather than justice. However, I find that precisely the neoliberal aspects of the smart grid – embodied by one utility’s motto, ‘plug into choice’ – are precisely what allow them to offer degrees of environmental justice. This neoliberal environmental justice is, however, limited, and I conclude by speculating about ways smart grids might be more just, in ways that challenge their neoliberal aspects but recognize possibilities for co-optation and counter co-optation of neoliberal rhetorics. This research is based on a case study of a municipally-owned electric grid, but it also draws connections to other smart grid projects.

]]>
“The Cuckoo”: Chaos and performative memes http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2014/04/17/the-cuckoo-chaos-and-performative-memes/ http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2014/04/17/the-cuckoo-chaos-and-performative-memes/ Thu, 17 Apr 2014 11:36:37 CDT Sarah Wanenchak at Cyborgology I haven’t done an actual fiction review through a Cyborgological lens since I wrote a critical analysis of Catherynne M. Valente’s Silently and Very Fast back in 2012, but I think a story I read yesterday is worth examining in that light, because it’s a great example of the kind of subtle theorizing that we […]

Laughing_Fool

I haven’t done an actual fiction review through a Cyborgological lens since I wrote a critical analysis of Catherynne M. Valente’s Silently and Very Fast back in 2012, but I think a story I read yesterday is worth examining in that light, because it’s a great example of the kind of subtle theorizing that we can do through fiction, especially through speculative fiction. And, among other things, it’s about communication and performative memes. It’s also about how those memes, when they gain sufficient cultural power, alter social reality for good or for ill.

The story in question is “The Cuckoo” by Sean Williams, which appears in this month’s issue of Clarkesworld. The basic premise is simple enough: In 2075, after we’ve developed basic matter-transportation technology capable of allowing humans to travel from one place to another, a person or persons unknown uses April 1st as an opportunity to launch a prank. “More than one thousand commuters traveling via d-mat arrive at their destinations wearing red clown noses; they weren’t wearing them when they left.” More pranks follow in the years after and take on a life of their own – a cult grows up around what becomes popularly termed “The Fool”, complete with festivals, fans, erotic fanfiction, copycats, critical social analysis, and endless speculation.

The story, clocking in at just under 2100 words, is a tight exploration of what memes might actually do and might actually be; there are a number of levels on which it’s operating.

One of the most obvious can be approached via the post linked above: memes that are fundamentally performative in nature and which, when performed in response to other performances, act as both a kind of cultural communication and the reification of a community loosely based around the meme in question. Referring to “planking”, “owling”, and “stocking”, David Banks writes:

Planking does not create the means by which one shares their planking activities, but it does create the context in which the activity gains meaning. By participating in performative memes we show others that we are a part of the same international community. By engaging in performative memes, participants constitute a social imaginary that gives meaning and context to the actions of subsequent and existing participants. When someone goes owling in an art museum, I might owl in a natural history museum and post my picture as a response. We are communicating a shared idea, and we derive pleasure from the shared experience.

This is pretty much exactly what happens in the world Williams creates. Why it happens, or why it’s suggested to happen, is additionally interesting: It’s meme as political tactic, meme as open resistance to the holders of social power for whom control and order are primary goals. It’s no accident that April Fool’s Day is the day of the meme’s launch; that day has a long history stretching back to the 1500s and even earlier. Precursors were medieval and Roman holidays. The more relatively recent version of April Fool’s Day focuses primarily on pranks, but the concept of “The Fool” and the dedication of a feast day to that concept has deeply political roots. The medieval Feast of Fools and the Roman Saturnalia were days when the social order was upended; the weak and marginalized were given power and authority and those in power were relegated to subordinate positions. The Feast of Fools featured events that, openly and free of consequence, mocked the hierarchy of the Church. On the Saturnalia, masters waited on slaves.

So The Fool is a symbol of a claim to political power; more, they’re a symbol of resistance to the established social order. In Williams’ story, The Fool becomes a performative meme that is not only employed, Occupy-like, as a part of a larger resistance movement but in itself becomes the resistance. It/they become(s) a Robin Hood-like figure, a folk hero, especially when their antics are aimed directly at the people who seek to stop them:

April 2nd, 2079, 12:03am

Following the attack on children the previous year, PKs worldwide are on high alert for any sign of The Fool. There are no incidents for twenty-four hours. After declaring the operation a complete success, outspoken octogenarian lawmaker Kieran Defrain is redirected in-transit and dumped in Times Square, wearing nothing but a cloth diaper and a tag tied around his left big toe, inscribed “Gotcha!”

This is an old tactic, and one we can see recently in, for example, the Guy Fawkes mask that’s now used by a tremendous multiplicity of groups, sub-groups, formal organizations, loose coalitions, and everything in between. Jenny Davis writes on internet memes as the “mythology of augmented society”, sites where meaning is produced and reproduced, where we tell stories to ourselves about ourselves, often – though not always – with political significance:

We can see clearly that the myth and the meme share a semiotic structure in which the first order sign becomes the mythic and/or memetic signifier. The Guy Fawkes mask, for example, is simultaneously the sign of an historical moment, a popular film, and the hacker group Anonymous, as well as a signifier of the contested relation between political institutions and the anonymous components that make up “the masses.” Moreover, the meme, like the myth, is divorced from its construction, stated instead as indisputable fact. Just as Barth’s saluting  Black soldier does not offer up a viewpoint for debate, the Guy Fawkes mask does not make an argument, it asserts a cultural refusal to be oppressed.

It’s also worth noting that the initial pranks are focused on methods of transit. One of the primary ways in which states exercise power is in the regulation, facilitation, and prevention of people moving from place to place. Instantaneous or near-instantaneous matter transport would raise some interesting and troubling questions regarding the power and significance of state borders, though it’s easy to think of ways in which that could be regulated. But one of the things The Fool does is to redirect a large group of children – harmlessly – to Macau. The control of controlled transportation is thrown into question. Anyone might go anywhere, and indeed some people go nowhere at all:

Ignoring stern Peacekeeper warnings, the “Fool’s Tools,” a loosely organized movement of everyday citizens travel en masse continuously for twenty-four hours, awaiting, perhaps inviting, the latest prank from their hero. None is forthcoming, although over the course of the day six copycat stunts are easily detected and reversed, their perpetrators taken into custody. The only work ascribed to The Fool is a maze of d-mat addresses that, once entered, cannot be exited. The technician who stumbled across the artifact is never seen again, prompting another global manhunt. The Fool is now a wanted murderer . . . but remains no easier to catch.

So The Fool’s political resistance is not physically harmless; it’s a real, potentially lethal threat.

At this point, also, The Fool has become a powerful enough performative meme that “The Fool” might refer to both the individual thought to be responsible for it all and the mass culture that’s grown up around them. And indeed, no one is certain that The Fool is only one person, or that they’re even still active at all:

Anggoon Montri, 32, from the Thai Protectorate, confesses to being The Fool. After eight hours of intense interrogation he recants, claiming he simply wanted to publicize his own original artwork and leaving The Fool’s true name and motives a matter of keen speculation. Some say that he or she is a disgruntled employee intent on exposing the flaws in the d-mat network, others that “The Fool” is actually a collaboration of many people dedicated to Eris, the ancient Greek Goddess of chaos. Still others believe that each incident is perpetrated by copycats, and that the original Fool went to ground long ago. No evidence exists to confirm any of these theories.

There is no one single Fool in any practical sense, though the idea of a singular folk hero persists. There’s mass participation, imitation, creation and recreation – even if there was originally one single Fool, it no longer matters. Professor Marburg of New Leiden University, who has been writing and publishing articles on The Fool, comes to a somewhat alarming conclusion:

She suggests that The Fool never existed at all, in any sense that matters–not as a person, or as a series of people copying each other, or as a group of people acting in concert. “The Fool” might very well be an emergent property of the world’s memeverse, in the same way that magnificent dunes form out of the simple interaction of sand grains and the wind, without conscious control or intent. Hence, she says, we have organizations that mimic The Fool, inferior to the original in some eyes but nevertheless an authentic part of the phenomenon. If that is so, she speculates, it is entirely possible that the sealed maze–cause of The Fool’s one and only direct fatality–might be a sign that the original Fool, whoever or whatever that might be, is now turning on itself, strangling itself in a knot of memetic transmutation that can only conclude one way.

She recants her previous prediction, and issues a new one: The Fool is dead. The knot has been tied off. All that remains is aftershock.

If The Fool is chaos, chaos is inherently destructive – of systems, of organizations and structures of power, and of meaning itself, though it’s also constructive of the latter. This is exciting to some and troubling to others, even those not especially interested in maintaining the status quo. Marburg is one of these, and for Williams she becomes the primary character (really, the only actual character) through which to examine these anxieties. Marburg is troubled by the very process of destructive creation and recreation, of which she comes to see herself as an integral part. By analyzing the culture of The Fool, she plays a role in creating that culture – she is a participant in the culture created around The Fool’s performative meme:

She herself is part of this complex whether she wants to be or not, both by traveling via d-mat and by publicly posting her speculations. She cannot help but wonder what role she has played in the evolution of The Fool. Did she inadvertently name it, for starters? Did she shape its evolution by noting its past connections and predicting its disappearance? What if her musings are the butterfly wings that created a storm that is still unfolding, albeit invisible to her, now?

Marburg plays witness to a meme gone mad, a creature as much as it is a collection of performative cultural elements. She considers whether such a thing could even form a rudimentary kind of collective consciousness, something with purpose and intent. At this point, The Fool-as-meme has grown beyond political resistance; it is pure chaos, and its ultimate meaning is impossible to know, incomprehensible even for those caught in the middle of it. The Fool began in mutilating the regulation of the transportation of matter, a way of altering the shape of reality itself. Now The Fool is altering reality on a much larger scale. Marburg becomes so disturbed by this, and by what she perceives as her role in it, that – spoiler alert – she takes her own life. Her suicide note is misunderstood and then disregarded:

Few hear about the death of an obscure academic in a small European city, even fewer the typo in her suicide note. However, the coroner makes a note of it in his report, an electronic document readily available to anyone who cares to read it.

