Social Media and the End of Gender

In her Ted talk, Social Media and the End of Gender, Johanna Blakley, the Deputy Director of the Norman Lear Center, does not so much predict the end of gender but more so the end of media created stereotypes of gender. She believes that social media will “free us from absurd assumptions about gender.” She believes this change is possible because social media transcends the old demographics that media corporations use to sell culture back to us. Through social media, people aggregate according to interests and values rather than overly general categories of age and gender. She points out that, worldwide, women outnumber men in use of social media technology, which could drive a change in the media landscape.

What’s interesting for our discussion is her analysis of how companies are beginning to look at how individuals use social media and the recognition that old media types are being reconsidered in light of how people interact with it. Most importantly, she describes a major culture shift in which members of social media groups, because they aggregate around tastes and interests, no longer needing the help of a media company to navigate the ways in which they spend their time and money.

Part of the definition of transliteracy put forth by Sue Thomas, et al, includes a very similar concept:

The literacies (digital, numerate, oral) may be different, but the transliteracies (social, economic, political) often transect them in similar ways, depending on cultural context. For example,  in recent years we have begun to switch from searching for information in encyclopedias, indices and catalogues to querying the kinds of data collections that existed before books–that is to say, we are asking each other.

In other words: “knowledge networks are inherently people-to-people.”

What Blakley’s talk also gets at is the notion that Thomas, et al, develop based on the ideas of Bernard Stiegler. Stiegler proffered that discussions of technology are “polarized between anxiety and euphoria” and that his response is a refusal “to distance technology from life; and to suggest that human individuation and technology have always had a transductive relationship.”

Social media, as Blakley describes, allows technology to return some level of human individuation. Although media companies still monitor user behavior, they can do so in a more respectful way because they are monitoring actual interests and values and not just making assumptions based on broad demographic categories.

Libraries use social media mainly to promote collections and services, but they can also use social media to aggregate students by meaningful categories, such as research interests, rather than overly broad categories like “millennials,” which may do more of a disservice to students by not exploring a more insightful understanding of their interests and values.

Eli Pariser on the Future of the Internet

Salon posted an interview with Eli Pariser of Moveon.org fame in their series “The Influencers.” Pariser introduces the idea of “the filter bubble,” which is an important concept to consider when thinking about how people interact with various web services. He discusses how web services such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon, are creating highly individualized experiences which undermine the idea of a shared Internet community. He defines this filter bubble as “a personal ecosystem of information that’s been catered by these algorithms to who they think you are.”

He explains why he thinks this is dangerous:

We thought that the Internet was going to connect us all together. As a young geek in rural Maine, I got excited about the Internet because it seemed that I could be connected to the world. What it’s looking like increasingly is that the Web is connecting us back to ourselves. There’s a looping going on where if you have an interest, you’re going to learn a lot about that interest. But you’re not going to learn about the very next thing over. And you certainly won’t learn about the opposite view. If you have a political position, you’re not going to learn about the other one. If you Google some sites about the link between vaccines and autism, you can very quickly find that Google is repeating back to you your view about whether that link exists and not what scientists know, which is that there isn’t a link between vaccines and autism. It’s a feedback loop that’s invisible. You can’t witness it happening because it’s baked into the fabric of the information environment.

This type of individualized encounter with the Internet and with social networking is an important concept to consider since everyone’s experience is growing more and more unique.

Pariser also delves into his thoughts about net neutrality in the interview. The entire article can be found here.

Teens and the Mobile Web


Slides from The Pew Internet and American Life Project as a guide for how teens and young adults use mobile phones to participate in social media. They do a great job dispelling the myths and embracing the realities of how teens use the net via mobile device.

“Youth Safety on a Living Internet”: Report of the Online Safety and Technology Working Group

The “Youth Safety on a Living Internet” report from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s  Online Safety and Working Technology Group, released Friday, June 4, advises that scare tactics related to online safety and blocked access to social networking sites is detrimental and does more harm than good to youth.   The findings of this report bolsters the efforts of librarians and educators to fight restrictive filtering policies that block students’ access to  content that can be used to help youth access, read, write, and interact with multiple forms of media via the web.

