Twihard’s

Twihards’ are diehard Twilight fans, and, according to one fan, they were “really trending last year”. These fans thrive on interaction with Twilights romance fantasy theme, evidence of which can be found on Facebook and Twitter. But what does this really have to do with Social media? How can we study the Twihard identity as a social phenomenon? An identity that I suggest is co-constructed between offline and online realities in which the film is located in, and the Twihard identity must negotiate.

I’m approaching this topic as a potential fan; however, I am an outsider as I haven’t watched the movies or read the books. I’m curiouse how the structure of social media impacts our interactions offline and how this may contribute to the divide between ‘real’ fans (Twihards) verses those who simply watch the film. For instance, I would argue some self-identified Twihards engage in online spaces, including membership through Facebook profiles, or changing their names on Twitter to represent their favorite character. I’ve also seen situations of ‘calling people out’ on Twitter for not being ‘true’ fans. But for this blog post, I want to focus on what is happening offline that could potentially be connected to the structure of social media in which Twihards sometimes exist in (Castells).

Interview with a Twihard

From my own perspective this story is best told with a name, so the following is a factious interview with Tammy, based on something real to some Twihards I predict.

Tammy’s Twihard career begins with buying posters. She thinks of herself as a ‘true’ Twihard compared to her friend Kelley because her posters include the best quotes from the film. Next, Tammy changes her name on Twitter, to match that of Kristen Stewart’s character in the film. She responds to other Tweets, accusing  ‘wannabe’ Twilight fans of appropriation. The following weekend, Tammy is asked to leave a movie theater for heckling the film. She disagrees with the films portrayal of the Kristen Stewart’s character, including Kristen’s romance with Robert Pattison’s. Other audience members complain because Tammy is yelling out her own version of the story during the film screening.

Context-Collapse and Twihards

So, there is alot going on in my made up story. It is based on bits and pieces I have observed through my interest in Twihards.  And, so, i’m taking a chance in my last class blog post to do something different by posting a false interview (fingers metaphorically crossed)!!

The Twihard community is self-identified, it is bounded, and it is governed by its members. To be a ‘true’ Twihard takes work. The behaviors are learned, socialized perhaps partly online. These mechanisms of regulation are not new, but the way they manifest might be new. I argue the way individuals communicate through social media influences new responses to an audience. Twitter, for example, encourages a specific agency. It is built into the design of Twitter (Wacjman, Marwick and boyd). Has the agency given to the Tweeter influenced the way users communicate to an offline audience, such as in a movie theater? If so, what ways can we pick apart the Twihard identity to understand this experience beyond a ‘teenage rebel’ or individual level construct? Certainly the Twihard identity manages within specific social structures, but perhaps experiences such as my interview reflect a new way social media is organizing responses to the audience.

The movie theater space is where social ‘norms’ can be studied. I’m guessing if drive end movie theaters became popular again we would not act within them the same way as individuals did in the 1970s for example. Our response to the audience, in which we are indirectly engaging with while watching the film together, would probably look a lot different  (context collapse).  It would be interesting to know what role the Twihard is playing in a context such as a movie theater. Or, what ‘imagined audience’ the Twihard is referrencing when acting as a ‘true’ fan. Also, from a design perspective, does Twitter appeal to those who want to fit within a specific ‘imagined audience’? Maybe my example shows the conscious aspects of this activity, showing that individuals seek out social media which appeals to their desire to engage with their ideal audience in a particular way.

Twitter provides a way to speak to the many; perhaps our society is conditioning this skill through technology. For example, a recent article in the Charlatan shows Twitter being used in University classrooms; “Twitter can counterbalance the anonymity students feel in increasingly massive classrooms”.

Twitter as a space that influences both online and offline realities. Carleton is concerned with how to integrate this technology in way that will benefit students. In Rooke’s article, the Sc:identity workshops brought forward how space could be used to challenge gendered binaries. I think my analysis of the Twihard relates to these concepts because it also speaks to space but in more subtle ways. There is a shift towards creating the ‘spaces we want to see’ by using the technology integrated in our society. Twihards are already doing this. To end on a positive note, I think the Twihard movement can be read as a sign of changing societal structure. Similar to the professors using Twitter, there is recognition that social media is changing the way we interact, so that maybe the concept of ‘safe space’ will become expected in future political and social strategies, rather then something we have to continously negotate. However, as with any technology it depends on what users do with it, and the level of bullying i’ve seen in the construction of the Twihard identity (online and offline) is not a promising sign that safe space will become the ‘norm’. Not in this context anyway.