In the suicide note, instead of “I have cancer,” Professor Marburg wrote, “I am cancer.”

Careless, the coroner observes, for a woman of such impressive intellect.

The Fool is not merely a meme that mocks social order and authority, and it’s not merely a fun collection of performative responses organized around a culture. It becomes disorganization, utter destruction, and the implication of a new kind of life form. We’ve already seen a world where new kinds of technology alter our relationships to each other, our understandings of ourselves, our perceptions of reality, our very neurology. Williams imagines a world wherein a great deal of this proceeds to one logical conclusion. We already know that we can’t think about memes in exactly the way we used to. It’s worth taking that a step further and imagining what might be next.

 

Sarah is an emergent property of the world’s memeverse on Twitter – @dynamicsymmetry

]]>
How to Lie with Statistics: Stand Your Ground and Gun Deaths http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/SociologicalImagesSeeingIsBelieving/~3/Uo1VzQn5QX8/ http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/SociologicalImagesSeeingIsBelieving/~3/Uo1VzQn5QX8/ Thu, 17 Apr 2014 09:00:45 CDT Lisa Wade, PhD at Sociological Images At Junk Charts, Kaiser Fung drew my attention to a graph released by Reuters.  It is so deeply misleading that I loathe to expose your eyeballs to it.  So, I offer you this: The original figure is on the left.  It counts the number of gun deaths in Florida.  A line rises, bounces a little, […]

At Junk Charts, Kaiser Fung drew my attention to a graph released by Reuters.  It is so deeply misleading that I loathe to expose your eyeballs to it.  So, I offer you this:

1The original figure is on the left.  It counts the number of gun deaths in Florida.  A line rises, bounces a little, reaches a 2nd highest peak labeled “2005, Florida enacted its ‘Stand Your Ground’ law,” and falls precipitously.

What do you see?

Most people see a huge fall-off in the number of gun deaths after Stand Your Ground was passed.  But that’s not what the graph shows.  A quick look at the vertical axis reveals that the gun deaths are counted from top (0) to bottom (800).  The highest peaks are the fewest gun deaths and the lowest ones are the most.  A rise in the line, in other words, reveals a reduction in gun deaths.  The graph on the right — flipped both horizontally and vertically — is more intuitive to most: a rising line reflects a rise in the number of gun deaths and a dropping a drop.

The proper conclusion, then, is that gun deaths skyrocketed after Stand Your Ground was enacted.

This example is a great reminder that we bring our own assumptions to our reading of any illustration of data.  The original graph may have broken convention, making the intuitive read of the image incorrect, but the data is, presumably, sound.  It’s our responsibility, then, to always do our due diligence in absorbing information.  The alternative is to be duped.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

(View original at http://thesocietypages.org/socimages)

]]>
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
So Far, Divergent Paths for Health Reform in New England http://thesocietypages.org/ssn/2014/04/17/divergent-paths/ http://thesocietypages.org/ssn/2014/04/17/divergent-paths/ Thu, 17 Apr 2014 09:00:35 CDT Amy Fried at Scholars Strategy Network New England is a compact and relatively liberal region, and its six states—Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut—all had relatively high levels of health insurance coverage before the Affordable Care Act. Yet rates of prior coverage still varied, and these states have made different choices about implementing reform. Leading into 2014, each […] New England is a compact and relatively liberal region, and its six states—Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut—all had relatively high levels of health insurance coverage before the Affordable Care Act. Yet rates of prior coverage still varied, and these states have made different choices about implementing reform.

Leading into 2014, each U.S. state had two key decisions to make: whether to use federal funds appropriated by the Affordable Care Act to expand its Medicaid program to include people just above the poverty line; and whether to set up and run its own exchange, an online market place where residents can comparison shop for private health insurance plans and find out about their eligibility for federal subsidies to help pay the premiums.

Four of the New England states—Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Vermont—have chosen to run their own exchanges and expand Medicaid. In contrast, New Hampshire and Maine have both refused the Medicaid expansion for 2014 and are leaving their residents to use the federal government’s website, Healthcare.gov, to purchase private plans under Affordable Care. These choices have led to different pay-offs from reform so far.

Signups for Private Insurance

According to data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation on the number of marketplace-eligible people in each state and data from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and state-based exchanges for private insurance signups as of February 1, 2014, the percentages of eligible residents in each state who had signed up for private insurance on the exchanges ranged from 43.5% in Vermont to 22.5% in both Connecticut and Rhode Island, 16.8% in Maine, 12.3% in New Hampshire, and just 3.1% in Massachusetts.

The Bay State has to be understood as a special case. Because Massachusetts instituted reforms in 2006, well before Affordable Care was enacted nationally in 2010, Massachusetts had 96% of its population already insured. In addition, the state has had serious problems with its online system for managing new signups under Affordable Care. For these reasons, Massachusetts has enrolled the lowest percentage of its remaining uninsured residents who are eligible for marketplace coverage.

Setting aside Massachusetts, however, the New England states running their own exchanges have forged ahead in meeting first-year targets for private exchange purchases. Taken as a group, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Vermont have nearly twice the private insurance coverage rate as the two states not running exchanges, New Hampshire and Maine.

  • Vermont has the highest rate of signups in the country. This state has a long history of innovations in health care delivery—such as providing visiting public health nurses to newborns and funding an extensive network of health clinics—and it is planning to use new Affordable Care funding to set up a single-payer, “Medicare for all” health insurance system starting in 2017.
  • Connecticut is also doing very well at private insurance enrollments, with the third best rate of signups in the country. The private insurance industry is strong in the state, and professionals from the industry, as well as people with experience with the pre-Affordable Care Act’s Massachusetts health insurance marketplace, were brought in to implement exchange enrollments and plan outreach to eligible residents. Outreach storefronts now exist in three cities, with more coming soon.

The Expansion of Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program

On this second major prong of health insurance extensions under Affordable Care, the New England states again divide into supportive and unsupportive clusters. Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont decided to accept new federal funds to expand Medicaid, and many additional low-income state residents are signing up in each state.The New England states again divide into supportive and unsupportive clusters.

But because Maine and New Hampshire have not expanded Medicaid, only a few new people are being added to the program rolls—essentially those who tried to sign up on the federal website and learned that their incomes were low enough that they qualified for the existing, non-expanded versions of Medicaid in their home states. Approximately 24,000 Maine and 26,000 New Hampshire people have fallen into the “Medicaid gap” created by the refusal of their state governments to expand Medicaid. With incomes just above the poverty line, they make too little to be eligible for subsidies to purchase private insurance on the federal government’s exchange. Frustration and unhappiness are the result. A “navigator” working to help the uninsured get coverage explained in a letter to the Bangor Daily News that Maine people in the gap “are self-employed, many of them farmers, craftspeople or those with low paying jobs. They are hardworking and would suffer immensely if their health were compromised.”

Fights about Expanding Medicaid Continue

States not expanding Medicaid for 2014 can do so later, and proponents of expansion are still pushing in the two hold-out New England states.

Photo by Daniel Oines via Flickr.com CC

Photo by Daniel Oines via Flickr.com CC

New Hampshire’s governor, Democrat Maggie Hassan, supports expansion, as does the Democratic-controlled House. While the Republican-controlled Senate earlier opposed expansion, a bipartisan group developed a plan that would use vouchers to buy private insurance that appears to have sufficient support to pass. In Maine, a Tea Party-oriented GOP governor, Paul LePage, adamantly opposes Medicaid expansion, even though Democratic majorities and some Republicans in the legislature have voted for it and almost two-thirds of legislators have come close to overriding his veto. In February 2014, Medicaid expansion is back on the agenda and is supported by state-wide medical groups, such as the Maine Medical Association and the Maine Hospital Association. The Maine Chamber of Commerce is working with legislators to fashion a bipartisan compromise (featuring enhanced cost controls and co-pays from patients) that could pass by veto-proof majorities. If Maine expands Medicaid for most of 2014, support from moderate Republicans, medical groups and some businesses will be key.

]]>
#TtW14 Panel Preview: Consensual Hallucination http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2014/04/17/ttw14-panel-preview-consensual-hallucination/ http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2014/04/17/ttw14-panel-preview-consensual-hallucination/ Thu, 17 Apr 2014 07:00:02 CDT davidbanks at Cyborgology This is one post in a series of Panel Previews for the upcoming Theorizing the Web conference (#TtW14) in NYC. The panel under review is titled Consensual Hallucination: Fantasy in Public Life

Panel Preview

Presider: Benjamen Walker (@benjamenwalker)

Hashtag Moderator: Aakash Sastry (@aakashsastry)

This is one post in a series of Panel Previews for the upcoming Theorizing the Web conference (#TtW14) in NYC. The panel under review is titled Consensual Hallucination: Fantasy in Public Life

Stories are one of the fundamental building blocks of society. How we tell those stories and assure their continuation has always been a mixture of tradition, practice, and technology. The presentations in this panel demonstrate just how deeply and profoundly the means of telling stories can effect their content. Of course, what is being told and the intended use of a technology can come into conflict, as we see in both Laren Burr and Molly Sauter presentations, both of which deal with varying levels of deception propagated by technologies that are usually treated as conduits of true and useful information. Fiction, whether it is purposefully masquerading as an accurate account of facts or designed to offer an alternative reality, can be immensely useful to those of us that think critically about the maintenance of the status quo. Iskandar Zulkarnain’s work on “playable nationalism” and Amy Papaelias and Aaron Knochel’s work on anti-racist ARGs show how the speculative can become the prescriptive or even the aspirational. All of the presenters demonstrate the power and promise of fiction to bring about productive reflection and opportunities for change.

