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/ #TtW14 Panel Preview: Discipline and Publish http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2014/04/24/ttw14-panel-preview-discipline-and-publish/ http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2014/04/24/ttw14-panel-preview-discipline-and-publish/ Thu, 24 Apr 2014 08:00:33 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 Discipline and Publish: The New Politics of Publishing

Panel Preview

Presider: Rachel Rosenfelt (@rachelrosenfelt)

Hashmod: Angela Chen (@chengela)

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 Discipline and Publish: The New Politics of Publishing

It is hard to overstate just how profoundly and completely the Web has changed publishing, both as a profession and as a set of technologies. Every major category of publishable content, from punk zines to encyclopedias has undergone massive changes and yet some things remain doggedly the same. Mastheads are still very white and male, (even the new ones) although some of the most intriguing and innovative publishing platforms are more representative of  the world. Rachel Rosenfelt, founder and editor of The New Inquiry will preside over a panel of four presentations looking at how the politics of publishing are changing and what it means for authors, readers, and society in general. Ana Cecilia Alvarez and Joseph Staten investigate the apparent disconnect between the popularity of a topic, and any individual piece on that topic. Alvarez, looking at feminist writing on Tumblr and other social media platforms, asks the provocative and absolutely necessary question:  ”Feminism gets a lot of likes, but does this mean a lot of people like feminism?” Staten asks his audience to reconsider the thinkpiece and how it can be mobilized as a more effective tool for cultural critique. Matthew Clair and Mathias Klang consider the new kinds of ownership models and access systems that have cropped up over the years and outline their roles in expanding the control of private property. Clair takes a uniquely micro-level approach to studying neoliberalism within avante-garde writing communities and Klang discusses the implications of DRM on ebooks for both authors and readers. The panelists in Discipline and Publish approach this field with a critical eye towards the affordances and stated promises of new publishing technologies however, taken together, the panel paints a fairly optimistic picture of the future of publishing.

Ana Cecilia Alvarez (@_llorona) Tumblr Grrrl: On Feminism and Digital Publishing
As a writer publishing primarily on digital platforms—blog articles, Tweets, Facebook statuses, Tumblr posts—I often evoke “feminist discourse” in my work. Although indefinable (hence the quotations marks continuously hovering over the word), within these digital channels, a feminist vocabulary is palpably identifiable, especially between a specific subset of writers whose work circulates around feminist issues. I am one of them, most recently writing critical essays on the perils of feminism’s branding potential. For Theorizing The Web I want to complicate my own invocation of feminism for paid web content by asking the following questions: Feminism gets a lot of likes, but does this mean a lot of people like feminism?

In the not so distant past, having a blog, an independent form of publishing, was a libratory gift. No longer were writers subject to the power structures of old publishing models. In an astonishingly short span, the freeing potential of digital publishing has been strangled by the insistent drive to monetize digital content production. Currently the two most common forms of generating revenue—selling certain number of page impressions for banner ads, or selling advertisers the very publication model so they create their own advertorial content—demand an unsustainable amount of content, lowering the quality for sake of quantity.

Today, the most “successful” web content—content that generates the most engagement, be that through page views, likes, or retweets—often features rapidly digestible and incendiary subjects. A feminist diatribe, now populating Twitter feeds on a regular basis, is a more successful lightning rod for social media engagement than similar content that appeals towards other social justice causes. (For some reason) an article speculating whether an actress has been re-touched, under the guise of a feminist appeal towards realistic representations of women in media, will gather much more digital klout than an expose on the climate change, or food justice, or animal cruelty. If “the meme is personal is political,” feminism’s meme potential is particularly salient. What does this mean for writers (from here on, content producers) whose political inclinations work particularly well with social media engagement? How can we measure the effect of their influence? Do these feminist critiques circulate beyond the insular group of social media practitioners who are already too well plugged into these debates? How has the existing business model for for-profit digital publications implicated the political potential of its content?

I hope to be hopeful. Social media allows for an “affinity (or animosity) to collapse distances;” it draws attention towards injustices; it encourages exchanges. What I am forced to ask daily as a writer on the Internet is—how can I reap the potential of digital publishing platforms while I am forced to mine them for profit? How are my political leanings as a writer implicated in my profitability as a content producer? Can I separate the two?

Joseph Staten (@joseph_staten) Rethinking the Thinkpiece
The “thinkpiece” has become, in the last few years, one of the most recognizable (and shareable) forms of cultural criticism on the internet. Focusing on popular cultural artifacts typically consigned to the space of “entertainment” (music, music videos, TV), thinkpieces take these forms seriously and critique them on the basis of their expression of certain norms or ideas, often their representations of women and people of color. Thinkpieces typically cast the objects of their criticism as socially retrograde in their perpetuation of stereotypes, and deem them generally harmful. In the last two years, some of the most thinkpiece-d artifacts have been Lena Dunham’s TV show Girls, Robin Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines,” and Miley Cyrus’s performance at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards.

The internet has allowed both cultural artifacts and their critical thinking-through to be distributed more widely than ever before, seemingly increasing the social stakes of both forms dramatically.

But for all the realms of the social and political that thinkpieces consider, there is one they frequently exclude: the realm of the aesthetic.

My paper uses as its jumping-off point the concept of “coincidental consumption” recently introduced by Robin James and Nathan Jurgenson: the process by which the actual content of links shared on social media seems to become “coincidental” to their shareability. (A primary example is sharing an article without reading it first.) In a blog post expanding the concept (http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2013/11/15/coincidental-consumption-thinkpiece/), James notices how thinkpieces tend to reinforce the coincidental aspects of content: “”most of these thinkpieces discuss the social and political implications of these pieces without talking about the actual music–as though the music was somehow separable from the social and political work these songs and videos accomplish.”

My paper takes this idea one step further, and argues that it is not just music (or whatever particular medium) that think pieces ignore, but the entire dimension of the aesthetic as a category of investigation. Though there is certainly plenty to be gained by examining a music video or TV show for its socio-political significations, the question is, in James’ words, “what gets lost, what’s obscured,” by focusing on these elements to the exclusion of aesthetic ones. Part of my answer will be that the question of artistic quality–what is quality? does it even matter?–becomes severely confused because of the aesthetic leveling-off that the thinkpiece performs. Another part of my answer will be that thinkpieces *themselves* become drawn into the exact same dynamic of coincidental consumption that the objects of their critique reside and are distributed within, dramatically attenuating their potential impact on social thought. Thinkpieces themselves are shared, but not read.

Finally, I will suggest that a reintegration of aesthetic considerations into the social project of the thinkpiece will both sharpen it as a critical weapon and expand its impact as a tool of social good.

Matthew Clair (@mathuclair) Rethinking Technology and Culture: Digital Technologies and Neoliberalism in the Literary Field
This paper considers the relationship between digital technologies and neoliberalism, which I define as a contemporary set of economic cultural logics about the proper role of government, the market, and the individual in economic and everyday life. Over the past 40 years, sociologists have offered various explanations of the role of new technological developments in shaping, enabling, and reflecting socio-cultural and economic beliefs and practices. Most of this work has been theoretical, macro-level, and focused on the use of new technology in expressly economic contexts. Little work has considered if these theories hold at the micro-level in non-economic contexts. In this paper, I ask: what is the relationship between digital technology and micro-level beliefs and practices? In particular, do neoliberal cultural logics accompany the use of digital technology in non-economic contexts? I answer these questions through interviews, content analysis, and fieldwork among editors and writers in the avant-garde literary field. Assessing how and when they use digital technologies, I find that the relationship between digital technology and neoliberal cultural logics is not as straightforward as macro theories assume. While some neoliberal logics are enabled by digital technology, others are contested. I find that digital technology’s relationship to cultural beliefs and practices is heterogeneous and context-dependent. I conclude with a discussion of the implications of my findings for: (1) macro- and micro-level theory on technology and society; (2) the study of neoliberalism as a set of everyday, micro-level cultural logics; and (3) neoliberalism’s role in structuring contemporary social life.

