Sunday, February 27, 2011

Performative Sexuality and Safe Spaces

Performance as an aspect of identitarian development is something that has fascinated me throughout my studies of Women's and Queer Studies. When I consider performative identity, I always associate it most with queer theory, so I looked back at a memo I wrote last semester concerning a chapter in a text called Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics. Some of the ideas, when generalized, are surprisingly apropos to the subject at hand. In the context of queered media, I observed that "'performance' is a way of creating this new, revised identification, as it is the total rejection of the idea that a cultural image can replace the singular human experience." In the case of adolescent development, the opposite can be said to be true, since it is modeled entirely on the behavior of others, whether they are peers, whom the girls look to for moral support and guidance, or as mentioned above, cultural images of sexuality. Interestingly, I also observed that "[p]erformance is simply the application of theory to bring about social change," and while a conscious theoretical backing is hardly the province of the girls we observe here, it seems that through their performance of sexuality, they form a safe community to begin to come into themselves, which can be interpreted as small-scale activism, in my opinion. From these ideas, I derive my analysis. is absolutely what I would consider the epitome of mainstream tween culture. It is predicated on a need to establish consumer ideals in the adolescent girl early to carry her into womanhood and a life of spending, and makes the most vapid cultural products mainstays of her universe. However, I think having a place to learn facts about sex in/on her own terms is invaluable to her development as an informed person, and in this respect, websites and magazines of this type are very important. When the dominant discourse teaches that sex is shameful, it is wonderful that girls are allowed to form a space for themselves to see that their doubts about the validity of that claim are bolstered by the resounding agreement from peers that they are experiencing the same doubts. I can't remember a time that sex seemed particularly mysterious to me, and I don't remember ever seeking anything like this out as an adolescent, so the idea that girls need to form their understanding of the world around these spaces saddens me, as I know much of the misinformation stems directly from abstinence only education and parents who are less than forthcoming. In the same vein as safe spaces, I love the observation that IM, or whatever other medium chosen, "becomes a space in which its users are able to negotiate and understand sexuality without having to rely upon bodies" (Stern 68). The idea that the Internet can mediate the formation of attitudes in that way had never occurred to me, but it makes complete sense, since most physical interactions involving teen sexuality are notoriously awkward. In this sense, "safe spaces" are in no way confined to questions on sexual attitudes and what certain slang for sex acts translates to, but also, for the safest possible flirtation and the performative development of the self, predicated on honesty, or ostensibly, an even more interesting, manufactured sense of self. In the same way that disembodiment can embolden girls into aggressive behavior, so can it be a much more positive force for identity construction.

One thing that I found very interesting in the article is the implication even by the author that there are only so many acceptable ways that teen sexuality for girls can play out. The comment that reflected on the segment about "fuck buddies" came across very judgmental to me. I understand that for most people, these kinds of interactions are considered emotionally detrimental, but the authors themselves observe that this is a traditionally "male" behavior, and ask no questions about where teen boys "today [are] getting the message that it is acceptable (or, at least, non-problematic) to have sex without romantic attachment," as they do for teen girls (Grisso and Weiss 42). This reification of gender roles, even as we're purporting to be interrogating and challenging them, is so incredibly condescending to me. It is the rough equivalent of the girls who accuse others of being "sluts" in their sexual performativity, and it's most telling that both instances are considered acceptable because they hide behind the guise of concern for the well-being of the transgressor in question. As a caveat to this, I think we can see the "play" in the system when examining these kinds of behaviors, as they are very sexually androgynous from the standpoint espoused by Judith Butler, and by that token (by my approximation), VALUABLE, when we are discussing how we perform our prescribed gender roles, as these behaviors certainly do not fit into that scheme.

Gurl, get on my level with that sex talk

In Chapter 3 “Get On My Level”, Mazzarella analyzes the African American girls and the web. I found this chapter to be most interesting. In this chapter Mazzarella discusses the results that are obtained when the key words “black girl” is entered in a search engine such as Google. “ Big Booty Black Girls” was the first link to show up. Many of the other links that appeared were sexually explicit and showed “black girls” in a very sexual manner. This has a lot to do with the way black women are perceived in the media and the hip-hop culture. In most rap lyrics black women are depicted as sexual objects and this is reflected on what we see for young black girls on the internet. This is also interesting to me because in most cultures the media influences girls to be “thin” and to look like a size 1 model. However in the African American race it is different because they embrace larger figure women.

Online communities and social networks have an enormous impact on girl’s sexual identity development because of many reasons. In online communities, when we communicate we don’t do it face to face; It creates sort of a safe haven for people who are shy or who are experimenting with their identities. It also becomes easier for them to say how they really feel and they become very comfortable with this situation. seems to be putting forward and effort in helping younger girls who have trouble with self esteem and body image. They also have very informative and motivational tools to help your girls. However, I personally find the website to be somewhat contradictory. They say “ love yourself for who you are” but then a commercial on their page reads “ get younger looking skin.” Another issues that is very dear to my heart is the issues of education, I feel as though in today’s society the media and the interment are all concerned with fashion and dating instead of on education. This website is a prime example of this sort of thing. They have a huge ad of a very popular reality star talking about dating but when I tried to look for something about education there was a very small tab at the bottom. This website seems to be about “ girl power” but what really is girl power? Learning dating tips from Lauren Conrad? Or leaning hoe to empowered yourself through education.

Sheissocute08:9:08pm: Why R U.. Curious??

When reading how girls value Instant Messaging or IM in (Instant Identity) I think it sums up how most girls feel, especially in adolescence that IMing is a private conversation shared between people that cannot be shared with others and cannot inhibit them but allow them to truly express how they feel to friends and others. We start the identity process through the creation and use of screen names like on AOL (America Online) to the way we decorate our icons, our background textbox, the font, smileys, etc. It’s essentially another portal of communication but explored and researched it is part of our identity because we personify that portal to reflect our own interests and how it best represents our nature. It’s not too much of a shock to find that 13 million teens are exposed to IMing. I think it’s important to remember what it was like at thirteen, and IMing, we all had at least one conversation where we wouldn’t be caught dead asking our parents about, “what is swallowing,” and while we may have felt ashamed thinking about it now, we were just curious because depending on our cultures, not all of us were fortunate to receive an objective view of things. So we relate to one another and create a vernacular for phrases that have been translated or created over generations but are socially acceptable under the right circumstances.

However I understand all this opportunity of self-expression doesn’t equate to good intentions or publicity. Personally I was partially ashamed and embarrassed to find that some girls, specifically the African American girls described in the Get On My Level passage. There seemed to be a lot of need to explicitly express their sexuality in provocative profile photos or taking excerpts of hip-hop lyrics that identify women as sexual tools or use their sexuality as a weapon of social status. With my experience with MySpace, I have seen this across the board for many races however there was a tendency for African American girls to stand out from time to time and it’s a little disappointing to see that research confirm my experiences. However I think if it weren’t for these methods of self-expression, there wouldn’t be an opportunity to address the issue of sexual identity and researchers would probably have a harder time in trying to find how adolescents associate themselves, especially when we’ve habitually discussed how media has a huge influence.