Lauren Burr (@burrlauren) Doing It Wrong On Purpose: The Creative Misuse of Social Media
During a TEDxToronto event on October 26, 2012, Twitter handle @BrendleWhat sent out an inquiry: “Why is the City of Toronto taking bikes from @TedXToronto and throwing them into a furnace? #TedXToronto #BikeFurnace.” This single tweet sparked a flood of other similar reports that effectively hijacked the conference’s Twitter stream until the organizers reassured everyone that the police were not, in fact, burning bicycles. The #BikeFurnace prank made local news headlines as an unusually sophisticated case of event trolling. It was also a serendipitous example of an emerging genre of electronic literature that Rob Wittig and Mark Marino have termed netprov, or “networked improv literature.”

According to Wittig, netprov is a digital art form “that creates written stories that are networked, collaborative and improvised in real time.” It encompasses spontaneous and planned acts of fictional role-playing on social media, including a particular subset of creative Twitter bots and the occasional Internet hoax. Often compared to alternate reality games (ARGs), netprov uses the same strategies of participatory transmedia storytelling but differs through its notable ambivalence to game elements. It also distinguishes itself from earlier forms of electronic literature by its choice of social media as a platform.

As an experimental creative writing genre, netprov emerged as a social critique of both its own topical content and the digital networks on which it unfolds, fitting itself comfortably into sites of real-world dialogue. Unsuspecting bystanders can thus find themselves straddling several simultaneous realities, legitimately unsure as to whether the described events are fact or fiction, or where the boundaries lie between them. Netprov is a new phenomenon, having been developed only within the past three years, and it continues to wrestle with the critical and ethical implications of bringing fiction into the realm of social media. In this talk, I draw on theories of hybrid and x-reality as conceptualized by Adriana De Souza e Silva and Beth Coleman, as well as the ethical principles of transmedia design articulated by Andrea Phillips and Markus Montola, to examine several recent examples of Twitter-centric netprov that both coincided with real-world events and were believed to varying degrees and consequences by their audiences. Stemming from my doctoral work on the politics of pervasive media genres that span both physical and virtual spaces, this talk illustrates what happens when fiction and reality collide in the space of social media.

Iskandar Zulkarnain (@zhoel13) “Playable” Nationalism: Nusantara Online and the Gamic Reconstruction of National History
In this paper, I look at the development and distribution of Nusantara Online, an Indonesian-made massively multi-player online role-playing game (MMORPG) that imaginatively reconstructs the history of the Indonesian archipelago. The game, developed collaboratively by Sangkuriang Internasional and Telegraph Studio—two emerging start-up companies—uses the history of three major kingdoms in the history of Indonesian archipelago prior to the creation of the nation state—Majapahit, Pajajaran, and Sriwijaya—as material for its background stories. As an “allegorithm”—historical allegory and algorithmic model—for the Indonesian nation, the game suggests a distinct type of digital nationalism that I dub as “playable” nationalism. This concept captures the formulation of “Nusantara,” an earlier term for the Indonesian archipelago, as the idealized yet playful version of Indonesia, a version emphasizing the principles of digital collaboration. By engaging discourses developed in game studies, Southeast Asian studies, and post-colonial studies, I treat the game as an attempt to create an immersive setting in which player’s nationalistic experience is both “open-ended” and “programmed.” I also demonstrate how the game’s “playable” nationalism is rooted in a complex process of national identity formation in the post-Suharto public debates in Indonesia. Exemplifying the characteristic of Indonesian “digital generation,” the developers of Nusantara Online generally embrace new media technologies. Yet, they worry that the Indonesian people’s excessive consumption of foreign ICT products will lead to the crystallization of consumer mentality, thus uprooting Indonesian nationalistic values. At the same time, these developers also seek to present a polyvalent meaning of Indonesian history in the form of video games. At first sight, the game’s model of “playable” nationalism gives the impression of an alternative expression of everyday nationalism, emerging from outside official state discourses. Yet, closer consideration of the game, exposes the limitations of the game’s model of nationalism, which constrains players’ experience with its software mechanism, represents a conventional version of national history, and offers perplexing images of racial classification. In the end, my analysis of Nusantara Online’s “playable” nationalism can shed light on the ways in which national identity formations and technological visions are deeply intertwined and mutually constitutive, even in such a popular entertainment form as video games.

Molly Sauter (@oddletters) An Exploration of Civic Fiction: A Gay Girl in Damascus and the Cosmopolitan Romance of the Digital Bridge Figure
In this paper, I explore the concept of “civic fiction,” and its implications for digital cosmopolitanism in news coverage, through the example of the Gay Girl in Damascus/Amina blog hoax perpetuated by Tom MacMaster in 2011. This paper serves to further define and situate civic fiction within existing theories of communication, performance, witnessing, fiction, and testimonio. I am defining the phenomenon of civic fiction as the purposeful construction of counter-factual narratives that, by virtue of the counter-factual itself, allow an individual or an event to take part in a civic dialogue or space that would otherwise be inaccessible, or that they perceive would be inaccessible. Through the creation of the Amina persona, MacMaster altered the persona through which the online world interacted with him, in order to change how his contributions to conversations on Middle East politics were received.

This paper uses this example of civic fiction to critique the cosmopolitan bridge figure described by Kwame Anthony Appiah and later Ethan Zuckerman, specifically its role in modern international news coverage. Amina was originally received by Western news sources as bridge figure, someone who could “straddle the borders between cultures,” acting as “an interpreter between cultures…an individual both groups could trust and identify with…” (Zuckerman, Rewire, p 171). Zuckerman specifics aligns “bridge blogger” figures with modern international news coverage, assigning them the role of translating, contextualizing, and making accessible events in faraway places. Zuckerman had originally envisioned these figures directly attracting a global audience of readers, and the appeal of the “bridge blogger” figure to the news industry is clear. Especially in a journalistic age wherein foreign bureaus are being swiftly dismantled, the attraction of readily available, engaging local content that can be quickly adapted for a Western audience at the point of interest cannot be denied.

This paper argues that in being received into the role of the bridge figure/blogger, the Amina persona, who purported to be a Syrian lesbian while actually being performed by an American man, created a permissive space for a progressive Western audience to engage with the complex politics of a far-away conflict on familiar terms while operating under the idea that they were engaging in cosmopolitan solidarity across international lines. The Gay Girl blog presented a testimonio-like opportunity for solidarity-building and the extension of sympathy, performing an encounter with the subaltern while never venturing beyond the progressive Western confines of its own conception. The Amina persona effectively performed a bridge-figure because she was, in fact, a mirror.

Ultimately, the civic fiction concept allows for an interrogation of anxieties regarding the success of cosmopolitanism as practiced in the digital space. These anxieties reflect a perceived crisis of sympathy, and a lack of faith in the ability of Western audiences to meaningfully extend sympathy across cultural lines. The goal of this paper is to unpack those anxieties and, through the civic media concept, explore their implications for the digital cosmopolitanism project and modern international journalism.

Amy Papaelias & Aaron Knochel (@fontnerd & @artisteducator) Let’s Talk About…: An ARG in Spatial Dialogue about Race on Campus
Racial tensions play out in dynamic ways on the campuses of American universities. From parties themed by ugly racial stereotypes to blatant acts of hate crimes(1), the university campus provides a diorama of the complexity of race relations and identity politics that are more easily hidden outside the realm of vital young adult sociality. Over the past two school years on the campus of SUNY New Paltz(2), these tensions and complexities have erupted in two heinous acts of anonymous racist tagging within campus buildings that provoked the campus community to respond with a one-day symposium entitled “Let’s Talk About … ” Through a series of speakers and breakout sessions, the event brought together over 300 students, faculty and staff to discuss issues of race, gender and identity.

In order to continue to engage the campus community in dialogue about race relations, we have initiated a design process that spatializes the dialogue on race and campus life to augment the campus geography as a social space. Through geo-tagging technologies, spatial mapping, theories of psychogeographic discovery and interventionist tactics of street theater and art performance, our design process looks to expand the ongoing dialogue of the symposium “Let’s Talk About…” by bringing the dialogue into context: an augmented reality game (ARG) that facilitates place-based knowledge, layers past and present in a historiography of space, and creates dynamic but fleeting social provocations. Our appropriation of the ARG genre, a.k.a. alternate reality gaming, moves this practice from its locus within fantasy in transmedia storytelling to creating spaces of social interaction that augment events, history and people that are a part of our campus community. Augmentation in this sense is the realization of radical intersubjectivity that is provoking reflections on representation and the subject within varied fields of both space and time. In addition to creating a dialogic space along the lines of the “Let’s Talk About…” symposium, our design process is an inquiry to the deployment of web connectivity and mobile computing as enacting spatial dialogue immanent to the campus geographies that mold our social topography.

During the Spring 2014 semester, undergraduate art education and graphic design students will develop a working prototype of the “Let’s Talk About…” ARG. Students will collect stories of historical and current events surrounding race on campus and develop an interactive environment in which the campus can actively participate. As art and design faculty, we believe it is crucial to engage future makers and educators with practices that situate the mobile web as a site for embracing and investigating complex social issues.

Our presentation will document the design process, from conception to final working prototype, and how it is informed by theories in critical race theory, game design, mobile computing and spatial dialogue for bringing about a discussion of race on campus that is grounded in the history and peoples that make any campus vital, equitable, and empowering for all of its students.