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Response to I won’t tell your secrets

Anytime I think of safe space, I think of Joyce, she taught a life skills course for young people, my mom enrolled me in her course when I was fifteen. Joyce talked a lot about mediation and encouraged us to think of our ‘littles’. It’s a funny sounding term, but a lot used in therapy to talk about times when you felt carefree as a kid. I guess by picturing yourself as ‘little’ again, running around worry free, you are able to gain a better chance of finding a safe space for mediation (or blogging).

Even as we talk about safe space our writing shifts to words that seem to flow differently. While reading your blog, I noted similarities in tone and style, marked by a more open space, familiar to self-help style formats. So, as you mention, it’s not only the content that carves out safe space for the blogger, it’s also textual in character. This contributes to the “model of self-disclosure” Cooper and Dzara describe in their article, which is premised on identity formation through a particular process of self-disclosure. The authors argue this mode of self-disclosure should ultimately lead to ‘digital intimacy‘.

I think this is one way of connecting what we experience in the material world with larger ideals, outside of ourselves as individuals. In order to study this process found in diary writing and personal reflection feminist scholars, for example, have included reflexive approaches to research. These modes have become part of western feminist scholarly research, such as auto ethnography. Similar to blogging, this style of ethnography opens up space in a way that is not possible unless we start from personal experience. And similar to my mediation example, it allows you to start from whichever perspective you choose as there are always multiple perspectives. However, one gains a sense reading auto ethnography (Jackie Orr, Panic Diaries, for example) the mode of writing remains entrenched in unspoken resistance. To write personally is to challenge the spaces of disproval. Spaces that warn you to remain distant, so that we only need diaries like Jackie’s as a form of counter-power (Castells) .

I really liked the connection you made between blogs and diaries because I can easily use it to describe my own connection with blogging and mediation; “It can be anything you want it to be”. But it is the reflexive process involved that makes it meaningful I think. There is so much resistance in our everyday lives to write personally because something is always at stake, whether it’s pleasing/or appearing authentic to your readers (Alice E. Marwick and danah boyd talk about this in our week 10 class readings), or explaining experience in the appropriate format. However, I agree with your analysis of Carstensen, in that we are being shaped through the medium of blogging, encouraged to carve out a safe space for ourselves, which really is to engage reflexively, or move uninhibited online.

 

 

 

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Response to Coltan, Exclusion, and the digital divide

Great topic! I really like the way you bring the digital divide concept into questions of public accountability. I think you did a wonderful job showing how changes in technology are marketed to us on a much larger scale than we may care to think about. For example, your Coltan example illustrates how the divide impacts rural dwellers very differently in one context compared to urban dwellers in another, which, as you mention, illustrates how the Macro-level (international level) ends up being missed in descriptions of public consciousness. To take this a bit further, I would also argue that we don’t necessarily encapsulate this larger scale context when using buzz words such as ‘development’ or ‘exploitation’, which are used in the west to describe the major gaps that exist between say internet use in the Congo verses Canada. I think your example of how Coltan becomes viewed as an extension of the blood diamonds discourse, or simply one of many exploitative practices connects well with this. You mention, for example, how Canadians don’t have to think about the price that is actually paid (individual’s lives) because the price tag remains the market value of the diamonds as sold to the western buyer. This is not a true representation of the purchase price, and I would argue the same thing applies when we talk about technology and the digital divide.