According to Larry Magid, Technology Journalist for the Huffington Post and member of this task force:

” What we concluded is that we need to go beyond worrying about predators and pornography and start thinking about young people as active participants – true citizens – in an increasingly interactive online environment where young people are just as likely to create content as they are to consume it.”

Fotologs as Storytelling and Narrative

http://dmlcentral.net/blog/raquel-recuero/emergent-networks-fotologs-performances-self

Emergent Networks: Fotologs as Performances of the Self | DMLcentral via kwout

“Emergent Networks: Fotologs as Performances of the Self” at DMLcentral describes this social networking site that blends social media, photographs, and text as a means for connecting, telling the story of self, and engaging in narrative performances.   Blog post author Raquel Recuero describes Fotolog as ” a photo-sharing site, grew quickly in South America, becoming one of the most popular social networking services in Chile, Brazil and other countries. Fotologs became interesting narratives of everyday life, carefully constructed by users to share the impressions they wanted to display for their audience. They became identity performances.”  How might we as librarians and libraries help our patrons use a resource like this for storytelling and narrative?

Teens, Texting and Social Isolation

The Pew Internet and American Life Project recently released a report about teens and mobile phone use. Shortly after, The New York Times ran a story suggesting that this report (among other things) indicates that teens are becoming less social.  Hilary Stout writes:

One of the concerns is that, unlike their parents — many of whom recall having intense childhood relationships with a bosom buddy with whom they would spend all their time and tell all their secrets — today’s youths may be missing out on experiences that help them develop empathy, understand emotional nuances and read social cues like facial expressions and body language. With children’s technical obsessions starting at ever-younger ages — even kindergartners will play side by side on laptops during play dates — their brains may eventually be rewired and those skills will fade further, some researchers believe.

Rich Ling, of The Pew Internet and American Life Project, posted a follow-up clarifying some aspects of the report. He points out that the study only surveyed texting outside of school and that the study also shows that “face-to-face interaction is holding relatively steady.” He also observes that texting is happening “in addition to other forms of social interaction” not in place of it. Ling’s interpretation of the data is quite contrary to that of The New York Times:

another interpretation is that teens actually have more access and more informal, casual contact because of texting. This is because texting is woven into the flow of other activities. In essence their friends are always there and always available for a texting “chat.” This interpretation follows from the material on texting in class, texting at night, and in a variety of other situations. Rather than becoming monks sitting in their cells, the material may actually point in the direction of more social interaction, not less.

Take the Plunge Integrate Social Media Into the Classroom

Thinking of using social media to aid with teaching and learning? But not sure where to start?  There is a great post over at Mashable with 4 Tips for Integrating Social Media Into the Classroom

1. Let Down the Filters, Cautiously

52% of schools said they prohibit any use of social networking sites on campus. Some districts are working toward making those sites more accessible to students, but they need an educational justification to do so while ensuring usage won’t be abused.

2. Add “Digital Citizenship” to the Curriculum

Susan Brooks Young, a former educator who is now a technology consultant for schools, likens children’s social media usage to driving; neither activities are going away. “We really guide them through the process of driving to make it as safe as we can. Social media in a lot of ways parallels that. You would never just give that child a set of car keys.”

3. Keep One Eye on Student Conduct, the Other on the Law

Many states have laws giving schools authority over off-campus conduct if it disrupts in-school instruction. Francine Ward, a California-based lawyer specializing in social media issues, expects the number of cases involving social media use and schools to climb in the next few years. The best way to get ahead of this is to amend every school’s “Code of Conduct” to include online activity, if only to have a policy in place when something does erupt. Adding social media policy to student handbooks sends a message that schools take online usage seriously.

4. Teach With Social Media

A 2009 survey commissioned by PBS shows digital and social media use by teachers is on the rise, but social media usage in classes lags behind other types of media. While 76% of American K-12 teachers say they use digital media in class, only 29% say they use a social networking site or social media community for instruction.

Read more:

Creative Commons licensed photo used courtesy of My Silent Side

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