Mathias Klang (@klangable) Is that your book? The impact of e-books on culture
The book as we know it has been declared dead several times in modern history. This trend has only been on the rise in the last decade with the rapid developments in smartphone and tablet technology. It is hard to argue that these devices do not provide a level of convenience to the reader but cogent arguments have been put forward that these devices cannot be functionally equivalent to the analogue book and that by adopting e-books we are losing a vital element of our culture.

While the analogue book remains healthy online sellers, like Amazon, report that they are now selling more digital than analogue books. Pew Internet & American Life project reports that a higher proportion of U.S. adults are reading e-books than ever before. The purpose of this paper is to map out and explore the differences in reading habits and the ways in which these habits are impacting on the way in which we access written culture through technical means.

Technical measures, Digital Rights Management (DRM), have been developed order to maintain control over the ability to copy. On the one hand DRM, in relation to copyrightable material, is a technical measure implemented to ensure adherence to legally established rights. The reader who buys a book does not acquire unlimited legal rights to make copies of the book. Therefore, adding DRM to ebooks ensures that users cannot use technology to go beyond their legally established rights. However, DRM can also restrict users from using their ebooks in ways that are both socially and legally acceptable if we were dealing with analogue books.

Thus, ebooks bought via Amazon can only be read on their Kindle ebook reader, they cannot easily be lent to others and they cannot be resold. These limitations are impractical to implement on analogue books. However, the implementation of DRM with the limitation of certain practices is redefining the nature of the book, and in extension the whole ecology of reading. Technology is re-shaping, and maybe regulating (Baym, 2010; Winner, 1985), an established social practice. The role of technology as regulator has naturally been problematized earlier (Winner, 1985; Latour, 1992; Norman, 1988).

The focus of this work is to point out the ways in which the e-book reader is lured by convenience into using a tethered technology that removes some of the affordances the analogue book provided. Through examples and illustrations these limitations to book use will be demonstrated and their impact on the wider cultural future of books and readership will be mapped out.

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A Professor’s Day http://thesocietypages.org/newdean/2014/04/23/a-professors-day/ http://thesocietypages.org/newdean/2014/04/23/a-professors-day/ Wed, 23 Apr 2014 20:18:43 CDT Walt Jacobs at Dispatches from a New Dean Today on the Sociological Images blog Lisa Wade posted information about a recent research study on professors’ work habits, finding that professors usually worked 51 hours during the week plus an additional 10 hours on the weekend. I’ll have to keep these data handy when answering questions about work habits of the faculty! Today on the Sociological Images blog Lisa Wade posted information about a recent research study on professors’ work habits, finding that professors usually worked 51 hours during the week plus an additional 10 hours on the weekend. I’ll have to keep these data handy when answering questions about work habits of the faculty!

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#TtW14 Panel Prevew: –––⁂–(⊗__⊗)–⁂–––: Drones, for better or worse http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2014/04/23/ttw14-panel-prevew-%E2%81%82-%E2%8A%97__%E2%8A%97-%E2%81%82-drones-for-better-or-worse/ http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2014/04/23/ttw14-panel-prevew-%E2%81%82-%E2%8A%97__%E2%8A%97-%E2%81%82-drones-for-better-or-worse/ Wed, 23 Apr 2014 13:43:32 CDT Sarah Wanenchak at Cyborgology Presider: Sarah Wanenchak (@dynamicsymmetry) Hashmod: Amanda Brennan (@continuants) 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 –––⁂–(⊗__⊗)–⁂–––: Drones, for better or worse We’ve talked a lot about drones in the past couple of years, and with good […]

Panel Preview

Presider: Sarah Wanenchak (@dynamicsymmetry)

Hashmod: Amanda Brennan (@continuants)

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 –––⁂–(⊗__⊗)–⁂–––: Drones, for better or worse

We’ve talked a lot about drones in the past couple of years, and with good reason. Not only are they a category of technology that’s expanding its presence beyond the more familiar context of warfare – not only not going away but proliferating like mad – but they’re also challenging us to think in new ways about our relationship with our machines. Where is the line between operator and drone? How do we construct that line? How does it blur? Is it there at all? Who is more subject to droning and who controls the drones? What are the stories we tell about drones, and what do those stories mean? What is our drone discourse? What can it do, and what are its limitations? How do we navigate it? What do we talk about when we talk about drones? What do we mean by drone, anyway?

We obviously can’t tackle all of these questions in a single panel, but we hope to address at least a few of the more pertinent ones. This is simply a fragment in a much larger, ongoing conversation. This fragment will be populated by Adam Rothstein, Olivia Rosane, James Bridle, and Eleanor Saitta, but the talking should not and cannot end there. Under the cut is a preview of that conversation, a short interview with the panelists.

What is your approach to the panel’s topic? What are your thoughts on some of the primary issues posed by the existence of drones?  

Olivia Rosane: What interests me about drones is that they don’t provoke a neutral response. They inspire both fear and fascination, and my goal in talking and thinking about them is to engage with both reactions. I think part of why drones cause such a stir is because they remind us of the autonomous robot killers of science fiction, when in fact drones are not autonomous. The real moral issue they raise is a different one, namely, what happens to war when one of the combatants can kill remotely and therefore faces no physical risk at all, while the other faces all the risk and has no means of fighting back? So I’m also interested in untangling the imagined futures drones suggest to us from the present and future they actually create/ are creating.

Adam Rothstein: Every technology has an ethical component to it. We tend to separate ethics from other questions of technology–design, potential uses, even environmental effect. We think that the decision on how and when to use technology happens later, after the “product is on the shelf”, so to speak. I want to put ethical questions back in our central considerations for a technology. It should be part of our longest range design process for tech to consider how it could possibly be used and misused. We can’t predict everything, but we can do better. I think drones are important because we can see the potential effects if we don’t consider the ethics of technological development, and yet, we are not doing so.

James Bridle: I imagine I share common interests and questions with the rest of the panel – I certainly do with the above. My interest stems however from the existence of drones as one visible endpoint of large, complex systems, a point of entry into a discussion of such systems – like the architecture of datacenters are a good way to start talking about the internet. The fact that this most “visible” part of these systems is also largely invisible is, for me, a cue to start talking about the way technology masks political intent, rendering it apparently neutral to those without the literacy to read it. Conversely, such intent is very clear to those who possess such literacy, so there’s still hope for our more utopian dreams of tech.

Eleanor Saitta: I’ll second what folks have said above, and raise that in addition to being part of a large infrastructural system, they’re also one of the thin ends of the many-wedged Empire.  Drones are an end-effector in a system of social and structural control, a tool of inherently asymmetric force projection.  Institutions (including states, their subsidiaries, and large multi-nationals) are generally aware of the liabilities of guard labor and of both the inefficiency of devoting large numbers of people to it, and more importantly the risk of that guard labor breaking down.  Drones are one of the more legible faces of efforts to automate that labor.  Drones in times of pseudo-peace are to me more interesting than drones in an actively hot battlespace.

 

How do drones figure into your work/research?

Olivia Rosane: Over at the State, I’ve been writing for almost two years about the way people are using digital technologies to create art and literature. Out of this came an interest in the ways drones are both used for art and represented in art. My fellow State blogger Adam Rothstein and I decided to co-curate Murmuration, a Festival of Drone Culture last June in order to generate and showcase more art, writing, video, and music that dealt with drones. Part of our goal was to use art to explore questions drones raise. What is it like to live under drones? What is it like to pilot drones? What would it be like to be a drone? We were also interested in challenging popular, inaccurate fictions about drones, such as their autonomy, with more complex fictions that dealt more precisely with what drones do and could do.