Girls will express themselves when they feel they are in a safe place, free from judgment or inhibiting adults or male peers.” .I think one of the reasons why has become so interactive is due to its girl authored sections to state how they feel and ask questions. There are sections like the facts about (insert topic here – and there are quite a few) that offer expert and factual advice so that false information isn’t being passed around but at the same time, the information is just that there are no attitudes, no judgments nor opinionated disclaimers about the information, just a channel for girls to know the facts about certain sexual and health topics and a chance to make their minds about the information given. & Sexual Identity

As discussed in Instant Identity, online communities have definitely helped inform girls about sex as well as develop their own sexual identity. Girls who are now connected to the internet inevitably know much more about sex and sexual identities than girls who were their age 50 years ago.

I was somewhat surprised to read some of the IM conversations in Instant Identity, just because I don’t remember having such explicitly sexual conversations at the same age but I think this goes to show just how much and how quickly the internet is impacting young girls. I thought the differences between the conversations among girls and the ones between girls and boys were very interesting. As noted on page 86, while girls talking to each other can be mean and confrontational and caring and understanding when talking to boys. This definitely eludes to the ingrained patriarchy that surfaces even through virtual communication.

I really enjoyed the Grisso/Weiss article and looking through, especially because I remember going to the website a few times when I was younger. I feel VERY strongly about the idea that sexually active girls are “sluts”, and was really pleased that the article touched upon this double-standard. Nothing upsets me more, and I feel that at times girls choosing to wait to have sex on and other forums look down on the girls who are sexually active, leading those girls to really believe that they are indeed “sluts” when it is not the case at all. I also agree that a lot of girls feel extremely self conscious when going into their first sexual experiences, and I find that is a positive resource if it can allow girls to realize that there is nothing wrong with their bodies and that they should not be ashamed of them. Furthermore, I remember using the site as a resource when I had questions about things related to sex when I was younger, which was important for me because my family literally never said anything about sex to me growing up. If it can serve a similar purpose to girls everywhere and allow them to be unashamed of their sexuality, I think it serves a wonderful purpose. On the other hand, as Grisso and Weiss note on page 8, there is still the idea of female submission ingrained into From the readings and looking at the site, it appears that many girls currently on the site are so engrossed with making a man feel good, happy etc that their own feelings become second, and the patriarchal system strikes again. Girls do what they think they’re supposed to do based on the things they read on the boards and see in the media, rather than what they actually want to do. Still, I do think that is a valuable, safe place for girls online because of the fact that it allows for girls to communicate with other girls about issues that a lot of them don’t get to talk to with anyone else. It forges bonds among girls, which is wonderful considering all of the negativity that often comes from IM exchanges between girls. I think and other similar sites can be huge in informing girls about sexual identity. By reading what others girls have to say and feel, girls can then begin considering their own feelings on an issue. This is crucial to girls who are learning about themselves and sexuality for the first time. Furthermore, I think its important to create more safe places for girls on the internet where they can ask questions, get advice, gain knowledge and be themselves free of judgment. Although it may take a while to come to fruition, a with a less patriarchal tone would be ideal. Why didn't I know about this site when I was a girl?!

Like most adolescent girls, I became curious about sex and sexuality when I hit puberty. I'd hear the girls on my bus talk about their sexual adventures. I was left to wonder about what they had done, how they did it, if I had any interest in doing it, and what I thought about them for doing those things. According to the article that was provided on Webcourses, was created in 1996. At the time I would have been 10 years-old. We didn't get the Internet in my household, however, until I was about 14. I really wish I had known there was a site like this available to me at that point in my life.

This website has everything that I wish I could do in a website of my own. What I love about this website the most is the message boards. While this website provides so much helpful information, the message boards allow girls to interact with other girls about subjects they either feel they have knowledge of, are curious about, or are passionate about. Girls gain a lot of their own identity by interacting with other people their age. Where an IM chat can allow a girl to hold a conversation with their friends while putting up a mask of hiding their emotions, the message boards allow girls to converse with strangers while putting up that mask. The anonymity of the message boards allow girls to be who they are more freely. As individuals, we tend to care more about what others think of us when those others are our friends and family. When it comes to sexuality girls tend to be shy about talking about sex to their friends and family. This is because society has taught girls that being interested in sex is considered to be wrong and dirty. Girls also don't want to be judged by their friends and family.

I know that as a teen, even thinking about sex made me feel dirty and immoral. It's nice that offers girls a safe place for them to express those thoughts about sex without being negatively judged by others. My service learning project I'm working on right now entails a webpage that is similar to this one in the sense that girls will be allowed to express themselves without receiving any negative judgements. I hope to see some form of success in my project that the creators of has seen in theirs.

IMing and the Instant Identity

I think reading about all the ways IMing is a communication system within itself has made me understand the concept of how disembodiment can both limit and give infinite freedom to girls when it comes to identity (4) . I thought of identity online before mainly as predators posing as young people. I hadn’t realized (because before I was just participating without analyzing it) how much IMing was a precursor to texting and how there are all these idiosyncrasies in how some things are slang or abbreviation but others aren’t, how you adjust what you’re saying to who you are talking to and how the nature of IMing makes you multitask. Thinking about it now, though, I can see how this sort of performance shapes gender and identity. You get to try on all sorts of hats, so to speak, and never have to face the ‘what if they find me out one day’ worry, like that comic with the dogs saying no one will know their dogs talked about in the book and that someone found and posted in discussion.
I had kind of a hard time understanding why “Arab girls” and in a way even the Korean girls were so concerned about what they put on social media sites. Even knowing how easily someone can access your information, I and I think others my age had always sort of seen IMing and social networking as an extension of the self. I think it’s interesting how girls in those cultures will care so much about reputation, but then do things like post pictures of their stomachs or say they follow a trend ironically. When this was mentioned and when the Arab girls said they shared a profile they used to flirt with guys, I kept wondering why they didn’t just be themselves. I realized that they were just rebelling by putting their curiosities before societal protocol. It’s not beyond people, especially young girls, to say one thing as a defense and do another either. However, this made me realize more of how things I thought were unintentional like posing at certain angles to look good in a MySpace picture was a trend. Changing your voice when typing or trying to portray parts of your personality and not others on Facebook, even unconsciously, is by definition, altering your image. You can’t help but do this because of how communicating online does disembody you and leaves all this room for identity, which is daunting because it could be anything and liberating because it could be anything.