To respond to your first question, “is it up to the consumer to boycott all electronic devices?” I’d like to bring up a critique made in class regarding Ginsburg’s analysis. One of the problems with the concept of the digital divide is how it tends to ‘other’ those deemed to be on the wrong side. For instance, there is a sense that everyone should be racing to get online, or will eventually have access to technology. The question becomes ‘how can we get everyone to the same place’. And I think our policy reflects this motivation. However, as you touch on in your blog, this method of questioning does not explain the structures that work to produce the ‘other’? This connects well with Kennedy et al., where the authors analyze intellectual disabilities and the internet. Is it enough to adopt an additive model? I would say no, that if we have to ‘fit’ people in to accessing technologies it points to a larger awareness in public consciousness of a deep rooted system of inclusion/exclusion. And we potentially camouflage our own privilege in this system as we work to add the ‘other’ in. In the context of the Congo, this process might be called a “development smokescreen”. Approaching technology and access in this way doesn’t answer, for example, why mass suicides plague factories in China, or why Foxconn installed safety nets and hired counselors to prevent suicides at work. Approaching the digital divide without an analysis of how we benefit from the ‘other’ also does not begin to provide answers to why in Indonesia factory workers continue to work in violent conditions, or why some individuals who make the pieces for IPhones that are sold in Canada will probably never own an IPhone. These are all products of the capitalist system that a Canadian audience is likely to marvel at in the media, but rarely do we question how the unconscious level it manifests at has influenced the way we approach the digital divide.

Media coverage on blood diamonds or Coltan shows that shifts in how we describe the impacts of capitalism have changed the way we talk about technology, or the digital divide. However, I think these shifts also impact the way development more generally in the African context is talked about, particularly in western media. Technology becomes a gateway into this conversation, which I think in some ways influences us to ask ‘why look at technology access when people are living without food?’ I want to challenge this question. I do think it’s important because it forces a privileged audience to think beyond their own context. However, your discussion on the Congo reminded me of Binyavanga Wainaina response on ‘How to Write about Africa’. Check out his interview on YouTube (part 1, part 2) , if interested in questions of development in the broader context I mention. I think this piece is important because it also reminds us of what is at stake when WE set the bar for the individuals that we have ‘othered’. Wainaina talks about this in the video. In response to one development project, which saw providing an entire village with food as a primary goal, Wainaina asks ‘is this the bar we should accept for ourselves?’ meaning is this enough? I don’t really have an answer to this, but I think in response to some of Ginsburg’s arguments and class critiques, Wainaina’s perspective adds new questions to a very complicated context, which the western world has called the digital divide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Tweeted Times

“It’s like a blog only smaller”. I’m talking to my teenage cousin about Twitter. She explains Twitter is like a blog, but what I really had asked her was “Why do you use Twitter?” However, I think she is simply accustomed to older people, like myself, interrogating her habit. Maybe she assumes reference to the larger realm of social media that  Twitter fits within will help. Tweeters typically do not think about why they Tweet, I would compare it to taking pictures. Photographers typically are not interrogated about the meaning of photography (unless it’s a controversial photograph), the technology is domesticated, deemed to be a fixture of a particular cultural space for the most part. Thus, my questions did not seem relevant to my cousin, I needed a new interrogation strategy, so I gave up my disguise as an uninterested bystander, and admitted I needed her accounts for my Gender and Social media class blog. I recently and unexpectedly moved from my apartment downtown, and I now share space with an extreme Tweeter. By extreme I mean she is Tweeting about this conversation as we are having it.  Yet I was multi-tasking as well, reading Alice E. Marwick and danah boyd’s I Tweet Honestly, I Tweet Passionately: Twitter Users, Context Collapse, and the Imagined Audience, as I listened to her explanations, I began thinking about what Twitter really gives people…Something I’m sure designers are obsessing over.

 

Marwick and boyd use the concept ‘imagined audience’, derived from Benedict Anderson’s ‘imagined community’, to talk about what Tweeters are up against. Anderson analyzed the  imagined community in the 1980s, he was thinking in terms of how nationalism fills a gap between our ideals and reality. Marwick and boyd use ‘imagined audience’ to describe a specific communication style, one that incorporates “multiple audiences into single contexts” where there is also a gap evident between what is ideal and real in terms of what content producers can expect from their reader. For example, Shirky (and Fuch’s) both illustrate how this method of mass communication (Castell’s) is limited. Multiple audiences are possible, but in reality the user may have a limited audience. The potential exists for a user to reach many, yet this “many-to-many” focused communication style that is found on Twitter is part of the appeal. This gap between the real and potential is where Alice E. Marwick and danah boyd draw on the concept ‘imagined audience’, to illustrate how users negotiate their ideal audience in context of their use, this imagined community manifests through the users desire to Tweet.