Adam Rothstein: Drones are super interesting because they are both new tech, and old tech. Global Hawks use cutting edge satellite communications and digital imagery sensors, and yet the plane is basically an updated U-2 frame, designed for a mission over 50 years old. Drones are a great opportunity to look forward into our technological future, while keeping our technological history in mind. A lot of people think that “looking forward” means history is less important, because we are “changing the paradigm”, “disrupting”, etc. But drones remind us that’s not really true.

James Bridle: I use the image of the drone to explore the representation of complex, network technologies in the Drone Shadows series, 1:1 outlines of drone aircraft in public spaces. Marked out in London, Istanbul, Washington DC (and a host of other cities, increasingly by volunteers following published plans), they take on a new resonance in each location, such as the research following the censorship of a Global Hawk shadow in Brisbane, Australia in 2013, which focused on the use of drones to police and enforce abusive asylum practices, far from the battlefield uses we hear more about. Dronestagram and Watching the Watchers explore the disparity in surveillance capabilities and point of view between the public, the media, and governments, again attempting to give virtual form to these political, technological narratives.

Eleanor Saitta: Drones to me are a cipher; I’m less interested in their specificity than in their position within the larger scheme of soft and hard force projection.  That said, their specificity, like the specificity of all sociotechnical systems, is where much of their meaning is encoded.  The fact, for instance, that drones are mostly flown at trans-oceanic levels of remoteness, safely from within the heartlands of Empire, completely changes the social relationship they have with the people they’re used to murder.  To the same degree, the situation of hobbyist-led DIY drone manufacture and that community’s relationship with the hacker community speaks to unfolding relations between that community and the military-industrial state.  In all of these cases, the cipher of drones let us speak about the dreams we have for the future we want to build and the political and social impacts of those dreams and of the technology we build on historical time-scales.

 

Why are drones worth talking about?

Olivia Rosane: Drones are worth talking about because they are currently being used to oppress marginalized populations in real ways, both by  U.S. military and intelligence forces in Pakistan and by domestic police departments. We have to confront the oppression these drones enable. Drones also, however, represent a major technological innovation: the ability to remotely control an object over large distances. We have to decide if this ability can be used for good and then determine ways to make sure it is used for good rather than for violence and control.

Adam Rothstein: Drones are a military technology that is now being forced into commercial markets, less because of that market really existing, but because there is such a futuristic fascination with drones that they are being driven there by investors and developers. This could result in a bubble, or it could result in a major problem, if drones suddenly take off, but they are still more military technology than commercial technology. Our tech enthusiasm is basically throwing a weapon into the skies, without preparing for the consequences. It could end up okay–like GPS technology has, for the most part. Or, it could end up more like the AR-15. People are somewhat concerned about this possibility–but in my opinion, the discourse is distracted and not really up to date on what the real risks are, and so we’re not tackling the real issues on converting drones from weapons into commercial tech.

James Bridle: In talking about drones, we may develop a new vocabulary to describe the networks, visible and invisible, and the forms of agency, granted and denied, which are produced by the seamless interweaving of contemporary technologies into the world around us. This vocabulary is urgently needed both to address the immediate concerns of autonomous warfighting, but also to fully and truly articulate and critique the world in which we find ourselves today, the networked present.

Eleanor Saitta: We live in a brief moment of visibility for algorithmic systems of structural power.  Drones, along with the surveillance systems we’ve spent so much time talking about in the last year, cameras, and any number of analytics pipelines are in this moment all new enough to be visible socially, and in the case of drones and cameras, still large enough to be obvious to the eye.  The negotiations that we come to with power on the use of algorithmic and robotic technologies of control during the course of this period of visibility will echo through decades of sociotechnical power relations.

Where can people go to find more of your work?

Olivia Rosane: You can visit my archive at The State: http://www.thestate.ae/author/orosane/ or follow me on Twitter @orosane. You can also visit the Murmuration tumblr: http://murmurationfestival.tumblr.com

Adam Rothstein: http://www.poszu.com is my personal site. I’m @interdome on Twitter, and http://interdome.tumblr.com on Tumblr. I’m also a contributing editor at The State.

James Bridle: I write about what I do at http://booktwo.org, and keep a record of most of it at http://shorttermmemoryloss.com/portfolio/. I’m @jamesbridle on Twitter and have far too many Tumblrs, including http://new-aesthetic.tumblr.com and the drone-focussed http://onevisiblefuture.tumblr.com.

Eleanor Saitta: You can find some of my essays at http://dymaxion.org/essays, which, although it’s permanently behind on being updated, attempts to collate at least most of my writing.  I’m relatively active on twitter as @dymaxion.

Olivia, Adam, James, and Eleanor’s panel presentation, “–––⁂–(⊗__⊗)–⁂–––: Drones, for better or worse”, will be held during Session 7 (3:30-4:45pm) on Saturday the 26th in Studio C.

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World Book Night: A few more recommendations with sharper edges http://thesocietypages.org/monte/2014/04/23/world-book-night-a-few-more-recommendations-with-sharper-edges/ http://thesocietypages.org/monte/2014/04/23/world-book-night-a-few-more-recommendations-with-sharper-edges/ Wed, 23 Apr 2014 10:51:48 CDT monte at A Backstage Sociologist My suggestions were just discussed by MPR’s Kerri Miller and her guests on the “Daily Circuit.” These books are not for everyone but are quite short and readable–and they have a bit more depth and bite than most of those on the list. Learning to Drive by Katha Pollitt, These are reflective and self-critical essays by […] My suggestions were just discussed by MPR’s Kerri Miller and her guests on the “Daily Circuit.”

These books are not for everyone but are quite short and readable–and they have a bit more depth and bite than most of those on the list. Learning to Drive by Katha Pollitt, These are reflective and self-critical essays by an aging feminist. Facing Unpleasant Facts by George Orwell. George Packer’s recent anthology resuscitates the prickly social critic for contemporary readers. Finally, Dark Water by W.E.B. DuBois. Written in 1920, it was 75 years ahead of its time. He use autobiography to explicate issues of race, gender, globalism, and class.  No one since has done it better.

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

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What Do Professors Do All Day? http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/SociologicalImagesSeeingIsBelieving/~3/wPR4r-surmQ/ http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/SociologicalImagesSeeingIsBelieving/~3/wPR4r-surmQ/ Wed, 23 Apr 2014 09:00:49 CDT Lisa Wade, PhD at Sociological Images Anthropologist John Ziker decided to try to find out.  Ziker recruited a non-random sample of 16 professors at Boise State University and scheduled interviews with them every other day for 14 days.  In each interview, they reported how they spent their time the previous day.  In total, he collected data for 166 days. It’s a […]

Anthropologist John Ziker decided to try to find out.  Ziker recruited a non-random sample of 16 professors at Boise State University and scheduled interviews with them every other day for 14 days.  In each interview, they reported how they spent their time the previous day.  In total, he collected data for 166 days.

It’s a small, non-random sample at just one university, but here’s what he discovered.

All ranks worked over 40 hours a week (average of 61 hours/week) and all ranks put in a substantial number of hours over the weekends:

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Professors, then, worked 51 hours during the official workweek and then, in addition, put in ten hours over the weekend.

What were they doing those days?  Research, teaching, and service are the three pillars of an academic workload and they dominated professors’ time.  They used weekends, in particular, to catch up on the first two.  The suspension of the business of the university over the weekend gave them a chance to do the other two big parts of their job.