False Advertising In Cyberspace

Today adolescent girls are at a relatively turbulent developmental period as they navigate through mass culture’s construction of girls and femininity, it does not mean that they buy into the dominant cultural ideal of the perfect adolescent girl.  Someone might believe that through the internet – a medium that allows anyone to publish what they wish through blogs and Web pages, and mandates that people communicate without the benefit of face-to-face communication – adolescent girls may resist the unrealistic images of young women perpetuated by the media (I.I. p.68).  I have to agree with Thiel on this idea because even I feel more comfortable when I am able to talk over IM or text because I can say what is really on my mind.  I think that this is true with new relationships and certain friends and family as well.  It certainly is a time for a cultural moment for girls to say what they wish online to one another and to the world.  As cultural producers through this new media girls would seem to be in a position to resist mass culture’s constructions of femininity, girlhood, and sexuality (I.I p.69).
When it comes to fashion and appearance in cyberspace the desire for sexiness and physical perfection might seem somewhat out of place in IM where bodies are not present.  In actuality most conversations that were researched in Instant Identity referred to culturally acceptable physical appearances with regard to fashion conventions and the purchase of consumer goods that would help them achieve a culturally acceptable physical appearance (I.I. p.81).  These facts don’t surprise me at all because girls grow up watching and hearing everything that goes on in the mass media.  From a young girl I thought that the girls I saw on television were what I was supposed to be like.  I’m lucky to have had a mother that always told me how pretty I was and that everyone is different and that’s what makes the world go round.  By the time some of these girls reach the age to IM and chat over the internet these thoughts and images are already burned into their brain.  That’s why these studies show so much concern with appearances and fashion.  Although these stereotypical images of the “ideal” adolescent girl come largely from cultural consumption of the traditional mass media (such as magazines and television), most of us have yet to realize how much they also have seeped into the online world through careful clever marketing and advertising techniques.  Over the past decade, the Internet has become arguably a very commercial space, from the banner ads on the news Web sites to eBay.  As one of the most desirable demographics of consumers and the most avid users of Web technologies, the extent to which corporations target adolescent girls online is hardly surprising (I.I. p.92).
What can we do as adults to raise awareness of the false advertising that is online today?

A Safe Place??

The IM conversations in I.I. were very surprising. I consider myself of the younger generations and I used IM quite often in my Junior High and High School days, but I feel as though the generation in Junior High and High School today are much more open about their sexuality than I had expected. After reading the article, I agree that “girls need safe spaces…outside of the traditional spaces where girls interact with the larger culture…They need spaces where they can know what they know and try new identities without self-censoring. Without safe spaces, girls will not be fully able to discover who they are and who they would like to become.” I believe that the internet and online communities are safe places for girls to ask questions that they may feel too embarrassed to ask someone they know, especially face to face. This helps them gain new knowledge and get answers without feeling strange or embarrassed and they can then make an informed decision and shape their own identity. Also, it seems from reading the conversations in I.I. that girls are much more open to expressing themselves when the conversation is private or no one knows the true identity of the person. The author of I.I. also expressed how many of the participants admitted that they said things they would not have been comfortable saying in person. Therefore, these safe spaces are a must if a girl is to really feel comfortable expressing her true self.

However, after reading the article I went to the website and I am not sure if I agree that it is a safe place. While people were willing to give advice and try to help the other girls, a lot of the comments in the sexuality blog were very provocative and more sexual than helpful. I am not the person who believes girls shouldn’t have sex because it is unfeminine, but I am not sure how I feel about girls in the 7th grade reading about different sex positions or telling the girl to be proud about giving an hour long blow job. So while I commend such a place online for girls to be able to talk freely, I question whether this is such a “safe place.”

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Caretaking/Mothering Expressed Through IM

I found the section "Caretaking/Mothering Expressed through IM" very interesting. I tend to disagree with the author who states that girls "often antagonize, insult, and confront other girls on IM" (86). I interpreted her example of an IM conversation between two girls demonstrating this type of behavior in a different light. I got the impression that girl A, Jordan, was attempting to engage her friend Michele (girl B) in drama over a boy she previously dated. Michele did not feel as if the topic deserved any more attention. Personally, I consider Michele's comment "ignore him" (91) great advice from a good friend, and contrary to the author's opinion, demonstrative of an ethic of care, albeit perhaps, "tough love." However, I do agree with the author in another of her comments which I believe sums up girls' use of IM quite well. She states, "the girls' use of IM at once shows how they transgress typical gender norms and yet also, far too often, give into the dominant ideals of what it means to be a girl" (92).

If the social norm for what it "means to be a girl" is the eventual duty to care for children, husbands, and homes, there is definite evidence of this ideal expressed by the girls in IM conversations with other boys. They reveal deep concern and care for the well-being of the boys' issues. It is a bit disheartening that the girls do play into these trappings of gender against better judgment -- such as the case of Jordan stressing about her ex-boyfriends phone sex exploits. However, IM concern and real-time face to face concern are different and IM concern does not necessarily gauge the reality of a person's relationship with another. For example, Michele's dismissal of Jordan's upset online actually indicates her care for her friend. It is interesting to realize though that Jordan forms her relationship identity to Mark through her online expression of care for him.

This becomes a concern due to the fact that the care is not reciprocal. Mark was not looking for care and thus Jordan's "caretaking" is futile. Instead of using better logic and defenses to navigate and decipher her conversation and relationship with Mark, Jordan reverts to the "biological division of labor (which) serves to keep patriarchal ruling classes in order, and women relegated to the margins of society" (90). I mean honestly, who is losing here? Mark -- a young teen male pleased with his three way phone sex exploits? Or Jordan -- a young teen girl worrying and stressing for no reason and consequently harming her relationship with her girl friend? I want to leave this blog with a very important statement made in this chapter of Instant Identity, "(It is) imperative to note that care is not biological but rather culturally understood, and men can be taught to care and value care as much as women" (90).

"Safe Spaces"

            Developing a sense of self at a youthful age for female can be very challenging and complex. Often we see girls morph themselves into what seems “cool” at the time rather than being true to themselves and their own identities. It is usually not until adulthood that females start to figure out who they truly are and want to be as a person. Young girls and teens do look to their peers, however as we know all too well, friends and classmates can be very cruel and judgmental. Parents can appear to be outdated and out of touch with the youth. Therefore what other places are left? Ah yes, the Internet and the digital online communities. It is here that girls can find a place where judgment is not an initial issue they will have to deal with. Going online, girls will find that they can explore very easily in terms of trying to identify with certain groups and certain forums to help develop their identity. This is especially true when it comes to developing ones sexual identity. Girls can go online and read up on any questions they might have and they can join blogs or tap into forums that help them figure out their own sexual identities. Young girls will log on and find that many girls have similar questions as they do. Online communities offer girls a space to voice their questions, concerns, comments and simple thoughts without the initial reactions of permanent judgment. When you are forming your own sexual identity it can be like trying to tip toe on a creaky floor in a quiet place. You don’t want anyone to notice you yet you want to get to your destination, or in this case have your questions answered.
            In the readings, specifically the excerpt, I came across the quote, “Girls need safe spaces…outside of the traditional spaces where girls interact with the larger culture…They need spaces where they can know what they know and try new identities without self-censoring. Without safe spaces, girls will not be fully able to discover who they are and who they would like to become.” I agree that girls need “safe spaces” to be able to talk about things they might not have a chance to with others or are simply too embarrassed. Although my concerns for types of sites like this is the example of that “one bad apple” that responds to a post in a degrading way and can lead the person who asked the question to become even more secluded in their private world. Usually there is at least one victor among the group that sets everyone straight as I saw here from completing this weeks assignment in explore, “Indeed, it is apparent that one of the implicit norms of is that one’s fellow gURLs are on the site to help and support each other. When a member ignores or defies this norm, she may find herself chastised for doing so, example: “eyedream: Excuse me, but glowbug had a valid question and you had no right to insult her like that. This is a message board for all girls. Girls have it hard enough already don’t they? Let’s not make it worse by picking on each other.
When I went on the website I guess I was expecting something a little more mature looking…but I wasn’t really thinking about how I would have seen something 10 years ago. It was a little overwhelming actually. But I have come to realize that online communities and the digital world can be very helpful to young girls in developing their sexual identity and their identity as a whole. It is important they know where they can go to be “safe” and how to take in and properly interpret information out there to become their best and true selves.
-Melissa King