 

With all this emphasis on identity making, self-presentation, and audience management, concepts that appear so central to social media and specifically Twitter, I wondered what was being done to make this ‘imagined community’ feel bounded? Surely there are folks designing with the Tweeter in mind? Thinking about what the Tweeter is thinking about. Users know how to keep their audience interested, it seems almost like intuition, or as Marwick and boyd explain, part of a successful Twitter launch is knowing what it means to look authentic. For these reasons, social media can be read as a script, a gateway into our cultural norms and ideals. Part of the users role is to know how to read these scripts, so surely someone is out there working to appease Tweeters “authentic views of themselves“? In researching this, I came across a website titled the “The Tweeted Times“, you can sign up for a  personal newspaper generated from your Twitter account. It works similar to Netflix, in that the newspaper includes what is most popular on your friends list. This is one example of how Twitter’s design is shaping the content the user desires. This connects with Cooper and Dzara’s analysis of social media, where they describe how social media is designed to keep the user’s productions of self at centre.  The authors state “…self-revelation is not merely an act of sharing personal details, but also an active construction of one’s perception of who one is”. This allows the Tweeter to connect to readers because the user must negotiate multiple audiences which is merged into a single action, a Tweet.  In the context of “The Tweeted Times” the users production of self is the users friends list. The way the user composes a friends list will ultimatley reflect the users experience, it is interconnected similar to a blog, but perhaps only viewed as smaller in scale because it is designed to appease a self-presentation already created rather than one that is waiting to be made?

 

 

 

 

 

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Politics of Online Porn?

Are you a daily porn watcher? Or perhaps only when the setting is right? Different patterns exist, different tastes and habits, yet one thing is for sure, online users can access porn like never before.

The online porn industry is a billion dollar a year business according a recent Forbes article. But our society is not thinking in numbers, we are concerned with how access to online porn is shaping sexuality particularly when it comes to our youth.

What is missing from this conversation is the way that porn images promote gendered and racialized sexualized violence (see Susan Cole), as something working in intersecting ways to produce the technology we are using in order to access porn, and produce the images online users desire.

How are we talking about online porn? How can Ginsburg’s analysis of the relationship between society and technology be useful in understanding porn’s new medium – the internet? More specifically does access to porn online produce opportunities for social inclusion?

BBC recently posted an article titled “Should Children Be Taught that Porn is Not Real”. I think the article misses so many key points, so I posted it to my Facebook page begging fellow feminist bloggers to help generate some material.

“RECAP of my comment, which I hope someone will add too! I agree, interesting article…I’m on the radical side. obviously children can access porn, but I think we should be more concerned with the kinds of porn made available. similar to my views on sexuality, I think kids should be taught a wide variety exists. However, most mainstream porn tends to show very ridgid stereotypes of a mostly male centred sexuality (feminist porn being one exception ofcourse!)”

My Facebook friends really picked up on the feminist porn example I gave in my comment (also see feminist porn awards for up to date stuff). Alternatives were brought to my attention, as a reader brought to my attention links that explain how to post your own porn to YouTube. At first, I was offended, and I assumed the reader misunderstood my point, but I’m taking this all as part of a larger conversation.

The internet is not the sole force impacting how our society approaches online porn, the technology shapes aspects of our attitudes, this is evidenced by the fact bloggers and readers continue to generate alternative meanings and attitudes. As Ginsburg points out, these attitudes influence the way that technology is used, which is never a neat and tidy category, but continuously shifts what we desire from social interaction online.

Furthermore, by explaining how to post porn to YouTube, my reader was also acting as prosumer (marijkelard.wordpress.com provides an excellent example of the prosumer identity). The ability to produce, consume, and distribute porn is not simply the result of technology because we still need to learn what these behaviors will mean in the larger landscape.