]]>
Movin’ on Up? From the Projects to the Suburbs http://thesocietypages.org/citings/2014/04/16/movin-on-up-from-the-projects-to-the-suburbs/ http://thesocietypages.org/citings/2014/04/16/movin-on-up-from-the-projects-to-the-suburbs/ Wed, 16 Apr 2014 19:49:32 CDT John Ziegler at Citings and Sightings The causes and effects of concentrated black poverty in urban neighborhoods came to the forefront of the internet over the past couple weeks, with Ta-Nehisi Coates and Jonathan Chait engaging in a back-and-forth about the subject and the explanations and remedies proposed by President Barack Obama and Congressman Paul Ryan. Stefanie DeLuca, a sociologist at […] Photo by Danny Fowler via flickr.com

Photo by Danny Fowler via flickr.com

The causes and effects of concentrated black poverty in urban neighborhoods came to the forefront of the internet over the past couple weeks, with Ta-Nehisi Coates and Jonathan Chait engaging in a back-and-forth about the subject and the explanations and remedies proposed by President Barack Obama and Congressman Paul Ryan.

Stefanie DeLuca, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University, has a wealth of qualitative and quantitative data to contribute to the debate. For the past decade, she has been studying the effects of the Baltimore Housing Mobility Program, which provides vouchers for low-income families to move to integrated neighborhoods with lower poverty rates. To meet these criteria, many families have had to move out of Baltimore and into the suburbs, and they are given counseling to help them access resources and navigate their new environments.

The counseling is a critical piece of the program, says DeLuca. “Being poor doesn’t just mean you didn’t have enough resources and you had barriers to opportunity – but the benefits of those opportunities are relatively unknown.”

So far nearly 2,000 families have moved to the suburbs, and approximately two-thirds have stayed there. In conducting in-depth interviews with 110 families involved in the program, DeLuca and her colleague Jennifer Darrah of the University of Hawaii find “profound differences in the way many of the parents in the BMP thought about where they live now, where they want to live in the future, and where they never want to move again.”

Should this program become the new paradigm for fighting urban poverty in the 21st century?  While the results among people who have moved to the suburbs provide reason for cautious optimism, DeLuca notes that an important question arises: “What do we do about everyone else?”

In an era of ever-tightening budgets, how should public policy balance investments in poor neighborhoods with helping people move out of them?  It’s a tough question and important debate to which social scientists are well positioned to contribute.

]]>
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
The SSK is online http://thesocietypages.org/newdean/2014/04/16/the-ssk-is-online/ http://thesocietypages.org/newdean/2014/04/16/the-ssk-is-online/ Wed, 16 Apr 2014 17:22:33 CDT Walt Jacobs at Dispatches from a New Dean I have posted several entries about the Social Sciences Kaleidoscope (SSK), a web portal for social media channels students maintain to discuss what they are learning and researching in the social sciences. A call went out in the fall 2013 semester for students to participate in the spring 2014 semester, and two student projects were […] I have posted several entries about the Social Sciences Kaleidoscope (SSK), a web portal for social media channels students maintain to discuss what they are learning and researching in the social sciences. A call went out in the fall 2013 semester for students to participate in the spring 2014 semester, and two student projects were selected; each student is receiving a $400 stipend for participating. A new University of Wisconsin-Parkside website is being developed that will have a dedicated SSK page, but the students are already working on their projects, which can be directly accessed. Jenn Zentmyer is using a Tumblr to examine her experiences in the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) certificate program, and Manvinder Singh is using a Facebook page to engage the public in facts he is learning in his Victimology class as a Criminal Justice Major. Check out their pages!

]]>
On Heartbleed and Hackers http://thesocietypages.org/trot/2014/04/16/on-heartbleed-and-hackers/ http://thesocietypages.org/trot/2014/04/16/on-heartbleed-and-hackers/ Wed, 16 Apr 2014 17:01:39 CDT Evan Stewart at There's Research on That Heartbleed was a real heartbreaker for the world of online security this past week. The software vulnerability in OpenSSL—a security protocol used by a wide range of popular websites—has everyone wondering what can be done to protect their data. While tech experts (and cartoonists!) do a great job of explaining how Heartbleed happened, we can […] Heartbleed was a real heartbreaker for the world of online security this past week. The software vulnerability in OpenSSL—a security protocol used by a wide range of popular websites—has everyone wondering what can be done to protect their data. While tech experts (and cartoonists!) do a great job of explaining how Heartbleed happened, we can turn to the social science to ask why people take advantage of these software bugs and what we might do to change their minds.

Market forces matter for stolen data, but hackers also develop rich subcultures which offer social status when members find new and better ways to break in.
New experimental research shows hackers invest a lot of effort in their work, so it is hard to stop them once they infiltrate a system. However, putting warnings in computer systems might make them leave faster and take less with them.
]]>
New Documentary: The Illusionists http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/SociologicalImagesSeeingIsBelieving/~3/QHtl3oH9oAw/ http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/SociologicalImagesSeeingIsBelieving/~3/QHtl3oH9oAw/ Wed, 16 Apr 2014 09:00:53 CDT Lisa Wade, PhD at Sociological Images Writer and director Elena Rossini has released the first four minutes of The Illusionists.  I’m really excited to see the rest.  The documentary is a critique of a high standard of beauty but, unlike some that focus exclusively on the impacts of Western women, Rossini’s film looks as though it will do a great job […]

1

Writer and director Elena Rossini has released the first four minutes of The Illusionists.  I’m really excited to see the rest.  The documentary is a critique of a high standard of beauty but, unlike some that focus exclusively on the impacts of Western women, Rossini’s film looks as though it will do a great job of illustrating how Western capitalist impulses are increasingly bringing men, children, and the entire world into their destructive fold.

The first few minutes address globalization and Western white supremacy, specifically.  As one interviewee says, the message that many members of non-Western societies receive is that you “join Western culture… by taking a Western body.”  The body becomes a gendered, raced, national project — something that separates modern individuals from traditional ones — and corporations are all too ready to exploit these ideas.

Watch for yourself (subtitles available here):

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

(View original at http://thesocietypages.org/socimages)

]]>
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
Teachers College Press, “Other People’s English: Vershawn Young, Rusty Barrett, Y’Shanda Young-Rivera, and Kim Brian Lovejoy” http://newbooksinsociology.com/crossposts/vershawn-young-et-al-other-peoples-english-teachers-college-press-2013/ http://newbooksinsociology.com/crossposts/vershawn-young-et-al-other-peoples-english-teachers-college-press-2013/ Tue, 15 Apr 2014 12:25:55 CDT Chris Cummins at New Books in Sociology [Cross-posted from New Book in Language] In linguistics, we all happily and glibly affirm that there is no “better” or “worse” among languages (or dialects, or varieties), although we freely admit that people have irrational prejudices about them. But what do we do about those prejudices? And what do we think the speakers of low-status varieties of [...]

[Cross-posted from New Book in Language] In linguistics, we all happily and glibly affirm that there is no “better” or “worse” among languages (or dialects, or varieties), although we freely admit that people have irrational prejudices about them. But what do we do about those prejudices? And what do we think the speakers of low-status varieties of language should do to overcome them?

Take the case of African American English. An influential approach, code-switching, advises teachers to help their AAE-speaking students to identify the systematic differences between their variety and the prestige variety (“Standard English”), and eventually to be able to switch effectively between both varieties according to the circumstances.

However, although code-switching seems to promote communicative effectiveness, Vershawn Young and colleagues argue that that approach is inherently problematic. By effectively labelling AAE as inappropriate for public contexts, code-switching runs the risk of promoting and reinforcing society’s prejudices against the language (and indeed its speakers).

Young and colleagues offer an alternative vision for the multilingual classroom, which they refer to as “code-meshing”, a process by which multiple varieties can sit side-by-side in a speaker’s communicative repertoire. Their book, Other People’s English: Code-Meshing, Code-Switching, and African American Literacy (Teacher’s College Press, 2013), explores this concept in theoretical and practical detail, discussing the rationale for encouraging code-meshing, the effect of this on communicative abilities, and some of the ways in which code-switching can be and has been implemented in real-life teaching.

In this interview, we discuss the effect of code-switching on the speaker’s identity, the ubiquity of code-meshing across a range of actual discourse contexts, and some of the challenges that code-meshing might present in the classroom. And we consider why Barack Obama isn’t criticised for code-meshing but Michelle Obama is.

]]>
Moving to Mental Health Opportunities http://thesocietypages.org/reading-list/moving-to-mental-health/ http://thesocietypages.org/reading-list/moving-to-mental-health/ Tue, 15 Apr 2014 12:05:45 CDT Letta Page at The Society Pages » Reading List   Moving to Mental Health Opportunities According to a popular real estate saying, “Three things matter for property: location, location, location.” Turns out, location can be as important to mental health as it is to property value. In a recent study, Kristin Turney, Rebecca Kissane, and Kathryn Edin demonstrate that mental health benefits abound for […]  

Moving to Mental Health Opportunities

According to a popular real estate saying, “Three things matter for property: location, location, location.” Turns out, location can be as important to mental health as it is to property value. In a recent study, Kristin Turney, Rebecca Kissane, and Kathryn Edin demonstrate that mental health benefits abound for African American women who move into low-poverty neighborhoods as compared to others who remain living in disadvantaged neighborhoods.

The authors analyze data from interviews with 67 Baltimore adults participating in the Moving-to-Opportunity social experiment, a project that randomly gave 4,608 families living in public housing developments the chance to move into low-poverty neighborhoods. Of those interviewed, 33 received MTO’s move to low-poverty neighborhoods, while 34 had not been selected. All interviewed were female and the head of their household; 66 were African American and one was multiracial.

The authors found that both groups reported experiencing traumatic and stressful life experiences and mental health challenges. Many who moved endured additional challenges in transitioning from public to private housing, managing utility bills, securing transportation, and living farther from friends and family. However, the stresses of relocation were counteracted by improvements in neighborhood and home aesthetics, neighborhood collective efficacy and pride, lower violence and criminal activity, and better environments for raising children. On the whole, the improvements in physical and social environments positively impacted mental health of those who moved. The link between location and opportunity remains tenuous, but the link with quality of mental health is now better understood.