Racial Differences and Online Sexual Expression

The most interesting reading this week in my opinion was the analysis of African American girls in “Girls Wide Web 2.0”, chapter Three: “Get on my Level”. Readers were introduced to the African American race and their expression online as opposed to the over usage of Caucasian American exemplars we seem to see often. Mazzarella opens the chapter with common Google results that appear when typing in “black girls” or “black teen girls”, to really grab the audience’s attention. It is quite horrifying that the majority of results are sexually explicit and put bluntly disgusting and sad. This I agree may have something to do with the association to misogynistic rap and hip hop lyrics, that stereotype and depict women as sexual objects.
The chapter focuses on a certain social network popular black teen girls, NevaEvaLand, which I myself am not familiar with or even heard about until reading the chapter. It seems from what I’ve read that most of the girls grow up with positive self esteem and confidence, especially with their body image. They express themselves much more sexually it seems then other races I have read about, and the girls interviewed had sexually explicit usernames, lyrics and pictures to attract people to their pages and gain attention. I’m not saying this is solely a black girl’s intention or that they are the only ones who do this obviously, but the chapter does denote these specific details.
Female youth may think alike in many aspects within self expression, but race and culture do have a big influence on how and what is most important to them and what they feel are central in displaying. Although only a certain percentage of the girls had pictures, descriptions were detailed on looks and attitude and points were made clear on what they were looking for. However media and music are the biggest factors on why girls are demonstrating themselves the way they are, right? Why does society play dumb when girls are being snatched up by sexual predators, when girls only have these role models to look up too mimic?
In conclusion it is very interesting to come upon such racial distinctions even in female youth. Expressionism and sexuality are main focuses in the digital world, and it is important to recognize the distinctions, whether it is race, gender, culture, etc. Maybe in turn society can find ways of bettering media to focus and change what is important and not important to display at such a young age.

400+ words

Friday, February 25, 2011

Building my Online Identity

“For girls like Leanne, IM is more than just a technology. It can be a driving force in their private and public lives, particularly for adolescents who use it.” This quote from Instant Identity truly sums up the way I feel about the internet and my communication with others via messaging. Although IMing has been a major part of my life I have never has the opportunity to research it or investigate it until now. I must admit that when the America Online phenomenon took place I thought I might have a mild addiction to instant messaging, but after reading these chapters I understand that my obsession was completely normal and actually rather common. “An extensive study conducted by the Pew Research Center on adolescent Internet use says that close to thirteen million teenagers use IM- a number that is growing all the time- and that this technology-driven communication has a key place in many of their lives.”

Prior to this class I thought of Instant Messaging as a distraction from reality and an excuse to not physically interact with others. I guess in some ways I was placing too much judgment on myself for wanting to communicate through the internet because there are so many warning and precautions about the dangers of talking to people online. However, I now realize that much of my identity was formed through the experiences I had online though IM. Gossip was my biggest motivation for communicating via IM as my girlfriends and I would exchange exciting stories about our peers or classmates. As a female, my interest in using the internet as a form of communication was completely natural and understandable. I believe that the author has accomplished her goal in which she aimed to “offer an intercession for understanding how adolescent girls, through their uses of IM, negotiate and articulate their identities, especially with regard to gender.” Pg 3

“Online gender identity negotiation might present a new opportunity for girls who might have felt silenced within their home and school culture because it allows for communication and identity articulation without the worry that can go along with face-to-face contact.” In many ways I avoided socializing with others-especially boys- in school because I was very self conscious and battled self esteem issues in my earlier years. It was much easier for me to build up the courage to speak to a cute boy through IM because I knew I could make interesting conversation without having to worry if he thought I looked pretty at that moment. This process of identity formation made me appreciate characteristic in myself other than my physical attributes. Overall, IMing made me who I am today and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Week Seven: Negotiating Sex(uality)

--“How does girls’ discourse around issues of sexual acts and sexuality contribute to the construction of their individual sexual identities” (Grisso/Weiss 31).

--How might online communities inform girls’ sexual identity development?

--Think about Judith Butler’s notion of performativity (“performing”–acting out prescribed gender roles) in relation to these readings and the more general issue of girls’ negotiating sexual identities online. (Grisso/Wiess; 32, 38)

--What are “safe spaces online” for girls? How do we forge such spaces in the wide world of the internet? Provide examples from the readings.

--Visit and provide an assessment of it, particularly as related to the texts and issues this week.

You might also discuss:
–race and cyberspace
–language use/conventions online, on web pages/profiles/IM, etc.
–how online behaviors might challenge/reify racial or other stereotypes
–the “slut” versus the “virgin”
–appearance/fashion/constructing the self online
–how IM communication differs from more public “comments” on social networks and how this might allow for more freedom (positive and negative) around sexuality

Role of Social Media in the Egyptian revolution

Report: Egyptian dad names child 'Facebook'


February 21, 2011|By the CNN Wire Staff
A man in Egypt has named his newborn daughter "Facebook" in honor of the role the social media network played in bringing about a revolution, according to a new report.
Gamal Ibrahim, a 20-something, gave his daughter the name "to express his joy at the achievements made by the January 25 youth," according to a report in Al-Ahram, one of Egypt's most popular newspapers.
Many young people used Facebook and other social media networks to organize the protests, which began January 25 and ultimately led to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak after 30 years in power.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

wat about sex :)

What about sex, the title of this paper, refers to the slang that many adolescent girls use while conversing on the Internet and the subjects they discuss. They seem to have a false sense of security often forgetting that their postings can be taken off ( cut and paste) and shared with others. While attempting to negotiate their sexual identity some of these girls may pose risks and post things they may later regret.

Although we want to believe that our society is shifting to a better balance among the sexes it is clear that adolescence girls while on the Internet are not, this can be observed through the text they post. They tend to exploit themselves and use inappropriate language they would never want others to see. Many post sexual connotations giving the person reading a false impression of their true self. They feel safe to say whatever they wish at any particular time constantly changing their view on a variety of subjects. "An adolescent girl can manipulate tone and negotiate the many disparate discourses surrounding her in a relatively short period. Their identities can be constructed, cast off, and reconstructed" (II 71). This behavior is relatively universal being that their identity is not constant and they strive to become accepted into the culture where they live. Although the discussions differ among these girls in how they engage in these sexual discussions however, "in these IM discussions the girls tend to be comfortable with the discussions, regardless of her race and geographic location"(II 73). These girls are guilty of saying or implying things while on the Internet that they would never say face to face. It seems the Internet acts as a shield from the outside world and these girls are not aware of the affects it may have on them in the future.

In addition, the Internet is a successful tool used for advertising. Advertisers target young girls by promoting certain companies and what their idea of beauty and fashion should look like reinforcing the roles expected by girls in our society. They tend to identify with tall thin beautiful women with unrealistic body types. As long as these girls are exposed to these kinds of images young girls will be affected, and these images will become instilled in their minds.