What role can producing your own pornography play in promoting social inclusion?

This is a question asked by Warschauer in terms of the digital divide, but it applies to online porn access. If we look at the issue of online porn and what access is doing to our society, I think we have to go beyond the passive consumer. The relationship between society and technology is visible in the way we are talking about porn attitudes, such as shown on my Facebook page. But we also need to focus on the means available to produce online porn, and therefore activism.

I started my post on Facebook to express distain for the limited images mainstream online porn provides. I wanted to stress to readers it’s not access to online porn that is the problem, but what we are doing with it, how we understand the attitudes which arise.

Similar to the youtube porn maker, access to Facebook and blogging directs me to open-source model of advocacy. I was able to get people talking about social change through a collaborative online model that should perhaps be incorporated onto Github in the future. I picture this medium as a place to re-edit the challenges to mainstream porn as new blogs and social media arise. I think the medium serves as a de-fragmented space for the already fragmented personalities of online space.

Maybe even future feminist porn videos will adopt an open-source model to the design and production of online porn? So, instead of blogging about it, porn sites could act as Wiki sites, and we can actively create the porn we want to see. This is already happening in video games, but with extreme violence which is disappointing.

Our technology has the capacity to do it…but do we have the political will to make it happen? Within the current climate of porn I think an open-source model has the potential to further perpetuate gendered and racialized stereotypes, like any technology, if used to promote mainstream images, Github would not be a good feminist project. The political will needed for project like this to work for feminism would require looking past the billion dollar porn industry and the damaging potential of online porn, and towards our power as producers, consumers, and distributors to change the landscape.

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Digital Feminist activism compared to what? ….!!

Comparing social media to the clitorus kinda freaks me out. But its common language for some feminist social media activists and educators right now. The metophor is about feminist digital activism. It describes what we see on facebook, twitter, and my space as being a “tiny part of a deep root system”.  Jacqulin Friedman, a social media activist and educator uses this metaphor to deconstruct massive organized twitter campaigns. Pointing to how feminist activism is sometimes described as a ‘push of the button’ when really these large scale campaigns are rooted in deep social networks, way below the surface of the finished product you might happen to read on your twitter feed. She argues the events leading up to mass digital activism campaigns are just as important as the actual campaign.

For example, we must look at how activists post blogs and facebook messages leading up to large scale protest through social media if we want an accurate picture of activism culture. This is offering a more holistic view of the processes which influence social movements, and reflects one way of rejecting a technologically determinant explanation of social media use. What is crucial for Friedman is that we set up the atmosphere first, which then might spark the entire network of feminist activism causing it to ignight into the finished product of a twitter feed.

Can we identify stages of feminist online activism? If so, how can we tell its feminist activism? Can it be read similar to other social movements that use social media in order to campaign?

The iconic “sailor kissing a nurse” photo.

 The photo was circulating around my social media world. I didn’t think much of it, but then I realized other feminist bloggers were writing about it.  Feminist blog (feministing.com) for example explains what is deemed as a depiction of romance is actually documentation of a sexual assault.  This is social media activism because it shows the desire to challenge mainstream ways of documenting stories.  It is not large scale as some twitter campaigns but maybe it will get there as more activists blog about it.

How do contemporary technologies tell our stories? In this case, the technology of the camera created a new possibility to document. Yet the power dynamics that existed in real life easily remained hidden. This is a result of both the technologies limitations and the way popular culture reinforced inaccurate and stereotypical accounts. Similarly, social media creates new possibilities to document our lives in creative ways. Social networking is not a receipe leading up to gender equality, however, it does open up possibilities for documenting the journey towards it. For example addressing violence and harrassement in social media. Technology can be harnessed in this sense as a means to show our goals in creative ways. For example, this photo sparked conversation about street harassment and how violence against women is extremely normalized.  Feminist began using social media to document this in creative ways. Hollaback being one example, where victims of street harassment post recordings of the event. As a form of activism, this movement shows one way of addressing the power dynamics in our culture through social media. In the same way that exposing the story about the kissing sailor reveals the power dynamics that allow normalized violence on women’s bodies to continue. This transcends to other social movements online. Where we see citizen journalists reporting on events within their communities. They engage with their communities and in that process participate in a form of activism through social media (article on disability activism). I see social media similar to the photo. Both as a technology with the potential to liberate. It depends how the stories produced within them are told. Both can act as evidence. For example,we can use them to document real life. However, popular culture continues to act as a  barrier affecting the way we interpret. Similar to massive organized twitter campaigns you have to look beyond the flashy parts, or the “trendy things without content” if you want to challenge the stereotypes in  ways that will address a community beyond the more visible participants.