]]>
Happy Birthday, Emile Durkheim! http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/SociologicalImagesSeeingIsBelieving/~3/f9itQDvjbBQ/ http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/SociologicalImagesSeeingIsBelieving/~3/f9itQDvjbBQ/ Tue, 15 Apr 2014 11:00:44 CDT Lisa Wade, PhD at Sociological Images Source: Deviant Art. Have a scholar we should commemorate? Send us a cool pic and we will! Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Source: Deviant Art.

Have a scholar we should commemorate? Send us a cool pic and we will!

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

(View original at http://thesocietypages.org/socimages)

]]>
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
Mark Twain & George Orwell + Blood, Sweat & Tears = A Competent & Readable Writer http://thesocietypages.org/monte/2014/04/15/mark-twain-george-orwell-blood-sweat-tears-a-competent-readable-writer/ http://thesocietypages.org/monte/2014/04/15/mark-twain-george-orwell-blood-sweat-tears-a-competent-readable-writer/ Tue, 15 Apr 2014 10:59:30 CDT monte at A Backstage Sociologist  Mark Twain’s little rules. These require that the author shall: Say what he is proposing to say, not merely come near it. Use the right word, not its second cousin. Eschew surplusage. Not omit necessary details. Avoid slovenliness of form. Use good grammar. Employ a simple and straightforward style. George Orwell’s six little rules on writing: […]  Mark Twain’s little rules. These require that the author shall:
  1. Say what he is proposing to say, not merely come near it.
  2. Use the right word, not its second cousin.
  3. Eschew surplusage.
  4. Not omit necessary details.
  5. Avoid slovenliness of form.
  6. Use good grammar.
  7. Employ a simple and straightforward style.
George Orwell’s six little rules on writing:
  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Do not ever use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say something outright barbarous.

 

(View original at http://thesocietypages.org/monte)

]]>
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
From Our Archives: Taxes http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/SociologicalImagesSeeingIsBelieving/~3/yhQXO51UX_4/ http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/SociologicalImagesSeeingIsBelieving/~3/yhQXO51UX_4/ Tue, 15 Apr 2014 08:00:24 CDT Lisa Wade, PhD at Sociological Images The Numbers Types of Taxes as a Percent of GDP (1937-2014) Historical Comparison of Top Tax Brackets (1945-2010) Tax Receipt for 2009 Tax Dollars and War “Donation” and “Welfare” States Some History Fluctuations in Top Tax Rates: 1910 to Today Raising Top Tax Rates Does Not Harm the Economy The Winners and the Losers Politics, […]

1 (2) - CopyThe Numbers

Some History

The Winners and the Losers

Tax Cultures

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

(View original at http://thesocietypages.org/socimages)

]]>
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
Paul-Brian McInerney, “From Social Movement to Moral Market: How the Circuit Riders Sparked an IT Revolution and Created a Technology Market” http://newbooksinsociology.com/crossposts/paul-brian-mcinerney-from-social-movement-to-moral-market-how-the-circuit-riders-sparked-an-it-revolution-and-created-a-technology-market-stanford-up-2014/ http://newbooksinsociology.com/crossposts/paul-brian-mcinerney-from-social-movement-to-moral-market-how-the-circuit-riders-sparked-an-it-revolution-and-created-a-technology-market-stanford-up-2014/ Tue, 15 Apr 2014 05:56:58 CDT Heath Brown at New Books in Sociology [Cross-posted from New Book in Political Science] Paul-Brian McInerney is assistant professor of sociology at the University of Illinois-Chicago. He is the author of From Social Movement to Moral Market: How the Circuit Riders Sparked an IT Revolution and Created a Technology Market (Stanford University Press 2014). McInerney’s book tells the fascinating history of the Circuit Riders and NPower, the [...]

[Cross-posted from New Book in Political SciencePaul-Brian McInerney is assistant professor of sociology at the University of Illinois-Chicago. He is the author of From Social Movement to Moral Market: How the Circuit Riders Sparked an IT Revolution and Created a Technology Market (Stanford University Press 2014).

McInerney’s book tells the fascinating history of the Circuit Riders and NPower, the leading organizations in the nonprofit information technology social movement of the late 1990s. He ties together excellent elite interviews with social movement leaders with a clear institutional history of the time period. There is so much for political scientists, sociologists, and economists to learn about how social movements work.

For listeners, McInerney mentions one of the presentations made to funders to support the movement. See Rob Stuart’s Circuit Rider presentation here.

]]>
Tax Time Sociology http://thesocietypages.org/editors/2014/04/14/tax-time-sociology/ http://thesocietypages.org/editors/2014/04/14/tax-time-sociology/ Mon, 14 Apr 2014 20:31:52 CDT Doug Hartmann at The Editors' Desk Procrastination? No way. When it comes to economics, it’s just that I’ve spent my past few weeks thinking about the topic in sociological rather than personal terms. It started back around spring break, when a group of political scientists proposed a reading group on Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century.  The book is a little […] Kenworthy's latest, with cool background via University of Arizona.

Kenworthy’s latest, with cool background via University of Arizona.

Procrastination? No way. When it comes to economics, it’s just that I’ve spent my past few weeks thinking about the topic in sociological rather than personal terms.

It started back around spring break, when a group of political scientists proposed a reading group on Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century.  The book is a little windy and Piketty may be an economist, but he thinks like a sociologist—not only in taking on the problem of inequality itself but in seeing it as a problem, in understanding its roots in social and political systems, and in using graphs and charts to bring complicated and troubling economic trends to life.

It continued a week or two later when Richard L. Zweigenhaft and G. William Domhoff sent us a synopsis of the new edition of their book on corporate diversity (or the lack thereof) in the contemporary United States. I love this long-term, fairly basic  project because so often when we sociologists study social inequality we focus on disadvantage, marginalization and poverty. Zweigenhaft and Domhoff—or, as I like to call them, Richie Z. and the Big B.D.—turn this on its head, tracking the social demographics of the other side of the economic coin, the most privileged of Americans, the corporate elite. We published that just last week as “Trends at the Top: The New CEOs Revisited.”

And, after lecturing on the cultural and political foundations of capitalism last week in my Intro class, I’ve spent the last few days reading Lane Kenworthy’s bold, visionary call for better government involvement in our economy and collective lives, Social Democratic America. The timing isn’t accidental, nor all just about taxes. Kenworthy is going to be here on campus at Minnesota tomorrow, as part of our ongoing Scholars Strategy Network series. It should be good.

Okay, now that I’ve got that off my chest, I’ve got a little paperwork to prepare for tomorrow’s mail.

]]>
Taxes and Google Glass http://thesocietypages.org/newdean/2014/04/14/taxes-and-google-glass/ http://thesocietypages.org/newdean/2014/04/14/taxes-and-google-glass/ Mon, 14 Apr 2014 16:22:42 CDT Walt Jacobs at Dispatches from a New Dean For months I’ve known that tomorrow (April 15) is Tax Day in the United States, when federal and state tax returns are due. I just learned that it’s the one day when Google Glass will be available to the general public. Back in May I wrote a post about trying to become a Google Glass early […] For months I’ve known that tomorrow (April 15) is Tax Day in the United States, when federal and state tax returns are due. I just learned that it’s the one day when Google Glass will be available to the general public. Back in May I wrote a post about trying to become a Google Glass early adopter. While it’s cool that a wider range of people will have temporary access to Google Glass, I think I’ll sit out tomorrow’s inevitable purchase rush, however, and wait for the price to come WAY down before trying them. $1500 is a steep price to pay for a fancy toy (at this stage of development)…

]]>
Where Did Your 2013 Tax Dollars Go? http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/SociologicalImagesSeeingIsBelieving/~3/h9V3mKoOu7U/ http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/SociologicalImagesSeeingIsBelieving/~3/h9V3mKoOu7U/ Mon, 14 Apr 2014 09:00:14 CDT Lisa Wade, PhD at Sociological Images Each  year the National Priorities Project releases a visual illustrating how our tax dollars are spent.  This is the one for 2013, sans medicare and social security taxes. At the end of Sociology 101, I like to ask my students: “What is the state for?”  This often takes them aback, as most of them have […]

Each  year the National Priorities Project releases a visual illustrating how our tax dollars are spent.  This is the one for 2013, sans medicare and social security taxes.

1At the end of Sociology 101, I like to ask my students: “What is the state for?”  This often takes them aback, as most of them have never considered the question before.  Is it for defense?  It is to maximize happiness or reduce misery?  Is it for maximizing GDP?  Protecting private property?  Do we want to use it to influence other countries?  How?

There are many questions to ask and they are not purely theoretical.  I like how the spending of our tax dollars helps make the conversation more concrete.

Cross-posted at Business Insider.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

(View original at http://thesocietypages.org/socimages)

]]>
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
On Pharrell’s “Happy” http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2014/04/14/on-pharrells-happy/ http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2014/04/14/on-pharrells-happy/ Mon, 14 Apr 2014 04:00:57 CDT robinjames at Cyborgology I find Pharrell’s massive hit “Happy” really, really irritating. And, for that reason, I love it. In the same way that The Sex Pistols were Malcolm McLaren’s massive joke on us, this song is, I think, Pharrell’s attempt to pull a fast one on the economy of viral “upworthiness”–an economy that, as David has shown, […]

Click here to view the embedded video.

I find Pharrell’s massive hit “Happy” really, really irritating. And, for that reason, I love it. In the same way that The Sex Pistols were Malcolm McLaren’s massive joke on us, this song is, I think, Pharrell’s attempt to pull a fast one on the economy of viral “upworthiness”–an economy that, as David has shown, is really racist.