In contrast, I thought it interesting to read the culture that black American girls are exposed to and the images that their identity are based upon. For instance, "Google search results for "Black girls" and "Black teen girls" are dominated by sites that exploit their sexuality- surrounded by unhealthy messages and images of Black women and girls as hyper-sexual and deviant" (2.0 45). Many of these girls simply react to this media exploitation simply by accepting their role and the identity portrayed within the media. With the influences of the Hip Hop culture and the lyrics that go along these girls don't have much of a chance to think much differently. I personally found it interesting to learn that the black girls do not want to be thin like the white girls, their ideal body type is "thick in the right places"(2.0 62), boobs, hips and thighs. However like the white girls, most prefer lighter skin and hair of a smooth texture.

Even though adolescence girls are all searching for their particular role in society attempting to conform to the environment which they live- searching to find their true identity. These are formative years for identity development they are easily influenced and constantly rearranging their ideas negotiating their sexuality. With the Internet being utilized as an venue for communication many of these girls will text words or send ideas that portray themselves in a different way than they would if posing face to face. Many find a false sense of security posting things on the Internet never thinking that it could be read by others.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Nicole Dodd & Camille Thomas: Girls and Image in Different Cultures

[9:43:48 PM] Camille Thomas: ok
[9:49:41 PM] Camille Thomas: so what did you think about how the korean girl and the arab girls thought about identity online?
[10:06:30 PM] Nicole Dodd: i thought it was interesting how the arab girls thought facebook was dangerous fir their reputation. Im not saying its rediculous because it does have that potential but just how religion has a influence on societal norms irrelevant to the korans teachings
[10:10:00 PM] Camille Thomas: yeah I always knew image was important here in the us because of hacking and wanting the most friends. I guess I knew it could be fake but not that it would be bad for people to see every part of who you are
[10:10:30 PM] Camille Thomas: like that one girl said it was disturbing for people to know where you are or what youre doing all the time, but it really is
[10:10:46 PM] Camille Thomas: especially if your being watched so much like they are in arab society
[10:10:50 PM] Nicole Dodd: what about u?
[10:17:45 PM] Camille Thomas: did you get the stuff I said?
[10:19:14 PM] Nicole Dodd: yes i did sorry there was a delay
[10:20:37 PM] Nicole Dodd: but it can be quite scary but i feel like thats what privacy settings are for. I mean you decide what information or pictures
[10:21:26 PM] Nicole Dodd: you let the world to see you can even control who sees what type of wall posts or albums your friends can see
[10:22:12 PM] Camille Thomas: but people can find it anyway if they know how to look. Most people wouldnt or dont know how but if one person like found a way it would be bad for them
[10:22:40 PM] Camille Thomas: but i guess yeah with the new privacy settings it would be better/ easier to make certain things private
[10:34:08 PM] Nicole Dodd: you do have a point because the same way employers look at your information through paid services the applications we accept like farmville have access to our information as well
[10:39:38 PM] Nicole Dodd: I guess it depends on how the facebook administrators value a users preference for privacy
[10:40:29 PM] Nicole Dodd: What did you think about the korean passage?
[10:43:22 PM] Camille Thomas: i couldn't understand why that one girl was against the trendy cute poses and then would do them anyway. I had a hard time understanding why they were "a trend" anyway. I guess here "myspace" kind of profile pic trends were just things people thought looked good, but weren't doing like so knowingly
[10:43:28 PM] Camille Thomas: well maybe we were
[10:48:40 PM] Nicole Dodd: I get that she was mocking the stereotype but I dont get how she had to do it more than once and then defended itbl
[10:49:11 PM] Nicole Dodd: it like she intrinsically believed her face was getting cuter
[10:51:04 PM] Camille Thomas: yeah. i dont really get that. well actually i guess i can relate to wanting people to see you in a cute or fun or trendy way even if you dont REALLY care about stuff like that. you're still wanting people to think your cool and its even harder online because the whole world is online, so how cool can one person be
[10:51:07 PM] Nicole Dodd: However I think her friends were a lot like most americanized kids where they either refer to their culture as archaic because it doesnt fit with their
[10:52:05 PM] Nicole Dodd: modern traditions or because they are indirectly refrained
[10:53:04 PM] Camille Thomas: yeah i agree that its hard to take tradition seriously when theres so much else to understand thats new
[10:56:09 PM] Nicole Dodd: yea I think I can relate because at much as people can be proud of their culture whenever my Mom and I go to jamaica she always reminds me to be nice but to be mindful of the way I act because Americans are considered to have apathy abd confidence
[10:58:06 PM] Nicole Dodd: also when my family comes to the U.S. my mom wont say much but depending on the behavior or speech my aunt decides to use she gets a little embarrassed or belittles my aunt
[11:00:13 PM] Camille Thomas: yeah i guess its really disrespectful but i feel like its dumb to act one way in front of people despite how you actually feel. even though everyone does it. it makes less sense online i think
[11:00:23 PM] Camille Thomas: or maybe more sense because everyone can see it
[11:00:49 PM] Camille Thomas: im like contradicting myself in every statement lol
[11:06:18 PM] Nicole Dodd: yea but its ok i dont think its about the right thing its more about awareness trying to understand each other so dont feel bad about it we are likely to conform to fit in but not everyone feels comfortable or has the effort to be open about their culture
[11:06:54 PM] Nicole Dodd: you cant always control how you feel about your surroundings

Korean femininity on the Web

I found the chapter on Korean girl’s use of digital media interesting because I had noticed several of the gestures that were discussed as typical of the girls who live in Southeast Asia. When I was younger, my father was in the Marines and our family was stationed in Okinawa, Japan. My mother taught English in two Japanese schools at the elementary and middle school levels. The girls, and sometimes the boys too, were always making peace signs. I had always thought of this as a gesture symbolizing peace, the same as in the United States. According to our text, “Such hand gestures typically consist of their hands covering their mouths or chins and/or V-shaped fingers placed around the faces. These unique cultural behaviors convey both “cuteness” and an ideal of Korean beauty, a small face” (94). As I reflected on this new found information, I thought about how I will throw up a peace sign when having my picture taken. I’ve done this ever since I was younger, and it’s something of a trademark in pictures of me from the last ten years. I think just like the Asian girls I learned this behavior as a way to appear “cute.”

Korean-American girls use a website called “CyWorld” to create online profiles and interact with other Korean girls. The pictures that they post will often feature the same hand gestures that make their faces appear smaller in everyday life. The desire to be cute is foremost and their comments on the photographs reflect this as well. There is some gentle taunting but the girls are careful not to offend one another by being too harsh. This differs greatly from the use of social networking by American girls which can often be quite cruel. I’ve heard of young girls creating groups, notes, etc, for the sole purpose of making another girl’s life miserable. It seems to me that when a social networking website caters to a certain culture, the morals of that culture are intrinsic to the content of that website. As with the Arab girls, the Korean girls were conservative in their postings.

The last thing I’d like to bring up is the influence Korean virtual girls have had on American virtual girls. I’m pretty sure we’ve all seen some form of “precura” on MySpace or Facebook. Nowadays most media editors come with options where you can change the background of a picture, add shapes, squiggles, stars, banners, words, and so forth. I believe this stems from the Korean style of photo editing. Unfortunately, I was not able to find any American websites for creating “precura” when I googled it. It makes me wonder why for Korean girls it is a social activity, done publicly, whereas American girls take and edit their photos primarily from their bedrooms. It seems to me that American girls feel a sense of shame in taking pictures of themselves, but why us and not Koreans?
Here is my weak attempt at precura!