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This chart breaks down the proportion of time they spend on different activities more clearly. Ziker is surprised by the amount of time faculty spend in meetings and I’m particularly impressed by the amount of time they spend on email.  Most professors will probably note, with chagrin, the little bars for primary research and manuscript writing.

1a

Interesting stuff.

This was just a first phase, so we can look forward to more data in the future.  In the meantime, I’ll add this data to my preferred answer when asked what I do all day:

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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)

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Betsy Leondar-Wright, “Missing Class: How Seeing Class Cultures Can Strengthen Social Movement Groups” http://newbooksinsociology.com/2014/04/23/betsy-leondar-wright-missing-class-cornell-up-2014/ http://newbooksinsociology.com/2014/04/23/betsy-leondar-wright-missing-class-cornell-up-2014/ Wed, 23 Apr 2014 06:14:08 CDT Annie Sapucaia at New Books in Sociology Gender and race are visible markers of identity, regularly talked about both in the news and sociology circles. There is another marker, however, that is just as important and predictive, but much less visible – social class.  In Missing Class: How Seeing Class Cultures Can Strengthen Social Movement Groups (Cornell University Press, 2014), Betsy Leondar-Wright attempts to bring class [...]

Gender and race are visible markers of identity, regularly talked about both in the news and sociology circles. There is another marker, however, that is just as important and predictive, but much less visible – social class.  In Missing Class: How Seeing Class Cultures Can Strengthen Social Movement Groups (Cornell University Press, 2014), Betsy Leondar-Wright attempts to bring class to the forefront of the conversation by describing how belonging to a particular social class can affect interaction within social movement groups.  She classifies a number of “class cultures” based primarily on formal education and occupation, such as lifelong working-class, lifelong professional middle class, voluntarily downwardly mobile and upwardly mobile class.  Through a comprehensive study of 25 activist groups, Leondar-Wright discovers that class, more than gender or race or age in many cases, greatly predicts attitude and behavior (the way one deals with conflict or the way one speaks, as examples).  Acknowledging class differences in social activist groups can help to ease communication and better use the strengths that each particular class culture can offer.

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#TtW14 Panel Prevew: Mobilized http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2014/04/22/ttw14-panel-prevew-mobilized/ http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2014/04/22/ttw14-panel-prevew-mobilized/ Tue, 22 Apr 2014 21:10:22 CDT Sarah Wanenchak 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 Mobilized: Actors and Activism

Panel Preview

Presider: Malcom Harris (@BigMeanInternet)

Hashmod: Heather Rosenfeld (@brainvom)

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 Mobilized: Actors and Activism

By now, we’re all familiar with the significance of the presence of social media in protest movements. Theorizing the Web has made them a focus since its inception. But one of the most important features of political resistance via social media and the web in general is that it’s constantly evolving. In order to understand that evolution, we need to be sensitive to the sheer diversity of the places in which we find an enormously diverse selection of forms of resistance. This panel highlights a few of these, ranging from mobilization in Kathmandu to the creation of queer micropublics in the American South to gendered labor “strikes” in social media to counterperformance against hegemonic identities on Reddit. These presentations incorporate instances of social media facilitating – and not facilitating – protest in physical spaces along with instances wherein resistance is taking place largely online. Again, the diversity of representation points the way forward to a deeper and richer understanding of how protest and resistance is organized and moves with the digital in play.

Elizabeth Saldaña (@esaldana) “That’s Never Going to Work Here” – Social Media Mobilization in Kathmandu, Nepal
Since the Arab Uprisings and Occupy Wall Street, scholars, journalists, and activists have debated the utility and efficacy of social media in political mobilization and social movements. Perhaps with good reason, most of this work has been concentrated in areas of the world with relatively high Internet penetration rates – the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, China – although recent work by Merlyna Lim and Mark Warschauer discusses the use of the Internet and social media in Egypt. At the other end of the spectrum, Mark Liechty, Heather Hindman, Tanel Saimre, and various non-governmental organizations have written extensively on the influx of Internet technologies and infrastructures into Nepal as a consequence of development. However, there is scant attention paid to how these technologies are actually used, and specifically to the possibility of social media as a mobilization tool in ‘developing’ countries. The significance and meaning of the Internet as a mobilization tool changes with lower Internet penetration, and models and theories of the web-based mobilization are not nearly universally applicable in Nepal.

In this paper, I examine a recent urban social movement, Occupy Baluwatar, which was the first social movement in Kathmandu to explicitly and consciously incorporate social media into their mobilization strategy. I present online ethnographic material from Twitter alongside site-based ethnographic material from Kathmandu, Nepal to show the difficulties and debates of using the Internet to mobilize in an area with low Internet penetration. I argue that in the case of Occupy Baluwatar, the question of social media as an organizing strategy divided the movement’s leaders and caused a deep fissure among organizers, splintering them into two groups. While this did not end the movement, it weakened the movement, and has serious implications for divergences in Kathmandu’s activist communities. This case study illuminates the problem of the digital divide within Kathmandu, and the political consequences of decontextualizing Internet use in social movements. Internet users in the ‘developing world’ has lessons to offer scholars of the Internet and activist communities alike, and this paper will bring some of these issues to light.

Laura Meadows (@A_L_Meadows) Queering Dixie: Movement Micro-publics and the Southern LGBT Movement
This paper draws on ethnographic research on the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) movement in North Carolina to theorize the concept of ‘movement micro-publics.’ Defined as informal groupings of individuals and organizations that share a set of political, social, and/or cultural sensibilities in relation to the goals of the movement, the development of movement micro-publics has allowed Southern LGBT movement activists to broaden their bases of support and to speak to people where they are. And, where they are in the South differs in significant ways from other regions of the country.

The South is more rural, more racially dichotomous, more religious, and more ideologically conservative than the rest of the United States. Whereas 80% of Americans nationwide live in urban areas, just 66% of North Carolinians do so. While African Americans comprise 12% of the population nationally, 22% of North Carolinians are black. Though the country as a whole is on the verge of becoming a minority Protestant country, evangelical, Mainline Protestant, and historically black churches thrive below the Mason-Dixon line. Finally, more than 40% of North Carolinians identify themselves as conservative, while just 20% label themselves liberals.

Working within this specific political, social, and cultural landscape, North Carolina’s LGBT activists have engaged in the instrumental practice of developing movement micro-publics to mobilize historically underrepresented publics with only tenuous connections to the movement, most notably in rural, faith, and African American communities. For instance, illustrative of this type of movement work is the Mitchell County Gay Straight Alliance (Mitchell County GSA). Organized by two local residents of Bakersville, NC, population 459, in conjunction with activists from the state’s largest LGBT organization, the group’s initial meeting was attended by dozens of protesters holding signs exhorting ‘Christian’ values and giving voice to fears that the group would work to ‘force their lifestyle’ upon the town. Less than two years later, in 2012, the Mitchell County GSA organized a reading of ‘8,’ portraying the closing arguments of the trial that overturned Proposition 8, a California ballot proposition that banned same-sex marriage. They held the event in the Mitchell County Historic Courthouse. More than 100 people attended. There were no protesters.

This paper examines the ways activists have utilized platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to supplement older forms of face-to-face organizing to build and mobilize movement micro-publics in places such as Bakersville. Drawing upon a body of theory on ‘identity deployment,’ I argue that the larger LGBT movement will benefit from adopting a ‘Southern strategy’ to speak to people where they are in order to build a coalition of micro-publics capable of reshaping the social, political, and cultural contexts of their communities. While the LGBT movement has amassed a host of victories over the past several years, the path to full equality, both legal and cultural, runs through locations and publics historically understood to be antagonistic to the movement’s goals: farm country, churches, and communities of color. Movement micro-publics provide an exemplary strategy to navigate the road ahead.