So, before I get into “Happy,” let me first explain what I mean by the “viral economy of upworthiness.” To be really simplistic, what I mean by the term is this: the rhizomatic, exponential spread of positive affect (“upworthiness”) across social media, which uses fan labor (ie., the labor of sharing and spreading) to generate profits for media corporations (both the social media corporations, like YouTube, and the record companies, who profit from each play/click.) In a way, the viral economy of upworthiness is a lot like finance capital–instead of algorithmically intensifying money, this economy algorithmically intensifies positive feelings and/or affects. For example, as David argues, Upworthy videos “zoom in on heroic moments that are emotionally powerful”; Upworthy banks on the viral spread of these good feelings. The viral economy of upworthiness spreads positive affect like a disease, because the business model only works when happiness spreads like cancer. Social media business models require users to share things (that’s how we make ‘connections’ that generate the oh-so-valuable “data” sold to third parties), and apparently positive affects like happiness are more shareable than negative ones (there’s still no “dislike” button on Facebook, right?). What David’s article brilliantly points out is that this organization of the means of production is also a racialized and imperialist one, one in which non-white, non-Western people do the groundwork for this economy of viral upworthiness. Capitalism says there can be no majority for the pity (Kein Mehrheit Für Die Mitleid--who knew KMFDM basically predicted social media capitalism?), so to speak, so it outsources the work of transforming tragedy or bad feeling into happiness or upworthiness onto the same groups of people who have historically done the white/Western world’s un/undercompensated dirty work.

OK, cheeky music jokes aside, let’s talk about “Happy.”

For a number of reasons, the song sounds manic and anxious. First, there’s the tempo. It’s about 160 BPM. For some reference, Motley Crue’s “Kickstart My Heart” (whose first line is “When I get high, get high on speed”) clocks in at 180 BPM, Rihanna’s “We Found Love,” a proper dance banger, is 128 BPM, Kesha & Pitbull’s “Timber” is 130 BPM, as is Fatboy Slim’s “Eat Sleep Rave Repeat.” So, “Happy” is a full 30 BPM faster than most contemporary EDM-pop songs, songs designed for crowds of twentysomethings hopped up on MDMA. In this light, “Happy” seems a bit like a super-sized dose of sonic Adderall, a properly legal and bourgeois dose of speed that helps propel us through our hyperemployed days and perform the upworthy affective labor so many of our jobs demand. We’d need Adderall to make it all the way through the song’s marathon 24-hour video. Perhaps this video is commenting on hyperempolyment and real subsumption, capitalism’s increasing ability to realize its dream of the 24-hour work day? (And seriously, don’t those drawn out “eeeeeee”s in the chorus suggest the clenched-jaws of a speed freak?)

Another reason this song sounds manic and anxious is because, as Kariann Goldschmitt (@kgoldschmitt) pointed out in a conversation we had on Twitter, the song never releases any tension. The song is basically one long plateau with two breaks that build a little bit of tension without releasing it in a hit or a climax (like the soar in “We Found Love,” or the drop in something like “Tsunami” or “Bangarang”). The break from 1:49-2:13 builds sonic tension: the clapping intensifies the rhythmic texture, and the addition of the choir and the resonance of the church sanctuary intensifies the timbre, but the downbeat of the new verse doesn’t release that tension. There’s a condensed version of that intensification at 3:02-3:13, and yet again we are denied a proper climax point. Being “Happy” seems like a lot of affective labor with no payoff–the surplus value of our happiness labor goes to somebody else.

And I think that’s what Pharrell is trying to point out. As I read his performance, he’s slyly critiquing the affective labor “upworthy” white supremacist pop culture requires of black performers.

First, what role to black culture workers play in white supremacist upworthiness? As I have argued before, black culture workers are often like sous-chefs who prep the affective/emotional mise en place for “our” performance of upworthiness (they do the work of “organizing” whites’ ignorance of ongoing racism). That is, they’re supposed to perform positive affects and emotions–like heroic overcoming, as in the example David discusses in his post–that audiences then transform into a higher-order upworthiness. “We” perceive “our” appreciation of “their” performance as evidence of “our” commitment to multiculturalism. However, if black people were manifestly unhappy, that would shatter the myth of post-racial multiculturalism. So, post-racial white supremacy demands blacks play happy. [1]. And that’s just what Pharrell does. He plays happy.(Perhaps this is one reason “Happy” was the song that broke the recent 14-week absence of lead black artists from the top of the Billboard Hot 100? It provided precisely the kind of surplus value people expect from black artists?)

But, there are (at least) two ways that his performance works against the literal interpretation of it as the expression of happiness. First, his vocal performance adopts some strategies used by Billie Holiday to transform banal, racist and sexist Tin Pan Alley rejects into nuanced art songs. Angela Davis discusses Holiday’s “working with and against the platitudinous content” of pop songs (Blues Legacies & Black Feminism, 163) at length. Here, I want to focus on one specific type of vocal embellishment that Holiday uses all the time, and that Pharrell also uses throughout “Happy”: they both mimic, in their vocal melodies, the pitch shifts that people use in spoken language to indicate sarcasm. Holiday does it here in “When a Woman Loves a Man,” which, when taken literally, is a really sexist song. Listen to how she dips down and back up in the first verse (e.g., “just another ma-an,” “she’ll just string al-ong”):

Click here to view the embedded video.

Sure, these are super sexist lyrics. But by mimicking the pitch patterns that Americans use when being sarcastic, Holiday ironizes these lyrics. She’s not endorsing them, she’s making fun of them. This is reinforced by the song’s last line, which doesn’t go down in pitch, but up. In spoken language, that indicates a question: “That’s how it goes, when a woman loves a man?” By phrasing this as a question rather than a declamation, Holiday sarcastically critiques the song’s sexism. Pharrell echoes Holiday’s vocal sarcasm in “Happy”’s verses–for example, listen to how he moves the pitch around on “balloon” at 0:26 in the first verse. There’s also “news” in the beginning of the second verse. The choruses use another type of sarcasm: deadpan. The choruses are sung almost entirely on the same pitch. This mimics the flat deadpan one uses to indicate that you don’t fully believe what you’re saying or reiterating, often because you’re expected/forced to say it.

So, I think there’s a good bit of musical evidence that Pharrell is critiquing the white supremacist expectation that he perform upworthiness for white audiences. But his visual performance also gives us some evidence that he’s pulling a fast one on us: his hat.

He wears the hat throughout the video, but it’s central to his overall ‘brand’ at the moment. It even has its own Twitter account. So, this hat is important.

The hat is a vintage Vivienne Westwood hat. As Alison Davis notes over at The Cut, this is the same style hat that Malcolm McLaren wore in his hip hop video, “Buffalo Gals.”

Click here to view the embedded video.

This is the same Malcolm McLaren who formed and managed The Sex Pistols–mainly as a huge art prank. McLaren was the master of “The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle”. The “swindle” here is that the joke is on us–the Pistols are basically a prank, a massive troll designed to rile up the general public. The Pistols aren’t authentic working-class rebellion–they’re manufactured for some too-clever art-school condescension at bourgeois moralism.

And that’s precisely what “Happy” is–it’s trolling bourgeois upworthiness. That’s what the hat is supposed to tell us: in the same way that McLaren was trolling Thatcherites, Pharrell is trolling Obama/upworthy liberals.

Most (white) people seem to take the song literally. They don’t get the sarcasm, or the troll. Perhaps the question this song begs most is: Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?

Click here to view the embedded video.

[1]This accords with what Sara Ahmed says in her famous “Feminist Killjoys” essay: “Marilyn Frye argues that oppression involves the requirement that you show signs of being happy with the situation in which you find yourself. As she puts it, “it is often a requirement upon oppressed people that we smile and be cheerful. If we comply, we signify our docility and our acquiescence in our situation.” To be oppressed requires that you show signs of happiness, as signs of being or having been adjusted. For Frye “anything but the sunniest countenance exposes us to being perceived as mean, bitter, angry or dangerous”.”

 

Robin is on Twitter as @doctaj.

This will also be my last post for a few weeks–I’m traveling three weeks in a row for speaking gigs: 4/17 at Stony Brook, 4/23 at Colby College, and May 2-5 at Penn State. If you’re near any of those places, I’d love it if you came to my talks! Hit me up on twitter for details.

]]>
#TtW14 Panel Preview: Nations, Ideologies, and the Games They Play http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2014/04/13/ttw14-panel-preview-nations-ideologies-and-the-games-they-play/ http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2014/04/13/ttw14-panel-preview-nations-ideologies-and-the-games-they-play/ Sun, 13 Apr 2014 13:29:53 CDT Sarah Wanenchak at Cyborgology Presider: Jeremy Antley (@jsantley) Hashmod: Kate Miltner (@katemiltner) This is one post in a series of Panel Previews for the upcoming Theorizing the Web conference (#TtW14) in NYC. The panel under review is titled Nations, Ideologies, and the Games They Play. One of the best things about Theorizing the Web is its dedication to exploring […]

Panel Preview

Presider: Jeremy Antley (@jsantley)

Hashmod: Kate Miltner (@katemiltner)

This is one post in a series of Panel Previews for the upcoming Theorizing the Web conference (#TtW14) in NYC. The panel under review is titled Nations, Ideologies, and the Games They Play.

One of the best things about Theorizing the Web is its dedication to exploring topics that either sit on the fringe of mainstream consciousness or underlie, to a large extent, those forces that increasingly shape our augmented lives.  This year, Theorizing the Web would like to discuss a topic that is rapidly increasing in both scope and relevance for daily life: games.

We invited three emerging scholars whose work explores and critiques the games we and others play; Catherine Goodfellow, Cameron Kunzelman, and Daniel Joseph.  Below is a Q&A, conducted over email, between these panelists and TtW.

TtW: Can you summarize your presentation for TtW14?

Cameron:  Videogames are not objects operated on by human subjects. Instead, they are giant living bodies of which humans are but one single organ.