Chat between Rachel Bolber & Katherine Finsterle - 2/21/11

Chatting about chapter 2 in Girls 2.0 on Arab Girls & Digital Media

10:30pm perfec t alright so the arab girls can only share certain information and there are four types or levels if you want of identity formation that they partake in the first is revealing barely anything at all.. no pictures, very few personal thoughts, only speaking with friends of the same sex, etc, etc, the second reveals some things and uses it almost like a diary, also speaking to people of the same sex only the third type is more revealing by posting pictures and personal status updates (they mostly looked at facebook).
10:32pm u know ur stuff ;0.
10:32pm and then the last does her thing in secret by creating a FAKE alternate profile to talk to boys and do all sorts of other taboo some women can get in deep for even having an online profile and its crazy.
10:33pm i have totally made up a fake prfile before..
10:33pm lol for?
10:33pm stalking ex's being crazy.
10:33pm hahaha yeah i did something similar.
10:33pm the good old days.
10:33pm my friend and i created guy profiles and had them hit on us on our pages to make dudes jealous.
10:34pm ok so i wonder how many naughty arab girls get caught being a level 4 haha love it.
10:35pm lol yup but lemme see i think it says something about really horrible things happening to themh/o.
10:35pm so that sounds kind of similiar to what goes down in the when i started out IMing it was all
10:35 pm oh nevermind yep! basically they're trying to reason whether the girls are acting out in that way because they're so restricted and they just want to talk to boys or because they're concerned with having an identity online personally, i think its boys..
10:36pm oh def, i think they prob act out in a number of ways though, they r so restricted and the internet is so..broadi think young kids everywhere can get caught up in their online identity, but especially the arab girls who dont have much of a social life outside of the internet...its like their escape method.
10:38pm yeah i agree its surprising to me because i always thought of facebook as like an American thing its really gone global.
10:38pm yes me too.
10:38pmsocial network reference lmao have you seen that movie?.
10:38pm i know did you see social network haha.
10:38pm I LOVED IT.
10:38pmloved it!!!!1hahaha.
10:39pmi so thought i was going to hate it too!but the twins were hilariousand JT is so sexyAND i really want to go back to calling it "the facebook" coz that cracked me up.
10:39pmme too!!! the twins were great, jt is hot and good at everything he does..i cant believe britney fucked that up.
10:39pm lmao she pretty much fucked everything up poor thing.
10:39pmi remember when facebook was JUST for college kids.
10:40pmi know! i couldn't get on at first because i only had a community college address.
10:40pm so like, the arab girls cant even show skin right.
10:41pm pretty much. like rather than putting pictures up of themselves with friends or anything...they use little cartoons or pictures that don't show their face or body some of the girls have gotten pretty creative with it.
10:41pm omg thats a great idea.
10:42pm srsly?.
10:42pmnot for me, but for them lol.
10:42pm yeah definitely that way they're atleast allowed online otherwise they would be totally shut out ya know.
10:42pmi couldnt imagine living like that.
10:43pmI know :( its sad to me but different strokes for different folks i guess it makes me wonder what they think about American girls posting all sorts of stuff.
10:44pmok let me reference instant identity, the author talks about how girls use IM to gossip and have relationships but they use a shitload of vulgarity and profanity (25)i think its the same all over the world, kids will be kids but yea americans are pretty raunchy.
10:45pm yeah i've traveled a bit and heard similar language from the youngsters in Europe.
10:45pm same with the sex thing. puberty happens and then BAM kids are having relationships in real life and using the internet just like they'd use a cell phone or whatever

Monday, February 21, 2011

Virtual Girls: Girls and Digital Media: Define Digital

Define Digital

You can also find this on my facebook notes the virtual girls group was tagged so you should be able to view it.

One of my first experiences with technology were probably in elementary school, approximately eleven years old. My mom finally gave into buying a desktop for the living room and I was browsing through America Online. I was kind of surprised to see that people my age were chatting or instant messaging on this online portal but on the hand, it explained my fluency in computer competency in comparison of that of my parents. I really stuck with AOL Instant messenger until the age of MySpace and Facebook in high school.

While social networking allows individuals to express how they feel, essentially it does enable the world to view and comment on your personal views, conversations and can have sever adverse effects on an individual’s self-esteem. I’ll admit I owned a MySpace but I rarely went on due to the negative effects it had on people. Suddenly my peers would view the value of themselves based on the relationship of their ranking on top friends of other profiles. I couldn’t count the numerous ways in which I would hear friends argue over what rank they took, or if they were even there at all. Personally considering how this ranking system kept growing it would also have the same negative effect on my self-esteem when I took a low category or didn’t even appear on the list at all because of my low interaction on the site. Thus, social networking, if you have had the experience taught me it can go either way but inevitably it prepares you or makes you knowledgeable that people can respond to whatever you allow them to see, whether you’re expecting a group of friends or strangers you didn’t even think to exist.

Ironically, if I had to recall my first experience with composing an email, I would have to say my mother was the one who taught me after watching an AOL Demo CD. It had all the basics: how to check your inbox, how to find a website, parental controls (not a favorite), instant messenger, etc. However if I had to compare my digital literacy from ten years today, I’ve definitely surpassed that of my parents through my constant or reoccurring exposure to being online. In Addition to the CD, typing did take some time. I had assistance in my freshman year of high school; we had computer class in which we had to do typing exercises daily.

I don’t think I’ve used technology to mask who I am, because now the way social networks are built, they give you leverage to analyze people without actually having to see them face to face. I think it produced the opposite effect. I’ve been able to come out of my shell (not to share private information) but it grants me a medium to share ideas with people, acquire information, utilize current information scholastically or for personal use. I noticed that there was an article listed from –I worshiped this site when I went through middle school and highschool. Indirectly technology taught me voice without having to speak. I wanted share moments in my life that I chose to be acceptable; how I should be perceived. In high school, especially, I was raised to be scholastic but not necessarily to speak or fight for what I wanted because my generation’s agenda appeared to be non-existent to authoritative figures. Yet with AOL instant messenger I can alter my appearance through a profile background or a screen name; if these want to be considered masking appearance, I could accept that but I don’t think I’ve ever been dishonest about who I was because I took the time to know who I was inviting in conversations.

Facebook is my friend when it comes to sharing links with others, whenever I signed up for newsletters in my email if it really meant a great deal to me I would post it to my wall and add my own commentary. Twitter has the same effect, although I feel it limits me due to a cap on the word count. Even if things can lead to a scam, I feel that people are updated as fast as it spread so you can protect yourself. I can even recall even last semester when I was taking my first course in Women Studies and I loved the passages read in our early textbook, I would reference them for moods or attitudes on either current issues or personal problems and it wouldn’t go unnoticed.

Personally, digital literacy is defined as your navigation and interaction with portals that exist via the internet; how you communicate or utilize sites to your advantage. Some use podcasts, I’d rather with social networking sites due to the fact that the information always gets updated and relayed back to me in an amount that I control.