Laura Portwood-Stacer (@lportwoodstacer) Free Labor on Strike?
If participation in social media networks constitutes a form of “free labor,” what would it mean for the workers to go on strike? Approaching this question from a feminist standpoint, this paper explores the nature of the work performed by online social networkers, specifically with respect to the caring labor often (though not exclusively) performed by feminine subjects. I bring this discussion of care work into conversation with my research on “media refusal,” my term for conscientious non-use of media platforms and technologies. Given that social networking has become a professional and personal imperative for those from whom caring labor is expected, I argue that we must question the extent to which “opting out” is a viable response to the many legitimate political problems presented by corporate social media platforms. While I do not rule out non-participation as a resistance tactic, I make the case that gender must be present in our analyses if we are to formulate effective strategies of protest and change.

Adrienne Massanari (@hegemonyrules) “Why are all of you such assholes?” ShitRedditSays, Gender, and Counterperformance on reddit
Participatory culture platforms and online communities are not only site of (potentially) liberatory, democratic discourse, but also spaces where dominant ideologies shape interactions. This is particularly true in a space like the social news-sharing site reddit, where the community votes on material that is most interesting or relevant to its interests. As a result, while reddit is made up of a large number of diverse communities of interest (called subreddits), patterns of interactions often reflect the site’s demographic realities: largely young male, cisgendered, straight, and college-educated. It is not surprising, then, that while reddit’s “ethos” suggests a post-racial or post-gendered social reality, actual talk on the site often reflects hegemonic tendencies. At the same time, reddit is also a space of carnival (Bakhtin, 1984) and inventive play. From novelty accounts that respond to other commenters watercolor images (/u/ShittyWatercolour) to pun threads to grotesque stories, reddit functions as a space of ritualized performance (Schechner, 1985; Turner, 2001) where wit and depravity coexist.

Enter /r/ShitRedditSays (SRS) and related subreddits (called the “Fempire”). SRS creates a counterperformance of reddit’s “circlejerk” tendencies. Specifically, it functions as a safe space for redditors to highlight problematic interactions – those that exhibit sexist, homophobic, racist, or ablest tendencies – while not having to explain why these interactions are disturbing. In addition, SRS was instrumental in Pedogeddon, a campaign to, “paint Reddit…as a den of child pornography – and free-speech-loving redditors as complicit pawns in its spread,” (Morris, 2012) which eventually lead to the shut down of /r/jailbait and doxxing of infamous moderator Violentacrez (Chen, 2012). Not surprisingly, SRS has earned the ire of some other redditors, and led to the spawning of a number of anti-SRS subreddits (for example, /r/SRSsucks and /r/antiSRS).

This paper attempts to theorize and interrogate the concept of counterperformance (Alexander, 2004) in online spaces such as reddit. Drawing on Bourdieu’s (1977) concept of doxa, I analyze the ways in which SRS Fempire creates its own space within, around, and in opposition to the rest of reddit – and how the larger community receives these actions. I argue that much of our understanding of online communities such as reddit tend to overstate their democratic, open potential while downplaying the significant infrastructural, social, and cultural barriers that limit and close the kind of discourse that occurs in practice. And yet, ritualized counterperformances like those that SRS engages in highlight the possibility for resistance, but also raise panoply of other questions regarding ethics and free speech in these spaces.

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Will Women Take Whiskey? Male Flight from Feminizing Spirits http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/SociologicalImagesSeeingIsBelieving/~3/Jxbn9WsVIh0/ http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/SociologicalImagesSeeingIsBelieving/~3/Jxbn9WsVIh0/ Tue, 22 Apr 2014 09:00:29 CDT Lisa Wade, PhD at Sociological Images This is a Pink Lady: 15 oz. gin, 4 dashes of grenadine, and an egg white. According to Shanna Farrell,  the Pink Lady was popularized in the ’50s.  Women were believed to have “dainty palates,” and so cocktails for women were designed to disguise any taste of alcohol.  In the ’70s, the Pink Lady was surpassed […]

This is a Pink Lady: 15 oz. gin, 4 dashes of grenadine, and an egg white.

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According to Shanna Farrell,  the Pink Lady was popularized in the ’50s.  Women were believed to have “dainty palates,” and so cocktails for women were designed to disguise any taste of alcohol.  In the ’70s, the Pink Lady was surpassed by the Lemon Drop and, in the ’80s, the Cosmopolitan.

Farrell asks “What does it mean to drink like a woman” today? Anecdotally, she finds that bartenders consistently expect her to order something “juicy or sweet” — “It’s pink; you’ll like it” — and respond with a favorable nod when she orders something “spirit forward.”

This is typical for America today: women are expected to perform femininity, but when they perform masculinity, they are admired and rewarded. This is because we still put greater value on men and the things we associate with them.

This phenomenon of valuing masculinity over femininity — what we call “androcentrism” — may be changing how women drink, since everyone likes that nod of approval.  Farrell reports that “women account for the fastest-growing segment of worldwide whiskey consumers.”  Well hello, Hilary.

LCHILLARY2 041208

I wonder how men will respond to women’s incursion into the whiskey market. Traditionally we’ve seen male flight.  As an activity, occupation, or product is increasingly associated with women, men leave.  In a society where women keep infiltrating more and more of men’s domains, this is a bad long-term strategy for maintaining dominance (see, for example, the feminization of education). As I ask in my forthcoming sociology of gender textbook: “What will happen when women are sipping from all the bottles?”

Thanks to the super-cool bartender Naomi Schimek for the tip!

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)

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#TtW14 Panel Preview: World Wide Web(s) http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2014/04/22/ttw14-panel-preview-world-wide-webs/ http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2014/04/22/ttw14-panel-preview-world-wide-webs/ Tue, 22 Apr 2014 06:59:06 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 World Wide Web(s): Theorizing the Non-Western Web

Panel Preview

Presider: Jillet Sarah Sam (@JilletSarahSam)

Hashmod: Alice Samson (@theclubinternet)

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 World Wide Web(s): Theorizing the Non-Western Web

Far too often in popular and academic contexts, the Western experience of the Web is taken to be the universal experience. While some of the largest web presences on the globe have their ideological and cultural roots in the United States, there are entire practices, technologies, and services that have never graced an American IP address. This panel isn’t so much about those practices, technologies, and services so much as it is a prerequisite effort at de-centering the West in the Web. As a whole, this panel thoroughly breaks down the deficit model of technological development: and instead shows the  iterative, mutually-shaping relationships between nation-states, capital, culture, and networked technologies. David Peter Simon examines how Silicon Valley’s work “possibly subjugates the same people they aim to help” by way of applying a Gramscian analysis to his own work in Nairobi and Kampala. Jason Q. Ng not only reminds us that Wikipedia is not the primary reference site for the entire globe (perhaps not even a majority of it), but that the Western conception of what censorship looks like and how it acts should be similarly contextualized.

The invited presentations by Tolu Odumosu and Dalia Othman both offer glimpses into different social and technical (infra)structures that compose and influence each other and individual users. Odumosu’s focus on the development of Nigerian telecommunications infrastructure demonstrates the historical contingencies that make the Web many Americans are familiar with, and the primarily mobile phone-based web that has taken hold in Nigeria. By learning about the configuration of the Nigerian web, we come to understand just how easily the Western experience could have been radically different. Othman’s work in the Arab Spring is equally attuned to the particularities of geographies and local sociotechnical histories. By studying the ways in which activists use social media to organize and resist, Othman reveals networks’ social topography in a range of countries where civil societies’ relationships to their governments differ.