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Is ‘Consent Sexy’ Online?

Consent is Sexy”  read my classmates t-shirt. The campaign recently happened at CU, great turnout, so I was happy to see the message still circulating. “Neat!” I thought, “A fellow feminist to share politics with”.  This was a class where ‘gender issues’ is written into just one week of the syllabus, and, so, I was pleasantly surprised.

I started thinking about safe space, definitely a hot topic right now – designing the spaces we want to see. In fact, this topic came up at a recent conference Sexting and Digital Media Conference. I took a lot of notes. And I’m going to use these notes to build on my ideas about what consent means in terms of our digital lives.

IMPORTANT LESSON – if you choose to take a private naked picture of yourself, and someone else circulates it over the internet without your consent; it is highly likely you will be blamed (Amy Hasinoff).

This advice did not surprise me. I even kinda expected it.  It’s not as if I’m running home right now to take naked pictures, but I might at some point, and what if a mean ex gets hold of them? Or worse! What if I send them to current partner, then current partner decides to be an ass and circulate them online? Yet I’m told by producing it I’m responsible, that my privacy deserves to be invaded (Amy Hasinoff responded to this at the Sexting and Digital Media Conference with something along the lines of “Would we tell Warner Brothers not to make the next blockbuster hit, and, if they do, their work deserves to be pirated?” – No! And brilliantly put)

As a feminist, I’m hyper-alarmed by the shape of some online spaces. When I ask my thirteen year old cousin Megan (pseudo name) ‘Why does victim blaming seem almost expected online and abusive behavior downplayed?’ a blank stare is what I get. This is the wrong approach clearly.  So, how can we start talking with each other about safe space online? How can we develop a clearer picture of what consent means online? It needs to be a part of a conversation that appeals to the population most negatively affected (teen girls being one example). Similarly, the Ottawa Sun reported on the issue of consent and teen sexting.

For those who can’t relate to the naked pict scenario, the underlying logic is transferable to any personal info.  i.e. your online bank information. Every time I enter my personal bank information online do I deserve to be robbed? According to current privacy laws surrounding online sexting, yes I do deserve to be robbed.

Jessica Valenti’s book proved useful. She makes gender stereotypes so catchy…almost fun to find. She explains how to see them in everyday life, constantly playing out in different forms.

I found similar stereotypes btw my online and offline world, a phenomenon explained nicely by Valenti

I think safe space requires openness from participants, a conscious commitment to not place shame on another. Thus, I can hear your viewpoint and agree or disagree, but your opinion always stands outside your value as a person. However, I also recognize that in our everyday lives we occupy spaces that don’t follow this logic. We occupy spaces that want to murder our personhood. For me, these circumstances demand partial consent i.e. I know these spaces are ok with breaking my boundaries but I participate anyway. most of us would agree partial consent just doesn’t cut it when it comes to what we do with our bodies. Our legal system would likely call this coerced consent.  Yet online…we see a different story. Instead our online lives appear like ticking time bombs. Anyone of us could be next.

Furthermore, online sexual harassment brings up the inherent ’nature’ of the machine; the internet is described as a zone where information flows without control. As Judy Wajcman’s 2010 article explains, this prompted social and radical feminist to question the way gender is embedded in technology (page 146). If sexual harassment is primarily affecting women and girls, then isn’t the design of the internet what needs to change? How can we say Consent is Sexy when the definition of consent isn’t being applied to every space? The internet is not a mysterious landscape, and information is controllable. I would argue talking about consent and safe space can begin with accounts from the experience of sexual violence online.

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