My Life ages 11-15

Negotiating Identity Online (Weeks 5/6 Discussion Prompts/Notes)

Discuss any of the following quotes and/or concepts, using the texts to support your response:

--the manifestation of aggression in online communication/contexts (particularly among girls)

--differences among IM communication versus other forms of communication

--consumerism/advertising via online social networks and communication systems

--cyberspace as a “democratizing” realm (Stern 112)

--digital divide/issues of access/class issues in technology

--gender fluidity online

--negotiating/constructing identity through social networks and online communication

--adolescent cybersex and experimentation

--online bullying

CONCEPTS/QUOTES (from Instant Identity):
“Keeping in mind this dichotomy between IM as a safe space to experiment with identity and as a space where dominant patriarchal discourses also exist […] this chapter offers an intercession for understanding how adolescent girls, through their uses of IM, negotiate and articulate their identities, especially with regard to gender” (3).

Disembodiment, like that afforded through online communication, exists in a fast-paced, multi-networked environment across different races, genders, classes, religions, vast geographic locations, provoking myriad questions about how the lack of a body may shape and color one’s perception of culture and one’s location within culture” (4)

Stuart Hall’s “narrative of the self”: “Hall furthers our understanding of the ever-shifting nature of identity, pronouncing it ‘never unified or coherent,’ except when people wish to construct a ‘narrative of the self” (4).

“In the disembodied world of the Internet, identity is complicated through the notion of representation” (5).

Judith Butler’s idea of “hailing”: “[G]ender identity is a performed construction based upon dominant cultural discourses. Females and males ‘perform’ what they interpret their gender to be based upon, what their culture has taught them is the correct (heterosexual) interpretation” (4).

Other questions/discussion prompts:
Discuss the implications of sharing information, images, and other representations of self on Facebook, IM, and other social/communication mediums in varied contexts (U.S. vs. Arab vs. Korean, for example).

Some questions Stern poses that you might consider (page 113):
--What are the implications of IM for adolescent girls, their communications styles, and their negotiation of gender identity?
--What do the findings from Instant Identity say about our culture(s) in general?
--What does this all mean for now and for the future?

Digital Autobiography via Tumblr

Part 1: Computer Literate in Childhood

Part 2: Internet in Adolescence

Part 3: Social Networking

Digital ILLiteracy...

I remember my frustration, “how do I get quotation marks to go the other way!?” I yelled to my brother as I was trying to practice typing to increase my speed. My first memories of technology were sitting in my room, where we kept the family computer, playing the games Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?, Number Cruncher and Oregon Trail. They were all games that required little knowledge about computers and just involved knowing how to play the game and which buttons to press. Once I grew out of my computer game phase of my life I don’t recall computers ever having a large role in my life, not until about 5th grade when I started to learn about the internet. Once the internet started to get more popular my brother convinced my mom to get it for our apartment. We had the computer set up in the room that we shared and I remember sitting through the dialup tone, waiting for the internet to load. I would spend time checking the joint email account my mom, brother and I shared, I would look at some band websites to see about new music I liked and I would chat on AIM (AOL Instant Messenger). From that time until about 8th grade the computer and the internet took a backseat, yet again. While I still used it for email and brief AIM conversations I wasn’t too into the technology thing that everyone was going crazy over. Once I got into 8th grade and had a core group of friends that were all linked on AIM I would spend hours at a time on the computer chatting about everything and nothing. The text from “Instant Identity” makes me laugh quite often because when I read it and look back on how I used to use AIM and what we would talk about, I see how comical it all was. Throughout the course of high school I was still on AIM for hours at a time a day, exchanging pictures, music, videos, stories, just talking. I did however progress to spending more time on the internet itself and not just using it for having conversations. I would look at clothes online, check out different news websites, etc. Then, once MySpace came into existence I would spend hours at a time on that site, updating my profile, looking at other friends’ profiles, just keeping up with everyone and finding new friends. When I got to UCF however I had deleted my MySpace and was back to just chatting via AIM with old friends and new friends. I found out about a new social networking site, Facebook, and decided to give it a shot and learn how to use it. I spent hours on there, not quite sure what Facebook was or what to do with it, but it was fun. I eventually stopped using AIM altogether and only accessed the web for Facebook, email and research. Throughout the course of college I’ve spent more and more time on the internet. I’m constantly on either my cell phone or a computer, checking my email about once an hour to make sure that I’m not missing important deadlines, meetings or questions from people. I’m on Facebook usually when I have a few free minutes to spare or when I’m bored and not really sure what else to do. Aside from those things I now use the internet to read up about issues that are important to me, to find other people who feel the same way I do about issues, to find new thoughts, ideas and theories on subject matter that I am very passionate about. At least once a day I can be found on looking at the updates from people in the feminist community about issues going on nationally and internationally, from a feminist perspective of course.
I have definitely come a long way when it comes to how often and why I use computers, but one thing is still present in my life in regards to digital literacy. That one thing is that I am the absolute BEST at messing up anything that has to do with technology. I always find a way to freeze a computer, delete folders, lose emails, and not know how to make a camera on a computer work. I know how to do basic things on a computer and it’s weird because I’m a part of the generation that knows SO MUCH about the technology and the programs that are the most popular and yet I feel like I’m sort of in between our generation and our parent’s generation in regards to knowing how to use a computer and it’s programs and what to do with them. With that being said, when I got into this class and read the syllabus I was rather frightened about how much I might need to know and what I might have to do when it comes to using a computer. I mean, I just learned how to use a scanner and make files into pdf’s, so I feel very behind the curve. I think that I’m very intimidated by technology because there is just so much that goes into it all and I’ve never been properly trained. I’ve never had someone just sit down and try to teach me about all the neat things that I can do with the technology that I have so readily available to me. Maybe it’s because I’m a female and computers haven’t really been pushed on me to use for work or recreation, or maybe it’s because I’m the type of person that needs a lesson and is afraid to explore technology for fear of breaking something and getting in trouble. I’m not quite sure what the reason is as to my lack of digital literacy, but I’m hoping that through this class I might be able to gain some confidence and want to be brave enough to learn how to do interesting/useful things with the technology I’m so lucky to have.

Online Identity and Role-Playing

In the readings this week, I was most intrigued by the discussion of identity as a consciously shifted state in IM communication. In particular, the concept of windowing—as Stern summarizes it, the communicative practice employed by “a person who ‘distributes’ himself or herself into multiple online conversations and acts differently among the conversations, taking on different roles all at the same time” (Stern 8)—stuck with me, as it was a behavior I could recognize in myself and my own habits. Before reading Instant Identity, though, I had never really thought of it as a behavior, or at least not one to note; it was simply how you IM. But now that the point has been raised, I find that I can’t stop finding instances of it in my own online habits (I have a window for talking to my dad, which is different in tone from the window for talking to my study partner for class, which is different in tone from the window for talking to a friend about poetry recommendations, which is different from talking to another friend about Batman, and so on), or then questioning what this says about me. Do I so clearly compartmentalize all of these relationships in the offline world? Probably not, as doing so would be considered rude. And what does the fact that this behavior of multi-tasking friendships is not considered rude online say about the dynamics of the internet as a social sphere? At this point, I’m not entirely sure, but it’s definitely a subject I will be further researching, and yet another reason why applying theory to my real-life experience is one of my favorite things to do.