David Peter Simon (@davidpetersimon) The Do-Gooder Industrial Complex?
Valley-grown media pieces often position the expansion of the Internet across Africa as revolutionary, forgetting to cite that, throughout history, every Western-led information industry has ended up in the hands of a few, greedy monopolies. I’m beginning to wonder how this tried-and-true narrative weaves against the backdrop of technologists getting involved in markets such as sub-Saharan Africa.

In this paper, I follow the course of privilege amongst Western technologists now residing in places like Silicon Savannah, in order to better grasp the changing landscape of technology in relation to social impact. I investigate whether the fact that Africa has transformed into a ‘darling of the tech sector’ resurfaces paternalistic and/or neocolonial relationships. Specifically, I explore how the presence of major players like Google and Facebook may colonise knowledge.

As Valley culture attempts to redefine what “social” means (both explicitly and implicitly), I’m curious to dig into how increasing participation in local communities by global participants confuses the championship of economic justice. To begin with, I present my own experiences of working and living in Nairobi and Kampala as a consultant, acknowledging the inherent conflict of being a white privileged male sprung from California seeking to understand and analyse Valley-fostered exploitation. Using Gramsci as a lens, I then take a look at how scenarios like the Western entrepreneurial explosion possibly subjugates the same people they aim to help.

I feel there is an urgent need for self-reflection in the space of technology-oriented social impact work. As Stuart Hall once explained, history tends to have a practice of suppressing members who are not a part of a privileged class. He reminds us, “”what leads in a period of hegemony is no longer described as a ‘ruling class in the traditional language, but a historic bloc.”" Hall’s words ring as a warning that, with continual expansion into “”new frontiers”" emboldened by software development, we could fall into the same shortcomings of industrial days past, albeit more thickly veiled.

Jason Q. Ng (@jasonqng) Fit for Public Display: Rethinking Censorship via a Large-scale Comparison of Chinese Wikipedia with Hudong and Baidu Baike
In 2008, Baidu’s chief scientist said, “There’s, in fact, no reason for China to use Wikipedia . . . It’s very natural for China to make its own products.” Today Hudong and Baidu Baike greatly eclipse the Chinese-language version of Wikipedia in China despite (or because of) the censorship known to take place on the sites. However, identifying outright instances or patterns in censorship can be difficult due to the (mostly) user-generated nature and oversight of the content. This paper seeks to address these challenges, and among the methods employed is a large-scale comparison of the three services, matching thousands of Chinese-language Wikipedia articles with their in-China counterparts, in order to identify the “content gaps” in the two baike. However, by looking not only at which articles don’t exist on Hudong and Baidu Baike, but also at the content that does for potentially sensitive topics, this paper investigates what knowledge and information is fit for public display and consumption. If articles are shorter on Hudong and Baidu, what information do they carry? Does this information reveal anything about the authors’ intentions? By examining the topics and articles that are left visible in these baike and considering the motivations behind those who seek out, view, edit, and approve of these articles, this project hopes to offer a more nuanced view of the typical narratives about censorship in China. Trying to understand what sorts of expressions netizens are making via these online encyclopedias, despite whatever censorship might be taking place, is as interesting as the potential censorship itself. This project will hopefully push us to once again consider the many complexities when discussing information control in environments where oversight of content has been decentralized to companies and users—an environment which makes it increasingly harder to identify traditional instances of censorship.

Tolu Odumosu (@todumosu) Phoning the Web: A Critical Examination of Web Infrastructure in Sub-Saharan Africa
Do people everywhere experience the “web” the same way? If no, what factors drive the different evolutionary paths of the web(s)? This paper attempts to contextualize the evolution and experience of the web Internet in Nigeria as a study in sociotechnical evolution of mundane infrastructure. How can we understand the Nigerian web in opposition to the American web? How do users of the web shape its form and structure? What is the importance of mundane infrastructure in the development of the web, and what are possible ways forward?

Dalia Othman (@daliaothman) Social Media, Activism and the Middle East
Since the Arab uprisings in 2011 a lot of focus has been placed on the role played by Social Media in these uprisings. From the Youtube video of the immolation Mohamed BouAzizi that went viral across Tunisia and inspired the revolution, to the “We Are All Khaled Said” Facebook page that called for a demonstration on January 25th, 2011 in Tahrir and many more. Activists across the region had recognized the significance of social networks as a communication and organizational tool and used it to compliment their efforts on the ground. Today we see protests happening across the planet that are using social networks to organize, coordinate and disseminate information to mainstream media. Studying both the tools chosen by the activists is key to understand how activists are using them to create change. It is even more significant to study the connection between these activists that will allow academics to receive a better insight into the conversations that are happening and the information flows that offer an alternative perspective that emerges from events happening on the ground.
Taking a social networked analysis approach, I will go through the initial findings of the ongoing research being conducted on the Arab Blogosphere and Twitter maps from various countries in the region. This analysis will help identify key actors in the region (and in some cases the absence of certain actors) in addition to the links between these different actors. It is a fundamental step and a foundational one that will support building a knowledge base to help understand the flow of information and conversations -if any- between different activists in the region, in addition to the tactics used by activists to generate attention towards their cause.

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Friday Roundup: April 21, 2014 (Yes, It’s Monday) http://thesocietypages.org/editors/2014/04/21/ru042114/ http://thesocietypages.org/editors/2014/04/21/ru042114/ Mon, 21 Apr 2014 11:18:14 CDT Letta Page at The Editors' Desk Sometimes, it turns out to be Monday. But there’s still great stuff to read from last week! Office Hours: “Matt Wray on the ‘Suicide Belt’,” with Scott DeMuth. A podcast on the wide swath of the Western U.S. where suicides cluster. There’s Research on That: “On Heartbleed and Hackers,” by Evan Stewart. What sociologists know […] RU042114Sometimes, it turns out to be Monday.

But there’s still great stuff to read from last week!

Office Hours:

Matt Wray on the ‘Suicide Belt’,” with Scott DeMuth. A podcast on the wide swath of the Western U.S. where suicides cluster.

There’s Research on That:

On Heartbleed and Hackers,” by Evan Stewart. What sociologists know about the subcultures and criminal habitus of the hacker.

Citings & Sightings:

Young Girls Consider Sexual Violence Normal,” by Kat Albrecht. #EverydaySexism in full effect.

Movin’ On Up?” by John Ziegler. More results from projects like the Moving to Opportunity experiment in Baltimore show counseling is crucial to the “opportunity” portion of the move.

Reading List:

Moving to Mental Health Opportunities,” by Amy August. Kismet! More research shows the mental health of women in the Moving to Opportunity experiment improved over time!

The Editors’ Desk:

Tax Time Sociology,” by Doug Hartmann. Three great works on capitalism and society help Doug procrastinate on filing.

Scholars Strategy Network:

How Mass Incarceration Undermines America’s Democratic Way of Life,” by Glenn C. Loury.

So Far, Divergent Paths for Health Reform in New England,” by Amy Fried.

A Few from the Community Pages:

Last Week’s Roundup

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Indebted: To Creditors and Conscience http://thesocietypages.org/reading-list/creditors-and-conscience/ http://thesocietypages.org/reading-list/creditors-and-conscience/ Mon, 21 Apr 2014 10:43:08 CDT Letta Page at The Society Pages » Reading List   Indebted: To Creditors and Conscience Living under the vigilant gaze of creditors is no fun—the nerve of these creditors, expecting us to pay back money loaned to us! Fortunately, not everyone feels guiltless toward credit. In fact, contrition over debt is fairly typical, and our relationships with money are rarely emotion-neutral: money is always […]  

Indebted: To Creditors and Conscience

Living under the vigilant gaze of creditors is no fun—the nerve of these creditors, expecting us to pay back money loaned to us! Fortunately, not everyone feels guiltless toward credit. In fact, contrition over debt is fairly typical, and our relationships with money are rarely emotion-neutral: money is always moralized.