Catherine:  It’s a bit of an exploration of Russian games which are designed to – or inadvertently – promote Russian culture and history in Eastern Europe. I noticed during my doctoral research into Russian gamers that many of my respondents were Russian-speaking but not Russian. Russian-language games and resources were evidently a more natural fit for them than similar English-language material. There’s been a lot of work on games as vehicles for Western, American or capitalist ideologies, but regional power dynamics tend to go unexplored. That’s what I’m trying to do here; suggest ways in which Russian regional influence affects or even surpasses the dominance of American games worldwide.

Daniel:  I would say that my presentation tries to get at the peculiarities at the heart of new virtual and digital spaces of capital accumulation and value production. The rise of legal and regulated commodity exchanges made possible through digital distribution services like Steam quite possibly prefigure commodity production in the still untouched parts of our lives.

TtW:  How did the larger topic of games work itself into your research?

Cameron:  Videogames didn’t work themselves into my research so much as they presented themselves as leviathans that had to be acknowledged, literal elephants in room that always seem to get reduced to interactions like play or work. What if those concepts aren’t sufficient, or rather, what if they only tell part of a giant, science fictional horror story about the uncaring and uncanny structures that we interact with on a consistent basis?

Catherine:  The larger topic of games IS my research right now! I have a Russian studies background and have always maintained a strong interest in countercultural and subcultural or subversive youth cultures. In my doctoral research I’m mapping video game culture in Russia and the official and unofficial discourses which surround it.

Daniel:  Games were always an object I wanted to study in the large context of history and politics. The rise of game studies over the past 10 years has given me a lot of room to stake out my place in that field while bringing the study of video games more into conversation with cultural studies, political economy and communication studies.

TtW:  Why should people care about using a critical lens to study games?

Cameron:  We are parasites on a giant, pulsing edifice, and criticism might be the only way to get perspective on that.

Catherine:  I’m particularly interested in using regional or marginal case studies to challenge some of the assumptions we hold about gaming and gamers. Game studies often makes general claims about culture, socio-economic status, places and modes of play, power and ideology. Some of the best work on games and gaming that I’ve seen turns a critical eye on these claims and uncovers some amazing dynamics in gaming communities around the world.

Daniel:  They should care about a critical lens on video games because games are everywhere and because of that increasingly prosaic – which is when culture is at its most reified. It is at these moments that a critical eye is most needed.

TtW:  What game(s) are you playing/have been playing recently?

Cameron:  I’ve been playing the Assassin’s Creed series for a longform research project. Also Spelunky.

Catherine:  Banished and 2048 most recently, StarCraft, DOTA and Skyrim for a while.

Daniel:  I go through two pretty strong currents in my video game playing. I oscillate between playing story heavy AAA single player games like the Assassin’s Creed franchise in marathon play-throughs and then binging on big budget online First Person Shooters like Counter-Strike or Titanfall. The games I’m most proud about playing aren’t even digital: my two year long running Dungeon’s and Dragon’s game and the card game Android: Netrunner.

TtW:  Where can people go to find more of your work? 

Cameron:  thiscageisworms.com, heylookatmygames.com, kilmercast.com, @ckunzelman

Catherine:  catgoodfellow.com is your one-stop shop for all my information; abstracts and proceedings papers are at https://manchester.academia.edu/CatGoodfellow

Daniel:  If you want to go find my regular musings twitter is always the most updated, but my blog (http://dropouthangoutspaceout.tumblr.com/) is a good one stop shop for quotes of books I’m reading and the odd musings on Marxism, computers and video games.

Cameron, Catherine, and Daniel’s panel presentation, “Screenplay: Nations, Ideologies, and the Games They Play”, will be held during Session 2 (2:00-3:15pm) on Friday the 25th in Studio A.

]]>
Sunday Fun: Girl Pants http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/SociologicalImagesSeeingIsBelieving/~3/JVaqzeJMvQE/ http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/SociologicalImagesSeeingIsBelieving/~3/JVaqzeJMvQE/ Sun, 13 Apr 2014 09:00:45 CDT Lisa Wade, PhD at Sociological Images No pockets, no justice. Click to embiggen. Visit Dumbing of Age. Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

No pockets, no justice.

Click to embiggen.1 (2) - Copy
Visit Dumbing of Age.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

(View original at http://thesocietypages.org/socimages)

]]>
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
Steven L. Jacobs, “Lemkin on Genocide” http://newbooksinsociology.com/crossposts/matthew-cecil-hoovers-fbi-and-the-fourth-estate-the-campaign-to-control-the-press-and-the-bureaus-image-university-press-of-kansas/ http://newbooksinsociology.com/crossposts/matthew-cecil-hoovers-fbi-and-the-fourth-estate-the-campaign-to-control-the-press-and-the-bureaus-image-university-press-of-kansas/ Sun, 13 Apr 2014 01:00:38 CDT Kelly McFall at New Books in Sociology [Cross-posted from New Books in Genocide Studies] It’s hard to overestimate the role of Raphael Lemkin in calling the world’s attention to the crime of genocide.  But for decades his name languished, as scholars and the broader public devoted their time and attention to other people and other things. In the past few years, this has changed. [...]

[Cross-posted from New Books in Genocide Studies] It’s hard to overestimate the role of Raphael Lemkin in calling the world’s attention to the crime of genocide.  But for decades his name languished, as scholars and the broader public devoted their time and attention to other people and other things.

In the past few years, this has changed. We now have a greater understanding of Lemkin’s role in pushing the UN to write and pass the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide.  Moreover, researchers have a newfound appreciation for the depth and insights of his research.  Genocide scholars talk about their field experiencing a ‘return to Lemkin.’

It seems an appropriate time, then to reexamine Lemkin’s ideas and career.  We’ll do so in a special two-part series of interviews with scholars who have edited and published Lemkin’s writings.  Later this month, I’ll post an interview with Donna Lee Frieze, who has meticulously edited Lemkin’s unpublished autobiography, Totally Unofficial.

First, however, I’ll talk with Steven L. Jacobs.  Steve recently published a carefully edited and annotated edition of Lemkin’s writings about the history and nature of genocide, simply titled Lemkin on Genocide (Lexington Books, 2012).  This work was written during the 1940s, but never published.  Through it, we gain a new appreciation for the depth of Lemkin’s theoretical understanding and the breadth of his research.  In addition, reading Jacob’s book provides us a richer sense of how Lemkin fit into the ideological currents of his time.  In editing this work, Steve has done a great service to all those interested in genocide.

]]>
#TtW14 Panel Preview: Tales From the Script http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2014/04/12/ttw14-panel-preview-tales-from-the-script/ http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2014/04/12/ttw14-panel-preview-tales-from-the-script/ Sat, 12 Apr 2014 11:48:44 CDT davidbanks at Cyborgology This is the one post in a series of Panel Previews for the upcoming Theorizing the Web conference (#TtW14) in NYC. The panel under review is titled Tales From the Script: Infrastructures and Design.

Panel Preview

Presider: Michael Connor (@michael_connor)

Hashmod: Annie Wang (@annieyilingwang)

This is one post in a series of Panel Previews for the upcoming Theorizing the Web conference (#TtW14) in NYC. The panel under review is titled Tales From the Script: Infrastructures and Design.

Each presentation in this panel considers very different case studies but all are deeply interested in the  standards, practices, and assumptions that undergird our augmented society. From Karen Levy’s study of “meth-proof” Sudafed to Angela VandenBroek research into a nation’s Twitter account, the panel demonstrates that our relationships to consumer goods and services are often based in assumptions and technical standards worthy of interrogation. The panel suggests several opportunities to intercede in hidden or ignored infrastructures, including R. Stuart Geiger’s call for “Successor Systems” in the tradition of Donna Haraway’s “Successor Science” and the infrastructure-based activism presented by Sebastian Benthall. Taken together, this panel presents an intriguing look into some of the more institutionalized uses of networked technology.

Karen Levy The Myth of the End User
Who is the “end user” of a technological system? Designers are encouraged to think in terms of the end user’s needs, habits, capabilities, and goals when making decisions about the features of a product or interface of a website; “user experience” (or UX) is a growing subfield of tech education and research, and “user-centered” has become a watchword of conscientious design.

In this talk, I argue that the end user doesn’t really exist, and that conceptualizing the end user as we typically do obscures the dynamics of power that inhere in technological artifacts. The term “user” conflates four independent facets of engagement between people and technologies – ownership of an artifact, control over that artifact, its operation, and the choice to engage – which frequently do not co-reside in the same person. Moreover, the term obscures the institutional landscapes in which so-called “users” find themselves, and how technologies may harmonize or conflict with these entanglements.

To illustrate, I offer a case study of Nexafed, a new over-the-counter pharmaceutical. Nexafed is a “meth-proof” formulation of pseudoephedrine (Sudafed): it has the same active ingredient but cannot be tampered with to produce methamphetamine, as Sudafed can. Thinking in typical “end user” terms, the market for Nexafed seems nonexistent: if the user intends to tamper with it, it’s useless; if the user just wants to relieve cold symptoms and has no intention of cooking meth, it’s not clear why she would be motivated to buy Nexafed instead of Sudafed. But when we consider the end user in broader terms – as a constellation of power relations and inequalities that includes children, pharmacies, pharmacists, regulators, police, and thieves – the market for Nexafed comes into focus, and new motivations (like social shame, parental mistrust, robbery, and gossip) become salient drivers of the market.

I use this case to argue for a broader conception of the “end user” in technology studies: one that recognizes that complex social and institutional relationships are mediated through technological systems and design choices, and that ownership, control, operation, and choice aren’t necessarily integrated.

Sebastian Benthall (@sbenthall) Designing Digital Publics for Participatory Parity
This paper outlines a theoretical perspective from which to orient infrastructure-based activism for social equality. Drawing on Fraser, empirical literature, and original on-line ethnographic work, I conceptualize the Web as a nexus of multiple publics, and note that they fall short of the public ideal due to a lack participatory parity. In particular, participation and influence in these publics is empirically ordered according to a “power law” distribution, a statistical distribution known for its extreme inequality. This concept of inequality on the Web is more immediate and measurable in social media than concepts that depend on demographic categories, it is less discussed in that context–perhaps because it directly challenges those who benefit most from participatory disparity.