Also, one point that I kept coming back to in reading this section was how this analysis would apply to the settings of online role-playing games, or RPGs1. I don’t have a lot of experience with RPGs, but Stern’s proposal that windowing allows us to shift which aspects of our identities we are channeling at any given time in the context of IM instantly made me think of them. While I don’t think Stern was suggesting that we literally adopt different identities for different online interactions to the extent that is the aim in RPGs, there are still, I feel, connections to be made here. Obviously, RPGs are a conscious play on the issue of the fluidity of online identity. In such extreme play, we can see, similar to the girls and their hompis in the “Go Cyworld!” article, how we create alternative identities in other online interactions, and which aspects of cultural constructions we may adopt and/or challenge, knowingly or not, in the ways we tailor these identities to their specific situations. In a way, then, all online interaction arguably becomes a role-play setting—it’s just a question of whether we acknowledge it as such, and what information about ourselves and how we conceptualize online social space we can then gain from this (lack of, as this also tells us something) acknowledgement.

1I am more familiar with the text-based community games that require players to interact with each other through the personalities of the characters they have chosen to play (as opposed to, say, team-play games like World of Warcraft, where players create characters to carry them into the interactive sphere but still play their own personalities, and not necessarily that of a mage or elf, once they are in that sphere), so that’s what I’m referring to here.

Works Cited

Stern, Shayla T. Instant Identity. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., 2007. Print.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Virtual Insanity? just kidding... Virtual Identity!

“Hall furthers our understanding of the ever-shifting nature of identity, pronouncing it ‘never unified or coherent,’ except when people wish to construct a ‘narrative of the self” (4). It was interesting to read the point of view that identity is never constant and is forever in flux because of different situations a person might be in. Whether it be through what type of media someone is trying to communicate, who the person is they are communicating with or what they need to say, it was an eye-opener and quite the “aha!” moment when I read this. It was definitely true because upon thinking about the different situations described I can think back to my correspondence via IM or email and envision how I spoke to a certain person or what the subject matter was that I spoke about. Lewis and Fabos hit the nail on the head when they stated that “…users adhere to a consistent presentation of themselves to acquaintances although they might experiment with different tones, voices, and subject content…” When you think back to different online interactions, an example you might come across where this is true is in regards to contacting someone via email. If you were to contact your professor about something you would have certain professionalism about your message and the way in which you say things. On the other hand, if you were perhaps contacting the officers of an organization that you all sit on the Executive Board for, then perhaps your tone might be a tad bit more relaxed than the previously stated email.

An interesting statement that I read on page 9 was “ is often thought to empower the less powerful…” This definitely can play into the initial statement that identity is “ever-shifting”. When people feel as though they can say things more freely, or with greater ease via the web and take advantage of that media, which could definitely be a way in which one’s identity has shifted in that moment, from being less powerful, to all of a sudden powerful and openly opinionated/out spoken. Because the use of media (such as email, IM, texting) acts like a sort of mask for the person utilizing it, it briefly allows the person wearing the mask to be whoever they want to be. And in that moment they don’t see any consequences or harm that can be done because they are doing/saying exactly what they wish they could in a face to face situation. I never thought about it until our reading, but I have to agree with Hall in the fact that people don’t have just one identity, it’s a constant flux of identity.

Digital Literacy History

Sorry again for the lateness of this post, Leandra. Thanks for understanding!

As is considered typical of my generation, I grew up using and interacting with technology, especially computers, in a variety of ways. As a child, these experiences were limited mostly to educational computer games, like Disney’s Magic Artist, Gizmos and Gadgets, and Carmen San Diego: Word Sleuth. Even though my parents’ rules limited the amount of time I spent playing these games, what access I did have to them established very early in my mind an understanding of computers as a tool for creative output. While I couldn’t print out the digital paintings I created on Magic Artist or the reading-based puzzles I would solve to move through Word Sleuth, they still definitely left me with a strong sense of computers as being primarily just new ways for me to play, to explore the possible applications for the materials I was given, and to eventually produce observable results as the result of that exploration.

On a basic level, I think, I still understand computers as a place for creative expression. Obviously, though, school projects, jobs I have held, and my increasing use of technology as a social tool have required that I expand this conceptualization of computers’ primary function. My introduction to technology as a research tool came in late elementary school, when I first started using digital encyclopedias for research for longer projects. In middle school, my parents began allowing me greater access to the internet, which quickly became my major resource for completing research and schoolwork. My use of the internet as a research tool has only grown up to this point, where an honest assessment would require that I label it a reliance. Having access to the larger UCF library and its resources has allowed me to begin shifting back to using more printed materials as references in my work, but for the most part, the internet is still the first and most frequent tool I employ when conducting research now.

In using technology as a social tool, my experience is relatively short compared to my longer history of digital literacy. I got my first email account and AIM screenname at the end of eighth grade, so I have only been socializing via the internet for about six years or so. As with the internet as a research tool, however, my use of it for social networking increased rapidly, probably because I also had a computer of my own by the time I entered high school. Having private, constant access to a computer and my parents’ trust in my discretion meant that my internet exploration was a free, self-guided experience. As I continued using programs like AIM and Gmail to keep in contact with my friends from school, I also started hooking into internet-based social communities, particularly the fan-oriented/fandom spaces on internet forums, Livejournal, and other networking sites. Through my growing involvement in these discussion spaces, my understanding of the internet as an alternative social sphere grew, as did my prior understanding of the digital space as a creative one. In using Livejournal, I learned some basic HTML code and applied it to designing customized layouts for my profile and journal. Additionally, it is almost impossible to be a part of online fandoms without having at least peripheral knowledge of fan-created works—fanfiction, fanart, fanmixes (themed playlists of music compiled for lyrical/emotional relevance to the subject at hand), and various other projects made by fans and shared with other fans as a means of generating further connection over and discussion about the source material. While I was never heavily involved in actually producing these aspects of fandom communities, my experiences with them as a consumer still reinforced that early conceptualization I had formed as a child of the creative possibilities of technology.

It is actually my experience with the discussions I encountered in fandom communities that have most influenced who I am now, both as a person, generally, and as an internet user, specifically. In my senior year in high school, I found a link to a meta post (in fandom, a post focused on presenting in-depth critical analysis of fanworks and/or their source material) in a discussion forum. The post—if I remember correctly, a critique of then-recent increases in slut-shaming language in Supernatural and its fandom—was my first experience with feminist analysis. The points it raised were completely new to me, and, being a bit of a research junkie, I happily read through all of the outside sources referenced/linked to in the original post before starting on research of my own. Since then, I have been a regular participant in the feminist blogosphere (as a reader, at least) and a strong feminist offline. I have also gained a new understanding of the internet as a space for activism. While there are certainly problematic aspects to the connections the internet provides, as a space that provides for those connections to like-minded people and larger movements in the first place, it is a vital tool. I am still working on expanding my knowledge of web design and the intricacies of online communication and politics so that I can better experience these connections, but what I have learned in my relatively brief experience as a member of the online feminist community has been immense, and a huge factor in my development as an individual, online or off.