In fact, in new work, researchers find debt weighs as heavily on our consciences as our wallets. In the most recent issue of Sociological Forum, Franceca Polletta and Zaibu Tufail study the moral relationships between creditors and debtors by accounting for the intervening influence of debt settlement agencies.  Through field observations at two debt settlement agencies and interviews with 17 agents, the researchers aimed to understand whether and why clients are willing to settle certain forms of debt.

Their observations showed that debt settlement agencies were instrumental in shaping what the authors call “equality matching relationships” between creditors and debtors.  Within such relationships, debtors see their relationship with creditors as “reciprocal and ongoing.” Therefore, the receipt of adequate service from a creditor obligated debtors to respond in kind by paying off their debt. Thus decisions about whether debt must be paid back in full or could be settled were made based on perceptions of the moral character of the creditor. Since debtors were most willing to settle credit card debt and least willing to settle medical debt, Polletta and Tufail’s findings suggest that debtors see little integrity in credit card companies, but hold greater trust in the moral worth of medical providers and feel they must pay the entirety of what they are billed by doctors.

All debts being equal—in dollars—does nothing to equalize our perceptions of moral obligation. In other words, when we choose whether to pay off or settle outstanding debt, we are not only making good with creditors, but with our consciences.

 

 

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How Mass Incarceration Undermines America’s Democratic Way of Life http://thesocietypages.org/ssn/2014/04/21/how-mass-incarceration-undermines-americas-democratic-way-of-life/ http://thesocietypages.org/ssn/2014/04/21/how-mass-incarceration-undermines-americas-democratic-way-of-life/ Mon, 21 Apr 2014 09:00:50 CDT Glenn C. Loury at Scholars Strategy Network Imprisonment in the contemporary United States far surpasses other nations. The ironies are sharp and manifold. The United States deploys armies abroad under the banner of freedom and at the same time has the largest custodial prison infrastructure on the planet, a system of jails and prisons that locks up a greater fraction of our […] Imprisonment in the contemporary United States far surpasses other nations. The ironies are sharp and manifold. The United States deploys armies abroad under the banner of freedom and at the same time has the largest custodial prison infrastructure on the planet, a system of jails and prisons that locks up a greater fraction of our people for life—more than fifty for every 100,000 residents—than the population share imprisoned for any length of time by Denmark, Sweden, and Norway combined. American democracy is inspired by ideals of active and equal citizenship, yet racial and class inequalities run through the heart of our criminal justice system. Urban black communities have little voice in setting criminal justice policies, even though they experience the brunt of violations and the direct and indirect effects of punishment. Intellectuals have an obligation to lay bare the threat to American democracy caused by massive, racially skewed imprisonment. To that end, I offer the following reflections.

Who Experiences Crime and Decides about Punishment?

Political theorists have long understood crime and punishment as central to society. In The World of Prometheus: The Politics of Punishment in Ancient Athens, Danielle Allen argues that citizen participation in bringing charges and deciding their disposition—participation influenced by class, gender, and servitude status—crucially shaped Athenian democracy. Her insights are relevant to modern democracy as well.

As constitutional lawyer William Stuntz argues in his book The Collapse of American Criminal Justice, racial and class inequalities in U.S. imprisonment have been furthered by shifts over two generations in the way crime policies are made. The basic ideal of Anglo-Saxon justice features local juries—hailing from the communities where crime is actually experienced—making key decisions about guilt, innocence, and degrees of punishment. But several intertwined transformations have undermined this ideal in modern America, fostering growing disjunctions.

  • Apart from juries, prosecutors now make many decisions about charges and disposition of criminal cases. The rise of plea bargaining has empowered prosecutors, who can use discretion and bargain with defense lawyers to decide which defendants are charged with what offenses, and whether or not to go to trial.
  • Proliferating claims about constitutional protections now give appellate jurists a larger role in deciding how trials are conducted than the actual courtroom judges. Rights may be better articulated, but attention to the nuances of cases goes by the board.
  • Given shifts in population across the country, suburban and ex-urban voters have more say than do central city voters about crime control policies, which are often set or strongly influenced by state and national legislation and elections. This is true even though the non-urban voters are not the ones who bear the brunt of much crime or have to deal with the personal and community consequences of inflexible and severe punishments.
Photo by Kathryn, via Flickr.com CC

Photo by Kathryn, via Flickr.com CC

Inner-city residents have become bit players in the democratic drama that determines the nature and extent of criminal punishment. Yet these are people who know, first hand, both about the depredations of crime and about the enormous personal burdens of draconian and unequal punishments. Inner-city residents, often people of color, are certainly threatened by misbehavior in their midst; yet at the same time they are closely connected by bonds of psychic and social affiliation to the law-breakers. Ideally, this ambiguity should be exploited in the interest of true democracy, allowing public choices about degrees and kinds of punishment to be informed by those who experience the infractions first hand and also know the circumstances of the miscreants. But that is not what occurs in most contemporary U.S. policymaking about crime. Instead, non-urbanites, disproportionately white and less affected by most crimes, decide on laws and punishments for urban blacks who live on the front lines.

Legal Violence and Citizen Alienation

Criminal punishment is an inherently necessary but problematic form of violence practiced by government in the name of maintaining social order. Too much of such legalized violence, especially when skewed by class, race, and locality, becomes a decidedly bad thing in a democratic republic committed to ideals of civic equality. Punishment of criminals is not only physical; it involves a violence of thought and conception as well—a violence of ideas required to make an exercise of might on this scale, and with this degree of inequality, come to seem natural, inevitable, necessary and just. If many more “wrongdoers” are routinely rounded up and imprisoned from some social groups compared to others, the communities affected come to see the world as “us” dealing with “them,” and everyone in the society gradually takes for granted highly skewed conceptions of moral worthiness. It is also important to keep in mind that we are talking about more than lawbreakers themselves. Prisons in the United States are increasingly dealing with individuals whose development has been undermined by failures of schools, families and communities, and the employment system. Mass imprisonment has, over the decades, contributed to the societal breakdowns that engender ever more wayward youth and broken lives—and generate yet more wrongdoers to be rounded up and sent to prison. Researchers are learning that high levels of imprisonment in inner city neighborhoods leave families and communities less able to inculcate good habits in youngsters and lay the foundations for lifelong success. And what does it mean to grow up where trips to visit imprisoned fathers, sons, or partners are routine, and where ex-prisoners constantly return, marked by bitter experiences and reduced prospects? As the saying goes, “What happens in San Quentin does not stay in San Quentin,” and the same is true for Dannemora, the upstate fortress hundreds of miles away yet so closely intertwined with some New York City neighborhoods.What does it mean to grow up where trips to visit imprisoned fathers, sons, or partners are routine?

In short, imprisonment in the forms and scale now employed in the United States threatens our democratic aspirations and raises questions about what manner of people we have become. This is a question all Americans must ponder as we seek better ways to prevent and control crime, even as we further basic democratic ideas of citizen engagement, local involvement, and equality before the law.

Read more in Glenn C. Loury, “Detention, Democracy, and Inequality in a Divided Society.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences 651 (January 2012): 178-182.

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The Sinking of Quicksand http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/SociologicalImagesSeeingIsBelieving/~3/dHoMMNDX0W4/ http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/SociologicalImagesSeeingIsBelieving/~3/dHoMMNDX0W4/ Mon, 21 Apr 2014 09:00:49 CDT Lisa Wade, PhD at Sociological Images “For many of us, quicksand was once a real fear,” write the producers at Radio Lab: It held a vise-grip on our imaginations, from childish sandbox games to grown-up anxieties about venturing into unknown lands. But these days, quicksand can’t even scare an 8-year-old. Interviewing a class of fourth graders, writer Dan Engber discovered that most […]

“For many of us, quicksand was once a real fear,” write the producers at Radio Lab:

It held a vise-grip on our imaginations, from childish sandbox games to grown-up anxieties about venturing into unknown lands. But these days, quicksand can’t even scare an 8-year-old.