This participatory disparity in on-line publics both reflects and reinforces social inequality (due to race, class, gender, etc.). It reflects inequalities of digital access because participation requires agency and resources. It reinforces that inequality because influence within the public is a form of power. It is also self-reinforcing through generic patterns of on-line social network formation like the preferential attachment of new members to “follow” already popular members. Counteracting those patterns is a means of combating social inequality more broadly.

In the interest of setting an agenda for equality-oriented praxis, I note that Web publics are especially subject to regulation by technology, a la Lessig. This regulation can and does in some cases bring on-line publics closer to the public ideal. An example is Twitter’s automated spam blocking, a mechanism that takes social input to exclude participants who are expected to be acting in bad faith. But social media also self-regulates according to the commercial interests of its hosts and against the public ideal. For example, Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm, which controls the contents of its news feed, prioritizes familiar sources of content that drive identity-divulging “engagement.” This facilitates Facebook’s ability to target ads at the expense of the circulation of ideas that would make it an effective site of public contestation and deliberation. Understanding the practical reality of these technologies opens the theoretical imagination to alternative mechanisms to regulate on-line publics with participatory parity in mind.

As a positive example of a technology that enables participatory parity, I highlight as inspiration the NYU-ITP “The Listserve”, a mailing list that sends one daily email authored by one of its subscribers picked at random. I present @TheTweetserve, a Twitter bot that extends this principle to Twitter as a digital public. This bot acts mathematically to correct participatory disparity by undermining social patterns of preferential attachment. I conclude with a general call for critical and social theory to provide constructive principles from which to derive ethical infrastructure designs.

Angela VandenBroek (@akvbroek) Tweeting Sweden: Complicating Anthropology through the Analysis of the World’s Most Democratic Twitter Account
After completing my masters in anthropology, I spent six years working as a web developer, weaving together ethnographic methods and insights into the design and development of websites. In the Fall of 2013, I returned to my academic roots and began coursework for a PhD in anthropology to explore, in greater depth, the relationship between humans and the Internet. However, my experiences in the field have often grated against two common theoretical trends in the anthropological literature.

First, I have found the academe to be infatuated with the user and dismissive of the Internet’s designers, developers and creatives, except when those creators fit neatly into categories of traditional anthropological interest, such as the open source and free software movement (Kelty 2008, Coleman 2013, Karanovic 2008, 2012, 2010). By extracting the user bit of the digital and failing to contextualize user experience amid the greater web of connections in and among digital technology, digital anthropologists have failed to heed the important lesson put forth by Eric Wolf (1982) in Europe and the People Without History: “…the world of humankind constitutes a manifold, a totality of interconnected processes, and inquiries that disassemble this totality into bits and then fail to reassemble it falsify reality” (3).

Second, the concepts of online and offline have taken on a privileged position within digital anthropology. I have found through work with diverse users this distinction to be of little importance to most users and technology professionals and that the actual experience of Internet involves many states of being and experience that have little connection to the simplistic binary of online and offline. The entanglement of the online-offline concepts — including virtual-actual, online-onground (Cool 2012), and other similar reimaged and renamed online-offline distinctions — within anthropology seem rooted in three problematic areas in the development of digital anthropology: establishing academic validity (Miller and Horst 2012:18), making disciplinary or specialist boundaries (Boellstorff 2012:35, 45), and the establishment of methodological best practices (Boellstorff 2012:34, Cool 2012:24).

The Curators of Sweden project began in 2011 when two official governmental agencies, the Swedish Institute and VisitSweden, gave a Swedish citizen full and seemingly unfettered control of the official Twitter account of the Swedish government. Every week since then, a new Swedish citizen has been given access to write as @Sweden, to curate Swedishness for the Internet. Through the example of the Curators of Sweden project, I will explore the dangers of ignoring the relationship between designers, developers, and creatives and their users by exploring the subtle dialog between creators, participants, and users across platforms, media, personal communication, and documentation that has shaped the project and its users’ experiences. I will also problematicize the online and offline concepts as analytical tools by extending the analytic scope of this “online” project beyond its online-ness to more fruitful engagements with history, politics, business, and technology. I will contextualize the project into the history of Swedish Modernism and Swedish nation branding that shaped the creators’ choices in design, development, and platforms.

R. Stuart Geiger (@staeiou) Successor Systems: Enacting Ideological Critique Through the Development of Software
During the “science wars” of the early 90s, Haraway and Harding introduced the concept of a “successor science,” a call for new sciences that blend objectivity with situatedness. In “Situated Knowledges,” Haraway argued “Feminists have to insist on a better account of the world; it is not enough to show radical historical contingency and modes of construction for everything.” I extend the concept of a successor science to the realm of software, introducing the concept of “successor systems” – doing ideological critique by designing and deploying systems that build better accounts of the world. I discuss three activist projects, all based on enacting an ideological critique through a technological system, rather than pure discourse.

Hollaback, a system for reporting and representing street harassment, critiques social institutions through a new technologically-enabled mode of knowledge production. Street harassment is a longstanding and ubiquitous problem across the world, but dominant institutions (from the police to news media) generally encourage women to ignore harassment, rather than report it. Hollaback provides a safe space for victims of street harassment to assemble as a networked public and frame this issue in a way that is often marginalized by various social institutions. Hollaback is a critique of the widespread institutional ignorance of street harassment, providing an infrastructure for building ‘better’ accounts of the world: ones that make often-ignored experiences of street harassment visible at a variety of scales.

Turkopticon is a browser extension that modifies Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service. AMT disproportionately benefits employers, who are able to know and rate individual workers in ways that workers are not able to know and rate their employers, leading to exploitation. As a successor system, Turkopticon critiques this assumption built into in AMT, using feedback from workers about employers to produce a new mode of knowledge production that is designed to protect Turk workers. The system is named for Bentham’s infamous panopticon prison, discussed by Foucault; Turkopticon seeks to reverse the direction of surveillance built into AMT by putting employers under a kind of collective ‘sousveillance’ — surveillance from below.

Snuggle is a tool supporting mentoring in Wikipedia, explicitly built to counter the often hostile reactions that veteran Wikipedians unleash on new contributors. Most of the highly-automated tools that have been developed to support Wikipedian editors situate their users as police who are on patrol for “vandalism.” Assisted by algorithms that rank by ‘suspiciousness,’ these editors see some of the worst content submitted to Wikipedia, then make fast-paced decisions about what is kept and removed. Snuggle was designed to reverse the assumptions built into this practice, situating Wikipedians as mentors and newcomers as potential collaborators to be supported. The tool lets Wikipedians holistically search for potentially desirable newcomers, affording activities of praise, constructive criticism, and directed intervention.

As both a systems designer and a web theorist, I have a personal interest in discussing these successor systems from both a theoretical and design-oriented perspective. I will conclude with overarching recommendations for both designers and theorists interested in successor systems.

]]>
Friday Roundup: April 11, 2014 http://thesocietypages.org/editors/2014/04/11/ru041114/ http://thesocietypages.org/editors/2014/04/11/ru041114/ Fri, 11 Apr 2014 19:14:25 CDT Letta Page at The Editors' Desk A tag-cloud for this week’s roundup might be astounding and jarring, since it runs the gamut from candy and cohabitation to affirmative action revision, diversity trends among the powerful, community health centers in Texas, and 20 years of remembrance in Rwanda. Herewith: what we’ve been up to this week. Features: “Trends at the Top: The […] RU041114A tag-cloud for this week’s roundup might be astounding and jarring, since it runs the gamut from candy and cohabitation to affirmative action revision, diversity trends among the powerful, community health centers in Texas, and 20 years of remembrance in Rwanda. Herewith: what we’ve been up to this week.

Features:

Trends at the Top: The New CEOs Revisited,” by Richie Zweigenhaft and Bill Domhoff. A look at who’s sitting in the corner office—or just outside it, nose pressed to the glass—reveals a new trend in diversity.

How Recent Immigration Complicates Our Racial Justice Policies,” by Asad L. Asad. Should affirmative action be reformed to include newer, but still marginalized, groups within the U.S.?

Office Hours:

Samira Kawash on Candy,” with Kyle Green. The self-proclaimed @candyprofessor joins us for a look at the rise and fall and rise and fall—oh god, is this a sugar high?—of candy’s rep in American culture.

There’s Research on That!

Remembering Rwanda 20 Years Later,” by Rahsaan Mahadeo. Excellent sociological work on the Rwandan Genocide, the creation of genocide as an international crime, and the ways societies remember tragedy.

Editors’ Desk:

So You Wanna Write for TSP?” by Letta Page. We always love new authors and new pitches; here’s how to make the most out of your idea+TSP so that you can get to 2getha 4eva.

Citings & Sightings:

Popular Kids Get Bullied, Too,” by Molly Goin. Or, “Yes, Junior High is Lame, in Varying Degrees from Awful to Criminal, for Everyone.”

Financial Planning with the Three Six Mafia,” by Erin Hoekstra. The Urban Institute measured 8 American cities’ sex economies, and to no one’s surprise, it’s a booming trade.

To Cohabitate or Not To Cohabitate,” by Kat Albrecht. Good news for urbanites: living together before marriage (and certainly in lieu of it) is unlikely to raise your chances of divorce.

Scholars Strategy Network:

The Struggle to Restore Voting Rights for Former Prisoners—And a Telling Success in Rhode Island,” by Michael Leo Owens.

How Community Health Centers and Millions of Uninsured Are Hurt by the Refusal to Expand Medicaid in Texas,” by Jessica Sharac, Peter Shin, and Sara Rosenbaum.

A Few from the Community Pages:

Last Week’s Roundup

Sign Up for Inbox Delivery of the Roundup

Picture 2

 

 

]]>