Interviewing a class of fourth graders, writer Dan Engber discovered that most understood the concept, but didn’t find it particularly worrisome.  ”I usually don’t think about it,” said one.  They were more afraid of things like aliens, zombies, ghosts, and dinosaurs.  But they understood that it was something that people used to be afraid of: ”My dad told me that when he was little his friends always said ‘look out that could be quicksand!’”

Engber became fascinated with what happened to quicksand.  He found a source of data — compiled by, of all things, quicksand sexual fetishists — that included every movie scene that involved quicksand from the 1900s to the 2000s.  Comparing this number to the total number of movies produced allowed him to show that quicksand had a lifecourse.  It rose in the ’40s, skyrocketed in the ’60s, and then fell out of favor.

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Why?

Engber found a pattern in the data.  In quicksand’s early years, the movie scenes featured quicksand as a very serious threat.  But, after quicksand peaked, it became a  joke.  In the ’80s, quicksand even made it into My Little Pony and Perfect Strangers.  Later, in discussions about plot lines for Lost, the idea of quicksand was dismissed as ridiculous.

I guess it’s fair to say that quicksand “jumped the shark.”

In sociology, we call this the social construction of social problems: the fact that our fears don’t perfectly correlate with the hazards we face.  In this case, media is implicated. What is it making us fear today?

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)

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Don’t Say Seminal, It’s Sexist http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2014/04/21/dont-say-seminal-its-sexist/ http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2014/04/21/dont-say-seminal-its-sexist/ Mon, 21 Apr 2014 06:00:27 CDT jennydavis at Cyborgology Consider this a PSA for the #TtW14 participants, for whom I have so much respect and admiration. Please, you smart and wonderful people, refrain from using “seminal” as a metaphor for foundational ideas.     Yes, “seminal” refers simultaneously to groundbreaking intellectual work and male bodily fluids expelled at the peak of sexual excitement.  First, […]

Consider this a PSA for the #TtW14 participants, for whom I have so much respect and admiration. Please, you smart and wonderful people, refrain from using “seminal” as a metaphor for foundational ideas.

 

Seminal

 

Yes, “seminal” refers simultaneously to groundbreaking intellectual work and male bodily fluids expelled at the peak of sexual excitement.  First, the metaphor doesn’t even entirely make sense. although the work, like the fluid, is a seed, to earn the seminal descriptor, a work has to have grown into something rich and complex.  It cannot, as semen is wont to do, shoot into an unreceptive environment where it is wiped away, left to quickly die, and ultimately forgotten. Moreover, the metaphor is downright vulgar.  It evokes (at least for me) the image of some dude splooging his ideas all over everything. Finally, and most importantly, the metaphor is blatantly sexist.

To refer to something as “seminal” is equivalent to the compulsory use of the masculine pronoun “he” when one really means “person.” The compulsory “he” has long fallen out of favor (though what “he” should be replaced with is a debate in itself, but I digress), and yet “seminal” persists as an integral part of speech and writing.  I’ve heard some very strident feminists refer to Judith Butler’s work as “seminal.” I mean, really!? Judith Butler!?

If we take seriously the idea that scholarship and social justice are interwoven projects, it is important that we always reflect—self critically—upon how we communicate scholarly ideas. If and when we do so in ways that perpetuate inequalities or marginalization, we should recognize and alter our linguistic choices.  In this spirit, I searched my own dropbox (which goes back several years, and contains most of the things I’ve written as a professional sociologist) for the word “seminal.” The search came back with a count of 99. That’s right, I have 99 seminals and most of them are mine[i].   Luckily, a few years ago a respected colleague pointed me in the right direction regarding my (apparent over) use of the term.

I bring this up not to call anyone out or make them feel bad. I bring it up to help us, as a conscientious community, speak and write more conscientiously. I am posting it before the #TtW14 conference in hopes of minimizing uncritical semen references as we move through the weekend. Of course, I realize that not everyone reads the blog regularly, and even those who do may miss this particular post. So if someone leaks some semen into their talk[ii] please be gracious.  Presenting in front of a group of people is generally terrifying, and I certainly don’t want to be responsible for detracting from the exchange of ideas. But, if you do read this, please don’t say seminal. If you hear someone else say it, ask them more about their project, compliment their work, and, if it feels right, gently question their use of the term.

For those of you who now have to rewrite a portion of your paper, here are some alternatives:

Formative

Foundational

Groundbreaking

Path blazing

Influential

Canonical

Ovulary (?)

 

 

[i] To be fair, not all of them are mine. Some of the documents in my dropbox were written by others, including ahem, people who submitted abstracts to #TtW14. But still, 99 is a lot of seminal.

 [ii] I’m sorry for that terrible but entirely intentional pun.

Follow Jenny on Twitter: @Jenny_L_Davis

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Young Girls Consider Sexual Violence Normal http://thesocietypages.org/citings/2014/04/20/young-girls-consider-sexual-violence-normal/ http://thesocietypages.org/citings/2014/04/20/young-girls-consider-sexual-violence-normal/ Sun, 20 Apr 2014 20:47:54 CDT Kat Albrecht at Citings and Sightings Good sociological research illuminates how individuals in society interact with social institutions and with one another. Sometimes, this research can uncover some of the feel-good aspects of social life. Other times, it can leave you despairing for humanity and raging against social structures. A new report by Marquette University sociologist Heather Hlavka evokes the latter […] Good sociological research illuminates how individuals in society interact with social institutions and with one another. Sometimes, this research can uncover some of the feel-good aspects of social life. Other times, it can leave you despairing for humanity and raging against social structures.

A new report by Marquette University sociologist Heather Hlavka evokes the latter feelings. Analyzing over 100 interviews with girls aged 3 to 17 who may have been sexually assaulted, Hlavka found that the majority of these young women didn’t see themselves as victims because they considered sexual harassment a “normal” part of everyday life and male behavior.

For years, politicians, pundits, academics, and community advocates have been troubled by the staggering statistic that 60% of sexual assault and harassment goes unreported. Hlavka’s research speaks to some of the reasons behind this figure. Beyond the normalization of sexual harassment and assault, she finds that assaults go unreported out of shame, fear of retribution, and mistrust of authority. This mistrust extends to male authority figures, including police officers, to whom many of these women and girls would report an assault.

Hlavka sees her study as a call to action. Changing the way we think about sexual assault and sexual harassment might be a big step toward stopping it.

You can watch Hlavka discuss her research on the Melissa Harris-Perry Show.

 
 

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From Our Archives: Easter http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/SociologicalImagesSeeingIsBelieving/~3/Ch66XGcd2gQ/ http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/SociologicalImagesSeeingIsBelieving/~3/Ch66XGcd2gQ/ Sun, 20 Apr 2014 12:00:41 CDT Lisa Wade, PhD at Sociological Images Posts from Easters past: Easter in Japan The Commodification of Easter Festivities Giving it some Hip to the Hop Sexing It Up with Nibbles, Your Sexy Easter Honey Professional Wrestling does Easter (pictured) 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 […]

1Posts from Easters past:

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.

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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.

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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.

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#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.

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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

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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  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.

 

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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.

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#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.

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“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

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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.

Cross-posted at Pacific Standard.

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)

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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.

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#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.

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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.

 

 

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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!

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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.
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